Chapter no 8

Crown of Midnight

She had planned to spend the rest of the day following Archer from a distance, but as they walked from the tea court, Chaol informed her that the king had ordered her to assist with guard duty at a state dinner that night. And though she could think of a thousand excuses to get out of it, any suspicious behavior on her part could draw the wrong sort of attention. If she was actually going to listen to Elena this time, she needed the king—she needed his entire empire—to think she was his obedient servant.

The state dinner was in the Great Hall, and it took all of Celaena’s self-control to keep from sprinting to the long table in the center of the room and horking down the food right off the plates of the gathered councilmen and preening nobility. Roasted lamb rubbed with thyme and lavender, duck glazed with orange sauce, pheasant swimming in green-onion gravy … Truly, it wasn’t fair.

Chaol had stationed her by a pillar near the glass patio doors. Though she wasn’t wearing the royal guards’ black uniform with the gold embroidered wyvern across the chest, she blended in well enough in her dark clothes. At least she was so far away from it all that no one could hear her stomach grumbling.

Other tables had been set up, too—full of lesser nobility who had been invited to join, all impeccably dressed for the occasion. Most of the attention—of the guards, of the nobility—remained on the center table, where the king and queen sat with their innermost court. Duke Perrington, the hulking brute, also sat there, and Dorian and Roland were nearby, chatting with the precious, pampered men who made up the king’s council. Men who had bled other kingdoms dry to pay for the clothes and jewels and gold in this room. Not that she was much better, in some regards.

Though she tried to avoid looking at the king, every time she did steal a glance at him, she wondered why he bothered attending these events when he could do away with this nonsense altogether. She gleaned nothing, though. And she didn’t think for a moment that he’d be stupid

enough to reveal anything about his true agenda in front of all these people.

Chaol stood at attention at the column nearest the king’s chair, his eyes darting everywhere, always alert. He had his best men here tonight

—all handpicked by him that afternoon. He didn’t seem to realize that no one would be so suicidal as to attack the king and his court at such a public event. She’d tried explaining that, but Chaol had just glared at her and told her not to cause trouble.

As if she’d be that suicidal.

The meal ended with the king standing up and bidding his guests farewell, the auburn-haired Queen Georgina dutifully and silently following him out of the Great Hall. The other guests remained, but now milled about from table to table, chatting with far more ease than they had while the king was present.

Dorian was on his feet, Roland still beside him as they spoke to three remarkably pretty young courtiers. Roland said something that set the girls giggling and blushing behind their lace fans, and Dorian’s lips stretched toward a smile.

He couldn’t like Roland. She had nothing more than gut feeling and Chaol’s story to go by, but … there was something about Roland’s emerald eyes that made her want to pull Dorian as far away from him as possible. Dorian was playing a dangerous game, too, she realized. As Crown Prince, he had to walk a careful line with certain people. Perhaps she’d speak to Chaol about it.

Celaena frowned. Telling Chaol could lead to tedious explanations. Maybe she’d just warn Dorian herself once this dinner was over. She had ended things with him romantically, but she still cared about him. Despite his history with women, he was everything that a prince should be: intelligent, kind, charming. Why hadn’t Elena approached him for her tasks?

Dorian couldn’t possibly know what his father was up to—no, he couldn’t act the way he did if he knew that his father had such sinister intent. And maybe he shouldn’t ever know.

No matter what she felt for him, Dorian would rule. And maybe his father would someday reveal his power and force Dorian to make a choice about what sort of ruler he wanted to become. But she was in no hurry to have Dorian make that choice; not yet. When he did, she could only pray that he would be a better king than his father.



Dorian knew Celaena was watching him. She’d been stealing glances at him throughout the whole insufferable dinner. But she’d also been looking at Chaol, and when she did, he could have sworn that her whole face changed—became softer, more contemplative.

She lounged against a pillar by the patio doors, cleaning her nails with a dagger. Thank the Wyrd his father had left, because he was fairly certain the king would have flayed her for it.

Roland said something else to the three ladies in front of them—girls whose names Dorian had heard and immediately forgotten—and they giggled again. Roland certainly rivaled him for charm. And it seemed that Roland’s mother had come with him to find the young lord a bride— a girl with land and money that would add to Meah’s importance. Dorian didn’t have to ask Roland to know that until his wedding night, his cousin would enjoy all of the benefits of living in the castle as a young lord.

Listening to him flirt, watching him grin at these girls, Dorian didn’t know whether he wanted to punch Roland or walk away. But years of living in this festering court kept Dorian from doing anything but looking gloriously bored.

He glanced at Celaena again, only to see her watching Chaol, whose eyes were in turn fixed on Roland. Sensing Dorian’s attention, Celaena met his gaze.

Nothing. Not a hint of emotion. Dorian’s temper flared, so fast that he found himself struggling for control. Especially as she looked away again—and her focus returned to the captain. And stayed there. Enough.

Not bothering to say good-bye to Roland or the girls, he strode out of the Great Hall. He had better, more important things to worry about than what Celaena felt for his friend. He was the Crown Prince of the largest empire in the world. His entire existence was bound to the crown and the glass throne that would someday be his. She’d ended things because of that crown and throne—because she wanted a freedom he could never give her.

“Dorian,” someone called as he entered the hallway. He didn’t have to turn around to know it was Celaena. She caught up to him, easily matching the brisk pace he hadn’t realized he’d set. He didn’t even know where he was going, only that he needed to get out of the Great Hall. She touched his elbow, and he hated himself for savoring the touch.

“What do you want?” he asked.

They passed beyond the busy halls and she tugged on his arm, slowing him down. “What’s wrong?”

“Why would anything be wrong?”

How long have you been yearning for him? was what he really wanted to ask. Damn him for caring. Damn him for every moment he’d spent with her.

“You look like you could splatter someone against a wall.” He raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t been making a face.

“When you get angry,” she explained, “your eyes get this … cold look. Glazed.”

“I’m fine.”

They kept walking, and she kept following him to … to wherever he was going. The library, he decided, turning down a passageway. He’d go to the royal library.

“If you have something to say,” he drawled, putting his temper on a tight leash, “then just say it.”

“I don’t trust your cousin.”

He paused, the shining hallway around them empty. “You don’t even know him.”

“Call it instinct.” “Roland is harmless.”

“Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe he has his own agenda in being here. And you’re too smart to be a pawn in anyone’s game, Dorian. He’s from Meah.”


And Meah is a small, insignificant port city. It means he’s got little to lose and a lot to gain. That makes people dangerous. Ruthless. He’ll use you, if he can.”

“The same way an assassin from Endovier used me to become King’s Champion?”

Her lips thinned. “Is that what you think I did?” “I don’t know what to think.” He turned away.

She snarled—actually snarled—at him. “Well, let me tell you what think, Dorian. I think you’re used to getting what you want—who you want. And just because you couldn’t get who you wanted this one time


He whirled toward her. “You know nothing about what I wanted. You didn’t even give me the chance to tell you.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m not having this conversation right now. I came to warn you about your cousin, but you clearly don’t care. So don’t expect me to care when you find yourself nothing more than a puppet. If you aren’t one already.”

He opened his mouth, so close to exploding he could have punched the nearest wall, but Celaena was already striding off.



Celaena stood in front of the bars to Kaltain Rompier’s cell.

The once-beautiful lady was curled against the wall, her dress soiled and her dark hair unbound and matted. She had buried her face in her arms, but Celaena could still see that her skin gleamed with sweat and had a slightly grayish hue. And the smell …

She hadn’t seen her since the duel; since the day Kaltain had drugged Celaena’s water with bloodbane so she would die at Cain’s hands. Once she’d defeated Cain, Celaena had left without witnessing the screaming fit that Kaltain had thrown. So she’d missed the moment where Kaltain had accidentally confessed to poisoning her, claiming to have been manipulated by her former beau, Duke Perrington. The duke had denied her accusations, and Kaltain had been sent down here to await her punishment.

Two months later, it seemed that they still didn’t know what to do with her—or didn’t care.

“Hello, Kaltain,” Celaena said quietly.

Kaltain lifted her head, her black eyes gleaming in recognition. “Hello, Celaena.”

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