*Lord Randahl?* Lucivar called on a psychic thread.
*Prince Yaslana? May I be of service?*
*No, I was just flying over the northern end of the valley. Anything I should know about?*
*We haven’t seen the Eyriens these past couple of days. I guess they’re packing up. So it’s been quiet around here and in the landen village too. We took a look around there this morning.* Randahl paused. *Didn’t check out the other landen villages in the north, though. I was planning to send some men out tomorrow. Should I send them out now?*
*No need. I’ll fly over. If I see anything that needs your attention, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, a visit tomorrow will be fine.*
Lucivar broke contact and flew toward the mountains and the other landen villages. No sign of trouble, fighting, or any kind of attack. No sign of Jhinkas. Pumping his wings to fly higher, Lucivar caught an air current and rode it back to where the Eyriens had gathered. He studied the men—and the killing field—below him.
No fighting. No sign of dead or wounded. A handful of Eyriens with bows were hidden among a tumble of boulders that were distant enough that a person approaching on the ground wouldn’t consider those boulders part of the killing field.
But he did now, and as he rode the currents, he considered the shape and the boundaries of the killing field—and the honor of the men who were waiting for him.
He descended into the abyss to the level of his Ebon-gray Jewels and waited for the Eyriens to arrive from Riada. When he spotted them leisurely gliding toward the other men, he caught the Red Wind, headed south for a few minutes, then turned and headed back. Removing the sight shield, he dropped from the Winds and glided down to the same spot they had.
They saw him coming and began moving into position. If he hadn’t seen the archers, it would look like the men were simply shifting to give him room to backwing and land. Since he had seen the men hidden among the boulders, he knew the spot they had chosen was the only place that gave all the archers a clean line of attack.
Lucivar landed. The other Eyriens closed around him in a half circle, leaving the archers’ side open.
He took a careful look at men who were now the enemy. Hallevar wasn’t among them. Neither was Kohlvar, Rothvar, Zaranar, or Endar. Neither was the youngster Tamnar or the handful of other Eyrien Warlords from Riada who had wanted to work for him.
“I gave you a chance to build a new life, and this is your choice?” Lucivar asked quietly.
“When Falonar rules this valley, we’ll have more,” one of them said.
“You’re not going to follow the Blood’s code of honor and invite me to step onto the killing field?”
“Honor doesn’t apply to a half-breed bastard.”
Old heart wounds, old painful memories, and old anger rose with him to the killing edge. “Then there is nothing left to say.” Lucivar smiled a lazy, arrogant smile. “Go ahead. Since I’ll be taking the last one, you can have the first blow.”
Five arrows hit the shields on his left leg between knee and ankle.
Lucivar spun before the other Eyriens thought to move. As he spun, he called in his bow, already nocked. A ball of Ebon-gray-fueled witchfire formed around the arrowhead as he drew the bowstring back and released it the moment his spin aligned him with the boulders. As he finished the spin, he vanished the bow and called in his war blade.
His arrow hit the boulders, and the witchfire exploded with a furious heat that cracked the boulders and charred the marrow in the bastards’ bones before they had time to fall.
A heartbeat of stunned silence. Then the rest of the Eyrien warriors threw themselves at him, and the fight began.
Surreal walked into The Tavern and looked around. No more than a dozen people sitting at tables, grabbing an early midday meal.
“Gentlemen,” she said, using Craft to enhance her voice. “If you have children, you will fetch them from school and take them home. If your wives are out doing the marketing or working, you will tell them to meet you at home. Whoever in your family wears the darkest Jewels will put a shield around your residence. Go home and stay there. Do it quietly, and do it now.”
She opened the door and stared at them.
“What did the Queen of Riada say?” one of the men asked.
“About me delivering Prince Yaslana’s orders? Not a thing. Lady Shayne’s court is taking care of their part in locking down this village.”
They left their meals half-eaten and hurried out to gather up their families and get home.
Surreal closed the door, shrugged out of her coat, and put a Gray shield around The Tavern.
Merry took a step toward her. “What has happened?”
“Nothing yet—and we want to keep it that way.” She had a feeling there was plenty happening. But not in Riada.
A minute later, Rainier gave her a psychic tap. She dropped the Gray lock on the door long enough for him to slip inside, then locked it again.
Rainier said, “Until someone makes a move, we’ve done what we can do.”
Surreal nodded—and hoped what they had done was enough.
Eyriens called it red rain. The gritty mist made from the flesh, blood, and bones of bodies exploded by unleashed power sometimes hung over killing fields for days, suspended by the very power that had destroyed the bodies.
The young Warlord who waited at the edge of the killing field couldn’t see much, not with the rain hanging so thick around the center of the field, but he could still hear the fighting—the snarls of enraged men, the clash of war blades.
He hadn’t expected Yaslana to last this long, not with so many superior fighters working to bring him down. Not when a half-breed was fighting against real Eyriens.
An explosion of power ripped past him. Thunder drowned the field and shook the ground. Red rain hit him, even here at the edge of the field, and something struck his face. He pulled a small shard of bone out of his cheek and stared at it until he realized there were no sounds. None at all.
But something still moved on the field. He was certain of that.
The young Warlord backed away. He thought about calling to the other men, but he wasn’t sure who—or what—would answer him. If some of the Eyriens made the transition to demon-dead during the fight, they would be looking for fresh blood to consume. It would be better if he didn’t confront his comrades when he was alone.
He backed away from the field until he was able to catch the Rose Wind and race back to Riada with the terrible news that Lucivar Yaslana was dead.
“What are we still doing out here, Falonar?” Rothvar asked. “We’ve done a flyover of Doun and the landen villages that answer to the Queen there. We’ve checked the settlement—” that answer to the Queen there. We’ve checked the