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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Queen of the Darkness (Chapter 38)      Page
  • Queen of the Darkness(Black Jewels,Book 3)(38) by Anne Bishop
  • Pulling her shawl more tightly around her, Alexandra Angelline wrapped her arms around her waist as she stared out the streaked inn window that overlooked the service fairgrounds. The rain that had started falling an hour earlier was more of a drizzle that only managed to smear the dirt that covered everything rather than a downpour that would wash it away.

    This is Kaeleer?she thought bleakly.This is the Shadow Realm that so many were so desperate to reach? Oh, it was probably unfair to judge an entire Realm by ground that had been scraped bare by the hundreds of people who had waited there, hoping to be chosen for a service contract. But she knew that, no matter what else she saw, this is what she would always picture whenever someone mentioned Kaeleer.

    She felt someone approach, but didn't turn when her daughter, Leland, joined her at the window.

    "Why would Wilhelmina have wanted to come to this place?" Leland murmured. "I'll be glad when we can leave here."

    "You don't have to stay, Leland. Especially now that Vania and Nyselle have so graciously insisted on accompanying me."

    "They didn't come with us out of loyalty," Leland said quietly but bitterly. "They just wanted a chance to see the Shadow Realm and knew they might not get in any other way."

    Alexandra clenched her teeth while the truth of Leland's remark gnawed at her. Vania and Nyselle, the two Province Queens who grudgingly had accompanied her to Hayll, had become sickening in their solicitousness as soon as she announced she was going to Kaeleer to look for Wilhelmina. So they and their Consorts had come with her, along with Philip and Leland and a five-man escort. Four of the escorts had come with her from Chaillot. The other one, chosen by Dorothea SaDiablo, had been "borrowed" from one of Dorothea's pet Queens in another Territory. The man made her skin crawl, but Dorothea had assured her that he would be able to slip Wilhelmina away from her "captors" and deliver her to another loyal group of males already in position in Kaeleer.

    It pains me to say it,Dorothea had said,but if you can free only one of your granddaughters from the High Lord's control, it must be Jaenelle. She is the danger to Terreille.

    Alexandra didn't believe for a moment that Jaenelle was anything more than a stalking-horse being used to hide whoever—or whatever—was thereal threat to Terreille. But, sweet Darkness, she hoped she wouldn't have to make a choice between Wilhelmina and Jaenelle—because she knew in her heart which child would be left behind.

    "Besides," Leland added softly, "I need to stay. She was always such a strange child, but Jaenelle was ... is ... my daughter. To think she's been under that monster's control all this time..." Leland shuddered. "There's no telling what he's done to her."

    And no way to tell what had been done to her in Briarwood. Had she really been mentally fragile or had that place made her so? No, she decided firmly. Jaenelle's stays at Briarwood might have weakened an already fragile stability, but the child's eccentricities had been the reason why she had decided to send the girl to Briarwood in the first place.

    "What are we going to do?" Leland asked quietly.

    Alexandra looked over her shoulder at the other people restlessly waiting for her decision. Philip, whose self-control had broken several times while he'd given her Lord Jorval's information, would go with her, not only because he had married Leland, but also because he genuinely cared for Wilhelmina and Jaenelle. Vania and Nyselle would go in order to see more of Kaeleer than this dirty piece of barren ground. The Consorts and escorts would follow the Queens out of duty. Would curiosity and duty be enough against something like the High Lord?

    It didn't matter. She would take whatever help she could get.

    As she turned back to the window, she said, "Prince Alexander, please arrange passage on a Coach as soon as possible. We're going to SaDiablo Hall."

    5 / Kaeleer

    Certain that he had more muscle aches than muscles, Daemon slowly made his way to the great hall where, Beale had informed him, the High Lord was waiting.

    Never again. Never never never. He should have remembered what "I'll start you off easy" meant, should have remembered that other kinds of exercise didn't prepare the body for Eyrien weapons drills. Oh, if he wanted to be fair—and he had no intention of being fair in the foreseeable future—Lucivarhad started him with the basic warmup drills. But even moving at the practice pace, when you had Lucivar as a working partner, youworked.

    Then he opened a door at the far end of the great hall and forgot about his aching muscles when he saw Saetan brush the hair away from the face of an attractive Dhemlan witch. There was tenderness in that action, and affection as well. Wondering if he was reading things correctly, he moved forward as quietly as possible.

    The witch noticed him first. Looking flustered, she took a long step back and watched him tensely. But it was the flash of anger he picked up from his father that made him wary.

    Then Saetan turned, saw him, and relaxed for a moment before hurrying toward him.

    "What happened to you?" Saetan demanded. "Are you hurt?"

    "Lucivar happened to me," Daemon replied through gritted teeth.

    "Why were you and Lucivar tangling?" Saetan asked in a deceptively neutral voice that had a strong undertone of parental disapproval.

    "We weren't tangling, we were drilling. But I'm delighted that someone besides me has trouble understanding the distinction."

    The witch turned away from them and started making funny noises. When she turned back, her gold eyes were bright with laughter. "I'm sorry," she said, not sounding the least bit sorry. "Having been on the receiving end of Lucivar's instruction, I understand how you feel."

    "Why were you doing weapons drills with Lucivar?" Saetan asked.

    "Because I'm an idiot." Daemon raised his hand to brush the hair off his forehead. His arm froze halfway through the motion, stuck. He slowly lowered his arm, grateful it would go back down. "I really want to be there the next time Jaenelle puts him in the dirt."

    "Who doesn't?" the witch murmured.

    Saetan let out an exasperated sigh. "Sylvia, this is Daemon Sadi. Daemon, this is Lady Sylvia, the Queen of Halaway."

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