"Why don't I have some coffee and toast sent up?" Lucivar said.

Wilhelmina watched Lucivar until he left the room. "I used to think he was scary. But he's just big."

"Uh-huh. Why don't you lie down for a little while?" Jaenelle said.

Wilhelmina obeyed. When Jaenelle finished tucking a blanket around her, she said, "Everyone said you had died, but when they talked to me, they said we had 'lost' you. But I always knew you weren't lost because you told me where to find you. How could you be lost when you knew where you were?"

She looked into Jaenelle's sapphire eyes. The mind behind those eyes was so vast. But she wasn't afraid of that anymore. "You always knew where you were. Didn't you?"

"Yes," Jaenelle replied softly. "I always knew."

3 / Kaeleer

Alexandra paused, took a deep breath, and opened the door without knocking.

The golden-haired woman grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle didn't turn around, didn't indicate in any way that she knew someone was there. A large bowl floated above the worktable, heated by three tongues of witchfire. A spoon lazily stirred the bowl's contents.

Alexandra waited. After a minute, she said in a tight voice, "Could you stop fiddling with that for a minute and say 'hello' to your grandmother? After all, it's been thirteen years since I've seen you."

"A minute or so won't make any difference to a greeting that's waited for thirteen years," Jaenelle replied, pouring the finely ground herbs into the bowl's bubbling contents. "But itwill make a difference to this tonic developing the right potency." She half turned, gave Alexandra one slashing glance, then focused her attention on the brew.

Alexandra clenched her teeth, remembering why she had found this granddaughter so different to deal with. Even as a small child, Jaenelle had displayed these gestures of superiority, implying thatshe had no reason to show respect for her elders or yield to a Queen.

Why? For the first time, Alexandra wondered. She'd always assumed, along with everyone else, that those displays were attempts to compensate for not wearing the Jewels, for being less than the other witches in the family. But, perhaps, they had been a result of someone—like the High Lord—whispering sweet lies into a child's ear until the girl truly believed she was superior.

She shook her head. It was hard to believe that the child who had been unable to do the simplest Craft lessons could grow up to become some terrible, powerful threat to the Realm of Terreille as Dorothea claimed. If that weretrue, where was the power? Even now, when she was trying to sense Jaenelle's strength, it felt... muted... just as it always had. Distant, which was the way a Blood female who didn't have enough psychic strength to wear a Jewel felt.

That meant Jaenellewas just a pawn in an elaborate game. The High Lord—or, perhaps, the mysterious Queen who ruled this court—wanted a figurehead to hide behind.

"What are you making?" Alexandra asked.

"A tonic for a young boy who's ill," Jaenelle replied, adding a dark liquid to the brew.

"Shouldn't a Healer be doing that?"Hell's fire, arethey really letting her make tonics for people?

"Iam a Healer," Jaenelle replied tartly. "I'm also a Black Widow and a Queen."

Of course you are.With effort, Alexandra bit back the words. She would remain calm; would forge a bond, somehow, with her younger granddaughter; would remember that Jaenelle had already endured some terrible experiences.

Then Jaenelle finished making the tonic and turned around.

Staring into those sapphire eyes, Alexandra forgot about remaining calm or forging a bond. Staggered by the...something... that looked at her out of those eyes, she groped for an explanation that would fit.

When she found it, she wanted to weep.

Jaenelle was insane. Totally, completely insane. And that monster who ruled here indulged that insanity for his own reasons. He let Jaenelle think she was Healer and a Black Widow and a Queen. He would probably let her give that tonic to a sick little boy, regardless of what the stuff would actually do to a child.

"Why are you here, Alexandra?"

Alexandra shivered at the sound of that midnight voice, then gave herself a mental shake. The child had always indulged in theatrics. "I came to take you and Wilhelmina home."

"Why? For the past thirteen years, you thought I was dead. Since that was far more convenient for you than having me alive, why didn't you just continue to pretend I was dead?"

"We weren't pretending," Alexandra said hotly. Jaenelle's words hurt, mostly because they were true. Ithad been easier mourning a dead child than dealing with the difficult girl. But she would never admitthat. "We thought youwere dead, that Sadi had killed you."

"Daemon would never have hurt me."

But you would—and did.That was the message underneath the cold, flat reply.

"Leland is your mother. I'm your grandmother. We're yourfamily, Jaenelle."

Jaenelle shook her head slowly. "This body can trace its bloodline to you. That makes us related. It doesn't make us family." She moved toward the door. When she was just about to pass Alexandra, she stopped. "You apprenticed with an Hourglass coven for a little while, didn't you? Before you had to make the choice between becoming a Black Widow and becoming Chaillot's Queen."

Alexandra nodded, wondering where this was leading.

"You learned enough to make the simplest tangled webs, the kind that would absorb a focused intent and draw that object to you. Isn't that true?" When she nodded again, Jaenelle's eyes filled with sadness and understanding. "How many times did you sit before one of those webs dreaming that something would help you keep Chaillot safe from Hayll's encroachment?"

Alexandra couldn't speak, could barely breathe.

"Has it ever occurred to you that that may be the answer to the riddle? Saetan was also an intense dreamer. The difference is that when the dream appeared, he recognized it." Jaenelle opened the door. "Go home, Alexandra. There's nothing—and no one—for you here."

"Wilhelmina," Alexandra whispered.

"She'll fulfill the eighteen months of her contract. After that, she can do as she pleases." There was something awful and ironic about Jaenelle's smile. "The Queen commands it."

Alexandra took a deep breath. "I want to see this Queen."

"No, you don't," Jaenelle replied too softly. "You don't want to stand before the Dark Throne." She paused. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish this tonic. It's simmered long enough."

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com