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Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, 7)

I will kill you, Aelin had said when she’d heard what Maeve had done. How badly Maeve had manipulated him, shattered him—and destroyed Lyria. Elide had told him every word of the encounter, over and over. I will kill you.

Rowan stared into the burning heart of Goldryn’s ruby.

He prayed that fire, that rage, had not broken. He knew how many days it had been, knew who Maeve had promised would oversee the torture. Knew the odds were stacked against her. He’d spent two weeks strapped on an enemy’s table. Still bore the scar on his arm from one of their more creative devices.

Hurry. They had to hurry.

Rowan leaned forward, resting his brow against Goldryn’s hilt. The metal was warm, as if it still held a whisper of its bearer’s flame.

He had not set foot in Akkadia since that last, horrible war. Though he’d led Fae and mortal soldiers alike to victory, he’d never had any desire to see it again.

But to Akkadia they would go.

And if he found her, if he freed her … Rowan did not let himself think beyond that.

To the other truth that they would face, the other burden. Tell Rowan that I’m sorry I lied. But tell him it was all borrowed time anyway. Even before today, I knew it was all just borrowed time, but I still wish we’d had more of it.

He refused to accept that. Would never accept that she would be the ultimate cost to end this, to save their world.

Rowan scanned the blanket of stars overhead.

While all other constellations had wheeled past, the Lord of the North remained, the immortal star between his antlers pointing the way home. To Terrasen.

Tell him he has to fight. He must save Terrasen, and remember the vows he made to me.

Time was not on their side, not with Maeve, not with the war unleashing itself back on their own continent. But he had no intention of returning without her, parting request or no, regardless of the oaths he’d sworn upon marrying her to guard and rule Terrasen.

And tell him thank you—for walking that dark path with me back to the light.

It had been his honor. From the very beginning, it had been his honor, the greatest of his immortal life.

An immortal life they would share together—somehow. He’d allow no other alternative.

Rowan silently swore it to the stars.

He could have sworn the Lord of the North flickered in response.




The winter winds off the rough waves had chilled Chaol Westfall from the moment he’d emerged from his quarters belowdecks. Even with his thick blue cloak, the damp cold seeped into his bones, and now, as he scanned the water, it seemed the heavy cloud cover wasn’t likely to break anytime soon. Winter was creeping over the continent, as surely as Morath’s legions.

The brisk dawn had revealed nothing, only the roiling seas and the stoic sailors and soldiers who had kept this ship traveling swiftly northward. Behind them, flanking them, half of the khagan’s fleet followed. The other half still lingered in the southern continent as the rest of the mighty empire’s armada rallied. They’d only be a few weeks behind if the weather held.

Chaol sent a prayer on the briny, icy wind that it would. For despite the size of the fleet gathered behind him, and despite the thousand ruk riders who were just taking to the skies from their roosts on the ships for morning hunts over the waves, it might still not be enough against Morath.

And they might not arrive fast enough for that army to make a difference anyway.

Three weeks of sailing had brought them little news of the host his friends had assembled and supposedly brought to Terrasen, and they’d kept far enough from the coast to avoid any enemy ships—or wyverns. But that would change today.

A delicate, warm arm looped through his, and a head of brown-gold hair leaned against his shoulder. “It’s freezing out here,” Yrene murmured, scowling at the wind-whipped waves.

Chaol pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “The cold builds character.”

She huffed a laugh, the steam of her breath torn away by the wind. “Spoken like a man from the North.”

Chaol slid his arm around her shoulders, tucking her into his side. “Am I not keeping you warm enough these days, wife?”

Yrene blushed, and elbowed him in the ribs. “Cad.”

Over a month later, and he was still marveling at the word: wife. At the woman by his side, who had healed his fractured and weary soul.

His spine was secondary to that. He’d spent these long days on the ship practicing how he might fight—whether by horseback or with a cane or from his wheeled chair—during the times when Yrene’s power became drained enough that the life-bond between them stretched thin and the injury took over once more.

His spine hadn’t healed, not truly. It never would. It had been the cost of saving his life after a Valg princess had taken him to death’s threshold. Yet it did not feel like a cost too steeply paid.

It had never been a burden—the chair, the injury. It would not be now.

But the other part of that bargain with the goddess who had guided Yrene her entire life, who had brought her to Antica’s shores and now back to their own continent … that part scared the hell out of him.

If he died, Yrene went as well.

To funnel her healing power into him so he might walk when her magic was not too drained, their very lives had been entwined.

So if he fell in battle against Morath’s legions … It would not be just his own life lost.

“You’re thinking too hard.” Yrene frowned up at him. “What is it?”

Chaol jerked his chin toward the ship sailing nearest their own. On its stern, two ruks, one golden and one reddish brown, stood at attention. Both were already saddled, though there was no sign of Kadara’s or Salkhi’s riders.

“I can’t tell if you’re motioning to the ruks or the fact that Nesryn and Sartaq are smart enough to remain in bed on a morning like this.” As we should be, her golden-brown eyes added tartly.

It was Chaol’s turn to nudge her with an elbow. “You’re the one who woke me up this morning, you know.” He brushed a kiss to the column of her neck, a precise reminder of how, exactly, Yrene had awoken him. And what they’d spent a good hour around dawn doing.

Just the warmed silk of her skin against his lips was enough to heat his chilled bones. “We can go back to bed, if you want,” he murmured.

Yrene let out a soft, breathless sound that had his hands aching to roam along her bundled-up body. Even with time pressing upon them, hurrying them northward, he’d loved learning all her sounds—loved coaxing them from her.

But Chaol drew his head away from the crook of her neck to gesture again to the ruks. “They’re heading on a scouting mission soon.” He’d bet that Nesryn and the khagan’s newly crowned Heir were currently buckling on weapons and layers. “We’ve sailed far enough north that we need information on where to moor.” So they could decide where, exactly, to dock the armada and march inland as quickly as possible.

If Rifthold was still held by Erawan and the Ironteeth legions, then sailing the armada up the Avery and marching northward into Terrasen would be unwise. But the Valg king might very well have forces lying in wait at any point ahead. Not to mention Queen Maeve’s fleet, which had vanished after her battle with Aelin and mercifully remained unaccounted for.

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