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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > The Invisible Ring (Chapter 28)      Page
  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(28) by Anne Bishop
  • The surly tone, the wary look in her gray eyes, and the way her body stiffened slapped his thoughts back to something close to neutral. Had he slipped so much that his thoughts had shown on his face? Thank the Darkness his coat was long enough to hide his body’s response. Or was it the Ring that had betrayed him?

    Jared raised the cloth bag. “Would you like to play a game of chess to pass the time?”

    “Chess?” Her eyes immediately brightened with interest. She swung her legs over the side of the bench, wincing when the right knee refused to bend.

    The sharp look she gave him was sufficient warning not to say anything, so Jared settled on the other bench and pulled the box out of the cloth bag. Partly because it was practical and partly to test her, he didn’t ask permission before using Craft to hold the box in the air.

    There was nothing in her expression except eagerness.

    Odd that she didn’t ask where the chess set came from. Slaves were supposed to show any possessions they carried using Craft, including the Jewels which always traveled with them even if they were forbidden to wear them. But every slave he’d known tried to hide a few things—favorite books, a gaming set like this, personal mementos, pictures of loved ones. If Blaed had acknowledged having this, he wouldn’t have been so fearful about admitting it.

    But she didn’t ask, and he found himself warming to her because of it.

    Jared opened the box, which became the game board with its alternating black and light-gray squares.

    “Red or black?” he asked, indicating the playing pieces.

    “Black,” she replied, pushing up the sweater’s sleeves.

    Even slogging through the mud, she moved with unstudied grace, and he’d been surprised when he’d carried her to the wagon yesterday to discover that the body hidden by trousers, layered tunics and a knee-length coat was shapelier than he’d expected. More solid, too. Now, seeing the strong wrists and forearms showing below the sweater, Jared readjusted his image of her a little more. She might be old in years, but she was still a vigorous woman who probably engaged in all kinds of physical activity. All kinds.

    Keep your mind on the game, Jared warned himself as he began separating the game pieces.Your body is getting far too interested in thatkind of speculation .

    When all the pieces were separated and ready to be placed, he handed her the dice to roll for the Queen’s rank.

    She rolled a six, which gave her Queen the Purple Dusk Jewel and the ability to move six squares in any direction. He rolled a five, the Summer-sky. One rank difference, so she didn’t have an overwhelming advantage.

    After carefully slipping the dice into the cloth bag, Jared began setting up his pieces.

    The board was thirteen squares by thirteen. The first five rows on either side were the player’s territory. The middle three were the battlefield. After placing his two castles and the sanctuary, Jared quickly set up the rest in one of his favorite patterns, with his Queen safely tucked away behind one of the castles and enough of the stronger pieces nearby to provide protection.

    Satisfied with his positioning, he glanced at her side of the board and clenched his teeth to stop the instinctive protest. Why was her Queen standing in the middle of her territory with other pieces in the way of her reaching the castles and sanctuary? What kind of strategy was that when the whole point of the game was to capture the Queen?

    Unless the Blood in Dena Nehele played by a different set of rules.

    Without warning, a shadow of anger slid through his veins, a feral anger that tasted of the wild stranger. He felt tempted by it, wanted to welcome it and fan it until it burned hot and bright.

    Instead, he pushed it away. Anger was dangerous to a slave. And, Hell’s fire, it was only a game. Why should he care how she set up her pieces?

    He used Craft to create a larger, brighter ball of witch-light. With the witchlight floating over the game board, the rest of the cramped space disappeared until all that was left was the game and the old woman watching him, wearing a friendly but challenging smile.

    Since he had the lighter-ranked Queen, the first move was his. Meeting her eyes for a moment, Jared smiled as he moved a Warlord Prince onto the battlefield and accepted the unspoken challenge.

    She moved her Queen.

    The game began.

    His father had told him chess was a game of the heart as well as the mind, that it was a kind of training ground because it showed you your own weaknesses. Which was why you didn’t play it with an enemy.

    When he was young and first learning the game, that hadn’t made much sense. But later, as he watched his father play with friends who dropped by for an evening game, he began to understand. Belarr always tried to protect the Healers on the board as well as the Queen, sacrificing any male piece if it could block the attack.

    Reyna, on the other hand, tended to use the Healers as protection for other pieces, even the Blood males and witches who were the pawns in the game. Her Healers, Priestesses, and Black Widows were usually captured long before any of the stronger male pieces.

    When he’d pointed this out to her one time, she had shrugged and told him to care for his own.

    He’d told his father about this quirk in an otherwise intelligent woman, thinking Belarr would find it as amusing as he had.

    Belarr, too, had shrugged, but it wasn’t as lighthearted a movement as Reyna’s had been. He’d carefully masked whatever he had been thinking and said, “Healers and Queens don’t play the game well.” Then he’d abruptly changed the subject.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire