She looked around the small, almost-empty room in distaste. "Once he's gone, I'll reside again in the splendor that's my due. And you, my faithful darling, will serve at my side.

"Come," she said, guiding him into another small room. "I realize the body's death is a shock . . ."

Greer stared at the boy and girl cowering in a pile of straw.

"We're demons, Greer," Hekatah said, stroking his arm. "We need fresh, hot blood. With it, we can keep our dead flesh strong. And although some pleasures of the flesh are no longer possible, there are compensations."

Hekatah leaned against him, her lips close to his ear. "Landen children. A Blood child is better but more difficult to come by. But dining on a landen child also has compensations."

Greer was breathing fast, as if he needed air.

"A pretty little girl, don't you think, Greer? At your first psychic touch, her mind will burn to hot ash, but primitive emotions will remain . . . long enough . . . and fear is a delicious dinner."

3 / Terreille

You are my instrument.

Daemon Sadi shifted restlessly on the small bed that had been set up in one of the storage rooms beneath Deje's Red Moon house.

. . .you are my instrument . . . riding the Winds to Cassandra's Altar . . . Surreal already there, crying . . . Cassandra there, angry ... so much blood ... his hands covered with Jaenelle's blood . . . descending into the abyss . . . falling, screaming ... a child who wasn't a child ... a narrow bed with straps to tie down hands and feet ... a sumptuous bed with silk sheets . . . the Dark Altar's cold stone . . . black candles . . . scented candles . . . a child screaming . . . his tongue licking a tiny spiral horn ... his body pinning hers to cold stone while she fought and screamed . . . begging her to forgive him . . . but what had he done? ... a golden mane ... his fingers tickling a fawn tail ... a narrow bed with silk sheets . . . a sumptuous bed with straps . . .forgive me, forgive me . . . his body pinning her down . . . what had he done? . . .

Cassandra's anger cutting him . . . was she safe? . . . was she well? ... a sumptuous stone bed . . . silk sheets with straps ... a child screaming ... so much blood . . .you are my instrument . . . forgive me, forgive me . . .whatHAD HE DONE?

Surreal sagged against the wall and listened to Daemon's muffled sobs. Who would have suspected that the Sadist could be so vulnerable? She and Deje knew enough basic healing Craft to heal his body, but neither of them knew how to fix the mental and emotional wounds. Instead of becoming stronger, he was becoming more fragile, vulnerable.

For the first few days after she had brought him here, he had kept asking what had happened. But she could tell him only what she knew.

With the help of the demon-dead girl, Rose, she had entered Briarwood, killed the Warlord who had raped Jaenelle, and then had taken Jaenelle to the Sanctuary called Cassandra's Altar. Daemon had joined her at the Sanctuary. Cassandra was there, too. Daemon had ordered them out of the Altar room in order to have privacy to try to bring Jaenelle's Self back to her body. Surreal had used that time to set traps for Briarwood's "rescue party." When the males arrived, she had held them off for as long as she could. By the time she'd retreated to the Altar room, Cassandra and Jaenelle were gone and Daemon could barely stand. She and Daemon had ridden the Winds back to Beldon Mor and had spent the last three weeks hiding in Deje's Red Moon house.

That's all she could tell him. It wasn't what he needed to hear. She couldn't tell him he had saved Jaenelle. She couldn't tell him the girl was safe and well. And it seemed like the more he struggled to remember, the more fragmented the memories became. But he still had the strength of the Black Jewels, still had the ability to unleash all of that dark power. If he lost his tenuous hold on sanity . . .

Surreal turned at the sound of a stealthy footfall on the stairs at the end of the dim passageway. The sobs behind the closed door stopped.

Moving swiftly, silently, Surreal cornered the woman at the bottom of the stairs. "What do you want, Deje?"

The dishes on the tray Deje was carrying rattled as the woman's body shook. "I—I thought—" She lifted the tray in explanation. "Sandwiches. Some tea. I—"

Surreal frowned. Why was Deje staring at her br**sts? It wasn't the look of an efficient matron sizing up one of the girls. And why was Deje shaking like that?

Surreal looked down. Her clenched hand was holding her favorite stiletto, its tip resting against the Gray Jewel that hung on its gold chain above the swell of her br**sts. She hadn't been aware of calling in the stiletto or of calling in the Gray. She had been annoyed with the intrusion, but. . .

Surreal vanished the stiletto, pulled her shirt together to hide the Jewel, and took the tray from Deje. "Sorry. I'm a bit edgy."

"The Gray," Deje whispered. "You wear the Gray."

Surreal tensed. "Not when I'm working in a Red Moon house."

Deje didn't seem to hear. "I didn't know you were that strong."

Surreal shifted the tray's weight to her left hand and casually let her right hand drop to her side, her fingers curled around the stiletto's comforting weight. If it had to be done, it would be fast and clean. Deje deserved that much.

She watched Deje's face while the woman mentally rearranged the bits of information she knew about the whore named Surreal, who was also an assassin. When Deje finally looked at her, there was respect and dark satisfaction in the woman's eyes.

Then Deje looked at the tray and frowned. "Best use a warming spell on that tea or it won't be fit to drink."

"I'll take care of it," Surreal said.

Deje started back up the stairs.

"Deje," Surreal said quietly. "I do pay my debts."

Deje gave her a sharp smile and nodded at the tray. "You try to get some food into him. He's got to get his strength back."

Surreal waited until the door at the top of the stairs clicked shut before returning to the storage room that held, perhaps now more than ever, the most dangerous Warlord Prince in the Realm.

Late that evening, Surreal opened the storage room's door without knocking and pulled up short. "What in the name of Hell are you doing?"

Daemon glanced up at her before tying his other shoe. "I'm getting dressed." His deep, cultured voice had a rougher edge than usual.

"Are you mad?" Surreal bit her lip, regretting the word.

"Perhaps." Daemon fastened his ruby cuff links to his white silk shirt. "I have to find out what happened, Surreal. I have to findher."

Exasperated, Surreal scraped her fingers through her hair. "You can't leave in the middle of the night. Besides, it's bitter cold out."

Tags: Anne Bishop Books The Black Jewels Series Books Science Fiction Books