Everyone, including herself, stank of fear.
But he was, after all, the Sadist.
It would have been worse, she told herself as she continued to sip the whiskey. It would have been much, much worse, if Jaenelle hadn't shouted that warning to ride it out. Funny. Every witch in Deje's house who wore a Jewel heard that warning and knew on some instinctive level what it meant. The men . . . There wasn't time for Jaenelle to be selective. Some heard her, some didn't. That's all there was to it. Those who didn't were dead.
What had happened to send him into such a rage? What sort of danger could have provoked that kind of unleashing?
Maybe the question to ask was,who was in danger?
Calmed by her own rising anger, Surreal set the whiskey bottle on the nightstand and called in a small leather rectangle. As soon as she was done, she'd get a little sleep. It was unlikely that anything would happen before tonight. The Sadist had seen to that, whether he'd meant to or not.
With her lips curved in the slightest of smiles, Surreal hummed softly as she slipped the whetstone out of its leather pouch and began sharpening her knives.
Dorothea watched the flames in the fireplace dance. Any moment now, the Dark Priestess would arrive at the old Sanctuary. Then she could give the bitch the message and return home.
Who would have thought he could break a Ring of Obedience? Who would have thought, with him being on the other side of the Realm, shattering the Ring could . . .
How very fortunate that she'd started letting each of the young witches in her coven wear the primary controlling ring for a day, letting them "get the feel" of handling a powerful male, even if he was so far away they couldn't really feel anything at all. How very unfortunate her favorite witch, her little prize who had shownso much potential, had been the one wearing it today.
Since the body, although empty of the witch herself, still lived, she would have to keep it around for a little while so the others wouldn't realize how disposable they really were. A month or two would be enough. The witch would, of course, be buried with dignity, with full honors commensurate with her Jewels and social rank.
Dorothea shuddered. Sadi was out there, somewhere, with no leash to hold him. They could try to use the Eyrien half-breed as bait to draw him back, but Yasi was so nicely tucked into Pruul's salt mines, and it would be a shame to pull him out before he was sufficiently broken in body and spirit. Besides, she doubted that even the Eyrien would be sufficient bait this time.
The sitting room door opened for the hooded figure.
"You sent for me, Sister?" Hekatah said, making no attempt to keep her annoyance out of her voice. She looked pointedly at the small table, empty of her expected carafe of blood. "It must be important to have made you forget such a paltry thing as refreshment."
"Yes, it is."You bag of bones. You parasite. All Hayll is in danger now. Iam in danger now! Careful not to let her thoughts become apparent, Dorothea held up a note, slipping it in and out of her fingers. "From Greer."
"Ah," Hekatah said with barely suppressed excitement, "He has some news?"
"Better than that," Dorothea answered slowly. "He says he has found a way to take care of your little problem."
Greer sat on the white-sheeted bed in one of Briarwood's private rooms, cradling what was left of his good hand.
It could have been worse. If that limping stable brat hadn't slashed at him with a knife, slicing through his little finger so it only hung by a thread of skin, he never would have gotten the secondary controlling ring off in time when Sadi broke the Ring of Obedience. In that moment when he'd felt the Black explode, he'd ripped the finger off and flung it away from him. A guard, seeing something hurled toward him, grabbed instinctively, his hand closing around the ring.
Foolish man. Foolish, foolish man.
With the Ring of Obedience broken and with no way to know if Sadi had been hurt by the effort, Greer had run to Briarwood, where the healing would be done without questions. It was also the only place the Sadist wouldn't strike at blindly. Here they had some leverage—at least for a few hours more. After that he would be gone, speeding back to Hayll to melt away among the many, encircled by Dorothea's court. Briarwood and its patrons would still be here to quench Sadi's thirst for vengeance.
Greer lay down on the bed, letting the painkillers lull him into much-needed rest. In a few short hours, the Dark Priestess's little problem would be no more, and Sadi.
Let the bastard scream.
Saetan made another erratic circuit around his private study.
He stared at Cassandra's portrait.
He stared at the tangled web he'd finished a short time ago, at the warning that may have come too late.
He shook his head slowly, denying what the vision in the tangled web had shown him.
An inner web still intact. A shattered crystal chalice. And blood. So much blood.
He had never invaded Jaenelle's privacy. Against his better judgment, against all his instincts, he had never invaded her privacy. But now . . .
"No," he said with soft malevolence. "You will not take my Queen from me. You will not take my daughter."
There was only one place from which he could penetrate the mist. Only one place he could use to amplify his strength to reach across the Realm. Only one witch who had the knowledge to help him do it.
Throwing his cape over his shoulders, he flicked a glance at the door, tearing it off the hinges. Gliding through the deep corridors of the Hall, his rage glazing the rough stones with ice, he brushed past Mephis and Prothvar, seeing no one, seeing nothing but that web.
"Where are you going, SaDiablo?" Andulvar called, striding to intercept him.
Saetan snarled softly.
The Hall trembled.
Andulvar hesitated for only a moment before setting himself squarely in the path of the High Lord of Hell.
"Yaslana." The rage had become very quiet, very still.
This was what they feared in him.
"You can tell me where you're going, or you can go through me," Andulvar said calmly. Only a tiny muscle tic in his jaw betrayed him.
Saetan smiled, raising his right hand in a lover's caress. Remembering in time that this man was his friend and also loved Jaenelle, he sheathed the snake tooth, and the hand gently squeezed Andulvar's shoulder.
"To Ebon Askavi," he whispered as he caught the Black Wind and vanished.
Surreal dreamed. She and Titian were walking through a wood. Titian was trying to warn her about something, but Surreal couldn't hear her. The woods, Titian, everything, was silenced by the loud, steady pounding of a drum.