Chapter no 22

Crown of Midnight

The silence of the library wrapped around Dorian like a heavy blanket, interrupted only by the turning of pages as he read through his family’s extensive genealogical charts, records, and histories. He couldn’t be the only one; if he truly did have magic, then what about Hollin? It had taken until now to manifest, so perhaps it wouldn’t reveal itself in Hollin for another nine years. Hopefully by then, he’d figure out how to suppress it and teach Hollin to do the same. He might not be fond of his brother, but he didn’t wish the boy dead—especially not the kind of death their father would give them if he learned what dwelled in their blood. Beheading, dismemberment, then burning. Complete annihilation. No wonder the Fae had fled the continent. They had been powerful and wise, but Adarlan had military might and a frantic public looking for any solution to the famine and poverty that had plagued the kingdom for decades. It hadn’t just been the armies that had made the Fae run—no, it was also the people who had lived in an uneasy truce with them, as well as the mortals gifted with magic, for generations. How would those people react if they knew that the heir to the throne was plagued by the

same powers?

Dorian ran a finger down his mother’s family tree. It was dotted with Havilliards along the way; a close mingling of their two families for the past few centuries that had given rise to numerous kings.

But he’d been here for three hours now, and none of the rotting old books held any mention of magic-wielders. In fact, there had been a drought in the line for centuries. Several gifted people had married into the bloodline, but their children hadn’t been born with the power, no matter what manner of gifts their parents posessed. Was it coincidence, or divine will?

Dorian closed the book and stalked back into the stacks. He reached the section along the back wall that held all the genealogical records and pulled out the oldest book he could find—one that held records dating back to the founding of Adarlan itself.

There, on the top of the family tree, was Gavin Havilliard, the mortal prince who had taken his war band into the depths of the Ruhnn Mountains to challenge the Dark Lord Erawan. The war had been long and brutal, and in the end, only a third of the men who had ridden in with Gavin came out of those mountains. But Gavin also emerged from that war with his bride—the princess Elena, the half-Fae daughter of Brannon, Terrasen’s first king. It was Brannon himself who gave Gavin the territory of Adarlan as a wedding gift—and a reward for the prince and princess’s sacrifices during the war. And since then, no Fae blood had bred into their line. Dorian followed the tree down and down. Just long-forgotten families whose lands were now called by different names. Dorian sighed, set down the book, and browsed through the stack. If Elena had gifted the line with her power, then perhaps answers could be

found elsewhere …

He was surprised to see the book sitting there, given how his father had destroyed that noble house ten years ago. But there it was: a history of the Galathynius line, starting with the Fae King Brannon himself. Dorian flipped through the pages, his brows raised high. He’d known the line was blessed with magic, but this

It was a powerhouse. A bloodline so mighty that other kingdoms had lived in terror of the day the Lords of Terrasen would come to claim their lands.

But they never had.

While they’d been gifted, they’d never once pushed their borders— even when wars came to their doorstep. When foreign kings had threatened them, the retribution had been swift and brutal. But always, no matter what, they kept to their borders. Kept the peace.

As my father should have done.

Despite all their power, though, the Galathynius family had fallen, and their noble lords with them. In the book he held, no one had bothered to mark the houses his father had exterminated, or the survivors sent into exile. Without the heart or the knowledge to do it himself, Dorian closed the book, grimacing as all those names burned in his vision. What sort of throne would he inherit someday?

If the heir of Terrasen, Aelin Galathynius, had lived, would she have become a friend, an ally? His bride, perhaps?

He’d met her once, in the days before her kingdom became a charnel house. The memory was hazy, but she’d been a precocious, wild girl— and had set her nasty, brutish older cousin on him in order to teach

Dorian a lesson for spilling tea on her dress. Dorian rubbed his neck. Of course, as fate would have it, her cousin wound up becoming Aedion Ashryver, his father’s prodigy general and the fiercest warrior in the north. He’d met Aedion a few times over the years, and at each encounter with the haughty young general, he’d gotten the distinct impression that Aedion wanted to kill him.

And with good reason.

Shuddering, Dorian replaced the book and stared at the bookcase, as if it would yield any answers. But he already knew there was nothing here that could help him.

When the time comes, I will help you.

Did Nehemia know what dwelt inside him? She had acted so strangely that day at the duel, drawing symbols in the air and then fainting. And then there had been the moment when that mark had burned on Celaena’s brow …

A clock chimed somewhere in the library, and he glanced down the aisle. He should go. It was Chaol’s birthday, and he should at least say hello to his friend before Celaena whisked him off. Of course he hadn’t been invited. And Chaol hadn’t tried to suggest that Dorian was welcome, either. What did she plan to do, exactly?

The temperature in the library dropped, a frozen draft blowing in from a distant corridor.

Not that he cared. He’d meant it when he swore to Nehemia that he was done with Celaena. And maybe he should have told Chaol that he could have her. Not that she’d ever belonged to him—or that she’d even tried to suggest that he belonged to her.

He could let go. He had let go. He’d let go. Let go. Let—

Books flew from their shelves, dozens upon dozens bursting into flight, and this time, they slammed into him as he staggered back toward the end of the row. He shielded his face, and when the sound of leather and paper stopped, Dorian braced a hand on the stone wall behind him and gaped.

Half of the books in the row had been tossed off their shelves and scattered about, as if thrown by some invisible force.

He rushed to them, shoving volumes back onto their shelves in no order whatsoever, working as fast as he could before one of the crotchety royal librarians came hobbling over to see what the noise was about. It took him a few minutes to put them all back, his heart pounding so hard he thought he’d be sick again.

His hands trembled—and not just with fear. No, there was some force still running through him, begging him to unleash it again, to open himself up …

Dorian crammed the last book back onto the shelf and took off at a run.

He could tell no one. Trust no one.

When he reached the main hall of the library, he slowed to a walk, feigning a lazy carelessness. He even managed to smile at the old, withered librarian who bowed to him as he passed. Dorian gave him a friendly wave before striding out the towering oak doors.

He could trust no one.

That witch at the carnival—she hadn’t recognized him as the prince. Still, her gift had rung true, at least when talking to Chaol. It was a risk, but perhaps Baba Yellowlegs had the answers he needed.



Celaena wasn’t nervous. She had nothing—absolutely nothing—to be worried about. It was just a dinner. A dinner she’d spent weeks arranging whenever she had a spare moment while spying on those men in Rifthold. A dinner at which she’d be alone. With Chaol. And after last night …

Celaena took a surprisingly shaky breath and checked herself in the mirror one last time. The dress was pale blue, almost white, and encrusted with crystal beading that made the fabric look like the shimmering surface of the sea. Perhaps it was a bit much, but she’d told Chaol to dress well, so hopefully he’d be wearing something nice enough to make her feel less self-conscious.

Celaena huffed. Gods above, she was feeling self-conscious, wasn’t she? It was ridiculous, really. It was just a dinner. Fleetfoot was with Nehemia for the night, and—and if she didn’t leave now, she’d be late.

Refusing to let herself sweat another second longer, Celaena grabbed her ermine cloak from where Philippa had left it on the ottoman in the center of her dressing room.

When she reached the entrance hall, Chaol was already waiting for her by the doors. Even from across the massive space, she could tell his eyes were on her as she descended the stairs. Not surprisingly, he wore black—but at least it wasn’t his uniform. No, his tunic and pants looked to be of fine make, and it seemed like he’d even run a comb through his short hair.

He watched her every step across the hall, his face unreadable. At last she stopped in front of him, the cold air from the open doors biting into her face. She hadn’t gone for their run this morning, and he hadn’t come to drag her outside. “Happy birthday,” she said before he could object to her clothes.

His eyes rose to her face, and he gave her a half smile, that unreadable, closed-off expression vanishing. “Do I even want to know where you’re taking me?”

She grinned at him, her nerves melting away. “Somewhere utterly inappropriate for the Captain of the Guard to be seen.” She inclined her head toward the carriage that waited outside the castle doors. Good. She’d threatened to flay the driver and footmen alive if they were late. “Shall we?”

As they rode through the city, sitting on opposite sides of the carriage, they talked about anything but last night—the carnival, Fleetfoot, Hollin’s daily tantrums. They even debated whether spring would start showing itself at last. When they reached the building—an old apothecary—Chaol raised his brows. “Just wait,” she said, and led him into the warmly lit shop.

The owners smiled at her, beckoning them up the narrow stone staircase. Chaol said nothing as they went up and up the stairs, past the second level, and the third, until they reached a door at the uppermost landing. The landing was small enough that he brushed against the skirts of her gown, and when she turned to him, one hand on the doorknob, she gave him a small smile. “It might not be an Asterion stallion, but …”

She opened the door, stepping aside so he could enter. Wordlessly, he walked in.

She’d spent hours arranging everything, and in the daylight it had looked lovely, but at night … It was exactly as she’d imagined it would be.

The roof of the apothecary was an enclosed glass greenhouse, filled with flowers and potted plants and fruit trees that had been hung with little glittering lights. The whole place had been transformed into a garden out of an ancient legend. The air was warm and sweet, and by the windows overlooking the expanse of the Avery River stood a small table set for two.

Chaol surveyed the room, turning in place. “It’s the Fae woman’s garden—from Rena Goldsmith’s song,” he said softly. His golden eyes were bright.

She swallowed hard. “I know it’s not much—”

“No one has ever done anything like this for me.” He shook his head in awe, looking back at the greenhouse. “No one.”

“It’s just a dinner,” she said, rubbing her neck and walking to the table, if only because the urge to go to him was so strong that she needed a table between them.

He followed her, and an instant later, two servants appeared to pull out their chairs for them. She smiled a little as Chaol’s hand shot to his sword, but upon seeing that they were not being ambushed, he gave her a sheepish glance and sat down.

The servants poured two glasses of sparkling wine, then bustled off for the food that they’d spent all day preparing in the apothecary’s kitchen. She’d managed to hire the cook from the Willows for the night

—for a fee that had made her consider punching the woman’s throat. It was worth it, though. She lifted her flute of wine.

“Many happy returns,” she said. She’d had a little speech prepared, but now that they were here, now that his eyes were so bright, and he was looking at her the way he had last night … all the words went right out of her head.

Chaol lifted his glass and drank. “Before I forget to say it: Thank you. This is …” He examined the glittering greenhouse again, then looked out to the river beyond the glass walls. “This is …” He shook his head once more, setting down his glass, and she caught a glimmer of silver in his eyes that made her heart clench. He blinked it away and looked back at her with a small smile. “No one has thrown me a birthday party since I was a child.”

She scoffed, fighting past the tightness in her chest. “I’d hardly call this a party—”

“Stop trying to downplay it. It’s the greatest gift I’ve been given in a long while.”

She crossed her arms, leaning back in her chair as the servants arrived, bringing their first course—roast boar stew. “Dorian got you an Asterion stallion.”

Chaol was staring down at his soup, brows high. “But Dorian doesn’t know what my favorite stew is, does he?” He glanced up at her, and she bit her lip. “How long have you been paying attention?”

She became very interested in her stew. “Don’t flatter yourself. I just bullied the castle’s head cook to tell me what dishes you favored.”

He snorted. “You might be Adarlan’s Assassin, but even you couldn’t bully Meghra. If you’d tried, I think you’d be sitting there with two black eyes and a broken nose.”

She smiled, taking a bite of stew. “Well, you might think you’re mysterious and brooding and stealthy, Captain, but once you know where to look, you’re a fairly easy book to read. Every time we have roast boar stew, I can barely get a spoonful before you’ve eaten the whole tureen.”

He tipped his head back and laughed, and the sound sent heat coursing through every part of her. “And here I was, thinking I’d managed to hide my weaknesses so well.”

She gave him a wicked grin. “Just wait until you see the other courses.”



When they’d eaten the last crumb of chocolate-hazelnut cake and drunk the last of the sparkling wine, and when the servants had cleared everything away and bid their farewells, Celaena found herself standing on the small balcony at the far edge of the roof, the summer plants buried under a blanket of snow. She held her cloak close to her as she stared toward the distant spot where the Avery met the ocean, Chaol beside her, leaning against the iron railing.

“There’s a hint of spring in the air,” he said as a mild wind whipped past them.

“Thank the gods. Any more snow and I’ll go mad.”

In the glow of the lights from the greenhouse, his profile was illuminated. She’d meant the dinner to be a nice surprise—a way to tell him how much she appreciated him—but his reaction … How long had it been since he felt cherished? Apart from that girl who had treated him so foully, there was also the matter of the family that had shunned him just because he wanted to be a guard, and they were too proud to have a son serve the crown in that manner.

Did his parents have any idea that in the entire castle, in the entire kingdom, there was no one more noble and loyal than him? That the boy they’d thrown out of their lives had become the sort of man that kings and queens could only dream of having serve in their courts? The sort of man that she hadn’t believed existed, not after Sam, not after everything that had happened.

The king had threatened to kill Chaol if she didn’t obey his orders. And, considering how much danger she was putting him in right now,

and how much she wanted to gain—not just for herself, but for them… “I have to tell you something,” she said softly. Her blood roared

through her ears, especially as he turned to her with a smile. “And before

I tell you, you have to promise not to go berserk.”

The smile faded. “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

“Just promise.” She clenched the railing, the cold metal biting into her bare hands.

He studied her carefully, then said, “I’ll try.”

Fair enough. Like a damned coward, she turned away from him, focusing on the distant ocean instead.

“I haven’t killed any of the people the king commanded me to assassinate.”

Silence. She didn’t dare look at him.

“I’ve been faking their deaths and smuggling them out of their homes. Their personal effects are given to me after I approach them with my offer, and the body parts come from sick-houses. The only person that I’ve actually killed so far is Davis, and he wasn’t even an official target. At the end of the month, once Archer has gotten his affairs in order, I’ll fake his death, and Archer will get on the next ship out of Rifthold and sail away.”

Her chest was so tight it hurt, and she slid her eyes to him.

Chaol’s face was bone white. He backed away, shaking his head. “You’ve gone mad.”

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