Eternal Vows

Chapter 2: Surprise Visitors

Two couples leaning against each other. The couple on the left is two men, one black and one mixed race, in scifi outfits, and the couple on the right is a white man and mixed race woman, again in scifi outfits.

Damien relaxed in Mat’s rooms as Mat slowly coaxed him into conversation. He was still in deep mourning for the people of Sola. Even now, they were slowly dying, and the thought wouldn’t leave him alone. He was filled with guilt that he had been spared that fate, and rage that there was nothing he could do to stop it. But a couple of drinks had dulled his emotions and though Mat wasn’t offering him anymore, he was offering conversation and to Damien’s surprise, it was almost soothing to forget about his problems and focus on minor matters.

He was listening to Mat talk about his worries about joining the court, trying to reassure his friend as best he could, when the door to the suite opened. A man in civilian clothes walked in and Mat’s eyes widened. Damien studied the man, who looked at Mat first, then met Damien’s eyes. At first he seemed puzzled, but then he must have recognized Damien because he looked shocked. He was clearly a soldier from his stance and he had to be from Wendigo. Should he attack him? He considered, but felt no desire to fight right now. If it had been Helios, he would have killed him without question. But this man wasn’t responsible for anything. He looked vaguely familiar but Damien had no negative associations, and no impulse to kill.

“Vale,” Mat said nervously. “Why are you here? How did you get past the guards?”

“Eve and Adrian requested I come here,” the man, Vale, said stiffly. He was clearly uncomfortable by this situation, probably even more than Damien was. “They wanted to inform you that their negotiations have not ended yet.”

Damien wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was there some reason Adrian had sent the man here? Did Adrian want him to meet Vale? Or had Sabine forced his hand? But no, why would Sabine want anyone else knowing he was in Wendigo? It was deadly to have him here; she would limit that knowledge as much as possible. It must have been Adrian, then, but he couldn’t imagine why.

Vale shifted nervously, probably not knowing what to do after delivering his message. He likely didn’t know how to react, whether he should leave or stay and introduce himself, and whether he should introduce himself first as he was clearly outnumbered, or if other rules applied. And was he outnumbered? Perhaps Damien was the one outnumbered. After all, Mat was linked to Wendigo’s army now. Mat’s loyalty was to Sabine, not him. Perhaps Vale wasn’t outnumbered after all. He found that he had no clue what to do, but he could go easy on the man.

He stood up, keeping his hands slightly away from his sides and palms facing forward to indicate that he wasn’t going to draw a weapon. He approached Vale slowly. Vale stiffened, but didn’t move. Damien extended his hand.

“My name is Damien,” he said, not giving any other details about himself. Normally, custom dictated that he should share his name, rank, and national affiliation. But he didn’t want to associate himself with the name Treza right now, he was no longer a commander, and he had no ties to Lohen. He was still a prince, though his planet was currently dying. Perhaps in the future, when it wasn’t so painful, he would add that in addition to his name. And eventually, in the distant future, he suspected his affiliation would be to Kreutzer, since Mat wanted him to be commander there. But for now, no nation had claim on him.

It was a strange greeting, but to his surprise, Vale accepted it without comment and shook his hand. He didn’t press for any other information or even for confirmation that Damien was, in fact, Treza. Damien wasn’t even sure how he knew. He looked quite a bit different in uniform than out of uniform, since he kept his face covered. Sabine had recognized him after a while, but not immediately. And when he had first met Mat out of uniform, Mat hadn’t recognized him until they were actually fighting. No one recognized him. But this man did. That meant he had to suspect that Damien was here. Or perhaps he didn’t know who Damien was. Perhaps he was simply shocked that Mat was talking to someone else. That didn’t quite make sense, though. He had to know something. But he didn’t push for any answers and Damien was grateful. He didn’t want to think of himself as Treza right now, with his troops dead and his planet dying.

“My name is Vale,” he said. “I’m a captain of Wendigo.”

“In the Unclaimed Quadrant, right?” Damien asked, finally placing him. Vale nodded.

“He’s Eve’s new second-in-command,” Mat added from where he was sitting. He looked relaxed, but Damien noticed his hand was on his blade. Had he worried that one of them would attack the other? Well, he had no intention of attacking and Mat seemed to accept Vale, so he didn’t think the man would attack him either.

“The new chain of command hasn’t been announced yet,” Vale said, but Mat waved his hand dismissively.

“You know you are. Please, you two, make yourselves at home.”

He returned to his spot next to Mat as Vale cautiously took a few steps into the room. He looked incredibly wary, though he had to know that no one would attack him. Mat gestured to the chair across from them and Vale sat, still uneasy.

“You know he’s here,” Vale said to Mat, then looked at him. “She must, too. How long have you been here?”

“I came straight from Karena,” he said. “With her permission.”

“Then Helios was right when he came here,” Vale said, sounding surprised. Damien’s eyes narrowed at the name and Mat leaned forward.

“He still broke the treaty,” Mat said. “That’s still grounds for dismissing him.”

“I’m not arguing,” Vale said, lifting his hands. “I’m just surprised he got something right for once.”

It was unusual for a captain to criticize another captain in public, especially since Helios ranked higher than Vale. Perhaps he felt free to do so because Helios was gone. It meant that Helios hadn’t represented the majority of Eve’s army, though, and that was reassuring. Hopefully the atrocities would stop now that Helios was gone, because it looked like the new second-in-command had disagreed with his commanding captain’s decisions on quite a few things. Not that it really mattered. Wendigo and Lohen were probably still at war, but it wasn’t a concern of his anymore. Nothing Lohen did mattered to him anymore. The soldiers he had fought to protect were gone, so there was no point in celebrating that Helios was gone.

Mat studied him for a moment, then went into the kitchen and returned with two glasses. He forced one into Damien’s hand and offered the other to Vale, who cautiously accepted. He must have never drunk with Mat, because he didn’t even hesitate before taking a drink. Damien knocked his back and winced. He couldn’t afford to get drunk, especially with a potential enemy here. But he needed it to dull the edge.

“If Mat ever offers you a drink again,” he said, setting down his glass and leaning back. “Don’t accept so quickly.”

Vale froze, narrowing his eyes at Mat.

“I didn’t give him the same drink I gave you,” Mat said in annoyance.

“Mat likes his drinks strong,” he said in explanation, and Vale relaxed slightly. “I’m sure at some point he’ll try to outdrink you.”

“I would warn him first,” Mat said, glancing at Vale. “And I wouldn’t do it when you’re on duty.”

“You’re a civilian right now, though, aren’t you?” Damien asked.

Mat was the one who answered. “Adrian’s only letting them on Vega as civilians, but he’s still protecting Sabine.”

That made sense. He had been surprised to hear that Adrian was allowing Eve on the planet at all, but he must have put tight restrictions on them. It was probably only Eve and Vale, possibly one or two others, and none of them would be armed. But even though they were technically civilians, they would be on protection duty for Eve and might even still have responsibilities on their ships as well. He wondered if Eve really was unarmed right now. He doubted it, even if she had agreed to it. She would know how to hide a weapon and Adrian might not know how to look. Metal detectors were used throughout Vega, but they were becoming a relic since it was so easy to make weapons out of plastics and other materials that didn’t get caught. Besides, Eve didn’t really need weapons when she was in her Valeforan body, which was the alien body she used when fighting that was always armed. She would have to remain in her Lithilien body as a civilian, as her Lithilien body had no fighting abilities and was, in terms of appearance, the only civilian body she had, but she could always shift into her fighting Valeforan body.

Damien didn’t have that option. He was trapped in his Lithilien body, though he had learned how to get around some of his limitations. Like Eve, he wasn’t human and like her, he had blood from two races and therefore access to multiple bodies, but his were divided into the two dimensions. In this dimension, he could only inhabit his Lithilien body with all the limitations it entailed. In the other dimension, what he and Eve had once called the world of dreams, he wore his Drakor body. At first they had thought that the other dimension was dangerous, because one of the men hunting Eve had ended up there after she killed him in this dimension. But he had discovered others there, other Drakor like his father although luckily they didn’t seem to share the murderous streak that had led him to kill his father.

He shivered. He had killed his father to save Adrian’s life, but while Yashim had been possessing his body, Yashim had nearly killed Adrian. The guards on Vega were still hesitant around him even after all this time. After all, he had attacked and nearly killed Adrian once. They didn’t completely trust that he wouldn’t do it again. But he never would. He hadn’t intentionally attacked the first time, either, and had in fact been willing to kill Eve if it meant saving Adrian. But circumstances hadn’t worked out and Adrian had nearly died. Because of Damien. So many people died because of him.

“You really shouldn’t drink anymore,” Mat said in a worried voice. “I’m sure the negotiations won’t take much longer.”

He sighed. He needed to push everything out of his mind for a little longer. Soon, he could escape reality into sleep once again. Although increasingly, that sleep was interrupted by memories from his childhood, and they weren’t all good.

“Sorry,” he said. Mat patted his shoulder sympathetically, then looked at Vale.

“So she sent you here with that vague message? She must have wanted you to meet Damien, then. Do you know why?”

“No,” Vale said. “Isn’t it dangerous if anyone knows he’s here right now?”

“Extremely,” Mat said. “But that had to be her intent.”

“It was a strange message to give,” Vale acknowledged. He eyed Damien, who sank back in the couch. Even though he wanted another drink, Mat was right. He couldn’t afford to lose control for an instant with enemies surrounding him.

“Maybe Eve was hoping you’d kill me,” he said bitterly, thinking of the cold woman she had become.

“Damien,” Mat scolded. “She wouldn’t do that. Besides, do you really think he could get past both of us? He’s not even armed.”

He shrugged. It was probably true, but it was also true that Eve was a lot safer if he were dead. She might try something.

“And you need to stop calling her Eve,” Mat added. “It’s dehumanizing. Call her Sabine.”

“When she looks at me like a friend again, I’ll treat her like a friend again,” Damien snapped. “You know how she betrayed me and no matter how much you love her, I know you don’t like what she did to me either.”

“Yeah, I don’t,” Mat said. “I’m trying to understand it. But you know she still cares about you. How do you think I convinced her to let you come here?”

“She let me come because she loves you, not me,” he said. “It’s fine, Mat. I’ve come to terms with it and I’m sure she has, too. I loved her. I would have done anything for her and I did. I didn’t expect anything in return and I got nothing.”

He thought of her as she had once been, when he had been driven by the desire to protect her. He still felt that sometimes, under the rage and betrayal he felt. He still wanted to protect her as she made mistake after mistake, as she let atrocities happen and didn’t seem to care. Bertran was behind it, there had to be a reason, but she was still the one doing it and he couldn’t forgive her for that.

“You’re not fine,” Mat said sharply. “Or you shouldn’t be. I’m not okay with it and I love her more than life itself.”

Mat looked at Vale. “What do you think of Sabine’s actions? How she treats Lohen?”

Vale appeared startled at suddenly being included in the conversation, and clearly didn’t feel comfortable with the question.

“I’ve never served on that border, and I wouldn’t question my commander,” he said slowly.

Mat rolled his eyes. “But you don’t like it. And you don’t even know what used to be between Sabine and Damien.”

“Mat,” Damien said in a warning voice. He didn’t especially want anyone knowing how close he and Eve used to be. He didn’t like to think about it. Still, this was better than thinking about Sola. Mat’s interference was at least distracting him, even if he didn’t like where this conversation was going. Mat tended to be outspoken on issues that he was passionate about, and he always defended his friends. Damien had seen this time and again in their interactions, whether they were talking about his friends in the military or about Eve. Mat cared about people, deeply, and wanted everyone else to, as well.

“If Sabine sent him here, she can’t complain if he knows,” Mat said. Damien hesitated. It was true. Sabine had to know that Mat would talk about this. Did she want Vale to know? Was there some benefit in that? Well, Mat knew the situation far better than he did. If Mat felt it was safe to talk, he wouldn’t stop him.

“Vale, I know Sabine would never talk to you about this, but you’ve heard enough to know now that they were very good friends,” he said. “After Sabine reclaimed her throne, however, she decided to forget how much Damien did for her.”

There was a brief silence as Vale looked at him as if seeing if he would talk, then back at Mat. He wasn’t going to stop Mat from talking if he felt this was safe, but he wasn’t going to participate.

“Everything Sabine has, she owes to Damien,” Mat said, and he shook his head in disbelief. He was certainly starting big. “I can’t count the number of times he’s saved her life. I wouldn’t even try to guess. The fact that she holds the throne and has an army is entirely because of his sacrifices.”

“Why would you do anything for Eve?” Vale asked him curiously. “Even before the war, she was your enemy.”

He considered. He remembered the sweep of love when he used to see her, the fierce need to protect her, the admiration as she came into her own. As he remembered those things, it was easier to think of her as Sabine and not Eve. But how could he possibly explain who she used to be?

“You’ve only known the mask she wears,” he said. “She has to wear that mask to be queen. She thinks she has to wear it to be commander, but she doesn’t. If she showed her true self to you and her troops, there would be no question of loyalty, or obedience. But she doesn’t take my advice and she locked Mat out until now.”

His voice grew hard as he shifted from thinking of her as Sabine back to Eve, and as he remembered the crimes she had committed against him and his people.

“She’s alienated all of her friends because she thinks they’re weaknesses. She’s young enough to need guidance yet refuses to take any, and it’s a dangerous combination. She’s making mistakes that cost thousands of my soldiers their lives and more, and she’s doing it deliberately. I can’t forgive her for that.”

“You said it yourself,” Mat said. “She’s young. She’s making mistakes. Now that she is accepting help, I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

He looked away. Would Mat be enough? He was counting on it, because he didn’t want to have to kill her. He could kill her, he was positive, but he didn’t really want to. Not unless she left him no choice. But he suspected their next meeting would be a fight, and he didn’t intend to lose.

“Do you always speak this openly about Eve?” Vale asked, and Mat shrugged.

“We never have before,” Mat said. “Damien avoids the subject.”

“She’s a part of Mat’s life now,” he said with a sigh. “I knew he was going to pester me to be friends with her again. And I’m willing to give her a chance, for Mat’s sake. But if she ever looks at me like an enemy again, I will kill her.”

Mat rolled his eyes. Then the door opened without warning for a second time and he tensed. This time, she walked in.

Eve’s eyes went to Mat first and she beamed. But a split second later, she noticed Damien and her entire body went rigid. He tensed as well, and could sense Mat and Vale ready to act. For a moment, he thought she was outnumbered because he had been relaxing with the men, but then he realized he was the one outnumbered. Vale was of course on her side, and Mat was on her side now as well. He studied her.

She was waiting for him to speak, since he was outnumbered. Though she was prepared to draw a weapon, she hadn’t done so. She was in civilian clothes that reminded him of their time together. Her eyes weren’t shaped the way they were as Eve, but they weren’t entirely the same as when she looked at Mat. She seemed torn. No doubt seeing him with Mat had stirred her memories, and she wasn’t sure how to greet him, either. He wanted to see her as he used to see her, but there was still a veneer of the woman he hated. But the way she had smiled at Mat without reservation was the exact same way she used to. Even though looking at him had changed her eyes, he had seen a glimpse of the woman she had been.

“Sabine,” he said cautiously, nodding his head in acknowledgment.

Mat relaxed beside him. Sabine looked at him for a long moment, probably as long as he had looked at her. Finally, she nodded to him.


It felt odd to hear her say his name for the first time in nearly a year. After she said his name, he felt something loosen in his chest and he could see the tension drain from her as well. Her hands settled to her sides and while normally that would be threatening – they were closer to her weapons – it was also a more comfortable pose. He continued to study her eyes as they shifted back to how they appeared when she had looked at Mat. She truly looked like Sabine now, but he didn’t trust it. She didn’t smile, didn’t show any emotion, and neither did he. They weren’t pleased to see each other. She looked shocked that he was here at all. But they would tolerate each other. Still, better not push it.

Damien clasped Mat’s shoulder as he stood up and nodded to Vale, keeping his eyes locked on Eve.

“Mat, I’ll see you later. Vale, pleasure to meet you.”

He edged to one side of the room and Eve edged along the other, away from the door. They carefully traded places while keeping the entire width of the room between them. Damien hesitated before turning his back and leaving. He didn’t like exposing his back to her. He narrowed his eyes and backed out the door, still facing her. It was nerve wracking backing into a hallway, not knowing what was there, but Adrian had guards posted and Eve was a bigger threat than anything that could be lurking in the hall. Once out, he set off to find Adrian and see how negotiations went.