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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 161)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(161) by Anne Bishop
  • Saetan quickly masked his distaste and dismay. Titian always saw too much. "You'll give me the names." It wasn't a question.

    Titian smiled. "There's no need. The Harpies took care of them for you." She hesitated for a moment. "What about the Dark Priestess?"

    Clenching his teeth, Saetan stared at the fire. "I couldn't find her. Hekatah's very good at playing least-in-sight."

    "If you had, would you have hurried her return to the Darkness? Would you have sent her to the final death?"-

    Saetan flung his glass into the fireplace and instantly regretted it as the fire sizzled and the smell of hot blood filled the room.

    He'd been asking himself that question since he'd made the decision to eliminate all the support Hekatah had among the demon-dead. If he had found her, could he have coldly drained her strength until she faded into the Darkness? Or would he have hesitated, as he'd done so many times before, because centuries of dislike and distrust couldn't erase the simple fact that she'd given him two of his sons. Three if he counted . . . but he didn't, couldn't count that child, just as he'd never allowed himself to consider who had held the knife.

    He jerked when Titian brushed her hand over his. "Here." She handed him another glass of warmed yarbarah. Sitting back, she traced the rim of her own glass with one finger. "You don't like killing women, do you?" Saetan gulped the blood wine. "No, I don't." "I thought so. You were much cleaner, much kinder with them than you were with the males."

    "Perhaps by your standards." By his own standards, he'd been more than sufficiently brutal. He shrugged. "We are our mothers' sons."

    "A reasonable assumption." She sounded solemn. She looked amused.

    Saetan twitched his shoulders, unable to shake the feeling that she'd just dropped a noose over his head. "It's a pet theory of mine about why there's no male rank equal to a Queen."

    "Because males are their mothers' sons?" "Because, long ago, only females were Blood." Titian curled up in her chair. "How intriguing." Saetan studied her warily. Titian had the same look Jaenelle always had when she'd successfully cornered him and was quite willing to wait until he finished squirming and told her what she wanted to know.

    "It's just something Andulvar and I used to argue about on long winter nights," he grumbled, refilling their glasses. "It may not be winter but, in Hell, the nights are always long."

    "You know the story about the dragons who first ruled the Realms?"

    Titian shrugged, indicating that it didn't matter if she knew or not. She'd settled in to hear a story.

    Saetan raised his glass in a salute and smiled grudgingly. Jeweled males might be trained as defenders of their territories, but no male could beat a Queen when it came to tactical strategy.

    "Long ago," he began, "when the Realms were young, there lived a race of dragons. Powerful, brilliant, and magical, they ruled all the lands and all the creatures in them. But after hundreds of generations, there came a day when they realized their race would be no more, and rather than have their knowledge and their gifts die with them, they chose to give them to the other creatures so that they could continue the Craft and care for the Realms.

    "One by one, the dragons sought their lairs and embraced the forever night, becoming part of the Darkness. When only the Queen and her Prince, Lorn, were left, the Queen bid her Consort farewell. As she flew through the Realms, her scales sprinkled down, and whatever creature her scales touched, whether it walked on two legs or four or danced in the air on wings, whatever creature a scale touched became blood of her blood—still part of the race it came from, but also Other, remade to become caretaker and ruler. When the last scale fell from her, she vanished. Some stories say her body was transformed into some other shape, though it still contained a dragon's soul. Others say her body faded and she returned to the Darkness."

    Saetan swirled the yarbarah in his glass. "I've read all the old stories—some from the original text. What's always intrigued me is that, no matter what race the story came from, the Queen is never named. In all the stories, Lorn is mentioned by name, repeatedly, but not her. The omission seems deliberate. I've always wondered why."

    "And the Prince of Dragons?" Titian asked. "What happened to him?"

    "According to the legends, Lorn still exists, and he contains all the knowledge of the Blood."

    Titian looked thoughtful. "When Jaenelle turned fifteen and Draca said that Lorn had decided Jaenelle would live with you at the Hall, I had thought she was just saying that to block Cassandra's objections."

    "No, she meant it. He and Jaenelle have been friends for years. He gifted her with her Jewels."

    Titian opened and closed her mouth without making a sound.

    Her stunned expression pleased him.

    "Have you seen him?"

    "No," Saetan replied sourly."I've not been granted an audience."

    "Oh, dear," Titian said with no sympathy whatsoever. "What does the legend have to do with the Blood once being all female, and why didn't we keep it that way?"

    "You would have liked that, wouldn't you?"

    She smiled.

    "All right, my theory is this. Since the Queen's scales gifted the Craft to other races, and since like calls to like, it seems reasonable that only the females were able to absorb the magic. They became bonded to the land, drawn by their own body rhythms to the ebb and flow of the natural world. They became the Blood."

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