The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop

Book: The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Bishop
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy
something you don’t remember, something your people don’t remember. The inspections aren’t to test you; they’re to appease the Warlord Princes from the Queen’s home. Since you belong to that caste, you shouldn’t be so dismissive of the power and temper that could land on your doorstep with the intention to kill. As for the Queen’s weekly reports, those, too, are to offer reassurance and are in place of having armed escorts living with her in Dena Nehele.” He paused. “I should say armed escorts from her home Territory. Providing sufficient escorts for her protection is your responsibility. Gathering the men and women who will form the First Circle is your responsibility. And assuring the Queen’s physical and emotional well-being is also your responsibility.”
    Theran felt the blood drain from his face. He’d escaped all that. By living with Talon, by hiding in the mountains so the pet Queens couldn’t control the last male in the Grayhaven bloodline, he’d escaped that kind of service.
    “Assess your skills, Prince,” Saetan said. “You will be one of the male triangle that serves the Queen most intimately.”
    “Consort?” Theran choked on the word. “You expect me to service—”
    Saetan laughed, and the undercurrent of violence in the sound made Theran shiver.
    “You’re being presumptuous, puppy. No Kaeleer male is going to tolerate an assumption that any male in Terreille has a right to the Queen’s bed.”
    “Then what . . . ?”
    “First Escort,” Saetan said. “Same duties for the most part, up until you reach the bedroom door. As First Escort, you don’t cross the threshold. You don’t serve in bed. However, if being First Escort isn’t a service you can perform, you can stand as Master of the Guard or Steward—providing the other males in the First Circle will accept you in one of those positions.”
    Relief shuddered through him.
    “But if a Queen does agree to go back with you and rule your people, you will be held responsible for her care,Theran. Make no mistake about that. And if that care is found wanting, you will answer to Kaeleer. Make no mistake about that either. The Warlord Princes here may sympathize with what you want to do for your Territory. They may even be willing to help. But if they think you’re mistreating or endangering a Queen who comes from the Shadow Realm, they won’t hesitate to destroy you and your people. They will wipe you out of existence more thoroughly than Dorothea ever could. Do we understand one another?”
    He had to swallow to get his heart out of his throat. “Yes, High Lord. We understand one another.”
    “I’m delighted. Lady Angelline has gone to talk to a Queen who may be interested in helping your people. She’ll be back for dinner. Since you have the time, I suggest—” Saetan frowned at the door.
    Theran turned his head to catch the sound. Yes, there it was again. Something scratching at the door.
    Saetan raised one hand. The study door swung open, and a small brown and white dog trotted into the room and stopped near Theran’s chair.
    He’d never had a dog. Always liked them, liked petting them when he was in a village, but the rogue camps in the mountains were hidden places, and while a dog might have alerted them to a stranger’s presence, its barking could also have revealed the location of the camp to an enemy.
    The dog didn’t come quite close enough for a casual pat, but it did seem interested in him.
    “Vae,” Saetan said.
    Wondering why the High Lord sounded cautious, Theran looked at the dog more carefully. A glint of something in the ruff. A gold chain and . . .
    His heart gave one hard bump before he recognized his mistake. For a moment, he thought someone had put a Purple Dusk Jewel on the dog, but it was just an amethyst, just someone thinking he was being clever by making it look like the dog wore a Jewel.
    “Why don’t you and Lady Vae walk down to the village?” Saetan said. “Since the people

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