Chapter no 45

Crown of Midnight

Celaena didn’t get a meal, or take a bath, or see a healer for her shoulder. Instead, she hurried to the dungeon, not even looking at the guards that she passed. Exhaustion ripped at her, but fear kept her moving,

almost sprinting down the stairs.

They want to use me. They tricked me, Kaltain had said. And in Dorian’s book of Adarlan’s noble lineages, the Rompier family had been listed as one with a strong magical line, supposedly vanished two generations ago.

Sometimes I think they brought me here, Kaltain had said. Not to marry Perrington, but for another purpose.

Brought Kaltain here, the way Cain had been brought here. Cain, of the White Fang Mountains, where powerful shamans had long ruled the tribes.

Her mouth went dry as she strode down the dungeon hallway to Kaltain’s cell. She stopped in front, staring through the bars.

It was empty.

All that was left inside was Celaena’s cloak, discarded in the kicked-up hay. As if Kaltain had struggled against whoever had come to take her.

Celaena was at the guards’ station a moment later, pointing down the hall. “Where is Kaltain?” Even as she said it, a memory began to clear, a memory hazed by days spent sedated in the dungeons.

The guards looked at each other, then at her torn and bloody clothes, before one said, “The duke took her—to Morath. To be his wife.”

She stalked out of the dungeon, heading for her rooms.

Something is coming, Kaltain had whispered. And I am to greet it.

My headaches are worse every day, and full of all those flapping wings.

Celaena nearly stumbled on a step. Roland has been suffering from awful headaches lately, Dorian told her a few days ago. And now Roland, who shared Dorian’s Havilliard blood, had gone to Morath, too.

Gone, or been taken?

Celaena touched her shoulder and felt the open, bloody wounds beneath. The creature had been clawing at its head, as though it were in pain. And when it had shoved through the door, for those last few seconds it had been frozen in place, she had seen something human in its warped eyes—something that looked so relieved, so grateful for the death she gave him.

“Who were you?” she whispered, recalling the human heart and manlike body of the creature under the library. “And what did he do to you?”

But Celaena had a feeling she already knew the answer.

Because that was the other thing the Wyrdkeys could do, the other power that the Wyrdmarks controlled: life.

They hear wings in the Ferian Gap, Nehemia had said. Our scouts do not come back.

The king was twisting far worse things than mortal men. Far, far worse things. But what did he plan to do with them—with the creatures, with the people like Roland and Kaltain?

She needed to learn how many of the Wyrdkeys he had found. And where the others might be.



The next night, Celaena examined the door to the library catacombs, her ears straining for any hint of sound on the other side.


The bloody Wyrdmarks had turned flaky, but beneath the crust, as if welded onto the metal, was the dark outline of each mark.

From high, high above, the muffled bellow of the clock tower sounded. It was two in the morning. How did no one know that the tower sat atop an ancient dungeon that served as the king’s own secret chamber?

Celaena glowered at the door in front of her. Because who would even

think about that as a possibility?

She knew she should go to bed, but she’d been unable to sleep for weeks now and saw no point in even trying anymore. It was why she’d come down here: to do something while sorting through her jumbled thoughts.

She flipped the dagger in her right hand, angling it, and gave a light, tentative tug on the door.

It held. She paused, listening again for any signs of life, and yanked harder.

It didn’t budge.

Celaena pulled a few more times, going so far as to brace a foot against the wall, but the door remained sealed. When she was at last convinced that nothing was getting through the door—in either direction

—she loosed a long breath.

No one would believe her about this place—just like no one would believe her wild, highly unlikely story about the Wyrdkeys.

To find the Wyrdkeys, she’d first have to solve the riddle. And then convince the king to let her go for a few months. Years. It would take careful manipulation, especially since it seemed likely that he already had a key. But which one?

They hear wings …

Yellowlegs said that only combined could the three open the actual Wyrdgate, but alone each still wielded immense power. What other sorts of terrors could he create? If he ever got all three Wyrdkeys, what might he bring into Erilea to serve him? Things were already stirring on the continent; unrest was brewing. She had a feeling that he wouldn’t tolerate it for long. No, it would only be a matter of time before he unleashed whatever he’d been creating upon them all, and crush all resistance forever.

Celaena looked at the sealed door, her stomach turning. A half-dried pool of blood lay at the base of the door, so dark it looked like oil. She crouched, swiping a finger through the puddle. She sniffed at it, almost gagged at the reek, and then rubbed her finger against the pad of her thumb. It felt as oily as it looked.

She got to her feet and reached into her pocket, looking for something to wipe off her fingers. She drew out a handful of papers. Scraps was more like it—bits of things that she’d carried around to study whenever she had a spare moment. Frowning, she shifted through them to sort out which one she could spare to use as a makeshift handkerchief.

One was just a receipt for a pair of shoes, which she must have accidentally tucked into her pocket that morning. And another … Celaena lifted that one closer. Ah! Time’s Rift! had been written there. She’d scribbled it down when she’d been trying to solve the eye riddle. When everything in the tomb had felt like a great secret, one giant clue.

Some help that had been. Just another dead end. Cursing under her breath, she used it to wipe the grime off her fingers. The tomb still didn’t make sense, though. What did the trees on the ceiling and the stars on the floor have to do with the riddle? The stars had led to the secret hole, but they could just as easily have been on the ceiling to do that. Why make everything backward?

Would Brannon have been so foolish as to put all the answers in one place?

She uncrumpled the scrap of paper, now stained with the creature’s oily blood. Ah! Time’s Rift!

There was no inscription at Gavin’s feet—only Elena’s. And the words made little sense.

… But what if they weren’t meant to make sense? What if they were only just logical enough to imply one thing, but really mean another?

Everything in the tomb was backward, rearranged, the natural order in reverse. To hint that things were jumbled, misarranged. So the thing that should have been concealed was right in the open. But, like everything else, its meaning was warped.

And there was one person—one being—who could possibly tell her whether she was right.

You'll Also Like