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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Queen of the Darkness (Chapter 9)      Page
  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(9) by Anne Bishop
  • Lucivar felt the tension slide away and took a step back. Hallevar knew as well as he did that he could snap the older man in half with his hands or his mind, but Hallevar had been one of the few who had seen the potential warrior and hadn't cared about his bloodlines—or the lack of them.

    "That's better," Hallevar said to Lucivar with an approving nod. "And you, Falonar. You've had a couple of offers, which is more than most of us can say. Maybe you'd better consider them."

    Falonar's face tightened. He took a deep breath and let it out. "I guess I should. It doesn't look like the bastard's going to show."

    "What bastard is that?" Lucivar asked mildly. More of the women and some of the men who had refused to acknowledge him had wandered over.

    It was a young Warlord who answered. "The Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih. We'd heard..."

    "You heard... ?" Lucivar prodded when the Warlord didn't finish, noticing the way the man shifted a bit closer to the witch who was holding an adorable little girl in her arms. Lucivar's gold eyes narrowed as he opened his psychic senses a little more. A little Queen. His gaze shifted to the boy who had a two-fisted grip on the woman's skirt. There was strength there, potential there. He felt something inside him shift, sharpen. "What did you hear?"

    The Warlord swallowed hard. "We heard he's a hard bastard, but he's fair if you serve him well. And he doesn't..."

    It was the fear in the woman's eyes and the way her brown skin paled that honed Lucivar's temper. "And he doesn't plow a woman unless she invites him?" he said too softly.

    He felt a flash of female anger nearby. Before he could locate the source, he remembered the children who probably already carried too many scars. "You heard right. He doesn't."

    Falonar shifted, bringing Lucivar's attention—and his temper—back to someone who could handle it. Then he gave Hallevar a sharp look, and a couple of other men that he'd known before centuries of slavery had taken him away from the Eyrien courts and hunting camps.

    "Is that what you've been waiting for?" It took effort, but he kept his voice neutral.

    "Wouldn't you?" Hallevar replied. "It may not be the Territory that we knew in Terreille, but they call it Askavi here, too, and maybe it won't feel so ... strange."

    Lucivar clenched his teeth. The afternoon was fleeing. He had to make some choices, and he had to make themnow. He turned back to Falonar. "Are you going to choke every time you have to take an order from me?"

    Falonar stiffened. "Why should I take any orders fromyou ?"

    "Because Iam the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih."

    Shock. Tense stillness. Some of the men—a good number of the men who had wandered over—looked at him in disgust and walked away.

    Falonar narrowed his eyes. "You already have a contract?"

    "A longstanding one. Think carefully, Prince Falonar. If serving under me is going to be a bone in your throat, you'd better take one of those other offers, because if you break the rules that I set, I'll tear you apart. And you— and everyone else who was waiting—had better think about what Ebon Rih is."

    "It's the Keep's Territory," Hallevar said. "Same as the Black Valley in Terreille. We know that."

    Lucivar nodded, his eyes never leaving Falonar's. "There's one big difference." He paused and then added, "I serve in the Dark Court at Ebon Askavi."

    Several people gasped. Falonar's eyes widened. Then he looked at the Ebon-gray Jewel that hung from the gold chain around Lucivar's neck, but it was a considering look, not an insulting one. "There's really a Queen there?" he asked slowly.

    "Oh, yes," Lucivar replied softly. "There's a Queen there. You should also know this: I present her with my choices about who serves me in Ebon Rih, but the final decision is hers. If she says 'no,' you're gone." He looked at the tense, silent people watching him. "There's not much time left to make a decision. I'll wait by the gate. Anyone who's interested can talk to me there."

    He walked to the gate, aware of the eyes that watched him. He kept his back to them and looked at the corrals set up as waiting areas for other races. He observed everything and saw nothing.

    It shouldn't matter anymore. He had a place here, a family here, a Queen he loved and felt honored to serve. He was respected for his intelligence, his skill as a warrior, and the Jewels he wore. And he was liked and loved for himself.

    But he had spent 1,700 years believing he was a half-breed bastard, and the insults and the blows he'd received as a boy in the hunting camps had helped shape the formidable temper he'd inherited from his father. The courts he'd served in as a slave after that had put the final vicious edge on it.

    It shouldn't matter anymore. Itdidn't matter anymore. He wouldn't allow it to hurt him. But he also knew that if Hallevar decided to go back to Terreille or accept whatever crumbs were offered in another court instead of signing a contract with him, it would be a long time before the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih returned to the service fair.

    "Prince Yaslana."

    Lucivar almost smiled at the reluctance in Falonar's voice, but he kept his face carefully neutral as he turned to face the other man. "The bone's choking you already?" The careful wariness he saw in Falonar's eyes surprised him.

    "We never liked each other, for a lot of reasons. We don't have to like each other now in order to work together. We've fought together against the Jhinka. You know what I can do."

    "We were green fighters then, both taking orders from someone else," Lucivar said carefully. "This is different."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire