In the wake of Bright Star’s recent Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer’s Choice Award, I revisited the story and reread one of my favorite sections.
“Lucius, you need not scowl,” Chin remarks as he goes about his labor. “Except for the blooded nose, Lilian’s head is untouched. There is bruising but no internal injuries. Lilian has taken no permanent harm.”
Shade intervention? Lucius wonders. Certainly the assault was intended to cause permanent damage.
“Shadeless scum broke my ribs,” Lilian voices. Dragged into awareness by Rebecca’s removal of her thorn, Lilian’s gray eyes are open, albeit unfocused.
“They did indeed, two to be specific,” Chin acknowledges. “Cracked through, but not separated. You require sealant only.”
The green film has yielded to a slick yellow ointment that Chin applies to the reddened, swollen areas that will blossom into bruises if left untended. “Do not twitch. I will be done soon.”
“Yes Master Medic,” Lilian replies obediently. She is aware that various parts of her anatomy are not well. The medic’s potions are shielding her from the discomfort and dissolving her discipline.
A large familiar hand strokes her temple. Turning into the caress Lilian encounters milord’s gaze. Milord is here. Where is her thorn? Katleen must take it.
“I have it safe, Lilian,” milord reassures her holding her blade in view.
“My thanks, milord,” Lilian returns. Before she can voice more, something cold slithers across her abdomen. Turning her attention to Chin, Lilian complains, “Master Medic that is cold.”
The complaint is immediately followed by a revelation, “I lack garb. This is unseemly. Fourth stricture, only milord—”
“Peace Lilian,” Lucius interrupts. “I am here and you are injured.”
“Injured milord?” Lilian returns confused. Oh yes, that crevasse-crawler Martin and his toad Roger. Pity I could not slay them.
“Pity indeed, Mistress Lilian,” Chin is laughing lightly as something cold runs up her left thigh before turning pleasantly warm.
“What is a pity, Master Medic?” Lilian wonders, unaware she is speaking her thoughts.
“Chin, do not encourage her,” Lucius admonishes. In different circumstances, Lucius would exploit the ability of Chin’s potions to loosen Lilian’s tongue and reveal thoughts she would keep hidden. At the moment, Lucius needs Lilian’s recall. The accounts of the event are contradictory. It will be several bells before Thorvald and Associate Master Straus are able to sift the monitor records for an accurate rendition. Returning to his apprentice, Lucius asks, “Lilian what do you recall of the training chambers?”
“The first victory in battle is survival,” Lilian smugly quotes Sinead’s Canon.
“You could have avoided battle entirely by yielding,” Lucius points out. Truly, he thought her more pragmatic. She is condemned as a coward. It could get no worse.
“Twenty-ninth stricture, milord,” Lilian explains and then adds with the total honesty required by her bond, “nor could I yield the thorn.”
“The thorn?” Lucius inquires. What of her thorn? Lilian’s commitment to defending the honor and wealth of the Blooded Dagger Cartouche as defined in the twenty-ninth stricture is well-established, although her refusal to yield to Martin is extreme. This is the first Lucius has heard aught about Lilian’s blade.
“Yes milord, lick his boots and yield the thorn,” Lilian confirms. “Vile notion. Vile man.”
Lick his boots? This was hardly a routine taunting gone awry. Martin did not merely demand Lilian yield. He demanded a debasement intended to shame Blooded Dagger and by extension, Lucius. Within warrior custom, Lucius’ honor is synonymous with that of Blooded Dagger.
The additional demand for the blade would have sealed Lilian’s resolve. When he first examined the weapon some months gone Lucius concluded that the elegant antique was most likely a family blade. Possibly the only relic Lilian retains of the time before her disgrace. Its value to her would be far greater than the price of a replacement or the shame of yielding a weapon to a foe.
In the second volume in the Twelve Systems Chronicles Lilian’s enemies are more determined than ever to see her destroyed. A ghost from her past will imperil her future and threaten to destroy Lucius’ slowly developing trust. To survive the next set of challenges Lilian will need to find new reserves of courage, wit and determination.
When Lucius’ motivations and ambitions are revealed, they are far more extraordinary than Lilian imagined. His rivals are about to increase in number and ferocity as they seek to limit his expanding wealth and power. They will use any means to undermine and destroy his plans including his notorious apprentice. To advance his ambitions, Lucius must be more ruthless and devious than ever before. To succeed, Lucius requires Lilian’s brilliance. To make use of it, he must keep her alive. It is going to prove more difficult than he anticipated.
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