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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Queen of the Darkness (Chapter 15)      Page
  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(15) by Anne Bishop
  • Snarling, Lucivar strode to the table, slipped through the line of confused, upset Eyriens, and stopped beside the man who was still pretending not to notice any of them.

    "Is there a problem, Lord Friall?" Lucivar asked mildly.

    Friall shook back the lace at his wrists and continued to gather up his papers. "The bell ending the fair has rung. If these people are still available when you arrive tomorrow for claiming day, you can sign them to a contract under the first-offer rule."

    Daemon tensed. Lord Jorval had explained the first-offer rule of the service fair several times. During the fair, immigrants had the right to refuse an offer to serve in a court, or wait to see if another offer was made from a different court, or try to negotiate for a better position. But the day after the service fair was a claiming day. There was only one choice. Immigrants could accept whatever was offered by the first court to fill out a claim for them—and Jorval had implied that any position offered at a claiming was usually a demeaning one—or they could return to Terreille and attempt to come back for the next fair. He had spent two million gold marks in bribes in order to get on the immigration list for this service fair. He had the means to do it again if he dared risk going back to Terreille. But most had spent everything they had for this one chance at a hopefully better life. They would sign a contract for the privilege of crawling if that was the only way to stay in Kaeleer.

    "Now, Lord Friall," Lucivar said, still sounding mild, "you know as well as I do that a person has to be accepted before the final bell, but there's an hour afterward for the contracts to be filled out and signed."

    "If you want to sign the contract for the ones already listed, you can take them with you now. The others will have to wait until tomorrow," Friall insisted.

    Lucivar raised his right hand and scratched his chin.

    The rest happened so fast, Daemon didn't even see the move. One moment, Lucivar was scratching his chin. The next, his Eyrien war blade was delicately resting on Friall's left wrist.

    "Now," Lucivar said pleasantly, "you can finish filling out that contract or I can cut off your left hand. Your choice."

    "Shit," Surreal muttered as she moved closer to Daemon.

    "You can't do this," Friall whimpered.

    Lucivar's hand didn't seem to move, but a thin line of blood began to flow from Friall's wrist.

    "I'll inform the Council," Friall wailed. "You'll be in trouble."

    "Maybe," Lucivar replied. "But you'll still be without a left hand. If you're lucky, that's all you'll lose. If you're not"

    A hurried movement made Daemon glance to the left. Lord Magstrom, the Dark Council member he had first talked with, stopped at the other end of the table.

    "May I be of some assistance, Prince Yaslana?" the elderly man asked breathlessly.

    Lucivar looked up, and Magstrom froze. The color drained from his face.

    "Mother Night," Aaron muttered. "He's risen to the killing edge."

    Daemon didn't move. Neither did anyone else. A Warlord Prince who had risen to the killing edge was violent and uncontrollable. He wore the Black, the only Jewel darker than Lucivar's Ebon-gray, but any effort he made to try to contain his brother would only snap whatever self-control Lucivar still had. At the very least, Friall would die. At the worst, there would be a slaughter.

    "Lord Friall says the contracts can't be filled out after the last bell," Lucivar said with deceptive mildness.

    "I'm sure he misunderstood," Magstrom replied quickly. "There's an hour's leniency after the last bell in order to fill out the papers." When Lucivar said nothing, he took a careful breath. "Lord Friall seems to be indisposed. With your permission, I will finish filling out the contracts."

    By this time, the white lace around Friall's left wrist was a wet, bright red. Snot ran from the man's nose as he wept silently.

    At Lucivar's slight nod, Magstrom pulled the papers away from the small pool of blood on the table and picked up the pen lying next to them. Retreating to the other end of the table, Magstrom sat down.

    Lucivar raised his left hand and pointed at Daemon. "He's first."

    Magstrom filled out the top of the contract and then looked at Daemon expectantly. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead.

    Move, damn you, move.For a tense moment, Daemon's body refused to obey. When his legs finally started working, he had the chilling sensation that he was walking on thin, cracked ice where one false step could lead to disaster.

    "Daemon Sadi," Magstrom said quietly, writing the name in neat script. "From Hayll, isn't that right?"

    "Yes," Daemon replied. To his own ears, his voice sounded hoarse, hollow. If Magstrom noticed, the man gave no indication.

    "When we met, I recall that you said you wore a dark Jewel, but I don't remember which one."

    When he'd met with Magstrom, he'd said the Red was his Birthright Jewel, but he had evaded mentioning his Jewel of rank. There could be no evading now. "The Black."

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