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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(131) by Anne Bishop
  • It did his heart good to have her pester him all the way back to the village to explain what he’d meant.

    Chapter Twenty-two

    Krelis stared at the bloody, quivering thing kneeling in front of him. Three days ago, it had been a man. One of his guards.

    Now it was missing so many pieces, he couldn’t identify it.

    It looked at him without really seeing him and made harsh, pleading sounds. Bloody spittle leaked from one corner of its mouth.

    Krelis swallowed hard.

    It was better this way. It would have hurt to recognize it enough to be able to call it by name.

    Krelis turned away. The blood-streaked white feather that was inserted into the stub of flesh kept moving with each jerky breath, as if it were waving at him.

    Or mocking him.

    This was why the witches called it the Brotherhood of the Quill.

    Dorothea came out of the adjoining room, slowly rolling the handle of a curved, thin-bladed knife between her hands. She spared him one withering glance before going to the table that held the rest of her sharp, bloody toys. She set the knife gently in its place.

    “Lord Krelis.”

    The way she said his name told him that he’d done nothing but disappoint her lately, and she didn’t expect this report to be any different.

    Cold-blooded, malevolent bitch, Krelis thought fiercely.

    A moment after the thought formed, marrow-freezing fear swept through him.

    He hadn’t meant it, would never think it again. She was the answer to everything he wanted, the answer to centuries of work and sweat. As her Master of the Guard, he was one of the most powerful men in Hayll. Respected. Feared.

    He turned that thought over and over. He’d worked hard to gain enough status to keep the fear at bay. Now he was in the position of being feared.

    Krelis felt some of the tension ease.

    Now he was one of the males the witches couldn’t strike against, couldn’t Ring. Unless they, too, served in Dorothea’s court, they had no safety from him.

    He smiled. His smile widened when he caught Dorothea’s sudden, arrested look.

    “There’s something you wish to say to me, Krelis?”

    Her voice had gone a little breathy, like a woman at the beginning of arousal.

    “I’ve found them, Priestess,” Krelis said. “They’ve gone to ground in a Shalador village called Ranon’s Wood.”

    “All of them?”

    Krelis clenched his teeth. “The Shalador bastard disappeared with the little bitch-Queen, but they’re supposed to meet the others there.”

    Selecting a short-bladed knife, Dorothea glided over to one of the large, potted, flowering bushes that sat near her playroom windows and cut off two overblown yellow flowers. “There’s no reason to assume he’ll take her to that village. He could just as easily take her to Dena Nehele and claim whatever rewards he can for his brave service,” she added with a sneer.

    Krelis had thought of that, had sweated over that. It pleased him that he'd worked out an answer he felt sure would suit her. ”Ranon’s Wood is his home village. It had been softened this spring when the new Shalador Queens wisely decided to bring the Territory into Hayll’s shadow. He’ll find little help there, whereas we’ll have an entire village of hostages.“

    “Tell me more,” Dorothea purred as she cut the flower stems until they were barely an inch long.

    “We’ll offer a trade. His village for the little bitch Queen. If she’s turned over to us, we’ll let everyone else go.”

    Dorothea looked up from her stem trimming. “Will we?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire