“The valley below us belongs to the Keep in all three Realms,” Saetan said. “It always has; it always will. You were given Ebon Rih to rule on behalf of the Queen of Ebon Askavi. You were given the responsibility to watch over the land and the people who live here, whether they were landens or Rihlanders or Eyriens. When you made the pledge to defend and protect, you not only made it to the living Queen you served; you made it to the Keep and those who serve the Keep. Which is why you still rule here even though Jaenelle is no longer a ruling Queen.” He pushed up from the chair and ran his fingers through his hair, the first sign of exasperation he’d shown. “What is actually going on here, Lucivar? Do you trust Falonar so much that you’ve missed something obvious?”
Right now he didn’t trust Falonar at all, but that wouldn’t be a wise thing to say to his father—or his brother, for that matter. “Like what?”
Lucivar huffed out a laugh. “He’s arrogant, not stupid. He couldn’t survive me on a killing field.”
“But he is an aristo Warlord Prince who served in a less-than-honorable court. Was he free to leave, or would he have been considered a rogue when he left Prythian’s court and slipped in with the other Eyriens to try his luck at the service fair?”
“He said he couldn’t stomach what he was ordered to do,” Lucivar said. “I assumed he was rogue, but I didn’t care.”
“A man who lived by traditional Eyrien honor would have cared,” Saetan said. “Or at least cared about why a man broke an oath of loyalty.”
Snarling at the truth of that, Lucivar resumed pacing.
“So Falonar appeals to your sense of honor and tries to get you to give up your claim to Ebon Rih for ‘the good of the other Eyriens.’ What do you think would happen if you did step down?”
“Falonar would step in and become the next Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih and rule the valley in traditional Eyrien fashion.” And blood would be shed up and down the valley. The Rihlanders here, Blood and landen, wouldn’t tolerate the presence of another race who expected them to be accommodating, especially when accommodating meant becoming little better than slaves.
“If you step down, there will be no Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih,” Saetan said. “If you leave Ebon Rih, no one at the Keep will deny Falonar’s claim to being the leader of the Eyriens living in the valley, but the Rihlander villages here will have no duty to him. There will be no tithes to support him or his followers, because he will have no right to that income. He may be considered an equal to the Queens who rule the Blood villages, but not their superior. He would not be permitted to glut this land with Eyriens who can’t support themselves, and he certainly wouldn’t be permitted to bring in more warriors, because the number of warriors already here is sufficient to help the Rihlanders defend this land and its people.”
“And if he did try to bring in more?”
Saetan gave him a long stare before saying softly, “Don’t underestimate what guards the Keep, Lucivar.”
He heard the warning. Oh, yes, he heard the warning.
“I will give Falonar two points,” Saetan said. “First, you aren’t thinking like an Eyrien when it comes to the Eyriens in Ebon Rih. Who would you want with you on a battleground, Prince Yaslana? Who would you want supporting those men? Whose skills are useful? Who should be dismissed because they’re only extra weight? No one has reminded you of those completed contracts because they would have had to earn their living instead of expecting you to provide them with everything they want simply because you agreed to give them a chance to live in the territory you rule. They aren’t your children. Since you have sense enough not to spoil your own son, don’t spoil them. Give them a choice to stay or go, because the ones who can’t give you loyalty are no use to you in a fight—or in a healthy community.”
“Could I release Falonar from his contract?” Lucivar asked.
“If he wants to return to Terreille, you could forgive the rest of his contract. If he wants to stay in Kaeleer but no longer can serve you honorably, his contract could be transferred to a Queen of sufficient rank—meaning one who wears a Red Jewel or darker—who is willing to have an Eyrien Warlord Prince in her court.”
“I won’t let him serve Karla,” Lucivar said. She wasn’t the only Queen who wore Jewels darker than Sapphire, but after what Falonar did to Rainier, he wasn’t going to let the man near the Queen of Glacia and her weakened legs. “What’s the second thing?”
“People didn’t stop dying two years ago. Those who made the transition to demon-dead didn’t stop coming to Hell, didn’t stop wanting a last chance to take care of unfinished business.”
“Come with me.”
He followed Saetan to the private part of the Keep’s huge library. On the blackwood table was a wooden box with a dozen audio crystals nestled in heavy silk.
Saetan put one of the crystals in the brass stand and used Craft to engage the sounds held in the crystal.
Andulvar’s voice. Lucivar’s chest ached. Hell’s fire, he missed his uncle. Saetan’s love and discipline and code of honor had shaped the core of who he was, but Andulvar, by being Andulvar, had shaped his sense of what it meant to be Eyrien.
How could he have forgotten that?
Then he focused on the words and gasped. “Stories?”
“Some stories,” Saetan replied. “Some legends as he was taught them. Some accounts of battles he was in. Prothvar has some stories and accounts of battles on a couple of those crystals too. And then there are these.” Returning that audio crystal to its place in the box, he called in another crystal and put it in the stand.
Lucivar didn’t recognize the voice, but he knew what he was hearing. “How? Where?”
“A historian storyteller from Askavi Terreille. He made the transition to demon-dead a couple of weeks ago. When he came to the Dark Realm, his main regret was that he had no apprentice while he walked among the living, had no one to learn the stories, and he worried that no one would remember what Askavi had been like before the purging, that the most recent history would be lost. So I showed him what Andulvar and I had done over the course of several winters.”
“He’s doing the same thing now?” Lucivar asked. “Recording the stories of Eyrien history so they won’t be forgotten?”