"Yes, High Lord, I do." Lord Magstrom smiled. "How fortunate that the Council agreed to let me negotiate the terms of the proposal. If you and I can reach an agreement, perhaps it will be acceptable to the Lady as well."

Saetan tried, but he couldn't return the smile. They'd never seen Jaenelle's sapphire eyes change, never seen her turn from child to Queen, never seen Witch. "Perhaps."

He'd felt grateful when Draca granted him entrance to the Keep. He didn't feel quite so grateful about it when Jaenelle pounced on him the moment he entered her workroom.

"Do you understand this?" she demanded, thrusting a Craft book into his hands and pointing to a paragraph.

His insides churning, he called in his half-moon glasses, positioned them carefully on his nose, and obediently read the paragraph. "It seems simple enough," he said after a moment.

Jaenelle plopped on air, spraddle-legged. "I knew it," she muttered, crossing her arms. "I knew it was written in male."

Saetan vanished his glasses. "I beg your pardon?"

"It's gibberish. Geoffrey understands it but can't explain it so that it makes sense, and you understand it. Therefore, it's written in male—only comprehensible to a mind attached to a c**k and balls."

"Considering his age, I don't think Geoffrey's balls are the problem, witch-child," Saetan said dryly.

Jaenelle snarled.

Stay here,a part of him whispered.Stay with her in this place, in this way. They don't love you, never cared about you unless they wanted something from you. Don't ask her. Let it go. Stay.

Saetan closed the book and held it tight to his chest. "Jaenelle, we have to talk."

Jaenelle fluffed her hair and eyed the closed book.

"We have to talk," he insisted.

"About what?"

That she'd pretend not to know pricked his temper. "Kaeleer, for a start. You have to break the spell or the web or whatever you did."

"When it ends is the Council's choice."

He ignored the warning in her voice. "The Council asked me—"

"You're here on behalf of theCouncil!"

Between one breath and the next, he watched a disgruntled young witch change into a sleek, predatory Queen. Even her clothes changed as she furiously paced the length of her workroom. By the time she finally stopped in front of him, her face was a cold, beautiful mask, her eyes held the depth of the abyss, her nails were painted a red so dark it was almost black, and her hair was a golden cloud caught up at the sides by silver combs. Her gown seemed to be made of smoke and cobwebs, and a Black Jewel hung above her br**sts.

She'd gotten one of her Black Jewels set, he thought as his heart pounded. When had she donethat"?

He looked into her ancient eyes, silently challenging.

"Damn you, Saetan," she said with no emotion, no heat.

"I live for your pleasure, Lady. Do with me what you will. But release Kaeleer from midnight. The innocent don't deserve to suffer."

"And whom do you call innocent?" she asked in her midnight voice.

"The sparrows, the trees, the land," he answered quietly.

"What have they done to deserve having the sun taken away?"

He saw the hurt in her eyes before she yanked the book out of his hands and turned away.

"Don't be daft, Saetan. I would never hurt the land."

Never hurt the land. Never hurt the land. Never never never.

Saetan watched the air currents in the room. They were pretty. Reds, violets, indigos. It didn't matter that air currents didn't have color. Didn't even matter if he was hallucinating. They were pretty.

"Is there a chair in this room?" He wondered if she heard him. He wondered if he said the words out loud.

Jaenelle's voice made the colors dance. "Didn't you getany rest?"

A chair hugged him, warm against his back. A thick shawl wrapped around his shoulders, a throw covered his legs. A healing brew spiked with brandy thawed his tight muscles. Warm, gentle hands smoothed back his hair, caressed his face. And a voice, full of summer winds and midnight, said his name over and over.

He needn't fear her. There was nothing to fear. He needed to take these things in stride and not become distraught over the magnitude of her spells. After all, she was still wearing her Birthright Jewels, still cutting her Craft baby teeth. When she made the Offering . . .

He whimpered. She shushed him.

Cocooned in the warmth, he found his footing again. "The sun's been rising for the sparrows and the trees hasn't it, witch-child?"

"Of course," she said, settling on the arm of the chair.

"In fact, it's been rising for everything but the Blood."

"Yeesss."

"All the Blood?"

Jaenelle fluffed her hair and snarled. "I couldn't get the species separated so I had to lump them all together. But I did send messages to the kindred so they'd know it was temporary," she added hurriedly. "At least, I hope it's temporary."

Saetan snapped upright in the chair. "You did this without knowing for sure you could undo it?"

Jaenelle frowned at him. "Of course I can undo it.Whether I undo it depends on the Council."

"Ah." He needed to sleep for a week—as soon as he saw the sun rise. "The Council asked me to tell you that they've reconsidered."

"Oh." Jaenelle shifted on the chair arm. The layers of her gown split, revealing her entire leg.

She had nice legs, his fair-haired daughter. Strong and lean. He'd strangle the first boy who tried to slip his hand beneath her skirt and stroke that silky inner thigh.

"Would you help me translate that paragraph?" Jaenelle asked.

"Don't you have something to do first?"

"No. It has to be done at the proper hour, Saetan," she added as his eyebrow started to rise.

"Then we might as well fill the time."

They were still struggling with that paragraph two hours later. He was almost willing to agree that there were some things that couldn't be translated between genders, but he kept trying to explain it anyway because it filled him with perverse delight.

Despite her strength and intuition, there were still, thank the Darkness, a few things his fair-haired Lady couldn't do.

PART III

chapter

nine

1 / Terreille

He had been in the salt mines of Pruul for five years. Now it was time to die.

In order to reach the fierce, clean death he'd promised himself, he had to get beyond Zuultah's ability to pull him down with the Ring of Obedience. It wouldn't be difficult. Thinking him cowed, the guards didn't pay much attention to him anymore, and Zuultah had gotten lax in her use of the Ring. By the time they remembered what they never should have forgotten about him, it would be far too late.


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