Jaenelle was not back in the Keep by the time Karla's portal returned, but Saetan was. "You got a letter, too?" she asked, giving her adopted uncle an exasperated smile.
"Indeed," he crooned, his eyes a frozen yellow, rather than their usual rich gold. "And I went to the Keep in Terreille before coming here. She wasn't there. When my Lady arrives, she will be in no doubt about how I feel about her entering enemy territory without even a single escort with her."
Normally Karla might have challenged him for the right of going up one side of Jaenelle and down the other, but not right then. She could feel the control on his temper fraying, sensed how close he was to the killing edge; a Warlord Prince with the knowledge his Queen was putting herself in danger with no one there who served. Even the wrong word right now might snap his temper and Karla knew how long her Ebon-gray would last against the Black. He would be horrified when he came back to himself, and sorry, but she'd still be dead. Fortunately, she was saved from having to say anything at all by the flood of psychic scent pouring down the corridor from the Gate. Saetan inhaled deeply and a little more sanity returned to his eyes. Karla did the same and felt muscles she hadn't even realized were tense loosen in her back.
That was until Jaenelle stepped out of the room that held the Dark Altar. Her form still wrapped in darkness, Karla smelled the blood before she saw how liberally it coated her, noted the dangerous, feral look in Jaenelle's eyes, felt the heat of Saetan's temper chill to cold rage as he once more rose to the killing edge. His rise teased Karla's own temper, made her want to lash out and scream, to be unleashed upon an enemy of Jaenelle's choosing, but she bit her lip, forced herself to leash the rising tide of bloodlust, and focused on the wrapped bundle in Jaenelle's arms.
Jaenelle stopped in front of them. She said nothing while Karla carefully pulled aside a part of the blankets and looked at the young Eyrien woman, while she studied the torn clothing and the slices in her skin that still seeped blood despite the lingering remains of a healing web that Jaenelle had woven around her. Well. That explained why she'd been called. Apart from Jaenelle herself, Karla was the strongest Healer and Black Widow in three Realms.
"What--why?" she demanded through gritted teeth, while she called upon calm. Anger had no place in the sickroom. This was why Jaenelle needed her. She was not yet ready to be calm.
"Ask them." Jaenelle turned her head.
Five bodies appeared in the hallway. Karla used Craft to probe their bodies, felt Saetan do the same. She felt equally chilled by and approving of what Jaenelle had done. From neck to toes, the bones of the Eyrien males had been crushed into small pebbled, making the bodies look like oddly shaped sacks. The muscles and internal organs had been ripped apart, as if claws had slipped beneath the skin, leaving it untouched while they tore through everything else in long, leisurely strokes. Which, she imagined, was exactly what Jaenelle had done. And for the few seconds it took her to do it, the pain would have been exquisite...
Karla looked at the Eyrien woman and thought Hannibal would approve of the artistry. The pain had been exquisite, yes, but not enough to pay the debt.
And thus, why Uncle Saetan--why the High Lord--had been summoned.
"Is this what you saw in the tangled web last night?" Karla asked too softly.
"I saw emptiness where something bright and joyful should have been. I saw happiness wither like a plant that couldn't find the right soil to take root in. And I saw the terrace where I was standing at dawn, but it was empty--a warning that me presence, or absence, would make the different in what was to come."
"I see." It was a typical enough vision from a tangled web.
Janelle looked to her adopted father, though there was nothing of the warm guardian in his face now. "Find out why this happened, High Lord...and settle the debt."
"It will be a pleasure, Lady," Saetan said, giving Jaenelle a bow. There was nothing warm or paternal in the smile he wore now, either, and Karla suppressed a shiver, remembering that one of his many, many titles was The Executioner. What happened to those bodies, with the spirits trapped within them would be long and it would be brutal.
Good. It would also be justice.
Saetan studied the bodies that flopped in unnatural positions for a few moments longer before raising his right hand. His Black-Jeweled ring flashed with the reservoir of power it held. The bodies rose from the floor and floated towards him. Turning, he walked back into the room with the Dark Altar to light the candles in the proper sequence to open the Gate to the Keep in Hell. There, he'd be able to catch the Black Wind back to the Hall he'd build in that Realm. In his home, he would have everything he'd need to make sure the debt owed to the Eyrien woman was paid in full.
"Karla." Jaenelle's voice drew her attention away from the grotesque escort Saetan had and back to her Queen, who was holding out the blanket-wrapped bundle. "I need you to--"
"I know," Karla said, accepting the burden. Craft made the woman light, so that holding her was no more a strain than holding Kayla. "I'll see to her."
"I'm sorry--I want to--I'd be no good--"
"I know," Karla said again, reaching out to lay a compassionate hand onto Jaenelle's arm. She could imagine very well what it was that Jaenelle had rescued this woman from and what it had cost her to reopen those old wounds. "I'll take care of her. I promise."
"That's why I called you," Jaenelle said, bowing her head so her golden hair obscured her face. "You'll make it right. The first step to it, anyway. I--I must go." She needed to flee to the land, to let her emotions pour out of her in a riot of power that would turn into a wild jungle of poison plants and thorns before the day was through. Needed to rid herself of the poison that was festering in her own soul right now, away from all humans, even those she loved, too close to the memories that she'd recalled but still shied away from.
"Come find me when you're ready," Karla said, turning to head towards a Healing room and giving Jaenelle her space. "Take all the time you need." Just from the wounds Karla could see, she'd need all the time she could get for this Healing.
[NFI, NFB, OOC is AOK! Adapted from Chapter Three of "Prince of Ebon Rih" by Anne Bishop. Karla's barely even in this story, but why would I let something as little as THAT stop me!]
- The Keep, Dawn, Friday (Fandom Time)