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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(159) by Anne Bishop
  • So he would play out his game—and Surreal would have a chance to dance with the Sadist.

    He walked into the workroom and snarled at Jaenelle, "I'll need a couple more items."

    Her eyes widened when he told her what he wanted, but she didn't say anything except, "I think I'd better give you a Ring that has a shieldno one can get through."

    Since he figured both Lucivar and Surreal would want to tear his heart out in a few hours' time, he thought that was an excellent idea.

    The three of them stood outside the room that held the Dark Altar at the Keep.

    Jaenelle hugged Surreal. "May the Darkness embrace you, Sister."

    "We'll get them back," Surreal said, returning the hug. "Count on it." Glancing at Daemon, she went into the Altar's room and quietly closed the door.

    Daemon just looked at Jaenelle, his heart too full to say anything. Besides, words seemed so inadequate at the moment. He brushed a thumb across her cheek, kissed her gently. Then he took a deep breath. "The game begins at midnight."

    "And at midnight, seventy-two hours later, you're going to be riding the Winds back to the Keep in Terreille. No stops, no delays." She paused, waited for him to nod agreement, then added, "Don't ride any Wind darker than the Red. The others will be unstable."

    It took effort to keep his jaw from dropping. A strong witch storm could create a disturbance onpart of the psychic roadways through the Darkness, could even throw someone off the Web to be lost in the Darkness, but "unstable" sounded much, much worse.

    "All right," he finally said. "We'll stay on the Red."

    "Daemon," Jaenelle said softly, "I want you to promise me something."

    "Anything."

    Her eyes filled with tears. It took her a moment to regain control. "Thirteen years ago, you gave everything you had in order to help me."

    "And I'll give you everything again," he replied just as softly.

    She shook her head fiercely. "No. No more sacrifices, Daemon. Not from you. That's what I want you to promise me." She swallowed hard. "The Keep is going to be the only safe place. I want your promise that, at the appointed hour, you'll be on your way there. No matter who you have to walk away from, no matter who you have to leave behind,you must get to the Keep before dawn. Promise me, Daemon." She gripped his arm hard enough to hurt. "I have to know you'll be safe. Promise me."

    Gently, he removed her hand, then raised it to place a kiss in her palm—and smiled. "I'm not going to do anything that will make me late for my own wedding."

    Pain flashed in her eyes, making him wonder if she reallywanted to marry him. No. He wouldn't begin to doubt, couldn'tafford to doubt. "I'll come back to you," he said. "I swear it."

    She gave him a brief, fierce kiss. "See that you do."

    She looked pale and exhausted. There were dark smudges under her eyes. She had never looked more beautiful to him.

    "I'll see you in a few days."

    "Good-bye, Daemon. I love you."

    As he approached the Dark Altar that was a Gate between the Realms, he didn't find Jaenelle's last words reassuring.

    22 / Kaeleer

    Karla eased herself into a chair in Jaenelle's sitting room. She could use Craft to float herself from place to place, and could even stand on her own now for a little while with the help of two canes. But channeling power through her body left her quickly exhausted, and standing made her legs ache. Still, the daily cup of Jaenelle's tonicwas working. But she had an uneasy feeling she would need her strength for something else very soon.

    It was the first time since Jaenelle had refused to allow Kaeleer to go to war that Karla had seen her. But even now, whenJaenelle had summoned her and Gabrielle, the Queen of Ebon Askavi was keeping her back to them, just staring out the window.

    "I need the two of you to keep the boyos leashed for another few days," Jaenelle said quietly. "It won't be easy, but it's necessary."

    "Why?" Gabrielle demanded. "Hell's fire, Jaenelle, we need to gather into armies andfight. Scattered the way we are now, we're barely holding our own and we aren't even fighting the armies that are bound to come in from Terreille, just the Terreilleans who were already in Kaeleer. Thebastards. It's time to go to war. Wehave to go to war. It's not just the people who are dying. Theland is being destroyed, too."

    "The Queens can heal the land," Jaenelle replied, still not looking at them. "That is the Queens' special gift. And not as many of our people have died as you seem to think."

    "No," Gabrielle said bitterly, "they're just dying of shame because they've been ordered to abandon their land."

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire