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Jayr watched him as they crossed blades several times, and saw that the tresora had not exaggerated his abilities. “You trained with a Kyn master.”

Leeds mirrored her movements. “Lord Marietto did not separate his tresori from his warriors. Every mortal who served him trained in the lists.”

Now Jayr understood the scars, and felt ashamed of herself for accepting Leeds’s offer. “That must have been painful.”

“The Kyn understood we could not heal as they did. We were never unduly harmed.” He easily avoided her next, halfhearted thrust. “Please don’t hold back, my lady.”

“I fear I must.” Jayr flashed around him, waiting until he turned before she went on guard. “Else you would be fighting a blur.”

Leeds nodded, and for the first time attacked, working his jabs from left to right with focused, economical moves. Jayr felt the surprising weight of his strength as she parried and was forced to shuffle backward. Sweat streaked the tresora’s face, but he did not relent.

Jayr used her speed to move beyond his reach. “You are tiring—” She stopped as he lunged, and brought up her blade without thinking, slashing his wrist and causing him to drop his weapon. “Damn me.”

“It’s nothing.” He grasped his wrist, and grimaced as blood trickled through his fingers. “The match is yours, my lady.”

Jayr drove her blade into the ground and went to him, taking hold of his arm. “Let me see it.”

Leeds took away his hand, revealing a gash that nearly went to the bone. “I will pay a visit to the infirmary, and they will set it to rights.”

“Stupid of me to react without thinking. I might have lopped off your hand. Forgive me, Devan.” Jayr lifted her own wrist to her mouth, biting into it before she held the punctures over his wound. “No, don’t move away. This will heal it.”

Leeds gave her a strange look. “You would shed your blood for a mortal.”

“For an ally, and a friend, yes. I will.” On impulse she kissed his cheek.

“Friends, are we, now?”

Jayr looked over Leeds’s shoulder to see Byrne standing just outside the circle. “We were sparring, and I was careless and wounded Devan. I’m healing the damage I did.”

“Indeed.” Byrne made a show of studying the tresora. “Yet I see no mark on his face.”

“My lord, our lady was simply—”

“She is my lady, you fawning little ponce. Not yours.” In a blink Byrne had the front of Leeds’s shirt in his fist and used it to lift him to eye level. “You’ve used up your welcome here, English. Pack up your suits and your sniveling and be gone by sunset.”

“Aedan. Put him down.” For a moment Jayr thought her lover would ignore her, but after a long, ugly moment he lowered Leeds back to the ground. To Devan, she said, “Go inside now, and leave this to me.”

The tresora smoothed down the front of his shirt with his uninjured hand before he bowed to her. “As you command, my lady.” He walked past Byrne as if he were invisible.

“If you mean to persuade me to coddle your mortal pet, save your breath, my lady,” Byrne told her. “He’s naught but trouble and spite, and I’ll not have him on my land another night.”

“Your land? Your lady?” Jayr picked up her blade and sheathed it. “You forget, Aedan, you no longer rule here. This is my jardin, and you are my seneschal. As such, you have no say over my mortal, my territory, or me.”

“You are my sygkenis, bonded to me. As my woman and my life companion, you are obliged to obey my wishes.” He strode a few steps away before turning and coming back to her. “You were kissing him. Kissing that mewling bag of blood.”

“I slipped while we were sparring, and nearly cut off his hand.” She threw out her arms, so infuriated she shouted the rest. “It meant nothing.”

“To you, aye, I believe that. I’d go mad if I didn’t.” He bent down to glare into her face. “But I saw the look on his face when you put your mouth on him. The daft prick imagines himself in love with you. Cannae you smell it on him? Or is it a new sport, seeing how oft you can make the sorry little bastard tilt his cods for you?”

Jayr slapped him. The crack of her palm against his face echoed around them, stabbing at her ears, sharp and terrible.

“For love of you, Aedan mac Byrne, I have never looked upon another man, any man, human or Kyn. Not since the day I gave my mortal life to save you.” She watched the dark pink print of her hand fade from his tattooed cheek. “At first I thought this jealousy of yours amusing, even flattering. You have always been first with me, and I thought no one knew this better than you. But now I see how little you know me, that you would insult my love for you so easily.”

He reached out to her. “Jayr—”

“I will not touch you or speak to you or look at you again until you apologize to Devan. Yes, Devan, who is staying on my land, and will be joining my household, and serving as my tresora.” She strode off into the keep.

Beau slipped out of bed, leaning over to cover Alys’s naked body with the sheets. “Are you sure you want water, and not wine?”

“Alcohol makes me throw up.” She gave him a sleepy smile. “I’d rather do other things with my mouth tonight, if you don’t mind.”

He chuckled and went into the bath to fetch her water. As he filled the drinking glass in the sink, the glitter of gold caught his eye, and he shut off the tap and set the glass on the counter.

The chain of the necklace had been fashioned from very fine, tiny links, each twisted into the shape of an hourglass. From the chain hung a golden cross, as plain as the links were elaborate. The solidness of it felt heavy in Beau’s hand as he lifted it and turned it to see the twinkle of the tiny gem set in the cross’s center.

Green, like the eye of Yblis, the Evil One. His mother had taught him that. But Beau had ridden with the devil himself, and his eyes had been silver.…

The man in the robe rode through night, never stopping until sunrise. Whenever Beau had slumped against him from exhaustion, the man would tie him to his back with the rope-belt from his robe.

When the sky turned from black to gray, the man would find a shaded place, and set up his nomad’s tent for Beau to eat and drink and sleep through the long, hot hours of the day. The robed man himself never ate or drank or slept; he would sit and watch the horizon, or he would take out the chains of gold he carried in his pouch. Chains upon which hung the devil’s green eyes, captured in gold…

Beau closed his hand over Alys’s cross as the blurry memory crystallized.

The day had dawned cold, and ice covered the land. When the man found a place for the tent, he had wrapped Beau in his robe, and built a small fire.

“Warm yourself,” he told Beau, sitting on the other side of the flames in nothing more than a loincloth. “Soon we will cross the great waters, and then you will be home.”

Huddled under the robe, Beau had felt the pouch filled with the devil’s eyes against his hip. With frightened fingers he’d ripped it from the pocket within and cast it into the fire.

“What have you done?”

The man’s cold voice made Beau’s insides shrivel. “They are the eyes of the Yblis, the evil one.”

“Foolish boy.” The man reached into the fire, and plucked out the smoldering pouch. “These are gifts I have made for my kin.”

Beau knew how hot the fire burned, and yet no marks did it leave on the man’s cold flesh. “Then you are the devil.”

“Perhaps I am.” The man had smiled at him, and held up the three chains. “I will tell you what these are. My eyes. Those who wear these, my blood kin, will forever be judged by them. If they are worthy, they will be granted special gifts. If they betray me, they will die miserable deaths. And when I grow too weary of this world, one of them shall be changed to take my place.”

Beau didn’t understand the man’s strange prophecy. “What will you do to me?”

“That has already been done.” The man reached for his pack, and took out a wooden box. “I have but to mark you, the last of my mortal seed, my third eye. My omega.”


He opened his eyes to see Alys in the doorway, and looked down at the cross clutched tightly in his hand. He wanted to go to the nearest window to throw it out into the night, but instead made himself place it back on the counter.

Alys came to wind her arms around his waist. “I hope that ghost didn’t follow us here. You look like you’ve just seen it.” She glanced at the cross. “I’m really not religious. I only wear it because my guardian asked me to. Robert was very insistent about it, but I think he was Catholic.”

Beau hugged her close. “Did he have gray eyes, your guardian?”

“No, they were brown, I think.” She tipped her head back. “Robert is dead, so if the cross bothers you, I don’t have to wear it anymore. I never really liked it. Why does it matter what color his eyes were?”

“Alys, I have seen this cross before, when I was a boy. I don’t understand everything about it, but with your gift of making sense of things, you may be able to make sense of what I saw.” He picked up the glass of water, and saw a flash of green in it as it magnified the glitter of the gem in her cross.

Water. Emeralds. Eternal youth. It seemed in that moment everything was within his grasp. But what did it mean?

Alys broke the spell by taking the glass from him and drinking from it. “Come back to bed and tell me.”

It took some time for Beau to relate everything he remembered about the robed man from his childhood, and the journey they had taken from Jerusalem to England.

After describing how he had tried to destroy the crosses, he said, “I cannot remember any more of the journey from there until the day the priests delivered me to my foster family. But I remember my back still burned where the mark is now. I’ve always assumed my mother gave me the tattoo, but now I think the priest must have done it, that night by the fire, and made me forget.”

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