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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Queen of the Darkness (Chapter 8)      Page
  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(8) by Anne Bishop
  • But that wasn't likely. No matter what name Daemon Sadi used to get to Kaeleer, once at the fair he would use his own name.' There were too many people here who would recognize him, and since the penalty for lying about the Jewels one wore was immediate expulsion from the Realm—either back to Terreille or to the final death— changing his name while admitting that he wore the Black Jewels would only make him look like a fool because he was theonly male besides the High Lord who had worn the Black in the entire history of the Blood. The Darkness knew Daemon was many things, but he wasn't a fool.

    Pushing aside his own stab of disappointment, Lucivar wondered how he was going to explain this to Ladvarian. The Sceltie Warlord had been so insistent about Lucivar checking the lists carefully this time, had seemed so certain. Most people would think it odd to feel apprehensive about disappointing a dog that just reached his knees, but when that dog's best friend was eight hundred pounds of feline temper, a smart man didn't dismiss canine feelings.

    Lucivar put those thoughts aside as he reached the Eyrien "camp": a large corral of barren, beaten earth, a poorly made wooden barracks, a water pump, and a large trough. Not so different from the slave pens in Terreille. Oh, there were better accommodations on the fairground for those who still had the gold or silver marks to pay for them, with hot water and beds that were more than a sleeping bag on the ground. But for most, it was like this: a struggle to look presentable after days spent waiting, wondering, hoping. Even here, among a race where arrogance was as natural as breathing, he could pick up the scents of exhaustion brought on by too little food, too little sleep, and nerves frayed to the breaking point. He could almost taste the desperation.

    Opening the gate, Lucivar stepped inside. Most of the women were near the barracks. Most of the men were in small groups, nearer the gate. Some glanced at him and ignored him. A few stiffened in recognition and looked away, dismissing him in the same way they had dismissed the bastard boy he'd believed himself to be.

    But a few of the males moved toward him, every line of their bodies issuing a challenge.

    Lucivar gave them a slow, arrogant smile that blatantly accepted the challenge, then turned his back on them and headed for the Warlord whose concentration was focused on the two boys moving through a sparring exercise with the sticks.

    One of the boys noticed him and forgot about his sparring partner. The other boy pounced on the advantage and gave the first one a hard poke in the belly.

    "Hell's fire, boy," the Warlord said with so much irritation it made Lucivar grin. "You're lucky all you've got is a sore belly and not a dent in that thick head of yours. You dropped your guard."

    "But—" the boy said as he started to raise his hand and point.

    The Warlord tensed but didn't turn. "If you start worrying about the man who hasn't reached you yet, the one you're already fighting is going to kill you." Then he turned slowly and his eyes widened.

    Lucivar's grin sharpened. "You're getting soft, Hallevar. You used to give me the bruised belly and then a smack for getting it."

    "Do you drop your guard in a fight?" Hallevar growled.

    Lucivar just laughed.

    "Then what are you bitching for? Stand still, boy, and let's take a look at you."

    The youngsters' mouths were hanging open at Hallevar's disrespect for a Warlord Prince. The males who had noticed him and had decided to talk—or fight—had formed a semicircle on his right. But he stood still while Hallevar's eyes traveled over his body; he said nothing in response to the older man's small grunts of approval, and he bit back a laugh at Hallevar's glaring disapproval of the thick, black, shoulder-length hair.

    His hair was a break from tradition, since Eyrien warriors wore their hair short to deprive an enemy of a handhold. But after escaping from the salt mines of Pruul eight years ago and ending up in Kaeleer instead of dead, he had shrugged off quite a few traditions—and by doing so, had found others that were even older.

    "Well," Hallevar finally growled, "you filled out well enough, and while your face is nowhere near as pretty as that sadistic bastard you call a brother, it'll fool the Ladies long enough if you can keep that temper of yours on a tight leash." He rubbed the back of his neck. "But this is the last day of the fair. You haven't left yourself much time to draw anyone's attention."

    "Neither have you," Lucivar replied, "and putting those pups through their paces isn't going to show anyone what you can do."

    "Who wants gristle when they can have fresh meat?" Hallevar muttered, looking away.

    "Don't start digging your grave," Lucivar snapped, not pleased with how relieved he felt when anger fired Hallevar's eyes. "You're a seasoned warrior and an experienced arms master with enough years left in you to train another generation or two. This is just another kind of battlefield, so pick up your weapon and show some balls."

    Hallevar smiled reluctantly.

    Needing some balance, Lucivar turned toward the other men. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed some of the women coming over. And he noticed that some were bringing young children with them.

    He clamped down on the emotions that started churning too close to the surface. He had to choose carefully. There were those who could adjust to the way the Blood lived in Kaeleer and would make a good life for themselves here. And there were those who would die swiftly and violently because they couldn't, or wouldn't, adjust. He had made a few bad choices during the first couple of fairs, had offered a trust that he shouldn't have offered. Because of it, he carried the guilt for the shattered lives of two witches who had been raped and brutally beaten—and he carried the memory of the sick rage he'd felt when he'd executed the Eyrien males who had been responsible. After that, he'd found a way to confirm his choices. He hadn't always trusted his own judgment, but he never doubted Jaenelle's.

    "Lucivar."

    Lucivar honed his attention to the Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince who had moved to the front of the group. "Falonar."

    "It'sPrince Falonar," Falonar snarled.

    Lucivar bared his teeth in a feral smile. "I thought we were being informal, since I'm sure an aristo male like you wouldn't forget something like basic courtesy."

    "Why should I offer you basic courtesy?"

    "Because I'm the one wearing the Ebon-gray," Lucivar replied too softly as he shifted his weight just enough to let the other man see the challenge and make the choice.

    "Stop it, both of you," Hallevar snarled. "We're all on shaky ground in this place. We don't need it yanked out from under us because you two keep wanting to prove whose c**k is bigger. I thumped both of you when you were snot-nosed brats, and I can still do it."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire