“No point at all,” she agreed with a smile that told him plainly enough she’d fought—and lost—that particular battle with her own court.
He only realized he was smiling back when her smile faded.
“Do you know the history of your people, Ranon?” she asked. “Do you know how your people came to be in Dena Nehele?”
“Yes, I know the stories.”
“People looked beyond themselves and made room for you. Remember that, Prince.”
“I’m not likely to forget it,” Ranon replied, puzzled. Some other message there. Or a warning? “Lady, is there something I should know?”
“I’ve told you what you need to know. The rest is up to you.”
“I don’t—” He stopped. Felt the room do one slow spin as he looked at the strange Jewel around her neck—and the hourglass pendant she wore just above that Jewel.
Black Widow as well as Witch.
“Now,” Jaenelle said. “This is why I asked to see you.”
Two trunks appeared in front of him. Glancing at her for permission, he went down on one knee and lifted a lid. Picking up one of the items on top, he stood and opened the thin cover.
His hands began to tremble when he realized what he held.
“That trunk has journals that record the daily life of the Shalador people—and the decline of Dena Nehele after Lia’s death. Two generations. No journals were sent after that. The other trunk’s contents are more formal. When the Tradition Keepers saw the decline begin, they took it as a warning. So they wrote down the stories and the songs, wrote down the rituals of the Shalador people, and brought that writing to Ebon Askavi. They knew many of those things would be lost in the decaying years, but they also hoped the time would come when the forgotten things could be reclaimed. Based on the last couple of letters Cassidy sent to me, I thought it was time for these to come back to the Shalador people.”
Ranon put the journal back in the trunk before a tear fell and damaged the ink. “Thank you.”
“I have one other thing for you.” Jaenelle called in another package and handed it to him. “This was left here at the Keep for Daemon, but he and I agree that it should go to you now.”
He unwrapped the package. Another journal? He opened it to a random page and read for a minute. Then he looked at Jaenelle. “Jared? This came fromJared ?”
She nodded. “This is his account of the journey he made with Lia.”
“And with Blaed and Thera.”And Talon.
“This should go to Theran. He’s the last Grayhaven,” Ranon said as his grip tightened on the journal.
“It’s yours now to do with as you please. But I’ll remind you that Jared was a Shalador Warlord, and he was proud of it.”
Ranon pressed a hand against his chest. “My heart is too full for words.”
“And I have said all the words I need to say.” Jaenelle smiled. “I need to get back to Kaeleer. My father is here standing escort. In fact, he helped me locate the journals. But my husband gets snarly if I stay at the Keep in Terreille for too long.”
“I thank you for your time, Lady. And for these.” He pointed at the trunks. “They are a gift to my people.”
“May the Darkness embrace you, Prince Ranon.”
He bowed and waited until she left the room before sinking into a chair to regain his breath and his balance before he headed home.
Cassidy looked at Powell, who was hurrying toward her.
“Told you they’d notice you were still working,” Reyhana said quietly.
*Grf.* That was Vae’s grumpy opinion.
“Oh, hush up, both of you.” Cassidy tossed the handful of weeds into the basket, brushed off her hands, and smiled at Powell. “I wasn’t working. Really. I was just pulling a few weeds and keeping Reyhana company while she brushed Vae.” Of course, if she wanted him to accept the “a few weeds” fib, she should have vanished at least half the weeds in the basket.
“Excellent,” Powell said. “You don’t rest as much as you should.”
“Powell?” Cassidy asked sharply. The man was too distracted to notice the basket? Her Steward noticed everything.
“There are some people who need to see you.”
Not want,need. She sent out a psychic probe to get a feel for Spere’s and Archerr’s tempers, since they were the escorts on duty this afternoon, and wished Ranon or Gray were back from their respective errands—or that it was closer to sundown and Talon could be with her.
Simmering anger, tightly leashed. That was all she was picking up from her men.
“Reyhana, stay here. Vae, you stay with her,” Cassidy said.
“But . . .” Reyhana began.
“Stay.”Until she knew what this was about, she was not putting Reyhana in a potentially explosive situation.
*We will stay,* Vae said.
That much settled, Cassidy strode to the house, Powell puffing to keep up with her. When she reached the parlor that was the waiting room for anyone wishing to have an audience with the Queen . . .
“Dryden?” Cassidy looked at the Grayhaven butler. “What . . . ?Birdie? ”
Therewas the reason for the anger—that dark bruise on the little maid’s face.
*Shira,* Cassidy called. *I need you in the visitors’ parlor.*
*Cassie, I really don’t feel . . . *
*The Healer’s attendance is required.*
Shira didn’t reply. Cassidy didn’t expect her to. Shira the woman had been holed up in her room, riding a mood since she’d gone out to look at properties with Gray, but the Healer would arrive in the parlor ready to practice her Craft.
Putting an arm around the maid, Cassidy led Birdie to a sofa and sat down with her. “What happened?”
“I didn’t do anything bad,” Birdie whispered. “I swear by the Jewels, I didn’t.”
“If I may explain, Lady?” Dryden asked.
Cassidy looked past him to the other people in the room. Elle, the housekeeper; Maydra, the cook; and four of the young men who worked in the Grayhaven stable and had befriended Gray before he’d begun to heal from the emotional scars that had their roots in the torture he’d endured.
Shira burst into the room, took one look at Birdie, and said, “Hell’s fire. Let me get some ice from the block in the freeze box.”
“I’ll do that,” Spere said. He slipped out of the room.