By Cat Carroll
Disclaimer: The Black Jewels Series is owned by Anne Bishop. Most of the characters in the story belong to her, but I'm borrowing their future selves for a little while. I'm not getting anything for this except for some emotional satisfaction (read: review, dammit, review!!) and to have something to do while the surgical incisions heal.
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who was shocked to discover I was still alive after I posted my first little one-shot BJT story. To all those from my DA days, I still have the unfinished stories, and I think I'm ready to finish them now. But this story is going to be short by my standards (although I planned it originally to be about five chapters, and it's going to be about double that) and I should have it done relatively soon. After I finish it, and get my creative muscles all stretched, I'll open up those old files and see if my muse still wants to keep shoveling stuff in my head.
Anyways, please read and review. I'm not ashamed to admit that I LOOOOOOOOVE reviews. And I hope everyone likes the liberties I've taken with some canon characters. I've been told that I like the kids of canon characters more than the original characters, and I've found that to be true. I get the rules of the world, but the freedom to give them their own blend of virtues and angst. Alright, enough blathering on. Enjoy the story!
The young Eyrien Queen slowed as she heard Daemonar's familiar voice from above. He glided in front of her, back-winged into a back-flip and landed with a flourish. She couldn't help the smile. The only time Daemonar wasn't a show-off was when he was under threat from both his mother and aunt to behave or else. The only time he hadn't behaved, he had ended up with an 800 pound Arcerian cat sitting on him, making sure he stayed still. Some lessons, even Daemonar could get once.
Daemonar had to fight back the urge to demand why Orian was walking, in the snow, by herself. She wasn't even air walking. Granted, it was a light snow, but still, anyone could have followed her tracks. The young Warlord Prince had to hold his tongue and remember advice that his father had given him. When a female was determined to do something that wasn't good for her, be annoying until she gets angry enough at the male to stop and focus her energy on yelling at him. He didn't like to make Orian yell at him, but he could make her laugh, and that was same enough. They had been friends since early childhood and he knew all the tricks to making her smile and laugh.
Orian started walking again, and Daemonar fell in step beside her. She knew that he was gritting his teeth against getting her to fly, but sometimes she needed to touch the land. It was an innate need for all Queens to feel the land beneath them, and as much as she loved to fly, it didn't give her the connection she needed, especially now that she had some big decisions to make.
"Kirian is home," Daemonar said. "She's going to be home through Winsol and my Offering."
Orian smiled. "Did the Court survive her?"
Kirian, Daemonar's younger sister, was a Queen who wore Birthright Green and was expected to wear the Gray after she made the Offering to the Darkness. Askavi was already slated to be ruled by the dark-jeweled witch after she made the Offering in two more years. Most Queens ruled smaller areas and gained experience before moving onto a Province or Territory. However, the first dark-jeweled Eyrien Queen in Kaeleer had immediately been offered Askavi. Not a big surprise considering her family connections. However, the young Queen had been an apprentice in several Territory Courts over the last few years, working on building the skills she would need as a Queen. It had come as a surprise for her to discover that a fist-fight and/or public brawl was actually not how a Queen was supposed to act. She had been working hard on learning how to be a proper Queen, but, well, she was Eyrien, and Lucivar Yaslana's daughter. She had been kicked out of two Courts, and one Queen still had a facial tick every time Kirian's name was mentioned.
Some people had thought Orian would be upset not to be offered Askavi since she was older, and a Queen, but Orian had been relieved. She wore the Rose, and would probably wear Purple-Dusk after she made the Offering to the Darkness. That wasn't nearly strong enough for Askavi, and there was the never-mentioned fact that she wasn't pure Eyrien. She saw it in their faces, especially the ones from Terreille. For Kirian, it didn't matter. The other half of her paternal bloodline was the High Lord of Hell. Everyone could forgive that, even if they didn't want to. But that little bit of curl in Orian's hair said she wasn't completely Eyrien, and never would be. No, Askavi wouldn't accept her like they would Kirian. Orian had received several other offers, all of them more than a light-jeweled Queen should expect, and she would be happier with one of them.
"She's been at Karla's," Daemonar said. He shrugged. "I don't know what happened, but my parents got a letter soon after she got there. Mom looked worried, Dad fell down laughing, and apparently, Kirian's been on her best behavior ever since."
Orian giggled. "Good thing Queen Karla isn't dealing with you."
He snorted. "I've always obeyed Protocol to the letter when visiting another Court."
Now Orian laughed out loud. "You convinced Geoffrey and Draca that the Keep was under attack!"
"Technically, that was Tersa," he reminded her, referring to Daemon and Jaenelle's youngest daughter.
"You talked her into weaving the illusion webs!"
"Well, technically true, but…"
"Before that, you locked the High Lord in his study and announced you had conquered Hell!"
Now he laughed. He had only been a small boy at the time, and his butt had been sore for a day after from a righteous walloping, but he had proudly managed it. Saetan had been in his private study in the Dark Realm when Daemonar had put a shield into the wood itself surrounding the study, and gone into the reception hall. It was Saetan's monthly petition day, and the hall was full of the demon-dead. He announced that Granddad was his prisoner and that he, Daemonar, was now the High Lord. Some of the demons were frightened, others bemused at the eight-year-old's proclamation. All of them had scattered when the High Lord figured out what the boy had done, how to get around it, and had come into the reception hall in a temper to match the situation. Daemonar had spent the next week on the other side of Kaeleer in order to keep him as far from Saetan as possible.
Orian smiled warmly at Daemonar. "You'll do fine in Tersa's Court."
Daemonar frowned. "Tersa's Court?"
Orian looked at him, confused. "You said that there was no way you would let Kirian have any command over you," she said. "The only other Court worth your rank and Jewels is going to be the Dark Court."
"Tersa isn't going to set up her Court for two years," he answered. "And I don't want to serve her. I'm going to serve in your Court."
Orian laughed again, sure he was teasing. Tersa wore Birthright Red, and Jaenelle had said she would wear the Black after she made the Offering. Normally, nobody knew what they would come out of the Offering with, but if Jaenelle said her daughter was going to wear the Black, then the girl was going to wear the Black. Tersa had always been a serious girl, and preparing to wear the Black had intensified that seriousness. She was a natural Black Widow, and had spent most of her life preparing to take on her duties as Queen of Ebon Askavi. Everyone wanted a position in her Court, even if she had made it clear that she was not Witch, her mother was Witch, and Tersa would not tolerate anyone acting like she was dreams made flesh like her mother was.
Orian, Tersa, and Daemonar had been the best of friends since childhood. The Eyriens, being long-lived, matured more slowly than the short-lived raced. Tersa was mixed blood, and although their ages were different, they were at the same maturity rate throughout their lives. Well, some of them were. Daemonar seemed to have a special gift for bringing out the naughty in anyone, and that included his serious, duty-minded cousin. The girls were able to provide a bit of a restraining influence on Daemonar, but sometimes his suggestions just seemed too fun to worry about the consequences.
"My Court?" Orian said with a little tilt to her head, looking at the Sapphire Jewel hanging on a chain against his chest. "Yes, I can see a Gray or Ebon-Gray Warlord Prince serving in some small Village or District Court far out of the way."
Daemonar grabbed her hands and spun her around. "Screw that! We'll sneak over to Terreille, conquer a Territory, and you'll be brilliant and beautiful Queen that everyone loves, and I'll be the rugged and handsome Warlord Prince who uses his strength to save the people, and then they come to love me as much as they adore their Queen."
Orian was getting dizzy. "You've been reading your mother's books again!" Daemonar stopped spinning her and blushed, and she cackled with laughter. "You have!" She gave him big puppy-dog eyes. "Aww…did you have a tissue in hand when you read it? Got awwwwllll sniffwyy?"
"They're very educational," he replied with mock dignity. But the blush was still on his cheeks. "I bet if I looked at your books, I could see the pages that had been read the most."
She gasped and blushed. Her Virgin Night would be in the spring, and she was nervous about the whole thing. She knew what was going to happen, and her mother had been very open and honest discussing sex, but still, Orian couldn't help but wonder what it would actually be like. Plus, she still didn't know who it would be with. She didn't have someone already selected as her Consort, a male she was already emotionally involved with, who would see her through her Virgin Night and become her lover afterwards. So, she was going to need an experienced consort who could see her safely through her Virgin Night and expected nothing more than to aid a young Queen on the most dangerous night of her life. She didn't fancy anyone in particular for the task, and her parents had been helping to sort out the men who would be willing, and find one that Orian would be comfortable with.
Daemonar went to say something else, when his senses caught the feel of another male approaching. He instantly went from a cheerful friend into a protective warrior in a second, stepping in front of Orian, his hand out, ready to call in a weapon in a heartbeat. A few seconds later a male Eyrien dropped out of the sky in front of them.