The nursery was crowded, but the three young half-dragons had been given a small room to themselves. With their claws and their strength, it was too easy for them to damage the other children -- accidentally, or in a fit of temper.
Ruin paused in the doorway, swallowed, and then stepped over the short metal gate and went inside. Eva followed him in.
The children were engaged in some sort of game that involved building a fortress with wooden blocks and setting the carved figures of human soldiers on its walls. He suspected there would soon be a moment where they went to tear the whole thing apart, but instead Scar looked up at them, focused on Eva, and said: "You're not Mother."
Eva nodded approvingly. "That's correct. I'm your aunt. Your mother was my sister."
The other two fell silent as well. Then Sun said, "Was?" She was Ruin's daughter, and frequently more perceptive than her brothers. All three looked obviously worried, but it was no surprise that Sun was the one who'd latched onto the change in tense.
"Was," confirmed Ruin, watching them closely. "My children..." He seated himself, leaving Eva standing, and motioned for them to come over. Sun settled in front of him, and Scar sat beside him; Risk actually crawled into his lap. "Your mother..." He swallowed. "Your mother fell in battle yesterday. She was killed by a goddess, and we cannot bring her back."
Risk turned and tried to bite him; Scar tried to sink his claws into Ruin's arm. "You lie." Sun just sat in front of him, looking stunned. Fortunately, neither of the boys was able to do enough damage to actually break the skin.
"I wish I was," Ruin said simply. "I wish it was just a story, and not something that happened." She died of knowing me, he thought, and squeezed his eyes shut. He knew the thought was wrong and self-important: Rita had been killed for being Eva's sister more than for anything to do with him. He knew it, but he couldn't shake it off.
There was a momentary scuffle of movement as Risk tried to bite down harder and Scar tried again to claw him. Eva swayed slightly, but held herself back from trying to interfere.
Then Sun leaned back and said, "But you killed the goddess, right?"
Ruin choked out something that was half laugh and half sob. "You bet your scales we did. Beat her down, destroyed her plan, wiped out her priesthood..." There was more to do on that front, he knew, but that could wait. They were still too bloodied and bruised for it now.
"Good," Sun said firmly, and the two boys stopped trying to tear their father apart.
Then Risk burst into tears, and a moment later all three children were sobbing. Ruin wept with them. Rita had never been destined to be his one true love, but he had loved her -- in his own idiotic, distracted way -- and he felt her loss keenly.
When things had settled back down, minutes or hours later, Eva knelt down and put a hand on Ruin's shoulder. "Let me take them for a while," she said. "I know you have other business."
Scar studied her suspiciously. "You can't be our new mother."
"No," Eva agreed. "I can only be your aunt, but I can help to take care of you. Right now, all four of us need food; and your father has other duties." She glanced at Ruin. "We'll need to make some decisions before too long."
He nodded and looked down. After a moment, Risk scooted off of him, and Sun stood up and offered her hand to Eva. That seemed to settle the other two, and she was able to lead them out and off towards the dining hall.