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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(119) by Anne Bishop
  • As he took another step back, an Eyrien came around the corner of a building and saw him.

    "Lord Morton?" the Eyrien called.

    Morton didn't recognize the Green-Jeweled Warlord Prince. He tensed, ready to catch the Winds and run.

    "Lord Morton!" The Eyrien raised a hand and hurried toward him. "Thank the Darkness, you got Yaslana's message!"

    That name was enough to catapult Morton a few feet toward the Eyrien. "What happened here?"

    "We're not sure," the Eyrien answered, stopping a few feet away. "Yaslana found tracks heading away from the Dark Altar. He took some of the men and followed them." He looked over Morton's shoulder, his face stamped with concern. "Didn't you bring any Healers?"

    "No, I—"

    It happened too fast. A blast of the Eyrien's Green-Jeweled power shattered his Opal shield at the same moment three arrows pierced his body. The Ebony shield in Jaenelle's Ring of Honor snapped up around him. Two more arrows hit the shield and turned to dust.

    He used Craft to remain standing and cursed himself for a thrice-times fool for not activating the shield in the first place. But there was nothing they could do to him now, not even stop him from walking or crawling back to the landing web and riding the Winds away from there. And the wounds, while painful, weren't that serious. He had an arrow in each leg and one in the left shoulder, but it was high enough ...

    He felt a deadly cold filling in his limbs and knew what it had to be. Poison on the arrow tips. But how virulent a poison?

    He saw the answer in the Eyrien's cruel smile.

    He fell to his knees. No time to give all the warnings he needed to give. No time. So he focused on sending a warning to the person who had always mattered the most to him.

    As the body's death closed in on him, he gathered his strength and sent one word. *KARLA!*

    6 / Kaeleer

    Karla sat at her dressing table, one hand braced on the table, the other pressed against her abdomen. The cramps didn't usually last this long, and they weren't usually this painful.

    "Here you are," Ulka said sympathetically, setting a steaming mug on the dressing table. "This moontime brew will make you feel different in no time."

    "Thanks, Ulka," Karla murmured. She had accepted Ulka into her Third Circle for the same reason she had accepted other witches from Glacia's aristo families—to placate them after she had exiled her uncle, Hobart. And while she didn't personally like Ulka, she had to admit the woman had been a solicitous companion this winter, fussing a little too much over the minor illnesses but having a good instinct of when to gossip and when to stay quiet.

    As soon as the brew cooled enough, Karla took a large swallow. Making a disgusted face, she set the mug down. The brew had an odd, rancid taste. Hell's fire, had some of the herbs gotten moldy or gone bad somehow? Then again, a lot of things hadn't tasted quite right to her all winter. Or maybe she'd just gotten spoiled by the delicious-tasting brews Jaenelle made. It didn't matter how it tasted. It wasn't going to ease the pain if it sat in the cup.

    As she reached for the mug again, she looked in the mirror. A chill ran through her when she saw the watchful anticipation in Ulka's eyes. "You poisoned it, didn't you?" Karla said flatly.

    "Yes," Ulka said, sounding smug and pleased.

    Karla felt her body sluggishly gathering itself to fight off the poison. Because she was a Black Widow, she had a stronger tolerance for poisons than other people would have, but even a Black Widow could succumb to a poison her body couldn't recognize or tolerate.

    As she stared at the other woman's reflection, she finally knew. All the minor illnesses, all the foods that had tasted a little off. And Ulka always there, being so helpful, acting so concerned. "You've slipped mild poisons into a lot of things this winter."


    Poisons which had weakened her body but never made her ill enough to become suspicious—despite having been warned of her own death in the tangled web she'd created last fall. Oh, she'd been careful. She knew too much about poisons not to be. The fact that she hadn't been able to detect the poisons meant that whatever plants had been used weren't native to Glacia. She would have recognized one ofthose instantly, no matter how it was disguised.

    With effort, Karla got to her feet. One moment her legs were full of fiery spikes, the next they were numb. She flooded her body with her Gray strength, accepting the pain her own power caused during her moontime in order to fight the poison.

    As one staggering wave of pain ripped through her, she felt the Ebony shield in the ring Jaenelle had given her surround her.

    "Why?" Karla asked. How could she have misjudged this bitch so badly? What had she missed?

    Ulka pouted. "I thought I would be an important Lady in your court. I should have been in your First Circle, not theThird. "

    "A witch who would poison her Queen isn't suitable to serve in the First Circle," Karla said dryly. "It's a question of loyalty."

    "Iwas loyal," Ulka snapped. "But being loyal to you didn't get me anywhere. And then I got a better offer. Once you're gone and Lord Hobart controls Glacia again, Iwill be an important Lady."

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