Chapter no 46

Empire of Storms

Aedion had been up half the night, debating the merits of every possible place to meet his father. On the beach seemed like it was asking for a private conversation he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to have; in Rolfe’s headquarters felt too public; the inn courtyard felt too formal … He’d tossed and turned on his cot, nearly asleep when he heard Aelin and Rowan returning well past midnight. Not surprising they’d snuck out without telling anyone. But at least she’d gone with the Fae Prince.

Lysandra, sleeping like the dead, hadn’t stirred as their steps had creaked in the hall outside. She’d barely made it through the door hours earlier, Dorian already asleep on his cot, before she’d shifted back into her usual body and swayed on her feet.

Aedion had hardly noticed her nakedness—not when she teetered and he lunged to grab her before she ate carpet.

She’d blinked dazedly at him, her skin drained of color. So he’d gently set her on the edge of the bed, grabbed the throw across it, and draped it around her.

“You’ve seen naked women plenty,” she’d said, not bothering to hold it in place. “It’s too hot for wool.”

So the blanket slid off her back as she leaned forward, bracing her forearms on her knees and breathing deep. “Gods, it makes me so dizzy.”

Aedion put a hand on her bare back and gently stroked. She stiffened at the touch, but he made broad, light circles over that velvet-soft skin. After a moment, she let out a sound that might have been a purr.

The silence went on for long enough that Aedion realized she’d somehow fallen asleep. And not normal sleep, but the sleep that Aelin and Rowan sometimes went into in order to let their magic recover. So deep and

thorough no training could pierce it, no instincts could override it. The body had claimed what it needed, at any cost, at any vulnerability.

Easing her into his arms before she could fall right onto her face, Aedion hauled her over a shoulder and carried her around to the head of the bed. He flipped back the crisp cotton sheets with one hand and then laid her down, her once-again long hair covering her high, firm breasts. So much smaller than the ones he’d first seen her with. He didn’t care what size they were—they were beautiful in both forms.

She hadn’t awoken again, and he’d drifted to his own cot. He only slept once the light had shifted to the watery gray trickle before dawn, awoke just past sunrise, and gave up on sleep entirely. He doubted any sort of rest would come until this meeting was past him.

So Aedion bathed and dressed, debating if it made him a fool to brush his hair for his father.

Lysandra was awake as he padded back into the room, the color mercifully returned to her cheeks, the king still asleep on his cot.

But the shifter looked Aedion over and said, “That’s what you’re wearing?”



Lysandra made him change out of his dirty travel clothes, barged into Aelin and Rowan’s room wearing no more than her own bedsheet, and took whatever she wanted from the Fae Prince’s armoire.

Aelin’s barked Get out! was likely heard from across the bay, and Lysandra was smirking with feline wickedness as she returned, chucking the green jacket and pants at him.

When he emerged from the bathing room, the lady was in clothes of her own—where she’d gotten them, he had no idea. They were simple: black, tight pants, knee-high boots, and a tucked-in white shirt. She’d left her hair half down, half up, and now twisted the silken mass of it over a shoulder. Lysandra surveyed him with an approving smirk. “Much better. Much more princely and less … derelict.”

Aedion gave her a mocking bow.

Dorian stirred, a cool breeze fluttering in as if his magic awoke as well, squinted at them both, then at the clock atop the mantel. He hauled the pillow over his eyes and went back to sleep.

“Very kingly,” Aedion told him, heading for the door.

Dorian grumbled something through the pillow that Aedion chose not to hear.

He and Lysandra grabbed a quiet breakfast in the dining room—though he had to force half the food down. The shifter asked no questions, either from consideration or because she was so busy stuffing her face with every single morsel offered at the buffet table.

Gods, the females in his court ate more than he did. He supposed the magic burned through their energy reserves so fast it was a miracle they weren’t constantly biting his head off.

They walked to Rolfe’s tavern in silence, too, the sentries out front stepping aside without so much as a question. He reached for the handle when Lysandra finally said, “You’re sure?”

He nodded. And that was that.

Aedion opened the door, finding the cadre precisely where he’d guessed they’d be at this hour: eating breakfast in the taproom. The two males halted as they entered.

And Aedion’s eyes went right to the golden-haired man—one of two, but … there was no denying which one was … his.

Gavriel set his fork on his half-eaten plate.

He wore clothes like Rowan’s—and like the Fae Prince, he was heavily armed, even at breakfast.

Aelin was the other side of his fair coin, but Gavriel was a murky reflection. The honed, broad features; the harsh mouth—that was where he’d gotten them from. The cropped golden hair was different; more sunshine to Aedion’s shoulder-length honey gold. And Aedion’s skin was Ashryver golden—not the sun-kissed, deep tan.

Slowly, Gavriel stood. Aedion wondered if he’d also inherited that grace, the predatory stillness, the unreadable, intent face—or if they’d both been trained that way.

The Lion incarnate.

He’d wanted to do it this way, little more than an ambush, so his father wouldn’t have time to prepare pretty speeches. He wanted to see what his

father would do when confronted with him, what sort of male he was, how he reacted to anything

The other warrior, Fenrys, was glancing between them, a fork still raised to his open mouth.

Aedion made himself walk, knees surprisingly steady, even if his body felt as if it belonged to someone else. Lysandra kept at his side, solid and bright-eyed. With every step he took, his father surveyed him, face yielding nothing, until—

“You look … ,” Gavriel breathed, sinking into his chair. “You look so much like her.”

Aedion knew Gavriel didn’t mean Aelin. Even Fenrys looked at the Lion now, at the grief rippling in those tawny eyes.

But Aedion barely remembered his mother. Barely recalled anything more than her dying, wrecked face.

So he said, “She died so your queen wouldn’t get her claws on me.”

He wasn’t sure his father was breathing. Lysandra stepped closer, a solid rock in the thrashing sea of his rage.

Aedion pinned his father with a look, not sure where the words came from, the wrath, but there they were, snapping from his lips like whips. “They could have cured her in the Fae compounds, but she wouldn’t go near them, wouldn’t let them come for fear of Maeve”—he spat the name

—“knowing I existed. For fear I’d be enslaved to her as you were.”

His father’s tan face had drained of all color. Whatever Gavriel had suspected until now, Aedion didn’t care. The Wolf snarled at the Lion, “She was twenty-three years old. She never married, and her family shunned her. She refused to tell anyone who’d sired me, and took their disdain, their humiliation, without an ounce of self-pity. She did it because she loved me, not you.”

And he suddenly wished he’d asked Aelin to come, so he could tell her to burn this warrior into ashes like that commander in Ilium, because looking at the face—his face … he hated him. He hated him for the twenty-three-year-old his mother had been, younger than he now was when she’d died, alone and sorrowful.

Aedion growled, “If your bitch of a queen tries to take me, I’ll slit her throat. If she hurts my family any more than she already has, I’ll slit yours, too.”

His father rasped, “Aedion.”

The sound of the name his mother had given him on his lips … “I want nothing from you. Unless you plan to help us, in which case I will not object to the … assistance. But beyond that, I want nothing from you.”

“I’m sorry,” his father said, those Lion’s eyes full of such grief Aedion wondered if he’d just struck a male already down.

“I’m not the one you need to apologize to,” he said, turning toward the door.

His father’s chair scraped against the floor. “Aedion.”

Aedion kept walking, Lysandra falling into place beside him.

“Please,” his father said as Aedion’s hand clamped down on the handle. “Go to hell,” Aedion said, and left.

He didn’t return to the Ocean Rose. And he couldn’t stand to be around people, to be around their sounds and smells. So he strode for the dense mountain above the bay, losing himself in the jungle of leaves and shade and damp soil. Lysandra stayed a step behind him, silent as he was.

It wasn’t until he’d found a rocky outcropping jutting from the side of the mountain to overlook the bay, the town, the pristine waters beyond, that he paused. That he sat. And breathed.

Lysandra sat beside him on the flat rock, crossing her legs beneath her. He said, “I didn’t expect to say any of that.”

She was gazing toward the nearby watchtower nestled at the base of the mountain. He watched her green eyes survey the lower level where Ship-Breaker was wrapped around a massive wheel, the spiraling exterior staircase up the tower itself, all the way up to the upper levels, where a catapult, and a turret-mounted, massive harpoon—or was it a giant crossbow?—was locked into place, its wielder’s seat and arrow aimed at an invisible enemy in the bay below. With the size of the weapon and the machine that had been rigged to launch it into the bay, he had no doubt it could smash through a hull and do lethal damage to a ship. Or spear three men on it.

Lysandra said simply, “You spoke from your heart. Perhaps it’s good he heard that.”

“We need them to work with us. I might have made an enemy of him.”

She tucked her hair over a shoulder. “Trust me, Aedion, you have not. If you’d told him to crawl over hot coals, he would have.”

“He’ll realize soon enough who, exactly, I am, and perhaps not be so desperate.”

“Who, exactly, do you think you are?” She frowned at him. “Adarlan’s Whore? Is that what you still think of yourself? The general who held his kingdom together, who saved his people when they were forgotten even by their own queen—that’s the man I know.” She snarled softly, and not at him. “And if he starts pointing fingers, I’ll remind him that he’s served that bitch in Doranelle for centuries without question.”

Aedion snorted. “I’d pay good money to see you go toe-to-toe with him.

And Fenrys.”

She nudged him with an elbow. “You say the word, General, and I’ll transform into the face of their nightmares.”

“And what creature is that?”

She gave him a knowing little smile. “Something I’ve been working on.”

“I don’t want to know, do I?”

White teeth flashed. “No, you really don’t.”

He laughed, surprised he could even do so. “He’s a handsome bastard, I’ll give him that.”

“I think Maeve likes to collect pretty men.”

Aedion snorted. “Why not? She has to deal with them for eternity. They might as well be pleasant to look at.”

She laughed again, and the sound loosed a weight from his shoulders.



Bearing both Goldryn and Damaris for once, Aelin walked into the Sea Dragon two hours later and wished for the days when she could sleep without the dread or urgency of something pulling at her.

Wished for the days when she might have had the time to bed her gods-damned lover and not choose to catch a few hours of sleep instead.

She’d meant to. Last night, they’d returned to the inn, and she’d bathed faster than she’d ever washed before. She’d even emerged from the bathing room naked … and found her Fae Prince asleep atop the glowingly white

bed, still clothed, looking for all the world like he’d intended to close his eyes while she washed.

And the heavy exhaustion on him … She let Rowan rest. Had curled up beside him above the blankets, still naked, and had been unconscious before her head had settled against his chest. There would be a time, she knew, when they would not be able to sleep so safely, so soundly.

A grand total of five minutes before Lysandra barged in, Rowan had awoken—and begun the process of awakening her, too. Slowly, with taunting, proprietary strokes down her bare torso, her thighs, accented with little biting kisses to her mouth, her ear, her neck.

But as soon as Lysandra had thundered through the room to steal clothes for Aedion, as soon as she’d explained where Aedion was going … the interruption had lasted. Made her remember what, exactly, she needed to accomplish today. With a man currently inclined to kill her and a scattered, petrified fleet.

Gavriel and Fenrys were now sitting with Rolfe at the table in the back of the taproom, no sign of Aedion, both a bit wide-eyed as she swaggered in.

She might have preened at the look, had Rowan not prowled in right behind her, already prepared to slit their throats.

Rolfe shot to his feet. “What are you doing here?”

“I would be very, very careful how you speak to her today, Captain,” Fenrys said with more wariness and consideration than she’d seen him use yesterday. His eyes were fixed on Rowan, who was indeed watching Rolfe as if he were dinner. “Choose your words wisely.”

Rolfe glanced at Rowan, saw his face, and seemed to get it.

Maybe that caution would make Rolfe more inclined to agree to her request today. If she played it right. If she’d played all of it right.

Aelin gave Rolfe a little smile and leaned against the vacant table beside theirs, the chipped gold lettering on the slats reading Mist-Cutter. Rowan took up a spot beside her, his knee brushing hers. Like even a few feet of distance was unbearable.

But she smiled a bit wider at Rolfe. “I came to see if you’d changed your mind. About my alliance.”

Rolfe drummed his tattooed fingers on the table, right over some gilded letters that read Thresher. And beside it … a map of the continent had been

spread between Rolfe and the Fae warriors.

Not the map she really, truly needed now that she knew the damn thing worked, but—Aelin stiffened at what she beheld.

“What is that,” she said, noting the silver figurines camped across the middle of the continent, an impenetrable line from the Ferian Gap to the mouth of the Avery. And the additional figures in the Gulf of Oro. And in Melisande and Fenharrow and near Eyllwe’s northern border.

Gavriel, looking a bit like someone had knocked him in the head—gods, how had the meeting with Aedion gone?—said before Rolfe could get his throat ripped out by Rowan with whatever response he had brewing, “Captain Rolfe received word this morning. He wanted our counsel.”

“What is this,” she said, stabbing a finger near the main line of figures stretched across the middle of the continent.

“It’s the latest report,” Rolfe drawled, “of the locations of Morath’s armies. They have moved into position. Aid to the North is now impossible. And they stand poised to strike Eyllwe.”

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