Chapter no 20

Heir of Fire

e black eye was still gruesome, but it improved over the next week as Celaena worked in the kitchens, tried and failed to shift with Rowan, and generally avoided everyone. e spring rains had come to stay and the kitchen was packed every night, so Celaena took to eating dinner on the shadowed steps, arriving just before the Story Keeper began speaking.

Story Keeper—that’s what Emrys was, a title of honor amongst both Fae and humans in Wendlyn. What it meant was that when he began telling a story, you sat down and shut up. It also meant that he was a walking library of the kingdom’s legends and myths.

By that time, Celaena knew most of the fortress’s residents, if only in the sense that she could put names to faces. She’d observed them out of instinct, to learn her surroundings, her potential enemies and threats. She knew they observed her, too, when they thought she wasn’t paying attention. And any shred of regret she felt at not approaching them was burned up by the fact that no one bothered to approach her, either.

e only person who made an e ort was Luca, who still peppered Celaena with questions as they worked, still prattled on and on about his training, the fortress gossip, the weather. He’d only talked to her once about anything else—on a morning when it had taken a monumental e ort to peel herself out of bed, and only the scar on her palm had made her plant her feet on the icy oor. She’d been washing the breakfast dishes, staring out the window without seeing anything, too heavy in her bones, when Luca had dumped a pot in the sink and quietly said, “For a long while, I couldn’t talk about what happened to me before I came here. ere were some days I couldn’t talk at all. Couldn’t get out of bed, either. But if—when you need to talk . . .”

She’d shut him down with a long look. And he hadn’t said anything like it since.

ankfully, Emrys gave her space. Lots of space, especially when Malakai arrived during breakfast to make sure Celaena hadn’t caused any trouble. She usually avoided looking at the other fortress couples, but here, where she couldn’t walk away . . . she hated their closeness, the way Malakai’s eyes lit up every time he saw him. Hated it so much that she choked on it.

She never asked Rowan why he, too, came to hear Emrys’s stories. As far as they were each concerned, the other didn’t exist outside of training.

Training was a generous way to describe what they were doing, as she had accomplished nothing. She didn’t shift once. He snarled and sneered and hissed, but she couldn’t do it. Every day, always when Rowan disappeared for a few moments, she tried, but—nothing. Rowan threatened to drag her back to the barrows, as that seemed to be the only thing that had triggered any sort of response, but he’d backed o —to her surprise—when she told him that she’d slit her own throat before entering that place again. So they swore at each other, sat in brooding silence on the temple ruin, and occasionally had those unspoken shouting matches. If she was in a particularly nasty mood, he made her chop wood—log after log, until she could hardly lift the ax and her hands were blistered. If she was going to be pissed o at the whole damn world, he said, if she was going to waste his time by not shifting, then she might as well be useful in some way.

All this waiting—for her. For the shift that made her shudder to think about.

It was on the eighth day after her arrival, after scrubbing pots and pans until her back throbbed, that Celaena stopped in the middle of their hike up the now-familiar ridge. “I have a request.” She never spoke to him unless she needed to—mostly to curse at him. Now she said, “I want to see you


A blink, those green eyes at. “You don’t have the privilege of giving orders.”

“Show me how you do it.” Her memories of the Fae in Terrasen were foggy, as if someone had smeared oil over them. She couldn’t remember seeing one of them change, where their clothes had gone, how fast it had been . . . He stared her down, seeming to say, Just this once, and then—

A soft ash of light, a ripple of color, and a hawk was apping midair, beating for the nearest tree branch. He settled on it, clicking his beak. She scanned the mossy earth. No sign of his clothes, his weapons. It had taken barely more than a few heartbeats.

He gave a battle cry and swooped, talons slashing for her eyes. She lunged behind the tree just as there was another ash and shudder of color, and then he was clothed and armed and growling in her face. “ Your turn.”

She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her tremble. It was—incredible. Incredible to see the shift. “Where do your clothes go?”

“Between, somewhere. I don’t particularly care.” Such dead, joyless eyes. She had a feeling she looked like that these days. She knew she had looked like that the night Chaol had caught her gutting Archer in the tunnel. What had left Rowan so soulless?

He bared his teeth, but she didn’t submit. She’d been watching the demi-Fae warrior males at the fortress, and they growled and showed their teeth about everything. ey were not the ethereal, gentle folk that legend painted, that she vaguely remembered from Terrasen. No holding hands and dancing around the maypole with owers in their hair. ey were predators, the lot of them. Some of the dominant females were just as aggressive, prone to snarling when challenged or annoyed or even hungry. She supposed she might have t in with them if she’d bothered to try.

Still holding Rowan’s stare, Celaena calmed her breathing. She imagined phantom ngers reaching down, pulling her Fae form out. Imagined a wash of color and light. Pushed herself against her mortal esh. But—nothing.

“Sometimes I wonder whether this is a punishment for you,” she said through her teeth. “But what could you have done to piss o her Immortal Majesty?”

“Don’t use that tone when you talk about her.”

“Oh, I can use whatever tone I want. And you can taunt and snarl at me and make me chop wood all day, but short of ripping out my tongue, you can’t—”

Faster than lightning, his hand shot out and she gagged, jolting as he grabbed her tongue between his ngers. She bit down, hard, but he didn’t let go. “Say that again,” he purred.

She choked as he kept pinching her tongue, and she went for his daggers, simultaneously slamming her knee up between his legs, but he shoved his body against hers, a wall of hard muscle and several hundred years of lethal training trapping her against a tree. She was a joke by comparison

—a joke—and her tongue

He released her tongue, and she gasped for breath. She swore at him, a lthy, foul name, and spat at his feet. And that’s when he bit her.

She cried out as those canines pierced the spot between her neck and shoulder, a primal act of aggression—the bite so strong and claiming that she was too stunned to move. He had her pinned against the tree and clamped down harder, his canines digging deep, her blood spilling onto her shirt. Pinned, like some weakling. But that was what she’d become, wasn’t it? Useless, pathetic.

She growled, more animal than sentient being. And shoved.

Rowan staggered back a step, teeth ripping her skin as she struck his chest. She didn’t feel the pain, didn’t care about the blood or the ash of light.

No, she wanted to rip his throat out—rip it out with the elongated canines she bared at him as she

nished shifting and roared.

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