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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(129) by Anne Bishop
  • "Kaelas," Lucivar said, answering the unspoken question.

    "I see," Saetan said quietly. "You're returning to Ebon Rih?"

    Lucivar shook his head. "I'm taking a few men to the Dark Altar in Glacia to look around, see if there are any answers there."

    "Our Queen's order was quite direct," Saetan said mildly.

    "I'll risk her anger."

    Saetan nodded. "Then, as Steward of the Court, I formally request that you go to the Dark Altar in Glacia to determine what happened."

    "I don't need to hide behind your title," Lucivar snapped.

    Saetan smiled dryly. "I'm doing this as much for Jaenelle as for you. This way, she can gracefully back away from having to confront you about disobeying a direct order."

    "Oh. In that case..."

    "Get going, boyo. Report to me at the Hall. And Prince Yaslana," Saetan added when Lucivar reached the door, "remember Glacia isn't your territory. You're not the law there."

    "Yes, sir, I'll remember. We just witness and report."

    3 / Kaeleer

    Seeing the guarded look in Marian's eyes and the way Luthvian managed to convey silently her disapproval of her son's choice of a wife, Surreal wondered how pissed off Lucivar would be if they took his mother into the garden and used her for target practice.

    "How did you manage to bake anything this morning?" Nurian, the journeymaid Healer, asked as she accepted a nutcake from the plate Marian was passing around. "And how do you get anything else done after these morning workouts?"

    "Oh," Marian said with a shy smile, "I'm used to it by now, and—"

    "You're a Healer," Luthvian interrupted, giving Nurian a cool stare."Your finding it difficult to practice a demanding Craft after these workouts is understandable. But they're hardly an excuse for neglecting one's duties when you're talking abouthearth Craft. After all—"

    "If you'll excuse us," Surreal said, hauling Luthvian to her feet. "There's something Lady Luthvian and I need to discuss."

    "Let go of me," Luthvian snarled as Surreal dragged her out of the room. "You don't treat a Black Widow Healer like she was—"

    "A hearth-witch?" Surreal said with venomous sweetness as she shoved Luthvian into the garden.

    "Exactly," Luthvian replied darkly. "But I don't suppose awhore —"

    "Shut up, bitch," Surreal said too quietly.

    Luthvian sucked in air. "You forget your place!"

    "No, sugar, that's exactly what I'm not forgetting. You may belong to a higher caste, but my Jewels outrank yours. I figure that evens things out—at least within the family. You don't like me, and that suits me just fine because I don't like you either."

    "Crossing a Black Widow isn't wise," Luthvian said softly.

    "Crossing an assassin isn't wise either." Surreal smiled when Luthvian's eyes widened. "So let's make this simple. If you make one more disparaging remark about Marian, I'm going to bang your face against the wall until some sense gets knocked into you."

    "What do you think Lucivar would say aboutthat ?Luthvian's voice sounded certain, but there was doubt in her eyes.

    "Oh," Surreal replied, "I don't think Lucivar would say anything tome." Watching the verbal thrust hit the mark, she felt a brief moment of pity for Luthvian. The woman drove people away, and then seemed bewildered to find herself alone.

    "He could have done better," Luthvian grumbled. "He didn't have to settle for a Purple Dusk hearth-witch."

    Surreal studied Luthvian. "This doesn't have anything to do with Lucivar, does it? You're embarrassed becauseyour son married ahearth-witch. Marian is just a gentle, caring woman who loves him and whose presence makes him happy. If he had married a Black Widow Healer and was miserable, well, that would have been all right because he had married a woman worthy of a Warlord Prince. Right?"Besides, she added silently,the High Lord approves of his son's choice. Which, she suspected, was the major reason Luthvian never would. "Remember what I said, Luthvian." She started to walk away.

    "Just because the High Lord tolerates your using the SaDiablo name doesn't change what you were—and still are," Luthvian said nastily.

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