A Private Conversation
By Cat Carroll
Disclaimer: I do not own the Black Jewels Series, or am in any way associated with Anne Bishop. More or less, I'm stretching some long-withered fan fiction writing skills and seeing how it goes. For once, none of the characters are mine, or even borrowed from an alternate personality of a friend.
Author's Note: I haven't written fan fiction in just this side of forever, and this is my first foray into the Black Jewels Series (yes, I know it's considered the Trilogy, but it's expanded just a bit since Queen of the Darkness). Let me know what you think. I've got a few other story ideas brewing and hopefully will get some good response.
Robert Benedict waited imperiously at the front entrance of the great SaDiablo Hall in the Dark Realm as a demon-dead footman opened the door. He gave the servant his favorite sneer. The footman, butler, whatever he was, Lord Benedict didn't care, bowed deeply. Now that obsequious movement, he cared for. It seemed that in Hell, a Realm run by a man, a Warlord like him could get some real respect.
"Lord Benedict," the servant said, "The High Lord is expecting you."
Well, of course he was. He had requested this meeting, hadn't he? Robert could admit to a bit of nervousness at meeting the High Lord of Hell. After all, in Terrielle, the man was merely a legend, something to scare children with. Robert had wondered what the High Lord would want with a newly demon-dead Warlord, but then it had struck him. Hell was ruled by a man. Robert had been working towards changing Chaillot into a male-run society. Perhaps he and the High Lord had much more in common that Robert could have predicted.
It would be pleasant if they had other tastes in common as well. For the last few years of his life, Robert had been afflicted with a terrible disease. It had been debilitating and horribly painful as he had wasted away, feeling odd pains as though he was being whipped, and once he could hardly breathe as the pain made him feel as though his throat was being slashed. Other men had been afflicted as well. All of them had frequented Briarwood. Robert had long suspected that Daemon Sadi had been behind the illness, but he had disappeared after that last terrible night, and not even the High Priestess of Hayll had been able to locate him.
So Robert had suffered for years, his body slowly crumbling around him. What hurt worse was knowing, without any doubt, that his bastard half-brother was mounting Leland every damn night by the end of Robert's life. Robert was bed-ridden, unable to move on his own, and Philip had taken advantage of it. Oh, nothing was ever said, but Robert had seen the look of triumph in Philip's eyes, one that should never been there in a man who had been broken back to his Birthright Jewel. And Leland was glowing, not withering as a woman whose husband was dying should have been. It had been a nightmare. Even weak little Wilhelmina had been able to refuse him at the end, that damn Sapphire Jewel making it impossible for him to simply take what he wanted, and she had run away before he could figure out how to make her remove the shield and act like the compliant little bitch that she had always been in the past.
It had been, in a word, difficult. But now he was demon-dead, and although the flesh wasn't in the best shape, there was no pain. And he had heard things…like that the taste of young blood was just as good as the feel of a young girl. Although his body was no longer able to enjoy some of the pleasures of the flesh, that didn't mean there weren't others that could be explored. And perhaps the High Lord was a man of more discriminating tastes, giving a welcome to a man of similar tastes?
Yes, that made sense as to why Robert had been invited to SaDiablo Hall, in the Heart of the Dark Realm.
The Hall's servant led Robert down to a massive wooden door, and knocked three times. The door opened, and the servant stood to the side. "The High Lord will see you now," he said softly. Robert wondered if the High Lord had his servants whipped on a regular basis. They certainly needed training on showing the proper respect due their betters.
He entered the room and hesitated. It was dark, even for Hell. There was an L-bend and a large desk before the bend. Robert couldn't say why, but he didn't want the light to shift and see what lay beyond. The urge to leave was strong, and when the man behind the desk leaned forward into the light, Robert thought for a moment he would pass out.
But no. It wasn't him. Oh, almost him, but…Robert could see what Sadi would look like as he aged. Not exactly the same, no, but the model was there. An ancestor perhaps? Relative from the distant past? For the first time since his death, Robert felt real fear as the High Lord stood.
"Lord Robert Benedict," the High Lord said in a sing-song croon.
"High Lord," Robert greeted. He licked his lips. "I…I would like to say, that I hold no ill-will against you at all."
The High Lord smiled, and there was 50,000 years of danger in that smile. And the cold. Robert never thought he would feel cold again, but the room was chilling quickly.
"Why would you have ill will against me?"
Robert was starting to feel like a mouse with a cat approaching, and he did not like the sensation at all. "I didn't realize that Sadi was related to you somewhere down the line. I can only assure you, that I understand how you're not responsible for the disease perpetrated on me by a distant…"
"Son," the High Lord interrupted. His eyes met Robert's. "Daemon Sadi is my son."
Robert was glad he no longer had certain bodily functions. He was sure he would have pissed himself.
"I do not fight my son's battles," the High Lord continued. Robert wanted to relax, but couldn't. There was something building in this room, and he knew better than to try and run. A Warlord Prince was a born predator, and even being thousands of years old, Robert had no doubt that the High Lord was still an effective predator.
"Everything has its price, Lord Benedict," the High Lord said.
"I…I don't understand," Robert stuttered, too frightened to run, hoping that he could make the man see reason, that he had already paid the price to Sadi for whatever damages Sadi could claim. "I paid with my life for whatever transgressions I had with Sadi! Isn't that enough?"
"For Daemon? Perhaps."
The light changed again, and a painting that had been hidden in shadows became visible. Robert froze, his breath gagging in his throat at the painting of the lovely young woman. She had a wolf at her feet as she walked beside a unicorn. It was as fanciful as the stories Jaenelle used to spin. Then Robert saw the painted girl's eyes. Those sapphire eyes, forever caught in a frozen stare. Jaenelle's eyes. Not a child, but a young woman in that painting.
"My daughter," Robert said. The High Lord snarled at him, and he recoiled. "Is she in the Dark Realm?"
The cold in the room was numbing, even his dead flesh was burning with the freezing air.
"She's not your daughter."
Robert's mouth opened to protest against Jaenelle's tales that Philip was her real father, but the High Lord cut him off. "She's the daughter of my soul. My daughter, never yours." The High Lord faced him full on. "And you owe a great debt to the daughter of my soul."
Terror overflowed Robert's mind. His mouth worked a few times as he tried to say something, anything. "I…I…I never…"
"Briarwood," the High Lord whispered too gently. "It's time to pay the debt, Lord Benedict."
Robert backed away, hands warding off the man that was approaching him. He smashed into a wall of dark, dark power, feeling it wrap around him, caging his body. "No!" he cried, struggling, fighting uselessly. A wash of Black power was pressing up against his mind, and his struggle turned into a howl of despair.
"NOOO!!!!" he screamed. "YOU! NO! I!"
And then there were no more words, only screams.
Hours later Saetan had cleaned the execution room. The shielding he had used to protect the painting of Jaenelle had prevented it from absorbing any of the psychic smells or feels from this particular execution. It would be returned to Kaeleer Hall and hopefully, none of the coven would ask why it had disappeared for a day. Paintings and decorations moved around so much, it would take a week before any of them realized that this one was missing from the usual collection. If the Darkness was kind, then they would never know, never ask.
He vanished the painting and walked slowly to the door. He hadn't used this room, in…how many centuries? Millennia? He would never walk back into it again. No, he didn't like executions, but this one he had come close to enjoying. Robert had paid the full debt he owed to Jaenelle, even if she didn't know it. Others who had enjoyed Briarwood were coming into Hell, and there would be more executions as they paid their debts owed to the children they had destroyed so wantonly. Saetan wouldn't enjoy those executions, he knew that. But this was the first, the one that would get him through the rest of the private conversations that he intended to have with some select individuals.
And in the end, all Briarwood's debts would be paid in full.