Khary made a soft snort of disbelief.

“—it’s a good bet there isn’t a way of breaking those spells from the outside without destroying everything in the building.”

“Why would you even consider trying to break them when you can take the whole thing down?”

Daemon took a gulp of brandy. “Because Surreal and Rainier are trapped in that house.”

FIFTEEN

Daemon knocked on the cottage door, thoughts and information swirling through his mind.

Jarvis Jenkell was Blood. That explained how he’d gotten two of the Black Widows to create the dangerous spells and the trap spell that would ensnare a person more and more with each use of Craft. A landen asking Sisters of the Hourglass to create those kinds of spells? The fool would be lucky if he left that meeting with his mind and body intact. But another member of the Blood, no matter how weak his own power, offering a substantial payment as the lure…Oh, yes, he’d find someone to help him play his game.

Jaenelle had cleansed the Realms of the Blood who had been tainted by Dorothea and Hekatah, but there would always be that kind of witch. Apparently Jenkell had found two of them.

By itself, the idea of a mystery story in a “haunted house” fueled by the illusion spells of a Black Widow was intriguing. If the witch had the skill, there would be no sure way outside of touch to know if something was illusion or real. And, of course, touching anything could be costly if not deadly.

Clues. Wasn’t that what the mystery stories were about? Finding clues? If Jarvis Jenkell was behind this game and was playing it out like a story, there were some elements that should be part of the game. The stories began with a death—and usually ended with a death. The main character survived, but there were always more deaths before the enemy was defeated.

But it didn’t sound like Jenkell had intended for anyone to survive his little game. Which meant Jenkell had intended to kill Surreal, Lucivar, and him. It didn’t matter if this was meant as revenge against the Blood for not recognizing Jenkell as one of them, or a slap at Jaenelle for coming up with a similar idea at the same time and creating a spooky house as a harvest entertainment, or that Jenkell had wanted to indulge in a pissing contest with the SaDiablo family.

At the moment, only one thing mattered: Jenkell had used Tersa in order to harm her own family.

He was about to knock again when Allista opened the door. “Prince Sadi.”

“Good evening, Lady Allista. I need to speak with Tersa.”

Allista hesitated. “We were just about to have dinner. It’s easier for her if I serve it at the same time each evening. Can this wait?”

Daemon stepped inside the cottage, forcing Allista to yield. “No, it can’t. Ask her—”

“It’s the boy.” Tersa hurried toward him, her voice and face full of her pleasure at seeing him.

He was about to kill that pleasure. But he kissed her cheek and said, “Darling, we have to talk.”

“It’s time for dinner. No nutcakes until after dinner. Although…I think there is something chocolate for the sweet tonight.” A distant look came into her eyes, as if she were about to follow a path only she could find.

“Tersa.” He put enough bite in his voice to pull her attention back to him. “We need to talk. It’s important.” He took her arm and tried to lead her into the parlor.

“But…” Tersa pulled back, resisting. “Dinner is ready. We should eat dinner now.”

“Prince,” Allista protested. “Can’t this—”

“Tersa!” Daemon snapped. “Surreal is in trouble. I need your help.”

She cringed in response to his anger. Then she changed, and he saw a chilling lucidity in her eyes. He’d seen that look before. It never lasted more than a few minutes, and the effort to touch that place inside herself usually left her even more confused afterward, but in those minutes she was formidable. Whenever he’d seen that look, he’d wondered who she had been before she was broken—and before her mind had shattered into such confusion.

He released her arm and followed her into the parlor.

Allista hesitated, then shut the door, giving them privacy.

Tersa sat on the sofa. Daemon knelt in front of her.

Her mouth thinned in disapproval. “You’re a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince. You kneel to no one but your Queen.”

He took her hands in his, a physical connection that would keep her grounded as long as she was able to hold on. “I kneel before my mother as a son pleading for her help.”

She frowned, and a little of that lucidity faded. Too little time to find out what he needed to know.

“You helped a man build a spooky house,” he said.

She nodded. “The Langston man. He was building a house like Jaenelle’s and said I could help. It’s going to be a surprise for the boy. And other children, too, but a surprise for the boy.”

He was losing her too fast. “Who else was helping the Langston man? Do you remember?”

Confusion. “I made surprises. One of them…” That lucidity was gone. She looked at him through the clarity of madness. “No. If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise.”

“Can you remember what the surprises are? Can’t you give me a hint?”

“No.You’ll spoil the surprise for the boy.” Now there was hurt in her voice.

He pressed his forehead against her knees, fighting to chain the frustration. “Tersa.” She’dworked to create those illusion spells and that bastard Jenkell had used her.

He raised his head and looked at her. “Tersa, the Langston man is abad man. He lied to you. He used your spells for his spooky house, but he also had two other Black Widows making spells for him, andtheir spells are meant to hurt whoever goes into his house. He wasn’t making an entertainment for us like Jaenelle is making. He wants tokill us.” He rubbed his thumbs over her knuckles, trying to hold her to this room and his words. “Tersa, Surreal is caught in that house. I need your help to get her out before she gets hurt.”

He lost her. He’d told her too much—or not enough. No way to know with Tersa.

“Darling, is there anything you can tell me?Please. ”

“They giggle,” she said, her voice barely audible. “They’re big and hairy and they giggle.”

What giggles?Daemon wondered, but he didn’t dare ask. She was pulling out whatever information she could. It would be up to him to figure out what it meant.


Tags: Anne Bishop The Black Jewels Science Fiction
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