Books


Queen of the Darkness

Queen of the Darkness

Book 3
Black Jewels Trilogy

Roc
January 2000
Paperback ISBN-13:
0451456734

Cover:
Art by Larry Rostant
Design by Ray Lundgren

Library Edition available as audio bookavailable as ebook

 




EXCERPT

Copyright © 2000 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.
(Suggested reading age: 15 years and older.)


6/Kaeleer

The Queen of Arachna settled next to the shoulder of the weary, golden-haired woman who leaned against a flat-sided boulder.

*Is bad?* the large golden spider asked in her soft voice.

Jaenelle Angelline brushed her hair away from her face and sighed. Her haunted sapphire eyes narrowed a little against the early-morning sunlight as she once again studied the delicate strands of the tangled web that she'd woven during the night. “Yes, it's bad. A war is coming. A war between the Realms.”

*Can stop?*

Jaenelle shook her head slowly. “No. No one can stop it.”

The spider shifted uneasily. The air around the woman tasted of sadness – and a growing, cold rage. *The two-legs have fought before. Is more bad this time?*

“You may look.”

Accepting the formal invitation, the Arachnian Queen opened her mind to the dreams and visions in the large tangled web Jaenelle had spun between a boulder and a nearby tree.

So much death. So much pain and sorrow. And a creeping taint that soiled the ones remaining.

Pulling back from the dreams and visions, she studied the web itself and noticed two odd things. One was the delicate silver ring set with an Ebony Jewel that had been placed in the center of the web. A Jewel chip was rarely woven into a tangled web because the magic that shaped those webs was powerful – and dangerous – enough, and this particular Jewel belonged to Jaenelle, who was Witch, the living myth, dreams made flesh. The other odd thing was the triangle. Many threads were connected to that ring, but overlaying them were three threads that formed a triangle around it.

Intrigued, the spider continued to study the web. She had seen that triangle before. Strength, passion, courage. Loyalty, honor, love. She could almost taste the male tang in those threads.

“If Kaeleer accepts Terreille's challenge and goes to war,” Jaenelle said softly, “it will destroy the Blood in both Realms. All the Blood. Even the kindred.”

*Some will live. It is always so.*

“Not this time. Oh, there will be some who will physically survive the war, but...” Jaenelle's voice broke. She took a deep breath. “All of my Sisters, all of my friends will be gone. All of the Queens will be gone. All of the Warlord Princes.”

*All?*

“There will be no Queens left to heal the land, no Queens left to hold the Blood together. The slaughter will continue until there's no one left to slaughter. The witches will be as barren as the land. The gift of power that had been given to us so long ago will be the final weapon that destroys us. If Kaeleer goes to war with Terreille.”

*Must fight,* the spider said. *Must stop creeping taint.*

Jaenelle smiled bitterly. “War won't stop it. I know who nurtured the seeds, and if eliminating Dorothea and Hekatah would stop this from coming, I'd destroy them right now. But it wouldn't stop anything, not anymore. It would only delay it, and that would be worse. This is the right place and the right time to cleanse that taint out of the Blood.”

*You speak paths that go no place,* the spider scolded. *You say can't fight but must fight. You confused? Maybe you read web wrong.*

Jaenelle turned her head toward the spider, a dryly amused look on her face. “And where did I learn to weave a tangled web? If I'm not reading it right, maybe I wasn't taught correctly.”

The spider used Craft to make a harsh, buzzing sound that indicated severe disapproval. *Not fault of teaching spider if little spider pay more attention to catching fly than doing lesson.*

Jaenelle's silvery, velvet-coated laugh filled the air. “I never once tried to catch a fly. And I did pay attention to the teaching spider. After all, she was the Dream Weavers' Queen at the time.”

The Arachnian Queen resettled herself, somewhat mollified.

Jaenelle's humor faded as she turned her sapphire eyes back to the web. “Terreille will go to war.”

*Then Kaeleer will war.*

“This web shows two paths,” Jaenelle said very quietly.

*No,* the spider replied firmly. *One web, one vision. That is the way.*

“Two paths,” Jaenelle insisted. “Following the second path, Kaeleer doesn't go to war with Terreille, and the Queens and Warlord Princes survive to heal and protect the Shadow Realm.”

*Then who war with Terreille?*

Jaenelle hesitated. “The Queen of the Darkness.”

*But you are Queen!*

Jaenelle exhaled sharply. “A war that cleanses the Realms, calls in the debts, takes back the gift of power that was given. There's a way. There must be a way, but the web can't show me yet because of that.” Her finger pointed to the triangle. “That's not the Queen's triangle.” Her finger traced the left side of the triangle. “That thread is the High Lord.” She traced the bottom thread. “And that thread is Lucivar.” Her finger hesitated at the triangle's right side. “But that thread isn't Andulvar. It should be, since he's the Master of the Guard, but it's someone else. Someone who isn't here yet, someone who can guide me to the answers I need to walk that other path.”

*The thread not tell you its name?*

“It says the mirror is coming. What kind of answer is—” Tensing, Jaenelle scrambled to her knees. “Daemon,” she whispered. “Daemon.”

The spider shifted uneasily. Witch had flavored the air with intense pleasure when she had whispered that name – but underneath the pleasure there was a little taste of fear.

“I have to go,” Jaenelle said hurriedly as she leaped to her feet. “I still need to stop at a couple of kindred Territories before I return to the Hall.” She hesitated, glanced at the spider. “With your permission, I'd like to keep this one for a while.”

*Your webs be welcome among the Weavers of Dreams.*

Raising her hand, Jaenelle used Craft to put a protective shield on the tangled web's threads. She looked back at the spider. “May the Darkness embrace you, Sister.”

*And you, Sister Queen,* the spider replied formally.

The Arachnian Queen waited until Jaenelle caught one of the Winds, those psychic pathways through the Darkness, before she used Craft to float gently toward the tangled web.

One web, one vision. That was the way. But when Witch spun a web...

Using instinct and all of her training, the spider cautiously brushed a leg against a small thread that floated loose from the Ebony ring. The tangled web showed her the second path.

The spider quickly backed away. *No!* she called, sending out her psychic communication thread as far as it would reach. *No! Not a second path. Not an answer! You not walk this path!*

No answer. Not even a flicker from Witch's powerful mind to indicate that she had heard.

*You not walk this path,* the spider said again sadly, seeing clearly where that path would end.

Perhaps not. Witch could weave a tangled web better than any other Black Widow, but even Witch couldn't always sense all the flavors in the threads.

The Arachnian Queen turned back to the web and felt a mild tug. Walking on air, she followed the tug to a thread near the tree-anchored side of the web. Cautiously, she brushed a leg against the thread.

Dog. The brown-and-white dog she had seen in the first web she had spun after the cold season had passed. She had asked Witch to bring the dog, Ladvarian, to the Weavers' island. She had wanted to see this Warlord – and she had wanted him to see her.

She plucked the Ladvarian thread and felt its vibration run through the web. Many of the threads connected to the Ebony ring – the kindred threads – began to shine brightly. The human threads shone, too, but not so bright, not so sure. She must remember that. And that triangle...

With her leg still resting on the Ladvarian thread, the spider let her mind sail to the secret cave, the sacred cave in the center of the island. There the Arachnian Queens had gone time after time to listen to dreams – and to weave, thread by thread, the very special webs that bound dreams to flesh, that were the first tangible step in creating Witch.

Small webs. Larger webs. Sometimes only one race, only one kind of dreamer, had dreamed Witch into being. Other times the dreamers had come from different places with different needs that somehow had fit together to become one dream.

When that dream's time in the flesh was done and it no longer walked the Realms, the Arachnian Queen would respectfully cut the anchor threads that held the web to the cave walls, roll the spidersilk into a ball, deposit it in a niche, and then use Craft to coax crystals to grow over the opening. There were many closed niches, more than the human Blood realized. But then, the kindred had always been far more faithful dreamers.

There was one web in the cave that had been started long, long ago. Generation after generation after generation, the Arachnian Queens had brushed one of the anchor threads of that web, had listened to the dreams, and then had added more strands. So many dreamers in this web, so many dreams that had fit together to become one. Twenty-five years ago, by human reckoning, that dream had finally become flesh.

In the center of that special web was a triangle. Three strong dreamers. Three threads that had been reinforced so many times they were now thick and very powerful.

And each Queen, as she consumed the freely offered flesh of the one who had come before her, had been told the same thing: Remember this web. Know this web. Know every thread.

The spider pulled her mind back to the new web.

Dreams made flesh. A spirit nurtured in the Darkness, shaped by dreams. And a tangled web, equally nurtured and hidden in a cave full of ancient power, that guided that spirit to the right kind of flesh.

There had been times, when the spider had seen terrible things in her webs of dreams and visions, when she had wondered if that particular spirit had, in fact, found the right flesh; had wondered if, perhaps, some of the threads had been too old. No, there had been a reason why this one had been shaped into this flesh. The pain and the wounds had not been the fault of the dreaming – or the dreamers.

The spider drew silk out of her body and carefully attached it to the Ladvarian thread.

So. Witch would choose the second path, blind to the fact that, while she would save Kaeleer and those she loved, she would also destroy Kaeleer's Heart.

There had to be a way to save Kaeleer's Heart.

Spinning out an anchor thread between the tree trunk and a sturdy branch, the Arachnian Queen began to weave her own tangled web.

 

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