Demon's Dream - By Connie Suttle

Chapter 1

"Bring everything out that you have taken." Gavril had to be held back by Aurelius; the full force of his compulsion might have torn the woman's mind apart. Her husband stood nearby, restrained by Garde and Jayd.

Reah had been folded away by Nefrigar, and multiple attempts at reaching the Larentii Archivist via mindspeech yielded no results. Lissa, expressing her extreme anger at Gardevik and Kifirin, insisted that they do what they could to retrieve Reah's things. Now, all those who'd gathered at Baetrah's rim stood outside the cottage Reah had occupied for more than twenty years. The new grove supervisor's wife cowered before Gavril in the tiny front yard.

"My wife didn't tell me that she found anything of value in the house," the supervisor denied any part in the theft.

"Lie," Jayd said casually. "Garde, did you even interview these before you hired them?"

"Not nearly long enough," Garde blew smoke. The woman, frightened by Garde and Teeg's anger, rushed inside the cottage and returned quickly with a small, carved box.

"Here's the jewelry, but I sold some of it," the woman's hand trembled as she offered the box to Gavril.

"What is missing?" Aurelius demanded.

"My ring," Gavril muttered angrily, searching swiftly through the box. "You will tell me what you did with it," he snapped.

"This is ridiculous," Lok growled. He'd been silent until then, settling for pacing back and forth and casting black looks at Kifirin.

"It didn't look real, so I sold it for two credits," the woman wept.

"It's Tiralian crystal," Aurelius said, "and worth millions. Where is it?"

"One of the hands bought it for his daughter's wedding."

"Bring them in," Garde snapped. "Bring all the employees in. Now."

* * *

"This was hers? I never saw her wear it," a man brought the ring forward with shaking hands.

"Because you don't wear Tiralian crystal to repair the sprinkler system," Gavril said dryly. "Here. As compensation for the ring. There should be ten thousand credits on the chip." He handed a chip bracelet over.

"Thank you. I'll buy a replacement for my daughter," the man nodded respectfully and backed away. "I was hoping Reah would come back. Those two over there are terrible. I only bought the ring because they offered it to me."

"Reah won't be back. We'll try to find someone else who will be better than these," Jayd jerked his head toward the overseer and his wife. "Those two are going back where they came from."

* * *

"I know it looked that way to Reah." Jayd paced while Tory sat and watched. His father, Garde, stood off to the side. Tory was angry. With both of them. "Garde said we could give the girls the best of everything here at the palace, so he told Reah that this is where they'd stay."

"So Kifirin waves his fingers and everybody worked together to keep the girls away from Reah, and to keep her poor and in the groves."

"I didn't know how bad it was. I get complaints every day from the disabled, asking where their medications or their socks or their new blankets are," Jayd sighed. "And of course they complain about the food they're being served."

"I thought we were doing what was best for the girls," Garde offered.

"Dad, that's bullshit. Mom said you were pissed at Reah. She said you blamed her for my disappearance. We both know who was responsible for that, now don't we?"

"And we were only listening to what we wanted to hear." Glinda walked into Jayd's study. "We wanted those girls as close as we could get them, so we didn't argue with whatever Garde did to get them here. The truth is that Reah should have been here, too. We left a precious High Demon female out in the groves on the Southern Continent, alone and unguarded. Anything could have happened out there. Admit it."

"Something almost did happen. Today." Tory stood. "What would you do, Dad, if Reah had taken that last step? Would this be your chance to do what you wanted to do all along, and hand all the rights to my girls over to Jayd and Glinda?"

"Son, it isn't quite like that," Garde said.

"Then how is it? How's Mom, Dad? She okay? What if that had been her out there about to kill herself?" Tory skipped away.

"You fucked up," Jayd turned to Garde.

"We all did," Glinda pointed out.

* * *

"Again." Lok gestured for Drake to come after him. Drake obliged, both blades flying. Sweat poured off Lok's body, the dragon tattoos glistening in the early twilight. Aurelius stood

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