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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(144) by Anne Bishop
  • And another.

    And another.

    And another.

    The kind of blank spot a dark Jewel would notice when a lighter Jewel was wrapped in a psychic shield.

    Mother Night.

    *Hold steady,* Talon said on a spear thread. *We’re almost there. If they were ready to attack, they would have done it by now.*

    Jared acknowledged the message and kept his eyes on the road. Thank the Darkness they had moved the Coaches into the village instead of leaving them near the landing place. Otherwise, they would likely have been destroyed.

    By the time they cantered up the main street of Ranon’s Wood, a circle of psychic blank spots surrounded the village.

    Jared turned the gelding to one side, letting the others pass.

    Talon reined in next to him.

    “Can we make a run for it?” Jared asked quietly.

    Talon shook his head. “At a quick guess, I’d say there’s several hundred of them out there, including a handful of Warlord Princes. They’ve cut us off from the Winds, and we haven’t got a chance of breaking through and outrunning them overland.”

    “So we fight as well as we can.”

    “So we fight,” Talon agreed, urging his horse toward the Coaches.

    “And we die,” Jared said, moving with him.

    Talon stared straight ahead. “If the Darkness is kind.”

    Lia moved toward them as soon as they dismounted. Before she could say anything, a Craft-enhanced voice thundered over the land.

    “Warlord! Shalador Warlord! I am Krelis, Master of the Guard for the High Priestess of Hayll! Your village is surrounded by Hayllian warriors, the finest warriors in the Realm. You have two hours, Warlord. If you hand over the Green-Jeweled Queen, I’ll let the rest of you go. If you don’t, there will be nothing left of you or your people but dust.”

    Jared slipped a protective arm around Lia’s shoulders. He felt relieved when Blaed stepped behind her to protect her back and Thera moved a little closer to her other side.

    “Well,” Talon said, turning to face them, “it looks like the bastards have declared war.”

    Chapter Twenty-six

    Krelis leaned against the stable of the damaged Coach station outside Ranon’s Wood. From there, he could keep an eye on the landing place, the road leading to that privy hole of a village, and the station itself where a few of his men were clearing out the debris in a couple of rooms to turn it into a temporary headquarters.

    One of the Hayllian Warlord Princes approached him, and said, “All the men are in position.”

    “Fine,” Krelis replied. “Pass the word that they’re to do nothing but keep watch and make sure no one tries to slip between them.”

    The Warlord Prince paused. “There’s no reason to give these—people—two hours.”

    “There’s every reason,” Krelis snarled. “I want that Shalador bastard to sweat. If I’d demanded that the bitch Queen be handed over immediately, the Jeweled males left in the village probably would have fought out of instinct. So we give them a little time to think, to worry. Givehim a little time to look at his family and the people he grew up with and weigh the pain that will come to them against protecting a Queen he barely knows. Give the rest of them time to think about their own skins and weigh their children’s lives against the life of one stranger. During the first hour, the villagers will split themselves into two camps. Before the second hour ends, the Shalador Warlord will either bundle her up and deliver her himself, or he’ll yield to the rest of his people and not stand in their way whenthey deliver her to me.”

    The Warlord Prince made a sound of disgust “And we let the others crawl back into their lair?”

    Krelis’s lips curled in a sneer. “Once I have the bitch-Queen, the men can do whatever they please with the rest of them. The females can be passed around for as long as they survive. The children will be sold as slaves. The males can be broken, then hobbled and used for training exercises. That should give everyone a chance to show his skills.”

    A queer gleam filled the Warlord Prince’s eyes. “Yes, it should.”

    Krelis waved his hand in dismissal.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire