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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(204) by Anne Bishop
  • "Yes, you did. Sort of. Well, not as blatantly as Saetan did—"

    Saetan clamped his teeth together and made a funny, fizzy noise.

    "—but I heard you, so I answered." She smiled at both of them.

    Being smiled at like that was a good reason for a man to panic.

    Before he had time to, Jaenelle rapidly headed for the stairs, muttering something about having to be there for the toast, and Lucivar had a very strong hand clamped on his shoulder.

    "If great-grandpapa is finished with you," Lucivar said with a feral smile, "I'd like you to come upstairs and lean hard on Karla because, Queen of Glacia or not, if she makes one more of those smart-ass remarks about wing-spans, I'm going to drop her into a deep mountain lake."

    "Lucivar, this is a dignified occasion," Saetan said at the same time Lorn said, "I am not your great-grandpapa."

    "No, you're not," Lucivar agreed. "But since no one was quite sure how many generations separate them from you— and it's different for each race or species—it was decided to condense all the generations into one 'great.' As for this being a dignified occasion, it was. As for the party that's waiting for Saetan to make the opening toast, I suspect it's going to be a lot of things and none of them are going to be remotely close to dignified." Lucivar looked at them and let out a pitying sigh. "You're both old enough to know better. And you've both known Jaenelle long enough to know better."

    Saetan found himself being steered toward the doors at the other end of the chamber.

    "Come on, be a good papa and let great-grandpapa dragon get some rest before all the little dragons pile on top of him."

    Reaching the stairs, Saetan thought that the inner doors to the chamber closed just a little too quickly.

    "We will talk," Lorn said softly. "There iss much to talk about.

    Yes, there was, Saetan thought as he entered the upper chamber, accepted a glass of yarbarah, and looked at the animated, laughing faces that now ruled Kaeleer.

    He wondered what Lorn thought about the many-strand web Jaenelle had woven over Kaeleer, the web that had called so many races out of the mist they'd hidden in for thousands of years.

    And he wondered what the Dark Council was going to think.

    4 / Kaeleer

    Lord Magstrom rubbed his forehead and wished, violently, that this session of the Dark Council would end soon. Lord Jorval, the First Tribune, had been making soothing noises and deftly evading making firm promises since the first petitioner had stepped into the circle. They all wanted the same thing: assurance that the males sent into the kindred lands that had been granted as human territories wouldn't be slaughtered by these "Hell-spawned animals."

    The Council couldn't give such assurances.

    The stories told by the few survivors who returned from those first attempts to secure the land had roused a great anger in the people of Little Terreille and demands for retaliation. The piles of mutilated corpses—some partially eaten—that clogged the main street of Goth a few days later when all the males who had gone into kindred lands were mysteriously returned had chilled that anger into furious impotence.

    Everyone wanted something done to make these unclaimed lands safe for human occupation. No one wanted to face what was already living in those "unclaimed" lands.

    "I assure you, Lady," Lord Jorval said to the strident petitioner, "we're doing everything possible to rectify the situation."

    "When I came here, I was promised land to rule and males who knew how to serve properly," the Terreillean Queen replied angrily.

    Lord Magstrom wondered if anyone else had noticed that the majority of Kaeleer-born males, even with the enticement of serving in the First or Second Circle of a Terreillean Queen's court, resigned with bitter animosity after a few weeks of service. Terreillean males pleaded to serve Kaeleer-born Queens, willing to serve in the Thirteenth Circle as a menial servant if that's all that was available. Over the past three years, he'd had a few tearfully beg him to approach minor Queens outside of Little Terreille and see if there was any way they could serve in a Territory like Dharo or Nharkhava. They would do anything, they'd told him. Anything.

    For some of the younger ones he thought might be acceptable to those Territory Queens, he'd written respectful letters pointing out the men's skills and their pledged willingness to adapt to the ways of the Shadow Realm. Some had been accepted into service. At each turn of the season, he received brief letters from each of those young men, and all of them expressed their relief and delight in their new life.

    But the pleas were getting more desperate as more and more Terreilleans flooded into Little Terreille. And with every plea, with every story he heard about Terreille, he worried more and more about his youngest granddaughter. Even in his small village incidents had already occurred, and it was no longer wise for a woman to travel after dusk without a strong escort. Was that how it had begun in Terreille, with fear and distrust spiraling deeper and deeper until there was no way to stop it?

    "Your request has been noted," Lord Jorval said, making a gesture that indicated dismissal. "Will the next—"

    The doors at the end of the chamber blew open with a force that sent them crashing into the walls.

    Jaenelle Angelline glided into the Council chamber, once again standing outside the petitioner's circle, once again flanked by the High Lord and Prince Lucivar Yaslana. Along the edges of her black, cobwebby gown's low neckline were dozens of Black Jewel chips glittering with dark fire. Around her neck was a Black—Black?—Jewel set in a necklace that looked like a spider's web made of delicate gold and silver strands. In her hands . . .

    Lord Magstrom's hands shook.

    She held a scepter. The lower half was made of gold and silver and had two Black-looking Jewels inset above the hand-hold. The upper half of the scepter was a spiraled horn.

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