Gray shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve everseen a gold mark. I got a ten silver mark once for my birthday, and I thought it was a fortune. Do you really think we could spend that many gold marks?”

Ranon took a deep breath and felt his body tremble as he breathed out. “Wouldn’t be hard to do. We’ve had so little for so long, it wouldn’t be hard to do. Paying it back is a different thing altogether.”

“Shops and supplies,” Gray said. “Forage for the animals if the harvest falls short this year.”

“Food for us if the crops fall short this year,” Ranon said. Although with so many Blood dead in the past two years, having people starve was less likely. Having the crops rot in the fields because there weren’t enough hands to harvest them was a possibility, even if the Blood used Craft and drained their power every day to get the harvest in.

“We’ll have to find the right kinds of buildings for the shops Daemon wants.”

“We’ll find them.”

Ranon closed his eyes. A music shop like the one he’d seen in Halaway. A room where the Tradition Keepers like his grandfather could teach openly what had been forbidden for so many years. And Sadi’s gift . . .

“It’s not the same,” Daemon had said, “but the music of Scelt has a complex simplicity that I think is similar to Shalador’s music. At least as I remember it. You might enjoy it.”

The music crystals and the brass stand. Such a simple thing, really, and not so simple. Like Sadi casually pointing out some folk music from Dharo that could be played on a flute.

Sharing customs. Sharing hopes.

Kind of funny, actually. Now that the Shaladorans could honor their own traditions, it didn’t sting to look beyond his own people and consider what other traditions might have to offer.


A quick scan of the messages that had arrived that afternoon confirmed that nothing required his immediate attention, so Daemon went up to Jaenelle’s sitting room. When she marked her place in her book and set it aside, he took that as an invitation. He picked her up, then sat down in the stuffed chair with her on his lap.

“Our guests are on their way home?” She ran her fingers through his hair, a soothing caress.

“They are.” He called in Jared’s journal and held it up for her to see.

“They didn’t want it?” Disappointment filled her voice and eyes.

“They want to preserve the original and also be able to share the contents. Cassidy sent a note with the journal asking if the Queen’s gift could be extended to having a couple of copies made so that people could read Jared’s account of his journey with Lia.”

She studied him. “That doesn’t sound like an extravagant request.”

“It’s not. It’s also not a practical request.”

“Ah. And what would my darling Prince consider a practical request?”

He shrugged. “A thousand copies would be a good start.”

She laughed. “What are you going to do with a thousand copies?”

“For one thing, sell them in the merchant’s shop I’m opening in Eyota. They can buy the book there, then go over to the coffee shop I’m also opening and read while enjoying a cup or two of their favorite beverage.”

She hooted. “How many shops did Gray and Ranon talk you into opening?”

He laughed with her. “Four. Plus a loan the court can use to help the people start rebuilding their lives and villages.”

Then his laughter faded. He cuddled Jaenelle, needing that comfort.

“What’s troubling you?” she asked.

“Did I do the right thing?”

“How big a loan did you give them?” she asked.

“Five million gold marks.”

She laughed softly. “That explains why they both looked like they couldn’t remember how to breathe when you brought them back from the village and couldn’t string words together in a coherent sentence all through dinner.”

“Jaenelle, did I do the right thing?”

“Why would you ask that?

“Because Dena Nehele is going to fall.”

She rested a hand over his heart. “Daemon, pretend you never heard that.Act as if you’d never heard that. That’s what I’m going to do.”

“In that case, I’m going to talk to Lord Burle about doing a bit of work on my new properties in Eyota.”

“You could also offer those properties as training ground if there were any youngsters in that village who wanted to learn the carpenter’s trade and Lord Burle was willing to teach them.”

“I could, could I?”

She gave him a kiss that was warm and sweet. Then she grinned. “Yes, my darling Prince, you could.”



“Theran has hired the cook from the best dining house in Grayhaven to make the meal for this dinner party,” Kermilla said as she, Correne, and her escorts, Lords Bardoc and Kenjim, drove to the place where they were meeting up with her two adorable Warlords, Garth and Brok. “Considering what a copper-pincher Theran is, these guests must bevery important.”

Correne rolled her eyes. “But not interesting. Warlord Princes?” She shuddered dramatically. “Why waste a good meal on them? It’s not like they’ll know the difference since they’re always fighting or living in the rogue camps.”

Glancing back at the unamused expressions of her men, Kermilla whispered. “Stop that. It’s disrespectful.”

“But it’strue. ”

Hard to argue with that. Theran plowed through food she could barely swallow, and didn’t care if a dish was bland or the potatoes were lumpy. In fact, as long as it didn’t have dirt on it and was cooked enough that it wasn’t still running, he didn’t complain. Since he would be taking care of her residence when she became Queen, she was going to have to improve his palate.Then they would have the kind of dinner parties that would impress the aristos here in Dena Nehele.

“True or not, you don’t say things like that when other men are around. If it gets back to the Warlord Princes, it will cause trouble.”

Correne looked over her shoulder at Bardoc and Kenjim, then looked at Kermilla. “They belong to you, sothey won’t go telling tales about you. And I heard in the stables that this carriage driver had his tongue cut out so hecouldn’t tell tales.”

Kermilla winced. No, her men wouldn’t tell tales on her, but they didn’t feel the same loyalty to Correne, which was something the girl couldn’t get through her head. She acted like the men wouldn’tdare say anything.

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