He'd started prowling after that, started smiling that cold, familiar, brutal smile while she waited. And waited. And waited.

"Why don't you call your friends, Little Assassin?" Daemon said as he glided past the place where she sat with her knees up and her back against the hedge. "Don't you want to earn your pay?"

"There's no pay, Daemon. We're waiting for a friend."

"Of course we are," he said too softly as he made another circuit around the center of the maze. Then he stopped and looked at her, his gold eyes filled with a glazed, cold fire. "She liked you. She asked me to help you. Do you remember that?"

"Who, Daemon?" Surreal asked quietly.

"Tersa." His voice broke. "They burned the house Tersa had lived in with her little boy. She had a son, did you know that?"

Hell's fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. "No, I didn't know that."

Daemon nodded. "But that bitch Dorothea took him from her, and she went far, far away. And then that bitch put a Ring of Obedience on the little boy and trained him to be a pleasure slave. Took him into her bed and,. . ." Daemon shuddered. "You're blood of her blood."

Surreal scrambled to her feet. "Daemon. I'm not like Dorothea. I don't acknowledge her as kin."

Daemon bared his teeth. "Liar," he snarled. He took a step toward her, his right thumb flicking the ragged ring-finger nail. "Silky, court-trained liar." Another step. "Butchering whore."

As he raised his right hand, Surreal saw a tiny, glistening drop fall from the needlelike nail under the regular nail. She dove to his left, calling in her stiletto as she fell. He was on her before she hit the ground. She screamed when he broke her right wrist. She screamed again when he clamped his left hand over both of her wrists, grinding bones.

"Daemon,"she said, breathless and panicked as his right hand closed around her throat. "Daemon."

Surreal gulped back a sob of relief at the sound of that familiar midnight voice.

Hope and horror filled Daemon's eyes as he slowly raised his head. "Please," he whispered. "I never meant. . . .Please.'" He threw his head back, let out a heart-shattering cry, and collapsed.

Using Craft, Surreal rolled him off her and sat up, cradling her broken wrist. Dizzy and nauseous, she closed her eyes as she felt Jaenelle approach. "I realize arriving a few seconds sooner would have made a less dramatic entrance, but I would've appreciated it more." "Let me see your wrist."

Surreal looked up and gasped. "Hell's fire, what happened to you?"

During the other times when Jaenelle's "shadow" had joined Surreal to search for Daemon, it had been impossible to guess she wasn't a living woman unless you tried to touch her. No one would mistake this transparent, wasted creature for something that walked the living Realms. But the sapphire eyes were still filled with their ancient fire, and the Black Jewels still glowed with untapped strength. Jaenelle shook her head and wrapped her hands around Surreal's wrist. A flash of numbing cold was followed by a steadily growing warmth. Surreal felt the bones shift and set.

Jaenelle's transparent hands pulsed, fading and returning again and again! For a moment, she faded completely, her Black Jewels suspended as if waiting for her return.

When she reappeared, her eyes were filled with pain and she panted as if she couldn't draw a full breath.

"Collapsing," Jaenelle gasped. "Not now. Notyet." Her transparent body convulsed. "Surreal, I can't finish the healing. The bones are set, but . . ." A tooled, leather wristband hovered in the air. Jaenelle slipped it over Surreal's wrist and snapped it shut. "That will help support it until it heals."

Surreal's left forefinger traced the stag head set in a circle of flowering vines—the same stag that was a symbol for Titian's kin, the Dea al Mon.

Before she could ask Jaenelle about the wristband, something heavy hit the ground nearby. A man cursed softly.

"Mother Night, the guards heard us." Using her left arm for leverage, Surreal got to her feet. "Let's get him out of here and—"

"I can't leave here, Surreal," Jaenelle said quietly. "I have to do what I came here to do ... while I still can." The Black Jewels flared, and Surreal felt a shivering, liquid darkness flow into the maze.

Jaenelle tried to smile. "They won't find their way through the maze. Not'this maze, anyway." Then she looked sadly at Daemon's gaunt, bruised body and gently brushed the long, dirty, tangled black hair off his forehead. "Ah, Daemon. I had gotten used to thinking of my body as a weapon that was used against me. I'd forgotten that it's also a gift. If it's not too late, I'll do better. I promise."

Jaenelle placed her transparent hands on either side of Daemon's head. She closed her eyes. The Black Jewel glowed.

Listening to the Hayllian guards thrashing around somewhere in the maze, Surreal sank to the ground and settled down to wait.

"Daemon."

The island slowly sank into the sea of blood. He curled up in the center of the pulpy ground while the word sharks circled, waiting for him.

"Daemon."

Hadn't they all been waiting for the end of this torment? Hadn't they all been waiting for the debt to be paid in full? Now she was calling him, calling for his complete surrender.

"Move your ass, Sadi!"

He rolled to his hands and knees and stared at the golden-manned, sapphire-eyed woman who stood on a blood-drenched shore that hadn't existed a minute ago. A tiny spiral horn rose from the center of her forehead. Her long gown looked as if it were made from black cobwebs and didn't quite hide her delicate hooves.

The pleasure of seeing her made him giddy. Her mood made him cautious. He carefully sat back on his heels. " You're annoyed with me."

"Let me put it this way," Jaenelle replied sweetly. "If you go under and I have to pull you out, I'm going to be pissed."

Daemon shook his head slowly and tsked. "Such language."

With precise enunciation, she spoke a phrase in the Old Tongue.

His jaw dropped. He choked on a laugh.

"That, Prince Sadi, islanguage."

You are my instrument.

Words lie. Blood doesn't.

Butchering whore.

He swayed, steadied himself, rose carefully to his feet. "Have you come to call in the debt, Lady?"

He didn't understand the sorrow in her eyes.

"Fm here because of a debt," she said, her voice filled with pain. She slowly raised her hands.

Between the shore and the sinking island, the sea churned, churned, churned. Waves lifted and froze into waist-high walls. Between them, the sea solidified, becoming a bridge made of blood.

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