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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 164)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(164) by Anne Bishop
  • “I thought we devoured them all at dinner last night,” Cassidy said.

    Birdie smiled. “We put a couple aside to go with your morning pot of tea.”

    Grinning, Cassidy went to her office. A fire was burning nicely. A heavy shawl and blanket were laid out on the stuffed chair near the hearth, in case she began to feel chilled while working at her desk. And Powell had sorted through the new sack of mail, separating correspondence from family and friends from invitations, requests for audiences, and correspondence from Dena Nehele’s Queens. There were also pens and a stack of the inexpensive paper she preferred using for notes and instructions within the court.

    Sitting at the desk, she closed her eyes.

    It was lovely to feel cared for, to have someone do little things like save a fruit tart or make sure pens and paper were easily at hand. It was lovely to hear Birdie and Frannie singing while they tidied up the Residence, to hear Elle and Maydra laughing, to hear the ease in Dryden’s voice when he asked her to wait a moment while he instructed the young footman in the proper way to do something that involved her.

    And it was a relief that her First Circle was finally learning to relax a bit. She’d notice a difference in all of them during the second half of Winsol. Oh, there was still the sharp, assessing glance whenever anyone who wasn’t First Circle approached her, and her men werealways going to rise to the killing edge when someone outside the court or the home village came near her—Jaenelle’s last note confirmedthat . But some underlying tension had disappeared. Shira also had noticed the difference but couldn’t explain it either, so they’d concluded that it was something men considered private and wouldn’t divulge unless given a direct order from their Queen.

    And their Queen didn’t see any reason to push them about something that had made them happier.

    Opening her eyes, Cassidy picked up the letter opener and started on the stack of correspondence from the Queens.

    It was lovely to receive these notes, to read the caution and hope beneath the stiff phrases of the Queens in the northern Provinces and to read the growing confidence and warmth of the Queens in the Shalador reserves and the southern Provinces.

    Many of them were interested in sending members of their courts to learn from the two Protocol instructors she had hired to work with courts and teachers so that the people of Dena Nehele would learn Protocol and the Old Ways from people who lived by the Old Ways. Two of the cottages in the Queen’s square were being repaired and cleaned for the Warlord and witch. They still hadn’t decided where the “school” would be located. She’d suggested another empty cottage in the square. Her First Circle had vehemently opposed having that many strangers coming and going within the boundaries of land that was supposed to be secure ground.

    She’d resigned herself to the time it would take to negotiate with her men. Hell’s fire, it had taken days to get them to agree to let the instructors live in the square, and they only gave in aboutthat after Gray, Ranon, and Talon met the two people at the Keep—and received confirmation that Prince Sadi and the High Lord approved of these instructors and thought they would fit in easily with Eyota’s residents. What sealed the deal was learning that the Warlord came from Scelt and was used to living around Scelties and the Lady from Nharkhava, being an enthusiastic reader of the Tracker and Shadow stories, was willing to learn to live with Scelties.

    Cassidy glanced at Vae, who was snoozing in front of the hearth.

    Let the Lady from Nharkhava learn on her own like the rest of us did,Cassidy thought as she opened the last letter in that stack—a letter that bore the Grayhaven seal.

    Then she forgot about Scelties and Protocol instructors, forgot about the spiced tea and fruit tarts, forgot about all the hope and promise in the letters she had already read.

    She’d been so happy and so busy building a life and working to fulfill her promise to these people that she’d forgotten it was temporary—until this note from Kermilla reminded her.

    “. . .I’m sure you won’t do anything to make the transition difficult . . . valuable asset to the Territory . . . treat the reserves like a Province and appoint you their Queen. ”

    “To do what, Kermilla?” Cassidy asked. “Encourage these people to break their backs and their hearts so that you can buy another fancy dress?”

    Vae raised her head. *Cassie?*

    “I can’t do that to them. Iwon’t do that to them.”


    She wasn’t aware of Vae leaving the room, but the Sceltie returned with Powell.

    “Vae says something upset you,” Powell said. “What’s wrong?”

    “I forgot.”

    “I’m sorry, Lady. I don’t understand.”

    She handed him the note.

    His expression turned grim. “I didn’t think Theran was really that much of a fool.” Then he sighed. “The First Circle is out and about on the court’s business, so there’s nothing to do about this bit of information until evening when everyone has returned and Talon can join us. We can discuss it then.”

    What was there to discuss? In another two months, she wouldn’t have a court. Just like the last time.

    Her stomach rolled. Her skin turned clammy.

    Was that why the men had relaxed? Had they been promised a place in Kermilla’s court and had the assurance that their own status wouldn’t change? Come to think of it, her former court also had been more relaxed and considerate in the weeks before they’d all walked away from her.

    “Lady?” Powell reached for her. “What’s wrong?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire