Lucivar yanked the pick out of the guard's belly and drove it into the man's brain, sending just enough Ebon-gray power through the metal to finish the kill by shattering the guard's mind and Jewels.

Baring his teeth in a feral smile, he snapped the chains that had held him for the past five years. Then he called in his Ebon-gray Jewels and the wide leather belt that held his hunting knife and his Eyrien war blade. A lot of foolish Queens over the centuries had tried to force him to surrender those weapons. He'd endured the punishment and the pain and had never admitted they were always within reach—at least until he used them.

Unsheathing the war blade, he ran toward the mine's entrance.

The first two guards died before they realized he was there.

The next two blew apart when he struck with the Ebon-gray.

The rest were entangled by frantic slaves trying to get out of the way of an enraged Warlord Prince.

Fighting his way clear of the tangled bodies, he reached the mine entrance and ran across the slave compound, mentally preparing himself for a blind leap into the Darkness, hoping that, like an arrow released from a bow, he'd fly straight and true to the closest Wind and freedom.

Nerve-searing agony from the Ring of Obedience shredded his concentration at the same moment a crossbow bolt went through his thigh, breaking his stride. Howling with rage, he unleashed a wide band of power through his Ebon-gray ring, ripping the pursuing guards apart, body and mind. Another blast of pain from the Ring tore through him. He pivoted on his good leg, braced himself, and aimed a surge of power at Zuultah's house.

The house exploded. Stones smashed into surrounding buildings.

The pain from the Ring stopped abruptly. Lucivar probed swiftly and swore. The bitch was alive. Stunned and hurt, but still alive. He hesitated, wanting that kill. A weak strike at his inner barriers pulled his attention back to the surviving guards. They ran toward him, trying to braid their Jewels' strength in order to overwhelm him.

Fools. He could tear them apart piece by piece, and would have for the joy of paying pain back with pain, but by now someone would have sent out a call for help and if Zuultah came to enough to use the Ring of Obedience . . .

Battle lust sang in his veins, numbing physical pain. Maybe it would be better to die fighting, to turn the Arava Desert into a sea of blood. The closest Wind was a long, blind leap away. But, Hell's fire, if Jaenelle could do it when she was seven, then he could do it now.

Blood. So much blood.

Bitterness centered him, decided him.

Unleashing one more blast of power from the Ebon-gray, he gathered himself and leaped into the Darkness.

Bracing himself against the well, Lucivar filled the dipper again with sweet, cool water and drank slowly, savoring every swallow. Filling the dipper a last time, he limped to the nearby remains of a stone wall and settled himself as comfortably as possible.

That blind leap into the Darkness had cost him. Zuultah had roused enough to send another bolt through the Ring of Obedience just as he'd launched himself into the Darkness, and he'd drained half the strength in his Ebon-gray Jewels making the desperate reach for the Winds.

He sipped the water and stubbornly ignored what his body screamed at him. Hunger. Pain. A desperate need to sleep.

A hunting party from Pruul was three, maybe four hours behind him. He could have lost them, but it would have taken time he didn't have. A message relayed from mind to mind would reach Prythian, Askavi's High Priestess, faster than he could travel right now, and he didn't want to be caught by Eyrien warriors before he reached the Khaldharon Run.

And, if at all possible, there was a debt he wanted to call in.

Lucivar secured the dipper to the well and emptied the bucket. Satisfied that everything was as he'd found it, he faced south and sent out a summons on an Ebon-gray thread, pushing for his maximum range.


He waited a minute, then turned to face southeast.


After another restless minute, he turned east.


A flicker. Faint, different somehow, but still familiar.

Lucivar sighed like a satisfied lover. It was a fitting place for the Sadist to go to ground—in more ways than one. Plenty of broken, tumbled rock among those ruins. Some of them should be large enough to use as a makeshift altar. Oh, yes, a very fitting place.

Smiling, he caught the Red Wind and headed east. -

Except for stories about Andulvar Yaslana, Lucivar had never had much interest in history. But Daemon had once

insisted that SaDiablo Hall in Terreille had been intact until about 1,600 years ago, that something had happened—not an attack, but something—that had broken the preservation spells that had held for more than 50,000 years and had begun the building's decay.

Treading carefully through the broken ruins, Lucivar thought Daemon might have been right. There was a deep emptiness about the place, as if its energy had been deliberately bled out. The stones felt dead. No, not dead. Starved. Every time he touched one as he made his way toward an inner courtyard, it felt as if the stone was trying to suck his strength into itself.

He followed the smell of wood smoke, shaking off his uneasiness. He hadn't come here to ponder phantoms. He'd be one soon enough.

Baring his teeth in a feral smile, he unsheathed the war blade and stepped into the courtyard, staying back from the circle of firelight.

"Hello, Bastard."

Daemon slowly looked up from the fire and just as slowly pinpointed the sound. When he finally did, his smile was gentle and weary.

"Hello, Prick. Have you come to kill me?" Daemon's voice sounded rusty, as if he hadn't spoken for a long time.

Concern warred with anger until it became another flavor of anger. And the difference in Daemon's psychic scent bothered him. "Yes."

Nodding, Daemon stood up and removed his torn jacket.

Lucivar's eyes narrowed as Daemon unbuttoned the remaining buttons on his shirt, pulled the shirt aside to expose his chest, and stepped around the fire to stand where the light best favored the attacker. It felt wrong. Everything felt wrong. Daemon knew enough about basic survival and living off the land—Hell's fire,he had seen to that—to have kept himself in better condition than this. Lucivar studied the dirty, ragged clothes, Daemon's half-starved body shivering in the firelight, the calm, almost hopeful look in those bruised, exhausted eyes, and ground his teeth. The only other person he'd ever met who was that indifferent to her physical well-being was Tersa.

Maybe Daemon's voice wasn't rusty from disuse but hoarse from screaming himself awake at night.

"You're caught in it, aren't you?" Lucivar asked quietly. "You're tangled up in the Twisted Kingdom."

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books