Part 16

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Father & Son

CHARMIAN GASPED AND ducked behind Tal Natha as fast as she could when the demon leapt down from the rock, landing squarely in front of them with a thud.  In an instant he was nose to nose with Tal Natha, teeth bared and claws crooked.  All it would have taken was one swift sideways swoop and his horns could have impaled the smaller Ocryx or else torn his throat open.  Still Tal Natha did not run--he flinched just barely, eyes narrowing more out of fear than anything else and ears pressed close to his head, but he made no move to back away.  Now that he was there before her Charmian could see how big and powerful Ocryx really was.  He made Tal Natha look almost scrawny.

She gasped again when the creature's eyes focused directly on her, as if he noticed her for the first time.  They widened for a moment, and he leaned forward with a great snort, attempting to pick up her scent.  Charmian grabbed Tal Natha's wing for protection and squeezed her eyes shut.

"She is of no concern to you," Tal Natha said.  "I come to speak with you about your mate, Ocryana."

An ugly look came into Ocryx's eyes.  "Don't call her that!  I would hardly have such a venomous wench as my mate.  She dwells alone because of how full of poison she is."

"Still she focuses on you.  Perhaps you believe you have put her behind you but she will have no such thing.  She has plans for you right now."

"You of course would know this, would you not?"

Charmian opened her eyes again and saw the look of disgust and--something else?--on Ocryx's face.  He backed away from Tal Natha and she felt a bit of relief that he so far didn't attack.

Tal Natha tensed.  Charmian looked up at him now and sensed what he felt.  He wasn't hiding his emotions from her very well.  She could feel pain, anger, hurt, sadness, resignation--what did it all mean?

"After all, you are that witch's offspring."  Ocryx stopped some distance from them, tail slithering along the ground, giving them an evil look.

"As I am yours," Tal Natha retorted.  "As is X.  As much as you say you despise us you have yet to kill us.  Why is this?"

Ocryx snarled.  "I have better things to do with my time than waste it on you!"

"I think you lie to yourself, Father."

Ocryx reared up and bellowed.  "STOP CALLING ME THAT!"

"Father," the word echoed from the woods behind them, only not in Tal Natha's voice.

Tal Natha tensed again and looked over his shoulder.  Ocryx froze with surprise.  Charmian and Francois turned as well.

A shadow stood just before the trees, barely visible, green eyes glowing softly.

Ocryx blinked, caught off guard; a moment later his flared wings folded back behind him and he lowered himself back to his normal height, looking ready to scowl yet somehow managing to hold his temper.  "Silver Eagle Feather.  I did not know you were here."

Silver Eagle Feather stepped forward toward the lake.  "You know that what Tal Natha speaks is true, Father.  You know he would never bother you if it weren't."

Ocryx showed his teeth.  Charmian received the impression he wanted to get angry with her but somehow couldn't.  In fact, from the moment he'd realized she was there his whole demeanor appeared to have changed.  He no longer seemed so threatening as he had before; now he merely seemed...reserved, somehow.  As if he held something back.

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