Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) - Page 77

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) - Page 77

Manon bowed her head. They had not spoken of the Crochan. Manon had gotten the message: next time, it would be one of the Thirteen on her knees. So she kept her head down as she said, “I only ask because I would not be parted with you, Grandmother.”

“Liar. And a pathetic one.” Her grandmother turned back to the desk. “I shall remain here, but come to you in Morath during the summer. We have work to finish here.”

Manon lifted her chin, her new red cloak pooling around her, and asked, “And when shall we fly to Morath?”

Her grandmother smiled, iron teeth shining. “Tomorrow.”

Even under the cover of darkness, the warm spring breeze was full of new grass and snow-melted rivers, only disrupted by the booming of wings as Manon led the host south along the Fangs.

They kept to the shadows of the mountains, shifting ranks and dipping out of sight to prevent anyone from getting an accurate count of their numbers. Manon sighed through her nose, and the wind ripped the sound away, just as it streamed her long red cloak behind her.

Asterin and Sorrel flanked her, silent like the rest of the covens for the long hours they’d flown down the mountains. They would cross Oakwald where Morath’s mountains were closest, then rise above the cover of the cloud line for the rest of the journey. Unseen and as quiet as possible—that was how the king wanted them to arrive at the duke’s mountain fortress. They flew all night down the Fangs, swift and sleek as shadows, and the earth below quivered in their wake.

Sorrel was stone-faced, monitoring the skies around them, but Asterin was smiling faintly. It was not a wild grin, or one that promised death, but a calm smile. To be aloft and skimming the clouds. Where every Blackbeak belonged. Where Manon belonged.

Asterin caught her stare and smiled wider, as if there wasn’t a host of witches flying behind them and Morath lying ahead. Her cousin turned her face into the wind, breathing it in, exultant.

Manon did not let herself savor that beautiful breeze or open herself to that joy. She had work to do; they all did. Despite what the Crochan had said, Manon had not been born with a heart, or a soul. She did not need them.

Once they fought the king’s war, when his enemies were bleeding out around them . . . only then would they ride to reclaim their broken kingdom.

And she would go home at last.

67

The rising sun was staining the Avery River with gold as the cloaked man strode onto a rickety dock in the slums. Fishermen were heading out for the day, revelers were stumbling in for the night, and Rifthold was still asleep—unaware of what had happened the night before.

The man pulled out a lovely blade, its eagle pommel glinting in the first light of dawn. For a long moment, he stared at the sword, thinking of all that it had once embodied. But there was a new sword at his side—an ancient king’s blade, from a time when good men had served noble rulers and the world had prospered for it.

He would see that world reborn, even if it took his last breath. Even if he had no name now, no position or title save Oath-Breaker, Traitor, Liar.

No one noticed when the sword was jettisoned over the river, its pommel catching the sun and burning like golden fire, a flash of light before it was swallowed by the dark water, never to be seen again.

68

It turned out that the “submission” part of a blood oath was something Rowan liked to interpret as it suited him. During their two-week trek to the nearest port in Wendlyn, he bossed Celaena around even more—seeming to believe that now he was part of her court, it entitled him to certain nonnegotiable rights regarding her safety, her movements, and her plans.

She was starting to wonder, as they approached the docks at the end of the cobblestone street, if she had made a teensy mistake in binding him to her forever. They’d been arguing for the past three days about her next move—about the ship she’d hired to take her back to Adarlan.

“This plan is absurd,” Rowan said for the hundredth time, stopping in the shadows of a tavern by the docks. The sea air was light and crisp. “Going back alone seems like suicide.”

“One, I’m going back as Celaena, not Aelin—”

“Celaena, who did not accomplish the king’s mission, and who they are now going to hunt down.”

“The King and Queen of Eyllwe should have gotten their warning by now.” She’d sent it the first time they’d gone into town while investigating the m.u.r.d.e.r of those poor people. Though letters were nearly impossible to send into the empire, Wendlyn had certain ways of getting around that. And as for Chaol . . . well, that was another reason why she was here, on this dock, about to get onto this ship. She had awoken this morning and slipped the amethyst ring off her finger. It had felt like a blessed release, a final shadow lifted from her heart. But there were still words left unsaid between them, and she needed to make sure he was safe—and would remain that way.

“So you’re going to get the key from your old master, find the captain, and then what?”

Complete submission to her indeed. “Then I go north.”

“And I’m supposed to sit on my a.s.s for the next gods know how many months?”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re not exactly inconspicuous, Rowan. If your tattoos don’t attract attention, then the hair, the ears, the teeth . . .”

“I have another form, you know.”

“And, just like I said, magic doesn’t work there anymore. You’d be trapped in that form. Though I do hear that Rifthold rats are particularly delicious, if you want to eat them for months.”

He glared at her, then scanned the ship—even though she knew he’d snuck out of their room at the inn last night to inspect it already. “We’re stronger together than apart.”

“If I’d known you would be such a pain in the ass, I never would have let you swear that oath.”

“Aelin.” At least he wasn’t calling her “Majesty” or “My Lady.” “Either as yourself or as Celaena, they will try to find you and k.i.l.l you. They are probably already tracking you down. We could go to Varese right now and approach your mother’s mortal kin, the Ashryvers. They might have a plan.”

“My chance at success in getting the Wyrdkey out of Rifthold lies in stealth as Celaena.”

“Please,” he said.

But she merely lifted her chin. “I am going, Rowan. I will gather the rest of my court—our court—and then we will raise the greatest army the world has ever witnessed. I will call in every favor, every debt owed to Celaena Sardothien, to my parents, to my bloodline. And then . . .” She looked toward the sea, toward home. “And then I am going to rattle the stars.” She put her arms around him—a promise. “Soon. I will send for you soon, when the time is right. Until then, try to make yourself useful.” He shook his head, but gripped her in a bone-crushing embrace.

He pulled back far enough to look at her. “Perhaps I’ll go help repair Mistward.”

She nodded. “You never told me,” she said, “what you were praying to Mala for that morning before we entered Doranelle.”

For a moment, it looked like he wouldn’t tell her. But then he quietly said, “I prayed for two things. I asked her to ensure you survived the encounter with Maeve—to guide you and give you the strength you needed.”

That strange, comforting warmth, that presence that had reassured her . . . the setting sun kissed her cheeks as if in confirmation, and a shiver went down her spine. “And the second?”

“It was a selfish wish, and a fool’s hope.” She read the rest of it in his eyes. But it came true.

“Dangerous, for a prince of ice and wind to pray to the Fire-Bringer,” she managed to say.

Rowan shrugged, a secret smile on his face as he wiped away the tear that escaped down her cheek. “For some reason, Mala likes me, and agreed that you and I make a formidable pair.”

But she didn’t want to know—didn’t want to think about the Sun Goddess and her agenda as she flung herself on Rowan, breathing in his scent, memorizing the feel of him. The first member of her court—the court that would change the world. The court that would rebuild it. Together.

She boarded the boat as night fell, herded into the galley with the other passengers to keep them from learning the route through the reef. With little fuss they set sail, and when they were at last allowed out of the galley, she emerged onto the deck to find dark, open ocean around them. A white-tailed hawk still flew overhead, and it swooped low to brush its star-silvered wing against her cheek in farewell before it turned back with a sharp cry.

In the moonless light, she traced the scar on her palm, the oath to Nehemia.

She would retrieve the first Wyrdkey from Arobynn and track down the others, and then find a way to put the Wyrdkeys back in their Gate. She would free magic and destroy the king and save her people. No matter the odds, no matter how long it took, no matter how far she had to go.

She lifted her face to the stars. She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, heir of two mighty bloodlines, protector of a once-glorious people, and Queen of Terrasen.

She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius—and she would not be afraid.

Acknowledgments

This book would not exist without my friends. Especially my best friend, Jaeger copilot, and anam cara, Susan Dennard.

It’s to her that I owe the biggest debt, for the entire days spent brainstorming and figuring out the right way to tell the story, for holding my hand as I walked down the dark paths of this book, for being the voice in my head telling me to keep going, keep going, keep going. There was no one else that this book could have been dedicated to; no one else who challenges and uplifts and inspires me so greatly. So, thank you, Soozyface, for being the kind of friend I was so sure didn’t exist in this world. Love you, dude.

I also owe a huge debt to my brilliant and immensely talented friend Alex Bracken, for the genius feedback, for the bajillion-page e-mails, and for being so, so incredibly supportive. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that our paths crossed all those years ago—what an insane journey it’s been.

And none of this would ever have happened without my lovely and badass agent, Tamar Rydzinski, who has been with me from the very beginning, and whose tireless work has made this series reality. I’m so honored to call you my agent, but even more honored to call you my friend.

To the incredible worldwide team at Bloomsbury—how can I ever fully convey what a joy it is to work with you all? Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do for me and Throne of Glass. To my editor, Margaret Miller—this book would be a hot mess without you. To Cat Onder, Cindy Loh, and Rebecca McNally—you guys are the absolute best. To Erica Barmash, Hali Baumstein, Emma Bradshaw, Kathleen Farrar, Cristina Gilbert, Courtney Griffin, Alice Grigg, Natalie Hamilton, Bridget Hartzler, Charli Haynes, Emma Hopkin, Linette Kim, Lizzy Mason, Jenna Pocius, Emily Ritter, Amanda Shipp, Grace Whooley, and Brett Wright: thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication.

To the team at Audible and to the Throne of Glass audiobook narrator, Elizabeth Evans, thank you for making Celaena’s world come to life in a whole new way, and for giving her a voice. And thank you to Janet Cadsawan, whose beautiful Throne of Glass jewelry line continues to b.l.o.w my mind.

To the lovely Erin “Ders” Bowman, for the cheerleading and the unfailing encouragement, for the video chats, and the epic (non-writing) retreats. Hero Squad Forever.

To Mandy Hubbard, Dan Krokos, Biljana Likic, Kat Zhang, and the Publishing Crawl gang—thanks so much for being some of the bright lights.

To my parents—my number-one fans—for the many adventures that so often serve as inspiration for these books. To my family, for the love and support, and for pushing this series on your friends and book clubs. Love you all. To my wonderful Grandma Connie—I miss you and wish you were here to read this.

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