“No matter what you say, there is no longer a Queen ruling Ebon Askavi, which means you’re no longer bound by any contract to that Queen. Give up Ebon Rih. Let it go to another leader Eyriens will follow. Let us build a life here, an Eyrien life. And if you won’t think of the rest of us, think of your own son. Is he going to grow up as an Eyrien or as a Rihlander with wings?”
“And I suppose you, as the leader the other Eyriens will follow, would make sure he was treated as a young man from an aristo family and not the son of a half-breed bastard?”
He saw the truth in Falonar’s eyes.
“Your family is wealthy.” Falonar spit out the words. “You can live anywhere. Do something for your people. Go live elsewhere and let us have Askavi.”
Lucivar smiled. “Funny how all of a sudden you become my people when you want something that would be convenient for you and give me nothing in return. No, Falonar. I am where I choose to live. As for the other Eyriens living in Ebon Rih? I was here first. And the Eyriens who were in this valley before me? They were my uncle and my cousin and the men who served them.”
Falonar stared at him for a long time, then said bitterly, “The only Eyrien thing about you is your wings.”
As Lucivar walked to the door, he tossed back, “My mother would have been pleased to hear you say that.”
When a man’s ability to move was severely limited, being in a room with Surreal all day was unnerving, especially when her mood kept swinging from being oversolicitous to looking like she’d explode if she didn’t rip apart everything in the room. Since he was one of the things in the room, Rainier felt giddy relief when Jaenelle ordered Surreal to take her own walk and rest period.
Then Jaenelle worked on his leg, weaving her healing spells around and through the broken bone and severed muscle. Satisfied that, this time, he had done exactly what he’d been told to do, she had given him permission to sit downstairs this evening and have the passive company of Merry and Briggs’s customers.
Wasn’t much of a trade in some ways, since Merry was keeping as sharp an eye on him as Surreal had done, but the difference in personalities made him feel easier. Besides, Merry had plenty of other people to look after—and didn’t look like she wanted to rip out everyone’s throat.
Rainier sat at a table with his left leg resting on cushions that floated on air and enough shields around that part of the table to barricade a whole house—and none of those shields were his. Still, he was happy to be around other people for a while and concerned that Surreal was taking another walk to work off more temper—and he wondered if there was some way for him to find out if there was a problem in Ebon Rih or if Lucivar had a problem with just one man.
Lucivar prowled the sitting room at the Keep. He’d spent the day trying to figure out whom he could talk to who would just let him talk. Marian would have listened, but he didn’t want to share this with her. Not yet. Not when it might change how she felt or acted around some of the other Eyriens.
So he’d come to the Keep, wishing he could have talked to his uncle Andulvar, or even Prothvar, but finally choosing the man he hoped could understand.
“I’m not leaving Ebon Rih for any prick-ass’s benefit,” he said, “but Falonar was right about some things.” He braced when his father rose from the chair where Saetan had sat silently and passively while Lucivar recounted his discussion with the other Eyrien Warlord Prince. But the High Lord just settled on the wide arm of the big stuffed chair and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Was he?” Saetan asked blandly.
Hell’s fire. He’d asked—no, demanded—to be allowed to talk without having to deal with someone else’s anger, but this blandness in face and voice hid too much, giving him no clue to Saetan’s thoughts or temper.
“What, exactly, was he right about?” Saetan asked.
Lucivar bristled. Couldn’t stop himself. “Look, I didn’t want to deal with anger, but I didn’t say you couldn’t express an opinion.”
“As long as it’s expressed politely?”
He swore savagely. “I was hoping you would understand.”
“I do,” Saetan said, his voice still viciously bland. “Better, I think, than you do at this moment.”
Lucivar snapped to a stop and looked into Saetan’s eyes. Something there, something that warned him that he could hear nothing or he could hear it all.
“Stop that.” If he had to submit to a scolding, he was not going to listen to it delivered in that bland, no-balls voice—not from this man.
Saetan’s gold eyes filled with sharp amusement. “Would you prefer a whack upside the head? It’s what you would have gotten from your uncle.”
The bland expression vanished, which wasn’t a relief because now Saetan’s face held the look of a family patriarch annoyed with one of his offspring. Not angry, not threatening, just annoyed enough that if Lucivar had been younger, Saetan would have grabbed him by the scruff of the neck as a warning to pay attention and think.
“Point by point, then,” Saetan said. “There are about two hundred Eyriens in Ebon Rih. How many of them are you supporting?”
“I can afford it,” he mumbled, not sure how much trouble he was in, but certain he was in trouble. “Besides, they work for me.”
“Do they? It’s been two years since the last service fair, two years since the last contracts were signed that were part of the emigration requirements to live in Kaeleer.”
“No,” Lucivar said quickly, “there were a handful this past summer.”
“Eyrien women who have young children and were desperate enough and determined enough to leave what they had known. They didn’t come through the service fairs, since those fairs no longer exist. They came to the Keep in Terreille, asking for help. And Draca asked you to consider adding them to the women living in the mountains near Doun. Which you did. How many other Eyriens who signed contracts with you are still under contract?”
Not sure he liked where this was going, he shrugged. “They’re still serving.”
“Are they? Being a dark-Jeweled Warlord Prince, Falonar has to serve for five years in order to remain in Kaeleer after the contract is completed. The others, not being of that caste and not wearing dark Jewels, have fulfilled that obligation and are free to live elsewhere now.”