“Even if he knows, I’m not sure he cares,” Khary replied. “This is guesswork and most of it comes from Fiona, based on things she’s observed or overheard at gatherings where Jenkell has also been present. Fiona says he changed while he was writing his first Landry Langston story. That he seemed more demanding and yet less confident.”
“The first story was the one where the Langston character discovers he’s Blood.”
Khary nodded. “Wouldn’t be that hard to find someone who would tell Jenkell how to make the Offering to the Darkness—at least in general terms. Some might have been willing to tell him because they like his work and enjoyed the thought of providing research for a story. And there are always some who will do a great many things in exchange for a generous stack of gold marks.”
“So Jenkell made the Offering, thinking he was just going through the motions—and discovered he was Blood.” Daemon shook his head. “Damn fool was lucky to come out of it in one piece.”
“If he did come out of it in one piece.” Khary drank some brandy, his blue eyes fixed on Daemon. “He didn’t expect anything to happen. He wasn’tprepared for anything to happen. And he did grow up in Little Terreille, so he may not realize—or believe it even if he was told—that after he discovered what he was, the Blood would help him understand the power that flowed in his veins, even teach him some basic Craft so he could use that power safely.”
Daemon drained his glass, then set it aside. “This is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with the other spooky house?”
There was no twinkle in Khary’s eyes now. “We think Jarvis Jenkell is creating a place as vengeance against the Blood.”
A short flight of stairs to a landing. Turn and go up the other flight of stairs and reach the second floor. How in the name of Hell could it take so long, and why did the stairs seem to be going off at an angle? And where did the damn draft come from that blew out the candle, leaving her in the pitch-dark since she wasnot going to use Craft to relight it? And why couldn’t she see the lamps or the other candle?
And if he was at the top of the stairs waiting for her, why didn’t Rainier answer her?
Daemon poured another brandy for himself, refilled Khary’s glass, then settled back in his chair. “Explain.”
Khary scrubbed his curly brown hair with the fingers of one hand, then cupped his glass with both hands. “This is guesses based on rumors and hints. Fiona kept insisting that she didn’tknow anything.”
“Since Jenkell’s other books were read and well received by both Blood and landens, he was stunned by the Blood’s reaction to the Landry Langston stories.”
“Because we found his portrayal of the Blood so excruciatingly bad it was amusing?” Daemon paused and considered. “If he’d just found out he was Blood while he was writing the first story…”
“Then the story was a barely disguised announcement to the entire Realm that he was Blood—and no one realized it. Especially the Blood.” Khary drank some brandy. “So a few months ago, Jenkell began hinting about the story for his next Landry Langston book.”
“His character gets trapped in a spooky house?” Daemon guessed.
“I believe he called it a haunted house, but the same idea. Except that his character would be fighting for his life against traps and dangers instead of being entertained by a few illusion spells. Anyway, a few days afterthat , the story started spreading that Jaenelle was creating a spooky house—and before someone warned Jenkell to hold his tongue, he was spewing that Jaenelle hadstolen his idea. Fiona was at that writers’ gathering, so she approached Jenkell to assure him that his idea of a haunted house would be vastly different from anything Jaenelle would consider, since he was writing a mystery story and Jaenelle was creating an entertainment for children. But he seemed offended that a ‘White-Jeweled bitch’ would dare talk to him. Then he said something about how unjust it was that a mediocre writer like her could be acquainted with the Queen of Ebon Askavi andhe wasn’t even given the courtesy of an audience with the Lady. He left the party right after that and hasn’t been seen since.”
Daemon opened the bottom drawer of his desk and removed the book he’d stashed there. A copy of the second Landry Langston novel, sent to him by Jenkell. The inscription read, “From one Brother of the Blood to another.”
When he’d received the book, he’d thought Jenkell was being pretentious—or a complete fool—to send a message like that to a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince. Had the man really believed they were equals just because Jenkell was Blood? Since he hadn’t found the first book about the Langston character as amusing as other people did, he’d dropped the copy into the bottom desk drawer. Even after Jaenelle had wondered about the sanity of the character—or writer—he hadn’t done more than skim a few chapters because the story was even less to his taste than the first Landry Langston novel.
Now he opened the book and stared at the inscription as Khary huffed out a breath and said, “Putting the pieces together, Fiona thinks—and I agree—that Jenkell is building a real haunted house somewhere and intends to pit some of the Blood against his creation.”
“Is that what this is?” Daemon said as he put the book back in the drawer. “A pissing contest?”
Khary frowned. “What do you mean?”
He called in the invitation he’d been sent and the paper that had been wrapped around the mouse grotesquerie. Then he used Craft to float them over to Khary. While he waited for Khary to read them, he considered all the information he had—and didn’t like the way any of it was adding up.
“Mother Night,” Khary said. He leaned forward and tossed the paper and invitation back on the desk. “You’re lucky you figured out it was a trap—although considering who the invitation was supposed to be coming from, the wording was sufficient warning thatsomething wasn’t right.”
“I didn’t figure it out,” Daemon admitted. “I just didn’t find the invitation in time.”
“You can destroy that place.”
It wasn’t a question.
Daemon nodded. “If I unleash the Black, I’ll burn out all the spells and destroy everything within the boundary of those spells. However, unless Jaenelle has discovered something she didn’t notice about those spells initially—”