Welcome back to my deep dive exploration of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels. This week, we’re looking at chapter 4 of the first novel, Daughter of the Blood. Trigger warning for child abuse in this chapter and discussion.
This is a chapter full of revelations and plot-bombs. It lays out so very much that is essentially to understand for the rest of the books, and while writing this post, I felt very much like the only way I could convey it all is by handing everyone copies of the full chapter and saying, “Here, read this.” There’s so much to unpack. Not very much that needs additional commentary, mind you, or dissection or fun theories. But so much plot, so many pieces of the story coming to light.
Let’s get started.
A month after Jaenelle’s long-distance psychic plea to Saetan for help, she returns to him once more, in shocking condition. She’s dangerously underweight, lank hair, bruises, dark circles under her eyes.
There were rope burns and dried blood on her ankles and wrists.
Saetan offers her the chance to be free of whatever torment’s she’s enduring, though he doesn’t know the details. All he knows is that clearly, her family is not taking care of her, not protecting her from whatever is doing all this damage. Jaenelle, however tempted, refuses Saetan’s offer for her to come and live with him, saying that she “can’t leave them yet.” “The others” still need her.
Jaenelle does love playing the pronoun game.
Cut to Surreal, playing the beds, and we see a little bit of how she practices her more deadly art. She uses Craft to tie a death spell to a fast-beating heart, using the quickened pulse of sex to sort of set the rhythm, so to speak, so that next time the man in question gets angry or aroused, he’ll essentially have an aneurysm, burn out his Jewels, and leave him nothing but a dead husk.
Fitting end, when you consider that Surreal targets abusers.
After the deed is done and the man sleeps, Surreal ponders the recurring dreams she’s been having lately. Sometime about her mother, her mother’s Jewel, but nothing she can make proper sense of. She concludes that she needs a vacation, and decides to go to Chaillot, where she knows a few people and can take some time to herself, to relax for a little while.
Chaillot. Where, among other things, we as the reader know that’s where Jaenelle just so happens to live.
Lucivar is darkly pleased. Daemon is in the same court as him, clearly an oversight as the two of them have a habit of causing destruction on a large scale when they’re together.
That night, the two of them have a chance to talk without anyone eavesdropping. Lucivar can tell that Daemon is being pushed to the edge. Maybe beyond it. Dangerously so. But Lucivar’s the kind of man who occasionally enjoys that dangerous dance, and doesn’t shrink away from a threat.
The trouble is, Daemon is… unique when it comes to his threats. Especially when he’s pushed to the brink. The man uses sexuality like a weapon, a double-edged sword. He deliberately makes himself irresistible, plays on the desire people have for him, feeding back into the notion that all he’s good for is a fancy sex toy. How long can a person endure such a thing before they come to believe it, even a little bit, when they’re vulnerable?
“Do you want me?” Daemon whispered, brushing his lips against Lucivar’s neck.
“No,” he said flatly. […] “Do you really think your touch makes my pulse race?”
“Doesn’t it?” Daemon whispered, a strange look in his eyes.
Lucivar knows that neither of the two have a sexual interest in each other, there’s no need for Daemon to play this kind of game with him, and yet… And so, as Daemon attempts to seduce Lucivar, his own brother, Lucivar quickly figures out how far Daemon has fallen, and how dangerous this can be for everyone.
He asks Daemon why he’s doing this, and Daemon replies, with no small degree of bitterness, that he “has to whore for everyone else,” so why not Lucivar as well? Even if neither of them want it.
“They’ve raped everything I am until there’s nothing clean left to offer.”
Lucivar knows what Daemon means. It’s been something he’s tried to avoid thinking about. They both know, by this point, about Jaenelle, though they both know her in very different ways. Lucivar knows Jaenelle is a young child. Daemon knows that the Lady he loves and serves is alive. But there’s the question, the fear, of whether she would want either Daemon or Lucivar anywhere near her, when she learns how the two of them have had to serve other people over the centuries, all the things that they’ve been made to do.
This is not an uncommon train of thought for people who have suffered abuse. Especially sexual abuse. “Who will love me, knowing what happened? Who would want me around, who would care about me, know what was done?” Lucivar and Daemon’s thoughts aren’t just the thoughts of men who want to be perfect in the face of some ideal they’ve envisioned, the best of the best. They are victims wondering if there will ever be a positive future for them, a future that they want and can be proud of being a part of.
They don’t get to talk for very long, though, as the Queen Daemon is currently serving, Cornelia, sends a bolt of pain through the Ring of Obedience to summon him. Daemon transforms from vulnerable and fearful to cold and closed-off, and leaves. It takes a moment, but Lucivar scents danger and runs after him, momentarily waylaid by the queen he‘s serving, and finds Daemon.
But it’s too late. The mess that Daemon has made of Cornelia makes even a hardened warrior like Lucivar nearly vomit.
While this is scary and dangerous, even by Lucivar’s standards, what’s interesting is that this isn’t Daemon being pushed over the edge. Close, yes, and it’s not like Daemon hasn’t been very damaged by the years upon years of mistreatment, but a brutal murder that needs a lot of clean-up? This is hardly the first for Daemon. It probably won’t be the last.
And Dorothea SaDiablo, the High Priestess of Hayll and woman who ultimately owns Daemon, knows it. That’s why she calls him back, knowing full well that after this incident, she won’t be able to convince anyone to take him off her hands again for a long time. She loans Daemon out over and over again in an attempt to wear him down, make him so very tired of the abuse and torment that his will is broken and he eventually submits to her.
When Daemon returns, he first follows a familiar psychic pull rather than going to Dorothea immediately. He’s far more interested in seeing Tersa again, after all, since Tersa’s actually a good person even if she’s insane.
And here’s where we get to another one of the repeating themes of this series: the Blood triangle. Tersa asks Daemon a trick question: how many sides does a triangle have? He gives the obvious answer, “three,” and is told he’s wrong. A Blood triangle, you see, has four sides. The three that surround, and then the centre.
The centre may not be a side, per se, but it’s a point. A focal point of the shape, and important. You see it crop up again repeatedly in Blood society. The candles on a Dark Altar are three that surround a centre candle. The important position in a court are Consort (or Escort), the Steward, and the Master of the Guard, all supporting a Queen. The triangle that Tersa refers to is the Father, the Lover, and the Brother, and the centre who rules all three.
No prizes for guessing the identities of these people.
Before she leaves, Tersa leaves Daemon with a chilling warning. “The chalice is cracking.” Back when I discussed chapter 1, I talked about how for the Blood, the chalice is a metaphor for the mind, for sanity.
In his anger and frustration, he punches a tree, unleashing power as he does so. Unsurprisingly, he destroys the tree, turning it to ash when only moments ago it had been alive and thriving. He reflects on how odd it is that he feels remorse and grief for killing a tree when he’s killed so many Blood without a second thought.
The difference, of course, is that the tree did nothing to harm him, and he lashed out in rage at something innocent, as opposed to lashing out in vengeance against someone who had hurt or wronged him. This actually gives readers a good chance to see a bit below the surface of a Warlord Prince’s temper. Just because they have passionately violent natures doesn’t mean they are all immoral and power-hungry, nor does it mean they will do things and not regret them later. Daemon regrets his action. He feels bad for what he did.
But feeling bad doesn’t bring the tree back. It doesn’t repair the damage done. This is the crux of the matter. To deal with a Warlord Prince is to deal with knowing their tempers can be roused and things can be said or done that cannot be fixed. To be a Warlord Prince is to come to terms with the fact that you, no matter how hard you try, will do damage. It’s in your nature. There’s a very good reason for that nature, if you look at the history of the Blood and the way their societies are supposed to work. But to be a Warlord Prince is to know that you are born with something in you that makes people fear you, and for good reason, and yet that thing is such an important and vital part of your being that it cannot be removed, cannot be changed.
We don’t get to learn it in the books for quite a while, but things like this are exactly why Blood society has intricate rules that people need to follow. It’s a dance of giving and taking, of people knowing their place not so much within the hierarchy but within the dance. A good Warlord Prince, like a good person in general, will not just go about causing violence and destruction for no good reason.
Jumping ahead a bit, revealing something that comes up much later, there is no law against murder among the Blood. Nobody is going to throw you in jail for killing someone. But, everything has a price. That’s both the strength and the weakness of Blood law, in a way, because if someone kills your loved ones, you can take your revenge… if you’re strong enough to make them pay that price. Or have somebody enforce the payment for you. That’s part of how Blood society became so corrupt. Dorothea has powerful people on her side who will do her bidding, leaving nobody strong enough left to punish her, to make her pay the price for her actions. In the face of torture or death, it can be difficult to remain a good person.
This is not a justification for violence or an apology for abuse. If anything, it’s an explanation of mob mentality. It’s why people do what they’re told even when what they’re told is wrong. Fear, and power. It takes somebody truly strong to go against that. It takes a good Warlord Prince, or a good Queen, or a good anybody, to hold out in the face of overwhelming pain.
It takes a good person to mourn a tree. (Or punch Nazis…)
Turns out, Daemon can be a softy when he’s around the right people. Hands up, anyone who’s surprised. Delaying seeing Dorothea for as long as possible, he pays a visit to Manny and Jo, two people who showed him so much kindness when he was growing up, and were the next things to proper parents to him. He pouts when he doesn’t get offered nutcakes and laughs with them and brings flowers and if all you saw of him was this scene you would never guess that he was the same man who, a short time ago, left behind the mangled corpse of the woman he was forced to serve.
But he’s not just there for a casual visit. He’s hoping that Manny can tell him something about someone called the Priest. Someone people are reluctant to talk about.
Manny takes some coaxing (nothing terrible, but Daemon does scare her a little, even if he’s not pleased to do so), but she does eventually tell Daemon that yes, she knows who the Priest is. And how the Priest is tied to Daemon’s past.
We see a lot of Daemon’s past here, in the form of Manny telling Daemon things that happened so long ago he’s forgotten. Or the memories have been blocked. How Daemon was supposed to go to the Priest once he got his Birthright Jewel, but at the last moment, Dorothea informed everybody those words that sink a Blood male’s heart.
Paternity is denied.
If a woman denies a man paternity, then he can do nothing for or about his child legally, until that child becomes an adult and can make their own decisions. A man does well to keep on the good side of the woman who bore his children, if he wants to be a father, for once paternity is denied, it’s not something that can be taken back. The Priest, then, is Daemon’s father, or at least was assumed to be until scheming Dorothea announced that it wasn’t so.
And the Priest, being a stickler for the rules, did not try to take Daemon.
Daemon, however, tried to get to him. He fought with all the strength of his newly acquired Jewel, and in the end, still failed. Young Daemon had the Ring of Obedience put on him that night, old enough to be considered a threat now that he had a Jewel, and a dark one at that. When Daemon, distraught over everything that had happened, refused to eat, Jo was tortured until Manny could persuade Daemon to eat again.
Daemon doesn’t really remember much of this. He remember going back to the house he knew he lived in, vaguely remembering a strong masculine figure, but nothing more than that. Something was done to him, Manny explains, to make him forget.
This was all done on Dorothea’s orders. To keep Daemon, young as he was, on a short leash. To keep him from forming ties to anyone strong enough to lead Daemon in a direction she didn’t want him to take. She underestimated Daemon’s stubborn strength, but she kept on with her plan regardless.
But who is the Priest? Who is the man who Daemon once called father, should rightly be his father?
It’s Saetan, of course. We already knew that. But now, so does Daemon.
But Manny’s story isn’t done. Daemon says he can’t imagine Saetan, the man of legend, going to bed with his mother. But then pieces fall into place little by little, and Daemon comes to realise that the woman he’s called mother all these centuries isn’t actually his mother at all.
His mother is Tersa.