Chapter no 66

Heir of Fire

“Morath,” Manon said, wondering if she’d heard right. “For battle?”

Her grandmother turned from the desk, eyes ashing. “To serve the duke, just as the king ordered. He wants the Wing Leader in Morath with half the host ready to y at a moment’s notice. e others are to stay here under Iskra’s command to monitor the north.”

“And you—where will you be?”

Her grandmother hissed, rising. “So many questions now that you’re Wing Leader.”

Manon bowed her head. ey had not spoken of the Crochan. Manon had gotten the message: next time, it would be one of the irteen on her knees. So she kept her head down as she said, “I only ask because I would not be parted with you, Grandmother.”

“Liar. And a pathetic one.” Her grandmother turned back to the desk. “I shall remain here, but come to you in Morath during the summer. We have work to nish here.”

Manon lifted her chin, her new red cloak pooling around her, and asked, “And when shall we y to Morath?”

Her grandmother smiled, iron teeth shining. “Tomorrow.”

Even under the cover of darkness, the warm spring breeze was full of new grass and snow-melted rivers, only disrupted by the booming of wings as Manon led the host south along the Fangs.

ey kept to the shadows of the mountains, shifting ranks and dipping out of sight to prevent anyone from getting an accurate count of their numbers. Manon sighed through her nose, and the wind ripped the sound away, just as it streamed her long red cloak behind her.

Asterin and Sorrel anked her, silent like the rest of the covens for the long hours they’d own down the mountains. ey would cross Oakwald where Morath’s mountains were closest, then rise above the cover of the cloud line for the rest of the journey. Unseen and as quiet as possible—that was how the king wanted them to arrive at the duke’s mountain fortress. ey ew all night down the Fangs, swift and sleek as shadows, and the earth below quivered in their wake.

Sorrel was stone-faced, monitoring the skies around them, but Asterin was smiling faintly. It was not a wild grin, or one that promised death, but a calm smile. To be aloft and skimming the clouds. Where every Blackbeak belonged. Where Manon belonged.

Asterin caught her stare and smiled wider, as if there wasn’t a host of witches ying behind them and Morath lying ahead. Her cousin turned her face into the wind, breathing it in, exultant.

Manon did not let herself savor that beautiful breeze or open herself to that joy. She had work to do; they all did. Despite what the Crochan had said, Manon had not been born with a heart, or a soul. She did not need them.

Once they fought the king’s war, when his enemies were bleeding out around them . . . only then would they ride to reclaim their broken kingdom.

And she would go home at last.

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