Daemon opened Cornelia's door, closed it behind him, calmly tugged his shirt cuffs into place, and then smashed his fist into the wall.
Lucivar felt the mansion shudder as the power of the Black Jewel surged into the wall.
Cracks appeared in the wall, running in every direction, opening wider and wider.
Daemon tugged his shirt cuffs down once more. When he finally looked at Lucivar, his eyes were as cold and glazed as a murky gemstone—and no more human.
"Run," Daemon crooned. Seeing the crowd filling the hall behind Lucivar, he calmly turned and walked the other way.
The mansion continued to shudder. Something crashed nearby.
Licking his lips, Lucivar opened Cornelia's door. He stared at the bed, at what was on the bed, and fought to control his heaving guts. He turned away from the open door and stood there, too numb to move.
He smelled smoke, heard the roar of flames consuming a room. People screamed. The mansion walls rumbled as they split farther and farther. He looked around, confused, until part of the ceiling crashed a few feet away from him.
Fear cleared his head, and he did the only sensible thing. He ran.
Dorothea SaDiablo, the High Priestess of Hayll, paced the length of her sitting room, the floor-length cocoon she wore over a simple dark dress billowing out behind her. She tapped her fingertips together, over and over, absently noting that her cousin Hepsabah grew more agitated as the silence and pacing continued.
Hepsabah squirmed in her chair. "You're not really bringing him backhere? "Her voice squeaked with her growing panic. She tried to keep her hands still because Dorothea found her nervous gestures annoying, but the hands were like wing-clipped birds fluttering hopelessly in her lap.
Dorothea shot a dagger glance in Hepsabah's direction and continued pacing. "Where else can I send him?" she snapped. "It may beyears before anyone is willing to sign a contract for him. And with the stories flying, I may not be able to even make a present of the bastard. With so much of that place burned beyond recognition . . . and Cornelia's room untouched. Too many people saw what was in that bed. There's been too much talk." "But . . . he's not there, and he's not here. Where is he?"
"Hell's fire, how should I know? Nearby. Skulking somewhere. Maybe twisting a few other witches into shattered bones and pulped flesh."
"You could summon him with the Ring." Dorothea stopped pacing and stared at her cousin through narrowed eyes. Their mothers had been sisters. The bloodline was good on that side. And the consort who'd sired Hepsabah had shown potential. How could two of Hayll's Hundred Families have produced such a simpering idiot? Unless her dear aunt had seeded herself with a piece of gutter trash. To think Hepsabah was the best she had to work with to try to keep some rein on him. That had been a mistake. Maybe she should have let that mad Dhemlan bitch keep him. No. There were other problems with that. The Dark Priestess had warned her. As much good as it did.
Dorothea smiled at Hepsabah, pleased to see her cousin shrink farther into the chair. "So you think I should summon him? Use the Ring when the debris in that place is barely cooled? Areyou willing to be the one to welcome him home if I bring him back that way?"
Hepsabah's smooth, carefully painted face crumpled with fear. "Me?" she wailed. "You wouldn't make me do that. Youcan't make me do that. He doesn'tlike me."
"But you're hismother, dear," Dorothea purred.
"But you know . . . you know . . ."
"Yes, I know." Dorothea continued pacing, but slower. "So. He's in Hayll. He signed in this morning at one of the posting stations. He'll be here soon enough. Let him have a day or two to vent his rage on someone else. In the meantime, I'll have to arrange a bit of educational entertainment. And I'll have to think about what to do with him. The Hayllian trash and the landens don't understand what he is. Theylike him. They think that pittance generosity he shows them is the way he is. I should have preserved the image of Cornelia's bedroom in a spelled crystal and shown them what he's really like. No matter. He won't stay long. I'll findsomeone foolish enough to take him."
Hepsabah got to her feet, smoothed her gold dress over her padded, well-curved body, and patted her coiled black hair. "Well. I should go and see that his room is ready." She let out a tittering laugh behind her hand. "That's a mother's duty."
"Don't rub against his bedpost too much, dear. You know how he hates the scent of a woman's musk."
Hepsabah blinked, swallowed hard. "I never," she sputtered indignantly, and instantly began to pout. "It's just not fair."
Dorothea tucked a stray hair back into Hepsabah's elegant coils. "When you start getting thoughts like that, dear, remember Cornelia."
Hepsabah's brown skin turned gray. "Yes," she murmured as Dorothea led her to the door. "Yes, I'll remember."
Daemon glided down the crowded sidewalk, his ground-eating stride never breaking as people around him skittered out of his way, filling back in as he passed. He didn't see them, didn't hear the murmuring voices. With his hands in his trouser pockets, he glided through the crowds and the noise, unaware and uncaring.
He was in Draega, Hayll's capital city.
He was home.
He'd never liked Draega, never liked the tall stone buildings that shouldered against one another, blocking out the sun, never liked the concrete roads and the concrete sidewalks with the stunted, dusty trees growing out of circular patches of earth cut out of the concrete. Oh, there were a thousand things to do here: theaters, music halls, museums, places to dine. All the things a long-lived, arrogant, useless people needed to fill the empty hours. But Draega . . . If he could be sure that two particular witches would lie crushed and buried in the rubble, he would tear the city apart without a second thought.
He swung into the street, weaving his way between the carriages that came to a stuttering halt, oblivious of their irate drivers. One or two passengers thrust their heads through a side window to shout at him, but when they saw his face and realized who he was, they hastily pulled their heads back in, hoping he hadn't noticed them.
Since he'd arrived that morning, he'd been following a psychic thread that tugged him toward an unknown destination. He wasn't troubled by the pull. Its chaotic meandering told him who was at the other end. He didn't know why she was in Draega of all places, but her need to see him was strong enough to pull him toward her.
Daemon entered the large park in the center of the city, veered to the footpath leading to the southern end, and slowed his pace. Here among the trees and grass, with the street sounds muted, he breathed a little easier. He crossed a footbridge that spanned a trickling creek, hesitated for a moment, then took the right-hand fork in the path that led farther into the park.