When Celaena finished telling Dorian the story she’d told Chaol—albeit a much more limited version—he let out a long sigh and fell back onto his bed. “It sounds like something out of a book,” he said, staring at the ceiling. She sat down on the other side of the bed.
“Believe me, I thought I was going mad for a while.”
“So you actually opened a portal to another world? Using these Wyrdmarks?”
She nodded. “You also knocked that creature aside like it was a leaf caught in a wind.” Oh, she hadn’t forgotten about that. Not for one moment had she forgotten what it meant for him to have such raw power. “That was dumb luck.” She watched him, this kind, clever prince of
hers. “I still can’t control it.”
“In the tomb,” she said, “there is someone who might … offer you some advice on how to control it. Who might have some information about the kind of power you’ve inherited.” Right then, though, she didn’t exactly know how to explain Mort to him, so she just said, “Someday soon, you and I could go down there and meet him.”
“You’ll see when we get there. If he deigns to speak to you. It might take a while for him to decide he likes you.”
After a moment, Dorian reached over and took her hand, bringing it to his lips for a swift kiss. Nothing romantic—a gesture of thanks. “Even though things are different between us now, I meant what I said after the duel with Cain. I will always be grateful that you came into my life.”
Her throat tightened, and she squeezed his hand.
Nehemia had dreamed of a court that could change the world, a court where loyalty and honor were more valued than blind obedience and power. The day Nehemia had died, Celaena had thought the dream of that court forever vanished.
But looking at Dorian as he smiled at her, this prince who was smart and thoughtful and kind, who inspired good men like Chaol to serve him
Celaena wondered if Nehemia’s impossible, desperate dream of that court might yet come to pass.
The real question now was whether his father knew what a threat his son posed.
The King of Adarlan had to give the captain credit; the plan was ruthless and bold, and would send a message not just to Wendlyn, but to all their enemies. With the embargo between their countries, Wendlyn refused to let Adarlanian men into their borders. But women and children seeking refuge could still enter. It made sending anyone else impossible, but his Champion …
The king looked down his council table, where the captain was waiting for his decision. Westfall’s father and four others had immediately supported the idea. Another bit of unexpected cunning from the captain. He’d brought allies to this meeting.
Dorian, however, was watching the captain with barely concealed surprise. Clearly, Westfall hadn’t thought Dorian would support his decision. If only Westfall had been his heir instead; his warrior’s mind was sharp, and he didn’t balk from doing what needed to be done. The prince had yet to learn that kind of ruthlessness.
Getting the assassin away from his son would be an unexpected benefit. He trusted the girl to do his dirty work—but he didn’t want her around Dorian.
She’d brought Archer Finn’s head to him this morning, not a day later than she’d promised him, and explained what she’d discovered: that Archer had been responsible for Nehemia’s assassination due to their mutual involvement in that traitorous society. He wasn’t surprised that Nehemia was involved.
But what would the assassin have to say about this journey? “Summon my Champion,” he said. In the ensuing silence, the council
members murmured to each other, and his son tried to catch Westfall’s
eye. But the captain avoided looking at the prince.
The king smiled slightly, twisting the black ring on his finger. A pity Perrington wasn’t here to see this. He was off dealing with the slave uprising in Calaculla—news of which had been kept so secret that even the messengers had forfeited their lives. The duke would have been greatly amused by today’s turn of events. But he wished Perrington here
for more important reasons, too—to help him find out who had opened a portal last night.
He’d sensed it in his sleep—a sudden shift in the world. It was open for only a few minutes before someone closed it again. Cain was gone; who else in this castle possessed that kind of knowledge, or that power in the blood? Was it the same person who had killed Baba Yellowlegs?
He put a hand on Nothung, his sword.
There had been no body—but he didn’t think for one moment that Yellowlegs had just disappeared. The morning after she’d vanished, he’d gone to the carnival himself to look at the ruined wagon. He’d seen the flecks of dark blood staining the wooden floor.
Yellowlegs had been a queen among her people, one of the three brutal factions that had destroyed the Crochan family five hundred years ago. They’d relished erasing much of the wisdom of the Crochan women who had ruled justly for a thousand years. He’d invited the carnival here to meet with her—to purchase a few of her mirrors, and learn what remained of the Ironteeth Alliance that had once been strong enough to rip apart the Witch Kingdom.
But before she had yielded any decent information, she had died. And it frustrated him not to know why. Her blood had been spilled at his castle; others might come to demand answers and retribution. If they came, he would be ready.
Because in the shadows of the Ferian Gap, he’d been breeding new mounts for his gathering armies. And his wyverns still needed riders.
The doors to the council room opened. The assassin walked in, shoulders thrown back in that insufferable way of hers. She coolly took in the details of the room before stopping a few feet away from the table and bowing low. “Your Majesty summoned me?”
She kept her eyes averted, as she usually did. Except for that delightful day when she’d come in and practically flayed Mullison alive. Part of him wished he didn’t now have to free the sniveling councilman from the dungeons.
“Your companion, Captain Westfall, has come up with a rather … unusual idea,” the king said, and waved a hand at Chaol. “Why don’t you explain, Captain?”
The Captain twisted in his chair, then rose to his feet to face her. “I have suggested that we send you to Wendlyn to dispatch the king and his heir. While you are there, you will also seize their naval and military defense plans—so that once the country is in chaos, we will be able to
navigate their impenetrable barrier reefs and take the country for ourselves.”
The assassin looked at him for a long moment, and the king noticed that his son had gone very, very still. Then she smiled, a cruel, twisted thing. “It would be an honor to serve the crown in such a way.”
He had never learned anything about the mark that had glowed on her head during the duel. The Wyrdmark was impossible to decipher. It either meant “nameless” or “unnamed,” or something akin to “anonymous.” But gods-blessed or not, from the wicked grin on her face, the king knew she’d enjoy this task.
“Perhaps we’ll have some fun with it,” the king mused. “Wendlyn is having their Solstice ball in a few months. What a message it would send if the king and his son were to meet their end right under the noses of their own court, on their day of triumph.”
Though the captain shifted on his feet at the sudden change of plans, the assassin smiled at him again, dark glee written all over her. What hellhole had she come from, to find delight in such things? “A brilliant idea, Your Majesty.”
“It’s done, then,” the king said, and they all looked at him. “You’ll leave tomorrow.”
“But,” his son interrupted, “surely she needs some time to study Wendlyn, to learn its ways and—”
“It’s a two-week journey by sea,” he said. “And then she’ll need time to infiltrate the castle in time for the ball. She can take whatever materials she needs and study them onboard.”
Her brows had lifted slightly, but she just bowed her head. The captain was still standing, stiffer than usual. And his son was glaring— glaring at him and at the captain, so angry that he wondered whether he’d snap.
But the king wasn’t particularly interested in their petty dramas, not when this brilliant plan had arisen. He’d have to send riders immediately to the Ferian Gap and the Dead Islands, and have General Narrok ready his legion. He didn’t mean to make mistakes with this one chance in Wendlyn.
And it would be the perfect opportunity to test a few of the weapons he’d been forging in secret all these years.
She was leaving tomorrow.
And Chaol had come up with the idea? But why? She wanted to demand answers, wanted to know what he was thinking when he’d come up with this plan. She’d never told him the truth about the king’s threats
—that he would execute Chaol if she didn’t return from a mission, if she failed. And she could fake the deaths of petty lords and merchants, but not the King and Crown Prince of Wendlyn. Not in a thousand lifetimes could she find a way out of it.
She paced and paced, knowing Chaol wouldn’t be back in his rooms yet, and wound up going down to the tomb, if only to give herself something to do.
She expected Mort to lecture her about the portal—which he did, thoroughly—but she didn’t expect to find Elena waiting for her inside the tomb. “You have enough power to appear to me now, but you couldn’t help close the portal last night?”
She took one look at the queen’s frown and began pacing again.
“I could not,” Elena said. “Even now, this visit is draining me faster than it should.”
Celaena scowled at her. “I can’t go to Wendlyn. I—I can’t go. Chaol
knows what I’m doing for you—so why would he make me go there?” “Take a breath,” Elena said softly.
Celaena glared at her. “This ruins your plans, too. If I’m in Wendlyn, then I can’t deal with the Wyrdkeys and the king. And even if I pretended to go and instead went questing across this continent, it wouldn’t take long for the king to realize I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”
Elena crossed her arms. “If you are in Wendlyn, then you will be near Doranelle. I think that’s why the captain wants you to go.”
Celaena barked a laugh. Oh, what a tangled mess he’d gotten her into! “He wants me to go hide with the Fae and never come back to Adarlan? That’s not going to happen. Not only will he be killed, but the Wyrdkeys
“You will sail to Wendlyn tomorrow.” Elena’s eyes glowed bright. “Leave the Wyrdkeys and the king for now. Go to Wendlyn, and do what needs to be done.”
“Did you plant this idea in his head somehow?”
“No. The captain is trying to save you the only way he knows how.”
Celaena shook her head, looking at the sunlight pouring into the tomb from the shaft above. “Will you ever stop giving me commands?”
Elena let out a soft laugh. “When you stop running from your past, I will.”
Celaena rolled her eyes, then let her shoulders droop. A shard of memory sliced through her. “When I spoke to Nehemia, she mentioned
… mentioned that she knew her own fate. That she had embraced it. That it would set things in motion. Do you think she somehow manipulated Archer into …” But she couldn’t finish saying it, couldn’t let herself voice what the horrible truth might be: that Nehemia had engineered her own death, knowing that she might change the world—change Celaena
—more through dying than living.
A cold, slender hand grasped hers. “Cast that thought into the far reaches of your mind. Knowing the truth, whatever it may be, will not change what you must do tomorrow—where you must go.”
And even though Celaena knew the truth in that moment, knew it just from Elena’s refusal to answer at all, she did as the queen commanded. There would be other moments, other times to take out that truth to examine every dark and unforgiving facet. But right now—right now …
Celaena studied the light pouring into the tomb. Such a little light, holding the darkness at bay. “Wendlyn, then.”
Elena smiled grimly and squeezed her hand. “Wendlyn, then.”