Page 11

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, 7)

The rest of the ancient king’s face was foreign: the long, dark brown hair, the harsh features, the grave cast of his mouth. “You learned the marks.”

Dorian rose from his bow. “I’m a quick study.”

Gavin didn’t smile. “The summoning is not a gift to be used lightly. You risk much, young king, in calling me here. Considering what you carry.”

Dorian patted the jacket pocket where the two Wyrdkeys lay, ignoring the strange, terrible power that pulsed against his hand in answer. “Everything is a risk these days.” He straightened. “I need your help.”

Gavin didn’t reply. His stare slid to Damaris, still plunged in the snow amid the marks. A personal effect of the king, as Aelin had used the Eye of Elena to summon the ancient queen. “At least you have taken good care of my sword.” His eyes lifted to Dorian’s, sharp as the blade itself. “Though I cannot say the same of my kingdom.”

Dorian clenched his jaw. “I inherited a bit of a mess from my father, I’m afraid.”

“You were a Prince of Adarlan long before you became its king.”

Dorian’s magic churned to ice, colder than the night around him. “Then consider me trying to atone for years of bad behavior.”

Gavin held his gaze for a moment that stretched into eternity. A true king, that’s what the man before him was. A king not only in title, but in spirit. As few had been since Gavin was laid to rest beneath the foundations of the castle he’d built along the Avery.

Dorian withstood the weight of Gavin’s stare. Let the king see what remained of him, mark the pale band around his throat.

Then Gavin blinked once, the only sign of his permission to continue.

Dorian swallowed. “Where is the third key?”

Gavin stiffened. “I am forbidden to say.”

“Forbidden, or won’t?” He supposed he should be kneeling, should keep his tone respectful. How many legends about Gavin had he read as a child? How many times had he run through the castle, pretending to be the king before him?

Dorian pulled the Amulet of Orynth from his jacket, letting it sway in the bitter wind. A silent, ghostly song leaked from the gold-and-blue medallion—speaking in languages that did not exist. “Brannon Galathynius defied the gods by putting the key in here with a warning to Aelin. The least you could do is give me a direction.”

Gavin’s edges blurred, but held. Not much time. For either of them. “Brannon Galathynius was an arrogant bastard. I have seen what interfering with the gods’ plans brings about. It will not end well.”

“Your wife, not the gods, brought this about.”

Gavin bared his teeth. And though the man was long dead, Dorian’s magic flared again, readying to strike.

“My mate,” Gavin snarled, “is the cost of this. My mate, should the keys be retrieved, will vanish forever. Do you know what that is like, young king? To have eternity—and then have it ripped away?”

Dorian didn’t bother to reply. “You don’t wish me to find the third key because it will mean the end of Elena.”

Gavin said nothing.

Dorian let out a growl. “Countless people will die if the keys aren’t put back in the gate.” He shoved the Amulet of Orynth back into his jacket, and once again ignored the otherworldly hum pulsing against his bones. “You can’t be that selfish.”

Gavin remained silent, the wind shifting his dark hair. But his eyes flickered—just barely.

“Tell me where,” Dorian breathed. He had mere minutes until even Vesta came looking for him. “Tell me where the third key is.”

“Your life will be forfeit, too. If you retrieve the keys and forge the Lock. Your soul will be claimed as well. Not one scrap of you will live on in the Afterworld.”

“There’s no one who would really care about that anyway.” He certainly didn’t. And he’d certainly deserved that sort of end, when he’d failed so many times. With all he’d done.

Gavin studied him for a long moment. Dorian held still beneath that fierce stare. A warrior who had survived the second of Erawan’s wars.

“Elena helped Aelin,” Dorian pressed, his breath curling in the space between them. “She didn’t balk from it, even knowing what it meant for her fate. And neither did Aelin, who will have neither a long life with her own mate, nor eternity with him.” As I will not have, either. His heart began thundering, his magic rising with it. “And yet you would. You would run from it.”

Gavin’s teeth flashed. “Erawan could be defeated without sealing the gate.”

“Tell me how, and I will find a way to do it.”

Yet Gavin fell silent again, his hands clenching at his sides.

Dorian snorted softly. “If you knew, it would have been done long ago.” Gavin shook his head, but Dorian plunged ahead. “Your friends died battling Erawan’s hordes. Help me avoid the same fate for my own. It might already be too late for some of them.” His stomach churned.

Had Chaol made it to the southern continent? Perhaps it would be better if his friend never returned, if he stayed safe in Antica. Even if Chaol would never do such a thing.

Dorian glanced toward the rocky corner he’d rounded. Not much time left.

“And what of Adarlan?” Gavin demanded. “You would leave it kingless?” The question said enough of Gavin’s opinion regarding Hollin. “This is how you would atone for years spent idling as its Crown Prince?”

Dorian took the verbal blow. It was nothing but truth, dealt by a man who had served its nameless god. “Does it really matter anymore?”

“Adarlan was my pride.”

“It is no longer worthy of it,” Dorian snapped. “It hasn’t been for a long, long time. Perhaps it deserves to fall into ruin.”

Gavin angled his head. “The words of a reckless, arrogant boy. Do you think you are the only one who has endured loss?”

“And yet your own fear of loss makes you choose one woman over the fate of the world.”

“If you had the choice—your woman or Erilea—would you have chosen any differently?”

Sorscha or the world. The question rang hollow. Some of the fire within him banked. Yet Dorian dared to say, “You’d delude yourself about the path ahead, yet you served the god of truth.” Chaol had told him of their discovery in the catacombs beneath Rifthold’s sewers this spring. The forgotten bone temple where Gavin’s deathbed confession had been written. “What does he have to say about Elena’s role in this?”

“The All-Seeing One does not claim kinship with those spineless creatures,” Gavin growled.

Dorian could have sworn a dusty, bone-dry wind rattled through the pass. “Then what is he?”

“Can there not be many gods, from many places? Some born of this world, some born elsewhere?”

“That’s a question to debate at another time,” Dorian ground out. “When we’re not at war.” He took a long breath. Another one. “Please,” he breathed. “Please help me save my friends. Help me make it right.”

It was all he really had left—this task.

Gavin again watched him, weighed him. Dorian withstood it. Let him read whatever truth was written on his soul.

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