Jean Claude's struggles were expected, the feeble bleating of a young thing out of its depth and upset by a gossamer promise of something it should never have expected to receive in the first place. Octavius could hardly blame him; they were all starved of that warm, honeyed love in Milan, in Paris, in a hundred other courts like them. It would have taken a much better man than Jean Claude Danut to walk away from that, to leave her to lie dead and dreaming when she could be vibrant and joyful and giving.
Octavius stood before the gate to the crypt, its locks already re-engaging; it would be safe enough, with no one but the two of them and a single mind-tarnished ghoul to have ever suspected it. The boy spun, spitting and wounded, selfish and tearful, a portrait of a young creature angered by its elders. Octavius felt something for him: pity, he named it, after some searching in the dusty memories of centuries ago and the bright new ones of Maeve's face a few months past. It was not for him to take Maeve, that most gentle of joys, to brighten his dreary colorful existence. It was not for any of them anymore.
"I am doing what I have always promised I would do," he said, his voice not quite gentle enough to hide the taste of ending in it. The sky was still lightening, and his eyes were beginning to sting, pricked by the thousand tiny needles of brightness in even that still, purplish air. "You should go. Let Augustine have made something, of all of us."
Jean Claude was not moving, perhaps not understanding still, even though there was such clarity on this dim Paris street, the last place in the world he would have seen the end of the story in the rich, ever-recalling eye of his mind. The first shaft of dawn, dragging at his mind with golden fingers, trying to bear him down into the depths even though he had just awakened, split the sky above a steeple, and it burned the thin brownness of his eyes away. He pressed it aside, the iron will of his many years still strong, now, even strong enough for this: he would not sleep through the last seconds.
"I said run, boy!" he barked, in Jean Claude's native French this time, perhaps in some final grasp at kindness, or perhaps just because it might snap the boy's attention. He did not look behind him to see if he obeyed. He could not; the light, always his old enemy, was now too bright, that brief, almost imperceptible first light of dawn. Octavius Sage was blind, blind with the burning pain of the golden sun searing him from cornea to retina to brain, and the last shape he saw was the steeple of the church disappearing as if swallowed by an ocean of light.
It was a burning pain beyond any he had ever known, but he had expected that. He was not listening to that pain, not bothering to feel it sear and split his skin and steam his useless eyes away into the breeze. He was thinking of Maeve, laughing in a cabinet meeting as if she could bring joy into it with her sparkling eyes alone, holding his hand, young in skin and ancient in years, in her small one and telling him words that he had mouthed to a thousand Toreador ladies but that were love and poetry in her rosebud mouth, tasting of the sweet hummingbird nectar sugars that she drank because they would hurt no one.
Caro, she called him, dearest heart, and it was that sound, played over and over in the endless echoing memory hall of his mind, that he listened to until he was nothing but dust, dust that should have lain in the ground for eight hundred years but instead was blown away over the steeple into the rising glow of a Paris dawn.