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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Daughter of the Blood (Chapter 49)      Page
  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(49) by Anne Bishop
  • He felt the cold as he swung around a corner and skidded to a stop in front of Daemon. He'd stopped trying long ago to understand his feelings whenever he saw Daemon—relief, fear, anger, envy, shame. Now he simply wondered if Daemon was finally going to kill him.

    Kartane retreated to the one emotional gambit he had left. He pulled his lips into a sneering smile and said, "Hello,cousin. "

    "Kartane." Daemon's toneless court voice, laced with boredom.

    "So you've been called back to court. Was Aunt Hepsabah getting lonely?" That's it. Remind him of what he is.

    "Was Dorothea?"

    Kartane tried to keep the insolence in his voice, tried to keep the sneer, tried not to remember all the things he couldn't forget.

    "I was about to report to Dorothea," Daemon said mildly, "but I can delay it for a few more minutes. If you have to see her, why don't you go ahead. She's never in the best of moods after she's seen me."

    Kartane felt as if he'd been slapped. Daemon hated him, had hated him for centuries for what he'd said, for the things he'd done. But Daemon remembered, too, and because he remembered, he would still extend this much courtesy and compassion toward his younger cousin.

    Not daring to speak, Kartane nodded and hurried down the hall.

    He didn't go directly to the audience room where Dorothea waited. Instead, he flung himself into the first empty room he could find. Leaning against the locked door, he felt tears burn his eyes and trickle down his cheeks as he whispered, "Daemon."

    Daemon was the cousin whose position within the family had never quite been explained to the child Kartane except that it was tenuous and different from his own. Kartane had been Dorothea's spoiled, privileged only child, with a handful of servants, tutors, and governesses jumping to obey his slightest whim. He had also been just another jewel for his mother, property that she preened herself with, showed off, displayed.

    It wasn't Dorothea or the tutors or governesses that Kartane ran to as a child when he scraped his knee and wanted comforting, or felt lonely, or wanted to brag about his latest small adventure. Not to them. He had always run to Daemon.

    Daemon, who always had time to talk and, more important, to listen. Daemon, who taught him to ride, to fence, to swim, to dance. Daemon, who patiently read the same book to him, over and over and over, because it was his favorite. Daemon, who took long, rambling walks with him. Daemon, who never once showed any displeasure at having a small boy attached to his heels. Daemon, who held him, rocked him, soothed him when he cried. Daemon, who plundered the kitchen late at night, even though it was forbidden, to bring Kartane fruit, rolls, cold joints of meat—anything to appease the insatiable hunger he always felt because he could never eat his fill under his mother's watchful eye. Daemon, who had been caught one night and beaten for it, but never told anyone the food wasn't for himself.

    Daemon, whose trust he had betrayed, whose love he lost with a single word.

    Kartane was still a gangly boy when Daemon was first contracted out to another court. It had hurt to lose the one person in the whole court who truly cared about him as a living, thinking being. But he also knew there was trouble in the court, trouble that swirled around Daemon, around Daemon's position in the court hierarchy. He knew Daemon served Dorothea and Hepsabah and Dorothea's coven of Black Widows, although not in the same way the consorts and other men serviced them when summoned. He knew about the Ring of Obedience and how it could control a man even if he were stronger and wore darker Jewels. He puzzled over Daemon's aversion to being touched by a woman. He puzzled over the fights between Daemon and Dorothea, shouting matches that made stonewalls seem paper-thin and grew more and more vicious. More often than not, those arguments ended with Dorothea using the Ring, punishing with agonizing pain until Daemon begged for forgiveness.

    Then one day Daemon refused to service one of Dorothea's coven.

    Dorothea summoned the First, Second, and Third Circles of the court. With her husband, Lanzo SaDiablo, by her side—Lanzo, the drunken womanizer whose only value was in providing Dorothea with the SaDiablo name—began the punishment.

    Kartane had hidden behind a curtain, chilled with fear, as he watched Daemon fight the Ring, fight the pain, fight the guards who held him so he couldn't attack Dorothea. It took an hour of agony to bring him to his knees, sobbing from the pain. It took another half hour to make him crawl to Dorothea and beg forgiveness. When she finally stopped sending pain through the Ring, Dorothea didn't allow him to go to his room, where Manny would give him a sedative and wash his sweat-chilled body so he could sleep while the pain slowly subsided. Instead, she had him tied hand and foot to one of the pillars, had him gagged so his moans of pain would be muffled, and left him there to humiliate him and warn others by the example while she leisurely conducted the other business of the court.

    The lesson was not lost on Kartane. To be Ringed was the severest form of control. If Daemon couldn't stand the pain, how could he? It became very important not to give Dorothea a reason to Ring him.

    That night, after Daemon had been allowed to rest a little, he was ordered to serve the witch he'd earlier refused.

    That night was the first time Daemon went cold.

    Among the Blood, there were two kinds of anger. Hot anger was the anger of emotion, superficial even in its fury—the anger between friends, lovers, family, the anger of everyday life. Cold anger was the Jewel's anger—deep, untouchable, icy rage that began at a person's core. Implacable, almost always unstoppable until the fury was spent, cold anger wasn't blunted by pain or hunger or weariness. Rising from so deep within, it made the body that housed it insignificant.

    That first night, no one recognized the subtle change in the air when Daemon walked by on his way to the witch's chamber.

    It wasn't until the maid came in the next morning and found the windows and mirrors glazed with ice, discovered the obscenity left in the bed, that Dorothea realized she had broken something in Daemon during that punishment, had stripped away a layer of humanity.

    Hekatah, the self-proclaimed High Priestess of Hell, would have recognized the look in Daemon's eyes if she had seen it, would have understood how true the bloodline ran. It took Dorothea a little longer. When she finally understood that what Daemon had inherited from his father was far darker and far more dangerous than she'd imagined, she gifted him to a pet Queen who ruled a Province in southern Hayll.

    Dorothea said nothing about the killing. Among the Blood, there was no law against murder. She said little about Daemon's reaction to kneeling in service, commending his training as a pleasure slave and only adding that he could be somewhat temperamental if used too often.

    Before the week ended, Daemon was gone.

    Not long after, Kartane learned what Daemon's presence had spared him. Dorothea's appetite for a variety of pretty faces was no less demanding than Lanzo's, the only difference in their taste being gender, and she kept a stable of young Warlords at the court to do the pretty for her and her coven. Until then, Kartane had been nothing more than Dorothea's handsome, spoiled son.

    One night she summoned Kartane to her chamber. He went to her nervously, mentally ticking off the things he'd done that day and wondering what might have displeased her. But she soothed and stroked and petted. Those caresses, which always made him uneasy, now frightened him. As she leaned toward him, she told him his father had been loyal to her and she expected him to be loyal too. Kartane was too busy trying to figure out how Lanzo's spearing a different serving girl every night could be considered loyalty to recognize the intent. It wasn't until he felt Dorothea's tongue slide into his mouth that he understood. He pushed her away, threw himself off the couch, and crawled backward toward the door, not daring to take his eyes off her.

    She was furious with his refusal. It earned him his first beating.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire