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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 77)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(77) by Anne Bishop
  • “Why is she doing it at all?” Correne asked, sounding pouty.

    She was going to have to talk to the girl about when a good pout worked and when it caused nothing but trouble—and judging by the look in Theran’s eyes, being anything but helpful today was going to cause trouble.

    Ignoring Correne, Theran watched Kermilla. “The cook, the housekeeper, and the butler resigned yesterday.”

    She heard a hint of accusation in his voice. “Because I had to discipline Birdie?”

    Theran’s face tightened. “You call it discipline. You said it was necessary, and I’m sure you wouldn’t have struck the girl without good reason. But Dryden called it abuse, said it was the same kind of treatment the purged Queens used to inflict on servants—and the kind of treatment I had promised him no one would endure in this house. So the senior servants resigned, along with four of the stable lads. It may take a while before I can replace them.” He glanced at Correne. “Ladies.”

    Stunned, Kermilla watched him walk out of the room. That little bitch Birdiehad to be disciplined. The other servants should have accepted that!

    “What did he mean by the purged Queens?” Kermilla asked.

    Correne pulled her plate back and began eating. “The Queens who were destroyed by that witch storm a couple of years ago.” She shuddered. “I heard it swept through the whole Realm and consumed lots and lots of people.”

    “How many Queens?” Kermilla whispered.

    “The Territory Queen and all the Province Queens. Lots of the District Queens too. That’s why Cassidy had to come and rule here. There has been talk of letting Queens establish a court when they’re eighteen, which is before the age of majority and before they’re ready to make the Offering to the Darkness.”

    “Why would they do that?”

    “The old Queens are too old to rule more than one village, sosomeone has to regain control of the Provinces.” Correne leaned forward. “I got a letter from a friend yesterday.She said some of the Warlord Princes are claiming whole districts as their personal territory and ruling like they wereQueens. ”

    Having males rule on a Queen’s behalf wasn’t that unusual—at least, not in Kaeleer—but Correne sounded shocked. And with good reason. If the most aggressive and dangerous caste of male began taking control and ruling without a Queen’s leash, the young Queens might end up being ruled by Warlord Princes instead of the other way around.

    And the Queen who could stopthat change would have the loyalty of every other Queen in this land.

    “Look, look, look!” Powell danced into the breakfast room, waving a handful of papers over his head.

    Momentarily frozen in the act of biting into a piece of toast—which Birdieand Maydra pointed out that she hadnot had to make for herself—Cassidy finished chewing while she, Shira, and Reyhana watched the gleeful Steward.

    “What are we looking at?” Cassidy asked.

    “The dominant Warlord Princes living in the two southernmost Provinces have sent in a proposed division of those Provinces into districts that would be ruled by a Warlord Prince if a Queen wasn’t available.”

    “There aren’t more than a hundred adult Warlord Princes left in Dena Nehele,” Shira said. “Could so few actually rule effectively?”

    Cassidy wiped her hands on a napkin and reached for the papers. “Let me see those.” Her heart pounded and her hands trembled. No indication of which districts would be ruled by Queens. Not that she’d expected them to offerthat much trust yet. She’d come to realize that the Queens who had met with her had been prepared to be sacrificed if the new Territory Queen turned out to be as twisted as the one who had ruled before. This was evidence that the Warlord Princes who had been disappointed when they had first seen her were now reconsidering what her knowledge might give their people.

    “Maybe . . .” Reyhana began. She immediately hunched her shoulders and toyed with her scrambled eggs.

    “Maybe . . . ?” Cassidy said.

    “It’s not my place to speak.”

    “Reyhana, I enjoy your company and I value you as a friend, but you’re also here to learn how to be a Queen. I can’t offer guidance if you don’t tell me what you think.”

    The girl straightened up. “Are any of the Warlord Princes taking responsibility for a whole Province?”

    “That would be a bit too aggressive,” Powell said gently. “It’s one thing to rule what the available Queens can’t handle themselves; it’s quite another to rule over a Queen.”

    “Although it is done,” Cassidy said. “Daemon Sadi is the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan. Herules that Territory, and every Queen in Dhemlan answers to him. He is the exception, that is true, but Queens do sometimes rule within a Warlord Prince’s Territory and not the other way around. Lucivar Yaslana is another example. He rules Ebon Rih, the territory that belongs to the Keep. The Queens who rule the villages there answer to him.”

    “I stand corrected,” Powell said with a smile.

    “Someone needs to rule each Province, isn’t that true?” Reyhana said.

    “Just getting the Warlord Princes to step up to the line and agree to rule a district is a victory,” Shira said. “At least half of these men lived in the rogue camps in the Tamanara Mountains after they reached puberty. Actually living in a village with the families they left behind is a new experience for them.”

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