Chapter no 102

Empire of Storms

Aedion Ashryver had been trained to kill men and hold a line in battle since he was old enough to lift a sword. Crown Prince Rhoe Galathynius had begun his training personally, holding Aedion to standards that some might have deemed unfair, too unyielding for a boy.

But Rhoe had known, Aedion realized as he stood on the prow of the ship, Ansel of Briarcliff’s men armed and ready behind him. Rhoe had known even then that Aedion would serve Aelin, and when foreign armies challenged the might of the Fire-Bringer … it might not be mere mortals that he faced.

Rhoe—Evalin—had gambled that the immortal army now stretching away before him would one day come to these shores. And they had wanted to ensure that Aedion was ready when it did.

“Shields up,” Aedion ordered the men as the second volley of arrows rained from Maeve’s armada. The magical cloak around their ships was holding well enough thanks to Dorian Havilliard, and though he was glad for any bloodshed it spared them, after the bullshit the king had pulled with Aelin and Manon, Aedion gritted his teeth at each ripple of color upon impact.

“These are soldiers, the same as you,” Aedion went on. “Don’t let the pointy ears deceive you. They bleed like the rest of us. And can die from the same wounds, too.”

He didn’t let himself glance behind—to where his father commanded and shielded another line of ships. Gavriel had kept quiet while Fenrys divulged how to keep a quick-healing Fae warrior down: go for slicing through muscles rather than stabbing wounds. Snap a tendon and you’ll halt an immortal long enough to kill.

Easier said than done. The soldiers had gone pale-faced at the thought of it—open combat, blade-to-blade, against Fae warriors. Rightly so.

But Aedion’s duty wasn’t to remind them of the blunt facts. His duty was to make them willing to die, to make this fight seem utterly necessary. Fear could break a line faster than any enemy charge.

Rhoe—his real father—had taught him that. And Aedion had learned it during those years in the North. Learned it fighting knee-deep in mud and gore with the Bane.

He wished they flanked him, not unknown soldiers from the Wastes. But he would not let his own fear erode his resolve.

Maeve’s second volley rose up, up, up, the arrows soaring faster and farther than those from mortal bows. With better aim.

The invisible shield above them rippled with flickers of blue and purple as arrows hissed and slid off it.

Buckling already, because those arrows came tipped with magic.

The soldiers on the deck stirred, shields shifting, their anticipation and rising terror coating Aedion’s senses. “Just a bit of rain, boys,” he said, grinning widely. “I thought you bastards were used to it out in the Wastes.”

Some grumbles—but those metal shields stopped shivering.

Aedion made himself chuckle. Made himself the Wolf of the North, eager to spill blood upon the southern seas. As Rhoe had taught him, as Rhoe had prepared him, long before Terrasen fell to the shadow of Adarlan. Not again. Never again—and certainly not to Maeve. Certainly not here,

with no one to witness it.

Ahead, at the front lines, Rowan’s magic flared white in silent signal. “Arrows at the ready,” Aedion ordered.

Bows groaned, arrows pointing skyward. Another flash.

Volley!” Aedion bellowed.

The world darkened beneath their arrows as they sailed toward Maeve’s armada.

A storm of arrows—to distract from the real attack beneath the waves.



The water was dimmer here, the sunlight slim shafts that slid between the fat-bellied boats amassed above the waves.

Other creatures had gathered at the ruckus, flesh-shredders looking for the meals that would surely come when the two armadas at last met.

A flash of light had sent Lysandra diving deep, weaving between the circling scavengers, blending into their masses as best as she could while she launched into a sprint.

She had modified her sea dragon. Given it longer limbs—with prehensile thumbs.

Given her tail more strength, more control.

Her own little project, during the long days of travel. To take one original form and perfect it. To alter what the gods had made to her own liking.

Lysandra reached the first ship Rowan had marked. A careful, precise map of where and how to strike. A snap of her tail had the rudder in pieces.

Their shouts reached her even under the waves, but Lysandra was already flying, soaring for the next marked boat.

She used her claws this time, grabbing the rudder and ripping it clean off. Then bashing a hole in the keel with her clubbed tail. Clubbed, not spiked—no, the spikes had gotten stuck in Skull’s Bay. So she’d made her tail into a battering ram.

Arrows fired with better accuracy than the Valg foot soldiers, shooting like those rays of sunshine into the water. She’d prepared for that, too.

They bounced off scales of Spidersilk. Hours spent studying the material grafted onto Abraxos’s wings had taught her about it—how to change her own skin into the impenetrable fiber.

Lysandra tore into another rudder, then another. And another.

Fae soldiers were screaming in advance of her. But the harpoons they fired were too heavy, and she was too fast, dove too deep and too swift. Whips of water magic speared for her, trying to ensnare her. She outswam them, too.

The court that could change the world, she told herself over and over, as exhaustion weighed her down, as she kept disabling rudder after rudder, punching holes in those selected Fae ships.

She had made a promise to that court, that future. To Aedion. And to her queen. She would not fail her.

And if gods-damned Maeve wanted to go head-to-head with them, if Maeve thought to strike them when they were weakest … Lysandra was going to make the bitch regret it.



Dorian’s magic roiled as Maeve’s armada went from firing arrows to outright chaos. But he kept his shields intact, patching the spots where arrows had broken through. Already, his power wobbled, too swiftly drained.

Either through some trick of Maeve’s or whatever magic coated those arrows.

But Dorian gritted his teeth, leashing his magic to his will, Rowan’s bellowed warnings to hold echoing off the water—amplified in the way that Gavriel had used his voice in Skull’s Bay.

But even with the chaos of Maeve’s armada finding their ships under siege from beneath the water, the lines of it stretched away forever.

Aelin and Manon had not returned.

A Fae male in a raging, lethal panic was a terrifying thing to behold.

Two of them were near cataclysmic.

When Aelin and Manon had vanished into that mirror, Dorian suspected it was only Aedion’s roaring that had made Rowan snap out of the blood fury he’d descended into. And only the throbbing bruise on Dorian’s cheek that made Rowan refrain from giving him a matching one.

Dorian glanced toward the front lines, where the Fae Prince stood at the prow of his ship, his sword and hatchet out, a quiver of arrows and bow strapped across his back, various hunting knives honed razor-sharp. The prince had not snapped out of it at all, he realized.

No, Rowan had already descended to a level of icy wrath that had Dorian’s magic trembling, even from the distance now between them.

He could feel it, Rowan’s power—feel it as he’d sensed Aelin’s surging


Rowan had already been deep within his reservoir of power when Aelin

and Manon had left. He’d used the last hour, once Aedion had focused that

fear and anger on the battle ahead, to plunge even deeper. It now flowed around them like the sea mere feet below.

Dorian had followed suit, falling back on the training the prince had instilled in him. Ice coated his veins, his heart.

Aedion had said only one thing to him before departing for his own section of the armada. The general-prince had looked him over once, his Ashryver eyes lingering on the bruise he’d given him, and said, “Fear is a death sentence. When you’re out there, remember that we don’t need to survive. Only put enough of a dent in them so that when she comes back … she’ll wipe out the rest.”

When. Not if. But when Aelin found their bodies, or whatever was left of them if the sea didn’t claim them … she might very well end the world for rage.

Maybe she should. Maybe this world deserved it.

Maybe Manon Blackbeak would help her do it. Maybe they’d rule over the ruins together.

He wished he’d had more time to talk to the witch. To get to know her beyond what his body had already learned.

Because even with the rudders being disabled … ships now advanced. Fae warriors. Born and bred to kill.

Aedion and Rowan sent another volley of arrows aiming for the ships. Shields disintegrated them before they could meet any targets. This would not end well.

His heart thundered, and he swallowed as the ships crept around their foundering brethren, inching toward that demarcation line.

His magic writhed.

He’d have to be careful where to aim. Have to make it count.

He did not trust his power to remain focused if he unleashed it all.

And Rowan had told him not to. Had told him to wait until the armada was truly upon them. Until they crossed that line. Until the Fae Prince gave the order to fire.

For it was fire—and ice—that warred in Dorian now, begging for release.

He kept his chin high as more ships inched toward those disabled at the front, then slipped alongside them.

Dorian knew it would hurt. Knew it would hurt to wreck his magic, and then wreck his body. Knew it would hurt to see his companions go down, one by one.

Still Rowan held the front line, did not let his ships turn to flee.

Closer and closer, those enemy ships speared toward their front lines, hauled by waving limbs of mighty oars. Archers were poised to fire, and sunlight glinted off the burnished armor of the battle-hungry Fae warriors aboard. Ready and rested, primed to slaughter.

There would be no surrender. Maeve would destroy them just to punish Aelin.

He’d failed them—in sending Manon and Aelin away. On that gamble, he’d perhaps failed all of them.

But Rowan Whitethorn had not.

No, as those enemy ships slid into place among their foundering companions, Dorian saw that they each bore the same flag:

A silver banner, with a screaming hawk.

And where Maeve’s black flag of a perching owl had once flapped beside it … now that black flag lowered.

Now the dark queen’s flag vanished entirely, as Fae ships bearing the silver banner of the House of Whitethorn opened fire upon their own armada.

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