The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop

Book: The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Bishop
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy
moment, but the morning air was cold—and those clouds piling up in the west were a sure sign that there would be another storm by afternoon.
    Tomas gave him a quick glance that told him his presence was an intrusion that would be endured.
    Jared smiled in reply. “If we walk together, we’ll both have some time and privacy for thinking.”
    Tomas looked startled for a moment. Then he grinned and returned to his own thoughts.
    Jared took a deep breath. As he released it, he felt some of the tension in his shoulders ease.
    He hadn’t thought about much in the past couple of days, if he didn’t count the fierce daydreams about staying put in some kind of shelter where he’d be warm and dry, and eating something besides that traveler’s fare the Gray Lady had taught Thera and Polli how to make. He’d learned nothing about the Invisible Ring. If it was shielded, he couldn’t detect the use of Craft. There was no weight, no tightness, none of the things that made a man ever aware of a Ring of Obedience. Hell’s fire, it might as well not be there at all!
    Which wasn’t helping him figure out a way to elude it. Except for the explosion Eryk had caused, they’d had no way to measure the Gray Lady’s temper. A deliberately casual comment by Randolf, and Blaed’s fumbling attempt to get information, indicated the Rings of Obedience weren’t tightly held either. A test of obedience? A trap for the first man who tried to slip the leash? Was that why she didn’t insist that they remain close to the wagon?
    Was she using the Rings to keep track of them? No way to tell. The Gray Lady kept shifting between acting cold and being concerned, which kept them all off-balance and wary of being near her—except Thera and Tomas. He could understand her putting up with Tomas’s lack of subservience. He’d seen a number of Queens amuse themselves by indulging that kind of behavior in an otherwise powerless slave—and he’d seen what had happened to those slaves when the Queen no longer found it amusing. But he couldn’t understand why the Gray Lady tolerated Thera’s tongue and temper. And he still didn’t understand what it was about this Gray-Jeweled Queen that made something inside him restless enough and hungry enough to keep forgetting why he should fear her.
    All he knew for sure was that they were traveling through rough country, always heading west or northwest, and hadn’t seen anyone since they’d left the inn. They were far enough north to feel the bite of autumn, especially at night, but he still didn’t know what Territory they were in, and the Lady wasn’t saying.
    Or else the Lady didn’t know.
    Not a pleasant thought. Mother Night, none of his thoughts were pleasant!
    He understood why she wouldn’t allow slaves to ride the Winds by themselves, but why hadn’t she bought passage at the next Coach station if she was determined to bring them back to Dena Nehele?
    And what was she afraid of? That the males would try to break the Rings of Obedience and then call in the Jewels and attack her? Doubtful. The stories whispered about her were sufficient reason for any sane man to think long and hard before challenging her. And in truth, there were only five out of the twelve of them who were whole enough and trained enough to be even a potential threat to her.
    So there had to be some other reason for the flashes of anxiety he had picked up from her over the past couple of days, despite her effort to hide them. Did the message she’d received just before they’d left Raej have anything to do with this demand to keep moving?
    Jared scowled. Whatever it was, it was her problem, not his.
    He’d give it another day. Maybe two. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but he did know he was still east of the Tamanara Mountains and south of Shalador. Another day or two, and then the hollow man masquerading as the dominant Warlord would test the leash attached to the Invisible Ring and see if it would reach as far as

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