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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Tangled Webs (Chapter 38)      Page
  • Tangled Webs(Black Jewels,Book 6)(38) by Anne Bishop
  • Oh, he didn’t like the phrasing, and he heard the warning, but he nodded. “Yes. I need to hear this one.”

    Saetan turned his head and stared at the fire. Lucivar waited.

    “Even as a little boy, you were a brilliant warrior,” Saetan said, his eyes still focused on the fire. “Andulvar said you were the best he’d ever seen, and when you matured and were a physical match for your instincts, nothing would be able to stand against you.”

    A significant compliment, especially coming from the Demon Prince, but there was more than one kind of fighting, and Andulvar hadn’t looked into Daemon’s eyes when the Sadist had turned cold. If he had, he would have known there was one thing even an Ebon-gray Eyrien Warlord Prince couldn’t stand against and survive.

    “You and Daemon…” Saetan rubbed one finger against his forehead as his mouth curved in a grim smile. “Even so young, you recognized each other’s weakness—or what you thought of as a weakness—and you worked with it. For you, it was words. For him…Mother Night, Lucivar. There were times when I couldn’t decide if I should laugh myself silly or strangle both of you. You tried to teach him how to fight. And there was so much frustration on both sides because you couldn’t understand why your brother couldn’t do what you could do in terms of using physical weapons.”

    “He’s less resistant to learning that side of a fight than he used to be,” Lucivar said. Of course, Jaenelle needing a sparring partner every day in order to continue regaining her strength and muscle was the prime incentive for Daemon learning a few routines that used the Eyrien sticks. And the sparring sticks were only a short step away from learning to use the bladed sticks, which could be as elegantly vicious a weapon as any sword.

    Not that he was going to mention that part to Daemon. Not yet.

    Saetan’s response was a soft snort of laughter. But he still kept his eyes fixed on the fire. “At that time, Daemon wasn’t able to hold his own with you, so Prothvar worked with you, teaching you the moves and how to hold the weapons. He’d even gotten Eyrien weapons made for you, with unhoned blades, so they would be balanced for a child’s hand.”

    Prothvar hadn’t told him that. Oh, he’d been told his demon-dead “cousin,” who was Andulvar’s grandson, had been his sparring partner when he was a child, but he hadn’t known Prothvar had beenthat involved in his early education. And he wondered what had happened to those small weapons. His mother had probably thrown them away when she’d given him to the High Priestess of Askavi in order to hide him from Saetan—and then had lost him herself.

    “You were staying at the Hall with me for a few days, and Prothvar was staying as well to work with you.”

    A quiver in Saetan’s voice, quickly banished by that vicious—and visible—self-control.

    “He had always been so careful around you and Daemon to use illusion spells to hide the worst of it, even though he always wore a leather vest as well. I don’t know how you did it, but you talked him into showing you his death wounds. I suppose that was inevitable. He was an older cousin, a seasoned warrior who had died on a killing field, and you were still young enough to see the romance of battle rather than the grim and bloody reality.”

    Lucivar didn’t move. Hardly dared to breathe.

    One hundred men walked off the field. Fifteen of them were dead.

    The opening lines of the story of the Demon Prince’s last battle, the decisive battle in the war that had almost destroyed Terreille and Kaeleer fifty thousand years ago. Eyriens had been telling that story for generations, but he had heard a little of it from the men who had been there. So he knew about Andulvar and Prothvar fighting in the battle—and being the leaders of the army that had stood on the pivotal killing field that had ended Hekatah SaDiablo’s attempt to take control of the two living Realms. They were both so immersed in riding the killing edge and winning that battle, they never felt the blows that should have brought them down, just made the transition to demon-dead between one heartbeat and the next—and tore out their enemies’ throats, gorging on the blood to sustain their own dead flesh as they kept killing and killing and killing.

    Only one side walks away from a killing field. Even though they were no longer among the living, the fact that Andulvar and Prothvar Yaslana walked off that field changed the history of two Realms.

    “Nothing would have come of it,” Saetan said softly, “if you hadn’t come running into my study right after that. You looked so excited, I thought you were coming in to tell me about a new move you had learned or to watch some flying trick you had mastered. Instead, you asked me when you could get your own death wounds. And in that moment, looking at my brilliant little boy, I saw Andulvar and Prothvar as they had looked when they walked off that killing field. I saw Mephis when he first arrived in the Dark Realm, having died that same day. And I remembered the pain of searching for Peyton and Ravenar—and never knowing what had happened to either of them. But it was Andulvar and Prothvar I saw most of all, and I could see you with them—as a boy, as a grown man—walking off a killing field but no longer among the living. And there were no words for that kind of pain. Just a sound.”

    Lucivar closed his eyes. The words squeezed his chest until he ached.

    He had stood on killing fields—and sometimes he had been the only one to walk away. So he could see it clearly. No visible lines defined the space, but a warrior could feel it, knew exactly where the line began, knew the shape of the field. Once a man stepped onto one of those fields, he was committed to the battle. There was no turning back, no walking away. Because of that, a killing field embraced a savagery that transcended anything that could be found on a battlefield. For Warlord Princes, there was a clear distinction between those two things.

    After he’d come to live at the Hall and serve Jaenelle, he’d walked in on Prothvar one evening before his cousin was dressed. Before the illusion spells were in place. He had looked at those wounds with the eyes of a warrior—and the fact that Prothvar had walked away from that killing field had told him more about the man as a warrior than all the stories he’d heard in the hunting camps. As a youth, he’d thought those stories about Prothvar’s abilities had been exaggerated, as stories tend to be.

    As a man, seeing his cousin’s body, he’d understood those stories hadn’t told the half of it.

    He could picture Prothvar and Andulvar as if he were standing next to Saetan waiting for them to cross the line and step off the killing field.

    Waiting for them.

    In that moment, as a suspicion floated through his mind, he imagined he could feel the brush of Daemon’s lips against his ear and hear his brother’s voice.

    Words can be a weapon, and our father is very skilled with that particular blade. Look—and see clearly. Within what he didn’t say is the reason he didn’t want to tell you the story.

    So he considered the story he’d just heard. And he considered the few things Andulvar had said about that battle.

    Then he looked at his father and thought,Liar.

    While Saetan called in a handkerchief and delicately blew his nose, Lucivar went to the table and poured yarbarah into one of the ravenglass goblets. He warmed the blood wine over a tongue of witchfire, then held out the glass.

    Saetan vanished the handkerchief and took hold of the goblet.

    Lucivar didn’t let go.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire