Chapter no 118

Empire of Storms

Agony roared through his spine. Down his legs. His arms. Into his very fingertips.

Worse than it had been in the glass castle. Worse than in those healing sessions.

But all he could see, all he’d seen, was Yrene, that power spearing for her heart—

Chaol hit the ground, and Yrene’s scream shattered through the pain.

Get up get up get up

“Such a pity all that hard work amounted to nothing,” Duva trilled, and pointed a finger at his spine. “Your poor, poor back.”

That dark power slammed into his spine again. Something cracked.

Again. Again.

The feeling in his legs vanished first. “Stop,” Yrene sobbed, on her knees. “Stop!

“Run,” he breathed, forcing his palms flat onto the stones, forcing his arms to push, to lift him—

Duva only reached into her pocket and pulled out that black ring. “You know how this stops.”

No,” he snarled, and his back bellowed as he tried and tried to get his legs beneath him—

Yrene crawled away a step. Another. Eyes darting between them.

Not again. He would not endure seeing this, endure living this one more time.

But then he beheld what Yrene grabbed in her right hand. What she had been crawling toward.

His sword.

Duva snickered, stepping over his sprawled, unmoving legs as she advanced on Yrene. As Yrene rose to her feet and lifted his sword between them.

The blade trembled, and Yrene’s shoulders shook as she sobbed through her teeth.

“What do you think that could possibly do,” Duva crooned, “against this?”

Whips of dark power unfurled from the princess’s palms.

No. He groaned the word, screamed it at his body, at the wounds pushing in, the agony dragging him under. Duva lifted her arm to strike—

And Yrene threw the sword. A straight throw, unskilled and wild. But Duva ducked—

Yrene ran.

Swift as a doe, she turned and ran, sprinting into the labyrinth of corpses and treasure.

And like a hound on a scent, Duva snarled and gave chase.



She had no plan. She had nothing.

No options. Nothing whatsoever.

Chaol’s spine—

Gone. All that work … shattered.

Yrene ran through the piles of gold, searching, searching—

Duva’s shadows blasted around her, sending shards of gold flying into the air. Gilding every breath Yrene took.

She snatched a short-sword off a chest overflowing with treasure as she ran, the blade whirring through the air.

If she could trap her, get Duva down for long enough—

A lash of power shattered the stone sarcophagus before her. Chunks of rock soared.

Yrene heard the thud before she felt the impact.

Then her head bleated with pain, and the world tilted.

She fought to stay upright with every heartbeat, every bit of focus she’d ever mastered.

Yrene did not let her feet falter. She kept moving, buying them any sort of time. Rounding a statue, she—

Duva stood before her.

Yrene careened into her, that short-sword so close to the princess’s gut, to that womb—

She splayed her hands, dropping the weapon. Duva held firm, arms snatching around Yrene’s neck and middle. Pinning her.

The princess hissed, hauling her back toward that avenue, “This body does not like so much running.”

Yrene thrashed, but Duva held firm. Too strong—for someone her size, she was too strong.

“I want you to see this. Want you both to see this,” Duva jeered in her ear.

Chaol had crawled halfway across the path. Crawled, trailing blood, his legs unresponsive. To help her.

He stilled, blood sliding from his mouth as Duva stepped onto the walkway, pressing Yrene against her.

“Shall I make you watch me kill him, or make him watch me put that ring on you?”

And even with that arm shoved against her throat, Yrene snarled, “Don’t you touch him.”

Blood on his gritted teeth, Chaol’s arms strained and buckled as he tried to rise.

“It’s too bad I don’t have two rings,” Duva mused to Chaol. “I’m sure your friends would pay handsomely for you.” A grunt. “But I suppose your death will be equally devastating.”

Duva loosened her arm from Yrene’s middle to point at him— Yrene moved.

She stomped down on the princess’s foot. Right on the instep.

And as the princess lurched, Yrene slammed her palm into the woman’s elbow, freeing the arm across her throat.

So Yrene could whirl and drive her elbow straight into Duva’s face. Duva dropped like a stone, blood spurting.

Yrene lunged for the dagger at Chaol’s side. The blade whined as she whipped it free of its sheath and threw herself atop the stunned princess, straddling her.

Aimed that blade high, to plunge into the woman’s neck, to sever that head. Bit by bit.

Don’t,” Chaol rasped, the word full of blood. Duva had destroyed it—destroyed everything.

From the blood coming out of his mouth, up his throat … Yrene wept, the dagger poised over the princess’s neck.

He was dying. Duva had ripped open something within him. Duva’s brows began to twitch and furrow as she stirred.


She had to do it now. Drive this blade in. End it.

End it, and perhaps she could save him. Stop that lethal internal bleeding. But his spine, his spine

A life. She had sworn an oath never to take a life.

And with this woman before her, the second life in her womb … The dagger lowered. She’d do it. She’d do it, and—

“Yrene,” Chaol breathed, and the word was so full of pain, so quiet … It was too late.

Her magic could feel it, his death. She had never told him of that terrible gift—that healers knew when death sat near. Silba, lady of gentle deaths.

The death she would give Duva and her child would not be that sort of death.

Chaol’s death would not be that sort of death. But she …

But she …

The princess looked so young, even as she stirred. And the life in her womb …

The life before her …

Yrene dropped the knife to the floor.

Its clattering echoed over gold and stone and bones.

Chaol closed his eyes in what she could have sworn was relief. A light hand touched her shoulder.

She knew that touch. Hafiza.

But as Yrene looked, as she turned and sobbed—

Two others stood behind the Healer on High, holding her upright. Letting Hafiza lean down beside Duva and blow a breath onto the princess’s face, sending her into undisturbed slumber.

Nesryn. Her hair was windblown, her cheeks rosy and chapped—

And Sartaq, his own hair far shorter. The prince’s face was taut, his eyes wide as he beheld his unconscious, bloody sister. As Nesryn breathed, “We were too late—”

Yrene lunged across the stones to Chaol. Her knees tore on the rock, but she barely felt it, barely felt the blood sliding down her temple as she took his head in her lap and closed her eyes, rallying her power.

White flared, but there was red and black everywhere.

Too much. Too many broken and torn and ravaged things— His chest was barely rising. He did not open his eyes.

Wake up,” she ordered him, her voice breaking. She plunged into her power, but the damage … It was like trying to patch up holes in a sinking ship.

Too much. Too much and— Shouting and steps all around them.

His life began to thin and turn to mist around her magic. Death circled, an eagle with an eye upon them.

Fight it,” Yrene sobbed, shaking him. “You stubborn bastard, fight it.” What was the point of it, the point of any of it, if now, when it mattered

“Please,” she whispered.

Chaol’s chest rose, a high note before the last plunge—

She could not endure it. Would not endure it—

A light flickered. Inside that failing mass of red and black. A candle ignited. A bloom of white.

Then another. Another.

Blooming lights, along that broken interior. And where they shone … Flesh knitted. Bone smoothed.

Light after light after light.

His chest continued to rise and fall. Rise and fall. But in the hurt and the dark and the light …

A woman’s voice that was both familiar and foreign. A voice that was both Hafiza’s and … another. Someone who was not human, never had been. Speaking through Hafiza herself, their voices blending into the blackness.

The damage is too great. There must be a cost if it is to be repaired.

All those lights seemed to hesitate at that otherworldly voice.

Yrene brushed herself along them, waded through them like a field of white flowers, the lights bobbing and swaying in this quiet place of pain.

Not lights … but healers.

She knew their lights, their essences. Eretia—that was Eretia closest to her.

The voice that was both Hafiza and Other said again, There must be a cost.

For what the princess had done to him … There was no returning from


I will pay it. Yrene said into the pain and dark and light.

A daughter of Fenharrow will pay the debt of a son of Adarlan?


She could have sworn a gentle, warm hand brushed her face.

And Yrene knew it did not belong to Hafiza or the Other. Did not belong to any healer alive.

But to one who had never left her, even when she had been turned into ash on the wind.

The Other said, You offer this of your own free will? Yes. With my entire heart.

It had been his from the start, anyway.

Those loving, phantom hands brushed her cheek again and faded away.

The Other said, I chose well. You shall pay the debt, Yrene Towers. And I hope you shall see it for what it truly is.

Yrene tried to speak. But light flared, soft and soothing.

It blinded her, within and without. Left her cringing over Chaol’s head, her fingers grappled into his shirt. Feeling his heartbeats thunder into her palms. The scrape of his breath against her ear.

There were hands on her shoulders. Two sets. They tightened, a silent command to lift her head. Yrene did.

Hafiza stood behind her, Eretia at her side. Each with a hand on her shoulder.

Behind them stood two healers each. Hands on their shoulders. Behind them, two more. And more. And more.

A living chain of power.

All the healers in the Torre, young and old, stood in that room of gold and bone.

All connected. All channeling to Yrene, to the grip she still held on Chaol.

Nesryn and Sartaq stood a few feet away, the former with a hand over her mouth. Because Chaol—

The healers of the Torre lowered their hands, severing that bridge of contact, as Chaol’s feet moved. Then his knees.

And then his eyes cracked open, and he was staring up at Yrene, her tears plopping onto his blood-crusted face. He lifted a hand to brush her lips. “Dead?”

“Alive,” she breathed, and lowered her face to his. “Very much alive.” Chaol smiled against her mouth, sighing deep as he said, “Good.”

Yrene raised her head, and he smiled up at her again, cracked blood sliding away from his face with the motion.

And where that scar had once sliced down his cheek … only unmarred skin remained.

You'll Also Like