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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Twilight's Dawn (Chapter 50)      Page
  • Twilight's Dawn(Black Jewels,Book 9)(50) by Anne Bishop
  • “I can afford it,” he mumbled, not sure how much trouble he was in, but certain he was in trouble. “Besides, they work for me.”

    “Do they? It’s been two years since the last service fair, two years since the last contracts were signed that were part of the emigration requirements to live in Kaeleer.”

    “No,” Lucivar said quickly, “there were a handful this past summer.”

    “Eyrien women who have young children and were desperate enough and determined enough to leave what they had known. They didn’t come through the service fairs, since those fairs no longer exist. They came to the Keep in Terreille, asking for help. And Draca asked you to consider adding them to the women living in the mountains near Doun. Which you did. How many other Eyriens who signed contracts with you are still under contract?”

    Not sure he liked where this was going, he shrugged. “They’re still serving.”

    “Are they? Being a dark-Jeweled Warlord Prince, Falonar has to serve for five years in order to remain in Kaeleer after the contract is completed. The others, not being of that caste and not wearing dark Jewels, have fulfilled that obligation and are free to live elsewhere now.”

    “If a Queen will permit them to live in her territory.”

    Saetan tipped his head in agreement. “I think some of those men have already talked to Eyriens who accepted service contracts with Rihlander Queens and have discovered that those Queens are not intimidated by Eyriens or impressed by aggression and arrogance, that those Queens are not going to pay them to sit on a mountain scratching each other’s asses while complaining about the ruler they are supposed to serve.”

    Lucivar took a step back. It still shocked him when his father expressed an opinion so crudely. It would have sounded natural if Andulvar had said it, but Saetan? No. And that crudeness focused his attention as nothing else could have.

    “How many are still under contract to you, Lucivar?”

    “I’m not sure.”

    A flash of anger, like a flash of lightning, filled the room.

    He waited to hear the thunder, waited for the gauge that would tell him how close the storm was—and how violent.

    The silence that followed scared him because it indicated an anger too deep to gauge.

    “Andulvar didn’t like paperwork any more than you do, but he knew every man who served him directly. Contracts were a formality. He didn’t need those pieces of paper to know who served and who didn’t, who was loyal and who wasn’t, who lived by the Blood’s code of honor and who didn’t. He knew—and so do you.”

    Lucivar swallowed hard. “Except for the women I took in last summer, Falonar is the only one who hasn’t fulfilled the full contract.”

    “Then he and those women are the only ones who should be receiving anything from your share of Ebon Rih’s tithes—if they’re fulfilling the tasks you’ve assigned them as their part of the bargain. The others should be informed that they have fulfilled their agreement and are free to live elsewhere. If they want to remain in Ebon Rih, and you’re still willing to let them live here, they will have to find work to support themselves. If they want to work for you, and receive wages from you, and have a skill that you want for the Eyrien community in your keeping, they will stand before you and witnesses and make a formal, binding pledge of loyalty for whatever amount of time you specify. They will do this according to Eyrien tradition, understanding that the penalties of breaking that loyalty also will follow Eyrien tradition. And yes, Prince, that does mean execution. And yes, there were times when Andulvar had to hold up that part of Eyrien honor.”

    Lucivar wanted to pace, but that storm of temper could still come down on him, so he didn’t move. “I can’t cut them loose like that. They’re just starting to build a life.” He wasn’t thinking of the men. Not most of them, anyway. But the women? And what about men like Hallevar and Tamnar? What would they do to support themselves sufficiently?

    “Eyriens prefer plain speaking, so I’ll speak plainly,” Saetan said quietly. “The reason most of the Eyriens who are now settled in Askavi Kaeleer came here was to escape the control of Prythian and all the corrupted Queens who followed her lead. Well, Prythian and those Queens and everyone who was tainted by them are gone. Dead. Destroyed. Purged from all the Realms. If the Eyriens living in Ebon Rih don’t like the boundaries that are set by the Queens in Kaeleer, they can return to Askavi Terreille and take up their old lives.”

    “Would there be anything left of their old lives?”

    “I don’t know. The point is, they could go back to Askavi Terreille and build the life they seem to think would be so much better than what they have here. I’ll open the Gate myself to accommodate them. But if they’re going to stay here, it’s time for them to start living in Kaeleer instead of expecting the Shadow Realm to change into the same, but more advantageous, place they left.”

    Lucivar started pacing. He needed to argue and push because it was helping him see some things he hadn’t considered, but he was nervous about what might swing back at him if he argued and pushed.

    When has knowing there was a price ever stopped you? “Two hundred Eyriens living in the mountains around a valley this size isn’t a lot.”

    “How many Eyriens do you think usually lived in the land owned by the Keep?” Saetan asked, his voice laced with amused curiosity.

    Lucivar stopped pacing. Wherever this discussion was going, it was going to bite him in the ass. He just knew it. “Falonar indicated two hundred are a lot less Eyriens than there should be. If I wasn’t the one ruling here, more would settle in the valley. In Terreille there were courts and hunting camps and communities of Eyriens in the mountains. Hell’s fire. Marian used to live in the Black Valley before she came to Kaeleer. So I know Falonar is right about that—there were hundreds, even thousands, of Eyriens living in the mountains around this valley.”

    “Yes, there were. In Terreille,” Saetan said, his voice now filled with an amusement that could, in a heartbeat, turn cuttingly sharp. “My darling, you and Falonar have both missed a step in your education.”

    Shit.

    “Eyriens are not native to Kaeleer. The Rihlanders are Askavi’s native race in the Shadow Realm. The only reason there have ever been Eyriens living in these mountains, the only reason you are now living in an eyrie Andulvar had built for himself, was that during the time when Andulvar served Cassandra, a winged race was attacking Rihlander villages in the northern parts of Askavi. He was assigned to take care of the problem, and he and the Eyrien warriors who served under him went out and fought the Jhinka and established the line between what was considered Jhinka territory and what belonged to the Rihlanders. In thanks, the Rihlander Queens in Ebon Rih invited him and his men to establish homes in the mountains around the Keep. Which Andulvar did because, even though he ended up being the Warlord Prince of Askavi in both Realms, he liked what he found in Askavi Kaeleer a lot more than what he’d left behind as a youth in Askavi Terreille. So no matter what Falonar may think, there has never been more than two or three communities of Eyriens living in Ebon Rih. Ever.”

    Lucivar shifted his weight from one foot to the other. It made sense. A hunting camp was usually paired with a court or a community. When he’d first made the decision to accept Eyriens into service, he’d scouted the mountains for other suitable eyries and found them in the mountains near the Rihlander villages. But now that he thought about those places being occupied, he realized there weren’t many of those old eyries that were still empty, and the ones that were tended to be isolated, more like overnight camps instead of homes.

    “The valley below us belongs to the Keep in all three Realms,” Saetan said. “It always has; it always will. You were given Ebon Rih to rule on behalf of the Queen of Ebon Askavi. You were given the responsibility to watch over the land and the people who live here, whether they were landens or Rihlanders or Eyriens. When you made the pledge to defend and protect, you not only made it to the living Queen you served; you made it to the Keep and those who serve the Keep. Which is why you still rule here even though Jaenelle is no longer a ruling Queen.” He pushed up from the chair and ran his fingers through his hair, the first sign of exasperation he’d shown. “What is actually going on here, Lucivar? Do you trust Falonar so much that you’ve missed something obvious?”

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