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  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(160) by Anne Bishop
  • "They can survive a little shame."

    Karla laid a hand on Gabrielle's arm. Trying to keep her voice reasonable, she said, "I don't think there's any choice now, Jaenelle. If we don't stop retreating and start attacking, we aren't going to have a place to take a stand when the Terreillean armiesdo get here."

    "They won't receive orders to enter Kaeleer for a few more days. By then, it won't make any difference."

    "Because we'll be forced to surrender," Gabrielle snapped.

    Karla's hand tightened on Gabrielle's arm. She didn't have much strength, but the gesture was enough to leash the other Queen's temper—at least for the moment.

    "Is Kaeleer finally going to war with Terreille?" she asked.

    "No," Jaenelle said. "Kaeleer will not go to war with Terreille."

    It was the slight inflection that made ice run through Karla's body. The way Gabrielle's arm tensed under her hand, she knew the other woman had heard it, too.

    "Then whois going to war with Terreille?"

    Jaenelle turned around.

    Gabrielle sucked in her breath.

    For the first time, they were seeing the dream beneath the flesh.

    Karla stared at the pointed ears that had come from the Dea al Mon, the hands with sheathed claws that had come from the Tigre, the hooves peeking out from beneath the black gown that could have come from the centaurs or the horses or the unicorns. Most of all, she stared at the tiny spiral horn.

    The living myth. Dreams made flesh. But, oh, had any of them really thought about who the dreamers had been?

    No wonder the kindred love her. No wonder we'veallloved her.

    Karla quietly cleared her throat to ask the question she suddenly hoped wouldn't be answered. "Who is going to war with Terreille?"

    "I am," Witch said.

    Chapter Fifteen

    1 / Terreille

    Half-blinded by the pain inflicted on him during the past two days, Saetan watched Hekatah approach and give him a long, slow study. Whenever the whim had struck either of them, she and Dorothea had used the Ring of Obedience on him, but more carefully now, stopping just before the moment when he would have fainted from the pain. Worse, for him, they had left him chained to the post through the daylight hours. Already weakened by pain, the afternoon sun had drained his psychic strength and stabbed at his eyes, producing a headache so violent even the pain from the Ring couldn't engulf it.

    Bit by bit, pain had chewed away all the revitalizing effects Jaenelle's tonics had produced in him, changing his body back to where it had been when he'd first met her— closer to the demon-dead than to the living.

    If he could have made a fast transition from Guardian to demon-dead, he might have considered it—the kind of transition Andulvar and Prothvar had made on the battlefield all those long centuries ago. They had both been so deep in battle fury, they hadn't even realized they had received deathblows. If he could have done it that way, he might have. It would be easy enough to slit a vein and bleed himself out, and there would be less pain. But he would be more vulnerable, and without a supply of fresh blood, the sunlight would weaken him to the point that, when Jaenelle finally came, he would be a liability to her instead of finding some way to fight with her.

    When Jaenelle finally came.If Jaenelle ever came. She should have reacted by now, should have been there by now—if she was coming at all.

    "I think it's time to send Jaenelle another little gift," Hekatah said, her girlish voice now slurred by the misshapen jaw. "Another finger?" She used the same tone another woman might use when trying to decide the merits of serving one dish over another at dinner. "Perhaps a toe this time. No, too insignificant. An eye? Too disfiguring. We don't want her to start thinking you've become too repulsive to rescue." Her eyes focused on his balls—and she smiled. "It's dead meat now, but it will still be useful forthis anyway."

    He didn't react. Wouldn't allow himself to react. Itwas dead meat now—the last part revitalized, the first part to die. He wouldn't react. And he wouldn't think of Sylvia. Not now. Not ever again.

    With their eyes locked on each other, Hekatah stepped closer, closer. One of her hands stroked him, caressed him, closed around him to hold him for the knife.

    An enraged shriek tore through the normal nighttime sounds.

    Hekatah jumped back and whirled toward the sound.

    Surreal came flying into the camp as if she'd been tossed by a huge hand. Her feet hit the ground first, but she couldn't stop the forward momentum. She tucked and rolled, coming up on her knees facing the darkness beyond the area illuminated by candle-lights.

    "YOU COLD-BLOODED, HEARTLESS BASTARD!" Surreal screamed. "YOU GUTLESS SON OF A WHORING BITCH!"

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire