Lucivar laughed and noticed that the men who had seen him fight turned pale. Falonar, on the other hand, looked thoughtful, which was something he wouldn’t forget.
His gold eyes swept from one end of the room to the other, and he nodded as he saw what some of those men no longer bothered to hide.
“I’ve marked you,” he said softly. “You’re no longer welcome here. If you try to stay in Ebon Rih, then you’re nothing but walking carrion—and you won’t be walking long. Now. All of you. You’re dismissed.”
The women from the settlement fled. So did the men from the northern camps. Hallevar and some of the other men who lived around Riada lingered until a sharp look from Falonar made them retreat, taking Nurian with them.
“Don’t you care at all for the Eyrien people?” Falonar asked as soon as they were alone.
“I care as much for them as they care for me,” Lucivar replied.
“I don’t want to stomach being your second-in-command if you’re going to rape Eyrien traditions and then ignore what Eyriens need on top of it.”
“Fine. You’re no longer my second-in-command.”
He saw the shock in Falonar’s eyes. Why the surprise? Falonar should know him well enough not to call his bluff. He’d let the other Warlord Prince assume the role of second-in-command because it was a duty worthy of Falonar’s power and caste. And while it had often been useful, he hadn’t needed someone to help him rule the valley.
But if you accept the other duties Andulvar left on your shoulders when he returned to the Darkness, you do need someone you can trust to look after things here when you have to be elsewhere—when you have to stand as the Warlord Prince of Askavi.
Not something he would say to Falonar. Not something he wanted to think about right now. And nothing he wanted said out loud. Not yet. The day he acknowledged that he was the Warlord Prince of Askavi, that Andulvar had made it clear to the Queens in Askavi that the Demon Prince had a successor, that the Ebon-gray would continue to defend not just the Keep’s territory but all of Askavi . . . The day he acknowledged that, there would be nowhere in Askavi for the Eyriens who didn’t like him to go.
“Well?” Falonar said. “Will you release me from my contract?”
“If you want to return to Terreille, I can release you from the contract,” Lucivar said. “If you want to remain in Kaeleer, you have three more years to serve.”
“A Queen who wears darker Jewels than you could take the rest of the contract. There is one Rihlander Queen who wears the Red. She’s the only other choice if you want to stay in Askavi.” She had always been gracious to him when he’d visited, but the Eyriens she had allowed to serve in her court to fulfill emigration requirements had tested her tolerance and her authority once too often.
And judging by the look on his face, Falonar already knew enough about that Queen to know she wasn’t going to offer another contract to any Eyrien.
“You’re going to destroy us,” Falonar said.
“I didn’t ask you to come here. I just offered you a place that was as close to the land you left behind as you’ll find in Kaeleer. I told you two years ago that if serving me was going to be a bone in your throat, you should take one of the other offers you’d received. Sounds like you’re choking on that bone, Falonar, but at this point you don’t have many choices besides me. Not if you want to stay in Kaeleer.”
Giving Lucivar a look filled with bitter anger, Falonar turned and walked away.
Lucivar waited a minute to make sure he was alone and would be alone for a little while. Then he rubbed his hands over his face. *Bastard?*
*Prick? Are you okay?*
Everything he needed was in his brother’s voice—love, acceptance, and a willingness to kick him in the ass when he needed a kick.
*Yeah, I’m okay. It went as well as you’d expect. And there are a few Eyriens who may be seeing Hell soon if they don’t get out of Ebon Rih.*
*If it comes to that, I’ll go with you to deal with them,* Daemon said. *I’d suggest taking Surreal to watch your back, but I think she’s a little too eager to use a knife right now.*
*You felt that too?*
*Yes. I’m just not sure why. I’ll ask Rainier. He might know.*
*Unless she attacks someone, let it go for a day or two. I’ve already stirred up enough people.*
*All right. I’ll be at the Keep if you need me.*
Lucivar broke the link between them. He’d stay at the communal eyrie for another hour so he would be easy to find—if there was an Eyrien anywhere in Ebon Rih who wanted to find him.
Falonar found Nurian in her workroom. The ingredients and tools were set out on the large table in preparation for making more of that damn tonic, but she just stared at them.
“Do you see now?” Falonar snarled. “Do you see what he’s really like? He doesn’t care about the Eyrien people. He doesn’t care about our traditions. He doesn’t care about anything but himself !”
“He cares about the people in Ebon Rih,” Nurian said. “All of them. He doesn’t divide people between those who have wings and those who don’t, like most of you do.”
Falonar took a step back. “Like most of us do? You’re Eyrien too.”
She looked him in the eyes. “But not like you, Falonar. I don’t think I’m the same kind of Eyrien as you or those men who spoke out today.”
“They said a few things that needed to be said,” he snapped.
“If you ruled this valley, would you divide the tithe evenly among every adult Eyrien?” she asked.
Of course he wouldn’t. Couldn’t. But Yaslana’s family had more wealth than even an aristo like him could imagine. Lucivar could afford to be generous. Could have afforded to give them all a bit more, even if it had meant tapping into the SaDiablo family’s pockets.
“There’s no proof he shared as much as he got,” Falonar argued.
“He said it. No other proof is required.”
“You’re being a fool, Nurian. We could be the dominating presence in this valley, the same as we were in Terreille, but Yaslana keeps hamstringing us with every decision he makes.”
“The Rihlanders were here before us,” Nurian said. “You’re talking about doing the same things we hated in Terreille, about becoming the same kind of monster as Prythian and the Queens who fawned over her.”
“How dare you?” Remembering what it was like in Prythian’s court, he swung. He tried to pull it back, and that took some of the force out of the blow, but the flat of his hand cracked across Nurian’s face.