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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 15)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(15) by Anne Bishop
  • Jared soaped his hair, muttering all the while about the dire things that could happen to boys who got too bossy. The only response he got was a bucket of water poured over his head before he was ready.

    Sputtering, he climbed out of the tub and grabbed a towel from Tomas. “If you don’t finish the story, I’ll throttle you.”

    Now certain that he could ignore remarks like that, Tomas just grinned, grabbed another towel, and gently patted Jared’s back dry. “Turns out Blaed was just trying to be helpful. He noticed how Polli was moving and thought she shouldn’t be lifting the mattress to tuck in the sheet.

    After he explained that to the Lady, looking so scared I thought he was going to faint, she fixed a brew to settle down Polli. Then she looked straight at Thera, and said, ‘Courtesy should be rewarded, not punished.’ And then she looked at Blaed, and said, ‘Remember that not all scars are visible.’

    “After she left, we all ate and took baths. None of the males wanted to get near Polli, in case she had another fit. Didn’t want to get too close to Thera, either. So all the females and you and me stayed on one side of the room and the rest of the males stayed on the other side.” Tomas looked at Jared and shook his head. “And you slept through the whole thing. Matter of fact, you slept through all of yesterday, too. Come on, they left some food for you.”

    Disturbed, Jared silently followed Tomas back into the main room. Had the Gray Lady been talking about the lash wounds when she’d wondered about permanent damage? Or had she sensed the hollowness inside him? Now that he was no longer in pain or exhausted, he keenly felt the loss of whatever it was the wild stranger had taken with it. He knew, with absolute certainty, that he had no chance of getting free of the Invisible Ring without it.

    “You still feeling bad?” Tomas asked.

    Jared shook his head and sat down at the table that had one covered plate, a plate of toast, a cup, and a small pot of coffee.

    Who had put a warming spell on the covered plate and pot of coffee? Polli, who sounded like she’d had her spirit as well as her inner web broken? The sharp-tempered Thera? Either of them would still have enough strength to do something as basic as this.

    But when he touched the plate, he knew it had been neither one of them. Running his finger around the plate’s rim, he found the spot where her finger had touched it, felt the ghost of the spark of power she’d used for the warming spell.

    That she had done it at all spoke of concern and caring.

    It made no sense.

    “You’d best eat,” Tomas said, pouring the coffee. “We’ll be leaving here soon.”

    Jared picked up the fork and began to eat, reminding himself with each bite to eat slowly. He couldn’t afford to have his stomach reject the meal in front of him just because he’d gulped it down, especially when he didn’t know when he might get the next one.

    While he ate, Tomas told him about the other slaves. Besides Thera, Polli, and little Cathryn, there were nine males, including Tomas and himself: Blaed, the pleasure slave; Thayne; Brock and Randolf, two former guards; a mind-broken male named Garth; and Eryk and Corry, two boys about Tomas’s age.

    Half-listening to Tomas’s chatter, Jared reached for another slice of thick, buttered toast. What had the Gray Lady been thinking of to buy these particular slaves? He could understand buying the four healthy adult males, but what use could she have for a mind-broken male? Or broken witches who had probably been put on the block because they’d become emotionally unstable or were now barren and had no ability to produce an offspring? Or four children?

    Or a Warlord who had killed the last Queen who had owned him?

    “You ain’t listening,” Tomas said accusingly.

    Remembering his younger brothers, Jared knew better than to bluff. So he waved his fork over the plate and changed the subject altogether. He hoped. “What is this?”

    Tomas sulked for a moment, then shrugged. “Potatoes and eggs and pieces of beef. The Lady had bought a big skillet with the rest of the supplies, and this morning she taught Thera, Polli, and Cathryn how to make it.”

    The toasted bread caught in Jared’s throat. He swallowed some coffee to force it down. “The Gray Lady wascooking ?”

    Tomas grinned. “I thought the innkeeper was going to die of shame, with her out there cooking in a skillet over an open fire as if what he served in the inn wasn’t good enough. That’s why we all got coffee and buttered toast this morning. The Lady told him she wanted the females to learn how to make this while she could still have his cook prepareher meal, but it would be best to give us the coffee and bread, too, so we’d have something decent under our belts.”

    “But this is good,” Jared said, scooping up another forkful.

    Tomas’s dark eyes sparkled. “Probably better than the Lady got.”

    Jared frowned. “Why the supplies? Where are we going?”

    Tomas rolled his eyes. “I was just telling you about her buying an old pedlar’s wagon and horses ‘cause we’re going cross-country to her Territory, and we can’t depend on finding an inn when we need it.”

    “Why not go to the nearest village that has a Coach station and buy passage?” Jared said, still frowning. “Why take the chance of tangling with marauders or a pack of rogues by going cross-country?”

    Tomas jerked as if he’d been hit. He wouldn’t look at Jared.

    Jared choked down the last mouthful. Was that why slaves who went into Grizelle’s Territory never returned? Because they never got to the Territory in the first place? Marauders and rogue packs were always male, but they might have guarded home camps where they could keep women. They’d have no use for male slaves, but what about a broken witch who could cook a decent meal over an open fire? Or a broken witch who could be given an aphrodisiac that would make her so mad with need she could be mounted all night and not care what they did to her until the drug finally wore off? Or a young Blood female that could become a breeder for the dominant male of the group? What about an intelligent young half-Blood who tried so hard to please?

    Did Grizelle come to the auctions to act as a slave trader for the marauders and rogue packs who hid in the Tamanara Mountains and wouldn’t dare approach Raej because they’d probably end up on the auction block themselves?

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire