Ranon broke away from the rest of the First Circle. Hugging his grandfather, he put his head on the old man’s shoulder and wept.

A hand linked with hers. Looking to her left, she saw Reyhana trembling with the effort not to cry—and felt the girl’s hand tighten.

“The circle dances mean so much to my people,” Reyhana said. “Toour people.” She choked, but went on. “Someone will write a song about how Shalador’s Lady gave the heart back to the people, and all the children will learn it, and someday I will tell my grandchildren I was there and heard the words as they were spoken.”

Mother Night.

A familiar touch on her shoulder. She looked at Gray, hoping for some help, but his eyes were too bright, too wet.

“I’d like to go inside now,” she said.

It was Talon who nudged Reyhana aside and gripped Cassidy’s arm to lead her into the house before she ended up weeping too.

“I told Ranon to spend the night with his grandfather,” Talon said once he got her to the parlor. “He’ll be better for it.”

“Talon . . .”

“Don’t say anything, witchling. Don’t. I knew Jared. I’ve seen the circle dances. I know what the bitches took away from these people—and I know what you just gave back to them. I think it’s best if you Ladies have a quiet evening for yourselves.”

He kissed her cheek, then said, “Gray, let’s see what can be put together for a meal.”

Cassidy curled up on the sofa, stunned by the emotion that had swirled around her.

“You look like you got kicked in the head,” Shira said when she and Reyhana came in a minute later.

“I thought the Tradition Keepers would be happy that they could teach openly again,” Cassidy said.

“They are happy,” Shira replied. “We’re feeling too much right now to be just happy.”

And her First Circle was going to want time to consider the ramifications of what she’d done tonight.

“Do you think the men would be upset if I went out and gardened for a little while?” Cassidy asked. “It’s still light out.” The sun had set, but they were still into the longest days of summer.

“Gray will have a fit if you pick up a weeding claw,” Shira said. “And so will I.”

Cassidy huffed. “There’s too much feeling. I need todo something.” Shira eyed Reyhana, who looked confused about what she was supposed to do.

“Do you play drums?” Shira asked Reyhana.

The girl shook her head. “But I’m supposed to start learning. Shalador Queens all learn to drum.”

“I’m not a Tradition Keeper,” Shira said, “but I’ve been drumming since I was a girl. I can start teaching the basics to both of you.”

“But we don’t have drums,” Cassidy said.

“We do have a wooden table,” Shira replied, pointing at the table in front of the sofa. “And tonight, that’s all we need.”

EBON ASKAVI

Saetan signed his name to the message, then waited for the ink to dry before folding the paper and sealing it.

Daemon had asked to be informed of anything to do with a Dharo witch named Kermilla. Having two of her escorts show up at the Keep, wanting assistance to go through the Gate and return home, certainly qualified as something of interest—especially since heknew those men hadn’t gone through this particular Gate to get to Terreille. Granted, there were thirteen Gates that linked the three Realms, and those men could have used any of them—except this one and the one that was next to the Hall—without causing too much interest in their business. And granted, there weren’t many Priestesses left in Terreille who knew how to open the Gates to let someone move from one Realm to another, so this was the best choice if someone wanted to get back to Kaeleer and not mistakenly end up in Hell.

But Daemon’s interest in this witch sounded a warning inside Saetan because it carried the feel of a predator analyzing potential prey. And Daemon’s refusal to say why he wanted information sounded a more ominous warning—because there was only one person who could muzzle Daemon Sadi.

What did Jaenelle know?

He couldn’t ask—and didn’t need to.

He folded the paper, melted the black wax, and added a touch of Black power as he pressed the SaDiablo seal into the wax. Black to Black ensured that this would be a private message, since Daemon was the only person who could open it.

His task completed, he placed the message in the basket with the rest of the mail that would be collected in the morning and taken to the message station.

Then he went to his suite and vanished everything from the surface of his desk. He placed a small wooden frame in the center of the desk and called in several spools of spider silk, different weights.

Since he could not ask Jaenelle or Daemon for answers about Kermilla, he would find his own answers. After all, he, too, was a Black Widow—one of only two males in the history of the Blood who belonged to that caste.

So during the silent, dark hours, Prince Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, High Priest of the Hourglass, spun his own tangled web of dreams and visions.

CHAPTER 15

TERREILLE

Ranon rode up to the Queen’s Residence, dismounted, and gave his horse a pat.

Most mornings this past week, he’d loaded the horse and gear into the two-horse livestock Coach and headed out to one of the other Shalador reserves to ride through a village or two. He’d listened to the elders and Tradition Keepers, answered questions about things they had heard about the Rose Queen—and assured them that he, Shalador’s only adult Warlord Prince, had heard Cassidy give Shalador’s heart back to the people.

Today, he’d been assigned the ride through Eyota. It lifted his heart to see the people he’d grown up with smile and raise a hand in greeting when a member of a Queen’s court rode by. That had never happened before in anyone’s memory. He would never admit it, but every day he gave silent thanks to Theran Grayhaven for being enough of an ass to send Cassidy running so that she ended up here, among the people who needed her the most.

A quick psychic probe told him the only people in the house were Powell, Talon, and Vae, which meant Cassidy and Gray weren’t back from their planned ride, and Shira wasn’t back from her inspection of the nearby cottages. She wanted a Healer’s House—a place where she could take care of people without intruding on Cassidy’s privacy. There was only one other fully qualified Healer in Eyota, so even though Shira was supposed to be the court’s Healer, she and Cassidy agreed to expand that to the court and their families.

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