According to legend, the premedieval Castle Tornin had been created by a divine hand to protect the well, with six bold towers encircling it, and the central court. Though the stones that made up the fortress were rugged, they'd been placed flawlessly. Tornin was perfectly imperfect.
As rough-hewn as its former king was reputed to be.
Omort drew back his cape before sitting. "I summoned you half an hour ago."
"Ah, just so. I recall that now." She and Lanthe had been watching DVDs in Lanthe's solar-powered room. The sisters probably logged seven hours a day watching movies. Alas, cable wasn't forthcoming.
As she passed the Viceroy centaur, Sabine peeked down and asked him, "How's it hanging? Low and to the left, I see. Your left, my right." Though his fury was undisguised, he would never challenge her. She had far too much power here.
She gave him a wink to remind him of just that, then continued to Omort, "I was going to be here on time. But I had something very urgent to take care of."
"Did you really?"
"No." And that was all she'd say on the matter.
Omort stared at her in fascination, his yellow irises glowing. But when she removed her own cape, he seemed to shake himself, casting a disapproving look at her garments-a scanty bandeau top of gold weave, a leather micro-skirt, claw-tipped gauntlets on her hands, and thigh-high boots.
After raking his gaze over her body, Omort settled on her face. She'd drawn her bold scarlet eye paint in the shape of wings that spread out from her lashes up over her brows all the way to her hairline.
In ages past, Omort had wanted to make it law that females of value were to obscure their faces with a tradi-tional silk Sorceri mask instead of mere paint mimicking one, and to cover their bodies entirely.
He'd swiftly learned how Sabine felt about that idea.
"Actually, Omort, I just came to drink my medicine"
"You'll get your dose later," Omort replied, waving a
How easy it was for him to dismiss. He wasn't the one who needed it to keep from dying a horrific death.
"For now, we have something more important to
Hettiah, Omort's half sister and Sabine's arch-nemesis, arrived then, hastening up the dais steps to stand beside Omort's throne-her rightful place, since she was his concubine as well as his relation. She must have run here as soon as she'd heard Sabine was at court, frantic to make sure Sabine didn't steal Omort from her.
Hettiah was woefully confused on two points: Omort was Sabine's for the taking, and she would never be
Omort ignored Hettiah utterly, keeping his eyes on
"Important to discuss ... ?" she prompted.
"My spies have long been searching for Groot the Metallurgist and monitoring the activities of his most trusted followers."
Groot lived in hiding from Omort, and was one of only two half siblings outside Tornin who still survived.
"I've just learned that he sent an emissary to meet with none other than Rydstrom Woede."
At last, an intrigue! "Rydstrom and Groot, our two most dangerous enemies allying. This is bad news."
"Something must be done. One of the spies heard the emissary promising a sword forged to kill me."
Everyone at court stilled-including Sabine.
Omort exhaled wearily. "It won't, though. It can't." He almost sounded regretful. "Do you know how many bombs, spells, spears, daggers, and poisons were supposed to have ended me ?"
Indeed, Sabine had seen Omort stabbed through the heart, beheaded, and burned to cold ash. And always he rose from a dirty mist like a phoenix, stronger even than before. His very name meant without death.
"But Rydstrom must believe it will work," he said. "The infamously coolheaded demon was seen storming from the meeting, and heard calling his brother Cadeon as he got into his car to speed away toward New Orleans."
"Rydstrom must be on his way to meet him." Cadeon the Kingmaker, a ruthless mercenary. He was rumored to be able to put any king on a throne-except his brother. For centuries, the two had worked together to reclaim Tornin.
Which was now her home. Get over it, demons. Not moving.
Hettiah cleared her throat. "My liege, if the sword can't kill you, then why worry about it?"
"Because the belief is nearly as dangerous," Sabine answered impatiently. "The sword could be seen as a rallying point, used as a propaganda tool." Already little rebellions erupted over the countryside, the demons continuing to clamor for their deposed king.
Clamoring still-after nine centuries.
Sabine often wondered how he'd earned such fervent loyalty. "So it's clear I can't let the brothers meet," she said. "I'll intercept Rydstrom before he can reach the city."
"And then?" Omort said quietly. "What will you do
"And then I'll kill two birds with one stone," she answered. "This is the prophecy beginning." Just in time for the Accession.
Every five hundred years, that great immortal war took place, and they were on the cusp of it right now.
Her gaze flickered over the mysterious well in the center of the court, strewn with sacrifices-bloody and unidentifiable body parts. Her future depended on unlocking its power. And the demon was the key.
When she faced Omort, his brows drew together, as if he'd thought she would balk at bedding a demon. In fact, she was eager to get this over with-and then to seize the power that was there for the taking.
At last, something to want, to need.
Hettiah asked, "What if the demon resists you?"
Sabine's lips parted. "Have you looked at me lately, Hettiah?" She turned in a circle, a move that left Omort leaning forward on the edge of his throne, and Hettiah sending her murderous glances.
Hettiah wasn't without power. In fact, her ability was neutralizing others' powers. She could erase illusions as easily as Sabine could cast them. Lanthe had nicknamed her Hettiah the Buzz Kill and Aunty-Matter.
"Don't underestimate the demon," Omort finally said. "He's one of the most iron-willed beings I've ever encountered. Don't forget that I faced him-and yet he lives."
Sabine exhaled, trying to keep a rein on her notorious temper. "Yes, but I have unique attributes that make this demon's seduction in the bag."
"You also have a detriment," Hettiah sneered. "You're a freak among the Lore."
It was true she was unique-a virgin seductress. Sabine chuckled at Hettiah's statement, then her expression instantly turned cold when she faced her brother. "Omort, put a muzzle on your pet, or I'll make her one from her intestines." She rapped her silver-tipped claws together, and the sound rang out in the chamber.