"Daemon Sadi is his father's son. Does that answer your question?"
Alexandra tried but couldn't suppress a shudder. "And you really think he wants to destroy the Blood in Terreille?"
"I'm sure of it." Dorothea touched her white hair. "I paid a heavy price to be sure of it."
"My other granddaughter, Wilhelmina Benedict, recently went to Kaeleer," Alexandra said softly.
Dorothea stiffened. "How recently?"
"She went through the Gate yesterday."
"Mother Night," Dorothea said, collapsing in her chair. "I'm so sorry, Alexandra. So very, very sorry."
"Prince Philip Alexander and I intend to go to Kaeleer as soon as that 'service fair' is over and visitors are permitted again. Hopefully, we'll be able to find her and convince whatever Queen she's signed a contract with to release her."
"She's in far more danger than that," Dorothea said worriedly.
"There's no reason for her to draw anyone's attention," Alexandra said, fear making her voice sharp. "There's no reason for her to accept a contract outside of Little Terreille."
"There are two reasons: the High Lord and the witch he controls. If you don't find her quickly, Wilhelmina will end up in his dark embrace, and there will be no hope for her then."
Despite the warm room, a chill ran down Alexandra's spine.
Dorothea just looked at her for a long moment. "I told you—Sadi and the High Lord achieved their goal. No one hunts very long for a corpse when the living need care. And your granddaughter's body was never found."
Alexandra stared at Dorothea. "You thinkJaenelle is this powerful witch under the High Lord's control?Jaenelle?" She laughed bitterly. "Hell's fire, Dorothea, Jaenelle couldn't even dobasic Craft."
"If you know how to read between the lines of some of the... less available... records of the Blood's history, you'll find that there have been a few women—very few, thank the Darkness—who had enormous reservoirs of power that they were unable to tap by themselves. They required an ... emotional... bond with someone who had the skill to channel the power in order to use it. But they didn't always have the choice abouthow it was used." Dorothea paused. "The gossip that has recently filtered in from Little Terreille about the High Lord's pet describes her as 'eccentric,' 'somewhat emotionally disturbed.' Does that sound familiar?"
Alexandra couldn't catch her breath. There wasn't enough air in the room. Why wasn't there enough air?
"If you'll take it, I'll give you whatever help I can." Dorothea looked at her sadly. "You can't ignore this, Alexandra. No matter what you want to think or what you want to believe, you can't ignore the fact that the High Lord's pet witch, the witch Daemon Sadi helped him acquire, goes by the name Jaenelle Angelline."
5 / Terreille
Dorothea pulled aside the dark, heavy curtains and stared out at the night-shrouded garden. She felt drained, physically and emotionally. Oh, how she had wanted to dig her nails in and scratch out the pathetically hopeful look in the eyes of the males in her First Circle. They wanted to grasp at any excuse for her behavior over the past centuries. They wanted to believe that amale had made her cruel, amale had manipulated her and controlled her thoughts, amale had been behind her rise to power and the viciousness afterward that had made it possible to soften and harvest most of the other Territories in Terreille.
They didn't want to give her any credit at all. They wanted her to be a victim so that they wouldn't feel ashamed of serving her, so that they could pretend they served out of a sense of honor instead of avarice and fear.
Well, once Kaeleer fell, she would make a few changes in her court. Maybe she would even arrange for the fools to die in battle, choking on their bloody honor.
"You did well today, Sister," said a harsh but still girlish voice. "I couldn't have done better myself."
Dorothea didn't turn around. Looking at Hekatah, the demon-dead Dark Priestess and self-proclaimed High Priestess of Hell, always turned her stomach. "They were your words, not mine, so it's not surprising that you're pleased."
"You still need me," Hekatah snarled as she shuffled to a chair near the fire. "Don't forget that."
"I never forget that," Dorothea replied softly, keeping her eyes focused on the garden.
It had been Hekatah who had seen her potential when she was a young witch still learning a Priestess's duties as well as the Black Widows' Craft. It had been Hekatah who had nurtured her ambitions and dreams of power, who had pointed out the possible rivals who could interfere with those dreams. And it had been Hekatah who had helped eliminate those rivals. The Dark Priestess had been there, every step of the way, guiding, advising.
She couldn't remember just when she realized that Hekatah needed her just as much as she needed Hekatah. That need made them despise each other, but they were bound together by the common dream of ruling an entire Realm.
"Do you really think, after all we've done to gain control of Terreille, those Queens will believe it was all the High Lord's fault?"
"If you cast the persuasion spells correctly, there's no reason they won't believe it," Hekatah said with sweet venom.
"There's nothing wrong with my Craft skills, Priestess," Dorothea replied with equal venom, turning to face the other woman.
"Your skills didn't help you elude the spell Sadi wrapped around you, did they?"
"No more than your skills protected you or have helped you reverse the damage."
Hekatah hissed angrily, and Dorothea turned back to the window, feeling a brief satisfaction at the well-aimed barb.
Seven years ago, Hekatah had tried to gain control of Jaenelle Angelline and eliminate Lucivar Yaslana. Something had gone wrong with her scheme, and the backlash of that confrontation had stripped away her ability to pass as one of the living, had made her look like a decaying, desiccated corpse. For the first couple of years, she had insisted that all she needed was to consume large quantities of fresh blood in order to restore her body. But the demon-dead were, in a sense, spirits that still had too much psychic power to return to the Darkness and were now housed in dead flesh. While the power lasted and could be renewed, the body could be maintained by consuming blood. But nothing was going to restore Hekatah's looks. The juice had been wrung out of her dead flesh, and the past seven years had been a slow decay of a body that had died 50,000 years ago.
"They'll believe the High Lord has been responsible for all the perversion in Terreille," Hekatah said, coming up behind Dorothea close enough for her reflection to be visible in the window's night-darkened glass. "Theywant to believe it. He's a myth, a terrifying story that has been whispered for thousands of years. And anyone who has doubts abouthim will have no doubts at all about Yaslana and Sadi. The thought of the three of them coming together and having the use of a strong witch as their tool will be enough to unite Terreille against Kaeleer. In the end, it doesn't matterwhy they join the fight, only that they fight."