“Wanted to talk to Prince Yaslana, but when I reached the landing web for his eyrie . . . Well, when shields go up around a home in that way, you know there’s some trouble there—accident, illness, death.”

An unspoken question. Because Rainier sensed concern rather than curiosity, he said, “Accident.”

“Something a Healer can fix?” Randahl asked.

“We hope so.”

A nod. “If there is any assistance Agio’s court can give, just send word.”

That told Rainier all he needed to know about how Randahl felt about Lucivar.

“So I felt those shields and came down here, mostly looking for a drink and a bite to eat,” Randahl said. “Followed an impulse and asked the man at the bar where I could find a person Lucivar might trust with delicate matters. He pointed me to you.”

“Why didn’t you approach Lady Shayne or her Master?”

“Like I said, it’s a delicate matter.”

“Wouldn’t you normally ask for the second-in-command?”

Randahl looked Rainier in the eyes and said nothing—and that told him everything.

Hell’s fire.

“Yaslana rules the Eyriens,” Randahl said.

“Yaslana rules the whole valley and everyone in it,” Rainier countered.

“But specifically, he rules the Eyriens. None of them serve in a Rihlander court. They serve him.”

Rainier tipped his head to acknowledge the distinction.

“That said, Lady Erika respectfully requests that the Eyriens now residing in the northern camps be relocated if Yaslana intends to let them stay in the valley.”

Rainier played a couple of cards to give himself time. “Has there been trouble?”

“Not yet, but it’s coming.” Randahl clasped his hands, rested his arms on the table, and leaned forward. “There’s a storm growing in those mountains, and we’re not sure why.”

“You think it’s because the emigration contracts are done?”

Randahl shook his head. “If anything, I’d think that would be more reason to walk softly. This has been building for a while now, but the Eyriens keep it hidden most of the time—especially when Lucivar is around.”

“But not when Falonar visits the camps?”

Randahl let out a huff of air tinged with anger. “The words weren’t said, you understand me? The last time Falonar was in the northern part of the valley, the Eyriens in the camps seemed pleased and stirred up, and I got the impression . . .” He hesitated.

“Just say it, Randahl.”

“Is Lucivar going somewhere else? Is he planning to leave Ebon Rih?”

“No. Why?”

“From what we’ve observed lately, Falonar doesn’t act like a second-in-command. At least, not with the Eyriens in the northern camps. And they don’t think of him as the second-in-command, you understand me? So it’s made some of us wonder if the valley is going to get split between the two Warlord Princes. And frankly, if that happens, Lady Erika doesn’t want her people in Falonar’s part of the valley.”

“Lucivar isn’t giving up any piece of Ebon Rih to anyone,” Rainier said. “And a fight is out of the question.”

“Because only one side walks away from a killing field. I know,” Randahl said, nodding. “I know. But we don’t feel easy about having Eyriens living so close to us when they aren’t being held on a tight leash. Not those Eyriens, anyway. We’d really like to get those bastards out of the mountains around Agio. Just wanted Lucivar to know that.”

“I’ll see that he gets the message.” All the messages.

Randahl sat back. “Thank you. I’ll be heading back, then.”

“Stay and have a bite to eat,” Rainier said, raising a hand to catch Briggs’s eye. *Food?*

He’d barely finished the thought when Merry swung out of the kitchen with a tray. She set plates on the table, said, “It’s time for your healing brew,” and headed back to the kitchen.

Randahl stared at slices of roasted beef and the mound of fresh vegetables. “Did we decide what to eat?”

“Apparently we did.” Smiling, Rainier picked up a fork and dug in.

A thick-vined plant tried to eat him, which snapped Daemon out of his complacent wandering of the Keep’s outer courtyards. In Hell, the Realm of forever twilight, most of the native flora and fauna welcomed the opportunity to dine on fresh blood, and any man who stumbled into this Realm was meat for the taking.

Even if that man was a Black-Jeweled Warlord Prince.

He turned toward the door and mentally stumbled when he saw Draca standing there, clearly waiting for him.

She said nothing. Just the same, he felt chastised for staying in the Dark Realm so that he could look round a bit—and for his boyish excitement at seeing a place that was usually forbidden to anyone who still walked among the living.

“Draca,” he said pleasantly, as if the past hour or so had been nothing out of the ordinary. Hell’s fire. How long had she been keeping track of him?

“Prince Ssadi,” she replied. “Come with me.”

She led him back to the Dark Altar and opened the Gate. Moments later, he felt the difference and knew they were in Terreille. Which was where he should have been in the first place.

“You’re probably wondering why I was wandering around the other Keep.”

“You are your father’ss sson,” Draca said. “The firsst time he ssaw Hell, Ssaetan alsso became disstracted and forgot to return to the Gate.”

The look she gave him muzzled curiosity. Doing his best to appear meek, since he had a feeling that anything else would get him tossed out of the Keep, he followed her to one of the sitting rooms that had a large blackwood worktable.

“It iss a cold day,” Draca said. “You should eat ssomething hot.”

“I just wanted to talk to Geoffrey about . . .” Daemon studied the Seneschal. “Thank you. That would be welcome.” And he was going to eat it whether he wanted it or not.

He also understood that he was supposed to stay where he had been put. Too bad this particular room was singularly uninteresting. Maybe that was the reason she had put him here.

Slipping his hands in his trousers pockets, Daemon wandered over to a window. Another courtyard. Here the plants slept under a cover of snow.

He knew this was Terreille, but he felt more uneasy, more vulnerable, than when he’d been foolishly wandering around the Keep in Hell.

Tags: Anne Bishop The Black Jewels Science Fiction
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