The Shadows: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

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9780451417084: The Shadows: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

The #1 New York Times bestselling author returns to the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood as two brothers bound by more than blood fight to change a brutal destiny.
 
Sold by his parents to the Queen of the s’Hisbe as a child, Trez escaped the Territory and has been a pimp and an enforcer for years. On the run from a destiny of sexual servitude, he’s never been able to rely on anyone...except for his brother, iAm.
 
iAm’s sole goal has always been to keep his brother from self-destructing—and he knows he’s failed. It’s not until the Chosen Selena enters Trez’s life that the male begins to turn things around...but by then, it’s too late. The pledge to mate the Queen’s daughter comes due, and there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no negotiating.
 
Now Trez must decide whether to endanger himself and others—or abandon the female he loves. When tragedy strikes and changes everything, iAm, in the name of brotherly love, is faced with making the ultimate sacrifice....

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About the Author:

J. R. Ward is the author of more than twenty previous novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling series, the Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print, and they have been published in twenty-five different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

BY J. R. WARD

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND PROPER NOUNS

ahstrux nohtrum (n.) Private guard with license to kill who is granted his or her position by the King.

ahvenge (v.) Act of mortal retribution, carried out typically by a male loved one.

Black Dagger Brotherhood (pr. n.) Highly trained vampire warriors who protect their species against the Lessening Society. As a result of selective breeding within the Race, Brothers possess immense physical and mental strength, as well as rapid healing capabilities. They are not siblings for the most part, and are inducted into the Brotherhood upon nomination by the Brothers. Aggressive, self-reliant, and secretive by nature, they exist apart from civilians, having little contact with members of the other classes except when they need to feed. They are the subjects of legend and objects of reverence within the vampire world. They may be killed only by the most serious of wounds, e.g., a gunshot or stab to the heart, etc.

blood slave (n.) Male or female vampire who has been subjugated to serve the blood needs of another. The practice of keeping blood slaves has recently been outlawed.

the Chosen (pr. n.) Female vampires who have been bred to serve the Scribe Virgin. They are considered members of the aristocracy, and, in the past, they have been spiritually rather than temporally focused. They have recently been granted broad freedoms away from the Sanctuary, and are meeting the blood needs of certain Brothers. Some have the ability to prognosticate.

chrih (n.) Symbol of honorable death in the Old Language.

cohntehst (n.) Conflict between two males competing for the right to be a female’s mate.

Dhunhd (pr. n.) Hell.

doggen (n.) Member of the servant class within the vampire world. Doggen have old, conservative traditions about service to their superiors, following a formal code of dress and behavior. They are able to go out during the day, but they age relatively quickly. Life expectancy is approximately five hundred years.

ehros (n.) A Chosen trained in the matter of sexual arts.

exhile dhoble (n.) The evil or cursed twin, the one born second.

the Fade (pr. n.) Nontemporal realm where the dead reunite with their loved ones and pass eternity.

First Family (pr. n.) The King and Queen of the vampires, and any children they may have.

ghardian (n.) Custodian of an individual. There are varying degrees of ghardians, with the most powerful being that of a sehcluded female.

glymera (n.) The social core of the aristocracy, roughly equivalent to Regency England’s ton.

hellren (n.) Male vampire who has been mated to a female. Males may take more than one female as mate.

hyslop (n. or v.) Term referring to a lapse in judgment, typically resulting in the compromise of the mechanical operations of a vehicle or otherwise motorized conveyance of some kind. For example, leaving one’s keys in one’s car as it is parked outside the family home overnight.

leahdyre (n.) A person of power and influence.

leelan (n.) A term of endearment loosely translated as “dearest one.”

Lessening Society (pr. n.) Order of slayers convened by the Omega for the purpose of eradicating the vampire species.

lesser (n.) De-souled human who targets vampires for extermination as a member of the Lessening Society. Lessers must be stabbed through the chest in order to be killed; otherwise they are ageless. They do not eat or drink and are impotent. Over time, their hair, skin, and irises lose pigmentation until they are blond, blushless, and pale eyed. They smell like baby powder. Inducted into the Society by the Omega, they retain a ceramic jar thereafter into which their heart was placed after it was removed.

lewlhen (n.) Gift.

lheage (n.) A term of respect used by a sexual submissive to refer to her dominant.

Lhenihan (pr. n.) A mythic beast renowned for its sexual prowess. In modern slang, refers to a male of preternatural size and sexual stamina.

lys (n.) Torture tool used to remove the eyes.

mahmen (n.) Mother. Used both as an identifier and a term of affection.

mhis (n.) The masking of a given physical environment; the creation of a field of illusion.

nalla (n., f.) or nallum (n., m.) Beloved.

needing period (n.) Female vampire’s time of fertility, generally lasting for two days and accompanied by intense sexual cravings. Occurs approximately five years after a female’s transition and then once a decade thereafter. All males respond to some degree if they are around a female in her need. It can be a dangerous time, with conflicts and fights breaking out between competing males, particularly if the female is not mated.

newling (n.) A virgin.

the Omega (pr. n.) Malevolent, mystical figure who has targeted the vampires for extinction out of resentment directed toward the Scribe Virgin. Exists in a nontemporal realm and has extensive powers, though not the power of creation.

phearsom (adj.) Term referring to the potency of a male’s sexual organs. Literal translation something close to “worthy of entering a female.”

princeps (n.) Highest level of the vampire aristocracy, second only to members of the First Family or the Scribe Virgin’s Chosen. Must be born to the title; it may not be conferred.

pyrocant (n.) Refers to a critical weakness in an individual. The weakness can be internal, such as an addiction, or external, such as a lover.

rahlman (n.) Savior.

rythe (n.) Ritual manner of assuaging honor granted by one who has offended another. If accepted, the offended chooses a weapon and strikes the offender, who presents him- or herself without defenses.

the Scribe Virgin (pr. n.) Mystical force who is counselor to the King as well as the keeper of vampire archives and the dispenser of privileges. Exists in a nontemporal realm and has extensive powers. Capable of a single act of creation, which she expended to bring the vampires into existence.

sehclusion (n.) Status conferred by the King upon a female of the aristocracy as a result of a petition by the female’s family. Places the female under the sole direction of her ghardian, typically the eldest male in her household. Her ghardian then has the legal right to determine all manner of her life, restricting at will any and all interactions she has with the world.

shellan (n.) Female vampire who has been mated to a male. Females generally do not take more than one mate due to the highly territorial nature of bonded males.

symphath (n.) Subspecies within the vampire race characterized by the ability and desire to manipulate emotions in others (for the purposes of an energy exchange), among other traits. Historically, symphaths have been discriminated against and, during certain eras, hunted by vampires. They are near extinction.

the Tomb (pr. n.) Sacred vault of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Used as a ceremonial site as well as a storage facility for the jars of lessers. Ceremonies performed there include inductions, funerals, and disciplinary actions against Brothers. No one may enter except for members of the Brotherhood, the Scribe Virgin, or candidates for induction.

trahyner (n.) Word used between males of mutual respect and affection. Translated loosely as “beloved friend.”

transition (n.) Critical moment in a vampire’s life when he or she transforms into an adult. Thereafter, he or she must drink the blood of the opposite sex to survive and is unable to withstand sunlight. Occurs generally in the mid-twenties. Some vampires do not survive their transitions, males in particular. Prior to their transitions, vampires are physically weak, sexually unaware and unresponsive, and unable to dematerialize.

vampire (n.) Member of a species separate from that of Homo sapiens. Vampires must drink the blood of the opposite sex to survive. Human blood will keep them alive, though the strength does not last long. Following their transitions, which occur in their mid-twenties, they are unable to go out into sunlight and must feed from the vein regularly. Vampires cannot “convert” humans through a bite or transfer of blood, though they are in rare cases able to breed with the other species. Vampires can dematerialize at will, though they must be able to calm themselves and concentrate to do so and may not carry anything heavy with them. They are able to strip the memories of humans, provided such memories are short-term. Some vampires are able to read minds. Life expectancy is upward of a thousand years, or in some cases even longer.

wahlker (n.) An individual who has died and returned to the living from the Fade. Wahlkers are accorded great respect and are revered for their travails.

whard (n.) Equivalent of a godfather or godmother to an individual.

PROLOGUE

TERRITORY OF THE S’HISBE, GRAND PALACE

The footprints he left on the white marble were red. Red as a Burmese ruby. Red as the core of a fire. Red as the anger in his marrow.

The blood was TrezLath’s own, but he felt no pain.

The murder weapon he’d just used, a sterling silver paring knife about as long as his hand and as narrow as his forefinger, was still in his palm. It was dripping, but that was not the source of the stain he was leaving behind. He had been injured in the fight. His hip. His thigh. Maybe his shoulder, he wasn’t sure.

The corridor was a mile long and sky-high, and he did not know what awaited him at its termination. A door, he prayed. There had to be a door of some kind—this was the way out of the palace, so there had to be . . . an exit. And when he came unto it? He had no idea how he was going to break out. But he’d also had no clue how to kill another living male, and he’d done that minutes ago.

Further, he had no plan for what was on the far side of the palace enclosure or how he was going to get over the Territory’s retaining walls. No clue where to go, what to do. All he knew was that he couldn’t be in that cell anymore. It was luxurious enough, with silken sheets on a feather bed, and a bath that had its own pool, and a private chef to feed him. He had books written by the Shadow Masters at his disposal, and a full team of care specialists, from healers, to bathers, to exercise commandants. As for his clothes? His now-torn vestments were studded with gems from the treasury, diamonds and emeralds and sapphires cascading down his robes.

And yet his body was regarded as far more valuable than the largesse it bore.

Trez was the sacred fatted calf, the prized breeding stallion, the male whose birth chart had proclaimed he was to sire the next generation of queens.

He had not yet been called into sexual service. That would come in time, when the Princess he was to mate had reached her astrological maturity.

Trez looked over his shoulder. No one was coming after him, but that would change as soon as the crumpled body of that guard he’d overpowered was found—and that wasn’t going to be long. There was always someone watching.

If only he could—

Up in front of him, a door that was flush with the wall slid back, and a massive figure draped in black stepped directly into his path.

s’Ex, the Queen’s executioner, had his chain-mail hooding in place, his features covered by the metal weave. But the sight of his face was unnecessary.

His voice, deep and evil, was pure menace. “You killed one of my males.”

Trez shuffled to a halt, his dragging robes stilling on the floor. Glancing down at the knife in his hand, he knew that the flimsy “weapon” was going to get him nowhere against the Shadow he now faced. The silver blade had been designed to cut pears and apples, not even tenderloin meats.

And the executioner was not like that guard.

“You are trying to leave.” s’Ex didn’t take a step forward, but seemed closer anyway. “Which is not only unacceptable from my point of view, but against the law.”

“Then kill me in punishment,” Trez said in a tired voice. “Rip my body asunder and bury me in pieces outside of the Territory like the traitor I am.”

“I would do just that. In retribution for your taking the life of my guard.” s’Ex crossed his heavy arms over his thick chest. “But the very beating of your heart and breath within your lungs is divine. So that avenue is not open to me—or you.”

Trez closed his eyes briefly. His parents had been thrilled with the news that one of their two fraternal sons had been born upon the perfect moment in time, a preordained, stars-aligned split second that would transform the family—a blessing for them, with attendant riches and social position; a curse for him that had robbed him of his life whilst ever still he lived.

“Do not even think about it,” the executioner said.

As Trez lifted his lids, he found that he had put the knife to his own throat. His hand was trembling badly, but he was pushing the blade in enough to nick the skin over his artery.

His blood, warm and smooth, caressed over his clenched fist.

Trez’s laughter sounded crazy to his own ears. “I’ve nothing to lose except a life sentence for the crime of being born.”

“Oh, I think you do. No, don’t look away—you’re going to want to see this.”

The executioner nodded at the open doorway and something was pushed out. . . .

“No!” Trez yelled, his voice echoing up and down the corridor. “No!”

“So you recognize him.” s’Ex uncoiled his arms and pulled up his sleeves, deliberately flashing bloody knuckles. “In spite of my work. Then again, the pair of you have been together for how long?”

Trez’s vision went in and out of focus as he sought his brother’s eyes. There was no gaze to hold. iAm was not conscious, his head lolling to one side, his face beaten until it was so swollen the features were distorted. His body was bound in a worn leather sleeve that ran from below his knees all the way up to his shoulders and was secured by a brass buckle system. Stains, new and old, darkened the brown of the straps and dulled the glow of the metal pieces.

“Give him to me,” s’Ex commanded.

As the executioner grabbed onto the back of the hold, he lifted iAm’s limp body from the floor with no more effort than he might put into raising a flask of wine.

“Please . . .” Trez begged. “He is not of this . . . let him go. . . .”

For some reason, his brother’s dangling lower legs registered with nauseating clarity. Only one of iAm’s shoes was on still, the other having been lost in whatever abduction and torture had occurred. And both feet were pointin...

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