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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Twilight's Dawn (Chapter 82)      Page
  • Twilight's Dawn(Black Jewels,Book 9)(82) by Anne Bishop
  • “I will,” Hallevar replied.

    Falonar stepped into the sparring circle. “I’ll spar with Prince Chaosti. That will give your weather bones a chance to rest.”

    Lucivar rocked back on his heels. What the . . . ?

    *Does he have a brain illness?* Chaosti asked on a Gray psychic thread.

    *Not that I’m aware of,* Lucivar replied.

    *In that case, I’ll follow his lead, and we’ll see where the path ends.*

    Chaosti’s tone told Lucivar he wasn’t the only one who thought there was something wrong, but the Dea al Mon stepped into the circle, holding the sparring stick with easy familiarity.

    Lucivar moved away from the other men to have an unobstructed view of the match—and so that there was no one in his way if he needed to move fast. He’d never liked that Warlord Princes emigrating to Kaeleer had to serve five years to prove themselves when everyone else served two years or less. Now, watching Falonar, he appreciated the wisdom of demanding that extra time from males who came from such an aggressive caste. A man could hide for only so long before his true nature cracked the mask.

    If the past two years had been a mask, who was the man behind it?

    Falonar’s moves were a little too quick, a little too sharp, to allow his opponent a safe warm-up. And judging by the puzzled, or disapproving, looks of the other Eyriens, Lucivar wasn’t the only one who thought so.

    Under other circumstances, he would have demanded a return to the proper speed and rhythm of the warm-up moves—or ended the match before it began. Except Chaosti had told him, more or less, to stay out of it in order to find out what Falonar really wanted.

    And Chaosti had already warmed up his muscles before coming to the eyrie. That was clear by how fluidly he responded to the increase in speed. Clear to Lucivar, anyway. The fact that a supposedly stiff Dea al Mon was matching moves and speed with an Eyrien seemed to be pissing off Falonar.

    They were in the last combination of warm-up moves. Falonar was now a half beat behind, which meant Chaosti committed to the move first. The last moves were partial turns to stretch side muscles. Fine for the grace of the warm-up, but a move that left the ribs vulnerable in an actual fight.

    Chaosti twisted at the waist, lifting his arms, his weight slightly off balance.

    That was when Falonar broke from the warm-up completely and struck. Since most Eyriens shielded between the warm-up and the actual sparring match, the blow would have bruised, if not broken, a few ribs.

    Chaosti whipped through a one-footed spin and blocked the blow with his own stick—a move that had several Eyriens sucking in a breath at the speed and balance required.

    “That’s—” Enough. Lucivar didn’t have time to finish the command before the sparring match escalated, and he didn’t dare interfere, since it might break Chaosti’s concentration. Besides, the Dea al Mon now had a tight Gray shield around himself and wouldn’t sustain an injury more serious than a bruise while fighting against a man who wore Sapphire.

    Chaosti was working hard, but Falonar was working harder to maintain the pace he’d set. As the match continued, it became apparent that Falonar was an excellent fighter—and Chaosti was so much more than an excellent fighter.

    Lucivar glanced at the hourglass floating on air next to Hallevar. Only a minute left. Then he could drag Falonar away from the others and find out what in the name of Hell was wrong with the man.

    The sparring match would end in a draw. He didn’t think any man in the room would feel a bite to his pride that an Eyrien couldn’t defeat this particular opponent.

    Except, apparently, Falonar.

    One moment there was the clash of sparring sticks. The next moment, there was a flash of sunlight on metal and Falonar was holding his bladed stick.

    Chaosti raised his sparring stick to block a chest-high blow. The blade on Falonar’s stick sliced cleanly through the wood—and the next move should have sliced through Chaosti’s waist.

    Eyriens fought in the air or on open fields—places that suited a race with wings who needed room to maneuver. But the Children of the Wood were a more intimate kind of fighter.

    Lucivar expected it, but even he didn’t see the transition from a broken sparring stick to Dea al Mon fighting knives. Moments after Falonar made that first aggressive move, he was lying on the floor, bleeding from a handful of wounds while Chaosti stood over him, one knife ready to slice his throat while the other knife was in position to rip through the Eyrien’s belly.

    Every Eyrien in that room now understood why the Dea al Mon were feared.

    “Chaosti,” Lucivar said quietly. “It’s done. Step back.”

    “Is it done?” Chaosti asked just as quietly.

    “Yes.” If he makes a move against you now, I will string him up with his own intestines and leave him for the carrion eaters.

    Chaosti stepped back, but he didn’t vanish those long, elegant knives until he was out of the circle.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire