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  • The Shadow Queen(Black Jewels,Book 7)(2) by Anne Bishop
  • “You shouldn’t be up before sunset,” Theran said. “It drains you too much.”

    The old man scowled at the wall and the gate—and all the other signs of neglect. “I’ll manage.”

    “You’ll need blood tonight.”

    The scowl deepened. “I’ll manage.”

    “Talon . . .”

    “Don’t be using that voice on me, boy. I can still whack some sense into that stubborn head of yours.”

    Talon was a grizzled warrior who was missing two fingers on his left hand and half his right foot—evidence of the price paid for the battles won. He was also a Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince. Since Theran was a Warlord Prince who wore Green Jewels,Talon was the only man in Dena Nehele who was strong enough to “whack some sense” into him.

    But only after the sun set.

    Talon was demon-dead. If he was forced to act during daylight hours, his strength drained at a terrifying speed.

    “Did you ever wonder if it was worth it?” Theran asked, looking away from the man who had raised him.

    He had never known his father. The man had mated to continue the Grayhaven bloodline and had been caught, broken, and completely destroyed before Theran had been born.

    When he was seven, his mother had brought him to the mountain camps to keep the Grayhaven line safe from Dorothea’s pet Queens.

    He never saw her again.

    Talon looked at the mansion and shook his head. “I was in this fight for three hundred years, give or take a few. I knew Lia, and I knew Grizelle before her. I stood with Jared and Blaed when we were all among the living—and I stood with others when I became demon-dead. So I never wondered if bringing Dena Nehele back to the way it was when the Gray Ladies ruled was worth the blood and pain and lives that were lost. I knew getting that back was worth the price.”

    “We didn’t win, Talon,” Theran said softly. “Someone else eliminated the enemy, but we still didn’t win.”

    “A Grayhaven is standing once more on the family land. That’s a start. And there is a marker on the table.”

    A marker Talon hadn’t told him about until a few days ago. “A dangerous one, assuming the man who owes us a favor is still alive.”

    “There’s no way to win unless we gamble,” Talon said. “Come on. We’ll bring the Coach onto the grounds and camp out here tonight. Tomorrow you can go through the house and see what needs to be done.”

    “We’ll be lucky if we find anything intact,” Theran said bitterly. “I can’t imagine the bitches who ruled from here not trying to find the treasure.”

    “But the key wasn’t in the house,” Talon said. “That’s part of the legend. And without the key that begins unlocking the spells, they could have ripped up every floorboard and knocked down every brick in every fireplace, and they still wouldn’t have found the treasure even if they were looking right at it.”

    “Doesn’t mean we’re going to find a safe floor or a working fireplace,” Theran grumbled.

    “Do your pissing and moaning later,” Talon said. “We’ve got company. I’ll fetch the Coach. You give yourself a kick in the ass and get up to the house.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Surrogate father and protector of the Grayhaven line, Talon had held him when he’d cried and hadn’t hesitated to give him a smack when it was deserved—at least, deserved according to Talon. Everything good that he knew about the Blood, about honor and Protocol and what a Warlord Prince should be, he had learned from a man who remembered Dena Nehele as it had been. Who remembered what it meant to have honor. To wear, as Talon put it, the Invisible Ring.

    Bracing himself for the discussion ahead, Theran strode toward the mansion.

    Was the honey pear tree still in the back gardens somewhere? Could the tree have survived that many centuries? There had been a few honey pear trees growing in one of the rogue camps low in the mountains, and there was a grove of them—or so he’d heard—tucked away in the southern part of Dena Nehele, in one of the Shalador reserves. Having heard stories about Jared’s mother growing the honey pear trees for her sons and how Jared had gifted Lia with his tree and given another to Thera and Blaed, he’d been disappointed when he’d finally gotten to taste one of the hard little fruits. But Talon said the trees didn’t grow well in the mountains, that something they needed was lacking, and that was the reason the fruit didn’t taste right.

    Well, the trees weren’t the only things that had felt a need that had gone unanswered.

    Talon set the Coach down on the scrubby front lawn, while Theran watched the Warlord Princes appear near the gate as they dropped from the Winds, those webs of psychic roadways that allowed the Blood to travel through the Darkness.

    It wasn’t until Talon limped over to join him that the first Warlord Princes came through the gate, walking up the weedy drive in pairs, the lightest-Jeweled males coming first.

    *I count about a hundred,* Talon said on a psychic thread.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire