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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(11) by Anne Bishop
  • "I never used that word with you," Hallevar said quietly.

    "No, you didn't. But it's an easy enough word to say without thinking. So I'll give you fair warning, Lord Hallevar. It's a word you would do well to forget, because there's nothing I could do to save you if you said it within my father's hearing."

    Hallevar stared at him. "Your father is here? You know him?"

    "I know him. And believe me, you haven't seen temper until you've been on the receiving end of my father's rage."

    "I'll remember. What about the boys?"

    "No lies, Hallevar. I'll take them for themselves, subject to the Queen's approval just like any other male."

    Hallevar smiled, obviously relieved. "I'll tell them to fetch our things." A curt wave of his hand had the two boys racing toward the barracks. Without looking at Lucivar, he asked, "Is he proud of you?"

    "When he doesn't want to throttle me or kick my ass."

    Hallevar tried to swallow a laugh and ended up wheezing. "I'd like to meet him."

    "You will," Lucivar promised dryly.

    Whether it was seeing the first ones being accepted or needing a little time to gather their courage, others approached him.

    There was the young Warlord, Endar, and his wife, Dorian, their son, Alanar, and their little Queen daughter, Orian.

    The woman was frightened, the man tense. But the little girl gave him a sweet smile and leaned away from her mother, her arms reaching for him.

    Lucivar took her, settled her on his hip, and grinned. "Don't get any ideas, bright-eyes. I'm taken," he told her as he tickled gently and made her giggle. When he gave the girl back to her mother, Dorian stared at him as if he'd grown another head.

    Next came Nurian, a Healer who hadn't completed her training yet, and her younger sister, Jillian, who was on the cusp of changing from girl to woman.

    There was Kohlvar, a weapons maker. And there were Rothvar and Zaranar, two warriors Lucivar remembered from the hunting camps.

    One thought nagged at him as he talked with them. Why were they here? Kohlvar had been a young man, by the standard of the long-lived races, when Lucivar was first sent away from Askavi. Even then, when Kohlvar was just past his journeymanship, he'd been known for the strength and the balance of the weapons he made. He should have made a good living in Terreille, and he could have stayed away from court intrigue if he'd chosen to. Rothvar and Zaranar were seasoned warriors, the kind who could have found a position in most of the courts in Askavi or accepted any independent work they chose.

    And why would an aristo Warlord Prince like Falonar leave Terreille?

    The wariness inside him grew. Were things far worse in Terreille than anyone here suspected, or were these men here for another reason?

    Lucivar pushed those thoughts aside. He hadn't sensed anything in the people who had approached him that would make him decide against them, so he would let the questions rest for now. And he would let Jaenelle pass judgment.

    By the time the last man left to fetch his things from the barracks, Lucivar had agreed to take twenty males and a dozen females.

    How many of these people would survive the full term of their contracts? he wondered as they hurried toward him with the meager belongings they had been allowed to bring with them. There were other dangers in Kaeleer beyond the ones they expected. And there were the demon-dead. Considering where he was taking them, they would quickly have to come to terms with having the demon-dead walk among them.

    He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Ready?"

    It amused him, but didn't surprise him, when Falonar looked over the group and answered him as if he'd already accepted the man as his second-in-command.

    "We're ready."

    2 / Kaeleer

    Daemon Sadi crossed his legs at the knee, steepled his fingers, and rested his long, black-tinted nails against his chin. "What about the Queens in the other Territories?" he asked in his deep, cultured voice.

    Lord Jorval smiled wearily. "As I've explained before, Prince Sadi, the Queens outside of Little Terreille are not eager to accept their Terreillean Brothers and Sisters into their courts, and even the immigrants who do get contracts are made to feel less than welcome."

    "Did you inquire?" Daemon's gold eyes glazed slightly. A stranger or slight acquaintance might have thought he looked tired or bored, but that sleepy look would have terrified anyone who really knew him.

    "I inquired," Jorval said a bit sharply. "The Queens didn't reply."

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