Only Jaenelle knew how many had been sung back to the land.
"Saetan?" Jaenelle said, resting her head against his shoulder.
He kissed her forehead. "Witch-child?" She didn't respond for so long he thought she'd dozed off. "When does the Dark Council next meet?"
5 / Kaeleer
Lord Magstrom tried to keep his mind on the petitioner standing in the circle, but she had the same complaints as the seven petitioners before her, and he doubted the twenty petitioners after her would have anything different to say to the Dark Council.
He had thought that, when he became Third Tribune, his opinions might carry a little more weight. He had hoped his position would help quell the continued, whispered insinuations about the SaDiablo family.
That none of the Territory Queens outside of Little Terreille believed there was any truth in those whispers should have told the Council something. That the Dark Council's judgments had been respected and trusted by all of the Blood races for all the years the High Lord and Andulvar Yaslana had served in the Council should have told them even more—especially since it was no longer true.
Lord Jorval was First Tribune now, and it was disturbing how easily he shaped other Council members' opinions.
And now this.
"How can I settle the territory granted to me when my men are being slaughtered before they even set up camp?" the Queen petitioner demanded. "The Council has to do something!"
"The wilderness is always dangerous, Lady," Lord Jorval said smoothly. "You were warned to take extra precautions."
"Precautions!" The Queen quivered in outrage. "You said these beasts, these so-called kindred had a bit of magic."
"That wasn't just a bit of magic they were using. That was Craft!"
"No, no. Only the human races are Blood, and only the Blood has the power to use Craft." Lord Jorval looked soulfully at the Council members seated on either side of the large chamber. "But, perhaps, since we know so little about them, we were not fully aware of the extent of this animal magic. It may be that the only way our Terreillean Brothers and Sisters will be able to secure the land granted to them is if the Kaeleer Queens they're serving are willing to send in their own warriors to clear out these infestations."
And every Queen who sent assistance would expect a higher percentage of the profit from the conquered land, Magstrom thought sourly. He was about to antagonize the
rest of the Council—again—by reminding the members that the Dark Council had been formed to act as arbitrators to prevent wars, not to provoke them. Before he could speak, a midnight voice filled the Council chamber.
"Infestations?" Jaenelle Angelline strode toward the Tribunal's bench and stopped just outside the petitioner's circle, flanked by the High Lord and Lucivar Yaslana. "Those infestations you speak of, Lord Jorval, are kindred. They are Blood. They have every right to defend themselves and their land against an invading force."
"We're not invading!" the petitioning Queen snapped. "We went in to settle the unclaimed land that was granted to us by the Dark Council."
"It's not unclaimed," Jaenelle snarled. "It's kindred Territories."
"Ladies." Lord Jorval had to raise his voice to be heard over the muttering of Council members and petitioners. "Ladies!" When the Council and the petitioners subsided, Lord Jorval smiled at Jaenelle. "Lady Angelline, while it's always a pleasure to see you, I must ask that you not disrupt a Council meeting. If there is something you wish to bring before the Council, you must wait until the petitioners who have already requested an audience have been heard."
"If all the petitioners have the same complaint, I can save the Council a great deal of time," Jaenelle replied coldly. "Kindred Territories are not unclaimed land. The Blood have ruled there for thousands of years. The Blood still rule there."
"While it pains me to disagree," Lord Jorval said gently, "there are no Blood in these 'kindred territories.' The Council has studied this matter most diligently and has reached the conclusion that, while these animals may be thought of as 'magical cousins,' they are not Blood. One must be human to be Blood. And this Council was formed to deal with the Blood's concerns, the Blood's rights."
"Then what are the centaurs? What are the satyrs? Half-human with half rights?" No one answered. "I see," Jaenelle said too softly.
Lord Magstrom's mouth felt parched. His tongue felt shriveled. Did no one else remember what had happened the last time Jaenelle Angelline had stood before the Council?
"Once the Blood are established in these Territories, they will look after the kindred. Any disagreements can then be brought to the Council by the human representatives for those Territories."
"You're saying that the kindred require a human representative before they're entitled to any consideration or any rights?"
"Precisely," Lord Jorval said, smiling.
"In that case,I am the kindred's human representative."
Lord Magstrom suddenly felt as if a trap had been sprung. Lord Jorval was still smiling, still looked benign, but Magstrom had worked with him enough to recognize the subtle, underlying cruelty in the man.
"Unfortunately, that isn't possible," Lord Jorval said. "This Lady's claim may be under dispute"—he nodded at the petitioning Queen—"but you have no claim whatsoever. You don't rule these Territories. Your rights are not being infringed upon. And since neither you nor yours are affected by this, you have no justifiable complaint. I must ask you now to leave the Council chambers."
Lord Magstrom shuddered at the blankness in Jaenelle's eyes. He sighed with relief when she walked out of the Council chamber, followed by the High Lord and Prince Yaslana.
"Now, Lady," Lord Jorval said with a weary smile, "let's see what we can do about yourrightful petition."
"Bastards," Lucivar snarled as they walked toward the landing web.
Saetan slipped an arm around Jaenelle's shoulders. Lucivar's open anger didn't worry him. Jaenelle's silent withdrawal did.
"Don't fret about it, Cat," Lucivar continued. "We'll find a way around those bastards and keep the kindred protected."~
"I'm not sure thereis a legitimate way around the Council's decision," Saetan said carefully.
"And you've never stepped outside the Law? You've never overruled a bad decision by using strength and temper?"
Saetan clenched his teeth. In trying to explain why the family had difficulties with the Dark Council, someone must have told Lucivar why the Council made him Jaenelle's guardian. "No, I'm not saying that."