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  • Heir to the Shadows(Black Jewels,Book 2)(52) by Anne Bishop
  • Menzar licked his lips. "I must be going now."

    "That isn't possible."

    "I have another appointment."

    Slowly the darkness changed, lessened. A cold, silver light spread along the stone walls, floor, and ceiling, following the radial and tether lines of an immense web. On the back wall hung a huge, black metal spider, its hourglass made of faceted rubies. Attached to the silver web embedded in the stone were knives of every shape and size.

    The only other thing in the room was a table.

    Menzar's sphincter muscles tightened.

    The table had a high lip and channels running to small holes in the corners. Glass tubing ran from the holes to glass jars.

    Stop this. Stop it. He was letting his own fear beat him. He was letting this room intimidate him. That old man certainly wasn't intimidating. He could easily brush aside that doddering old fool.

    Menzar turned around, ready to insist on leaving.

    It took him a long moment to recognize the man leaning against the door, waiting.

    "Everything has a price, Lord Menzar," Saetan crooned. "It's time to pay the debt."

    The water swirling into the drain finally ran clear. Saetan twisted the dials to stop the hard spray that had been pounding him. He held on to the dials for balance, resting his head on his forearm.

    It wasn't over. There were still the last details to attend to.

    He toweled himself briskly, dropped the towel on the narrow bed as he passed through the small bedroom adjoining his private study deep beneath the Hall in the Dark Realm. A carafe of yarbarah waited for him on the large blackwood desk. He reached for it, hesitated, then called in a decanter of brandy. He filled a glass almost to the rim and drank it down. The brandy would give him a fierce headache, but it would also soften the edges, blur the memories and twisted fantasies that had burst from Menzar's mind like pus from a boil.

    Brandy also didn't taste like blood, and the taste, the smell of blood wasn't something he could tolerate tonight.

    He poured his second glass and stood naked in front of the unlit hearth, staring at Dujae's paintingDescent into Hell. A gifted artist to have captured in ambiguous shapes that mixture of terror and joy the Blood felt when first entering the Dark Realm.

    He poured his third glass. He had burned the clothes he'd worn. He had never been able to tolerate keeping the clothing worn for an execution. Some part of the fear and the pain always seemed to weave itself into the cloth. To be assaulted by it afterward . . .

    The glass shattered in his hand. Snarling, he vanished the broken glass before returning to the small bedroom and hurriedly dressing in fresh clothes.

    He had scrubbed Menzar off his body, but would he ever be able to cleanse Menzar's thoughts from his mind?

    "You understand what to do?"

    Two demons, once Halaway men, eyed the large, ornate wooden chest. "Yes, High Lord. It will been done precisely as you asked."

    Saetan handed each of them a small bottle. "For your trouble."

    "It's no trouble," one said. He pulled the cork from the bottle and sniffed. His eyes widened. "It's—"

    "Payment."

    The demon corked the bottle and smiled.

    "Thecildru dyathe don't want this."

    Saetan set the small bottle on a flat rock that served as a table. He had distributed all the others. This was the last. "I'm not offering it to the rest of thecildru dyathe. Only you."

    Char shifted his feet, uneasy. "We wait to fade into the Darkness," he said, but his blackened tongue licked what was left of his lips as he eyed the bottle.

    "It's not the same for you," Saetan said. His stomach churned. Thin needles of pain speared his temples. "You care for the others, help them adjust and make the transitions. You fight to stay here, to give them a place. And I know when offerings are made in remembrance of a child who has gone, you don't refuse them." Saetan picked up the bottle and held it out to the boy. "It's appropriate for you to take this. More than you know."

    Char slowly reached for the bottle, uncorked it, and sniffed. He took a tiny sip and gasped, delighted. "This is undiluted blood."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire