Lucivar headed for the outside door. He'd have to keep an eye on her to make sure she drank some water and had a bite to eat every couple of hours. He'd slip a word to Mari. It was always easier to get Jaenelle to eat if someone else was eating, too.

As he turned back, he felt the impact of bodies against the shield and heard the warning shouts from the Warlords outside.

He'd talk to Mari later. The Jhinka had returned.

9 / Kaeleer

Lucivar leaned against the covered well and gratefully took the mug of coffee Randahl handed to him. It tasted rough and muddy. He didn't care. At that moment, he would have drunk piss as long as it was hot.

The Jhinka had attacked throughout the night—sometimes small parties striking the shield and then fleeing, sometimes a couple hundred battering at the shield while he sliced them apart. There had been no sleep, no rest. Just the steadily increasing fatigue and physical drain of channeling the power stored in the Jewels as well as the steady drain of that power—a more rapid drain than he had anticipated. Randahl and the other Warlords had exhausted their reserves by the time he and Jaenelle had arrived yesterday, so he was now their only protection and most of their fighting ability.

Because the shield hadn't extended more than a couple of inches below the ground, he'd discovered, almost too late, that the Jhinka had been using the piles of bodies for cover while they dug under the shield. So now the shield went down five feet before turning inward and running underground until it reached the building's foundation.

While they were fighting the Jhinka who'd gotten under the south side of the shield, Lucivar had responded to instinct and raced to the north side of the building, reaching j the corner just as one of the Jhinka ran toward the well, j The earthenware jar the Jhinka carried had contained ' enough concentrated poison to destroy their only water | supply. So the well now had a separate shield around it.

As soon as the attack on the well had been thwarted and f the shield extended, the witch storm had re-formed over j the building. No longer spread out to cover the whole village and hide the destruction, it had become a tight mass of tangled psychic threads, an invisible cloud full of psychic lightning that sizzled every time it brushed the shield.

The extra shielding and the constant reinforcement against another's Craft were doing what the Jhinka alone couldn't do—draining him to the breaking point. It would r take another day. Maybe two. After that, weak spots would appear in the shield—spots the witch storm could penetrate to entangle already exhausted minds, spots the Jhinka could ' break through to attack already exhausted bodies.

He'd briefly toyed with the idea of insisting that Jaenelle return to the Keep for help. He'd dismissed the idea just as quickly. Until the healings were done, nothing and no j one would convince her to leave. If he admitted the shield ' might fail, more than likely she would throw a Black shield around the building, straining a body already overtaxed by the large healing web she'd created to strengthen all the wounded until she could get to them. Totally focused on the healing, she wouldn't give a second thought to driving her body beyond its limits. And he already knew what she would say if he argued with her about the damage she was doing to herself: everything has a price.

So he'd held his tongue and his temper, determined to hold out until someone from Agio or the Keep came looking for them. Now, in the chill, early dawn, he couldn't find enough energy to produce any body heat, so he wrapped his cold hands around the warm mug.

Randahl sipped his coffee in silence, his back turned toward the village. He was a fair-skinned Rihlander with faded blue eyes and thinning, cinnamon hair. His body had a middle-years thickness but the muscles were still solid, and he had more stamina than the three younger Warlords put together.

"The women who can are helping out in the kitchen," Randahl said after a few minutes. "They were pleased to get the venison and other supplies you brought with you. They're using most of the meat to make broth for the seriously wounded, but they said they'd make a stew with the rest. You should have seen the sour looks they gave Mari when she insisted that we get the first bowls. Hell's fire, they even whined about giving us this sludge to drink, and me standing right there." He shook his head in disgust. "Damn landens. It's gotten to the point where the little ones run, screaming, whenever we walk into a village. They go around making signs against evil behind our backs, but they squeal loud enough when they need help."

Lucivar sipped his quickly cooling coffee. "If you feel that way about landens, why did you come to help when the Jhinka attacked?"

"Not forthem. To protect the land. Won't have that Jhinka filth in Ebon Rih. We came to protect the land— and to get those two out." Randahl's shoulders sagged. "Hell's fire, Yaslana. Who would have thought the boy could build a shield like that?"

"No one in Agio, obviously." Before Randahl could snap a reply, Lucivar continued harshly, "If Mari and Khevin matter to you, why didn't you let them live in Agio instead of leaving them here to be sneered at and slighted?"

Randahl's face flushed a dull red. "And what would an Ebon-gray Warlord Prince know about being sneered at or slighted?"

Lucivar didn't know whether he made the decision because he no longer cared what people knew about him or because he wasn't sure he and Randahl would survive. "I grew up in Terreille, not Kaeleer. I was too young to remember my father when I was taken from him, so I grew up being told, and believing, that I was a half-breed bastard, unwanted and unclaimed. You don't know what it's like to be a bastard in an Eyrien hunting camp. Sneered j at?" Lucivar laughed bitterly. "The favorite taunt was 'your father was a Jhinka.' Do you have any idea what that j means to an Eyrien? That you were sired by a male from I a hated race and that your mother must have accepted the mount willingly since she carried you full term and birthed I you? Oh, I think I know how someone like Khevin feels." I

Randahl cleared his throat. "It shames me to say it, but I it wasn't any easier for him in Agio. Lady Erika tried to I make a place for him in her court. Felt she owed it to him I because her ex-Consort had sired the boy. But he wasn't happy, and Mari and her grandmother were here. So he I came back."

And had endured ostracism from the landens and taunts I from the young Blood males—which explained why the two I Warlords now using Craft to move the Jhinka bodies away from the shield were being kept as far away from Jaenelle as possible.

Lucivar finally answered the question he saw in Ran- | dahl's eyes. "Two of Lady Angelline's friends were training Khevin."

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