Daemon owned the island. Everyone who lived there had been physically or emotionally maimed by Dorothea SaDiablo. It was a sheltered place where they could rebuild some semblance of a life.

She hadn't dared go to the island while she was still hunting for Daemon because she'd been afraid of leading Kartane SaDiablo there. Now she and Daemon could both

drop out of sight, and the fictitious invalid Warlord and his newly acquired companion would become a reality.

But first there was one fast stop to make, one question to ask. She hoped beyond words that Manny would say "yes."

"Surreal . . ."

Surreal tried to strengthen the distaff thread. " Jaenelle?"

"Surreal ... g ... Keep . . . o . . ."

Surreal tightened the leash on her emotions as the distaff thread snapped. She'd do her best to keep Daemon safe.

Because she owed him. Because what was left of Jaenelle cared.

Not allowing herself to think about what was happening in the center of the maze, Surreal flew on.

3 / Kaeleer

Ladvarian's frantic barking and Lucivar's shouted "Father!" snapped Saetan out of his worried brooding. Propelling himself out of a chair in Jaenelle's sitting room at the Keep, he rushed to the door leading into her bedroom, then clung to the frame, paralyzed for a moment by the sight of the ravaged body Lucivar held in his arms.

"Mother Night," he muttered as he grabbed Kaelas by the scruff of the neck and pulled the snarling young cat off the bed. Throwing back the bedcovers, he placed a warming spell on the sheets. "Put her down."

Lucivar hesitated.

"Put her down," he snapped, unnerved by the tears in Lucivar's eyes. As soon as Lucivar gently laid Jaenelle on the bed, Saetan knelt beside her. Laying one hand lightly against her chest, he used a delicate psychic tendril to sense and catalog the injuries.

Lungs collapsing, arteries and veins collapsing, heart erratic and weak. The rest of the inner organs on the verge of failing. Bones as fragile as eggshells.

"Jaenelle," Saetan called. Sweet Darkness, had she severed the link between body and spirit?"Witch-child!"

"Saetan?" Jaenelle's voice sounded faint and far away. "I made a mess of it, didn't I?"

He fought to remain calm. She had the knowledge and the Craft to perform the healing. If he could keep her connected with her body, they might have a chance to save her. "You could say that."

"Did Ladvarian bring the healing web from the Keep in Terreille?"

"Ladvarian!" He instantly regretted shouting because the Sceltie just cowered and whined, too upset to remember how to speak to him.Stay calm, SaDiablo. Temper is destructive in any healing room, but it could be fatal in this one. "The Lady is asking about the healing web," he said quietly. "Did you bring it?"

Kaelas planted his front paws on either side of the small dog's body and gave his friend an encouraging lick.

After another nudge from Kaelas, Ladvarian said, "Web?" He stood up, still safely sheltered by the cat's body. "Web. I brought the web."

A small wooden frame appeared between Ladvarian and the bed.

To Saetan's eye, the healing web attached to the frame looked too simple to help a body as damaged as Jaenelle's. Then he noticed the single thread of spidersilk that went from the web to the Black-Jeweled ring attached to the frame's base.

"Three drops of blood on the ring will waken the healing web," Jaenelle said.

Saetan looked at Lucivar, who stood near the bed as if waiting for a fatal blow. He hesitated—and swore silently because he still felt the sting of old accusations even though he wasn't asking for himself. "She needs three drops of blood on the ring. I don't dare give her mine. I'm not sure what a Guardian's blood will do to her."

Rage flashed in Lucivar's eyes, and Saetan knew his son had understood why he'd hesitated to ask.

"Damn you to the bowels of Hell," Lucivar said as he pulled a small knife out of the sheath in his boot. "Youdidn't take my blood when I was a child, so stop apologizing for something you didn't do." He jabbed a finger and let three drops of blood fall on the Black-Jeweled ring. Saetan held his breath until the web started glowing.

Lucivar sheathed the knife. "I'm going to fetch Luthvian."

Saetan nodded. Not that Lucivar had waited for his agreement before stepping through the glass door that led to Jaenelle's private garden and launching himself skyward.

Jaenelle's body twitched. Through the psychic tendril, Saetan could feel the Craft in the web washing through her, stabilizing her. He glanced at the web and tried to block out any feelings of despair. One-third of the threads were already darkened, used up.

"I didn't expect it to be this bad," Jaenelle said apologetically.

"Luthvian will be here soon."

"Good. With her help, I can transfer the power my body can't hold now into the web to use for the healing."

He felt her fade. "Jaenelle!"

"I found him, Saetan. I marked a trail for him to follow. And I ... I told Surreal to take him to the Keep, but I'm not sure she heard me."

"Don't think about it now, witch-child. Concentrate on healing."

She drifted into a light sleep.

By the time Luthvian arrived at the Keep, two-thirds of Jaenelle's simple healing web was used up, and he wondered if there would be enough time to create another one before the last thread darkened.

He couldn't stay and watch. As soon as Luthvian regained enough of her composure to begin, he retreated to the sitting room, taking Ladvarian and Kaelas with him. He didn't ask where Lucivar was. He simply felt grateful that they wouldn't rub against each other's fraying tempers for a little while.

He paced until his leg ached. He embraced the physical discomfort like a sweet lover. Far better to focus on that than the heart-bruises that might be waiting for him.

Because he wasn't sure if he could stand another bedside vigil.

Because he didn't know if she'd succeeded enough to make her suffering worth it.

4 / The Twisted Kingdom

He learned as he climbed.

She had left small resting places next to the glittering trail: violets nestled against a boulder; sweet, clean water trickling down stone to a quiet pool that soothed the spirit; a patch of thick, green grass large enough to stretch out on; a plump, brown bunny watching him while it stuffed its face with clover; a cheerful fire that melted the first layer of ice around his heart.

At first, he'd tried to ignore the resting places. He learned he could pass one, maybe two, while he fought against the weight that made each step more difficult. If he tried to pass a third, he found the trail blocked. Instinct always warned him that if he stepped off the glittering trail to go around the obstruction, he might never find his way back. So he'd backtrack and rest until he absorbed the weight and found it comfortable to go on.

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