Knight Of The Demon Queen by Barbara HamblyKnight Of The Demon Queen by Barbara Hambly

Knight Of The Demon Queen

byBarbara Hambly

Mass Market Paperback | October 31, 2000

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Once the most powerful mage in the land, Jenny Waynest is now a broken woman. After being possessed and corrupted by the demon Amayon, she lost everything she holds dear--even the trust of her husband. Yet Lord John Aversin has torments of his own: memories of the beautiful and cruel Aohila, demon queen of a rival hell, whom he'd tricked into providing the help he needed to free Jenny. Now, condemned to death for trafficking with demons, John cannot forgive himself for opening the door to a far greater evil--an evil that still haunts his dreams. And not only his dreams . . .

For a vengeful Aohila needs mortal aid in realms beyond her power, and who better to provide it than Lord John? Blackmailed into cooperating, John must fight his way through unimaginable horrors in quest of a prize that may doom the world he has left behind . . .
At various times in her life, Barbara Hambly has been a high-school teacher, a model, a waitress, a technical editor, a professional graduate student, an all-night clerk at a liquor store, and a karate instructor. Born in San Diego, she grew up in Southern California, with the exception of one high-school semester spent in New South Wa...
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Title:Knight Of The Demon QueenFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 6.9 × 4.13 × 0.82 inPublished:October 31, 2000Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345421906

ISBN - 13:9780345421906

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CHAPTER ONEJenny Waynest's son Ian took poison on the night of winter's firstsnowfall. He was thirteen. She was dreaming about the demon when it happened. The demon was calledAmayon, beautiful as the night and the morning, and she had dreamed of himevery night since fall, when his possession of her had ended. While hersoul was imprisoned in a pale green crystal, he had inhabited her fleshand done such things as still made her wake weeping, or screaming, orspeaking his name out of a longing so desperate she thought she would dieof it.In daylight the grief of his loss, and her shame at that grief, occupiedher mind against her will, to the exclusion of all other things. Otherwiseshe would have seen--she hoped she would have seen--the pain and horrorgrowing in her son's eyes.This night there was a part of her that knew where Ian was. In her dreamshe saw him in the small stone house on Frost Fell--the house that had beenher master Caerdinn's up to the old man's death. Later Jenny had livedthere, until she had gone with Lord John Aversin, Thane of the Winterlandsand her lover of ten years, to live at Alyn Hold. Asleep in their bed atthe Hold now, she saw their son in the old stone house, saw him descendthe stair from the loft and with a glance, as wizards could, kindle thewood on the hearth.He shouldn't be there, she thought. It was past midnight and the snow hadbeen falling since just before dark. He shouldn't be there.Rest, Amayon's voice whispered. Sleepy dreams are better than plans andschemes.Her consciousness drifted away.Ever since the magics of the Demon Queen Aohila had taken Amayon from her,Jenny had tried to decide whether the pain she felt was a memory thatAmayon had left or whether he spoke to her still. Sometimes she thoughtthat she could hear his voice, gentle and trusting as a child's, though hewas Aohila's prisoner behind the Mirror of Isychros. At other times sheguessed that the coaxing sweetness, the hurtful mocking, were only apoison he'd left to make her suffer. How like him, she thought, and shedid not know if she thought it fondly or with hatred.Maybe both.People who survived possession weren't the same afterward.Her mind returned to her son. He sat beside the hearth, his head bowed,thin fingers twisting at his dark hair.She remembered her own pain when the demon who'd possessed her had beendriven out.At least he still has magic.The loss of Jenny's magic, as a result of the final battle with thedemons, had been the worst of all.You saved them, the sweet soft voice whispered in her mind: like Amayon'svoice, though sometimes it sounded like her own. You fought the demons foryour son, and for Lord John, and for the Regent of the Realm. You did justas you ought. Yet you lost everything. How fair is that?The image came to her of Ian casually brushing aside her spells of ward,running his hands over the terra-cotta pots of her poisons in the brassydull firelight, but the vision melted with her resentment and her grief.Sleepy dreams, the voice coaxed. Lovely sleepy dreams. Of Amayon. Of magic.She saw Ian open a pot that she knew contained monkshood. Saw him dip hisfingers into the coarse powder.Perhaps you'll find the magic again within your beautiful heart.The sweet voice lured her back to her dream, where she lay in the greatbed in the Hold with John breathing soft beside her. His beaky face wasturned away; he was clerkish and shortsighted and middle-aged, and nothinglike the great thanes who had ruled the Winterlands before him, save forhis scars.Dreaming, she broke open her own ribs and tore her chest apart, as thedemon had suggested. She saw her heart, which in her dream was wrought ofa thousand crystals, scarlet and crimson and pink. Dreaming, she lifted itout. Blood gummed her fingers together as she fumbled for its catch, as ifher heart were a box. The catch was a diamond, like a single poisoned tear.Fascinated, she watched her heart unfurl in all directions, as if inopening the box she had somehow folded herself inside it. Within it shewas, curiously, once again in the curtained bed with John, in a warmfrowst of worn quilts and moth-holed furs. Like mirrors within mirrors shesaw the scarred husk of her own body, burned in the final battle when shehad pinned the demon-ridden renegade mage Caradoc with a harpoon beneaththe sea: hair burned away, eyelashes burned away--magic burned away.John lay beside her, twined in the arms of the Demon Queen."Don't wake her," the Queen whispered, and giggled like a schoolgirl. Shewas beautiful, as Jenny had never been beautiful: tall and slim, withbreasts like ripe melons and coal-black jeweled hair. She traced on John'sbare flesh the silvery marks it had borne when he'd returned from the Hellbehind the mirror, marks that could occasionally be seen in the light ofthe earthly moon. Then she pressed her lips to the pit of his throat,where a small fresh scar lay like a burn.She laughed huskily when John cupped her breasts in his hands."Let him be!"Jenny's cry waked her. Like falling through a chain of mirrors, she fellfrom the imagined tower and imagined bed to the real ones and sat boltupright, the air icy in her lungs. Beside her, John slept still.He dreams of her. Rage washed from Jenny all thought of that other dream,the dream of Ian hunting among the ensorceled poison pots at Frost Fell.Laughs at me with her while I sleep.Her cry had not waked him, and that made her angry, too. Hating him, sherolled from the bed and through the heavy curtains. The tower chamber wascramped and fusty: table and chest and large areas of the floor litteredwith John's books. He had a formidable library, laboriously collected fromthe ruins of crumbling towns, copied, collated, begged, and borrowed.Since summer's end, when they had returned from the South, John had beenreading everything he could get his hands on concerning demons andmelancholy and the silent sicknesses of the heart.As if, Jenny thought angrily, he can cure Ian by reading!But that was always John's answer.His armor lay among the books: a battered doublet of black leather, spikedand plated with iron and chain; dented pauldrons and a close-fitting helm;longsword and shortsword and a couple of fine Southern cavalry blades;spectacles with bent silver-wire frames; and a pair of muddy boots.Rocklys of Galyon, whose machinations to rule the Realm had set in motionlast summer's ter-rible events, had stripped the Winterlands of itsgarrisons: John was back riding patrol, as he had done most of his adultlife.He had little time these days to give his son.And less, Jenny thought, to give to her.Fingers stiff with scars, she shoved up the latch of the heavy shuttersand stood gazing into darkness only a degree less heavy than that in theroom. Snow covered the bare fields, the bare moor beyond. The smell of thesky calmed her, dispelled the envenomed miasma of her dreams.Ian. The dream of him stirred at the edge of her thoughts.Sleepy dreams. The sweet voice whispered and pulled at her heart. Sleepydreams, not plans and schemes. Somehow it sounded rational, true in itssimplicity, like a nursery song.When she'd left the bed, the burning heat of the change of life had beenwarming her flesh, but that fled away now and her limbs were cold. Betterto return to bed and the comfort of her dreams."Jen?"The cold from the window must have waked John. Anger and resentment burnedher. She wanted to be alone with her wretchedness and her grief."You were dreaming of her, weren't you?" Her voice snapped in her ownears, black ice breaking underfoot and miles of freezing water beneath.She spat the words back at him over her shoulder. She knew that he stoodnext to the bed, wrapped in one of its shabby furs, long hair hanging tohis shoulders as he blinked in her direction, seeing nothing.And just as well, she thought bitterly. Face and scalp and body scarred bydemon fire and poisoned steam, and scarred within by the heats andmigraines and malaises of the change of a woman's life. Better he be halfblind and in darkness than see me as I am."I can't help my dreams, Jen." He sounded tired. They'd fought beforegoing to bed. And yesterday, and the day before."Then don't deny me mine.""I wouldn't," John retorted, "if dreams was all they were. But you had ademon within you . . .""And you believe them, don't you?" Jenny swung around, trembling. "Believethose people who say that anyone who has been taken by a demon should bekilled? That's what all those books of yours say, isn't it?""Not all." There was a warrant out in the South for his life fortrafficking with the Demon Queen. Had Rocklys of Galyon not taken theKing's troops from the North to fuel her demon-inspired rebellion, hemight already have been executed."Is that what you want?" She struck at him with her words as if it werehe, and not the archdemon Folcalor's final outpouring of magic, that hadrobbed her of her power. "To kill me, as the books say? To kill Ian, forsomething neither of us wanted, for something that happened against ourwills?"He was a man who had grown up keeping his thoughts to himself, and he saidnothing now."I was taken trying to save him!" she cried into his silence. She had asweet small voice: gravel veined with silver. It sounded brittle to hernow, and shrill. "For trying to save him, for trying to save you, and allthese precious people of yours around here! This is what came of it! Ihated the demon!""Yet you did every damn thing you could to keep me from sending it awaybehind the mirror." There was an edge of anger to his quiet words. "Andyou've been mourning it since.""You don't understand." Jenny had learned that it was possible to hate andlove the same thing at the same time."I understand that neither you nor my son has eaten nor slept well formonths, and that as far as I've been able to see you haven't done a hand'sturn to help him."You don't understand, she wanted to say again. To scream the words at himuntil he knew what she felt. But instead she lashed at him, "Your son?"How dare he?And at the same time she thought, Ian, and her mind snatched at shreddedimages of a boy sitting in despair beside a hearth. She rememberedstick-thin white hands tracing away wards from jars on a shelf."Well, you never did want him, did you?" The resentment, the buried rage,of all those years of her uncertainty spurted up in his voice. "And ifyou'd been here in the first place when Caradoc showed up--""If you wanted a woman here during the years I was seeking my own magic,John," Jenny said with harsh and deadly sarcasm, "I can only say youshould have convinced one of your regiment of village lightskirts to bearyou a child. Any one of them would have.""Papa?" The door hinge creaked. A yellow thread of candlelight fluttered,illumined the sturdy eight-year-old in the doorway: face, hands, rufoushair, and bright sharp brown eyes all the mimic of John's burly father.He'd girded his small sword over his nightshirt: A man must go armed, heliked to say. "Ian's gone."

Editorial Reviews

"I might be slightly prejudiced for dragons, and I am definitely prejudiced in favor of anything Barbara Hambly wants to do with her main characters, Lord John and Jenny . . . She handles the action with great skill and charm, and the universe with beautiful imagery . . . She writes darn good books, our Barbara!"
--ANNE MCCAFFREY


From the Hardcover edition.