Daemon's eyes had a worried, faraway look in them. "Because they find it amusing, Lord Kartane. Thisis the afternoon's entertainment. And if we're both lucky, we'll only be the guests of honor."

Kartane looked quickly at Daemon and then at the posts. Dorothea wouldn't. Shecouldn't. Was that why Daemon warned him, because he wasn't sure if . . . No. Not to Daemon. Not toDaemon.

Kartane kicked a chair before dropping into another with his arms crossed and his legs sprawled forward, looking like a sulky child. "I have better ways to spend my afternoon," he snarled.

Daemon turned, one eyebrow raised in question. Dorothea walked toward them, her eyes flashing with annoyance at Kartane's behavior.

"Well, darling," she purred, "we'll do our best to amuse you." She settled into the chair next to Kartane's, and with a gracious gesture of her hand, indicated to Daemon that he should sit on her left.

Kartane sat up straighter, but kept a sulky look on his face. He flinched as the chairs behind him filled and female voices murmured as if they were in a theater waiting for the play to begin.

Dorothea clapped her hands, and the room became silent. Two massive, raw-looking guards bowed to Dorothea and left the room. They returned a moment later leading a slightly built man.

Daemon flicked a bored glance at the man being led to the posts, leaned away from Dorothea, and propped his chin in his hand.

Dorothea hissed quietly.

Daemon straightened in his chair, crossed his legs, and steepled his fingers. "Not that it matters," he drawled, "but what did he do?"

Dorothea put her hand on his thigh. "Curious?" she purred.

Daemon shrugged, ignoring the fingers sliding up his thigh.

Dorothea removed her hand, annoyed by the bored expression on Daemon's face. "He didn't do anything. I just felt like having him shaved." She smiled maliciously, nodded to the guards, and watched with great interest as they fastened their victim spread-eagle to the posts. "He's a Warlord but a valet by profession. Comes from a family who specializes in personal service to darker-Jeweled Blood. But after today, I doubt there'll be a male in all of Hayll who'll want him around. What do you think?"

Daemon shrugged and once more propped his chin on his hand.

When the man was securely fastened to the posts, one of the guards pulled the cloth off the table. There were appreciative murmurs from the audience as whips, nut-crushers, and various other instruments of torture were presented for view. The last things the guard picked up were the shaving knives.

Kartane felt ill and yet hopeful. If all of those things were being presented, maybe . . .

"No," Daemon said on a spear thread, male to male. "She'll shave him."

"You don't know for sure."

"You can't have the entertainment end too quickly."

Kartane swallowed hard. "You don't know for sure."

"You'll see."

Dorothea raised one hand. The guard went to the far end of the table and raised the first whip. "What shall it be today, Sisters?" Dorothea called out gaily. "Shall we whip him?"

"Yes, yes, yes," a number of female voices yelled.

"Or . . ."

There was applause and laughter as the guard, looking more nervous, raised the nut-crusher for their viewing.

"Or . . ." Dorothea pointed, and the guard lifted the shaving knives.

Kartane studied the floor, trying not to shake, trying not to bolt for the door. He knew he wouldn't be allowed to leave, and he wondered with a touch of bitterness how Daemon could sit there looking so bored. Maybe because Sadi didn't have any use for those organs anyway.

"Shave him, shave him, shave him!" The room thundered with the coven's voices.

Kartane had been to dogfights, cockfights, any number of spectacles where dumb animals were pitted against each other. He'd heard the roar of male voices urging their favorite to victory. But he'd never heard, in all those places, the glee he heard now as the coven urged their decision.

He jumped when Dorothea's hand squeezed his knee, her cold smile letting him know she was pleased by his fear.

Dorothea raised her hand for silence. When the room was absolutely still, she said in her most melodious purr, "Shave him." She paused a long moment, then smiled sweetly. "A full shave."

Kartane's head snapped around in disbelief, but before he could say anything, Daemon turned his head just enough to look at him. The look in Daemon's eyes was more frightening than Dorothea could ever be, so Kartane swallowed the words and slumped a little farther in his chair.

The Healer and the barber entered the room and walked slowly to the table. The barber, a cadaverous man wearing a tightly cuffed black robe, had a receding hairline, pencil-line lips, and dirty yellow eyes. He bowed to Dorothea and then bowed to the coven.

The Healer, a drab woman retained to handle the servants' ills since she wasn't well versed enough in her Craft to attend to the Blood aristos, called in a bowl of warm water and soap. She held the bowl while the barber washed his hands.

Then the barber leisurely soaped his victim's testicles.

"Why?" Kartane sent on a spear thread.

"Makes them slippery," Daemon replied. "Harder to get a clean cut the first time."

The barber picked up a small curved knife and held it up for them to see. He positioned himself behind the man.

"So everyone can see," Daemon explained.

Kartane clenched his fists and stared at the floor.

"Watch, my dear," Dorothea purred, "or we'll have to do it again."

Kartane fixed his eyes on one of the posts just as the barber pulled the knife back. A moment later, a small dark lump lay on the swiftly reddening sheets.

The Warlord tied to the posts let out a howl of agony and then clenched his teeth to stifle the sound.

Kartane's stomach churned as a disappointed murmur swept through the room. Mother Night! They'd been hoping for a second cut!

The barber set the bloody knife on a tray and washed his hands while the Healer sealed the blood vessels. When she stepped aside, he took a straight knife and positioned himself in front of a post. He pulled the man's organ to its full length, turned to his audience, shook his head sadly, and said, "There's so little here, it will hardly make a difference."

The coven laughed and applauded. Dorothea smiled.

Kartane expected a swift severing. But when the barber laid the knife on the Warlord's organ and leisurely sawed through the flesh, each stroke of the knife accompanied by a scream, Kartane found himself mesmerized, unable to look away.

They deserved what he did. They were foul things only fit for breeding and a man's pleasure. It was right to break them young,good to break them young before they became things like the ones sitting here. Break them all. Destroy them all. Blood males should rule, must rule. If only he could kill her. Would Daemon help him rid Hayll of that plague carrier? All of them would have to be killed, of course. Then break all the young ones and train them to serve. It was the only way. The only way.

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com