Chapter no 51

Crown of Midnight

Though Celaena’s Fae senses were extinguished, she could swear she still smelled Archer’s cologne as she moved toward the sewer tunnel, still smelled the blood on him.

He had destroyed everything. He’d had Nehemia assassinated, had manipulated them both, had used Nehemia’s death to drive a wedge between her and Chaol, all in the name of power and revenge …

She would take him apart. Slowly.

I know what you are, he’d said. She didn’t know what Arobynn had told him about her heritage, but Archer had no idea what sort of darkness lurked inside her, or what sort of monster she was willing to become in order to make things right.

Ahead of her, she could hear muffled curses and banging against metal. By the time she reached the sewer tunnel, she knew what had happened. The grate had slid shut, and none of Archer’s attempts to open it had worked. Perhaps the gods did listen sometimes. Celaena smiled, drawing both of her daggers.

She walked through the archway, but the passage was empty on either side of the small river. She stepped farther onto the walkway, peering into the water, wondering if he’d tried to swim deep enough to go under the grate.

She sensed him a heartbeat before he attacked from behind.

She met his sword with both her daggers raised over her head, darting back to give herself enough time to assess. Archer had trained with the assassins—and from the way he wielded his blade, coming after her again and again, she knew he’d kept up those lessons.

She was exhausted. Archer was at full strength, and his blows made her arms quake.

He swiped for her throat, but she ducked, slicing for his side. Swift as lightning, he leapt to avoid her gutting him.

“I killed her for our sake,” Archer panted as she scanned for any weakness, any opening. “She would have ruined us. And now that you can open portals without the keys, think of what we could do. Think,

Celaena. Her death was a worthy sacrifice to keep her from destroying the cause. We must rise up against the king.”

She lunged, feinting left, but he caught the attack. She growled, “I would rather live in his shadow than in a world where men like you rule. And when I’m done with you, I’m going to find all your friends and return the favor.”

“They don’t know anything. They don’t know what I know,” he said, dancing past all her attacks with maddening ease. “Nehemia was hiding something else about you. She didn’t want you involved, and I thought it was just because she didn’t want to share you with us. But now I wonder why, exactly. What more did she know?”

Celaena laughed softly. “You’re a fool if you think I’ll help you.” “Oh, once my men start working on you, you’ll soon change your

mind. Rourke Farran was a client of mine—before he was killed, that is.

You remember Farran, don’t you? He had a special love for pain. He told me that torturing Sam Cortland was the most fun he ever had.”

She could hardly see through the bloodlust that seized her in that moment, hardly remember her own name.

Archer feinted toward the river to get her to return to the wall—where she would impale herself on his blade. But Celaena knew that move, too

—knew it because she herself had taught it to him all those years ago. So as he struck, she ducked past his guard and rammed the pommel of her dagger up into his jaw.

He dropped like a stone, sword clattering, and she was upon him before he’d finished falling, her dagger at his throat.

“Please,” he whispered hoarsely.

She pushed the edge of the blade into his skin, wondering how she could make this last without killing him too quickly.

Please,” he begged, chest heaving. “I’m doing it for our freedom.

Our freedom. We’re on the same side in the end.”

One flick of the wrist, and she could slit his throat. Or she could disable him the way she’d disabled Grave. She could give him the injuries Grave had given Nehemia. She smiled.

“You’re not a murderer,” he whispered.

“Oh, I am,” she purred, torchlight dancing on the dagger as she considered what to do with him.

“Nehemia wouldn’t want this. She wouldn’t want you to do this.” And though she knew she shouldn’t listen, the words struck home. Don’t let that light go out.

The darkness that thrived in her soul had no light left. No light—save for a kernel, a faint flicker that grew smaller by the day. Wherever she was now, Nehemia knew how small the flame had become.

Don’t let that light go out.

Celaena felt the tension go out of her body, but she kept her dagger on Archer’s throat until she was on her feet.

“You’re leaving Rifthold tonight,” she told him. “You and all of your friends.”

“Thank you,” Archer breathed, standing.

“If I find out you’re still in the city at dawn,” she said, putting her back to him as she stalked toward the tunnel stairs, “I’ll kill you.” Enough. It was enough.

“Thank you,” Archer said again.

She kept walking, listening for any sign of him moving to attack her back.

“I knew you were a good woman,” he said. Celaena halted. Turned.

There was a hint of triumph in his eyes. He thought he’d won. Manipulated her again. One foot after another, she walked back toward him with predatory calmness.

She stopped, close enough to kiss him. He gave her a wary smile. “No, I’m not,” she said. Then she moved, too fast for him to stand a


Archer’s eyes went wide as she slid the dagger home, jamming it up into his heart.

He sagged in her arms. She brought her mouth to his ear, holding him upright with one hand and twisting the dagger with the other as she whispered, “But Nehemia was.”

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