Jaenelle bared her teeth and snarled at him. It wasn't a sound that could possibly come from a human throat.
Luthvian watched them, too frightened to move or speak. She had no idea what was passing between them, but she kept hoping he was strong enough to contain Jaenelle's anger—and knew with dreadful certainty that he wasn't. He wore the Black Jewels, and he didn't outrank his daughter. May the Darkness be merciful!
The cold was gone as suddenly as it appeared.
Saetan released Jaenelle's arm and watched her until the front door closed behind her. Then he sagged against the wall.
As a Healer, Luthvian knew she should help him, but she couldn't make her legs move. That's when it finally struck her that the girls hadn't reacted to the cold or the danger, that the buzzing voices were speculating on the outward drama without any understanding at all.
"She's rather spoiled," Roxie said, giving Saetan her best pout.
He glared at her so malevolently she shrank back into the workroom, stepping on the other girls who were crowded around the doorway.
"Finish your spells," Luthvian said. "I'll check them in a minute." She closed the workroom door and rested her head against it.
"I'm sorry," Saetan said. He sounded exhausted.
"You shielded the girls, didn't you?"
Saetan gave her a tired smile. "I tried to shield you, too, but she rose past me too fast."
"Better that you didn't." Luthvian pushed away from the door and smoothed her gown. "But you were right. It was better having the first lesson and knowing what it will be like to teach her before coming to terms with what she is."
She saw his golden eyes change.
"And what do you think she is, Luthvian?" he asked too softly.
Look beneath the skin.
She looked him in the eye. "Your daughter."
Saetan strolled along the edge of the wide dirt road. Jaenelle was a little ways ahead of him and didn't seem to be in any hurry, so he didn't feel a pressing need to catch up with her. Besides, it was better to let her calm down before asking her what he needed to ask, and, since she was a Queen, the land would soothe her faster than he could.
In that, she was like every other Queen he'd ever known. No matter what other talents they had, the Queens were the ones most drawn to the land, the ones who most needed that contact with the earth. Even the ones who spent most of their time residing in larger cities had a garden where their feet could touch the living earth, quietly listening to all the land had to tell them.
So he strolled, relishing the ability once again to walk down a road on a summer morning and see the sun-kissed land. To his right was Doun's fenced-in common pastures, where all the villagers' cattle and horses grazed. To his left, just past the stone wall that surrounded Luthvian's lawn and gardens, was meadowland dotted with wildflowers. In the distance were stands of pine and spruce. Beyond them rose the mountains that ringed Ebon Rih.
Jaenelle stepped off the road and stopped, her back to all that was civilized, her sapphire eyes fixed on the wild. He approached her slowly, reluctant to disturb her meditation.
Nothing had happened at Luthvian's that could explain the intensity of Jaenelle's anger. Nothing had prepared him for that confrontation when she had turned on him, because part of her anger had been at him, and he still didn't know what he'd done to cause it.
She turned toward him, outwardly calm but still ready to fight.
Fight with a Queen when there's no other choice.Good, sound advice from the Steward of the first court he'd ever served in.
"What did you think of Luthvian?" Saetan asked as he offered Jaenelle his right arm.
Jaenelle studied him for a moment before linking arms with him. "She knows Craft." She wrinkled her nose and smiled. "I rather like her, even if she was a bit prickly today."
"Witch-child, Luthvian's always a bit prickly," Saetan said dryly.
"Ah. Especially with you?"
"We have a past." He waited for the inevitable questions, and became slightly uncomfortable when Jaenelle didn't ask any. Maybe past affairs weren't of interest to her. Or maybe she already had all the answers she required. "Why were you so angry with Roxie?"
"You're not a whore," Jaenelle snapped, pulling away from him.
Suddenly it seemed much darker, but when he looked up, the sky was just as blue as it had been a moment before and the clouds were still puffy and white. No, the storm gathering around him was standing a few feet away with her hands clenched and her feet spread in a fighting stance—and tears in her haunted eyes.
"No one said I was a whore," Saetan said quietly.
The tears spilled down Jaenelle's cheeks. "How could you let that bitch do that to you?" she screamed at him.
"Do what?" he snapped, failing to keep his frustration in check.
"How could you let her look at you like . . . force you . . ."
"force me?How in the name of Hell do you think that child could force me to do anything?"
"There are ways!"
"What ways? No one was ever stupid enough to try to force me even before I made the Offering, let alone since I began wearing the Black."
"Listen to me, witch-child. Roxie is a young woman who's recently had her first sexual experience. Right now she thinks she owns the world and every male who looks at her will want to be her lover. In my younger years, I was a consort in a number of courts. I understand the game older, experienced men are expected to play. We'resupposed to let girls practice on us because we have no interest in warming their beds. By our approval or disapproval, we help them understand how a man thinks and feels." He raked his fingers through his hair. "Although, I'll grant you, Roxie's a bit of a cunt."
Jaenelle scrubbed the tears from her face. "Then you didn't mind?"
Saetan sighed. "The truth? While listening to her giggling crudities, I was giving myself immense pleasure imagining what it would be like to hear her bones snapping."
"Come here, witch-child." He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight while he rested his cheek on her head. "Who were you really angry for, Jaenelle? Who were you trying to protect?"
"I don't know. I sort of remember someone who had to submit to women like Roxie. It hurt him, and he hated it. It's not even a memory. More like a feeling because I can't recall who or where or why I would have known someone like that."
Which explained why she hadn't asked about Daemon. He was too entwined with the trauma that had cost her two years of her life, a trauma she'd locked away somewhere inside her. And all her memories of Daemon were locked away with it.