They studied each other. She didn’t want him to break a confidence, but she’d seen the same thing that he had during the workouts over the past couple of days: The Eyrien males around Riada seemed to be dividing between two leaders instead of understanding that there was one leader and his second-in-command.

“Let’s just say, for now, that it’s a good thing we’ll be running The Tavern for Merry and Briggs,” Rainier said.

“So we’re all going to find out today?”


Well, won’t that be interesting?

Lucivar watched Daemon tap the thick stack of contracts back into a neat pile. “When it was just me and the Rihlanders, I knew what I was supposed to be. I stood for Blood law and honor. I drew the line and defended it. But this?” He blew out a breath. “I’m not sure about this.”

Daemon poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot Draca had provided. “You’re making this difficult, Prick, when it’s really quite simple. You’re the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih. You rule this territory. And now you’re going to fulfill one of your obligations to the Eyriens who live in your territory by completing the last step in the service contracts they signed with you. And Lucivar? You still stand for Blood law and honor—and you’re still drawing the line and defending it.”

“Even today?”

“Especially today. Once you make your announcement, you’ll have a good idea of who is staying, who is going, who you can trust, and who should never see your back. The ones who think you’re a good leader and want the kind of life and community you’re offering will be pissed off when you toss these papers at them. They’ll be the first to want to talk, and they won’t be polite.”

“Eyriens rarely are,” Lucivar said with a grim smile.

“That’s the first group, the equivalent of your First Circle. The second group is going to be shocked by the possibility that they’ll be cut loose and might have to serve someone who isn’t Eyrien or go back to Terreille. They’ll realize they do like it here and want to stay, and they’ll make some effort to prove it to you. There also will be the ones who aren’t ballsy enough to come to you personally but will seek advice from someone you trust.

“The women will be different,” Daemon continued. “They’ll come to your home when they’re fairly sure that Marian will be around. Easier to talk to you there. Again, the ones who want to stay will make an effort to talk to you quickly. Even the ones who don’t want to work for you but want to stay in Ebon Rih will come and talk soon.”

“If they want to live here, why not work for me?”

Daemon looked amused and exasperated. “Some of them might prefer to pay you a tithe and run their own businesses—and possibly make a better income than what you can provide. Do you resent Merry for running her own business and paying a tithe instead of working for you?”

“No. But she doesn’t pay a tithe to me. She pays it to Lady Shayne’s court.”

“The point,” Daemon said pointedly, “is that Merry and Briggs don’t serve in anyone’s court; they work for themselves, because that’s what they want to do.”

When it was put that way, he wondered how many of the Eyrien women had been waiting to be safely cut loose in order to try out their own ambitions.

“After my chat with Rainier, I’ll come back to the Keep and be available if you need any help.”

“Thanks.” Lucivar blew out a breath. “Guess I’d best get on with it.”

“Good luck, Prick.”

Leaving the Keep, Lucivar flew to the communal eyrie. He’d spent the past couple of days looking at the Eyrien camps or, in the case of the women, the settlement tucked low in the mountains near Doun. He’d looked every man in the eye as he would if he was deciding if a man was an ally or an adversary. The women were harder, because most weren’t easy around men, but he’d gotten a sense of them too. There were some men he hoped would stay—and some he would encourage to leave Ebon Rih and go all the way back to Terreille.

Rainier studied the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan and wished he had some idea what Daemon wanted to discuss.

Not much use to him, am I?

Daemon had been paying for his living expenses since the night he’d been injured. But he couldn’t expect Sadi to carry him forever. Didn’t want to be supported forever. He just didn’t know yet what he could do to earn a living.

“Lucivar says the leg is healing,” Daemon said. “That’s good.”

“I guess it took me a while to understand some things.” That pity can be as crippling as a physical wound, for one thing. And after being shown what he had survived, I understand why no one gets pity from Lucivar.

“And now that you understand those things, you’re ready to work on healing?”


“What about other kinds of work?”

“I haven’t been useful lately,” he admitted.

Daemon raised one eyebrow. “Oh? Lucivar found your assistance very useful. There is more than one kind of dancing, Rainier. You learned some of those other steps while working with the coven and the High Lord. Now I’d like you to consider using those skills for me.”


“I need a secretary, someone I can trust with private matters.”

Anger flashed through Rainier. “You’re offering me pity work?”

“In that Lord Marcus asked me to take pity on him and hire a secretary, yes. You’re an Opal-Jeweled Warlord Prince. That alone gives you weight when dealing with much of the Blood—enough weight to act as my representative at the SaDiablo estates or the minor Dhemlan courts in much the same way that Mephis represented my father. It would be helpful to have you staying at the Hall or in Halaway a couple of days a week to help with the paperwork there, but otherwise you could reside in Amdarh, either at the family town house or in your own apartment—although I would prefer that you work out of the study in the town house.”

“May I think about it?”

“Yes, but I’d like an answer soon. I am going to oblige Marcus and get a secretary. If not you, then someone else.”

Rainier studied Daemon, who looked as sleek and elegant as usual, but also a little uncomfortable.

“So you’re doing this because Marcus asked you?”

A hesitation that was too long for Sadi. “I owe him. He took a Sceltie puppy home for Winsol.”

Anne Bishop Books | Science Fiction Books | The Black Jewels Series Books