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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 115)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(115) by Anne Bishop
  • Theran had explained about the contract that gave Cassidy and the people of Dena Nehele one year to decide if Cassidy would become the fully acknowledged Queen of Dena Nehele.

    She didn’t have access to Cassidy’s court here, so she couldn’t use her skills to coax the men into believing she was the better choice. That meant she didn’t have an already formed court to claim, and that meant she was going to have to entice twelve males here to serve in her First Circle, andthat meant she couldn’t be seen as lacking in any way.

    Which meant getting a Sceltie.

    *Laska, please attend.*

    He hadn’t been with her when she first arrived in Grayhaven. Cassidy’s First Circle wouldn’t recognize him, so Cassidy would be the only person he’d have to avoid. He’d be able to slip in and out of that stupid Shalador village, fetching her a special little friend in exchange for being allowed to go home, which was theonly thing her First Circle seemed to want to do anymore.

    And once she had a Sceltie to help her entertain the men Theran brought here to meet her,no one would remember old Freckledy’s name.

    Wrapping himself in a sight shield, Laska dropped from the Summer-sky Wind to the northern landing web in Eyota. A handful of men were outside the small Coach station near the web, talking and playing cards. Probably a couple of Coach drivers along with the men who took care of the horses for hire and drove the carriages that served as conveyances for visitors.

    One of the men looked toward the landing web as Laska arrived. After a moment’s study of the area, the man returned his attention to the card game, and Laska snuck away, feeling more confident that he would remain undetected long enough to complete his assignment and return to Grayhaven.

    As he slipped along the village streets, looking for the required prize, he wondered why he couldn’t approach one of Cassidy’s First Circle and just ask for a dog. Why had Kermilla emphasized the need for stealth? Had she already asked Cassidy and the request had been refused? Or was Kermilla using this as a pissing contest to prove her court was better than the court Cassidy now ruled? That a member ofher court, a Summer-sky Warlord, could slip in and out of a village that several Warlord Princes regarded as their personal territory?

    He didn’t care anymore what Kermilla wanted. Her appeal had soured at a devastating speed once she had control of a court, and despite having months left in his contract, he was already counting the days until he wasn’t hers to command.

    A dog barked. Laska hurried toward the sound. Then he turned a corner, stopped, and swore under his breath.

    There were Scelties here all right, the first ones he’d seen. But he was on the main street of the damn village, and there were an awful lot of people out and about.

    Maybe that would work to his advantage. With so many people milling about, who would notice him in a crowd? And he wouldn’t have to go all the way back to the landing web. Courtesy and formality dictated that landing webs be used when arriving or leaving a village, but people could catch or drop from the Winds anywhere along the way. He didn’t even need to catch the Summer-sky Wind. Any of the lighter Webs would do. There wasn’t a thread of any Wind he could access running over the main street, but he’d be able to findsomething between here and the landing web.

    He could grab a Sceltie and be gone from this village before anyone realized the dog was missing. And once Kermilla had a special little friend, he would be allowed to go home.

    With that in mind, Laska retreated and circled round to approach the main street from the other direction.

    Breathing in that first scent of autumn, Ranon stopped at Elders’ Park and looked at the main street of Eyota, his heart aching with pride.

    They had done so much. The businesses owned by Daemon Sadi were in operation. The Lady’s Pleasure—named, he’d been told, for Lady Angelline’s enjoyment of the beverage—served coffee imported from Kaeleer, which was much smoother than the rough drink he’d always known as coffee. They also served small cups of thick hot chocolate—frightfully expensive, but a drink a young man bought a lady he wanted to impress. Small sandwiches and pastries were also served.

    The coffee shop provided a playroom and a fenced outdoor play area for young children so that mothers could have a quiet moment to visit with friends. The shop had hired two young witches to watch the children, as well as Kharr and Bryant, two Warlord Scelties with a no-nonsense attitude when it came to herdinganything.

    The shop had been open a week, and it already was an important gathering place, as was Whistler’s Tavern. The tavern also served food—mostly sandwiches in the warm weather, but it would serve soups, stews, and meat pies once the season turned colder.

    Merchants, the variety shop managed by Lord Careth, had received its first shipment of practical goods from Kaeleer, along with a crate of books that would have made Gray whimper in lust if four crates of books for the loaning library hadn’t arrived at the same time. Gray had spent an evening helping the newly hired librarian sort the books just so he could look at them.

    And then there was Heartbeat, the music shop, where Ranon was meeting his grandfather to look over the instruments. Yairen wanted to hear the Scelt whistle, an instrument similar enough to the Shalador flute. Being made of metal instead of wood, the Scelt whistles were less expensive, and Yairen wanted to consider if they could be used as a beginning instrument for youngsters here.

    “I’m going up the street to see Yairen,” Ranon told Khollie. “You’re going to stay here for story time?”

    *Yes.* Khollie wagged his tail. *Wynne is here, and Vae and Darcy are here, and Mist is coming soon.*

    “All right. If I’m not at the music shop when story time is done, I’ll be nearby.”

    Shaking his head in amusement, Ranon continued up the street. Next month, when the weather turned colder, the weekly afternoon story time would move to the room in Heartbeat where performances and lessons would be held. Indoors or outdoors, hearing Shalador stories told in public was a strange experience for the whole village.

    Having Scelties in the audience who wouldn’t tolerate children misbehaving and interrupting the storyteller was also a strange experience. Not that there was much misbehavior but, somehow, it was more shaming to be nipped by a Sceltie than cuffed by an adult.

    Hurt more, too.

    He entered the shop and nodded to the Shaladoran couple who had been hired to run the shop and teach music. Laithan taught Shalador flute and the fiddle. He had been one of Yairen’s students—one of the last to learn from the Tradition Keeper before the old man’s hands were broken for good. Jade had a lovely voice and ran two classes to teach the traditional Shalador songs. Mostly, though, Jade ran the business end of the shop.

    And Lizzie, the Sceltie who had claimed the music shop asher place, ran everyone.

    “There you are, grandson,” Yairen said. “Laithan has given me some of his time to hear the drum that came from the Isle of Scelt. Now it is your turn so I can hear the metal flute.”

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