Lysandra knew that roar.
And then there was Abraxos, plunging from the heavy clouds, twelve other wyverns with riders behind him.
“Hold your fire!” Rowan bellowed from half a dozen ships away, at the archers who had trained their few remaining arrows on the golden-haired witch closest to Abraxos, her pale-blue wyvern shrieking a war cry.
The other witches and their wyverns unleashed hell upon the Fae, smashing through the converging lines, snapping grappling ropes, buying them a moment’s reprieve. How they knew who to attack, what side to fight for—
Abraxos and eleven others angled northward in one smooth movement, then plowed into the panicking enemy fleet. The golden-haired rider, however, swept for Lysandra’s ship, her sky-blue wyvern gracefully landing on the prow.
The witch was beautiful, a strip of black braided leather across her brow, and she called to none of them in particular, “Where is Manon Blackbeak?”
“Who are you?” Aedion demanded, his voice a rasp. But there was recognition in his eyes, as if remembering that day at Temis’s temple—
The witch grinned, revealing white teeth, but iron glinted at her fingertips. “Asterin Blackbeak, at your service.” She scanned the embattled ships. “Where is Manon? Abraxos led—”
“It’s a long story, but she’s here,” Aedion shouted over the din. Lysandra crept closer, sizing up the witch, the coven that was now wreaking havoc upon the Fae lines. “You and your Thirteen save our asses, witch,” Aedion said, “and I’ll tell you anything you damn want.”
A wicked grin and an incline of her head. “Then we shall clear the field for you.”
Then Asterin and the wyvern soared up, and blasted between the waves, spearing for where the others were fighting.
At Asterin’s approach, the wyverns and riders reeled back, rising high into the air, falling into formation. A hammer about to strike.
The Fae knew it. They began throwing up feeble shields, shooting wildly for them, their panic making their aim sloppy. But the wyverns were covered in armor—efficient, beautiful armor.
The Thirteen laughed at their enemy as they slammed into its southern flank.
Lysandra wished she had strength left to shift—one last time. To join them in that glorious destruction.
The Thirteen herded the panicking ships between them, smashed them apart, wielding every weapon in their arsenal—wyverns, blades, iron teeth. What got past them received the brutal mercy of Rowan’s and Dorian’s magic. And what got past that magic …
Lysandra found Aedion’s blood-splattered stare. The general-prince smirked in that insolent way of his, sending a thrill wilder than bloodlust through her. “We don’t want the witches to make us look bad, do we?”
Lysandra returned his smirk and lunged back into the fray.
Not many more.
Rowan’s magic was strained to the breaking point, his panic a dull roaring in the back of his mind, but he kept attacking, kept swinging his blades at any that got past his wind and ice, or Dorian’s own blasts of raw, unchecked power. Fenrys, Lorcan, and Gavriel had bolted an hour or lifetimes ago, vanishing to wherever Maeve had no doubt summoned them, but the armada held fast. Whoever Ansel of Briarcliff’s men were, they weren’t cowed by Fae warriors. And they were no strangers to bloodshed. Neither were Rolfe’s men. None of them ran.
The Thirteen continued to wreak havoc on Maeve’s panicking fleet. Asterin Blackbeak barked commands high above them, the twelve witches
breaking the enemy lines with fierce, clever determination. If this was how one coven fought, then an army of them—
Rowan gritted his teeth as the remaining ships decided to be smarter than their dead companions and began to peel away. If Maeve gave the order to retreat—
Too bad. Too damn bad. He’d send her own ship down to the inky black himself.
He gave Asterin a sharp whistle the next time she passed overhead, rallying her Thirteen again. She whistled back in confirmation. The Thirteen launched after the fleeing armada.
The battle ebbed, red waves laden with debris flowing past on the swift tide.
Rowan gave the order to the captain to hold the lines and deal with any stupidity from Maeve’s armada if any ships decided not to turn tail.
His legs trembling, his arms shaking so badly he was afraid that if he let go of his weapons he wouldn’t be able to pick them up again, Rowan shifted and soared high.
His cousins had joined the Thirteen in their pursuit of the fleet now trying to run. He avoided the urge to count. But—Rowan flew higher, scanning.
There was one boat missing.
A boat he’d sailed on, worked on, fought on in past wars and journeys. Maeve’s personal battleship, the Nightingale, was nowhere to be seen.
Not within the retreating fleet now fending off the Whitethorn royals and the Thirteen.
Not within the sinking hulks of ships now bleeding out in the water.
Rowan’s blood chilled. But he dove fast and hard for Aedion and Lysandra’s ship, where gore covered the deck so thickly it rippled as he shifted and set down in it.
Aedion was covered in blood, both his own and others’; Lysandra was purging a stomach full of it. Rowan managed to will his legs into maneuvering around fallen Fae. He did not look too closely at their faces.
“Is she back?” Aedion instantly demanded, wincing as he put weight on his thigh. Rowan surveyed his brother’s wound. He’d have to heal him soon
—as soon as his magic replenished. In a place like this, even Aedion’s Fae blood couldn’t keep the infection away long.
“I don’t know,” Rowan said.
“Find her,” Aedion growled. He broke Rowan’s stare only to watch Lysandra shift into her human form—and ran an eye over the injuries that peppered her skin.
Rowan’s skin tightened over his bones. He had the feeling that the ground was about to slip from under his feet as Dorian appeared at the rail of the main deck, gaunt-faced and haggard, no doubt having used the last of his magic to propel a longboat over, and panted, “The coast. Aelin is out by the coast where we sent Elide—they all are.”
That was miles away. How the hell had they gotten there?
“How do you know?” Lysandra demanded, tying back her hair with bloody fingers.
“Because I can feel something out there,” Dorian said. “Flame and shadow and death. Like Lorcan and Aelin and someone else. Someone ancient. Powerful.” Rowan braced himself for it, but he still wasn’t ready for the pure terror when Dorian added, “And female.”
Maeve had found them.
The battle had not been for any sort of victory or conquest.
But a distraction. While Maeve slipped away to get the real prize.
They’d never arrive fast enough. If he flew on his own, his magic already drained to the breaking point, he would be of little help. They stood a better chance, Aelin stood a better chance, if they were all there.
Rowan whirled to the horizon behind them—to the wyverns destroying the remnants of the fleet. Rowing would take too long; his magic was gutted. But a wyvern … That might do.