He'd have to talk to Lucivar about the self-imposed limits of that kind of monitoring. He'd be interested in where his son drew the line.

"Speaking of the pain in the ass who's not an idiot," Jaenelle said, pointing to the two figures walking slowly toward the camp.

Mistral bugled wildly. "Moonshadow! Moonshadow!"

He took off at a gallop. At least, he tried to.

As Mistral leaped forward, Gabrielle jumped up from her seat on the other log, reached out, closed her hand as if she'd grabbed something, and jerked her hand up.

Mistral hung in the air, his legs flailing.

Gabrielle's arm shook from the effort of holding that much weight suspended, even if she was using Craft. Watching her, Saetan decided he and Chaosti needed to have a chat very soon. A witch who could pull a trick like that after an exhausting day of healing was a Lady who needed careful handling.

"If you gallop on that leg, I'll knock you silly," Gabrielle said.

"It's Moonshadow!"

"I don't care if it's the Queen of the unicorns or your mate," Gabrielle replied hotly. "You're not galloping on that leg!"

"Actually," Jaenelle said with a dry smile, "she's both."

"Well, Hell's fire," Gabrielle set Mistral down but didn't let go.

"Gabrielle," Chaosti said in that coaxing tone of voice Saetan labeled male-soothing-female-temper. "She's his mate. He's been worried. I wouldn't want to wait if it were you. Let him go."

Gabrielle glared at Chaosti.

"He'll walk," Chaosti said. "Won't you, Mistral?"

Mistral wasn't about to turn down allies, even if they did have only two legs. Til walk."

Reluctantly, Gabrielle released him.

Mistral plodded toward Moonshadow, his head down like a small boy who's been scolded and hasn't yet gotten away from the scolder's watchful eyes.

Now see what you did," Khary said. "You made his horn wilt."

"I'll bet your horn wilts too when you're scolded," Karla said with a wicked smile.

Before Khary could reply, Jaenelle set her cup down and said quietly, "It's time."

Everyone became subdued as she walked into the trees. "Do you know what's supposed to happen?" Lucivar asked Saetan when he reached the camp and sat down next to his father.

Saetan shook his head. Like everyone else in the camp, he couldn't take his eyes off the mare. "Mother Night, she's beautiful."

"She's also a Black Widow Queen," Lucivar said dryly, watching Mistral escort his Lady. "Well, if someone's going to get kicked for fussing, better him than me."

Saetan laughed softly. "By the way, your sister has something she wants to discuss with you." When he didn't get a response, he looked at his son. "Lucivar?"

Lucivar's mouth hung open, his eyes fixed on the trees to Saetan's left—the trees Jaenelle had walked into a few minutes before.

He turned . . . and forgot how to breathe. She wore a long, flowing dress made of delicate black spidersilk. Strands of cobwebs dripped from the tight sleeves. Beginning just above her br**sts, the dress became an open web framing her chest and shoulders. Black Jewel chips sparkled with dark fire at the end of each thread.

Black-Jeweled rings decorated both hands. Around her neck was a Black Jewel centered in a web made of delicate gold and silver strands.

It was a gown made for Jaenelle the Witch. Erotic. Romantic. Terrifying. He could feel the latent power in every thread of that gown. And he knew then who had created it: the Arachnians. The Weavers of Dreams.

Saying nothing, Jaenelle picked up Kaetien's horn and glided toward open ground, the gown's small train flowing out behind her.

Saetan wanted to remind her that it was her moon time, that she shouldn't be channeling her power through her body right now. But he remembered that, behind the human mask, Witch had a tiny spiral horn in the center of her forehead, so he said nothing.

She spent several minutes walking around, looking at the ground as if she wanted a particular site.

Finally satisfied, she faced the north. Raising Kaetien's horn to the sky, she sang one keening note. She lowered her hands, pointed the horn at the ground, and sang another note. Then she swept her arms upward and began to sing in the Old Tongue.

Witch song.

Saetan felt it in his bones, felt it in his blood.

A ghostly web of power formed under her bare feet and swiftly spread across the land. Spread and spread and spread.

Her song changed, became a dirge filled with sorrow and celebration. Her voice became the wind, the water, the grass, the trees. Circling. Spiraling.

The still, white bodies of the dead unicorns began to glow. Mesmerized, Saetan wondered if, viewed from above, the glowing bodies would look like stars that had come to rest on sacred ground.

Perhaps they were. Perhaps they had.

The song changed again until it became a blend of the other two. Ending and beginning. From the land and back to the land.

The unicorn bodies melted into the earth.

Kindred didn't come to the Dark Realm. Now he knew why. Just as he knew why humans would never easily settle in kindred Territories without the kindred's welcome. Just as he knew what had created those pockets of power he'd avoided so carefully.

Kindred never left their Territories, they became part of it. What strength was left in each of them became bound with the land.

The ghostly web of power faded.

Jaenelle's voice and the last of the daylight faded.

No one moved. No one spoke.

Coming back to himself, Saetan realized Lucivar's arm was around his shoulders.

"Damn," Lucivar whispered, brushing away tears.

"The living myth," Saetan whispered. "Dreams made flesh." His throat tightened. He closed his eyes.

He felt Lucivar leave him and reach for something.

Opening his eyes, he watched Lucivar support Jaenelle into the camp. Her face was tight with pain and exhaustion, but there was peace in her sapphire eyes.

The coven gathered around her and led her into the trees.

Talking quietly, the boys stirred the pots of stew, sliced bread and cheese, gathered bowls and plates for the evening meal.

Beyond the firelight, the unicorns settled down for the night.

Khary and Aaron took bowls of stew and water out to where Ladvarian and Kaelas were keeping watch over the foals.

When the girls returned, Jaenelle was dressed in trousers and a long, heavy sweater. She gave Lucivar a halfhearted snarl when he wrapped her in a spell-warmed blanket and settled her on the log next to Saetan, but she didn't grumble about the food he brought.

They all talked quietly as they ate. Small talk and gentle teasing. Nothing about what they'd done today or what still waited for them tomorrow. Despite their best efforts, they'd covered a very small part of Sceval, and only Jaenelle knew how many unicorns lived there.

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