High Priest S’Rak is under suspicion of murder. Captain Jisten isn’t sure if the Loftoni is innocent or guilty, but he’s convinced that keeping Rak under guard is the best thing to do. Unfortunately, Rak doesn’t agree with him. As the Lord of Madness toys with them both, their relationship grows ever more strained. Rak slips away from his guards more than once, and Jisten grows increasingly desperate to bring the wayward priest to heel.
Jethain slid a knowing hand down the mare’s long, arched neck. “Easy, easy,” he murmured soothingly, keeping the high-strung racer as calm as he could. Abruptly, she ducked her head down and coughed several times, mouth gaping as she struggled for air. He shook his head and stepped back to the stall door. “How many have it?”
“Jus’ three, yer highness,” Rizan replied. Jethain had hired him as an exercise rider half a year ago. The boy was utterly devoted to him and, most importantly, to his horses. He knew every horse in Jethain’s string as well as the prince himself did. Only S’Rak, with his Thezi talents, could be said to know them better.
“Move all the coughing horses to the isolation barn,” Jethain commanded. “From all barns, ask the other boys. Any horse with a cough must be moved now before it spreads further if it’s not already too late.”
Rizan nodded. “At once, yer highness.” He dashed off with commendable speed. The isolation barn would have to be prepared to receive the incoming horses, so Jethain wasn’t surprised that the boy hadn’t taken any of the sick ones with him. He strode out of the barn and headed for Bharis’ office.
“There be horses sick in every barn,” Bharis said by way of greeting. “Not many, just two or three in each, but still, this be ominous, your highness.”
“I’ve ordered the isolation barn prepared. We move the sick ones now, dose them as we can, and pray for the best. If they’re not improving in a day or two, we’ll call in S’Rak.”
Bharis smiled warmly. “Aye, sir. We can do that.” He stood from his desk. “With your leave, I’ll get the boys organized.”
Jethain nodded. “Thank you, Bharis.” He strode out of the stables, confident that the threat was being dealt with.
* * * *
Paezin padded through the ornate gardens of the palace. He was a shadow within the shadows, invisible to both the nobles he observed and the guards who should observe him. He sought prey for his master’s work but not just anyone would do. A mistake had been made with the last, for her husband had been known to be on the enemy’s side, and thus, her murder made precious little sense. Why would S’Rak turn on an ally? In short, he wouldn’t.
A particularly nasal laugh turned his head, and he turned his attention upon the source: a middle-aged woman dressed in the height of fashion, her expression cruel and calculating beneath the veneer of civility she showed to others. Her face was not displeasing though he suspected artifice being used to replace what age had faded. She wasn’t excessively heavy, at least, appearing slender enough beneath the ornate gown that her conquest might be enjoyable.
He followed the lady now, marking her in his mind as his prey. She was perfect. Lady Soansa, they called her, fawning over her. Her husband was Lord Deviol, the newly named chancellor of Koilatha. She was vociferously outspoken against the dark ones, her husband was known to oppose them in the council. And even better, this Deviol was one of the two noble witnesses to the dark one’s collaring by the late Lord Virien. It was known that Deviol had carnal knowledge of the high priest because he had boasted of it, how Lord Keron and himself had used the sex slave after he’d begged them for relief. Nobody would look for any other suspect than the high priest.