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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 161)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(161) by Anne Bishop
  • Talon said that every time they had played, even though Theran won almost half the time.

    Theran smiled as he called in the chess set that had been a Winsol gift from a few years back.

    They played until midnight, then shared a traditional cup of blooded rum to celebrate Winsol. An hour later, Talon caught the Winds and headed back to Eyota.

    For an hour after that, Theran sat by the fire, swirling brandy in a snifter and staring at the flames—and feeling oddly content.

    CHAPTER 35


    “Lady Kermilla.” Sabrina gestured to the visitor’s chair before taking her seat behind the desk. “I don’t usually grant audiences the day after the Winsol holidays, but I didn’t think this discussion should wait any longer—which is why my Steward yielded to your request and made this appointment.”

    Kermilla sat in the chair. “There has been a serious misunderstanding.” “Yes.” Sabrina opened the file on her desk. “That error is as much my fault as yours. I had thought that a First Circle that was experienced working together could balance the inexperience of a Queen ruling her first territory. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and too much damage was done before the problems were discovered to rectify the matter in any way except starting over.”

    Kermilla frowned. “I don’t understand.”

    Sabrina sighed and sat back in her chair. “Like other Blood whose innate abilities are linked to their caste, Queens have an instinctive desire to rule and maintain the Blood’s connection to the land. A Queen is born a Queen, but she also needs training in order to be agood Queen. In the usual way of things, you would have gone from your training with a District Queen to serving in the Second or Third Circle of a Province Queen to continue your education. Instead, you stepped into another Queen’s place, acquiring her court and the villages she ruled.”

    “That courtwanted to serve me!” Kermilla felt the sting of Sabrina’s words because it sounded like Cassidy had handed over things the freckle-faced bitch no longer wanted instead of herwinning over those men.

    “Yes, they did,” Sabrina said. “And the decision to let you rule Bhak and Woolskin was based on their experience, not yours, and the assumption that they would have the collective balls to stand firm if your inexperience was leading the court or the people you ruled into trouble. That wasn’t the case.”

    Kermilla lifted her chin. “A friend needed my help and my counsel. Since theywere experienced, I thought my court would be able to handle Bhak and Woolskin during my visit. I was wrong.”

    “Visit?” Sabrina tapped her fingertips together. “You haven’t been in residence in Bhak since early summer. Being absent from the village you’re supposed to be ruling for almost half a year isn’t visiting a friend; it’s blatant neglect of your duties—especially when you had a one-year provisional contract to prove yourself capable of ruling. If you truly needed that much time away to help a friend, you should have discussed it with Lady Darlena or me. We could have suspended your contract and reassigned your court until you returned. Or we might have allowed your court to manage the villages in your absence and had your Steward and Master of the Guard report directly to Lady Darlena.”

    Having Darlena or Sabrina poking their noses into her finances was exactly what she’d been trying to avoid. And their Stewardswould have poked into everything, just like they did when they came to collect the autumn tithes and started all this trouble.

    Kermilla lifted her chin a little higher. “Frankly, Lady Sabrina, I don’t think Bhak is a sufficient challenge for someone of my abilities, and that was part of the reason for my absence. But I’m back now, and I’ll get things straightened out.”

    “Things are already straightened out,” Sabrina said. “And to be just as frank, Lady Kermilla, looking at the desperate situation in two villages that were happy and prosperous a year ago, my conclusion is that ruling a small village like Bhak ismore than your current abilities can handle.” She slapped the file closed and let out an angry sigh. “There’s no easy way to say this. I’ve given you an opportunity to voice your opinion, so let’s end this dance. You failed to prove your ability to rule. At their request, the villages under your hand will be given to another Queen when your contract ends this spring. Since the villages are in her Province, Lady Darlena will rule Bhak and Woolskin unofficially until that time. You may reside in the Queen’s house until spring if you choose, but you’ll be living in Bhak as a resident of the village,not as the ruling Queen.”

    “That isn’t fair!”

    “No, it isn’t fair considering the misery you’ve caused other people, but providing you with food and lodging and servants whose wages don’t come out of your pocket is my concession, since I should have kept a closer watch on you in the first place!”

    Kermilla sat back, stunned.

    “I am aware that you no longer have the twelve men required to form an official court,” Sabrina continued. “And I am aware ofwhy you no longer have twelve men.”

    “I can explain that.”

    “No, you can’t, and I strongly suggest you don’t try. As for the remaining members of your First Circle, officially they’re still yours to command until spring since they signed a contract of service with you. However, you should be aware that Lord Jhorma feels he is no longer able to fulfill his duties as a consort and has asked to be reassigned to escort duties for the remainder of his contract. That request was granted. The rest of your men have requested that their service to you be confined to duties in Bhak and Woolskin, whether you’re residing there or not. That request was also granted. And any orders that go beyond ordinary court assignments must be approved by Darlena’s Steward or Master, regardless of who gives those orders.”

    “So I have a court in name only?”


    Feeling weak and dizzy, Kermilla stared at the Queen of Dharo. “What am I supposed to do?”

    “It’s clear now that you needed an older—and firmer—hand than Cassidy’s to guide you and help you understand your responsibilities as a Queen. It’s also clear that your training failed. That gives you two choices, Kermilla. You can apply to serve in another Queen’s court now, with no chance of ever ruling on your own, or you can go through the training again. All of it—repeating the lessons you should have learned in Cassidy’s court as well as serving in another Queen’s court for two years. At the end of that time, if the Province Queens and I are convinced that you’re ready, you will be permitted to form another court and you’ll be given the opportunity to rule another village.”

    “And if I form another court without this training?”

    “You won’t form another court in my Territory without that training,” Sabrina said, her voice filled with cold steel.

    “And if I do?” Kermilla persisted.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire