“Yes. If someone was interested in becoming the historian storyteller in your community, meetings could be arranged and held at the Keep.”

Maybe the storyteller could have an apprentice after all before he returned to the Darkness.

Saetan called in a thick sheaf of papers, carefully bound. He handed it to Lucivar. “Eyriens don’t have a lot of use for books, but I had all of Andulvar’s stories transcribed. I made two copies. One copy and the audio crystals will remain here in the Keep’s library, available to scholars and our family. The copy you’re holding is a gift from your uncle, and you may do with it as you please.”

“Thank you.” His throat was so tight it was hard to swallow. “I’ve let some things slide for the past couple of years. There were reasons for it, but now that needs to change.”

“Yes, it does. And there will be some who won’t like that change.”

Lucivar put a shield around the bound pages to keep them protected, then vanished them. “I’d better go. I promised Jaenelle I would tuck in Surreal and Rainier tonight, since they’ll both be resuming their training tomorrow.”

“You’re going to put a weapon in Surreal’s hands?” Saetan looked mildly alarmed. “Are you going to shield your balls?”

He laughed. “Damn right, I am.”

He headed for the library’s door. Saetan stayed at the table.


He looked back.

“The next time someone tries to manipulate your heart by saying you don’t know Eyrien tradition, you remind that person that you follow Eyrien traditions that are far older than anything he could possibly know. Because, my darling, that is true. Andulvar was proud of you, as a man and as an Eyrien warrior. Does anyone else’s opinion really matter?”

Glancing up from the solitary card game he’d been playing, Rainier saw one of the younger Eyrien Warlords standing in The Tavern’s doorway, scanning the room.

Endar. Had a wife and two children—and lived with them, which, he’d gathered, was atypical in Eyrien society.

Despite what Lucivar sometimes said about his little beast, Rainier couldn’t imagine Yaslana living apart from his family, coming to the family eyrie for only an hour to see his children or have sex with his wife. Couldn’t imagine Yaslana tolerating that separation.

As Endar approached his table, he saw Merry start to veer from the table she’d been heading toward.

*It’s all right,* Rainier told her. *I’d like to know why he’s come.*

She turned again so smoothly, he doubted anyone else would have realized anything had happened.

“Prince Rainier,” Endar said when he reached the table.

“Lord Endar.”

Endar pointed at another chair. “May I?”

“Please do.”

An awkward silence. Then Merry appeared and said, “I know what Prince Rainier is allowed to drink. What would you like?”

Hasn’t been in The Tavern before, Rainier thought as he watched Endar stumble over a simple request for ale.

“I guess your training is done now,” Endar said.

Rainier shook his head. “We report to Prince Yaslana tomorrow morning to resume training.”

“I mean no disrespect, but what can you do right now?”

“I think my part of the training tomorrow consists of standing, walking a few steps, and bending my knee a few times to help stretch the muscles Lady Angelline is rebuilding. Yaslana’s part of the training is pounding on me if I do anything stupid.”

“He wouldn’t hurt an injured man,” Endar protested.

Yes, he would. “I’d rather feel Lucivar’s fist than my Healer’s fury.”

“Ah.” Endar took a couple of swallows of ale, then set the mug aside and called in four books. He looked embarrassed. Almost ashamed. “Since you need to rest that leg so much while it’s healing, I thought you might find these useful.”

Setting the cards down, Rainier checked the title of each book. He’d read all of them, but he wasn’t going to say that, since it was clear it hadn’t been easy for Endar to bring them or admit to owning them. “Thank you. These will help pass the time.”

Surreal walked through the door and the chatter in the room stumbled before picking up the rhythm again. As she approached their table, he noticed how much Endar tensed, how ready the man was to take up a defensive position. Couldn’t blame him. Not after her attack on Falonar.

“Surreal, darling, Endar kindly loaned me some books. Could you take them up to my room so they’ll be safe?”

By the time she’d unbuttoned her heavy coat, he knew she’d assessed his visitor, and his ease with the Eyrien, and understood what the loan of those books meant.

“Sure,” she said, taking the books. “You want anything from your room while I’m up there?”

“No, thanks.”

When she walked away, Endar gulped in a breath, then gulped some ale. Rainier picked up his cards and resumed his game.

Endar watched for a bit.

“I’ve played every card game I know more times than I care to consider,” Rainier said. “Do you know any?”

“Betting games, you mean?”

He shook his head. “The healing brews I have to drink are strong enough to give me a muzzy head.”

“Well, there is hawks and hares. But it’s a children’s card game.”

Rainier smiled. “I could handle that. I think.”

Endar called in a different deck of cards. “I keep them with me,” he mumbled as he shuffled the cards. “To distract the little ones when Dorian needs some peace.”

Rainier said nothing, just absorbed all the messages under and around the words.

Lucivar walked into The Tavern, glanced at the table ringed by Eyriens, and reached the bar just as Surreal lifted the tray of drinks and went off to tend a couple of tables.

“The way she kept staring at everyone, folks were afraid to come up and order a drink,” Briggs said, standing on the other side of the bar. “Merry suggested that she look after a few tables while she was keeping an eye on things, and she agreed—and promised not to poison anyone’s drink. She was joking about that, wasn’t she?”

“If Surreal promised not to poison anyone tonight, she won’t.”

Briggs stared at him. “You want ale?”

“I’d rather have a very large whiskey, but I’ll take coffee if you have it. It’s my night to give the little beast his bath, so I’ll need my reflexes sharp beforehand and the whiskey after.”

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