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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Heir to the Shadows (Chapter 165)      Page
  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(165) by Anne Bishop
  • The young Warlord nodded wearily and closed his eyes. Seconds after Lucivar put up his shield, the Jhinka attacked. They slammed against the invisible barrier, their bodies piling up five and six deep as they clawed at the shield. Some of the Jhinka, pressed between the shield and the rest of the swarm, were smothered or crushed by the mass of writhing bodies. Dead, hate-filled eyes stared at the five men below.

    "Hell's fire," Randahl muttered. "Even during the worst attacks, they didn't come in likethis."

    Lucivar studied the middle-aged Warlord for a moment before returning his attention to the Jhinka.Maybe they hadn't trapped what they'd wanted until now.

    He could feel the pressure of all those bodies piling up on the shield, could feel the Ebon-gray Jewels release drop after drop of his reserve strength. While all the Jewels provided a reservoir for the psychic power, the darker the Jewel, the deeper the reservoir. As the second darkest Jewel, the Ebon-gray provided a cache of power deep enough that, if he didn't need to use them for anything beyond maintaining the shield against physical attacks, he could hold the Jhinka off for a week before he felt the strain. Someone would come looking for them before that. All he needed to do was wait.

    But there was that witch storm to consider. He felt certain someone had created this trap especially for him. He'd have to check with Randahl, but he suspected the first Jhinka attack hadn't given them time to get in supplies. And Jaenelle needed other Healers to assist with the wounded. The Darkness knew she had the psychic reserves to do all the healing, but her body wouldn't hold up under that kind of demand, especially after the drugs and the physical strain of the past few days.

    Besides, no one had ever accused him of having a passive temper.

    Lucivar vanished his Ebon-gray ring and called in his Birthright Red. The Ebon-gray around his neck would feed the shield. The Red ...

    "Tell your men to stay tight to the building," Lucivar said quietly to Randahl. "It's time to even up the odds a bit."

    Smiling his lazy, arrogant smile, he raised his right hand and triggered the spell he'd spent years perfecting. Seven thin psychic "wires" shot out of the Red Jewel in his ring. Keeping his arm straight, he made leisurely sweeps back and forth, always careful that he didn't stray too close to the building. Back and forth. Up and down.

    Jhinka blood ran down the shield. Jhinka bodies slithered and slid as the ones who could see the danger tried to push themselves out of the pile before that sweeping arm returned.

    Satisfied with the panicked scramble on that side of the shield, he walked around the building, his hand always aimed at the shield. And the Jhinka died.

    He was starting a third circuit when the Jhinka who were still trying to pile onto the shield finally caught the panic of the ones trying to get away from it. Chattering and screeching, they rose off the shield and headed for the low hills.

    Lucivar drew the psychic "wires" back into his ring, ended the spell, and slowly lowered his arm.

    Randahl, Adler, and the two Warlords Lucivar hadn't been introduced to yet stared, sick-faced, at the blood running down the shield, at the pieces of bodies sliding to the ground.

    "Mother Night," Randahl whispered. "Mother Night." They wouldn't look at him. Or rather, whenever their glances brushed in his direction, he saw the worried speculation that they might have something locked inside with them that was far more dangerous and deadly than the enemy waiting outside. Which was true.

    "I'm going to check on the Lady," Lucivar said abruptly. Being a Master of the Guard, Randahl would try to act normally once he had a few minutes to steady himself. If nothing else, the man would fall back on the Protocol for dealing with a Warlord Prince. But the others . . . Everything has a price.

    Lucivar approached the front of the building and gave himself a moment to steady his own feelings. If other Blood couldn't deal with a Warlord Prince on the killing edge, wounded landens most certainly couldn't. And right now, hysteria could trigger a vicious desire for bloodletting. A male coming away from the killing edge needed someone, preferably female, to help him stabilize. That was one of the many slender threads that bound the Blood. The witches, during their vulnerable times, needed that aggressive male strength, and the males needed, sometimes desperately, the shelter and comfort they found in a woman's gentle strength.

    He needed Jaenelle.

    Lucivar smiled bitterly as he entered the building. Right now, everyone needed Jaenelle. He hoped—sweet Darkness, how he hoped!—being near her would be enough.

    The community hall held various-sized rooms where the villagers could gather for dances or meetings. At least, he assumed that's what it was for. He'd never had much contact with landens. As he scanned the largest room, aching for Jaenelle's familiar presence, he felt the pain and fear of the wounded landens sitting against the walls or lying on the floor. The pain he could handle. The fear, which spiked in the ones who noticed him, undermined his shaky self-control.

    Lucivar started to turn away when he noticed the young man lying on a narrow mattress near the door. Under nor' mal circumstances, he might have assumed the man was another landen, but he'd seen too many men in similar circumstances not to recognize a weak psychic scent.

    Dropping to one knee, Lucivar carefully lifted the side of the doubled-over sheet that covered the body from neck to feet. His eyes shifted from the wounds to the still, pain-tight face and back again. He swore silently. The gut wounds were bad. Men had died from less. They weren't beyond Jaenelle's healing skill, but he wondered if she could rebuild the parts that were no longer there.

    Lowering the sheet, Lucivar left the room, his curses becoming louder and more vicious as he searched for some empty room where he could try to leash a temper spiraling out of control.

    Randahl hadn't said any of his men had been wounded. And why was the boy—no, man; anyone with those kinds of battle wounds didn't deserve to be called a boy—kept apart from the others, tucked against a shadowed wall where he might easily go unnoticed?

    Catching the warmth of a feminine psychic scent, Lucivar threw open a door and stepped inside the kitchen before he realized, too late, the woman trying to pump water one-handed wasn't Jaenelle.

    She spun around when the door crashed against the wall, throwing her left arm up as if to stop an attacker.

    Lucivar hated her. Hated her for not being Jaenelle. Hated her for the fear in her eyes that was pushing him toward blind rage. Hated her for being young and pretty. And most of all, hated her because he knew that, at any second now, she would bolt and he would be on her, hurting her, even killing her before he could stop himself.

    Then she swallowed hard, and said in a quiet, quivering voice, "I'm trying to boil some water to make teas for the wounded, but the pump's stiff and I can't work it with one hand. Would you help me?"

    A knot of tension eased inside him. Here, at least, was a landen female who knew how to deal with Blood males. Asking for help was always the easiest way to redirect one of them toward service.

    As Lucivar came forward, she stepped aside, trembling. His temper started to climb again until he noticed the bandaged right arm she held over her stomach, her hand tucked between her dress and apron.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire