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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 8)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(8) by Anne Bishop
  • 4 / Kaeleer

    Saetan appeared on the small landing web carved into the stone floor of one of the Keep's many outer courtyards. As he stepped off the web, he looked up.

    Unless one knew what to look for, one only saw the black mountain called Ebon Askavi, only felt the weight of all that dark stone. But Ebon Askavi was also the Keep, the Sanctuary of Witch, the repository of the Blood's long, long history. A place well and fiercely guarded. The perfect place for a secret.

    Damn Hekatah,he thought bitterly as he slowly crossed the courtyard, leaning heavily on his cane.Damn her and her schemes for power. Greedy, malicious bitch. He'd stayed his hand in the past because he felt he owed her something for bearing his first two sons. But that debt had been paid. More than paid. This time, he would sacrifice his honor, his self-respect, and anything else he had to if that was the price he had to pay to stop her.

    "Saetan."

    Geoffrey, the Keep's historian/librarian, stepped from the shadow of the doorway. As always, he was neatly dressed in a slim black tunic and trousers and bare of any ornamentation except his Red Jewel ring. As always, his black hair was carefully combed back, drawing a person's eyes to the prominent widow's peak. But his black eyes looked like small lumps of coal instead of highly polished stone.

    As Saetan walked toward him, the vertical line between Geoffrey's black eyebrows deepened. "Come to the library and have a glass of yarbarah with me," Geoffrey said.

    Saetan shook his head. "Later perhaps."

    Geoffrey's eyebrows pulled down farther, echoing his widow's peak. "Anger has no place in a sickroom. Especially now. Especially yours."

    The two Guardians studied each other. Saetan looked away first.

    Once they were settled into comfortable chairs and Geoffrey had poured a warmed glass of the blood wine for each of them, Saetan forced himself to look at the large blackwood table that dominated the room. It was usually piled with history, Craft, and reference books Geoffrey had pulled from the stacks—books the two men had searched for touchstones to understand Jaenelle's casual but stunning remarks and her sometimes quirky but awesome abilities. Now it was empty. And the emptiness hurt.

    "Have you no hope, Geoffrey?" Saetan asked quietly.

    "What?" Geoffrey glanced at the table, then looked away. "I needed . . . occupation. Sitting there, each book was a reminder, and . . ."

    "I understand." Saetan drained his glass and reached for his cane.

    Geoffrey walked with him to the door. As Saetan went into the corridor, he felt a light, hesitant touch and turned back.

    "Saetan ... do you still hope?"

    Saetan considered the question for a long moment before giving the only answer he could give. "I have to."

    Cassandra closed her book, rolled her shoulders wearily, and scrubbed her face with her hands. "There's no change. She hasn't risen out of the abyss—or wherever it is she's fallen. And the longer she remains beyond the reach of another mind, the less chance we have of ever getting her back."

    Saetan studied the woman with dusty-red hair and tired emerald eyes. Long, long ago when Cassandra had been Witch, the Black-Jeweled Queen, he had been her Consort and had loved her. And she, in her own way, had cared for him—until he made the Offering to the Darkness and walked away wearing Black Jewels. After that, it was more a trading of skills—his in the bed for hers in the Black Widow's Craft—until she faked her own death and became a Guardian. She had played her deathbed scene so well, and his faith in her as a Queen had been so solid, it had never occurred to him that she had done it to end her reign as Witch—and to get away from him.

    Now they were united again.

    But as he put his arms around her, offering her comfort, he felt that inner withdrawal, that suppressed shudder of fear. She never forgot he walked dark roads that even she dared not travel, never forgot that the Dark Realm had called him High Lord while he still had been fully alive.

    Saetan kissed Cassandra's forehead and stepped away. "Get some rest," he said gently. "I'll sit with her."

    Cassandra looked at him, glanced at the bed, and shook her head. "Not even you can make the reach, Saetan."

    Saetan looked at the pale, fragile girl lying in a sea of black silk sheets. "I know."

    As Cassandra closed the door behind her, he wondered if, despite the terrible cost, she derived some small satisfaction from that fact.

    He shook his head to clear his mind, pulled the chair closer to the bed, and sighed. He wished the room weren't so impersonal. He wished there were paintings to break up the long walls of polished black stone. He wished there was a young girl's clutter scattered on the blackwood furniture. He wished for so much.

    But these rooms had been finished shortly before that nightmare at Cassandra's Altar. Jaenelle hadn't had the chance to imprint them with her psychic scent and make them her own. Even the small treasures she'd left here hadn't been lived with enough, handled enough to make them truly hers. There was no familiar anchor here for her to reach for as she tried to climb out of the abyss that was part of the Darkness.

    Except him.

    Resting one arm on the bed, Saetan leaned over and gently brushed the lank golden hair away from the too-thin face. Her bodywas healing, but slowly, because there was no one inside to help it mend. Jaenelle, his young Queen, the daughter of his soul, was lost in the Darkness—or in the inner landscape called the Twisted Kingdom. Beyond his reach.

    But not, he hoped, beyond his love.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire