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Page 13

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, 7)

“It’s something to consider, yes,” Lorcan said, and Elide’s eyes sparked with irritation. “I see no reason to believe the gods would be that clear.”

“Says the male who feels the touch of a god, telling him when to run or fight,” Elide snapped.

Lorcan ignored her, that truth. He hadn’t felt Hellas’s touch since the Stone Marshes. As if even the god of death was repulsed by him. “Akkadia’s border is a three-day ride from here. Its capital three days beyond that. Doranelle is over two weeks away, if we travel with little rest.”

And time was not on their side. With the Wyrdkeys, with Erawan, with the war surely unleashing itself back on Elide’s own continent, every delay came at a cost. Not to mention what each day undoubtedly brought upon the Queen of Terrasen.

Elide opened her mouth, but Lorcan cut her off. “And then, to arrive in Maeve’s stronghold exhausted and hungry … We won’t stand a chance. Not to mention that with the veiling she can wield, we might very well walk right past Aelin and never know it.”

Elide’s nostrils flared, but she turned to Rowan. “The call is yours, Prince.”

Not just a prince, not anymore. Consort to the Queen of Terrasen.

At last, Whitethorn lifted his head. As those green eyes settled on him, Lorcan withstood the weight in his gaze, the innate dominance. He’d been waiting for Rowan to claim the vengeance he deserved, waiting for that blow. Hoping for it. It had never come.

“We’ve come this far south,” Rowan said at last, his voice low. “Better to go to Akkadia than risk venturing all the way to Doranelle to find we were wrong.”

And that was that.

Elide only threw a seething glare toward Lorcan and rose, murmuring about seeing to her needs before she went to sleep. Her gait held steady as she crunched through the grass—thanks to the brace Gavriel kept around her ankle.

It should have been his magic helping her. Touching her skin.

Her steps turned distant, near-silent. She usually went farther than necessary to avoid having them hear anything. Lorcan gave her a few minutes before he stalked into the dark after her.

He found Elide already heading back, and she paused atop a little hill, barely more than a hump of dirt in the field. “What do you want.”

Lorcan kept walking, until he was at the base of the hill, and stopped. “Akkadia is the wiser choice.”

“Rowan decided that, too. You must be so pleased.”

She made to stomp past him, but Lorcan stepped into her path. She craned back her neck to see his face, yet he’d never felt smaller. Shorter. “I didn’t push for Akkadia to spite you,” he managed to say.

“I don’t care.”

She tried to edge around him, Lorcan easily keeping ahead of her. “I didn’t …” The words strangled him. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Elide let out a soft, vicious laugh. “Of course you didn’t. Why would you have intended for your wondrous queen to sever the blood oath?”

“I don’t care about that.” He didn’t. He’d never spoken truer words. “I only wish to make things right.”

Her lip curled. “I would be inclined to believe that if I hadn’t seen you crawling after Maeve on the beach.”

Lorcan blinked at the words, the hatred in them, stunned enough that he let her walk past this time. Elide didn’t so much as look back.

Not until Lorcan said, “I didn’t crawl after Maeve.”

She halted, hair swaying. Slowly, she glanced over her shoulder. Imperious and cold as the stars overhead.

“I crawled …” His throat bobbed. “I crawled after Aelin.”

He shut out the bloody sand, the queen’s screams, her final, pleading requests to Elide. Shut them out and said, “When Maeve severed the oath, I couldn’t move, could barely breathe.”

Such agony that Lorcan couldn’t imagine what it would be like to sever the oath on his own, without bidding. It was not the sort of pain one walked away from.

The oath could be stretched, drawn thin. That Vaughan, the last of their cadre, still undoubtedly roamed the wilds of the North in his “hunt” for Lorcan was proof enough that the blood oath’s restraints might be worked around. But to break it outright of his own will, to find some way to snap the tether, would be to embrace death.

He’d wondered during these months if he should have done just that.

Lorcan swallowed. “I tried to get to her. To Aelin. I tried to get to that box.” He added so quietly only Elide could hear it, “I promise.”

His word was his bond, the only currency he cared to trade in. He’d told her that once, during those weeks on the road. Nothing flickered in her eyes to tell him she remembered.

Elide merely strode back for the camp. Lorcan remained where he was.

He had done this. Brought this upon her, upon them.

Elide reached the campfire, and Lorcan followed at last, nearing its ring of light in time to see her plop down beside Gavriel, her mouth tight.

The Lion murmured to her, “He wasn’t lying, you know.”

Lorcan clenched his jaw, making no attempt to disguise his footsteps. If Gavriel’s ears were sharp enough to have heard every word of their conversation, the Lion certainly knew he was approaching. And certainly knew better than to shove his nose in their business.

Yet Lorcan still found himself scanning Elide’s face, waiting for her answer.

And when she ignored both the Lion and Lorcan, he found himself wishing he hadn’t spoken at all.

 

Prince Rowan Whitethorn Galathynius, consort, husband, and mate of the Queen of Terrasen, knew he was dreaming.

He knew it, because he could see her.

There was only darkness here. And wind. And a great, yawning chasm between them.

No bottom existed in that abyss, that crack in the world. But he could hear whispers snaking through it, down far below.

She stood with her back to him, hair blowing in a sheet of gold. Longer than he’d seen it the last time.

He tried to shift, to fly over the chasm. His body’s innate magic ignored him. Locked in his Fae body, the jump too far, he could only stare toward her, breathe in her scent—jasmine, lemon verbena, and crackling embers—as it floated to him on the wind. This wind told him no secrets, had no song to sing.

It was a wind of death, of cold, of nothing.

Aelin.

He had no voice here, but he spoke her name. Threw it across the gulf between them.

Slowly, she turned to him.

It was her face—or it would be in a few years. When she Settled.

But it wasn’t the slightly older features that knocked the breath from him.

It was the hand on her rounded belly.

She stared toward him, hair still flowing. Behind her, four small figures emerged.

Rowan fell to his knees.

The tallest: a girl with golden hair and pine-green eyes, solemn-faced and as proud as her mother. The boy beside her, nearly her height, smiled at him, warm and bright, his Ashryver eyes near-glowing beneath his cap of silver hair. The boy next to him, silver-haired and green-eyed, might as well have been Rowan’s twin. And the smallest girl, clinging to her mother’s legs … A fine-boned, silver-haired child, little more than a babe, her blue eyes harking back to a lineage he did not know.

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