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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 3)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(3) by Anne Bishop
  • “What?” Theran almost dropped the coffeepot. “We’re doingwhat ?”

    “Going to the Shalador reserves,” Cassidy replied calmly. “The Shalador Queens invited me. They want me to see the land their people are subsisting on, want me to see the truth of their concerns.”

    “It’s not safe,” Theran said. It had been his automatic response to all of Cassidy’s attempts to get out among the people, but this time he really was concerned about her safety and not what people would think about the Queen who now ruled them.

    He poured his coffee and began to eat because he needed to fill his belly.

    “Then it’s up to Talon as Master of the Guard and Ranon as his second-i n-command to make it safe,” Cassidy said.

    “If we were going to the southern or western reserves, I would agree with Theran,” Shira said. “They border other Territories, and the people there are as desperate as we are when it comes to repairing their lives and land.”

    “What are you concerned about?” Cassidy asked Shira. “That they’ll try to abduct me?”

    “Yes.”

    Silence around the table. A sharpening of psychic scents as the Warlord Princes who served in the First Circle put an edge on tempers that were always well-honed.

    “You underestimate your value, Lady,” Shira said. “You don’t know how much a good Queen is worth in Terreille. Especially now.”

    “An abducted Queen isn’t worth anything,” Cassidy countered. “You can’t force her to rule.”

    “But abducting a Queen could start another war.”

    Cassidy leaned back, clearly startled by that possibility.

    “Ranon’s home village is in the eastern reserve, far enough away from other Territory borders to be safe, and it’s backed by the Tamanara Mountains,” Shira said. “Protected on all sides.”

    “But not protected from what’s inside,” Theran said.

    “The Shalador people have no reason to wish Lady Cassidy harm,” Shira said coolly.

    “Prince Grayhaven, you can debate this all you want, but my decision is made,” Cassidy said. “Five days from now, I’ll be staying at the Shalador reserve. You, Powell, and Talon will discuss what needs to be done in order to accomplish that.”

    She would have backed down a fortnight ago, Theran thought. She would have respected that he knew more about what Dena Nehele needed than she did—and the other Warlord Princes who served her wouldn’t have opposed him.

    Aleader, but no longerthe leader.

    He felt as if he’d lost something too elusive to name, but the sense of loss was real.

    “In that case, I’ll get started on the plans,” Theran said, pushing away from the table. He picked up his plate and coffee mug. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll finish my breakfast while I work.”

    He barely waited for her nod of dismissal, but he waited because Protocol required it. Then he walked out of the dining room to finish his meal away from the woman he’d brought into his land.

    Cassidy might do some good during the year she was contracted to rule here. But letting the Shalador people think they were more significant than the rest of Dena Nehele wasn’t going to help anyone.

    That was Ranon’s doing. He never let anyone forget that the Shalador people had borne the brunt of the cruelty that Dorothea’s Queens had heaped on the people of Dena Nehele.

    And Ranon never lethim forget that if his family name had been anything but Grayhaven, Theran would have been living the same desperate life on one of the reserves as the rest of the Shalador people.

    Which implied his life had been easy, and that wasn’t true. As the last of the Grayhaven line, he’d grown up in the rogue camps that were hidden in the Tamanara Mountains, living among men who would fight to the death and beyond rather than serve a Queen who wanted them to whore their code of honor. He’d been trained by Talon, a Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince who had been demon-dead for almost three hundred years—and who had been a friend to both Jared and Blaed, the Warlord Prince who had helped Jared elude Dorothea SaDiablo’s guards and get Lia back to Dena Nehele.

    Not an easy life by any measurement, but other men had survived worse. Gray, for one.

    It was only for a year, he thought as he ducked into a room to finish his meal. Notthat much could change.

    As he ate, he ignored the little whisper telling him that a great deal had changed already.

    The only thing left on the table was porridge.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire