"Cat, you're not thinking—"
"Remember to whom you speak."
Lucivar looked into her eyes and paled. Finally, reluctantly, he said, "My apologies, Lady."
Jaenelle rose. "If there's time to retreat before the attack, do it. If not, keep the fighting to a minimum.Defend for as long as it takes to retreat, but don't attack. And get the Queens and Warlord Princes to the Keep. There will be no exceptions, and I'll accept no excuses."
A long silence filled the room after Jaenelle left.
"She's not thinking clearly," Kalush said reluctantly.
"She's been acting strange since the first attack," Gabrielle snapped, then looked apologetically at Karla. '
"It's all right," Karla said slowly, with obvious effort. "Shehas been acting strange. I've wondered if healing me affected her somehow."
"What's affected her is her aversion to killing," Lucivar snarled. "But she's usually clear-sighted enough to be able to see the obvious. We're at war. Dancing around the word isn't going to change the fact."
"You would defy your Queen?" Daemon asked mildly, almost lazily.
Lucivar's instant, razor-edged tension startled all of them.
What's happening between them?Saetan wondered as Daemon and Lucivar just stared at each other. Seeing the sleepy look in Daemon's eyes, he felt ice wrap around his spine.
"I don't think the Lady understands the repercussions of her order," Lucivar said carefully.
"Oh," Daemon purred, "I think she understands them quite well. You just don't agree with her. That's not sufficient reason to disobey her."
"Considering what you've done in other courts, you're not exactly a model of obedience," Lucivar said with a little heat.
"That's irrelevant. We're talking about you and this court. And I'm telling you, Yaslana, that you will not distress her with defiance or disobedience. If you do..." Daemon merely smiled.
After Daemon glided out of the room, Saetan asked, "Is he bluffing?" He became uneasy when Lucivar just stared at the table. "Lucivar?"
"The Sadist doesn't bluff," Lucivar said roughly. "He doesn't need to." He strode out of the room.
"It would seem there's nothing more to discuss," Saetan said, rising from the table. A flick of a glance brought Andulvar, Prothvar, and Mephis to their feet.
Letting the other men precede him, he had almost shut the door when he heard Aaron say, "What do we really know about Daemon Sadi?"
He closed the door silently. When he turned toward the other men, he saw the same question in Andulvar's eyes— and he was no longer sure he had an answer.
2 / Kaeleer
"What do we really know about Daemon Sadi?" Aaron said.
Karla let the murmurs of opinion and conversation become a wash of sound as she sank deeper into her own thoughts.
What did they really know about Daemon Sadi?
He was a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince and a natural Black Widow—an explosively dangerous, beautiful-looking man.
He was the High Lord's mirror, but not a perfect reflection.
He was a man who, for most of his life, had been chained in one way or another to Dorothea SaDiablo, Kaeleer's enemy.
He was a man who understood women. Unable to stand the pity in the servants' eyes when they had helped her into the bath the first few days after the healing, she had insisted that she didn't need help. Using Craft, she was able to undress and get herself into the tub but wasn't able to wash herself well enough, especially because the reaction to the poisons was causing her skin to slough off at a grotesque rate. One evening, Daemon had shown up to assist her. She had snapped at him, had told him to go away. His answer, spoken in such a pleasant voice it had taken her a few seconds to comprehend the words, was so creatively obscene she was in the tub being gently, but thoroughly, washed before she could think again. His touch hadn't been impersonal, nor had it been sexual, but by the time he'd started massaging her scalp, she'd been awash in sensual pleasure like she'd never experienced before.
So she understood why the others were worried. A woman could easily become addicted to that touch, would be willing to do a great many things in order to prevent it from being withdrawn. And Jaenellehad been acting strange since the first attack. But she didn't think it had anything to do with Daemon.
There was one other thing she knew about Daemon Sadi, something she had seen in the tangled web that had warned her about her own death: he was the friend who would become an enemy in order to remain a friend.
3 / Kaeleer
"What is it about Daemon that scares the shit out of Lucivar?" Andulvar asked as soon as the four men entered a small sitting room in the Keep.
"I don't know," Saetan replied, avoiding their stares by warming a glass of yarbarah over a tongue of witchfire.
Hedidn't know. Lucivar had always evaded talking about the times he and Daemon had tangled when they'd come together in Terreillean courts. Lucivar had said once that if he had a choice of going up against the Sadist or the High Lord, he would choose the High Lord because he would have some chance of winning.
What was it about that smile of Daemon's that could shake Lucivar so badly? What was it about the Sadist that could make a man as aggressive as Lucivar back down? And what might Daemon's presence in the Keep mean to the rest of them?
"High Lord!" Prothvar jerked Saetan's hand away from the tongue of witchfire just before the yarbarah began to boil.
Saetan put the glass down. The yarbarah wouldn't be drinkable.
"SaDiablo," Andulvar said quietly, "should we be watching our backs?"
It didn't occur to him to offer a reassuring lie. "I don't know."
4 / Kaeleer
Ladvarian wearily trotted toward Halaway, responding to a gentle but insistent summons. Every so often, he snarled to vent his frustration and growing anger.
How could a place as big as the Hall not have what he needed? Oh, he'd found plenty of things that werealmost right but nothing thatwas right. That accounted for his frustration. The anger...
The kindred had waited so long for this living myth to come.This one. This special one. And now it was going to be spoiled by humans.
No. Itwouldn't be spoiled. The kindred were gathering.
As soon as the Weaver of Dreams told them what to do, they would act.
When he reached the neat cottage in Halaway, he went to the back door and barked once, politely.
Tersa opened an upstairs window. "Come inside, little Brother."
Using Craft, he floated upward to the window and went in. Most of the kindred referred to Tersa as "the Strange One." They meant no disrespect. They recognized that she was a Black Widow who wandered roads most of the Blood would never see. She was special. She had that in common with the Lady.