It takes a while, sometimes, for a new Night-Child to find control, but Terrance wasn’t like that.
At first, he lost himself in blood and screams and trembling flesh, but who wouldn’t? Newness as a Night-Child raked the mind, filled the mouth with vibrance and color and good strong things for which a once-human experience had no words, and it was normal to have to be locked away, protected by one’s new maker and glutted on the blood of thieves and wicked men.
Most stayed there for months. Some stayed there for years. And even when sanity returned, it came with the titanic struggle to carry one’s new condition, to reconcile lost mortality with the need for blood and the vast, strict family structure Notte had built.
But Terrance wasn’t like that, either. A week after he drank Notte’s blood and left humanity behind, Terrance came to himself, and—evidently unbothered by his nudity and the corpses on the floor—banged on the door of his cell and demanded to know where in the devil’s asshole he was.
Within an hour, he was cleaned, clothed, and seated at his Father’s right hand, the hand of Notte—Blood King, Nox Aeterna, and the one who had pulled him from a stinking English prison through death and into something better than life.
Terrance loved him. Fiercely, searingly, perfectly, and so when he was asked the second most important question of his life, he said yes again.
The first was, of course, if he would become a Night-Child.
The second was if he would become Notte’s knife.
Knife meant the assassin, the executioner, the bringer of death at the behest of Notte the Blood King. The Night-Children generally went out of their way to avoid killing, unless the victims were particularly nasty polyps on society’s ass. But there were times death was necessary.
Terrance understood that better than most.
When he wasn’t killing by appointment, Terrance grew. He explored and he hunted, and he honed his skills through many adventures that bear some day’s telling, and through it all he slimmed and sharpened and hardened until he filled the metaphorical sheath of his role.
He even made—with permission, of course—children of his own, vicious and brilliant and sharp humans who deserved to slip the bonds of mortal death, and he taught them to hunt and fight and obey just as he did.
It was glorious. It was togetherness. It was family, found and profound, intimate and true.
If Terrance’s human self had still existed somewhere, he would have had a message for him. That message would have simply said this:
You fecking fool. It’s never that easy.
Terrance grinned up from the card table. “Da’,” he greeted. He was playing with fashion today, purposely flaunting unbuttoned wide-collar 1970s glam with Bowie-style makeup and spiked-up hair.
Notte took all that in without comment. “There is a problem.”
Terrance’s smile slipped away. “What?”
It was not good, what Notte had to show him.
There, on all the human news channels. There, for all the world to see. There—
“He is yours,” said Notte quietly, without condemnation, but with great grief.
“Yeah,” said Terrance softly.
“You do not have to see to it.”
Terrance looked into his maker’s eyes—bright and wild green, an improbable spring color. “I got it.”
“He is yours.” So many layers in those three words—choosing turning, training, loving. Years of trust and shared experience.
“Don’t you start, da’,” said Terrance, and smiled like a hyena. “Think I’m gonna let you do it? And have to watch you mope around the house for the next three years? I’m your knife. I get to take out naughty Night-Children, not you.”
But Notte’s look did not change, and Terrance had never been good with silence.
“Look,” Terrance said. “I made him. Obvi, I did something wrong teaching him.”
“I think not,” said Notte softly. “He is doing what he should not with such precision that there can be no doubt of the excellence of his upbringing.”
Terrance found a lump in his throat, just for one moment, but then fortunately, it was gone. “I got it. Just let me handle it.”
Notte nodded. A promise given three times held power among the Mythos, and this was close enough for magical business. “I will be near.”
“Don’t be.” Terrance turned away. “You’ll feel it, already. No need to see it, too.”
And that was the heart of it, wasn’t it? That was the real problem.
When a Night-Child died, Notte felt it, tore in some irreparable way that terrified those who loved him true. It didn’t matter if he’d personally made the victim; all Night-Children were his, tied to his first and immortal blood, and he loved each and every one with such deep and ridiculous innocence that was difficult not to love him back.
Terrance wanted to protect him, which was crazy. Notte could not be killed, could barely be harmed, but what this fool on the television had done—what Terrance’s own blood-child had done—was to stab at the heart of their Father.
Terrance hadn’t expected the anger, but by the time he chose his weapons for the kill, it had grown in him, snapping and cracking like a fire, heating his skin and making his mouth taste not his own.
It would be a quick death, but it would not be an easy one. Terrance had trained his child too well.
More the fool me, he thought, and more the fool you.
“That was a shit-show,” Terrance said, flinging himself bonelessly onto the sofa in the rec room and covering his eyes with his arm.
Roderick’s eyebrows rose. He had the right face for eyebrow-arching. “No. Surely not.”
“You know, the problem with you,” said Terrance, pointing with the hand he wasn’t using to cover his face, “besides being English, is that I never know if you’re being sarcastic. Well? Are you?”
Instead of answering, Roderick returned to reading about metallurgy.
“Ugh,” said Terrance, and lay still as if dead.
Then he sighed.
Shifted on the sofa, causing his leather jerkin to creak like a house in a storm.
Mumbled something about Tokyo and jalapeño ice cream.
Roderick was uncertain why Terrance had chosen him to deploy his drama. He closed his eyes, counted to ten, and put the book down. “Very well,” he said, agreeing to some unspoken accord. “I suppose you’ll want to talk about it. Well. I am here. And I am listening.”
Terrance peered at him upside down. Their strange green eye color marked them family—Night-Children, blood-born offspring of Notte. The fact that they were talking marked them almost friends. Almost. “I might do, you ruddy bastard.”
Roderick’s left eyebrow twitched. He stroked his beard, thoughtful, and nodded. “Tell me what I don’t already know.”
“Oh, you probably know it all,” said Terrance, voice dropping nearly a full bitter octave. “I made Dain. Found him, chose him, tempted him until he was mine. Mine. Beautiful bastard, just like me.” Terrance turned his face away, toward the smooth leather of the sofa. “Fuck him.”
Roderick looked down at nothing, at things remembered from far away and long ago. “I have never seen you regret your role before.”
Instead of answering that, Terrance said, “Da’s cryin’.”
Deep, awful silence.
Terrance spoke again. “That fucked up kind of crying, you know—where he stares at that bust of some woman nobody knows and just . . . Fecking leaks.”
“Yes,” Roderick said with reverence. “His tears are never-ending.”
“Yeah.” And it came out: “I feel like I made him cry. Gods be damned. Don’t give me facts. I’m raving.”
The word pulled Roderick back to the present. “Raving?”
“I’m so angry I could spit fire, piss in me own ashes, then throw my flaming heart into the pile and start it blazing again.”
Roderick stared at him. “Oh. That,” he said.
Roderick opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. “I . . . understand.”
Their eyes met.
Terrance was old, born before anno domini 1400, but Roderick was much older—a true Romano-British warrior a who’d fought off Saxons and traded with the Picts and married both well and Welsh, for all it mattered in the course of time. He knew loyalty, and he knew pain—Chrétien de Troye and the Arthurian storytellers had gotten his nature right, even if they’d gotten his name wrong.
He knew, too, what it was to make Father cry.
Roderick sighed. “I am sorry you had to do it, but if you had not, our Father would have more.”
Terrance made a noise that could rightfully be called scoffing. “I know that! I already said that!”
“So then you did not cause Father pain,” said Roderick with patience carved like scars under his skin. “You saved him from it.”
They both considered, remembering Notte’s last extended bereavement, wearing white instead of his perennial blue, abstaining from celebrations, from wine, from sex. No new children were made that year; grief filtered down and ruined everything.
Terrance made another sound that could be agreement.
“Annuit Cœptis,” murmured Roderick. “Father favors our undertakings. I, too, approve, though I know my opinion is not . . . Your favorite. Which makes me question, honestly, why you’re here instead of with a more favorable sibling.”
“Well, that’s why,” said Terrance, his voice thick. “If I bore guilt, by God, you’d tell me.”
Some men would have laughed, but Roderick was not like that. “I would.”
“Stick in the mud.”
Terrance smiled at the ceiling, a tiny but true moue. “Thanks.”
Roderick looked down at his metallurgy tome, not seeing it, uncharacteristically frowning. “You are welcome.”
“Well! Time to throw some knives.” Terrance sprang to his feet, a quick, bowed motion of grace and strength no human could offer. “Then I’m taking da’ hunting.”
“You can try,” said Roderick.
Terrance smiled, showing all his teeth, and then began to whistle.
He knew grief. He knew what to do with it. He knew its inevitability, too, but that never stopped him as man or monster.
“Da’!” he shouted down the halls, not caring who could hear, because he knew what his mortal self would have said to him if he could—but he also knew what he’d say in response. “Da’! We’re going huntin’!”
If Terrance could have sent a reply back to his human self, that message would have simply said this: Surely, it’s not easy, and the curtain always falls, but it’s all worth the price of admission. Ya feckin’ fool.
And he whistled a tune no mortal had heard in five hundred years and went to fetch his knives.