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  • Daughter of the Blood(Black Jewels,Book 1)(66) by Anne Bishop
  • Daemon let out an explosive sigh. Yes, from what he'd observed of the dynamics of this family, a statement like thatwould throw them all into a fury. Still . . .

    Cook gave him a long, slow look and refilled the mugs. "Let me tell you about Miss Jaenelle."

    "Two years ago, the Warlord my daughter was serving decided he wanted a prettier wench and turned my daughter out, along with the child she'd borne him. They came here to me, not having any other place to go, and Lady Alexandra let them stay. My girl, being poorly at the time, did some light parlor work and helped me in the kitchen. My granddaughter, Lucy—the cutest little button you ever saw—stayed in the kitchen with me mostly, although Miss Jaenelle always included her in the games whenever the girls were outside. Lucy didn't like being out on her own. She was afraid of Lord Benedict's hunting dogs, and the dog boys, knowing she was scared, teased her, getting the dogs all riled up and then slipping them off the leash so they'd chase her."

    "One day it went too far. The dogs had been given short rations because they were going to be taken out and they were meaner than usual, and the boys got them too riled up. The pack leader slipped his leash, took off after Lucy, and chased her into the tack room. She tripped, and he was on her, tearing at her arm. When we heard the screams, my daughter and I came running from the kitchen, and Andrew, one of the stable lads, a real good boy, came running too."

    "Lucy was on the floor, screaming and screaming with that dog tearing at her arm, and all of a sudden, there was Miss Jaenelle. She said some strange words to the dog, and he let go of Lucy right away and slunk out of the tack room, his tail between his legs."

    "Lucy was a mess, her arm all torn up, the bone sticking up where the dog had snapped it. Miss Jaenelle told Andrew to get a bucket of water quick, and she knelt down beside Lucy and started talking to her, quiet-like, and Lucy stopped screaming. Andrew came back with the water, and Miss Jaenelle pulled out this big oval basin from somewhere, I never did notice where it came from. Andrew poured the water in the basin, and Miss Jaenelle held it for a minute, just held it, and the water started steaming like it was over a fire. Then she put Lucy's arm in the basin and took some leaves and powders out of her pocket and poured them in the water. She held Lucy's arm down, singing all the while, quiet. We just stood and watched. No point taking the girl to a Healer, even if we could have scraped up the coin to pay a good one. I knew that. That arm was too mangled. The best even a good Healer could have done was cut it off. So we watched, my daughter, Andrew, and me. Couldn't see much, the water all bloody like it was."

    "After a while, Miss Jaenelle leaned back and lifted Lucy's arm out of the basin. There was a long, deep cut from her elbow to her wrist . . . and that was all. Miss Jaenelle looked each of us in the eye. She didn't have to say anything. We weren't about to tell on her. Then she handed me a jar of ointment, my daughter being too upset to do much. 'Put this ointment on three times a day, and keep it loosely bandaged for a week. If you do, there'll be no scar.'"

    "Then she turned to Lucy and said, 'Don't worry. I'll talk to them. They won't bother you again.'"

    "Prince Philip, when he found out Lucy'd gotten hurt because the dogs were chasing her, gave the dog boys a fierce tongue-lashing; but that afternoon I saw Lord Benedict pressing coins into the dog boys' hands, laughing and telling them how pleased he was they were keeping his dogs in such fine form."

    "Anyway, by the next summer, my daughter married a young man from a fine, solid family. They live in a little village about thirty miles from here, and I visit whenever I can get a couple of days' leave."

    Daemon looked into his empty mug. "Do you think Miss Jaenelle talked to them?"

    "She must have," Cook replied absently.

    "So the boys stopped teasing Lucy," Daemon pressed.

    "Oh, no. They went right on with it. They weren't punished for it, were they? But the dogs . . . After that day, there was nothing those boys could do to make the dogs chase Lucy."

    Late that night, unable to sleep, Daemon returned to the alcove. He lit a black cigarette and stared at the witch blood through the smoke.

    She has come.

    He'd spent the evening reviewing the facts he had, turning them over and over again as if that would change them. It hadn't, and he didn't like the conclusion he had reached.

    My sister planted these. As remembrance.

    A child. Witch was still a child.

    No. He was misinterpreting something. Hehad to be. Witch wore the Black Jewels.

    Maybe he'd gotten the information mixed up. Maybe Wiihelmina was the younger sister. He'd still been fighting to regain his emotional control when he'd arrived at the Hayllian embassy in Beldon Mor. It would make more sense if Jaenelle was almost old enough to make the Offering to the Darkness. She'd be on the cusp of opening herself to her mature strength, which would be the Black Jewels.

    But the bedroom, the clothes. How could he reconcile those things with the power he'd felt when she'd healed his back after Cornelia tied him to the whipping posts?

    She talks like that sometimes.

    He could count on both hands the people still able to speak a few phrases of the Blood's true language. Who could have taught her?

    He shied away from the answer to that.

    It's a hospital for emotionally disturbed children.

    Coulda child wear a Jewel as dark as the Black without becoming mentally and emotionally unbalanced? He'd never heard of anyone being gifted with a Birthright Jewel that was darker than the Red.

    The chalice is cracking.

    He stopped thinking, let his mind quiet. The facts fell into place, forming the inevitable conclusion.

    But it still took him a few more days before he could accept it.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire