While Prince Jethain defends Koilatha from the Lythadi invaders and the delegation of dark servants make their position very clear to King and Council, High Priest S’Rak and Captain Jisten remain captives of Chancellor Virien.
Neither will leave without the other, trapping both in an abyss deeper and crueler than anything they’ve withstood before. Only together can they hope to break free of their prisons, but will they be able to overcome the horror and pain of the present to look to the future?
Jisten knew what Rak’s please had meant—please don't betray me, please go away, please fix what you've broken, please return me home. None of which he could do. He washed Rak's body with intense concentration. Every bruise, every new scar, every mark on Rak, Jisten tallied to his own account of guilt. His fault, all of it. When at last even he had to admit Rak was clean, he rinsed off the drying lather.
Rak sank into the water, his body relaxed and his eyes closed. He looked like a man at peace with himself and Jisten wondered how he could possibly be as content as he appeared. Impulsively, he rested a hand on Rak’s shoulder and sat there beside him, making no effort to pull Rak from the tub even though Virien was probably getting annoyed by their long absence. Rak placed a hand atop his and murmured, “I love you and I want you.”
“You shouldn’t,” Jisten replied, pulling away. He stood and held a large, grey towel open for Rak.
The Loftoni dancer stood gracefully, the water sheeting off his lean, muscular frame serving only to highlight his beauty. He stepped out of the tub and into the fuzzy towel, which Jisten wrapped around him. Rak dried himself with intense focus, without looking up.
Jisten put his hand in his pocket. His heart lifted when he felt the vial of oil in there. Undeserved, to be sure, but there it was. He pulled the vial out and showed it to Rak. “May I?”
"Please," Rak said again, turning and dropping the towel so Jisten could reach his back easily.
When the brilliant wings spread, Jisten's expression melted into a human one. He oiled every bit as tenderly as before and as thoroughly. As Jisten oiled, he realized he had one mission left in life before asking Pehroz to take him. He had to free Rak and that meant solving the problem of the baby.
“I will free you from Virien if it’s the last thing I do,” Jisten said. And it probably will be, but that’s okay. So long as S’Rak is free, I can rest content.
“We go together or not at all,” Rak said flatly.