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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(141) by Anne Bishop
  • A fight, Krelis thought, resisting the urge to laugh in Maryk’s face. How much fight would a village that had already sustained an emotional belly wound have left?

    “We’re not fighting other warriors,” Krelis said curtly. “Whoever is left in that village already lost a battle with their own people. How much of a challenge can they be to a thousand Hayllian warriors?”

    “Closer to fifteen hundred.”

    Krelis finally looked up.

    Maryk shrugged. “Because this was a special request from the High Priestess’s court, every Master sent along a few more than we’d asked for.”

    The other Masters had undoubtedly added a few to keep tempers from flaring as well—not only in the guards’ quarters but in the manor houses of the Hundred Families. What young, ambitious male serving in a lesser courtwouldn’t resent being kept from an assignment that might bring him to the notice of the most powerful witch in Hayll?

    He’d felt that way himself not all that long ago.

    Some things, however, were best seen from a distance.

    “We’ve already wasted enough time waiting for these young bucks to finish buttoning up their pants and shining their boots,” Krelis said. “We leave in one hour. If the southern guards aren’t here by then, they can stay behind or catch up to us.”

    “I understand, Lord Krelis.” But Maryk didn’t leave. “Have you decided who will take command of the men?”

    Krelis rounded the desk, opened a drawer, and took out a large, white feather. Tucking it inside his leather vest, he said, “I will.”

    Chapter Twenty-five

    Shivering, Jared gratefully accepted the mug of coffee Blaed handed him. The night air had a sharp bite to it, but worry seemed to bleed more heat from his body than the elements could.

    “Everything’s packed,” Blaed said quietly. “We were ready to leave hours ago. Even riding the White Wind, it won’t take more than a few hours to reach the Tamanara Mountains. Couldn’t this have waited?”

    Jared sipped his coffee and wondered the same thing— and tried not to resent that Lia had asked Thera to stay with her instead of him.

    Talon silently came around the corner of the Sanctuary that was located a mile outside of Ranon’s Wood. He’d made a circle around the building every hour since Lia and Thera had entered it, getting personal reports from the men who were standing guard and rotating the watch often enough to make sure everyone had a chance to warm up by the fire and eat a bowl of stew. Four of his men had stayed in Ranon’s Wood to keep watch. The other eight had come with Talon, taking their turns in the rotation.

    “Is there a problem?” Talon asked softly when he joined them.

    “We’re ready to leave,” Blaed said, his voice ripe with impatience and nerves.

    “The Queen isn’t,” Talon replied.

    “Why is it taking so long?”

    “The Offering to the Darkness takes from sunset to sunrise.”

    Blaed’s jaw dropped. “She’s—” When Talon hissed in anger, he looked back at the men warming themselves around the fire and lowered his voice. “She’s making the Offering to the Darkness?Now ?”

    “Sometimes you choose the time to make the Offering. Sometimes the time chooses you,” Talon said.

    Blaed made a frustrated sound.

    Jared understood exactly how Blaed felt.

    “You’re free to go back to the village or go on to the mountains,” Talon said curtly.

    Blaed glared at Talon before retreating to the fire.

    “Don’t jab at him,” Jared said quietly. “You know Thera won’t leave without Lia, and Blaed won’t leave without Thera.”

    “I know,” Talon said just as quietly. “But he needs to learn now that there are times when a man can, and should, argue about a Queen’s choice of action and there are times when he should keep silent and do what needs to be done. Lia understands the risks she’s taking by staying here to make the Offering. She must have felt the need outweighed the risks.”

    “It would have been safer if she’d waited until we reached Dena Nehele, until she’d had time to recover from her Virgin Night.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire