For the Three By Three Challenge (third sentence, third word, three books) on peoplespalace, a livejournal community for fanfic about Rahl and the Mord'Sith. Tied for best drabble with Capturing Lord Rahl by seredipity513 and The Haunting by madmguillotine.

The Quotes:

"Rosamund leaned down to sniff it, then dipped her fingers and tasted. "Curious," she said. "Most odd." –page 3, sentence 3, Stranger at the Wedding by Barbara Hambly

"The sharp sounds of cupboards opening and shutting met her." –page 3, sentence 3, First Truth by Dawn Cook

"Still, nobody said anything." –page 3, sentence 3, Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

Blood Rituals

The process of slowly stealing Nicci's Han was going well. Only this morning, Darken had successfully called a thunderstorm much more powerful than he had ever managed in his own body. Mistress Rosamund, who was helping-slash-guarding Shota, the witch who was making the transfer, had said, "My Lord, this storm from such calm air is truly higher magic."

Rosamund would have been sent to the Sisters of the Light if she hadn't been taken by the Mord'Sith, and furthermore she never lied, not even to compliment him. Darken liked this—it reminded him of Cara.

So he was in a good mood when he walked down to the dungeons of the Margrave of Rothenberg (now mercifully deceased; what a bore the man had been), and proceeded to Nicci's cell.

On an ordinary day, Rosamund and Shota would already have been present, setting up the arcane and complex rituals which, while not as efficient as a dacra, were surer, more complete, and hopefully far more painful.


"Where is she?" Darken asked, in a deceptively quiet voice.

Rosamund had apparently been examining the empty shackles, one hand firmly on the sullen Shota's arm.

"Where is she, Mistress Rosamund?" Darken demanded icily.

Still, nobody said anything.

Shota laughed. "Isn't it obvious? You've been outwitted by a silly little suicidal Keeper's pet, Lord Rahl. How does it feel?"

Darken rounded on her, but Rosamund got there first; Shota screamed at the touch of Rosamund's agiel, but still her eyes glinted defiance.

Darken was furious.

Once Rosamund had the witch, Shota, firmly under control, she marched her up the stairs after Lord Rahl, who had left, floor-length vest furling, and headed for the stairs to Shota's temporary workroom.

The sharp sounds of cupboards opening and shutting met her at the door, and Rosamund pulled the witch in after her.

The room was a shambles—all the collected strange liquids in jars, the bloody sacrificial knife, the entwined locks of Lord Rahl and Nicci's hair—were gone. Rosamund blinked, then knelt to examine a bowl of red liquid on the floor, in the center of the pentagram.

Rosamund leaned down to sniff it, then dipped her fingers and tasted. "Curious," she said. "Most odd."

It was blood.

Darken scowled down at Rosamund. First Nicci escaped, and now Rosamund was talking in riddles! "Why?" he demanded sharply.

"It's blood, my Lord—Nicci's, if I'm not mistaken. Why would she leave you her blood?" Rosamund sounded genuinely confused.

Darken thought he understood. It was a challenge. Nicci'd taken all his equipment, anything he could have used to make her blood a focusing object or a power transference liquid, and left him this bowl of her own blood as a sort of taunt.

Inwardly, he vowed it wasn't over. He would find Nicci again and take that blood out of her hide.

Looking for someone on whom to vent his spleen, he glanced from Rosamund, now frowning at the broken window, to Shota, inching toward the door.

His fingers closed around Shota's neck (he reminded himself irresistibly of the Mother Confessor) and he smiled evilly. "So your protégé has flown the coop," he said, ignoring the fact that Shota had never set foot in the People's Palace and was very likely younger than Nicci. "If you had half her power, I can only assume you also would be gone. But you'll have to do."

Shota gulped.