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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(162) by Anne Bishop
  • "Which would have lasted one generation," Titian pointed out.

    "Not all men are stupid." When she looked doubtful, Saetan let out an exasperated sigh. The only thing more pointless than arguing with a Harpy about the value of males was trying to teacha rock to sing. He would have better luck with the rock. "For theory's sake, let's say we're talking about the Dea al Mon."

    "Ah." Titian settled back, content."Our malesare intelligent."

    "I'm sure they're relieved you think so," Saetan said dryly. "So, upon discovering that some of the women in their Territory suddenly had magical powers and skills . .."

    "The best young warriors would offer themselves as mates and protectors," Titian said promptly.

    Saetan raised an eyebrow. Since landens, the non-Blood of each race, tended to be so wary of the Blood and their Craft, that wasn't quite the way he'd always pictured it, but he found it interesting that a Dea al Mon witch would make

    that assumption. He'd have to ask Chaosti and Gabrielle at some point. "And from those unions, children were born. The girls, because of gender, received the full gift."

    "But the boys were half-Blood with little or no Craft." Titian held out her glass. Saetan refilled it.

    "Witches don't bear many children," Saetan continued after refilling his own glass. "Depending on the ratio of sons to daughters, it could have taken several more generations before males bred true. Through all that time, the power would have been in the distaff gender, each generation learning from the one before and becoming stronger. The first Queens probably appeared long before the first Warlord, let alone a male stronger than that. By then, the idea that males served and protected females would have been ingrained. In the end, what you have is the Blood society where Warlords are equal in status to witches, Princes are equal to Priestesses and Healers, and Black Widows only have to defer to Warlord Princes and Queens. And Warlord Princes, who are considered a law unto themselves, are a step above the other castes and a step—a long step—beneath the Queens."

    "When caste is added to each individual's social rank and Jewel rank, it makes an intriguing dance." Titian set her glass on the table. "An interesting theory, High Lord."

    "An interesting diversion, Lady Titian. Why did you do it? Why did you offer me your company tonight?"

    Titian smoothed her forest-green tunic. "You are kin of my kin. It seemed . . . fitting ... to offer you comfort tonight since Jaenelle could not. Good night, High Lord."

    Long after she'd gone, Saetan sat quietly, watching the logs in the fireplace break and settle. He roused himself enough to pour and warm one last glass of yarbarah, content now with the solitude and silence.

    He didn't dispute her theory of why males came to serve, but it wasn't his. It wasn't just the magic that had drawn the males. It was the inner radiance housed within those female bodies, a luminescence that some men had craved as much as they might have craved a light they could see glowing in a window when they were standing out in the cold. They had craved that light as much as they had craved

    being sheathed in the sweet darkness of a woman's body, if not more.

    Males had become Blood because they'd been drawn to both.

    And, as he knew all too well, they still were.

    7 / Kaeleer

    Lucivar lay on his back in the young grass, his hands behind his head, his wings spread to dry after the quick dip in the spring-fed pool. Jaenelle was still splashing around in the cold water, washing the sweat and dirt out of her long hair.

    He closed his eyes and groaned contentedly as the sun slowly warmed and loosened tight muscles.

    Yesterday, he'd awakened just before dawn to find Jaenelle busily rummaging through the food pack. They'd managed a hasty meal before the physical tension produced by the drugs forced her to move.

    It wasn't the unrelenting drive of the previous days, and as the day wore on, physical tension gave way to emotional storms. Anger would flood her suddenly, then turn to tears. He gave her space while she raged and swore. He held her while she cried. When the storm passed, she'd be fine for a little while. They would walk at an easy pace, stopping to pick wild berries or rest near a stream. Then the cycle would start over, each time with a little less intensity.

    This morning, he and Smoke had brought down a small deer. He'd kept enough meat to fill the small, cold-spelled food box he'd brought with him and had sent Smoke back to the Keep with the rest. If Saetan wasn't at the Keep, Smoke would go on to the Hall to let the High Lord know that the worst had passed and they would spend a few more days in Askavi before coming home.

    Home. He'd lived in Kaeleer for a year now, and the way witches treated males in the Shadow Realm still bewildered him sometimes.

    One day he'd walked in on a discussion Chaosti, Aaron, and Khardeen were having about how the Ring of Honor worn by males in a Queen's First Circle differed from the

    Restraining Ring Terreillean males were required to wear until they proved themselves trustworthy. He told them about the Ring of Obedience that was used in Terreille.

    They didn't believe him. Oh, intellectually they understood what he said, but they had never known the saturating, day-to-day fear Terreillean males lived with, so they didn't,couldn't, believe him.

    Wondering if the boys simply weren't old enough to have firsthand experience in the ways a witch kept her males leashed, he had asked Sylvia, Halaway's Queen, how a Queen controlled a male who didn't want to serve in her court.

    She'd gaped at him a moment before blurting out, "Who'd want one?"

    A few months ago, while in Nharkhava running an errand for the High Lord, he'd been invited to tea by three elderly Ladies who had praised his physique with such good-natured delight that he couldn't feel insulted. Feeling comfortable with them, he had asked if they'd heard anything about the Warlord Prince who had recently killed a Queen.

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