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Chapter no 2

Heir of Fire

e man—male—down the alley was Fae.

After ten years, after all the executions and burnings, a Fae male was prowling toward her. Pure, solid Fae. ere was no escaping him as he emerged from the shadows yards away. e vagrant in the alcove and the others along the alley fell so quiet Celaena could again hear those bells ringing in the distant mountains.

Tall, broad-shouldered, every inch of him seemingly corded with muscle, he was a male blooded with power. He paused in a dusty shaft of sunlight, his silver hair gleaming.

As if his delicately pointed ears and slightly elongated canines weren’t enough to scare the living shit out of everyone in that alley, including the now-whimpering madwoman behind Celaena, a wicked-looking tattoo was etched down the left side of his harsh face, the whorls of black ink stark against his sun-kissed skin.

e markings could easily have been decorative, but she still remembered enough of the Fae language to recognize them as words, even in such an artistic rendering. Starting at his temple, the tattoo owed over his jaw and down his neck, where it disappeared beneath the pale surcoat and cloak he wore. She had a feeling the markings continued down the rest of him, too, concealed along with at least half a dozen weapons. As she reached into her cloak for her own hidden dagger, she realized he might have been handsome were it not for the promise of violence in his pine-green eyes. It would have been a mistake to call him young—just as it would have been a mistake to call him anything but a warrior, even without the sword strapped across his back and the vicious knives at his sides. He moved with lethal grace and surety, scanning the alley as if he were walking onto a killing

eld.

e hilt of the dagger was warm in her hand, and Celaena adjusted her stance, surprised to be feeling—fear. And enough of it that it cleared the heavy fog that had been clouding her senses these past few weeks.

e Fae warrior stalked down the alley, his knee-high leather boots silent on the cobblestones. Some of the loiterers shrank back; some bolted for the sunny street, to random doorways, anywhere to escape his challenging stare.

Celaena knew before his sharp eyes met hers that he was here for her, and who had sent him.

She reached for her Eye amulet, startled to nd it was no longer around her neck. She’d given it to Chaol—the only bit of protection she could grant him upon leaving. He’d probably thrown it away as soon as he gured out the truth. en he could go back to the haven of being her enemy. Maybe he’d tell Dorian, too, and the pair of them would both be safe.

Before she could give in to the instinct to scuttle back up the drainpipe and onto the roof, she considered the plan she’d abandoned. Had some god remembered she existed and decided to throw her a bone? She’d needed to see Maeve.

Well, here was one of Maeve’s elite warriors. Ready. Waiting.

And from the vicious temper emanating from him, not entirely happy about it.

e alley remained as still as a graveyard while the Fae warrior surveyed her. His nostrils ared delicately, as if he were—

He was getting a whi of her scent.

She took some small satisfaction in knowing she smelled horri c, but it wasn’t that smell he was

reading. No, it was the scent that marked her as her—the smell of her lineage and blood and what and who she was. And if he said her name in front of these people . . . then she knew that Galan Ashryver would come running home. e guards would be on high alert, and that was not part of her plan at all.

e bastard looked likely to do such a thing, just to prove who was in charge. So she summoned her energy as best she could and sauntered over to him, trying to remember what she might have done months ago, before the world had gone to hell. “Well met, my friend,” she purred. “Well met, indeed.”

She ignored the shocked faces around them, focusing solely on sizing him up. He stood with a stillness that only an immortal could achieve. She willed her heartbeat and breathing to calm. He could probably hear them, could probably smell every emotion raging through her. ere’d be no fooling him with bravado, not in a thousand years. He’d probably lived that long already. Perhaps there’d be no beating him, either. She was Celaena Sardothien, but he was a Fae warrior and had likely been one for a great while.

She stopped a few feet away. Gods, he was huge. “What a lovely surprise,” she said loudly enough for everyone to hear. When was the last time she’d sounded that pleasant? She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d spoken in full sentences. “I thought we were to meet at the city walls.”

He didn’t bow, thank the gods. His harsh face didn’t even shift. Let him think what he wanted. She was sure she looked nothing like what he’d been told to expect—and he’d certainly laughed when that woman mistook her for a fellow vagrant.

“Let’s go,” was all he said, his deep, somewhat bored voice seeming to echo o the stones as he turned to leave the alley. She’d bet good money that the leather vambraces on his forearms concealed blades.

She might have given him a rather obnoxious reply, just to feel him out a bit more, but people were still watching. He prowled along, not deigning to look at any of the gawkers. She couldn’t tell if she was impressed or revolted.

She followed the Fae warrior into the bright street and through the bustling city. He was heedless of the humans who paused their working and walking and milling about to stare. He certainly didn’t wait for her to catch up as he strode up to a pair of ordinary mares tied by a trough in a nondescript square. If memory served her correctly, the Fae usually possessed far ner horses. He had probably arrived in another form and purchased these here.

All Fae possessed a secondary animal form. Celaena was currently in hers, her mortal human body as animal as the birds wheeling above. But what was his? He could have been a wolf, she thought, with that layered surcoat that owed to midthigh like a pelt, his footfalls so silent. Or a mountain cat, with that predatory grace.

He mounted the larger of the mares, leaving her to the piebald beast that looked more interested in seeking out a quick meal than trekking across the land. at made two of them. But they’d gone far enough without any explanation.

She stu ed her satchel into a saddlebag, angling her hands so that her sleeves hid the narrow bands of scars on her wrists, reminders of where the manacles had been. Where she had been. It was none of his business. None of Maeve’s business, either. e less they knew about her, the less they could use against her. “I’ve known a few brooding warrior-types in my day, but I think you might be the broodiest of them all.” He whipped his head to her, and she drawled, “Oh, hello. I think you

know who I am, so I won’t bother introducing myself. But before I’m carted o to gods-know–where, I’d like to know who you are.”

His lips thinned. He surveyed the square—where people were now watching. And everyone instantly found somewhere else to be.

When they’d scattered, he said, “You’ve gathered enough about me at this point to have learned what you need to know.” He spoke the common tongue, and his accent was subtle—lovely, if she was feeling generous enough to admit it. A soft, rolling purr.

“Fair enough. But what am I to call you?” She gripped the saddle but didn’t mount it. “Rowan.” His tattoo seemed to soak up the sun, so dark it looked freshly inked.

“Well, Rowan—” Oh, he did not like her tone one bit. His eyes narrowed slightly in warning, but she went on, “Dare I ask where we’re going?” She had to be drunk—still drunk or descending to a new level of apathy—if she was talking to him like this. But she couldn’t stop, even as the gods or the Wyrd or the threads of fate readied to shove her back toward her original plan of action.

“I’m taking you where you’ve been summoned.”

As long as she got to see Maeve and ask her questions, she didn’t particularly care how she got to Doranelle—or whom she traveled with.

Do what has to be done, Elena had told her. In her usual fashion, Elena had omitted to specify what had to be done once she arrived in Wendlyn. At least this was better than eating atbread and drinking wine and being mistaken for a vagrant. Perhaps she could be on a boat back to Adarlan within three weeks, possessing the answers that would solve everything.

It should have energized her. But instead she found herself silently mounting her mare, out of words and the will to use them. Just the past few minutes of interaction had drained her completely.

It was better that Rowan didn’t seem inclined to speak as she followed him out of the city. e guards merely waved them through the walls, some even backing away.

As they rode on, Rowan didn’t ask why she was here and what she’d been doing for the past ten years while the world had gone to hell. He pulled his pale hood over his silver hair and moved ahead, though it was still easy enough to mark him as di erent, as a warrior and law unto himself.

If he was truly as old as she suspected, she was likely little more than a speck of dust to him, a

zzle of life in the long-burning re of his immortality. He could probably kill her without a second thought—and then move on to his next task, utterly untroubled by ending her existence.

It didn’t unnerve her as much as it should have.

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