Chapter no 5

Crown of Midnight

On a rooftop in a very fashionable and respectable part of Rifthold, Celaena crouched in the shadow of a chimney and frowned into the chill wind gusting off the Avery. She checked her pocket watch for the third time. Archer Finn’s previous two appointments had only been an hour each. He’d been in the house across the street for almost two.

There was nothing interesting about the elegant, green-roofed townhouse, and she hadn’t learned anything about who lived there, other than the client’s name—some Lady Balanchine. She had used the same trick she’d employed at the other two houses to gain that bit of information: she pretended to be a courier with a package for Lord So-and-So. And when the butler or housekeeper said that this was not Lord So-and-So’s house, she’d feigned embarrassment, asked whose house it was, chatted up the servant a bit, and then went on her way.

Celaena adjusted the position of her legs and rolled her neck. The sun had nearly set, the temperature dropping with each passing minute. Unless she could get into the houses themselves, she wasn’t going to learn much else. And given the likelihood that Archer might actually be doing what he was paid to do, she was in no rush to go inside. Better to learn where he went, who he saw, and then take the next step.

It had been so long since she’d done something like this in Rifthold— since she’d crouched on the emerald rooftops and learned what she could about her prey. It was different than when the king had sent her off to Bellhaven or to some lord’s estate. Here, now, in Rifthold, it felt like …

It felt like she’d never left. As if she might look over her shoulder and find Sam Cortland crouching behind her. As if she might return at the end of the night not to the glass castle, but to the Assassins’ Keep on the other side of the city.

Celaena sighed, tucking her hands under her arms to keep her fingers warm and agile.

It had been over a year and a half since the night she’d lost her freedom; a year and a half since she’d lost Sam. And somewhere, in this

city, were the answers to how it all had happened. If she dared to look, she knew she’d find them. And she knew it would destroy her again.

The front door of the townhouse opened, and Archer swaggered down the steps, right into his waiting carriage. She barely caught a glimpse of his golden-brown hair and fine clothes before he was whisked away.

Groaning, Celaena straightened from her crouch and hurried off the roof. Some harrowing climbing and a few jumps soon had her back on the cobbled streets.

She trailed Archer’s carriage, slipping in and out of shadows as they made their way across the city, a slow journey thanks to traffic. While she might be in no hurry to seek out the truth behind her own capture and Sam’s death, and while she was fairly certain the king had to be wrong about Archer, part of her wondered whether whatever truth she uncovered about this rebel movement and the king’s plans would destroy her, too.

And not just destroy her—but also everything she’d grown to care about.



Savoring the warmth of the crackling fire, Celaena leaned her head against the back of the small couch and dangled her legs over the cushioned arm. The lines on the paper she held before her were beginning to blur, which was no surprise, given that it was well past eleven, and she’d been up before dawn.

Sprawled on the well-worn red carpet in front of her, Chaol’s glass pen flickered with firelight as he scanned through documents and signed things and scribbled notes. Giving a little sigh through her nose, Celaena lowered the paper in her hands.

Unlike her spacious suite, Chaol’s bedroom was one large chamber, furnished only with a table by the solitary window and the old couch set before the stone fireplace. A few tapestries hung on the gray stone walls, a towering oak armoire stood in one corner, and his four-poster bed was decorated with a rather old and faded crimson duvet. There was a bathing room attached—not as large as her own, but still spacious enough to accommodate its own pool and privy. He had only one small bookcase, filled and neatly arranged. In alphabetical order, if she knew Chaol at all. And it probably contained only his most beloved books— unlike Celaena’s, which housed every title she got her hands on, whether

she liked the book or not. Regardless of his unnaturally organized bookshelf, she liked it here; it was cozy.

She’d started coming here a few weeks ago, when thoughts of Elena and Cain and the secret passageways made her itch to get out of her own rooms. And even though he’d grumbled about her imposing on his privacy, Chaol hadn’t turned her away or objected to her frequent after-dinner visits.

The scratching of Chaol’s pen stopped. “Remind me again what you’re working on.”

She flopped onto her back as she waved the paper in the air above her. “Just information about Archer. Clients, favored haunts, his daily schedule.”

Chaol’s golden-brown eyes were molten in the firelight. “Why go to so much trouble to track him when you could just shoot him and be done with it? You said he was well-guarded, yet it seems like you tracked him easily today.”

She scowled. Chaol was too smart for his own good. “Because, if the king actually has a group of people conspiring against him, then I should get as much information about them as I can before I kill Archer. Perhaps following Archer will reveal more conspirators—or at least clues to their whereabouts.” It was the truth—and she’d followed Archer’s ornate carriage through the streets of the capital today for that very reason.

But in the hours she’d spent trailing him, he’d gone only to a few appointments before returning to his townhouse.

“Right,” Chaol said. “So you’re just … memorizing that information now?”

“If you’re suggesting that I have no reason to be here and should leave, then tell me to go.”

“I’m just trying to figure out what’s so boring that you dozed off ten minutes ago.”

She propped herself on her elbows. “I did not!” His brows rose. “I heard you snoring.”

“You’re a liar, Chaol Westfall.” She threw her paper at him and plopped back on the couch. “I only closed my eyes for a minute.”

He shook his head again and went back to work. Celaena blushed. “I didn’t really snore, did I?”

His face was utterly serious as he said, “Like a bear.”

She thumped a fist on the couch cushion. He grinned. She huffed, then draped her arm off the sofa, picking at the threads of the ancient rug

as she stared up at the stone ceiling. “Tell me why you hate Roland.” Chaol looked up. “I never said I hated him.”

She just waited.

Chaol sighed. “I think it’s fairly easy for you to see why I hate him.” “But was there any incident that—”

“There were many incidents, and I don’t particularly feel like talking about any of them.”

She swung her legs off the arm of the couch and sat up straight. “Testy, aren’t you?”

She picked up another one of her documents, a map of the city that she’d marked up with the locations of Archer’s clients. Most of them seemed to be in the posh district where the majority of Rifthold’s elite lived. Archer’s own townhouse was in that neighborhood, tucked into a quiet, respectable side street. She traced a nail along it, but paused when her eyes fell upon a street just a few blocks over.

She knew that street—and knew the house that sat on its corner. Whenever she ventured into Rifthold, she took care to never pass too close to it. Today had been no different; she’d even gone a few blocks out of her way to avoid walking by.

Not daring to look at Chaol, she asked, “Do you know who Rourke Farran is?”

The name made her sick with long-suppressed rage and grief, but she managed to say it. Because even if she didn’t want the entire truth … there were some things she did need to know about her capture. Still needed to know, even after all this time.

She felt Chaol’s attention on her. “The crime lord?”

She nodded, her eyes still on that street where so many things had gone so horribly wrong. “Have you ever dealt with him?”

“No,” Chaol said. “But … that’s because Farran is dead.” She lowered the paper. “Farran’s dead?”

“Nine months ago. He and his three top men were all found murdered by …” Chaol chewed on his lip, searching for the name. “Wesley. A man named Wesley took them all out. He was …” Chaol cocked his head to the side. “He was Arobynn Hamel’s personal guard.” Her breath was tight in her chest. “Did you know him?”

“I thought I did,” she said softly. For the years she’d spent with Arobynn, Wesley had been a silent, deadly presence, a man who had barely tolerated her, and had always made it clear that if she ever became a threat to his master, he’d kill her. But on the night that she’d been

betrayed and captured, Wesley had tried to stop her. She’d thought that it was because Arobynn had ordered her locked in her rooms, that it had been a way to keep her from seeking retribution for Sam’s death at Farran’s hands; but …

“What happened to Wesley?” she asked. “Did Farran’s men catch him?”

Chaol ran a hand through his hair, glancing down at the rug. “No. We found Wesley a day later—courtesy of Arobynn Hamel.”

She felt the blood drain from her face, but dared to ask, “How?”

Chaol studied her closely, warily. “Wesley’s body was impaled on the iron fence outside Rourke’s house. There was … enough blood to suggest that Wesley was alive when they did it. They never confessed, but we got the sense that the servants in the household had also been instructed to let him stay there until he died.

“We thought it was an attempt to balance the blood feud—so that when the next crime lord ascended, they wouldn’t view Arobynn and his assassins as enemies.”

She stared at the carpet again. The night she’d broken out of the Assassins’ Keep to hunt down Farran, Wesley had tried to stop her. He’d tried to tell her it was a trap.

Celaena shut down the thought before it reached its conclusion. That was a truth she’d have to take out and examine at another time, when she was alone, when she didn’t have Archer and the rebel movement and all that nonsense to worry about. When she could try to understand why Arobynn Hamel might have betrayed her—and what she was going to do with that horrible knowledge. How much she’d make him suffer—and bleed for it.

After a few moments of silence, Chaol asked, “We never learned why Wesley went after Rourke Farran, though. Wesley was just a personal bodyguard. What did he have against Farran?”

Her eyes were burning, and she looked to the window, where the night sky was bathed in moonlight. “It was an act of revenge.” She could still see Sam’s twisted corpse, lying on that table in the room beneath the Assassins’ Keep; still see Farran crouched in front of her, his hands roaming over her paralyzed body. She swallowed down the tightness in her throat. “Farran captured, tortured, and then murdered one of … one of my … companions. And then the next night, I went out to repay the favor. It didn’t end so well for me.”

A log shifted in the fire, breaking open and filling the room with a flash of light.

“That was the night you were captured?” Chaol asked. “But I thought you didn’t know who had betrayed you.”

“I still don’t. Someone hired me and my companion to kill Farran, but it was all just a trap, and Farran was the bait.”

Silence; then—“What was his name?”

She pushed her lips together, shoving away the memory of how he’d looked the last time she’d seen him, broken on that table. “Sam,” she got out. “His name was Sam.” She took an uneven breath. “I don’t even know where they buried him. I don’t even know who I would ask about it.”

Chaol didn’t reply, and she didn’t know why she bothered talking, but the words just tumbled out. “I failed him,” she said. “In every way that counted, I failed him.”

Another long silence, then a sigh. “Not in one way,” Chaol said. “I bet he would have wanted you to survive—to live. So you didn’t fail him, not in that regard.”

She had to look away in order to force her eyes to stop burning as she nodded.

After a moment, Chaol spoke again. “Her name was Lithaen. Three years ago, she worked for one of the ladies of the court. And Roland somehow found out and thought it would be amusing for me to discover him in bed with her. I know it’s nothing like what you went through …”

She’d never known that he’d ever been interested in anyone, but … “Why did she do it?”

He shrugged, though his face was still bleak with the memory. “Because Roland is a Havilliard, and I’m just the Captain of the Guard. He even convinced her to go back to Meah with him—though I never learned what became of her.”

“You loved her.”

“I thought I did. And I thought she loved me.” He shook his head, as if silently chiding himself. “Did Sam love you?”

Yes. More than anyone had ever loved her. He’d loved her enough to risk everything—to give up everything. He’d loved her so much that she still felt the echoes of it, even now. “Very much,” she breathed.

The clock chimed eleven thirty, and Chaol shook his head, the tension falling from him. “I’m exhausted.”

She stood, somehow having no clue how they’d wound up talking about the people who had meant so much to them. “Then I should go.”

He got to his feet, his eyes so bright. “I’ll walk you back to your room.”

She lifted her chin. “I thought I didn’t need to be escorted everywhere now.”

“You don’t,” he said, walking to the door. “But it is something that friends tend to do.”

“Would you walk Dorian back to his room?” She batted her eyelashes at him, striding through the door as he opened it for her. “Or is this a privilege that only your lady-friends receive?”

If I had any lady-friends, I’d certainly extend the offer. I’m not sure you qualify as a lady, though.”

“So chivalrous. No wonder those girls find excuses to be in the gardens every morning.”

He snorted, and they fell silent as they walked through the quiet, dim halls of the castle, making their way back to her rooms on the other side. It was a trek, and often a cold one, since many of the halls were lined with windows that didn’t keep out the winter chill.

When they reached the door to her rooms, he bid her a quick good night and began to walk away. Her fingers were around the brass door handle when she turned to him.

“For what it’s worth, Chaol,” she said. He faced her, his hands in his pockets. She gave him a slight smile. “If she picked Roland over you, that makes her the greatest fool who ever lived.”

He stared at her for a long moment before he quietly said, “Thank you,” and walked back to his room.

Celaena watched him go, watched those powerful muscles shifting in his back, visible even through his dark tunic, suddenly grateful that this Lithaen had long ago left the castle.



The midnight hour chimed through the castle, the off-kilter ringing of the wretched clock tower in the garden echoing through the dark, silent halls. Though Chaol had escorted her to her door, five minutes of pacing in her bedroom had sent her wandering again, heading for the library. She had mountains of unread books sitting in her rooms but didn’t feel like reading any of them. She needed something to do. Something to take

her mind off her discussion with Chaol and the memories she’d dragged into the open tonight.

Celaena wrapped her cloak tightly around her, glaring at the fierce winds whipping the snow outside the drafty windows. Hopefully there would be a few hearths lit in the library. If not, she’d grab a book that did interest her, run back to her room, and curl up with Fleetfoot in her toasty bed.

Celaena turned a corner, entering the dark, window-lined hallway that ran past the towering doors of the library, and froze.

With the chill tonight, it was no surprise to see someone completely concealed by a black cloak, hood drawn far over the face. But something about the figure standing between the open library doors made some ancient, primal part of her send a warning pulse so strong that she didn’t take another step.

The person swiveled its head toward her, pausing as well.

Outside the hall windows, snow swirled, pressing against the glass.

It was just a person, she told herself as the figure now turned to face her fully. A person wearing a cloak darker than night, a hood so heavy it concealed every feature of the face inside.

It sniffed at her, a huffing, animal sound. She didn’t dare move.

It sniffed again, and took a step toward her. The way it moved, like smoke and shadow …

A faint warmth bloomed against her chest, then a pulsing blue light— The Eye of Elena was glowing.

The thing halted, and Celaena stopped breathing.

It hissed, and then slithered a step back into the shadows beyond the library doors. The tiny blue gem in the center of her amulet glowed brighter, and Celaena blinked against the light.

When she opened her eyes, the amulet was dark, and the hooded creature was gone.

Not a trace, not even a sound of footsteps.

Celaena didn’t go into the library. Oh, no. She just walked quickly back to her rooms with as much dignity as she could muster. Though she kept telling herself that she’d imagined it all, that it was some hallucination from too many hours awake, Celaena couldn’t stop hearing that cursed word again and again.


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