"You find this amusing," Andulvar rumbled, rustling his wings.
Saetan cleared his throat several times. "I suppose it's difficult for Prothvar to find himself on the losing end of a scrap with a seven-year-old girl. I didn't realize a warrior's ego bruises so easily."
Andulvar's grim expression didn't change.
Saetan became annoyed. "Be reasonable, Andulvar. So she wants to learn to fly. You saw how well she balances on air."
"I saw a lot more than that," Andulvar snapped.
Saetan ground his teeth and counted to ten. Twice. "So tell me."
Andulvar crossed his muscular arms and stared at the ceiling. "The waif's friend Katrine is showing her how to fly, but Katrine flies like a butterfly and Jaenelle wants to fly like a hawk, like an Eyrien. So she asked Prothvar to teach her. And he laughed, which, I admit, wasn't a wise thing to do, and she—"
"Got her back up."
"—jumped off the high tower of the Hall."
There was a moment of silence before Saetan exploded. "What?"
"You know the high tower, SaDiablo. You built this damned place. She climbed onto the top of the wall and jumped off. Do you still find it amusing?"
Saetan clamped his hands on the desk. His whole body shook. "So Prothvar caught her when she fell."
Andulvar snorted. "He almost killed her. When she jumped off, he dove over the side after her. Unfortunately, she was standing,on the air, less than ten feet below the ledge. When he went over the side, he barreled into her and took them both down almost three quarters of the way before he came out of the dive."
"Mother Night," Saetan muttered.
"And may the Darkness be merciful. So what are you going todo! "
"Talk to her," Saetan replied grimly as he flicked a thought at the door and watched it open smoothly and swiftly. "Witch-child."
Jaenelle approached him, her anger now cooled to the unyielding determination he'd come to recognize all too well.
Fighting to control his temper, Saetan studied her for a moment. "Andulvar told me what happened. Have you anything to say?"
"Prothvar didn't have to laugh at me. I don't laugh at him."
"Flying usually requires wings, witch-child."
"You don't need wings to ride the Winds. It's not that different. And even Eyriens need a little Craft to fly. Prothvar said so."
He didn't know which was worse: Jaenelle doing something outrageous or Jaenelle being reasonable.
Sighing, Saetan closed his hands over her small, frail-looking ones. "You frightened him. How was he to know you wouldn't just plummet to the ground?"
"I would have told him," she replied, somewhat chastened.
Saetan closed his eyes for a moment, thinking furiously. "All right. Andulvar and Prothvar will teach you the Eyrien way of flying. You, in turn, most promise to follow their instructions andtake the training in the proper order. No diving off the tower, no surprising leaps from cliffs . . ." Her guilty look made his heart pound in a very peculiar rhythm. He finished in a strangled voice, ". . . no testing on the Blood Run . . . or any other Run until they feel you're ready."
Andulvar turned away, muttering a string of curses.
"Agreed?" Saetan asked, holding his breath.
Jaenelle nodded, unhappy but resigned.
Like the Gates, the Runs existed in all three Realms. Unlike the Gates, they only existed in the Territory of Askavi. In Terreille, they were the Eyrien warriors' testing grounds, canyons where winds and Winds collided in a dangerous, grueling test of mental and physical strength. The Blood Run held the threads of the lighter Winds, from White to Opal. The other . . .
Saetan swallowed hard. "Have you tried the Blood Run?"
Jaenelle's face lit up. "Oh, yes. Saetan, it's such fun." Her enthusiasm wavered as he stared at her.
Remember how to breathe, SaDiablo."And the Khaldharon?"
Jaenelle stared at the floor.
Andulvar spun her around and shook her. "Only a handful of the best Eyrien warriors each year dare try the Khaldharon Run. It's the absolute test of strength and skill, not a playground for girls who want to flit from place to place."
"I don't flit!"
"Witch-child," Saetan warned.
"I only tried it a little," she muttered. "And only in Hell."
Andulvar's jaw dropped.
Saetan closed his eyes, wishing the sudden stabbing pain in his temples would go away. It would have been bad enough if she'd tried the Khaldharon Run in Terreille, the Realm furthest from the Darkness and the full strength of the Winds, but to make the Run in Hell . . . "You will not make the Runs until Andulvar says you're ready!"
Startled by his vehemence, Jaenelle studied him. "I scared you."
Saetan circled the room, looking for something he could safely shred. "You're damn right you scared me."
She fluffed her hair and watched him. When he returned to the desk, she performed a respectful, feminine curtsy. "My apologies, High Lord. My apologies, Prince Yaslana."
Andulvar grunted. "If I'm going to teach you to fly, I might as well teach you how to use the sticks, bow, and knife."
Jaenelle's eyes sparkled. "Sceron is teaching me the crossbow, and Chaosti is showing me how to use a knife," she volunteered.
"All the more reason you should learn Eyrien weapons as well," Andulvar said, smiling grimly.
When she was gone, Saetan looked at Andulvar with concern. "I trust you'll take into account her age and gender."
"I'm going to work her ass off, SaDiablo. If I'm going to train her, and it seems I have no choice, I'll train her as an Eyrien warrior should be trained." He grinned maliciously. "Besides, Prothvar will love being her opponent when she learns the sticks."
Once Andulvar was gone, Saetan settled into his chair behind the blackwood desk, unlocked one of the drawers, and pulled out a sheet of expensive white parchment half filled with his elegant script. He added three names to the growing list: Katrine, Sceron, Chaosti.
With the parchment safely locked away again, Saetan leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. That list disturbed him because he didn't know what it meant. Children, yes. Friends, certainly. But all from Kaeleer. She must be gone for hours at a time in order to travel those distances, even on the Black Wind. What did her family think about her disappearances? What did they say? She never talked about Chaillot, her home, her family. She evaded every question he asked, no matter how he phrased it. What was she afraid of?