Celaena and Rowan rode down the dusty road that meandered between the boulder-spotted grasslands and into the southern foothills. She’d memorized enough maps of Wendlyn to know that they’d pass through them and then over the towering Cambrian Mountains that marked the border between mortal-ruled Wendlyn and the immortal lands of Queen Maeve.
e sun was setting as they ascended the foothills, the road growing rockier, bordered on one side by rather harrowing ravines. For a mile, she debated asking Rowan where he planned to stop for the night. But she was tired. Not just from the day, or the wine, or the riding.
In her bones, in her blood and breath and soul, she was so, so tired. Talking to anyone was too taxing. Which made Rowan the perfect companion: he didn’t say a single word to her.
Twilight fell as the road brought them through a dense forest that spread into and over the mountains, the trees turning from cypress to oak, from narrow to tall and proud, full of thickets and scattered mossy boulders. Even in the growing dark, the forest seemed to be breathing. e warm air hummed, leaving a metallic taste coating her tongue. Far behind them, thunder grumbled.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Especially since Rowan was nally dismounting to make camp. From the look of his saddlebags, he didn’t have a tent. Or bedrolls. Or blankets.
Perhaps it was now fair to assume that her visit with Maeve wasn’t to be pleasant.
Neither of them spoke as they led their horses into the trees, just far enough o the road to be hidden from any passing travelers. Dumping their gear at the camp he’d selected, Rowan brought his mare to a nearby stream he must have heard with those pointed ears. He didn’t falter one step in the growing dark, though Celaena certainly stubbed her toes against a few rocks and roots. Excellent eyesight, even in the dark—another Fae trait. One she could have if she—
No, she wasn’t going to think about that. Not after what had happened on the other side of that portal. She’d shifted then—and it had been awful enough to remind her that she had no interest in ever doing it again.
After the horses drank, Rowan didn’t wait for her as he took both mares back to the camp. She used the privacy to see to her own needs, then dropped to her knees on the grassy bank and drank her ll of the stream. Gods, the water tasted . . . new and ancient and powerful and delicious.
She drank until she understood the hole in her belly might very well be from hunger, then staggered back to camp, nding it by the gleam of Rowan’s silver hair. He wordlessly handed her some bread and cheese, then returned to rubbing down the horses. She muttered a thank-you, but didn’t bother o ering to help as she plunked down against a towering oak.
When her belly had stopped hurting so much and she realized just how loudly she’d been munching on the apple he’d also tossed her while feeding the horses, she mustered enough energy to say, “Are there so many threats in Wendlyn that we can’t risk a re?”
He sat against a tree and stretched his legs, crossing his ankles. “Not from mortals.”
His rst words to her since they’d left the city. It could have been an attempt to spook her, but she still did a mental inventory of all the weapons she carried. She wouldn’t ask. Didn’t want to know what manner of thing might crawl toward a re.
e tangle of wood and moss and stone loomed, full of the rustling of heavy leaves, the gurgling of the swollen brook, the apping of feathered wings. And there, lurking over the rim of a nearby boulder, were three sets of small, glowing eyes.
e hilt of her dagger was in her palm a heartbeat later. But they just stared at her. Rowan didn’t seem to notice. He only leaned his head against the oak trunk.
ey had always known her, the Little Folk. Even when Adarlan’s shadow had covered the continent, they still recognized what she was. Small gifts left at campsites—a fresh sh, a leaf full of blackberries, a crown of owers. She’d ignored them, and stayed out of Oakwald Forest as much as she could.
e faeries kept their unblinking vigil. Wishing she hadn’t downed the food so quickly, Celaena watched them back, ready to spring to a defensive position. Rowan hadn’t moved.
What ancient oaths the faeries honored in Terrasen might be disregarded here. Even as she thought it, more eyes glowed between the trees. More silent witnesses to her arrival. Because Celaena was Fae, or something like a mongrel. Her great-grandmother had been Maeve’s sister, proclaimed a goddess when she died. Ridiculous, really. Mab had been very much mortal when she tied her life to the human prince who loved her so ercely.
She wondered how much these creatures knew about the wars that had destroyed her land, about the Fae and faeries that had been hunted down, about the burning of the ancient forests and the butchering of the sacred stags of Terrasen. She wondered if they had ever learned what became of their brethren in the West.
She didn’t know how she found it in herself to care. But they seemed so . . . curious. Surprising even herself, Celaena whispered into the humming night, “ ey still live.”
All those eyes vanished. When she glanced at Rowan, he hadn’t opened his eyes. But she had the sense that the warrior had been aware the entire time.