Chapter no 10

Heir of Fire

After a grueling day of training new recruits, avoiding Dorian, and keeping well away from the king’s watchful eye, Chaol was almost at his rooms, more than ready to sleep, when he noticed that two of his men were missing from their posts outside the Great Hall. e two remaining men winced as he stopped dead.

It wasn’t unusual for guards to occasionally miss a shift. If someone was sick, if they had some family tragedy, Chaol always found a replacement. But two missing guards, with no replacement in sight . . . “Someone had better start talking,” he ground out.

One of them cleared their throats—a newer guard, who had just nished his training three months before. e other one was relatively new, too, which was why he’d assigned them to night duty outside the empty Great Hall. But he’d put them under the supposedly responsible and watchful eyes of the two other guards, both of whom had been there for years.

e guard who’d cleared his throat went red. “It—they said . . . Ah, Captain, they said that no one would really notice if they were gone, since it’s the Great Hall, and it’s empty and, ah—”

“Use your words,” Chaol snapped. He was going to murder the two deserters.

“ e general’s party, sir,” said the other. “General Ashryver walked past on his way into Rifthold and invited them to join him. He said it would be all right with you, so they went with him.”

A muscle feathered in his jaw. Of course Aedion did.

“And you two,” Chaol growled, “didn’t think it would be useful to report this to anyone?”

“With all due respect, sir,” said the second one, “we were . . . we didn’t want them to think we were ratters. And it’s just the Great Hall—”

“Wrong thing to say,” Chaol snarled. “You’re both on double duty for a month—in the gardens.” Where it was still freezing. “Your leisure time is now nonexistent. And if you ever again fail to report another guard abandoning his post, you’re both gone. Understood?”

When he got a mumbled con rmation, he stalked toward the front gate of the castle. Like hell he’d go to sleep now. He had two guards to hunt down in Rifthold . . . and a general to exchange some words with.

Aedion had rented out an entire tavern. Men were at the door to keep out the ri ra , but one glare from Chaol, one glimpse of the eagle-shaped pommel of his sword, had them stepping aside. e tavern was crammed with various nobles, some women who could have been courtesans or courtiers, and men—lots of drunk, boisterous men. Card games, dice, bawdy singing to the music made by the small quintet by the roaring re, free- owing taps of ale, bottles of sparkling wine . . . Was Aedion going to pay for this with his blood money, or was it on the king?

Chaol spotted his two guards, plus half a dozen others, playing cards, women in their laps, grinning like ends. Until they saw him.

ey were still groveling as Chaol sent them packing—back to the castle, where he would deal with them tomorrow. He couldn’t decide whether they deserved to lose their positions, since Aedion had lied, and he didn’t like making choices like that unless he’d slept on them rst. So out they went, into the freezing night. And then Chaol began the process of hunting down the general.

But no one knew where he was. First, someone sent Chaol upstairs, to one of the tavern’s

bedrooms. Where he indeed found the two women someone said Aedion had slipped away with—-but another man was between them. Chaol only demanded where the general had gone. e women said they’d seen him playing dice in the cellar with some masked, high-ranking nobles. So Chaol stormed down there. And indeed, there were the masked, high-ranking nobles. ey were pretending to be mere revelers, but Chaol recognized them anyway, even if he didn’t call them out by name. ey insisted Aedion was last seen playing the ddle in the main room.

So Chaol went back upstairs. Aedion was certainly not playing the ddle. Or the drum, or the lute or the pipes. In fact, it seemed that Aedion Ashryver wasn’t even at his own party.

A courtesan prowled up to him to sell her wares, and would have walked away at his snarl had Chaol not o ered her a silver coin for information about the general. She’d seen him leave an hour ago—on the arm of one of her rivals. Headed o to a more private location, but she didn’t know where. If Aedion was no longer here, then . . . Chaol went back to the castle.

But he did hear one more bit of information. e Bane would arrive soon, people said, and when the legion descended on the city, they planned to show Rifthold a whole new level of debauchery. All of Chaol’s guards were invited, apparently.

It was the last thing he wanted or needed—an entire legion of lethal warriors wreaking havoc on Rifthold and distracting his men. If that happened, the king might look too closely at Chaol—or ask where he sometimes disappeared to.

So he needed to have more than just words with Aedion. He needed to nd something to use against him so Aedion would agree not to throw these parties and swear to keep his Bane under control. Tomorrow night, he’d go to whatever party Aedion threw.

And see what leverage he could nd.

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