Daemon felt dizzied by the explanation and grasped the one thing he could pull out. "Who's Prothvar?"

"Andulvar's grandson."

Daemon was getting a headache. He'd spent too many nights getting into heated but friendly arguments with Lucivar over who was the most powerful Warlord Prince in the history of the Blood not to know who Andulvar was. Mother Night, he thought as he surreptitiously rubbed his aching temple, how many of the dead did she know? "I agree," he said decisively. "I think Prothvar was at fault."

Jaenelle blinked. She grinned. "That's what I think too." She wrinkled her nose. "Prothvar didn't think so. He still doesn't."

Daemon shrugged. "He's Eyrien. Eyriens are stubborn."

Jaenelle giggled and snuggled up next to him, Daemon slowly lowered his arm until his hand lightly caressed her shoulder, and sighed, content.

He would have to make peace with the Priest. He wouldn't step aside, but he didn't want her trapped in the middle of that kind of rivalry. Besides, the High Lord was just a rival, not an enemy. She might need him too.

"Your mentor is called the Priest, is he not?" Daemon asked in a sleepy, silky voice.

Jaenelle tensed but didn't pull away. Finally she nodded.

"When you next see him, would you tell him I send my regards?"

Jaenelle's head shot up so fast that Daemon's teeth snapped together, just missing his tongue. "You know the Priest?"

"We were briefly acquainted . . . a long time ago," Daemon said as his fingers became entangled in her hair.

Jaenelle snuggled closer, hiding a huge yawn with both hands. "I'll remember," she promised sleepily.

Daemon kissed the top of her head, reluctantly drew her to her feet, put the book back on the shelf, and led her out of the library. He pointed her toward the stairs that would take her up to her bedroom on the floor above. "Go to bed—and sleep." He tried to sound stern, but even to his own ears it came out lovingly exasperated.

"You sound like him sometimes," Jaenelle grumbled. She climbed the stairs and disappeared.

Daemon closed his eyes. Liar. Silky, court-trained liar. He didn't want to smooth away a rivalry. That wasn't why he sent the message. He wanted—secondhand and only for an instant—he wanted to force Saetan to acknowledge his son.

But what kind of message would the Priest send in return, if he cared to send any at all?


Greer stood before the two women seated by the fire, his hands clasped loosely behind his back. He was the High Priestess of Hayll's most trusted servant, her favorite assassin, her caretaker of meddlesome, messy details. This assignment was an exquisite reward for his loyalty.

"You understand what you're to do?"

Greer turned slightly toward the one called the Dark Priestess. Until tonight he had never understood why his powerful Priestess should feel so compelled to make accommodations for this mysterious "adviser." Now he understood. She had the scent of the graveyard about her, and her keen malevolence frightened and excited him. He was also aware that the "wine" she drank came from a different kind of vineyard.

"I understand and am honored that you have chosen me for this assignment." While Dorothea may have chosen who would take on the task, it quickly became apparent that the assignment had come from the other. It was something he would keep in mind for the future.

"He won't balk because you're the one explaining the terms of the agreement?" Dorothea said, glancing at his right arm. "His dislike for you is intense."

Greer gave Dorothea an oily smile and turned his attention fully on the Dark Priestess. So. Even the choice of who hadn't been made by Hayll's High Priestess. "All the more reason for him to listen—particularly if I'm not pleased to be offering such generous terms. Besides, if he chooses to lie about what he knows, I may be able to detect it far better than one of the ambassadors who"—he put his left hand over his breast in an expression of sincerity—"although most highly qualified for their usual assignments are, regrettably, reluctant to deal with Sadi except in the most perfunctory ways."

"You're not afraid of Sadi?" the Dark Priestess asked.

Her girlish voice annoyed Greer because it was at odds with her deliberately concealed face and her attitude of being a dark, powerful force. No matter. Tonight he finally understood who really controlled Hayll. "I'm not afraid of Sadi," he said with a smile, "and it will give me great pleasure to see him dirty his hands with a child's blood." Great pleasure.

"Very well. When can you leave?"

"Tomorrow. I'll allow my journey to seem casual so that it will go unremarked. While I'm there, I'll take the opportunity of looking around their quaint little city. Who knows what I might find that would be of value to you Ladies."

"Kartane's in Beldon Mor," Dorothea said as she refilled her wineglass. "No doubt he can save you a great deal of preliminary work. Contact him while you're there."

Greer gave her another oily smile, bowed to them both, and left.

"You don't seem pleased with the choice, Sister," Hekatah said as she drained her glass and stood to leave.

Dorothea shrugged. "He was your choice. Remember that if it goes wrong." She didn't look up when Hekatah raised her hands and pulled the hood away from her face.

"Look at me," Hekatah hissed. "Remember what I am."

It always amazed Dorothea that the demon-dead didn't look any different from the living. The only distinction was the faint odor of meat beginning to spoil. "I never forget what you are," Dorothea said with a smile. Hekatah's eyes blazed with anger, but Dorothea didn't look away. "And you should remember who owns Sadi, and that it's my generosity and my influence over Prythian that's making your little game of vengeance possible."

Hekatah flipped the hood back over her face and flung out one hand. The door opened with a crash, its brass knob embedded in the stone wall. With another hiss of anger, she was gone.

Dorothea refilled her wineglass. She'd seen the slight sneer, the change in Greer's eyes after he'd met the Dark Priestess. But what was she anyway? A bag of bones that didn't know enough to fall to dust. A leech. A scheming little harpy who was still trying to get back at a man who cared for nothing in Terreille. Nothing at all. She wasn't sure she believed this story about a child the Priest was besotted with, wasn't sure what difference it made if he was. Let him have his toy. She'd thrown enough youths into the Dark Priestess's lair. Now the walking carrion wanted her to give up the use of Sadi for a hundred years, and as gratitude for Dorothea's willingness to make such an accommodation, was trying to sway her best servant, to make him untrustworthy.

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