Copyright © 1999 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.
(Suggested reading age: 15 years and older.)
The Dark Council reconvened.
Andulvar Yaslana, the demon-dead Eyrien Warlord Prince, folded
his dark wings and assessed the other Council members, not liking
what he saw. Except for the Tribunal, who had to attend, only
two-thirds of the members were required at each session to listen
to petitions or pass judgment when disputes occurred between
the Blood in Kaeleer that couldn’t be settled by the Territory
Queens. Tonight every chair was filled, except the one beside
But the chair’s occupant was also there, standing patiently
in the petitioner’s circle, waiting for the Council’s answer.
He was a brown-skinned, golden-eyed man, with thick black hair
that was silvered at the temples. Seeing him leaning on the elegant,
silver-headed cane, one might simply have said he was a handsome
Blood male at the end of his prime. His long, black-tinted nails
and the Black-Jeweled ring on his right hand said otherwise.
First Tribune quietly cleared his throat. “Prince Saetan Daemon
SaDiablo, you stand before the Council requesting guardianship
of the child Jaenelle Angelline. You did not, as is customary
in a Blood dispute, provide us with the information needed to
contact the girl’s family so that they could come here and speak
on their own behalf.”
“They don’t want the child,” was the quiet reply. “I do.”
“We have only yours word on that, High Lord.”
Fools, Andulvar thought, watching the barely perceptible
rise and fall of Saetan’s chest.
First Tribune continued. “The most troubling aspect of this
petition is that you’re a Guardian, one of the living dead, and
yet you want us to place the welfare of a living child into your
“Not just any child, Tribune. This child.”
First Tribune shifted uneasily in his chair. His eyes swept
over the tiered seats on both sides of the large room. “Because
of the …unusual…circumstances, the decision will have to be unanimous.
Do you understand?”
“I understand, Tribune. I understand very well.”
First Tribune cleared his throat again. “A vote will now be
taken on the petition of Saetan Daemon SaDiablo for the guardianship
of the child Jaenelle Angelline. Those opposed?”
A number of hands went up, and Andulvar shuddered at the peculiar,
glazed look in Saetan’s eyes.
After the hands were counted, no one spoke, no one moved.
“Take the vote again,” Saetan said too softly.
When First Tribune didn’t respond, Second Tribune touched his
arm. Within seconds, there was nothing in First Tribune’s chair
but a pile of ash and a black silk robe.
Mother Night, Andulvar thought as he watched body after
opposing body crumble. Mother Night.
“Take the vote again,” Saetan said too gently.
It was unanimous.
Second Tribune rubbed her hand over her heart. “Prince Saetan
Daemon SaDiablo, the Council hereby grants you all paternal—”
“Parental. All parental rights.”
“—all parental rights to the child Jaenelle Angelline, from
this hour until she reaches her majority in her twentieth year.”
As soon as Saetan bowed to the Tribunal and began the long walk
down the room, Andulvar left his seat and opened the large double
doors at the far end of the Council chamber. He sighed with relief
when Saetan, leaning heavily on his silver-headed cane, slowly
walked past him.
It wasn’t over, Andulvar thought as he closed the doors and
followed Saetan. The Council would be more subtle next time in
opposing the High Lord, but there would be a next time.
When they finally stepped out into the fresh night air, Andulvar
turned to his longtime friend. “Well, she’s yours now.”
Saetan lifted his face to the night sky and closed his golden
eyes. “Yes, she’s mine.”