"He's never been interested in using his strength to acquire power. He fought against every attempt I made to bring him around."
"That's because you handled him wrong," Hekatah snarled. "If you had doted on Sadi the way you had doted on that excuse for a son—"
"You used to think it was amusing that I was playing bedroom games with the High Lord's boy. You said it would make a man out of him."
And it had. It had honed Sadi's cruelty, his taste for perverse pleasure. She had sensed that, too. Just as she had sensed that it wouldn't be easy to get around his deep hatred for Dorothea. Well, she wouldn't let that interfere with herown ambitions. Besides, Dorothea was becoming difficult, unreliable. She would have had to eliminate the bitch after the war was won anyway.
"I tell you, he's up to something," Dorothea insisted. "And you're just letting him wander around the camp to do who knows what."
"What am I supposed to do?" Hekatah snapped. "Without any leverage, we can't go up against the Black and expect to win."
"We'vegot leverage," Dorothea said through clenched teeth.
Hekatah let out a nasty laugh. "What leverage? If he reallyhas destroyed Andulvar, Prothvar, and Mephis, he's not going to squirm because Saetan's guts are spilling out on the ground."
"You picked the wrong man, the wrong threat," Dorothea said irritably, waving a hand. "He may not give a damn about Saetan, but he's always buckled when Lucivar was threatened. Lucivar's been the one chain we could count on to hold Sadi. If you threatened—" She paused, sniffed, looked toward the door, and said uneasily, "What's that smell?"
"What's that smell?" Surreal muttered. It was well past midnight. Were the guards roasting some meat for tomorrow's meals? Possibly, but she couldn't imagine anyone wanting to eat anything that smelled that vile. "Do you smell it?" She turned her head to look at Saetan—and didn't like what she saw. Not one little bit. Since Daemon walked out of the camp the first time, the High Lord had just been staring straight ahead. Just staring. "Uncle Saetan?"
He turned his head, slowly. His eyes focused on her—too slowly.
Checking to make sure there weren't any guards around at the moment, she leaned toward him as much as she could. "Uncle Saetan, this isn't exactly the time to start taking mental side trips. We've got to think of a way to get out of here."
"I'm sorry you're here, Surreal," he said in a worn-out voice. "Truly, I am sorry."
Me, too."Lucivar's got the physical strength, and I can handle myself in a fight, but you've got the experience to come up with a plan that can use that strength to our best advantage."
He just looked at her. The smile that finally curved his lips was gently bitter. "Sweetheart... I've gotten very old in the past two days."
She could see that, and it scared her. Without him, she wasn't sure theycould get out of there.
Hearing a door open, she immediately straightened up and looked away from him.
"Hell's fire," Dorothea said irritably, "what's that smell?" She stepped between the posts that held Saetan and Surreal.
Surreal clenched her teeth. She wore a Gray Jewel; Dorothea wore a Red. It would be easy enough to slip under Dorothea's inner barriers and weave a death spell—something nasty so that, when it triggered, the screams and confusion might give them a chance to get away.
She began a careful descent so that no one would notice it, but before she reached the depth of her Gray Jewel, another door opened.
The vile smell intensified, making her gag.
Daemon Sadi strolled out of the prison hut, his hands in his trouser pockets. He kept moving until he reached the center of the lighted area. He didn't look at them. His glittering eyes were focused intently on Lucivar, who stared back at him.
No one dared move.
Finally, Daemon looked toward the prison hut and said pleasantly, "Marian, darling, come out and show your foolish husband the price for my years in the Twisted Kingdom."
Two naked...things... floated out of the hut into the light. An hour ago, they had been a woman and a small boy. Now...
Surreal began panting in an effort to keep her stomach down. Mother Night, Mother Night, Mother Night.
Marian's fingers and feet were gone. So was the long, lovely hair. Daemonar's eyes were gone, as well as his hands and feet. Their wings were so crisped, the slight movement of floating made pieces break off. And their skin . ,
Smiling that cold, cruel smile, the Sadist released his hold on Marian and Daemonar. The little boy hit the ground with athump and began screaming. Marian landed on the stumps of her feet and fell. When she landed, her skin split, and...
Not blood, Surreal realized as she stared with numb, sick fascination. Cooking juices oozed out from those splits in the skin.
The Sadist hadn't just burned them, he hadcooked them—and they were still alive. Not even demon-dead,alive.
"Lucivar," Marian whispered hoarsely as she tried to crawl toward her husband. "Lucivar."
Lucivar screamed, but the scream of pain changed to an Eyrien war cry. Chains snapped as he exploded away from the post, charging right at Daemon. When he had covered half the distance, a hard psychic blow knocked him off his feet, sent him rolling back toward the post. He surged to his feet, rushed at Daemon again—and was struck down again. And again. And again.
When he couldn't get to his feet, he crawled toward Daemon, his teeth bared, his eyes filled with hate.
Sadi reached down, grabbed Daemonar's arm, and twisted it off the way another man would twist off a drumstick.
Thatgot Lucivar to his feet. When he charged this time, he slammed into a Black shield and went to his knees.
Daemon just watched him and smiled.
He tried to break through the shield, tried to smash his way through it, claw his way through it, battered himself against it—and finally just braced himself against it, crying.
"Daemon," he pleaded. "Daemon... show a little mercy."
"You want mercy?" Daemon replied gently. With predatory speed, he stepped on Daemonar's head.
The skull smashed like an eggshell.
Daemon walked over to Marian, who was still whispering, still trying to crawl. Even over Lucivar's anguished howls, the rest of them could hear the bones snap when Daemon stepped on her neck.
Using Daemonar's arm as a pointer, Sadi gestured elegantly at the two bodies, all the while watching Lucivar and smiling. "They're both still strong enough to make the transition to demon-dead," he said pleasantly. "It's doubtful the brat is going to remember much of anything, but your wife's last thoughts of you... How kindly will she remember you, Prick, knowing you were the cause of this?"