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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 169)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(169) by Anne Bishop
  • She read it and landed in the chair. Hard. “Mother Night, he’s not hiding his teeth, is he?”

    Not a dismissal that would allow Theran to honorably accept another contract, but a kind of demotion that would have made Queens in Kaeleer take a wary look at the man if he came looking for a position of power in one oftheir courts.

    “That letter is a well-phrased kick in the balls,” Talon said. “It will be even more impressive once Powell copies it over and it bears your signature and seal. And the day after Theran gets that letter, you can count on every Warlord Prince within Dena Nehele’s borders and in the Tamanara Mountains knowing that Jared Blaed is now the First Escort to the Queen of Dena Nehele.”

    Gray sat beside her. “You’ve shown us what’s possible. We’re going to fight to keep what you’ve given us.”

    Cassidy pushed away from the table, needing a little space, needing to move, to think.

    She’d thought her men would step aside for Theran’s choice because he was the last Grayhaven. But they were going to fight. Not just for her. She never would accept a war and the loss of life just to keep her in power. But this wasn’t about her anymore. Not really. This was about holding on to the very things the Blood had said they wanted when she first came to Dena Nehele—a land that lived by the Old Ways, that held itself to the Blood’s code of honor.

    Weren’t those the same things Lia and Jared had fought to keep in Dena Nehele for as long as possible?

    A Sceltie fights for the ones who belong to her. So does a Queen.

    She turned and looked at them. All of them.

    Everything has a price. But, sweet Darkness, don’t let this price be too high.

    “All right,” she said. “We fight.”

    Fierce pride filled their eyes, and she hoped with everything in her that she would remain worthy of that pride.

    Her legs suddenly felt shaky, so she returned to the table and sat down. Clasping her hands and pressing them against the table, she gave Talon a pleading look. “Isn’t there some other way?” Would they even consider bringing this to a tribunal of Queens if she could arrange to get one?

    “None of us are afraid of fighting,” Talon said.

    “There may be an alternative to war,” Powell said quietly. “Especially since Kermilla has conveniently given us justification to act.”

    Cassidy looked at the men, who all seemed to be weighing Powell’s words on some internal scale. “I don’t understand.”

    Talon rubbed his chin and said thoughtfully, “I doubt Theran knows Kermilla sent you that letter. Poor tactics. We’ve known since he met her that he wanted her to be the Queen, but I figured he wouldn’t make it an official challenge until he had the men who would form her First Circle. And he wouldn’t want that court made public until close to the time when the contract he signed with you was finished because that would give you less time to respond and find someone to take his place.” He gave her a fierce smile. “Kermilla made the first move without having sufficient backing. Now we can hit hard and fast.”

    Leaning back in his chair, looking like a predator at ease, Talon said, “Powell, what’s your alternative to war?”

    “Secession,” Powell said.

    Silence.

    Cassidy looked around the table and saw shock on everyone’s faces.

    “The Shalador reserves don’t have enough land,” Ranon protested. “We wouldn’t be able to support the people without getting some of what we need from the other Provinces. Not for a good many years yet. And three reserves mean three battlegrounds. We don’t have enough trained warriors left to lead anyone else willing to fight. Not against the rest of Dena Nehele.”

    “I wasn’t referring to just the Shalador reserves, Ranon,” Powell said. “You’re not taking into account the influence Lady Cassidy has had on the southern Provinces. I think given the choice of living in a Territory called Dena Nehele that is ruled by Lady Kermilla or living in a newly formed Territory ruled by Cassidy, they will be more interested in who rules the land than what the land is called.”

    “You have a map of Dena Nehele in your office?” Talon asked.

    Nodding, Powell called in the map and spread it out on the table.

    “I had some time this afternoon to consider a few things the rest of you may not have thought about yet in terms of incentive,” Powell said as Talon studied the map. “The loan Gray acquired from Prince Sadi is a loan specifically to Lady Cassidy’s court,not the Queen of Dena Nehele’s court.”

    Cassidy jerked in her seat. So did several of the men.

    Powell smiled a tight smile. “Exactly. Prince Sadi was very precise in the wording of that loan. It doesn’t transfer to another Queen. If Cassidy’s court dissolves, the loan ends, and the Prince is within his rights to demand immediate repayment of whatever funds were used. However, the loan was not specific to Dena Nehele in terms of a name or boundaries. So if Dena Nehele is split between the Queens, any Provinces still under Cassidy’s rule could continue to request help for their people and businesses. Provinces under Kermilla’s rule could not make use of the loan and benefit from Prince Sadi’s generosity.”

    “Oh, but . . .” Cassidy began.

    “No!” several male voices replied.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire