Chapter no 50

Crown of Midnight

She knew the shift had happened, because it hurt like hell. A flash of blinding pain as her features ripped free of the hold that hid them. The demon lunged, and she plummeted into the well of power that was suddenly overflowing inside of her.

Magic, savage and unforgiving, erupted out of her, punching into the creature and sending it flying. Flame—years ago, her power had always manifested as some form of fire.

She could smell everything, see everything. Her heightened senses pulled her attention every which way, telling her that this world was wrong, and she needed to get out now.

But she wouldn’t get out, not until Chaol and Fleetfoot made it to safety.

The creature stopped rolling, on its feet in an instant, and Celaena put herself between it and Chaol. The demon sniffed at her, sinking onto its haunches.

She lifted Damaris and bellowed her challenge.

From far off in the mist, roars answered. One of them came from the thing in front of her.

She looked at Chaol, still crouched over Fleetfoot, and bared her teeth, canines glistening in the gray light.

Chaol was staring up at her. She could smell his terror and his awe. Smell his blood, so human and ordinary. The magic welled up more and more and more, uncontrollable and ancient and burning.

“Run,” she snarled, more a plea than a command, because the magic was a living thing, and it wanted out, and she was just as likely to hurt him as she was to hurt the creature. Because that portal might close at any moment and seal them here forever.

She didn’t wait to see what Chaol did. The creature rushed for her, a blur of withered white flesh. She ran toward it, flinging her immortal power like a phantom punch. It shot out in a blue burst of wildfire, but the creature dodged it, and the next blow and the next.

Celaena swung Damaris, and the creature ducked before jumping back a few paces. The roars in the distance were getting closer.

Crunching rock sounded behind her, and she knew Chaol was making for the portal.

The demon began pacing. Then the crunching stopped. That meant Chaol was in the passageway again; he must have carried Fleetfoot with him. He was safe. Safe.

This thing was too smart, too fast—and too strong, despite its gangly limbs.

And if others were coming—if more got through the portal before it closed …

Her magic was building again, the spring deeper now. Celaena gauged the distance between them as she backed toward the portal.

She had little control over the power, but she did have a sword—a sacred sword made by the Fae, capable of withstanding magic. A conduit.

Not giving herself time to think it through, she threw all her raw power into the golden sword. Its blade glowed red-hot, its edges crackling with lightning.

The creature tensed, as if sensing what she was about to do as she lifted the sword over her head. With a battle cry that shattered through the mists, Celaena plunged Damaris into the earth.

The ground cracked toward the demon, a burning web of lines and fissures.

And then the ground between them began to collapse, foot by foot, until the creature was sprinting away. Soon there was just a small lip of land surrounding Celaena, backed by the open portal, and an evergrowing chasm before her.

She wrenched Damaris from the broken earth. She knew she had to get out—now. But before she could move, before she could get to the portal, the magic rippled, so violently that she sagged to her knees. Pain flashed, and she shifted back into her clumsy, frail mortal body.

And then there were strong hands under her shoulders, hands she knew so well, dragging her back through the portal and into Erilea, where her magic was snuffed out like a candle.



Dorian came to just in time to see Chaol hauling Celaena back through the portal. She was conscious, but was a dead weight in the captain’s

arms as he dragged her across the ground. Once they were over the border, he dropped her as though she were made of flame, and Celaena lay panting on the stones.

What had happened? There had been a land of rock beyond the portal, and now … now there was nothing but a small ledge and a massive crater. The pale creature was gone.

Celaena pushed herself up onto her elbows, her limbs wobbling. Dorian’s head ached, but he managed to walk to them. He’d been dragging her one moment, and then—then she’d knocked him out. Why? “Close it,” Chaol was saying to her, his face so white that the blood

splattered on it stood out even more starkly. “Close it.”

“I can’t,” Celaena breathed. Dorian gripped the wall to keep himself from falling to his knees from the ache in his head. He made it to where they were positioned in front of the portal, Fleetfoot nuzzling Celaena.

“They’re going to keep coming through,” Chaol panted. Something was wrong, Dorian realized—something was wrong between them. Chaol wasn’t touching her, wasn’t helping her up.

Beyond the crater inside the portal, the roaring was growing louder.

No doubt those things would find some way to get through.

“I’m drained; I don’t have anything left to close this gate …” Celaena winced, then lifted her eyes to Dorian’s. “But you do.”



From the corner of her eye, Celaena saw Chaol whirl to face Dorian. She staggered to her feet. Fleetfoot had again put herself between Celaena and the portal, snarling softly. “Help me,” she whispered to the prince, some semblance of energy returning.

Dorian didn’t look at Chaol. He stepped forward. “What must I do?” “I need your blood. The rest I can do. At least, I hope I can.” Chaol

started to object, and Celaena gave him a faint, bitter smile. “Don’t

worry. Only a cut on the arm.”

Sheathing his sword, Dorian rolled up the sleeve of his shirt and drew a dagger. Blood welled from the cut, quick and bright.

Chaol growled, “How did you learn to open a portal?”

“I found a book,” she said. It was the truth. “I wanted to speak to Nehemia.”

Silence fell—pitying, horrifying silence.

But then she added, “I—I think I accidentally changed a symbol.” She pointed to the Wyrdmark she’d smeared, the one that had rearranged itself. “It went to the wrong place. But this might close the door—if we’re lucky.”

What she didn’t tell them was that there was a good chance it wouldn’t work. But because there were no other books in her rooms, and because Archer had taken The Walking Dead with him, all she had left was that sealing spell she’d used on the door in the library. And there was no way—no way in hell—she was going to abandon this open portal, or leave one of them to guard it. The portal would eventually close on its own, but she didn’t know when. More of those things could creep through at any time. So she’d try this, because it was her only option. She’d figure out something else if it didn’t work.

It will work, she told herself.

Dorian put a warm, reassuring hand on her back as she dipped her fingers into his blood. She hadn’t realized how freezing her hands were until the heat of his blood warmed her fingertips. One by one, she drew the sealing marks over the green-glowing symbols. Dorian never let go of her—only stepped even closer when she swayed. Chaol said nothing.

Her knees buckled, but she finished covering the symbols with Dorian’s blood. A lingering roar echoed through the damned world as the final symbol flared, the mists and rock and ravine fading into black, then into familiar stone.

Celaena kept her breathing steady, throwing all her focus into that. If she could keep breathing, she wouldn’t fall apart.

Dorian lowered his arm and loosed a sigh, finally letting go of her. “Let’s go,” Chaol ordered, scooping up Fleetfoot, who whined in pain

and gave him a warning growl.

“I think we all need a drink,” Dorian said quietly. “And an explanation.”

But Celaena looked down the hall, to the stairwell where Archer had fled. Had it only been minutes ago? It had felt like a lifetime.

But if it had only been minutes … Her breathing stumbled. She had discovered only one way out of the castle, and she was certain that was where Archer had gone. After what he’d done to Nehemia, after taking the book and abandoning them to that creature … Exhaustion was replaced by familiar anger—anger that burned through everything, just as Archer had destroyed what she loved.

Chaol stepped into her path. “Don’t you even think—”

Panting, she sheathed Damaris. “He’s mine.”

Before Chaol could grab her, she hurtled down the stairs.

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