Not seeing any options, Daemon sat across from his father and filled his own plate.

“There’s been very little of interest in those piles of papers,” Saetan said. “Even with the preservation spells that were put on them, most are illegible or the parchment crumbles when it’s touched. But I did find a few things—like the recipe for that sweet-cheese confection. Well, the basic idea for it at any rate. I had to fiddle with it a bit and embellished it after that.”

Daemon chewed a mouthful of beef and swallowed carefully. “You made that?”

“Yes. Like you, I enjoy puttering in the kitchen on occasion.”

“And you’re the only one who has the recipe?”

“Yes.”

They stared at each other.

Finally Daemon asked,“What are the chances of you sharing that recipe?”

His father, the too-knowing bastard, just smiled.

CHAPTER 4

Ebon ASKAVI

Aroom within the Keep held one of the thirteen Gates that connected the three Realms of Terreille, Kaeleer, and Hell. On the Dark Altar stood a four-branched candelabra. When the black candles were lit and the spell was invoked, a stone wall turned to mist and became a Gate between the Realms.

Following the assistant historian/librarian, Theran stepped out of that mist into a room that looked almost the same as the one he’d just left, but it felt different. It felt darker.

He had reached Kaeleer, the Shadow Realm. He was really here.

And home had never felt so far away.

KAELEER

Stepping out of the Coach that had brought him from the Keep to this place,Theran stared at the massive structure of dark gray stone that rose up in front of him. It sprawled over the land, and its towers speared the sky. Its size intimidated, and the feel of age and dark power that surrounded it was sufficient warning to any visitor that a smart man walked softly around anything that lived behind those walls.

“Is that an enclosed community?” he asked. He could understand the feeling of that much power if several hundred Blood had lived in a place for many generations. There had been a few places “ruled” by covens in the Shalador reserves that had a similar feel. Or so he’d been told. Most of those places—and the strong witches who had lived in them—hadn’t survived the purges that had been ordered a few years ago by Dorothea’s pet Queens.

“Like a village, you mean?” the Coach driver said. Then he made a sound that might have been an effort not to laugh. “No. The village is that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction. “This here is a private drive until you reach the bridge. After that, it becomes a public road to Halaway.”

“Private . . .” He was looking at a residence? That feeling of dark power came from one family?

“That’s SaDiablo Hall,” the driver said. “Family seat of the SaDiablo family and home of the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan. I was told to bring you here.”

SaDiablo. SaDiablo. Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful.

But Dorothea SaDiablo was dead, wasn’t she? Completely destroyed, body, mind, and Jewels. Wasn’t she?

“Daemon Sadi lives here?” Theran asked.

“He does.”

Was Sadi still controlled by the SaDiablo family? Was he still a slave? Was this branch of the SaDiablo family any better than the ones who had tried to destroy Terreille?

Have I just handed myself to the enemy? Damn that Hayllian bastard for sending me here.

“I’ll take the Coach around to the stables, then wait around a bit to see if I’m needed,” the driver said. “You should go on up to the Hall and state your business. Won’t attract any atten—”

A solitary howl rose from the trees off to the right. Then another howl rose up from the left. The third came from behind him.

Theran turned in a circle, his heart hammering against his chest. Nothing he could see, but something was out there. He was picking up psychic scents, a feeling of power moving toward him from several directions. But those scents were just enough off-kilter that he couldn’t identify what was out there.

“Well,” the driver said, scratching his head. “Now that you’ve got their attention, you’ve got everyone’s attention. So you might as well go on up.”

“What are they?” Theran asked. “Guard dogs?”

“Wolves. The pack lives in the north woods that are part of this estate. They’re protected by the Hall—and they protect the Hall.”

Hell’s fire. “Could be worse,” Theran said.

“Could be,” the driver agreed. He paused and gave Theran a considering look. “Don’t know if any are here right now, but you don’t want to be upsetting the cats. They’re big, and they’re mean.”

Theran forced a smile. “It’s not like they would eat me.”

The driver just looked at him.

“Mother Night.” Could it be any worse? He didn’t ask because he didn’t want the driver to tell him about whatever was worse than man-eating cats someone kept as pets.

The driver touched two fingers to his temple as a salute and went back into the Coach.

Theran quickly stepped off the landing web and hurried to the front door, which opened before he could knock, and showed him what could be worse than man-eating cats—a large, stern-faced man who was wearing a butler’s uniform and was also a Red-Jeweled Warlord.

Outranked by a servant, Theran thought as he obeyed the silent invitation to step inside.

“Good afternoon,” the butler said. “How may I be of service?”

“I’m looking for Daemon Sadi. I was told I could find him here.” Of course, the Hayllian prick at the Keep hadn’t mentioned he’d be looking for Sadi inside a SaDiablo fortress.

As the butler turned one hand, he suddenly held a small silver tray. The use of Craft was so smooth, Theran stared at the tray for a moment, feeling envious of the subtle training the butler must have received. Oh, Talon had given him the best training available, but their rough-and-ready life didn’t require subtlety in anything except fighting.

“Your card?” the butler said.

Hell’s fire. Did people still use such fussy things? Would the court he hoped to create have to use them?

“I don’t have a card,” Theran said, feeling like an awkward child who’d been caught out pretending to be an adult.

The butler’s hand turned. The tray vanished. “Your name?”

Theran hesitated. His family had survived by hiding. But would anyone here in Kaeleer understand the significance of the name?


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