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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(3) by Anne Bishop
  • "You're a Queen," Philip snapped. "You shouldn't have to beg an audience from a Priestess, no matter who—"

    "Philip." She squeezed his arm. "I'm thankful for your loyalty, but right now weare beggars. I can't afford any more assumptions. I'm not convinced that Dorothea isn't the monster she's always appeared to be, but Iam convinced that the High Lord is a greater threat." She shuddered. "We have to go to Kaeleer to find Wilhelmina. We can't afford to go there without having as much knowledge of the enemy as we can gain, no matter what the source."

    "All right," Philip said. "What about Vania and Nyselle? Will they go with us?"

    "They'll stay or go as they choose. They certainly won't care what I do." She sighed. "Who would have thought, even a month ago, that I would have to entertain the idea of Dorothea being an ally?"

    3 / Terreille

    Kartane SaDiablo wandered through the formal gardens, trying hard to ignore the speculative or pitying glances of the few people who hadn't retreated indoors. He had waited until Dorothea's carriage was out of sight

    before walking away from the platform. The mutilated bodies that had been left for grisly inspection didn't bother him. Hell's fire, Dorothea had done that much—or worse— to people when she was feeling playful. But no one seemed to remember that. Or, perhaps, most of the fools here had never witnessed one of the High Priestess's moods.

    But the Steward and the Master of the Guard... Ball-withered idiots. They had actually hadtears in their eyes when they helped her into the carriage. How could they believe she'd been under a spell for all these centuries, that she hadn't reveled in her victims' pain?

    Oh, she had certainly sounded sincere and remorseful. He didn't believe it for a moment. Any man who had ever had to pleasure Dorothea in a bed wouldn't have believed it. Daemon wouldn't have, that's for sure.

    Daemon. The High Lord's son. That explained a great deal about his "cousin." All those years, when Daemon had been raised as a bastard in Dorothea's court, had she known? She must have. Which meant that the High Lord of Hell would have no love for the High Priestess of Hayll.

    Which circled back to his own concerns.

    The mysterious illness that had started almost thirteen years ago was consuming him. All the other men who had enjoyed Briarwood's secret little playground were already in the grave. Because he was Hayllian, one of the long-lived races, and because he had never gone back to Chaillot, he was the only one left. And he could feel that he was running out of time.

    After the connection between the illness and Briarwood had been revealed a few weeks ago, he had started thinking—when his mind wasn't so consumed in nightmares that hecould think—and he always came to the same conclusion: the only Healers who might be powerful enough to cure this illness before it destroyed him, and the only ones who would be ignorant of the cause, were in Kaeleer. They would probably be serving in the courts of the Territory Queens, who, if Dorothea hadn't been lying aboutthat, were under the High Lord's control. Which meant he had to find something that would buy the High Lord's assistance. Thanks to Dorothea's little speech, he now had information he thought the Prince of the Darkness would find very interesting.

    Pleased with his decision, Kartane smiled. He would spend a few more days sniffing out information and then pay a little visit to the Shadow Realm.

    4 / Terreille

    Alexandra Angelline gingerly settled into a chair, relieved that Dorothea had chosen a private receiving room instead of a formal audience room. This meeting was going to be difficult enough without enduring a court full of sneering Hayllians.

    But being alone with Dorothea also had disadvantages. She'd heard that Hayll's High Priestess had been a handsome woman. Oh, the ghost of that loveliness was still there, but there was a definite stoop to Dorothea's shoulders, a twistiness to her spine. Age spots dotted the backs of her brown hands, and the face and hair...

    It happens to all of us, eventually,Alexandra thought as she watched Dorothea pour tea into delicate cups. But what would it feel like to go to bed one night a woman in her prime and wake the next morning as a crone?

    "I'm... grateful... you granted me an audience," Alexandra said, trying not to choke on the words.

    Dorothea's lips curled in a slight smile as she handed Alexandra a cup of tea. "I'm surprised you asked for one." The smile faded. "We haven't seen eye to eye in the past. And considering what happened to your family, you have good reason to hate me." She hesitated, took a sip of tea, and continued softly, "It wasn't my idea to send Sadi to Chaillot, but I can't remember who suggested it or why I agreed. There's a veil over those memories that I still can't pierce."

    Alexandra lifted her cup toward her lips, but put it down again without drinking. "You think the High Lord arranged it?"

    "Yes, I do. Sadi is a beautiful, vicious weapon, and his father knows how to use him well. And they did achieve their goal."

    "What goal?" Alexandra said angrily. "Sadi tore my family apart and killed my younger granddaughter. What was achieved bythat ?"

    Dorothea sat back, took a sip of tea, and said quietly, "You forget, Sister. The girl's body was never found."

    Something about the expectant way Dorothea was looking at her made Alexandra shiver. "That doesn't mean anything. He's a very discreet gravedigger." She put the cup and saucer on the table, the tea untouched. "I didn't come here to talk about the past. Just how dangerous is the High Lord?"

    "Daemon Sadi is his father's son. Does that answer your question?"

    Alexandra tried but couldn't suppress a shudder. "And you really think he wants to destroy the Blood in Terreille?"

    "I'm sure of it." Dorothea touched her white hair. "I paid a heavy price to be sure of it."

    "My other granddaughter, Wilhelmina Benedict, recently went to Kaeleer," Alexandra said softly.

    Dorothea stiffened. "How recently?"

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