Chapter no 6

Empire of Storms

Dorian Havilliard, King of Adarlan, hated the silence.

It had become his companion, walking beside him through the near-empty halls of his stone castle, crouching in the corner of his cluttered tower room at night, sitting across the table at each meal.

He had always known he would one day be king.

He had not expected to inherit a shattered throne and vacant stronghold. His mother and younger brother were still ensconced in their mountain residence in Ararat. He had not sent for them. He’d given the order to

remain, actually.

If only because it would mean the return of his mother’s preening court, and he’d gladly take the silence over their tittering. If only because it would mean looking into his mother’s face, his brother’s face, and lying about who had destroyed the glass castle, who had slaughtered most of their courtiers, and who had ended his father. Lying about what his father had been—the demon that had dwelled inside him.

A demon that had reproduced with his mother—not once, but twice.

Standing on the small stone balcony atop his private tower, Dorian gazed at the glittering sprawl of Rifthold beneath the setting sun, at the sparkling ribbon of the Avery as it wended inland from the sea, curving around the city like the coils of a snake, and then flowing straight through the continent’s heart.

He lifted his hands before the view, his palms callused from the exercises and swordplay he’d made himself start learning once more. His favorite guards—Chaol’s men—were all dead.

Tortured and killed.

His memories of his time beneath the Wyrdstone collar were dim and blurred. But in his nightmares, he sometimes stood in a dungeon far beneath

this castle, blood that was not his own coating his hands, screams that were not his own ringing in his ears, begging him for mercy.

Not him, he told himself. The Valg prince had done it. His father had done it.

He’d still had difficulty meeting the stare of the new Captain of the Guard, a friend of Nesryn Faliq, as he’d asked the man to show him how to fight, help him become stronger, faster.

Never again. Never again would he be weak and useless and frightened. Dorian cast his gaze southward, as if he could see all the way to Antica.

He wondered if Chaol and Nesryn had gotten there—wondered if his friend was already at the Torre Cesme, having his broken body healed by its gifted masters.

The demon inside his father had done that, too—snapped Chaol’s spine. The man fighting inside his father had kept the blow from being fatal.

Dorian had possessed no such control, no such strength, when he watched the demon use his own body—when the demon had tortured and killed and taken what it wanted. Maybe his father had been the stronger man in the end. The better man.

Not that he’d ever had a chance to know him as a man. As a human.

Dorian flexed his fingers, frost sparking in his palm. Raw magic—yet there was no one here to teach him. No one he dared ask.

He leaned against the stone wall beside the balcony door.

He lifted his hand toward the pale band marking his throat. Even with the hours he’d spent outside training, the skin where the collar had once laid had not darkened to a golden tan. Maybe it always would remain pale.

Maybe his dreams would always be haunted by that demon prince’s hissing voice. Maybe he would always wake up with his sweat feeling like Sorscha’s blood on him, like Aelin’s blood as he stabbed her.

Aelin. Not a word from her—or from anyone regarding the queen’s return to her kingdom. He tried not to worry, to contemplate why there was such silence.

Such silence, when Nesryn and Chaol’s scouts now brought him news that Morath was stirring.

Dorian glanced inside, toward the pile of papers on his cluttered desk, and winced. He still had a disgusting amount of paperwork to do before sleep: letters to sign, plans to read—

Thunder murmured across the city.

Perhaps a sign that he should get to work, unless he wanted to be up until the black hours of the morning once again. Dorian turned inside, sighing sharply through his nose, and thunder boomed again.

Too soon, and the sound too short-lived.

Dorian scanned the horizon. No clouds—nothing but the red-and-pink-and-gold sky.

But the city lounging at the foot of the castle’s hill seemed to pause. Even the muddy Avery seemed to halt its slithering as the boom sounded again.

He had heard that sound before.

His magic roiled in his veins, and he wondered what it sensed as ice coated his balcony against his will, so swift and cold the stones groaned.

He tried to reel it back in—as if it were a ball of yarn that had tumbled from his hands—but it ignored him, spreading thicker, faster over the stones. Along the arch of the doorway behind him, down the curving face of the tower—

A horn sounded in the west. A high, bleating note. It was cut off before it finished.

With the angle of the balcony, he couldn’t see its source. He rushed into his room, leaving his magic to the stones, and hurtled for the open western window. He was halfway through the pillars of books and papers when he spied the horizon. When his city began screaming.

Spreading into the distance, blotting out the sunset like a storm of bats, flew a legion of wyverns.

Each bore armed witches, roaring their battle cries to the color-stained sky.



Manon and her Thirteen had been flying without stop, without sleep. They’d left the two escort covens behind yesterday, their wyverns too exhausted to keep up. Especially when the Thirteen had been going on all those extra runs and patrols for months—and had quietly, solidly built up their stamina.

They flew high to keep hidden, and through gaps in the clouds, the continent had flashed below in varying shades of summer green and butter yellow and sparkling sapphire. Today had been clear enough that no clouds concealed them as they hurtled for Rifthold, the sun beginning its final descent toward the west.

Toward her lost homeland.

With the height and distance, Manon fully beheld the carnage as the horizon at last revealed the sprawl of the capital city.

The attack had begun without her. Iskra’s legion was still falling upon it, still spearing for the palace and the glass wall that crested over the city at its eastern edge.

She nudged Abraxos with her knees, a silent command to go faster. He did—but barely. He was drained. They all were.

Iskra wanted the victory for herself. Manon had no doubt the Yellowlegs heir had received orders to yield … but only once Manon arrived. Bitch. Bitch to get here first, not to wait—

Closer and closer they swept for the city.

The screams reached them soon enough. Her red cape became a millstone.

Manon aimed Abraxos for the stone castle atop the hill, barely peeking above that shining glass wall—the wall she had been ordered to bring down

—and hoped she had not been too late in one regard. And that she knew what the hell she was doing.

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