Chapter no 56

Heir of Fire

A few days after the unforgivable, despicable slave massacre, Sorscha was nishing up a letter to her friend when there was a knock on her workroom door. She jumped, scrawling a line of ink down the center of the page.

Dorian popped his head in, grinning, but the grin faltered when he saw the letter. “I hope I’m not interrupting,” he said, slipping in and shutting the door. As he turned, she balled up the ruined paper and chucked it into the rubbish pail.

“Not at all,” she said, toes curling as he nuzzled her neck and slipped his arms around her waist. “Someone might walk in,” she protested, squirming out of his grip. He let her go, but his eyes gleamed in a way that told her when they were alone again tonight, he might not be so easy to convince. She smiled.

“Do that again,” he breathed.

So Sorscha smiled again, laughing. And he looked so ba ed by it that she asked, “What?” “ at’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

She had to look away, go nd something to do with her hands. ey worked together in silence, as they were prone to doing now that Dorian knew his way around the workroom. He liked helping her with her tonics for other patients.

Someone coughed from the doorway, and they straightened, Sorscha’s heart ying into her throat. She hadn’t even noticed the door opening—or the Captain of the Guard now standing in it.

e captain walked right in, and Dorian sti ened beside her. “Captain,” she said, “are you in need of my assistance?”

Dorian said nothing, his face unusually grim—those beautiful eyes haunted and heavy. He slipped a warm hand around her waist, resting it on her back. e captain quietly shut the door, and seemed to listen to the outside hall for a moment before speaking.

He looked even graver than her prince—his broad shoulders seeming to sag under an invisible burden. But his golden-brown eyes were clear as they met Dorian’s. “You were right.”

Chaol supposed it was a miracle in itself that Dorian had agreed to do this. e grief on Dorian’s face this morning had told him he could ask. And that Dorian would say yes.

Dorian made Chaol explain everything—to both of them. at was Dorian’s price: the truth owed to him, and to the woman who deserved to know what she was risking herself for.

Chaol quietly, quickly, explained everything: the magic, the Wyrdkeys, the three towers . . . all of it. To her credit, Sorscha didn’t fall apart or doubt him. He wondered if she was reeling, if she was upset with Dorian for not telling her. She revealed nothing, not with that healer’s training and self–control. But the prince watched Sorscha as if he could read her impregnable mask and see what was brewing beneath.

e prince had somewhere to be. He kissed Sorscha before he left, murmuring something in her ear that made her smile. Chaol hadn’t suspected to nd Dorian so . . . happy with his healer. Sorscha. It was an embarrassment that Chaol had never known her name until today. And from the way Dorian looked at her, and she him . . . He was glad that his friend had found her.

When Dorian had gone, Sorscha was still smiling, despite what she’d learned. It made her truly

stunning—it made her whole face open up.

“I think,” Chaol said, and Sorscha turned, brows high, ready to get to work. “I think,” he said again, smiling faintly, “that this kingdom could use a healer as its queen.”

She did not smile at him, as he’d hoped. Instead she looked unfathomably sad as she returned to her work. Chaol left without further word to ready himself for his experiment with Dorian—the only person in this castle, perhaps in the world, who could help him. Help them all.

Dorian had raw power, Celaena had said, power to be shaped as he willed it. at was the only thing similar enough to the power of the Wyrdkeys, neither good nor evil. And crystals, Chaol had once read in Celaena’s magic books, were good conduits for magic. It hadn’t been hard to buy several from the market—each about as long as his nger, white as fresh snow.

Everything was nearly ready when Dorian nally arrived in one of the secret tunnels and took a seat on the ground. Candles burned around them, and Chaol explained his plan as he nished pouring the last line of red sand—from the Red Desert, the merchant had claimed—between the three crystals. Equidistant from one another, they made the shape Murtaugh had drawn on the map of their continent. In the center of the triangle sat a small bowl of water.

Dorian pinned him with a stare. “Don’t blame me if they shatter.” “I have replacements.” He did. He’d bought a dozen crystals.

Dorian stared at the rst crystal. “You just want me to . . . focus my power on it?”

“ en draw a line of power to the next crystal, then the next, imagining that your goal is to freeze the water in the bowl. at’s all.”

A raised brow. “ at’s not even a spell.”

“Just humor me,” Chaol said. “I wouldn’t have asked if this wasn’t the only way.” He dipped a

nger in the bowl of water, setting it rippling. Something in his gut said that maybe the spell required nothing more than power and sheer will.

e prince’s sigh lled the stone hall, echoing o the stones and vaulted ceiling. Dorian gazed at the rst crystal, roughly representing Rifthold. For minutes, there was nothing. But then Dorian began sweating, swallowing repeatedly.

“Are you—”

“I’m ne,” Dorian gasped, and the rst crystal began to glow white.

e light grew brighter, Dorian sweating and grunting as if he were in pain. Chaol was about to ask him to stop when a line shot toward the next crystal—so fast it was nearly undetectable save for the slight ripple in the sand. e crystal ashed bright, and then another line shot out, heading south. Again, the sand rippled in its wake.

e water remained uid. e third crystal glowed, and the nal line completed the triangle, making all three crystals ash for a moment. And then . . . slowly, crackling softly, the water froze. Chaol shoved back against his horror—horror and awe at how much Dorian’s control had grown.

Dorian’s skin was pasty and gleamed with sweat. “ is is how he did it, isn’t it?”

Chaol nodded. “Ten years ago, with those three towers. ey were all built years before so that this could happen precisely when his invading forces were ready, so no one could strike back. Your father’s spell must be far more complex, to have frozen magic entirely, but on a basic level, this is probably similar to what occurred.”

“I want to see where they are—the towers.” Chaol shook his head, but Dorian said, “You’ve told me everything else already. Show me the damn map.”

With a wipe of his hand, a god destroying a world, Dorian knocked down a crystal, releasing the power. e ice melted, the water rippling and sloshing against the bowl. Just like that. Chaol blinked.

If they could knock out one tower . . . It was such a risk. ey needed to be sure before acting. Chaol pulled out the map Murtaugh had marked, the map he didn’t dare to leave anywhere. “Here,-here, and here,” he said, pointing to Rifthold, Amaroth, and Noll. “ at’s where we know towers-were built. Watchtowers, but all three had the same traits: black stone, gargoyles . . .”

“You mean to tell me that the clock tower in the garden is one of them?” Chaol nodded, ignoring the laugh of disbelief. “ at’s what we think.”

e prince leaned over the map, bracing a hand against the oor. He traced a line from Rifthold to Amaroth, then from Rifthold to Noll. “ e northward line cuts through the Ferian Gap; the southern cuts directly through Morath. You told Aedion that you thought my father had sent Roland and Kaltain to Morath, along with any other nobles with magic in their blood. What are the odds that it’s a mere coincidence?”

“And the Ferian Gap . . .” Chaol had to swallow. “Celaena said she’d heard of wings in the Gap. Nehemia said her scouts did not come back, that something was brewing there.”

“Two spots for him to breed whatever army he’s making, perhaps drawing on this power as it makes a current through them.”

“ ree.” Chaol pointed to the Dead Islands. “We had a report that something strange was being bred there . . . and that it’s been sent to Wendlyn.”

“But my father sent Celaena.” e prince swore. “ ere’s no way to warn them?” “We’ve already tried.”

Dorian wiped the sweat from his brow. “So you’re working with them—you’re on their side.” “No. I don’t know. We just share information. But this is all information that helps us. You.” Dorian’s eyes hardened, and Chaol winced as a cool breeze swept in.

“So what are you going to do?” Dorian asked. “Just . . . knock down the clock tower?”

Destroying the clock tower was an act of war—an act that could endanger the lives of too many people. ere would be no going back. He didn’t even want to tell Aedion or Ren, for fear of what they’d do. ey wouldn’t think twice before incinerating it, perhaps killing everyone in this castle in the process. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. You were right about that.”

He wished he had something more to say to Dorian, but even small talk was an e ort now. He was closing in on candidates to replace him as Captain of the Guard, sending more trunks to Anielle every week, and he could barely bring himself to look at his own men. As for Dorian . . . there was so much left between them.

“Now’s not the time,” Dorian said quietly, as if he could read Chaol’s mind. Chaol swallowed. “I want to thank you. I know what you’re risking is—”

“We’re all risking something.” ere was so little of the friend he’d grown up with. e prince glanced at his pocket watch. “I need to go.” Dorian stalked to the stairs, and there was no fear in his face, no doubt, as he said, “You gave me the truth today, so I’ll share mine: even if it meant us being friends again, I don’t think I would want to go back to how it was before—who was before. And this . . .” He jerked his chin toward the scattered crystals and the bowl of water. “I think this is a good change, too. Don’t fear it.”

Dorian left, and Chaol opened his mouth, but no words came out. He was too stunned. When

Dorian had spoken, it hadn’t been a prince who looked at him. It had been a king.

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