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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(116) by Anne Bishop
  • "I mean," Saetan said slowly, "the way Jaenelle told the story, it didn't sound like much. But how severe an injury by how large a rock, when healed, would make a father grateful enough to give up this?"


    "Witch-child, since a list of your friends would be as long as you are tall, you can't possibly give each of them a Winsol gift. It's not expected. You don't expect gifts from all of them, do you?"

    "Of course not," Jaenelle replied hotly. She slumped in the chair. "But they're my friends, Saetan."

    And you are the best gift they could have in a hundred lifetimes.

    "Winsol is the celebration of Witch, the Blood's remembrance of what we are. Gifts are condiments for the meat, and that's all."

    Jaenelle eyed him skeptically—and well she should. How many times over the past few days had he caught himself daydreaming of what it would be like to celebrate Winsol with her? To be with her at sunset when the gifts were opened? To share a tiny cup of hot blooded rum with her? To dance, as the Blood danced at no other time of the year, for the glory of Witch? The daydreams were bittersweet. As he walked through the corridors of the Kaeleer Hall watching the staff decorate the rooms, laughing and whispering secrets; as he and Mephis prepared the benefaction list for the staff and all the villagers whose work directly or indirectly served the Hall; as he did all the things a good Prince did for the people who served him, a thought rubbed at him, rubbed and rubbed: She would be spending that special day with her family in Terreille, away from those who were truly her own.

    The one small drop of comfort was that she would also be with Daemon.

    "What should I do?"

    Jaenelle's question brought him back to the present. He lightly rubbed his steepled fingers against his lips. "I think you should select one or two of your friends who, for whatever reason, might be left out of the celebrations and festivities and give gifts to them. A small gesture to one who otherwise will have nothing will be worth a great deal more than another gift among many."

    Jaenelle fluffed her hair and then smiled. "Yes," she said softly, "I know exactly the ones who need it most."

    "It's settled, then." A paper-wrapped parcel lifted from the corner of his desk and came to rest in front of Jaenelle. "As you requested."

    Jaenelle's smile widened as she took the parcel and carefully unwrapped it. The soft glow in her eyes melted century upon century of loneliness. "You look splendid, Saetan."

    He smiled tenderly. "I do my best to serve. Lady." He shifted in his chair. "By the way, the stone you gave me to sell—"

    "Was it enough?" Jaenelle asked anxiously. "If it wasn't—"

    "More than enough, witch-child." Remembering the expression on the jeweler's face when he brought it in, it was hard not to laugh at her concern. "There were, in fact, a good number of gold marks left over. I took the liberty of opening an account in your name with the remainder. So anytime you want to purchase something in Kaeleer, you need only sign for it, have the store's proprietor send the bill to me at the Hall, and I'll deduct it from your account. Fair enough?"

    Jaenelle's grin made Saetan wish he'd bitten his tongue. The Darkness only knew what she might think to purchase. Ah, well. It was going to be just as much of a headache for the merchants as it was going to be for him—and he found the idea too amusing to really mind.

    "I suppose if youdid want to get an unusual gift, you could always get a couple of salt licks for the unicorns," he teased.

    He was stunned by the instant, haunted look in her eyes.

    "No," Jaenelle whispered, all the color draining from her face. "No, not salt."

    He sat for a long time after she left him, staring at nothing, wondering what it was about salt that could distress her so much.


    Draca stepped aside to let Saetan enter. "What do you think?"

    Saetan whistled softly. Like all the rooms in the Keep, the huge bedroom was cut out of the living mountain. But unlike the other rooms, including the suite Cassandra had once had, the walls of this room had been worked and smoothed to shine like ravenglass. A wood floor peeked out from beneath immense, thick, red-and-cream patterned rugs that could only have come from Dharo, the Kaeleer Territory renowned for its cloth and weaving. The four-poster blackwood bed could comfortably sleep four people. The rest of the furniture—tables, nightstands, bookcases, storage cupboard—was also blackwood. There was a dressing room with wardrobes and storage cupboards of cedar, and a private bath with a sunken marble tub—black veined with red—a large shower stall, double sinks, and a commode enclosed in its own little room. On the other side of the bedroom was a door leading into a sitting room.

    "It's magnificent, Draca," Saetan said as his eyes drank in the odds and ends scattered on the tables—a young girl's treasures. Fingering the lid of a box that had an intricate design created from a number of rare woods, he opened it and shook his head, partly amused and partly stunned. One finger idly stirred the contents of the box, stirred the little seashells that had obviously come from widely distant beaches, stirred the diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires that were no more than pretty stones to a child. He closed the box and turned, one eyebrow rising in amusement.

    Draca lifted her shoulders in the merest hint of a shrug. "Would you have it otherwisse?"

    "No." He looked around. "This room will please her. It's truly a dark sanctuary, something she'll need more and more as the years pass."

    "Not all ssanctuariess are dark, High Lord. The room you gave her pleasess her, too." For the first time in all the years he'd known her, Draca smiled. "Sshall I desscribe it to you? I have heard about it often enough."

    Saetan looked away, not wanting her to see how pleased he was.

    "I wanted to sshow you the Winssol gift I have for her." Draca retreated into the dressing room and returned holding a wisp of black. She spread it out on the bed's satin coverlet. "What do you think?"

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire