Welcome back to my deep dive exploration of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels. This week, we’re looking at chapter 3 of the first novel, Daughter of the Blood. This starts Part 2 of the book, which means we’ve skipped ahead a few years in the timeline. Dates and approximate timeframes aren’t really given in the text, they’re just hinted at and left for the reader to figure out on their own how much time has passed — it’s one of the irritating things about this series, to be perfectly honest. Sometimes you have no idea that years have passed between one chapter and the next until someone happens to mention, “Oh yeah, that thing that happened three years ago,” which you just finished reading about.
We start with Saetan making a trip to Kaeleer, to reopen SaDiablo Hall there. There’s a SaDiablo Hall in every Realm, and while Saetan spends most of his time in Hell, he can still visit other Realms, since he owns property there. The Halls are cared for by staff in his absence, and Saetan learns just how formidable said staff in Kaeleer is when he arrives and is promptly told to GTFO by Helene, the housekeeper, who at first doesn’t recognize him and treats him like an interloper who has no right to be there.
For all that Saetan doesn’t exactly like being challenged, for all that he is pretty much the most powerful man the Realms have seen in a long time, he still appreciates strong women who stand up for themselves and their authority. I do like that about Saetan. That he’s powerful, that he has a deadly temper, these are definitely things that factor into his personality, but he’s not about to kill somebody because they told him off over a misunderstanding.
Now, he might kill somebody for harming those near and dear to him, but that’s another matter.
Also, much love to Helene who, rather than be cowed by Saetan’s demands to reopen and redecorate the Hall, says that some things can’t be done without a larger budget and more staff. It’s a small thing, but sometimes something is notable for what it isn’t and yet could have been. There could have been a scene in which the Hall’s staff has tried to make do with too little to get the job done, leading to Saetan wondering what the problem is, and only later finding out that someone didn’t bother to tell him, “Oh yes, to do what you want, I’ll need this and this and that.” She’s efficient, and forthright, and not at all unlike a lot of the women in this series, and I like her.
I like a lot of the women who work at the Hall, come to think of it. We’ll get to see more of them later on.
This section also gives us some interesting little tidbits about Saetan’s past. Rather than becoming High Lord of Hell through some hereditary claim to the title, he was born “the son of an indifferent whore.” He used to rule the territory of Dhemlan, both in Kaeleer and Terreille, before he chose the half-life of a Guardian in order to wait for Witch’s arrival (he gave rule of Terreille’s territory to someone else at that point). That had changed, and remained change for centuries, but now, thanks to Jaenelle, Saetan now has a reason to be among the living once again.
Meanwhile, in Terreille, a man named Philip Alexander is having an uncomfortable talk with his niece, Jaenelle. Jaenelle is a sick young girl, you see, incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and reality. After all, by the time one is 12, they should most certainly have outgrown telling stories about imaginary friends and visiting far-off places that nobody has ever heard of. Or telling horrible lies about the man who works at the institution for high-strung young girls, a man who clearly only wants to help those young girls get better. That’s why Jaenelle is being sent off to that institution for another stay. To get better.
This section of the chapter is just over a page long, and it is so very painful to read. From the reader’s perspective, we know that Jaenelle is doing the things her uncle is referencing, because we have the perspectives of other characters who have met her and interacted with her, grown to know and love her. From Jaenelle’s perspective, it should seem the same thing.
However, when you’re young, and people keep telling you that the things you believe aren’t real, that you’re really just sick in the head and need to be cured… By this point, Jaenelle herself already doubts the veracity of her own experiences.
“These friends, these places you visit… they aren’t real. They were never real. The only reason you see them is because you’re not well.”
Pain, confusion, and doubt filled her summer-sky blue eyes. “But they feel so real,” she whispered.
These days, we call this gaslighting, manipulating somebody until they doubt their own sanity. Even if in Jaenelle’s heart she knows that what she has experienced is completely real, enough people have told her she’s wrong that she has begun to doubt, to be unsure. Maybe she really is sick. Maybe everyone else is right after all…
Jaenelle’s family have no particular reason to believe Jaenelle. So far as their experiences go, what she says simply can’t be true. Unicorns aren’t real. She doesn’t have any friends that her family don’t know about, especially in far-flung places or in another Realm. But her stories are distressing, and she should have grown out of that phase of imaginative childhood, and so the only conclusion they can reach as to why she still seems to believe these things is that she truly can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t.
It’s easy, when this scene is all you see, to think that her family honestly has Jaenelle’s best interests at heart. Even if they’re wrong about Jaenelle’s experiences, they still want her to be happy and healthy, and at that moment, she doesn’t seem to be either of those things.
But this scene is a single seed, and it will grow, and then we’ll see what kind of harvest the family reaps.
Meanwhile, Saetan waits, in vain, for Jaenelle to visit him again. When she does not come to Kaeleer, Saetan, disappointed, returns to the Hall in Hell, where he finds Char — the demon-dead child who introduced him to Jaenelle in the first place — waiting for him.
Char tells him that yet another strange thing has been happening on the island where demon-dead children live, but doesn’t quite have the words to properly describe it. Saetan psychically links with Char and discovers that this new oddness is a sort of psychic bridge, built by Jaenelle, between that island and a place called Briarwood. Char informs Saetan that new children have been arriving via that bridge, saying that a friend showed them the way so that they could reach a place of rest and refuge.
During a later conversation with Cassandra, it’s revealed that a bridge is similar to a psychic portal. It spans distance so that travelers can cross in a short period of time, or with less difficulty than going overland. But only powerful Blood can make one, really, and nobody has been powerful enough to make one that goes between Realms. If someone wants to cross to another Realm, they go via a limited number of Gates, and even then, it’s no easy task.
But nobody ever told Jaenelle this was impossible, and so she did it.
Now, the book doesn’t explain exactly why Jaenelle built the bridge to that island in Hell. Remember, Blood who are strong enough will go to Hell anyway once their bodies die. Children typically find their way to that island by riding the Winds, the psychic pathways through the Darkness.
Maybe Jaenelle doesn’t know that, maybe she was operating under the assumption that with a bridge like that, she could ensure that children would make it to Hell, to an island of safety and refuge with certainty. Maybe she didn’t want them to wander around Hell and deal with its dangers and just hope they eventually found the island. Maybe she built it so that children who might not otherwise be strong enough to turn demon-dead could get there anyway. It’s never really explained what Jaenelle’s logic was. Char only mentioned that children were coming over the bridge and telling similar stories about how they learned of it, but he said nothing about them not being strong enough to make the transition to demon-dead properly, or that the Dark energies of Hell were affecting them more than others, or any of that.
At best, all we know is that Jaenelle did this as a mercy to children who found themselves dying in a place called Briarwood.
Saetan, understandable, wants to keep Jaenelle away from a place that would inspire her to such mercy, because seriously, what good can come from a place that results in so many dead children? Cassandra points out that “your love might be a luxury she can’t afford.” Saetan can’t exactly take Jaenelle away from her family, and even if he did, that leaves Jaenelle two options: 1) live in Hell and spend all her time away from the living, or 2) live in Kaeleer and risk losing her friends because they don’t want to come play at the High Lord of Hell’s house.
Honestly, I find Cassandra’s logic more than a little faulty. I mean, it’s not like Jaenelle hasn’t been Realm-hopping for years now in order to see her friends. There’s absolutely no reason why, if she lived in Hell or Kaeleer instead of Terreille, that she couldn’t keep doing the exact same thing. While Saetan takes Cassandra’s words as simple, however painful, truth, I can’t help but feel that she said those things to dig at him rather than present some sort of impossible obstacle. Jaenelle herself overcomes the obstacle in such a way as to render it moot. They both know that.
There’s a scene cut, but we’re still following Saetan’s perspective. He wakes up in the middle of the night in response to a desperate psychic call along the Black psychic thread, a call from a panicked Jaenelle who seeks his help for… something. She’s near incoherent, and her attention is mostly elsewhere, and so Saetan does what he can for her: he opens himself up and gives her his strength.
She needs too much, more than he can give, even with the depth of power in his Black Jewel.
But then, suddenly, there’s another mind present on that Black thread. A male mind. The only Black-Jeweled male other than Saetan is Daemon, and at that moment, Saetan is confronted with the fact that Daemon most certainly knows about Jaenelle. This is also the first time that Saetan has spoken to his son in roughly 1700 years. Daemon doesn’t even really know who Saetan is, not really.
But he knows that Jaenelle needs help. And he lends his strength to the mix, sending knowledge and energy to Jaenelle for whatever it is that she needs.
*Take what you need.* Words of Protocol, of service, of surrender.
The scene moves smoothly to Daemon then, pulling himself out of the link once the mysterious deed is done. He is exhausted, understandably, having just spent so much strength to help Jaenelle and Saetan. However, he has a more immediate concern. The Queen he’s currently serving detected what he did, and slaves are not allowed the strength of their Jewels or anything more complex or powerful than basic Craft. What Daemon did went well beyond that. For this transgression, he will be punished.
When it’s done, Daemon’s back and legs are a ruined mess. For all that Daemon puts on a show of arrogance and power in public, in private, he’s no different from anyone else, and he reacts to the pain by sobbing. He gathers his strength to put together healing supplies, to focus his mind so that the power of his Craft can heal the torn flesh.
But his hands slip and he drops the jar with the powdered healing herbs, shattering it on the floor and wasting what he needed so badly. Without that boost from the powder, he will still heal, but he will scar. Badly. His life as a pleasure slave is bad enough as it is, but his looks and power are some of the only things saving him from a worse existence, and he well knows it. With scars, with less beauty on his side…
But suddenly there is a strange presence in the room with him, a psychic presence that is both familiar and unfamiliar, soothing and yet making him wary. Invisible hands help him into the bath, add healing herbs to the water, numbing the pain. He relaxes, drifts… and when he comes back to himself and steps out of the bath, he finds that the whip cuts have healed, almost completely. If he’s careful, he will heal without a trace of injury. What should have taken far more time was done in under an hour by this unseen presence, drawn to Daemon in a reaction to his pain.
He’s certain who healed him. It redoubles his determination to find her.