“You need to see a Healer, witch-child.”

“I am a Healer.”

And a Black Widow and a Queen. One of the three witches in all of Kaeleer who had a triple gift.

“Then I need an accurate list of your injuries.” Jaenelle was his adopted daughter; Daemon was his son. More than that, he had been her Steward. This wouldn’t be comfortable for either of them, but they were going to have this conversation. “Before you try to shrug this off because you’d rather not be frank with me, you should keep in mind that whatever broke in Daemon last night may stay broken unless it’s fixed in a hurry, and if it stays broken, your husband may not be able to do more than imagine making love to you again.”

“Does he really know what happened last night?”

Saetan frowned. “I had the impression he explained some of this to you.”

“Yes, he did.” Jaenelle studied him for a moment, then pushed back the sleeves of her robe and held out her wrists.

Ugly bruises. His own wrists ached in sympathy.

“That’s the worst of it,” Jaenelle said, smoothing the sleeves back down. “There are a few other bruises from love bites, but considering where they’re located, I’m not going to show you.”

On the basis of Daemon’s fears, he’d been prepared for something far more serious, and he found himself comforted by Jaenelle’s tone of amused snippiness.

“I’m a bit sore, but that has to do with quantity, not his temper, and at any other time, he’d be smugly sympathetic about that,” Jaenelle continued. “And between the exercise I got with Nighthawk and Daemon, my thighs are sore enough that I’m not interested in riding anything for a couple of days.”

Saetan gave in to the smile tugging his lips. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

His smile faded. Couldn’t be all of it. “He scared you. That’s the sticking point for him. He scared you.”

“Yes, he did,” Jaenelle replied quietly. “He didn’t know who I was, Saetan. He didn’t know where he was. He was caught in some twisting memory, and when I realized that, I also realized that if he really tried to hurt me, I was going to have to hurt him, because he would be able to live with a physical injury much easier than he could live with the knowledge that he’d done more than give me a couple of unintentional bruises.”

“Could you have hurt him?” Saetan asked. “Are you strong enough that you could have stopped him?”

She folded her right hand into a loose fist. When she opened her hand . . .

Her fingers no longer had human nails. These were cat claws, the kind that could do serious damage with even a glancing blow.

“I see,” Saetan said softly. A physical wound, even a permanently crippling one, would have been less destructive for Daemon. She had known that—and her choice of weapon would have shocked any man back into the present.

“Well.” Jaenelle closed her right hand, then fluffed her hair with her normal fingers. “I’m heading out to Dharo. Aaron should be here by now.”

“Oh?” He kept his voice carefully neutral, but he wondered if Jaenelle was being honest about her own emotional state. He understood her summoning him in the early-morning hours so that he would be here when Daemon most needed him, but summoning Aaron could indicate a need to escape.

“Oh.” Those sapphire eyes looked through him—and understood everything he didn’t say. “The purpose of the visit has changed, but the arrangements were made several days ago. I’m not hurt, Papa. I promise you. I’m . . . shaky. I won’t deny that. But I’m not hurt.”

He nodded.

She laid her hand on his. “Will you stay over today? Be here for him? I think you can do more to help him heal right now than I can.”

“Yes, I’ll stay.”

Her fingers curled around his. “Daemon can’t go back to Terreille. In memory of a friend, he’ll try to do what’s right, but he can’t go back to Terreille.”

“He has no defense against the memories anymore, does he?”

“No. His mind and his sanity are intact. He may feel broken right now, but that’s a surface feeling, an emotion. Last night didn’t actually break him. I did descend into the abyss during one of the times he fell asleep, and I made a thorough assessment of his mind, so I’m sure of that. But he’s going to be fragile for a while. If it’s needed, Lucivar can go to Dena Nehele.”

“If Lucivar goes to Dena Nehele, he’ll walk in ready to fight.”

Jaenelle huffed. “That’s not new. Lucivar walks into every place ready to fight.”

Saetan laughed softly. Hard to deny the truth about his Eyrien son’s temper. “All right.” Raising her hand, he kissed her knuckles, then let her go. “You head out to Dharo. . . .”

“And you’ll look after our guest?” Jaenelle asked knowingly.

“That I will. But first I’m going to read my boy a story. I had thought of reading him Unicorn to the Rescue! or Sceltie Saves the Day—”

Jaenelle’s silvery, velvet-coated laugh eased his heart and vanished his concern about this child.

“—but I don’t think he’d appreciate the humor of being read a story appropriate for his nephew,” he finished. “At least, not today.”

“No, I don’t think he would. Not today.”

When their laughter faded, Jaenelle called in a small wooden frame Black Widows used to hold their tangled webs. “That room needs to be cleaned and aired before Daemon can go back in. I think Helene will find this useful. Marian and I have been working on a way to cleanse a bedroom after a Warlord Prince goes through a rut. The vial is opened with a basic housekeeping spell. Once it’s triggered, the web will absorb the psychic scents in the room, while the oil in the vial absorbs the physical odors. The whole thing takes a couple of hours. When it’s done, the spider silk of the web will look thick and greasy. Same with the oil. We haven’t figured out how to cleanse the frame or vial after it’s been used, so the whole thing should be put in a shield and burned with witchfire, then buried so the ash doesn’t drift on the Wind.”

He had to marvel that no one else had ever thought of this. Of course, there probably hadn’t been that many friendships between Black Widows and hearth witches, and until Marian and Jaenelle started working together to create specific spells, no one, to his knowledge, had thought to combine those two kinds of Craft.

Tags: Anne Bishop The Black Jewels Science Fiction
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