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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 98)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(98) by Anne Bishop
  • I still think he’s a good man, but he’s not a good leader. He’s proving that every time he doesn’t stand against Kermilla and defend his people. So I promise you this, Lia. I won’t let your bloodline destroy your people, no matter the price.

    Having made that promise, he rose and went out to the stables to join Gray.

    Theran leaned back to let the servant he’d hired for a thief’s wage remove his plate.

    The dinner wasn’t going well. That wasn’t Kermilla’s fault. She was doing her best to entertain these men, but he should have realized Warlord Princes who had spent most of their lives being both predator and prey in the ongoing fight to protect what they could of Dena Nehele wouldn’t have much interest in the conversation of a twenty-one-year-old woman they couldn’t bed.

    They were polite. He couldn’t fault them for their manners. They even extended the courtesy of showing interest they clearly didn’t feel. At least, it was clear to him.

    They were also getting pissed off at Correne’s catty remarks. The girl wasn’t liked in her own village. In fact, she was one of the young Queens the Warlord Princes were vehemently opposed to seeing rule even the smallest village. That she seemed to be trying to compete with Kermilla for the men’s attention—and the fact that Kermilla was taking the bait and blatantly flirting—wasn’t lost on these men.

    “Kermilla has been helping the Queens in the northern Provinces re-learn the aspect of their power that nourishes the land and benefits the harvest,” Theran said, laying his hand lightly on Kermilla’s wrist.

    She gave him an arch look, and for a moment he thought she might say something imprudent. Then she slipped her wrist out from under his hand and smiled at Ferall.

    “Yes,” she said. “I was shocked to learn that my Sisters had forgotten such a basic part of what makes a Queen a Queen.”

    The skin around Ferall’s eyes tightened.

    Kermilla added hastily, “So I was, naturally, pleased to be of some small service to them.”

    “You haven’t set up a court yet?” Ferall asked.

    “Silly man, of course I have a court.” Kermilla gave Ferall a dazzling smile. “I rule a Blood village and a landen village in Dharo.”

    “So who has been taking care of the Queen’s duties there while you’ve been visiting Theran here?”

    Anger flashed through Theran. Had Kermilla heard the criticism in that question?

    Kermilla put aside the flirtatious playfulness as easily as she might put aside a shawl. She gave Ferall a look at the Queen beneath the young-woman banter. “Dharo is an old Territory with a strong web of Queens. The village I rule can be run very well by my Steward and Master of the Guard for the time being. I am kept apprised of what is happening there and would return home in an instant if I was urgently needed.” She placed her hand on Theran’s arm. “I am not negligent in my duties, Prince Ferall, which is what you are implying. But a village that is well established requires little supervision from its Queen, so I offered to stay and give Theran whatever assistance I can in repairing the damage that has been done to his people.”

    Her speech warmed Theran’s heart, but Ferall seemed less impressed. He gave Theran a hard look and said, “I thought that’s why Lady Cassidy came here. I thought that’s why we all agreed to have her as the Queen. And she didn’t leave the people she’d promised to rule in order to ‘give assistance.’ ”

    Where was that anger coming from? Theran wondered. Nothing Kermilla said should have offended Ferall that much. Unless he wanted to be offended for some reason?

    Kermilla, however, felt the punch in Ferall’s words. “No, she didn’t leave her people,” she snapped. “She didn’t have any. She wasn’t Queen enough to hold on to her court!”

    “Kermilla,” Theran said in soft warning, touching her wrist again.

    Kermilla pulled away from him. “And where is Cassidy now? Here in the capital city? No. She’s in some cow-dung village that belongs to a people the rest of you would rather pretend don’t exist.”

    “Hold your tongue, girl,” Ferall snarled. “You don’t know us. Any of us. Especially the Shaladorans.”

    “I know Cassidy is a country girl from a trademan’s family who can’t talk about anything except livestock and crops and wouldn’t know how to sit at a table with a true aristo if all your lives depended on it.”

    Theran’s heart jumped in his throat. Thank the Darkness these men didn’t know about Cassidy’s connection to Sadi and his wife. Those two were as aristo as you could get.

    “Her manners are as rough as her face, and neither is fit for polite company,” Kermilla finished, her chest rising and falling impressively as she sucked in air.

    Correne snickered. “Back in her old village, they called Freckledy the ‘spotted draft horse of Queens.’ ”

    A tense silence shrouded the table for a long, long moment.

    Then Ferall looked Theran in the eyes and pushed back his chair. “We’re done here. There’s nothing more to say.”

    Ferall walked out of the room, followed by the other three Warlord Princes.

    Stunned, Theran didn’t move for several heartbeats. Then he ran after them and caught them at the front door.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire