He felt a deadly cold filling in his limbs and knew what it had to be. Poison on the arrow tips. But how virulent a poison?
He saw the answer in the Eyrien's cruel smile.
He fell to his knees. No time to give all the warnings he needed to give. No time. So he focused on sending a warning to the person who had always mattered the most to him.
As the body's death closed in on him, he gathered his strength and sent one word. *KARLA!*
6 / Kaeleer
Karla sat at her dressing table, one hand braced on the table, the other pressed against her abdomen. The cramps didn't usually last this long, and they weren't usually this painful.
"Here you are," Ulka said sympathetically, setting a steaming mug on the dressing table. "This moontime brew will make you feel different in no time."
"Thanks, Ulka," Karla murmured. She had accepted Ulka into her Third Circle for the same reason she had accepted other witches from Glacia's aristo families—to placate them after she had exiled her uncle, Hobart. And while she didn't personally like Ulka, she had to admit the woman had been a solicitous companion this winter, fussing a little too much over the minor illnesses but having a good instinct of when to gossip and when to stay quiet.
As soon as the brew cooled enough, Karla took a large swallow. Making a disgusted face, she set the mug down. The brew had an odd, rancid taste. Hell's fire, had some of the herbs gotten moldy or gone bad somehow? Then again, a lot of things hadn't tasted quite right to her all winter. Or maybe she'd just gotten spoiled by the delicious-tasting brews Jaenelle made. It didn't matter how it tasted. It wasn't going to ease the pain if it sat in the cup.
As she reached for the mug again, she looked in the mirror. A chill ran through her when she saw the watchful anticipation in Ulka's eyes. "You poisoned it, didn't you?" Karla said flatly.
"Yes," Ulka said, sounding smug and pleased.
Karla felt her body sluggishly gathering itself to fight off the poison. Because she was a Black Widow, she had a stronger tolerance for poisons than other people would have, but even a Black Widow could succumb to a poison her body couldn't recognize or tolerate.
As she stared at the other woman's reflection, she finally knew. All the minor illnesses, all the foods that had tasted a little off. And Ulka always there, being so helpful, acting so concerned. "You've slipped mild poisons into a lot of things this winter."
Poisons which had weakened her body but never made her ill enough to become suspicious—despite having been warned of her own death in the tangled web she'd created last fall. Oh, she'd been careful. She knew too much about poisons not to be. The fact that she hadn't been able to detect the poisons meant that whatever plants had been used weren't native to Glacia. She would have recognized one ofthose instantly, no matter how it was disguised.
With effort, Karla got to her feet. One moment her legs were full of fiery spikes, the next they were numb. She flooded her body with her Gray strength, accepting the pain her own power caused during her moontime in order to fight the poison.
As one staggering wave of pain ripped through her, she felt the Ebony shield in the ring Jaenelle had given her surround her.
"Why?" Karla asked. How could she have misjudged this bitch so badly? What had she missed?
Ulka pouted. "I thought I would be an important Lady in your court. I should have been in your First Circle, not theThird. "
"A witch who would poison her Queen isn't suitable to serve in the First Circle," Karla said dryly. "It's a question of loyalty."
"Iwas loyal," Ulka snapped. "But being loyal to you didn't get me anywhere. And then I got a better offer. Once you're gone and Lord Hobart controls Glacia again, Iwill be an important Lady."
"All you'll be is some man's whore," Karla said flatly.
Ulka's face became ugly. "And you'll be dead! And don't think they won't finish the kill to make sure they're rid ofall of you!"
The ring Jaenelle had given her produced a sharp, warning tingle seconds before Morton's warning cry filled her mind.
Nothing. An emptiness where someone had been for as long as she could remember.
Another kind of cold filled Karla—a cold that fed her body, gave her strength. "You killed Morton," she said too quietly.
"Ididn't," Ulka replied. "But he's dead by now."
The bladed Eyrien stick Lucivar had given her was in her hands and whistling through the air before Ulka had time to realize the danger. The blades, honed to a killing edge, swept through Ulka's leg bones as easily as they swept through the woman's wool dress.
Blood gushed. Ulka fell, screaming.
Karla staggered, braced herself. She couldn't use her body this way and fight the poison long enough for ...
For what? With Morton dead, who would be able to reach her fast enough? No matter. She would fight to live for as long as she could. And she had more power at her disposal than her enemies had imagined since she didn't have to use her Gray Jewels to shield herself.
Looking down at Ulka, Karla raised the bladed stick. "Well, bitch, I may not be able to finish the kill, but I can make damn sure you're of no use to anyone when you become demon-dead."
She cut off Ulka's hands, then her head. The last stroke tore through the belly and severed the spine.
Karla staggered back a few steps, away from the growing pool of blood. Sinking to the floor, she carefully stretched out, her right arm wrapped around her belly, her left hand clamped around the bladed stick.
She had seen her own death in her tangled web, and she'd done what she could to change that part of the vision. But if she had to die now, she would accept it.
Dark power washed over her, warming icy limbs. She felt a tendril of power wrap around her and recognized a healing thread helping her fight against the poison.
Cradled by Jaenelle's strength, she turned inward to concentrate on the battlefield her body had become.
7 / Kaeleer
Daemon snarled in frustration when he felt the tingling coming from Jaenelle's Ring of Honor. He hadn't yet learned how to interpret all the information that could be absorbed from the Ring. He recognized this particular sensation as a call for help, but had no idea where the call was coming from. "Do you—" he said, turning toward Khardeen.
The intense blankness in Khary's eyes, the sense of focused listening, stopped him from saying anything more.
"Morton," Khary said quietly. "AndKarla." He lunged for the door.
Daemon grabbed him. "No. You're needed here."