“Training in Protocol starts after a child’s Birthright Ceremony and continues all through schooling. The High Lord’s lessons were more about dealing with darker-Jeweled males and also the Protocols used when the living had contact with the demon-dead. And Jaenelle said trying to deal with Lucivar was an experience a Queen should have at least once.”
So Sadi’s wife had been there too.
“Where was this dark court located?”
Cassidy looked puzzled. “Where?”
“Seemed like there was at least one court in every Territory that was referring to itself as a dark court,” Talon said. “I was just wondering where the one you mentioned was located.”
“In Kaeleer, there was only one that was referred to as the Dark Court,” Cassidy said slowly. “That was the court at Ebon Askavi.”
“With that kind of credentials, why doesn’t Sadi’s wife have a court?” Talon asked, but he was more wondering out loud than expecting an answer.
“After she recovered from her injuries, she didn’t want to rule anymore,” Cassidy said, “and everyone was so glad she survived, they didn’t care if there was an official court.”
“She was injured?”
“Two years ago. It was several months before anyone knew for sure that she survived, and several more before she was fully healed.”
Two years ago. Two years ago.
“She got caught in that storm of power the Kaeleer army unleashed?”
Cassidy frowned at him. “There wasn’t an army. That was Jaenelle. She unleashed her full strength and cleansed all three Realms of the Blood tainted by that bad High Priestess.”
Talon swayed. He had felt that power when it screamed through Terreille two years ago. Had felt the bite of it before it let him go, passed him by.
One witch had unleashed that much power? One?
He stared at Cassidy.
“Didn’t Theran tell you?” Cassidy asked.
“Tell me what?”
“Before she was injured, Jaenelle was the Queen of Ebon Askavi.”
Theran paced the length of the larger meeting room, shooting looks at Ranon every time he passed that end of the table.
“You’re sure Talon said to meet him here?”
Ranon gave him a cold stare. “I’m sure. He said to give him an hour, and then he wanted to meet with the whole First Circle. Guess he got delayed.”
By what? Theran wondered.
When Talon walked in a few minutes later, he knew something was terribly wrong, because he’d never seen the older man look so shaken—or scared.
“You young fool,” Talon said, heading right for him. “What did you do? What did you do?”
Talon grabbed Theran by the shirt and shook him before giving him a shove that had him half falling on the men sitting around the table.
“I didn’t do anything,” Theran snapped.
“You want to think for a minute and try the answer again?” Talon roared.
“I didn’t. Do. Anything.”
“You forgot a few details, boy. The kind of details that could destroy all of us—and Dena Nehele as well.”
Talon sagged suddenly, and that was more frightening than his anger.
“I’m just as much to blame,” Talon said quietly. “Didn’t look closely enough. Didn’t think to ask until it was shoved in my face that I hadn’t asked.”
“Talon,” Powell said. “It would help the rest of us understand the danger if you could be a little less vague.”
Theran eased around to the other side of the table but didn’t take a seat. What sort of tale was Cassidy telling that would get Talon that pissed off at him?
“We’ve got Lucivar Yaslana—yes, that’s who that Eyrien was—honing his weapons and looking in our direction. Which means Sadi is also going to be looking in our direction and honing his own brand of weapons. And don’t think for a minute that Yaslana isn’t going to report to his father—who happens to be the High Lord of Hell.”
Some of the men sucked in a breath. Others groaned.
“And worst of all,” Talon said grimly, “I don’t think Lady Cassidy’s friend is going to be looking kindly at us.”
“Friend?” Ranon said, glancing at Theran. “You mean Sadi’s wife?”
Talon looked at Theran, and there was a bleakness in the older man’s eyes that made Theran shudder.
“Sadi’s wife,” Talon said softly. “Who was the Queen of Ebon Askavi.”
“Witch,” Talon continued, “chose Cassidy to be our Queen. So we’d all better start looking beyond a Rose Jewel to figure out why. Gentlemen, we’ve already made one bad mistake. We can’t afford to make another. So we’re going to study those books of Protocol, and we’re going to learn what we said we wanted to learn. And if the Darkness is merciful, the next time Lucivar Yaslana shows up here, he won’t invite all of us to step onto a killing field.”
Lucivar stepped into the sitting room and stopped. He’d expected to find his father waiting for him, but . . .
“What are you still doing here?” he asked Daemon as he approached a low table filled with different kinds of edibles.
“Waiting for you.” Daemon put a thin slice of cheese on top of a triangle of toast and added a spoonful of chopped spicy beef.
“Wine?” Saetan asked, indicating the open bottle.
“I’d rather have ale,” Lucivar said as he took the remaining seat around the table.
Saetan smiled dryly. “I thought as much. That’s why there’s some on the way.”
Lucivar filled a plate while he considered the other two men. Saetan was . . . Amused was the politest word that came to mind. Daemon was definitely grumpy.
“How was your day?” Lucivar asked, watching his brother.
“And you’re still here because you were waiting for me?”
Daemon made an inarticulate sound.
Saetan said, “He’s trying to figure out how to explain a certain bit of Craft to his wife.”
“Oh?” Lucivar said.
Daemon was paying an awful lot of attention to making little sandwiches he wasn’t eating.
“Marian is pretty sure she can clean the paint off the floor,” Daemon muttered. “Eventually.”