There was a new, thick-linked chain attached to the back wall. The bottom loop of the belt was pulled through a slot in the band around his waist, and the chain was locked to it. The chain wasn't long enough for him to do anything but stand, and if his legs buckled, it wouldn't be his waist absorbing his weight. No doubt Zuultah was being oiled and massaged while she waited for his scream of agony.
That wasn't reason enough to cry.
Slime mold had begun forming on his wings. Without a cleansing by a Healer, it would spread and spread until his wings were nothing more than greasy strings of membranous skin hanging from the frame. He couldn't spread his wings in the salt mine without being whipped, and now his hands were chained behind his back each night, locking his wings tight against a body coated with salt dust and dripping with sweat.
He'd told Daemon once he would rather lose his balls than his wings, and he had meant it.
But that wasn't reason enough to cry.
He hadn't seen the sun in over a year. Except for the few precious minutes each day when he was led from his cell to the salt mines and back again, he hadn't breathed clean air or felt a breeze against his skin. His world had become two dark, stinking holes—and a covered courtyard where he was stretched out on the stones and regularly beaten.
But that wasn't reason enough to cry.
He'd been punished before, beaten before, whipped before, locked in dark cells before. He'd been sold into service to cruel, twisted witches before. He'd always responded by fighting with all the savagery within him, becoming such a destructive force they'd send him back to Askavi in order to survive.
He hadn't once tried to escape from Pruul, hadn't once unleashed his volatile temper to rend and tear and destroy. Not that many years ago, Zuultah's and the guards' blood would have been splashed over the walls of this place and he would have stood in the rubble filling the night with an Eyrien battle cry of victory.
But that was when he'd still believed in the myth, the dream. That was when he'd still believed that one day he would meet the Queen who would accept him, understand him, value him. Meeting her had been his dream, a sweet, ever-blooming flower in his soul. The Lady of the Black Mountain. The Queen of Ebon Askavi. Witch.
Then the dream became flesh—and Daemon killed her.
That was reason to grieve. For the loss of the Lady he'd ached to serve, for the loss of the one man he thought he could trust.
Now there was only an emptiness, a despair so deep it covered his soul like the slime mold was covering his wings.
There was only one dream left.
The ache in his chest finally eased. Lucivar swallowed the last sob and opened his eyes.
He'd always known where he wanted to die and how he wanted to die. And it wasn't in the salt mines of Pruul.
Lucivar's legs vibrated from the strain. He sank his teeth into his lower lip until it bled. A couple more hours and the guards would release him to take him to the salt mines. More pain, more suffering.
He would whimper a little, cringe a little. Next week he would cringe a little more when a guard approached. Little by little they would forget what should never be forgotten about him. And then . . .
Lucivar smiled, his lips smeared with blood.
There was still a reason to live.
6 / Terreille
Dorothea SaDiablo stared at her Master of the Guard. "What do you mean you've called off the search?"
"He's not in Hayll, Priestess," Lord Valrik replied. "My men and I have searched every barn, every cottage, every Blood and landen village. We've been down every alley in every city. Daemon Sadi is not in Hayll,has not been in Hayll. I would stake my career on it."
Then you've lost."You called off the search without my consent."
"Priestess, I'd give my life for you, but we've been chasing shadows. No one has seen him, Blood or landens. The men are weary. They need to be home with their families for a while."
"And ten months from now an army of mewling brats will be testimony to how weary your men are."
Valrik didn't answer.
Dorothea paced, tapping her fingertips against her chin. "So he isn't in Hayll. Start searching the neighboring Territories and—"
"We've no right to make such a search in another Territory."
"All those Territories stand in Hayll's shadow. The Queens wouldn't dare deny you access to their lands."
"The authority of the Queens ruling those Territories is weak as it is. We can't afford to undermine it."
Dorothea turned away from him. He was right, damn him. But she had to get him to dosomething. "Then you leave me at the mercy of the Sadist," she said with a tearful quiver in her voice.
'Wo, Priestess," Valrik said strenuously. "I've talked to the Masters of the Guard in all the neighboring Territories, made them aware of his bestial nature. They understand their own young are at risk. If they find him in their Territory, he won't get out alive."
Dorothea spun around. "Inever gave you permission to kill him."
"He's a Warlord Prince. It's the only way we'll—"
"You must not kill him."
Dorothea swayed, pleased when Valrik put his arms around her and guided her to a chair. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled his head down until their foreheads touched. "His death would have repercussions for all of us. He must be brought back to Hayll alive. You must at least supervise the search in the other Territories."
Valrik hesitated, then sighed. "I can't. For your sake and the sake of Hayll ... I can't."
A good man. Older, experienced, respected, honorable.
Dorothea slid her right hand down his neck in a sensuous caress before driving her nails into his flesh and pumping all of her venom through the snake tooth.
Valrik pulled back, shocked, his hand clamped against his neck. "Priestess .. ." His eyes glazed. He stumbled back a step.
Dorothea daintily licked the blood from her fingers and smiled at him. "You said you would give your life for me. Now you have." She studied her nails, ignoring Valrik as he staggered out of the room, dying. Calling in a nail file, she smoothed a rough edge.
A pity to lose such an excellent Master of the Guard and a bother to have to replace him. She vanished the nail file and smiled. But at least Valrik, by example, would teach his successor a very necessary lesson: too much honor could get a man killed.
7 / Kaeleer
Saetan balled the freshly ironed shirt in his hands, massaging it into a mass of wrinkles. He shook it out. grimly satisfied with the results, and slipped it on.
He hated this. He had always hated this.
His black trousers and tunic jacket received the same treatment as the shirt. As he buttoned the jacket, he smiled wryly. Just as well he'd insisted that Helene and the rest of the staff take the evening off. If his prim housekeeper saw him dressed like this, she'd consider it a personal insult.