A glimpse inside Duke's head post-The Chaos Child. Minor, minor spoilers.
I will get back to work on Mistress of Malice and Mercy soon. Ish.
The residents of Burkeholt treat Viola like a goddess. They fall over themselves rushing to fulfill her every whim and vie for the opportunity to touch her hand or brush against the sleeve of her jacket. Duke thinks that if they could, they would spread rose petals on the ground for her to walk on or carry her around on a padded chair.
Many of the women from Duke’s past would have exploited the demons. They would have soaked up the attention like a sponge and wished aloud for every petty thing they desired: trinkets, exotic foods, anything the demons had that caught the eye. They would have transformed themselves into their version of a goddess – beautiful, elegant, and wholly self-centered.
When it comes to being a goddess Viola, however, is just plain awkward. Duke can’t help but sit back and watch. It’s the most entertainment he’s had in years.
She listens to the outpouring of effusive compliments until her ears are a bright red, and Duke can practically see the steam pouring out of them. She’s never been one for flattery. When the frustration reaches its boiling point, she snaps at the nearest demons. Tells them to stop calling her Lady Viola, Most Benevolent Savior, Glorious Liberator, or whatever ridiculous title they’ve strung together.
Of course, the demons cower in the face of her anger. Duke bites his tongue to hold back his laughter. They think that’s bad? They should’ve seen her after Sebastian broke her favorite bow her junior year of high school. No one had been spared her wrath then. He has a scar on the back of his left knee from where a dinner plate shard had hit him. Her little tirade on false gods and brown-nosing is nothing.
The demons don’t know better, though. All they know is that they’ve angered their goddess. They prostrate themselves in front of her, beg for mercy. A few of the braver ones fall at her feet and tug on her jeans. There are tears, wails and, buried beneath it all, Duke’s muffled laughter.
Under Viola’s sarcastic, waspish bitter coating, is a heart as soft and squishy as a bean bag chair. When faced with crying, desperate demons, she melts. She forgives them in an instant, begs them to ignore her outburst, and allows them to continue. The cycle begins again.
At Burkeholt, Duke is mostly forgotten. He’s okay with that. He likes staying in the background and observing. Well, he likes watching Viola, at least.
He finds it hilarious that Viola is their Virtuous Queen of Victory. Watching her shift uncomfortably as a Xilarian bard sings (Duke’d rather listen to one of those damn auto-tuned pop songs, but his earplugs are in the truck and they rode in her SUV) her praises, all he can see is his Viola. The girl who shot herself in the foot when she was a kid. Who threw tantrums, skipped school, drove her siblings insane, and got into more trouble than he’d like to remember. She has the curiosity of a cat and fortunately, or unfortunately if you’re on the wrong side of that curiosity, the lives to go with it. She has horrible taste in music, no appreciation for his authority, and an acid-dipped tongue. Five days out of ten, he’d like nothing more than to wrap his hands around her neck and choke the stubbornness out of her.
In the middle of his musings, a scuffle breaks out in the crowd surrounding Viola. Someone starts shoving his way towards her and someone else shoves back and, like all the riot videos Duke’s seen, pandemonium ensues. He tenses, ready to jump in the fray to protect his wife, when she dissolves the tension with a single quiet but firm word.
Miraculously they do. They freeze in place. Viola scoops up the tiny, blue-skinned Crean they’d trampled and cuddles it to her chest. She glares the offenders into giving apologies. They bow their heads in shame, she immediately pardons them, and peace once again fills the sanctuary. The Crean wraps its long, spindly arms around Viola’s neck and stares at her with complete adoration.
Yeah. Duke knows that look. He’s certain it’s been on his face more than once. He gets it. Gets how they can mistake her for a goddess. How many times has she stopped him from making a drunken, stupid mistake? How often has she lifted him from depression or teased him out of self-destruction? She thanks him for keeping her from losing control, but she’s the one who saved his sanity first.
Over the Crean’s head, she flashes Duke a bright, slightly nervous smile. She glows so brilliantly inside and out, that he has to look away. For all her demonic ties and potential for destruction, he’s the one who feels unworthy. He’s struck dumb by the need to wrap her up in his arms and hide her from the rest of the world. Keep all that brilliance to himself. He’s always been the greedy sort.
He wonders if the demons know what they’re asking of her. Defeating Elrachaim won’t be simple. It could cost her every ounce of power she possesses. Could cost her life. She’d do it in a heartbeat because she’s weighed down with guilt. Hell, even if the guilt factor wasn’t an issue, she’d do it. That’s just who she is.
He hates it. They see her as their goddess, but gods fall and can be replaced by someone else with flashing eyes and superpowers. He knows too much about the true Viola to put her on a pedestal or place a crown on her head, but she’s… everything. They need her to save them from her father, but they’ve never asked him if he’s willing to sacrifice her for their freedom. He’s not quite sure what his answer would be if they did.
He thinks maybe he’d say no.