“Yes, I can,” Daemon said pleasantly. “But this isn’t about Lucivar. This is about Rainier.”

“Rainier?” He took a step back, then jumped forward when something tried to curl around his calf. “What about Rainier?”

“Let’s start with you using a warm-up as an excuse to push an injured man so that his damaged leg would go out from under him, ripping the muscles that were just beginning to heal. Let’s continue with using that man’s pain and his vulnerability in that moment to force open his inner barriers and see if he knew anything you could use against Lucivar—or, more to the point, if there was any information you could give someone else to use against Lucivar. And Rainier did know something about Lucivar. He knew about a weak left ankle, a spot that would be more vulnerable to a blow that in turn, might be enough to hobble even the best warrior when he was fighting against so many trained adversaries.”

“Anyone could have told them about Yaslana’s ankle!”

“Why would they?” Daemon sounded surprised. “The information about Lucivar’s ankle was a lie Rainier let you find.”

Falonar stared at Sadi.

“Rainier was Second Circle in the Dark Court at Ebon Askavi,” Daemon purred. “He was well trained.”

“That son of a whoring bitch.” He’d thought Rainier was in too much pain to sense the intrusion, let alone try to deceive him.

“Rainier serves me, and I do take care of my own,” Daemon said. “Which brings us to your new, if temporary, place of residence.”

Falonar took a step toward Daemon. He would demand that Sadi take him back to that damn village, would demand that Sadi answer to a tribunal of Queens for breaking another Warlord Prince.

A vine whipped around Falonar’s lower left leg, its curved thorns digging into his skin, chaining him to that spot.

“It doesn’t have a quaint name like Little Weeble,” Daemon purred, “but I think the place, and its name, suits you better. Welcome to the bowels of Hell, Prince Falonar.” He turned and walked away.

“Sadi!” Falonar shouted, as another vine wrapped around his right leg. “Sadi!”

Ignoring Falonar’s increasingly shrill screams, Daemon glided along a path in this forever-twilight Realm. One moment he was alone; the next a dozen males with glowing red eyes stood in front of him. Since a couple of them had been Eyriens, judging by what was left of their wings, he knew their eyes hadn’t started out red. Did these males use an illusion spell to look more terrifying or did some physical change take place because of this particular location?

That was an interesting question for another day. For now, he bared his teeth and snarled, a soft sound that rolled through the land like thunder. And with that sound, he sent a whisper of his power.

“It’s him,” one of them said, shuddering.

“But . . . I thought he would be older,” another said.

“Did you?” Daemon asked too softly. He raised his right hand and rubbed a finger against his chin, giving them a good look at the long, black-tinted nails and the Black Jewel in his ring.

They stepped aside, making sure they gave him enough room to avoid accidentally touching him.

As he passed them, Daemon said, “There is fresh meat at the end of the path—if the plants don’t consume it all first.”

They bowed, and one of them said hesitantly, “Thank you, High Lord.” Then they rushed to get their share of the feast.

Daemon walked a few minutes more, observing the flora and fauna that moved toward him, drawn by the scent of the hot, fresh blood running through his veins, and then withdrew when they brushed against the feel of his power and the cold depth of his temper. Satisfied that he’d seen enough for the moment, he caught the Black Wind and rode to the Keep. He slipped in and out, staying only long enough to tuck a folded piece of paper between two of the books his father was sorting. A courtesy, really, to inform the current ruler of Hell about the delivery of meat.

Then Daemon caught the Black Winds again and rode to the Hall, where his wife, and Queen, waited for him.


Surreal studied the room that would be her home for the next few weeks. The furniture was basic but in good condition, and gleamed from a fresh cleaning. Everything felt a bit rustic, but this was Dea al Mon. Could any furnishing be considered rustic when there was a tree growing through the room?

Chaosti had told her there were a dozen homes within sight of the meadow that served as a play area for the children. She hadn’t been able to spot one of them—and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to find this one again on her own.

Nervous butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she put her clothes away. Her mother had lived nearby in a house like this. The people who lived in the houses around this meadow came from the same clan, were kin. Even now in the heart of winter there was a sharp beauty to this place. She could picture her mother playing beneath these trees, watching the stars. Such a long way from the slums in Terreille where Titian had tried to raise a daughter and survive.

She was looking over the selection of books she’d bought during a two-day shopping spree in Amdarh, and pondering which to read first, when Chaosti knocked on her door.

“You’re settled in?” he asked. “Is there anything you need?”

“Yes, I’m settled in, and no, there is nothing I need.” But you’re not settled, she added silently. “Something wrong?”

“You’re safe here, Surreal,” he said. “Nothing will enter our land and harm you. I give you my word.”

Mother Night. “All right. Although I will point out that I’m pretty good with a knife.”

His lips curved in a hint of a smile. “How could you not be? You’re Titian’s daughter.” Then he sighed. “Falonar has disappeared, just vanished from the court of the Rihlander Queen he was serving. It’s thought by some that he’s gone into hiding in the Askavi mountains.”

“If that is what people think, then it must be true,” Surreal said.

Chaosti studied her. “And what do you think, cousin?”

“I think that just as I am Titian’s daughter, Daemon Sadi is his father’s son.”

Chaosti’s eyes filled with understanding. “I see. Something understood among the family but unspoken?”

“Yes.” Although if she ever felt ballsy enough, someday she might ask Daemon if Falonar was still a threat to anyone. Problem was, anyone who asked the question would most likely receive the answer from the Sadist—and regret it.

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