Chapter no 32

Empire of Storms

Even after two weeks in Skull’s Bay, being utterly ignored by Rolfe despite their requests to meet with him, Dorian still wasn’t entirely used to the heat and humidity. It hounded him day and night, driving him from sleep to wake drenched in sweat, chasing him inside the Ocean Rose when the sun was at its zenith.

And since Rolfe refused to see them, Dorian tried to fill his days with things other than complaining about the heat. Mornings were for practicing his magic in a jungle clearing a few miles away. Worse, Rowan made him run there and back; and when they returned at lunch, he had the “choice” of eating before or after one of Rowan’s grueling workouts.

Honestly, Dorian had no idea how Aelin had survived months of this— let alone fallen in love with the warrior while she did. Though he supposed both the queen and prince possessed a sadistic streak that made them compatible.

Some days, Fenrys and Gavriel met them in the inn’s courtyard to either exercise or give unwanted pointers on Dorian’s technique with a sword and dagger. Some days, Rowan let them stay; others, he kicked them out with a snarl.

The latter, Dorian realized, usually happened when even the heat and sun couldn’t drive away the shadows of the past few months—when he awoke with his sweat feeling like Sorscha’s blood, when he couldn’t abide even the brush of his tunic against his neck.

He wasn’t sure whether to thank the Fae Prince for noticing or to hate him for the kindness.

During the afternoons, he and Rowan prowled the city for gossip and news, watching Rolfe’s men as closely as they were watched. Only seven captains of Rolfe’s depleted armada were on the island—eight including

Rolfe, with fewer ships anchored in the bay. Some had fled after the Valg attack; some now slept with the fishes at the bottom of the harbor, their ships with them.

Reports poured in from Rifthold: of the city under witch command, of most of it in ruin, its nobility and merchants fleeing to country estates and leaving the poor to fend for themselves. The witches controlled the city gates and the docks—nothing and no one got in without them knowing. Worse, ships from the Ferian Gap were sailing down the Avery toward Rifthold, carrying strange soldiers and beasts that turned the city into their own personal hunting ground.

Erawan was no fool with planning this war. Those ships prowling the Avery were too small, Rowan had claimed, and there was no way the force at the Dead End was the entirety of Erawan’s armada. So where had Adarlan’s fleet been all this time?

Rowan discovered the answer five days into their stay: the Gulf of Oro. Some of the fleet had been positioned near Eyllwe’s northwestern coast, some hidden in Melisande’s ports, where, rumor had it, their queen was allowing Morath soldiers in through any direction they pleased. Erawan had skillfully divided his fleet, placing it in enough key locations that Rowan informed Dorian they’d have to sacrifice land, allies, and geographical advantages in order to hold others.

Dorian had hated to admit to the Fae warrior that he’d never heard any of these plans these past years—his council meetings had all been on policy and trade and slaves. A distraction, he realized—a way to keep the lords and rulers of the continent focused on one thing while other plans were set in motion. And now … if Erawan summoned the fleet from the gulf, they’d likely sail around Eyllwe’s southern coast and sack every city until they reached Orynth’s doorstep.

Perhaps they’d get lucky and Erawan’s fleet would collide with Maeve’s. Not that they’d heard anything of the latter. Not even a whisper of where and how fast her ships sailed. Or a whisper of where Aelin Galathynius had gone. It was for news of her, Dorian knew, that Rowan hunted through the city streets.

So Dorian and Rowan collected kernels of information and would return to the inn each night to analyze them over spiced prawns from the warm waters of the archipelago and steaming rice from traders in the southern

continent, their glasses of orange-infused water resting atop the maps and charts they’d purchased in town. Information was mostly second- or third-hand—and a common whore patrolling the streets seemed to know as much as the sailors laboring at the docks.

But none of the whores or the sailors or the traders had news of Prince Hollin’s or Queen Georgina’s fates. War was coming—and the fate of a child and a flippant queen who had never bothered to take power for herself was of little concern to anyone but Dorian, it seemed.

On a particularly steamy afternoon, cooling off now thanks to a dazzling thunderstorm, Dorian set down his fork beside his plate of steamed reef fish and said to Rowan, “I find I’m tired of waiting for Rolfe to meet with us.”

Rowan’s fork clinked against his plate as he lowered it—and waited with preternatural stillness. Where Gavriel and Fenrys were for the afternoon, he didn’t care. Dorian was actually grateful for their absence as he said, “I need some paper—and a messenger.”



Rolfe summoned them and the cadre to the Sea Dragon tavern three hours later.

Rowan had been teaching him about shielding these past few days—and Dorian erected one around himself as Rolfe led the four of them along the upstairs hall of the tavern, heading for his office.

His idea had unfolded smoothly—perfectly.

No one had noticed that the letter Rowan mailed after lunch was the same one that was later delivered to Dorian at the inn.

But Rolfe’s spies noticed the shock that Dorian displayed while reading it—the dismay and fear and rage at whatever news he’d received. Rowan, true to form, had paced and snarled at the news he’d attained. They made sure the servant washing the hallway had overheard their mention of the war-altering information, that Rolfe himself could gain much from it—or lose everything.

And now, striding for the man’s office, Dorian couldn’t tell if it pleased or unnerved him that they were so closely watched that his plan had worked. Gavriel and Fenrys, thankfully, asked no questions.

The Pirate Lord, clad in a faded blue-and-gold jacket, paused before the oak door to his office. His gloves were on, his face a bit haggard. He doubted that expression would improve when Rolfe realized there was no news whatsoever—and he’d have this meeting whether he wanted to or not. Dorian caught the three Fae males assessing Rolfe’s each breath, his posture, listening to the sounds of the first mate and quartermaster a level below. All three exchanged barely perceptible nods. Allies—at least until

Rolfe heard them out.

Rolfe unlocked the door, muttering, “This had better be worth my time,” and stalked into the awaiting dimness beyond. Then stopped dead.

Even in the watery light, Dorian could perfectly see the woman sitting at Rolfe’s desk, her black clothes dirty, weapons gleaming, and her feet propped on the dark wooden surface.

Aelin Galathynius, her hands laced behind her head, grinned at them all and said, “I like this office far better than your other one, Rolfe.”

You'll Also Like