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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(180) by Anne Bishop
  • "Good. With her help, I can transfer the power my body can't hold now into the web to use for the healing."

    He felt her fade. "Jaenelle!"

    "I found him, Saetan. I marked a trail for him to follow. And I ... I told Surreal to take him to the Keep, but I'm not sure she heard me."

    "Don't think about it now, witch-child. Concentrate on healing."

    She drifted into a light sleep.

    By the time Luthvian arrived at the Keep, two-thirds of Jaenelle's simple healing web was used up, and he wondered if there would be enough time to create another one before the last thread darkened.

    He couldn't stay and watch. As soon as Luthvian regained enough of her composure to begin, he retreated to the sitting room, taking Ladvarian and Kaelas with him. He didn't ask where Lucivar was. He simply felt grateful that they wouldn't rub against each other's fraying tempers for a little while.

    He paced until his leg ached. He embraced the physical discomfort like a sweet lover. Far better to focus on that than the heart-bruises that might be waiting for him.

    Because he wasn't sure if he could stand another bedside vigil.

    Because he didn't know if she'd succeeded enough to make her suffering worth it.

    4 / The Twisted Kingdom

    He learned as he climbed.

    She had left small resting places next to the glittering trail: violets nestled against a boulder; sweet, clean water trickling down stone to a quiet pool that soothed the spirit; a patch of thick, green grass large enough to stretch out on; a plump, brown bunny watching him while it stuffed its face with clover; a cheerful fire that melted the first layer of ice around his heart.

    At first, he'd tried to ignore the resting places. He learned he could pass one, maybe two, while he fought against the weight that made each step more difficult. If he tried to pass a third, he found the trail blocked. Instinct always warned him that if he stepped off the glittering trail to go around the obstruction, he might never find his way back. So he'd backtrack and rest until he absorbed the weight and found it comfortable to go on.

    He slowly realized the weight had a name: body. This confused him for a while. Didn't he already have a body? He walked, he breathed, he heard, he saw. He felt tired. He felt pain. This other body felt different, heavy, solid. He wasn't sure he liked absorbing its essence into himself— or, perhaps, having it absorb him.

    But the body was part of the same delicate web as the violets, the water, the sky, and the fire—reminders of a place beyond the shattered landscape—so he resigned himself to becoming reacquainted with it.

    After a while, each resting place held an intangible gift, too: a Craft puzzle piece, one small aspect of a spell. Gradually the pieces began to make a whole and he learned the basics of the Black Widows' Craft, learned how to build simple webs, learned how to be what he was.

    So he rested and treasured her little gifts and puzzles.

    And he climbed to where she had promised to be waiting.

    PART V

    Chapter fifteen

    1 / Kaeleer

    C6rT"'he first part of our plan is coming along nicely," .L Hekatah said. "Little Terreille is, at last, justly represented in the Dark Council."

    Lord Jorval smiled tightly. Since slightly more than half of the Council members now came from Little Terreille, he could agree that the Territory that had always felt wary of the rest of the Shadow Realm was, at last, "justly" represented. "With all the injuries and illnesses that have caused members to resign in the past two years, the Blood in Little Terreille were the only ones willing to accept such a heavy responsibility for the good of the Realm." He sighed, but his eyes glittered with malicious approval. "We've been accused of favoritism because so many voices come from the same Territory, but when the other men and women who were judged worthy of the task refused to accept, what were we to do? The Council seats must be filled."

    "So they must," Hekatah agreed. "And since so many of those new members, who owe their current rise in status to your supporting their appointment to the Council, wouldn't want to find themselves distressed because they didn't heed your wisdom when it came time to vote, it's time to implement the second part of our plan."

    "And that is?" Jorval wished she would take off that deep-hooded cloak. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen her before. And why had she chosen to meet in a seedy little inn in Goth's slums?

    "To broaden Little Terreille's influence in the Shadow Realm. You're going to have to convince the Council to be I more lenient in their immigration requirements. There are | plenty of Blood aristos here already. You need to let in the lesser Blood—workers, craftsmen, farmers, hearth-witches, servants, lighter-Jeweled warriors. Stop deciding who can come in by whether or not they can pay the bribes."

    "If the Terreillean Queens and the aristo males want servants, let them use the landens," Jorval said in a sulky voice. The bribes, as she well knew, had become an important source of income for a number of Blood aristos in Goth, Little Terreille's capital.

    "Landens are demon fodder," Hekatah snapped. "Landens have no magic. Landens have no Craft. Landens are about as useful as Jhin—" She paused. She tugged her hood forward. "Accept Terreillean landens for immigration, too. Promise them privileges and a settlement after service. But bring in the lesser Terreillean Blood as well."

    Jorval spread his hands. "And what are we supposed to do with all these immigrants? At the twice-yearly immigration fairs, the other Territories altogether only take a couple dozen people, if that. The courts in Little Terreille are already swelled and there are complaints about the Terreillean aristos always whining about serving in the lower Circles and not having land to rule like they expected. And none of the ones already here have fulfilled their immigration requirement."

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