"My cart's already hitched," a man called out. "I'll go and fetch her. That'll save some time."

Marian stared at Lucivar. Hell's fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful. What had she just done? "I should… I…" Jaenelle grabbed one arm, and Merry grabbed the other. "No time for that," Jaenelle said as they dragged Marian through the tavern to the back room.

"You can clean up in our place," Merry said, tugging Marian up the stairs to the suite of rooms she and Briggs called home. "No need to go back to the eyrie."

"But…" Marian stammered.

"I'll dash up to the eyrie," Jaenelle said. "That green dress will look lovely as a wedding dress. And I'll bring the amber necklace Lucivar gave you at Winsol."

"We'll have to see what we can do for a wedding supper," Merry said to Jaenelle. "And I'll have Briggs nip over to the baker's to see if there's a cake left."

"I made lots of food today," Marian mumbled.

"Well, isn't that convenient?" Jaenelle said cheerfully. "I'll bring that, too."

"But…"

A hand pressed against her cheek. She looked into Jaenelle's sapphire eyes. Dark, soft power rose up beneath her, flowed through her, washing away the last of that cobwebby feeling…and the doubts along with it.

"Do you love him?" Jaenelle asked.

She offered the Queen of Ebon Askavi the truth. "With everything I am." Jaenelle studied her for a moment. Then she smiled and said, "Welcome to the family, little Sister."

"Come along now," Merry said. "If you're not ready by the time the Priestess arrives, your man will start chewing holes in my bar."

A tug from Merry and a push from Jaenelle got her headed toward the bedroom where she would prepare for her wedding.

Lucivar stood in the street, watching as people scurried in and out of shops, shouting suggestions to each other while they prepared a wedding feast.

Saetan strolled over to join him, a glint of amusement covering vicious anger. "You were right, boyo. She does get feisty when she's riled."

"She wasn't thinking."

"Are you going to give her time to reconsider?"

"Hell's fire, no." Lucivar rubbed the back of his neck. "But where did she get the idea that I was going to go fight jhinkas?" Cobwebby. She'd said something about feeling cobwebby. He knew enough about the Black Widow's Craft…sweet Darkness, he was related to enough of them…that if she'd said anything like that to him this morning, he would have rushed her to the Keep for help.

He looked into Saetan's eyes and knew what lay beneath the anger.

"I told your mother that if she interfered again with what was between you and Marian, I would take her to the darkest corner of Hell and leave her there," Saetan said too softly.

For a moment, he couldn't think, couldn't breathe. No idle threat. Saetan didn't make idle threats.

"Let it go," Lucivar said. "I don't want blood spilled for my wedding."But I won't forget this, Luthvian. I will not forget.

Saetan looked away and nodded. When he looked back, he smiled. "Are you going to just stand there, or are you going to get dressed for your wedding?"

"Am I going to have to wear that fancy outfit I acquired when Jaenelle established the Dark Court?" Lucivar demanded.

"Definitely."

He sighed. "Thought so."

But he smiled as he raced through the sky toward home.

TWENTY-FOUR

Saetan lingered by the open tavern door. The evening air was chilly this early in the spring, but it hadn't kept the party from spilling out into the street once the tavern's main room got too crowded. People danced in the tavern…and they danced in the street. Ale and whiskey, brandy and wine flowed along with the laughter and high spirits.

He winked at Prothvar as the Eyrien Warlord slipped into the room. The sun hadn't set in time for Prothvar and Andulvar to make the wedding, and Mephis was still on his way here from the Hall, but the family would gather and celebrate tonight.

"You know, don't you?" Jaenelle asked as she slipped her arm through his.

"I'll take care of it, witch-child."

"In that case, I'm going to dance."

He watched her join the line of dancers, watched her say something to Merry that had them both laughing so hard they missed the first few steps of the dance. He hadn't been able to make those kinds of friendships, had stood too far apart from the people he ruled. Not by choice; simply because he was who and what he was. But Lucivar, with his hot temper and rough kindness, would have friends who cared about the man. And Marian, with that fire and strength of will beneath her quiet nature, would help him stay connected to the people he ruled.

"High Lord?"

He turned and found the Queen of Riada smiling hesitantly at him, her Consort beside her. "We don't have an invitation, but we'd like to offer the Prince and his Lady our warmest regards."

He smiled at them. "It's an open party. We'd be pleased to have you join us."

He watched the Queen and her Consort thread their way through the crowd. He saw Jaenelle glance their way and smile. Aristo manners didn't stand a chance against his daughter. Before those two knew it, they'd be dancing with shopkeepers and helping fill plates as if they did it every day.

Then he looked back at the door and saw her standing there, her eyes hot with suppressed anger. He'd sent her a message as a courtesy because she was Lucivar's mother. He'd deliberately sent it late as a kindness to his son…and to Marian.

"Luthvian." It was cold satisfaction to watch her anger change to fear as he walked up to her.

"So," Luthvian said. "You got your way after all."

"It wasn't a contest, Lady." At least, not for him. He stepped closer, lowered his voice until only she could hear. "I warned you, Luthvian. The only reason you aren't on your way to Hell is because Lucivar asked me to let it go. I'm going to honor that request…as a wedding present. But if you ever use a spell on Marian again…or try to cast one on Lucivar…I'll break you. I'll strip you of your Jewels and your power, strip you down until you have nothing left but basic Craft. And it will be done so fast, no one will be able to stop me."

She paled but said nothing.

"Now," Saetan said, fighting to keep his temper reined in. "Will you join us in celebrating your son's wedding?"

"There's nothing to celebrate," she said roughly. Then she turned and walked away.

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