Page 93

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, 7)

An anchor.

As he had once anchored her, hauling her from a Valg prince’s grip.


His hands curled at his sides. Aelin, who had known suffering as he did. Who had been shown peaceful lives and still chosen him, exactly as he was, for what they had both endured. Illusions—those had been illusions.

Rowan gritted his teeth. Felt the thing wrapped around his mind. Holding him captive.

He let out a low snarl.

She had done this—done it before. Torn into his mind. Twisted and taken from him this most vital thing. Aelin.

He would not let her take it again.


Lorcan roared at the brand that shredded through his senses, through Elide’s mocking words, through the image of Perranth, the home he wanted so badly and might never see.

Roared, and the world rippled. Became snow and darkness and battle.

And Maeve. Poised before them, her pale face livid.

Her power lunged for him, a striking panther—

Elide now lay in a grand, opulent bed, her withered hand reaching for his. An aged hand, riddled with marks, the delicate blue veins intertwining like the many rivers around Doranelle.

And her face … Her dark eyes were filmy, her wrinkles deep. Her thinned hair white as snow.

“This is a truth you cannot outrun,” she said, her voice a croak. “A sword above our heads.”

Her deathbed. That’s what this was. And the hand he brushed against hers—it remained young. He remained young.

Bile coated his throat. “Please.” He put a hand to his chest, as if it’d stop the relentless cracking.

Faint, throbbing pain answered back.

Elide’s breaths rasped against his ears. He couldn’t watch this, couldn’t—

He dug his hand harder into his chest. To the pain there.

Life—life was pain. Pain, and joy. Joy because of the pain.

He saw it in Elide’s face. In every line and age mark. In every white hair. A life lived—together. The pain of parting because of how wonderful it had been.

The darkness beyond thinned. Lorcan dug his hand into the burning wound in his shoulder.

Elide let out a hacking cough that wrecked him, yet he took it into his heart, every bit of it. All that the future might offer.

It did not frighten him.


Again and again, Connall died. Over and over.

Connall lay on the floor of the veranda, his blood leaking toward the misty river far below.

His fate—it should have been his fate.

If he walked over the edge of the veranda, into that roaring river, would anyone mark his passing? If he leaped, his brother in his arms, would the river make a quick end for him?

He didn’t deserve a quick end. He deserved a slow, brutal bloodletting.

His punishment, his just reward for what he’d done to his brother. The life he’d allowed to be set in his shadow, had always known remained in his shadow and hadn’t tried, not really, to share the light.

A burn, violent and unflinching, tore through him. As if someone had shoved his shoulder into a furnace.

He deserved it. He welcomed it into his heart.

He hoped it would destroy him.


Pain. The thing she had dreaded inflicting upon them most, had fought and fought to keep them from.

The scent of their burned flesh stung her nostrils, and Maeve let out a low laugh. “Was that a shield, Aelin? Or were you trying to put them out of their misery?”

As he kneeled beside her, Rowan’s hand twitched at whatever horror he beheld, right over the edge of his discarded hatchet.

Pine and snow and the coppery tang of blood blended, rising to meet her as his palm sliced open with the force of that twitch.

“We can keep at this, you know,” Maeve went on. “Until Orynth lies in ruin.”

Rowan stared sightlessly ahead, his palm leaking blood onto the snow.

His fingers curled. Slightly.

A beckoning gesture, too small for Maeve to note. For anyone to note—except for her. Except for the silent language between them, the way their bodies had spoken to each other from the moment they’d met in that dusty alley in Varese.

A small act of defiance. As he had once defied Maeve before her throne in Doranelle.

Fenrys sobbed again, and Maeve glanced toward him.

Aelin slid her hand along Rowan’s hatchet, the pain a whisper through her body.

Her mate trembled, fighting the mind that had invaded his once more.

“What a waste,” Maeve said, turning back to them. “For these fine males to leave my service, only to wind up bound to a queen with hardly more than a few drops of power to her name.”

Aelin closed her hand around Rowan’s.

A door flung open between them. A door back to himself, to her.

His fingers locked around hers.

Aelin let out a low laugh. “I may have no magic,” she said, “but my mate does.”

Waiting to strike from the other side of that dark doorway, Rowan hauled Aelin to her feet as their powers, their souls, fused.

The force of Rowan’s magic hit her, ancient and raging. Ice and wind turned to searing flame.

Her heart sang, roaring, at the power that flowed from Rowan and into her. At her side, her mate held fast. Unbreakable.

Rowan smiled—fierce and feral and wicked. A crown of flame, twin to her own, appeared atop his head.

As one, they looked to Maeve.

Maeve hissed, her dark power massing again. “Rowan Whitethorn does not have the brute power that you once did.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t,” Lorcan said from a step behind them, his eyes clear and free, “but together, we do.” He glanced to Aelin, a hand rising to the angry red burn marring his chest.

“And beyond us,” Aelin said, sketching a mark through the snow with the blood she’d spilled—her blood, and Rowan’s—“I think they have plenty, too.”

Light flared at their feet, and Maeve’s power surged—but too late.

The portal opened. Exactly as the Wyrdmarks in the books Chaol and Yrene had brought from the southern continent had promised.

Precisely to where Aelin had intended. Where she had glimpsed as she’d tumbled back through the Wyrdgate. Where she and Rowan had ventured days ago, testing this very portal.

The forest glen was silvered in the moonlight, the snows thick. Strange, old trees—older than even those in Oakwald. Trees that could only be found north of Terrasen, in the hinterlands beyond.

But it was not the trees that made Maeve halt. No, it was the teeming mass of people, their armor and weapons glinting beneath their heavy furs. Amongst them, large as horses, wolves growled. Wolves with riders.

Down the battlefield, portal after portal opened. Right where Rowan and the cadre had drawn them in their own blood as they fought. All to be opened upon this spell. This command. And beyond each portal, that teeming mass of people could be seen. The army.

“I heard you planned to come here, you see,” Aelin said to Maeve, Rowan’s power a symphony in her blood. “Heard you planned to bring the kharankui-princesses with you.” She smiled. “So I thought to bring some friends of my own.”

The first of the figures beyond the portal emerged, riding a great silver wolf. And even with the furs over her heavy armor, the female’s arched ears could be seen.

“The Fae who dwelled in Terrasen were not wiped out so thoroughly,” Aelin said. Lorcan began grinning. “They found a new home—with the Wolf Tribe.” For those were humans also riding those wolves. As all the myths had claimed. “And did you know that while many of them came here with Brannon, there was an entire clan of Fae who arrived from the southern continent? Fleeing you, I think. All of them, actually, don’t really like you, I’m sorry to say.”

More and more Fae and wolf-riders stepped toward the portal, weapons out. Beyond them, stretching into the distance, their host flowed.

Maeve backed away a step. Just one.

“But you know who they hate even more?” Aelin pointed with Goldryn toward the battlefield. “Those spiders. Nesryn Faliq told me all about how their ancestors battled them in the southern continent. How they fled you when you tried to keep their healers chained, and then wound up having to battle your little friends. And when they came to Terrasen, they still remembered. Some of the truth was lost, grew muddled, but they remembered. They taught their offspring. Trained them.”

The Fae and their wolves beyond the portals now fixed their sights on the kharankui hybrids at last emerging onto the plain.

“I told them I’d deal with you myself,” Aelin said, and Rowan chuckled, “but the spiders … Oh, the spiders are all theirs. I think they’ve been waiting a while for it, actually. The Ironteeth witches, too. Apparently, the Yellowlegs weren’t very kind to those trapped in their animal forms these ten years.”

Aelin let out a flare of light. The only signal she needed to give.

For a people who had asked for only one thing when Aelin had begged them to fight, to join this last battle: to return home. To return to Orynth after a decade of hiding.

Her flame danced over the battlefield. And the lost Fae of Terrasen, the fabled Wolf Tribe who had welcomed and protected them at their sides, charged through the portals. Right into Morath’s unsuspecting ranks.

Maeve had gone deathly pale. Paled further as magic sparked and surged and those spider-hybrids went down, their shrieks of surprise silenced under Asterion blades.

Yet Rowan’s hand tightened on Aelin’s, and she peered up at her mate. But his eyes were on Fenrys. On the dark power Maeve still had wrapped around him.

The male remained sprawled in the snow, his tears silent and unending. His face a bloodied ruin.

Through the roar of Rowan’s power, Aelin felt for the threads leading from her heart, her soul.

Look at me. Her silent command echoed down the blood oath—to Fenrys.

Look at me.

“I suppose you think you can now finish me off in some grand fashion,” Maeve said to her and Rowan, that dark power swelling. “You, who I have wronged the most.”

Look at me.

His shredded face leaking blood, Fenrys looked, his eyes blindly turning toward hers. And clearing—just slightly.

Aelin blinked four times. I am here, I am with you.

No reply.

“Do you understand what a Valg queen is?” Maeve asked them, triumph on her face despite the long-lost Fae and wolf-riders charging onto the battlefield beyond them. “I am as vast and eternal as the sea. Erawan and his brothers sought me for my power.” Her magic flowed around her in an unholy aura. “You believe yourself to be a God-Killer, Aelin Galathynius? What were they but vain creatures locked into this world? What were they but things your human mind cannot comprehend?” She lifted her arms. “I am a god.”

Aelin blinked again at Fenrys, Rowan’s power gathering within her veins, readying for the first and likely final strike they’d be able to land, Lorcan’s power rallying beside theirs. Yet over and over, Aelin blinked to Fenrys, to those half-vacant eyes.

I am here, I am with you.


I am here, I am with you.

A queen had said that to him. In their secret, silent language. During the unspeakable hours of torment, they had said that to each other.

Not alone.

He had not been alone then, and neither had she.

The veranda in Doranelle and bloodied snows outside Orynth blended and flashed.

I am here, I am with you.

Maeve stood there. Before Aelin and Rowan, burning with power. Before Lorcan, his dark gifts a shadow around him. Fae—so many Fae and wolves, some riding them—pouring on to the battlefield through holes in the air.

It had worked, then. Their mad plan, to be enacted when all went to hell, when they had nothing left.

Yet Maeve’s power swelled.

Aelin’s eyes remained upon him, anchoring him. Pulling him from that bloodied veranda. To a body trembling in pain. A face that burned and throbbed.

I am here, I am with you.

And Fenrys found himself blinking back. Just once.


And when Aelin’s eyes moved again, he understood.


Aelin looked to Rowan. Found her mate already smiling at her. Aware of what likely awaited them. “Together,” she said quietly. Rowan’s thumb brushed against hers. In love and farewell.

And then they erupted.

Flame, white-hot and blinding, roared toward Maeve.

But the dark queen had been waiting. Twin waves of darkness arched and cascaded for them.

Only to be halted by a shield of black wind. Beaten aside.

Aelin and Rowan struck again, fast as an asp. Arrows and spears of flame that had Maeve conceding a step. Then another.

Lorcan battered her from the side, forcing Maeve to retreat another step.

“I’d say,” Aelin panted, speaking above the glorious roar of magic through her, the unbreakable song of her and Rowan, “that you haven’t wronged us the most at all.”

Like alternating punches, Lorcan struck with them. Fire, then midnight death.

Maeve’s dark brows narrowed.

Aelin flung out a wall of flame that pushed Maeve back another step. “But him—oh, he has a score to settle with you.”

Maeve’s eyes went wide, and she made to turn. But not fast enough.

Not fast enough at all as Fenrys vanished from where he knelt, and reappeared—right behind Maeve.

Goldryn burned bright as he plunged it through her back.

Into the dark heart within.




Maeve’s dark blood leaked onto the snow as she fell to her knees, fingers scrabbling at the burning sword stuck through her chest.

Fenrys stepped around her, leaving the sword where he’d impaled her as he walked to Aelin’s side.

Embers swirling around her and Rowan, Aelin approached the queen.

Baring her teeth, Maeve hissed as she tried and failed to pry free the blade. “Take it out.”

Aelin only looked to Lorcan. “Anything to say?”

Lorcan smiled grimly, surveying the Fae and wolf-riders wreaking havoc on the spiders. “Long live the queen.” The Faerie Queen of the West.

Maeve snarled, and it was not the sound of a Fae or human. But Valg. Pure, undiluted Valg.

“Well, look who stopped pretending,” Aelin said.

“I will go anywhere you choose to banish me to,” Maeve seethed. “Just take it out.”

“Anywhere?” Aelin asked, and let go of Rowan’s hand.

The lack of his magic, his strength, hit her like plunging into an ice-cold lake.

But she had plenty of her own.

Not magic, never again as it had been, but a strength greater, deeper than that.

Fireheart, her mother had called her.

Not for her power. The name had never once been about her power.

Maeve hissed again, clawing at the blade.

Wreathing her fingers in flame, Aelin offered her hand to Maeve. “You came here to escape a husband you did not love. A world you did not love.”

Maeve paused, studying Aelin’s hand. The new calluses on it. She winced—winced in pain at the blade shredding her heart but not killing her. “Yes,” Maeve breathed.

“And you love this world. You love Erilea.”

Maeve’s dark eyes scanned Aelin, then Rowan and Lorcan, before she answered. “Yes. In the way that I can love anything.”

Aelin kept her hand outstretched. The unspoken offer in it. “And if I choose to banish you, you will go wherever it is we decide. And never bother us again, or any other.”

“Yes,” Maeve snapped, grimacing at the immortal blade piercing her heart. The queen bowed her head, panting, and took Aelin’s outstretched hand.

Aelin drew close. Just as she slid something onto Maeve’s finger.

And whispered in Maeve’s ear, “Then go to hell.”

Maeve reared back, but too late.

Too late, as the golden ring—Silba’s ring, Athril’s ring—shone on her pale hand.

Aelin backed to Rowan’s side as Maeve began to scream.

Screaming and screaming toward the dark sky, toward the stars.

Maeve had wanted the ring not for protection against Valg. No, she was Valg. She’d wanted it so that no other might have it.

Yet when Elide had given it to Aelin, it had not been to destroy a Valg queen. But to keep Aelin safe. And Maeve would never know it—that gift and power: friendship.

What Aelin knew had kept the queen before her from becoming a mirror. What had saved her, and this kingdom.

Maeve thrashed, Goldryn burning, twin to the light on her finger.

Immunity from the Valg. And poison to them.

Maeve shrieked, the sound loud enough to shake the world.

They only stood amongst the falling snow, faces unmoved, and watched her.

Witnessed this death for all those she had destroyed.

Maeve contorted, clawing at herself. Her pale skin began to flake away like old paint.

Revealing bits of the creature beneath the glamour. The skin she’d created for herself.

Aelin only looked to Rowan, to Lorcan and Fenrys, a silent question in her eyes.

Rowan and Lorcan nodded. Fenrys blinked once, his mauled face still bleeding.

So Aelin approached the screaming queen, the creature beneath. Walked behind her and yanked out Goldryn.

Maeve sagged to the snow and mud, but the ring continued to rip her apart from within.

Maeve lifted dark, hateful eyes as Aelin raised Goldryn.

Aelin only smiled down at her. “We’ll pretend my last words to you were something worthy of a song.”

She swung the burning sword.

Maeve’s mouth was still open in a scream as her head tumbled to the snow.

Black blood sprayed, and Aelin moved again, stabbing Goldryn through Maeve’s skull. Into the earth beneath.

“Burn her,” Lorcan rasped.

Rowan’s hand, warm and strong, found Aelin’s again.

And when she looked up at him, there were tears on his face.

Not at the dead Valg queen before them. Or even at what Aelin had done.

No, her prince, her husband, her mate, gazed to the south. To the battlefield.

Even as their power melded, and she burned Maeve into ash and memory, Rowan stared toward the battlefield.

Where line after line after line of Valg soldiers fell to their knees mid-fight with the Fae and wolves and Darghan cavalry.

Where the ruks flapped in amazement as ilken tumbled from the skies, like they had been struck dead.

Far out, several shrill screams rent the air—then fell silent.

An entire army, midbattle, midblow, collapsing.

It rippled outward, that collapsing, the stillness. Until all of Morath’s host lay unmoving. Until the Ironteeth fighting above realized what was happening and veered southward, fleeing from the rukhin and witches who now gave chase.

Until the dark shadow surrounding that fallen army drifted away on the wind, too.

Aelin knew for certain then. Where Erawan had gone.

Who had brought him down at last.

So Aelin wrenched her sword free of the pile of ashes that had been Maeve. She lifted it high to the night sky, to the stars, and let her cry of victory fill the world. Let the name she shouted ring out, the soldiers on the field, in the city, taking up the call until all of Orynth was singing with it. Until it reached the shining stars of the Lord of the North gleaming above them, no longer needed to guide her way home.







Chaol awoke to warm, delicate hands stroking over his brow, his jaw.

He knew that touch. Would know it if he were blind.

One moment, he’d been fighting his way down the battlements. The next—oblivion. As if whatever surge of power had gone through Yrene had not only weakened his spine, but his consciousness.

“I don’t know whether to start yelling or crying,” he said, groaning as he opened his eyes and found Yrene kneeling before him. A heartbeat had him assessing their surroundings: some sort of stairwell, where he’d been sprawled over the lowest steps near a landing. An archway open to the frigid night revealed a starry, clear sky beyond. No wyverns in it.

And cheering. Victorious, wild cheering.

Not one bone drum. Not one snarl or roar.

And Yrene, still stroking his face, was smiling at him. Tears in her eyes.

“Feel free to yell all you like,” she said, some of those tears slipping free.

But Chaol just gaped at her as it hit him what, exactly, had happened. Why that surge of power had happened.

What this remarkable woman before him had done.

For they were calling her name. The army, the people of Orynth were calling her name.

He was glad he was sitting down.

Even if it did not surprise him one bit that Yrene had done the impossible.

Chaol slid his arms around her waist and buried his face in her neck. “It’s over, then,” he said against her skin, unable to stop the shaking that took over, the mix of relief and joy and lingering, phantom terror.

Yrene just ran her hands through his hair, down his back, and he felt her smile. “It’s over.”

Yet the woman he held, the child growing within her …

Erawan might have been over, his threat and army with it. And Maeve with it, too.

But life, Chaol realized—life was just beginning.


Nesryn didn’t believe it. The enemy had just … collapsed. Even the kharankui-hybrids.

It was as unlikely as the Fae and wolves who had simply appeared through holes in the world. A missing army, who had wasted no time launching themselves at Morath. As if they knew precisely where and how to strike. As if they had been summoned from the ancient myths of the North.

Nesryn alit on the blood-soaked city walls, watching the rukhin and allied witches chase the Ironteeth toward the horizon. She would have been with them, were it not for the claw-marks surrounding Salkhi’s eye. For the blood.

She had barely the breath to scream for a healer as she dismounted.

Barely the breath to unsaddle the ruk, murmuring to the bird as she did. So much blood, the gouging lines from the ilken sentry deep. No sheen of poison, but—

“Are you hurt?” Sartaq. The prince’s eyes were wide, his face bloodied, as he scanned her from head to toe. Behind him, Kadara panted on the battlements, her feathers as bloody as her rider.

Sartaq gripped her shoulders. “Are you hurt?” She’d never seen such panic in his face.

Nesryn only pointed to the now-still enemy, unable to find the words.

But others did. One word, one name, over and over. Yrene.

Healers raced up the battlements, aiming for both ruks, and Nesryn allowed herself to slide her arms around Sartaq’s waist. To press her face against his armored chest.

“Nesryn.” Her name was a question and a command. But Nesryn only held him tightly. So close. They had come so, so close to utter defeat.

Yrene. Yrene. Yrene, the soldiers and people of the city shouted.

Sartaq ran a hand down her matted hair. “You know what victory means, don’t you?”

Nesryn lifted her head, brows narrowing. Behind them, Salkhi patiently stood while the healer’s magic soothed over his eye. “A good night’s rest, I hope,” she said.

Sartaq laughed, and pressed a kiss to her temple. “It means,” he said against her skin, “that we are going home. That you are coming home—with me.”

And even with the battle freshly ended, even with the dead and wounded around them, Nesryn smiled. Home. Yes, she would go home with him to the southern continent. And to all that waited there.


Aelin, Rowan, Lorcan, and Fenrys lingered on the plain outside the city gates until they were certain the fallen army was not going to rise. Until the khagan’s troops went between the enemy soldiers, nudging and prodding. And received no answer.

But they did not behead. Did not sever and finish the job.

Not for those with the black rings, or black collars.

Those whom the healers might yet save.

Tomorrow. That would come tomorrow.

The moon had reached its peak when they wordlessly decided that they had seen enough to determine Erawan’s army would never rise again. When the ruks, Crochans, and rebel Ironteeth had vanished, chasing the last of the aerial legion into the night.

Then Aelin turned toward the southern gate to Orynth.

As if in answer, it groaned open to meet her.

Two arms flung wide.

Aelin looked to Rowan, their crowns of flame still burning, undimmed. Took his hand.

Heart thundering through every bone in her body, Aelin took a step toward the gate. Toward Orynth. Toward home.

Lorcan and Fenrys fell into step behind them. The latter’s wounds still leaked down his face, but he had refused Aelin and Rowan’s offers to heal him. Had said he wanted a reminder. They hadn’t dared to ask of what—not yet.

Aelin lifted her chin high, shoulders squaring as they neared the archway.

Soldiers already lined either side.

Not the khagan’s soldiers, but men and women in Terrasen armor. And civilians amongst them, too—awe and joy in their faces.

Aelin looked at the threshold of the gate. At the ancient, familiar stones, now caked in blood and gore.

She sent a whisper of flame skittering over them. The last dregs of her power.

When the fire vanished, the stones were again clean. New. As this city would be made anew, brought to greater heights, greater splendors. A beacon of learning and light once more.

Rowan’s fingers tightened around hers, but she did not look at him as they crossed the threshold, passing through the gate.

No, Aelin only looked at her people, smiling broadly and freely, as she entered Orynth, and they began to cheer, welcoming her home at long last.




Aedion had fought until the enemy soldier before him had slumped to his knees as if dead.

But the man, a black ring on his finger, was not dead at all.

Only the demon inside him.

And when soldiers of countless nations began to cheer, when word spread that a Torre Cesme healer had defeated Erawan, Aedion simply turned from the battlements.

He found him by scent alone. Even in death, the scent lingered, a path that Aedion followed through the wrecked streets and throngs of celebrating, weeping people.

A lone candle had been lit in the empty barracks room where they’d set his body atop a worktable.

It was there that Aedion knelt before his father.

How long he stayed there, head bowed, he didn’t know. But the candle had nearly burned down to its base when the door creaked open, and a familiar scent flitted in.

She said nothing as she approached on silent feet. Nothing as she shifted and knelt beside him.

Lysandra only leaned into him, until Aedion put his arm around her, tucking her in tight.

Together, they knelt there, and he knew her grief was as real as his. Knew her grief was for Gavriel, but also for his own loss.

The years he and his father would not have. The years he’d realized he wanted to have, the stories he wished to hear, the male he wished to know. And never would.

Had Gavriel known that? Or had he fallen believing his son wished nothing to do with him?

He couldn’t endure it, that potential truth. Its weight would be unbearable.

When the candle sputtered out, Lysandra rose, and took him with her.

A grand burial, Aedion silently promised. With every honor, every scrap of stately regalia that could be found in the aftermath of this battle. He’d bury his father in the royal graveyard, amongst the heroes of Terrasen. Where he himself would be buried one day. Beside him.

It was the least he could do. To make sure his father knew in the Afterworld.

They stepped into the street, and Lysandra paused to wipe away his tears. To kiss his cheeks, then his mouth. Loving, gentle touches.

Aedion slid his arms around her and held her tightly under the stars and moonlight.

How long they stood in the street, he didn’t know. But then a throat cleared nearby, and they peeled apart to turn toward its source.

A young man, no older than thirty, stood there.

Staring at Lysandra.

Not a messenger, or a soldier, though he wore the heavy clothes of the rukhin. There was a self-possessed purpose to him, a quiet sort of strength in his tall frame as he swallowed.

“Are you—are you Lady Lysandra?”

Lysandra angled her head. “I am.”

The man took a step, and Aedion suppressed the urge to push her behind him. To draw his sword on the man whose gray eyes widened—and shone with tears.

Who smiled at her, broad and joyous.

“My name is Falkan Ennar,” he said, putting a hand on his chest.

Lysandra’s face remained the portrait of wary confusion.

Falkan’s smile didn’t waver. “I have been looking for you for a very, very long time.”

And then it came out, Falkan’s tears flowing as he told her.

Her uncle. He was her uncle.

Her father had been much older than him, but ever since Falkan had learned of her existence, he’d been searching for her. Ten years, he’d hunted for his dead brother’s abandoned child, visiting Rifthold whenever he could. Never realizing that she might have his gifts, too—might not wear any of his brother’s features.

But Nesryn Faliq had found him. Or they’d found each other. And then they had figured it out, a bit of chance in this wide world.

His fortune as a merchant was hers to inherit, if she would like.

“Whatever you wish,” Falkan said. “You shall never want for anything again.”

Lysandra was crying, and it was pure joy on her face as she flung her arms around Falkan and embraced him tightly.

Aedion watched, silent and ripped open. Yet happy for her—he would always be happy for her, for any ray of light she found.

Lysandra pulled away from Falkan, though. Still smiling bright, more lovely than the night sky above. She laced her fingers with Aedion’s and squeezed tight as she answered her uncle at last, “I already have everything I need.”

Hours later, still sitting on the balcony where Erawan had been blasted away into nothing, Dorian didn’t quite believe it.

He kept staring at that spot, the dark stain on the stones, Damaris jutting up from it. The only trace left.

His father’s name. His own name. The weight of it settled into him, not a wholly unpleasant thing.

Dorian flexed his bloodied fingers. His magic lay in scraps, the tang of blood lingering on his tongue. An approaching burnout. He’d never had one before. He supposed he’d better become accustomed to them.

On shaking legs, Dorian yanked Damaris from the stones. The blade had turned black as onyx. A swipe of his fingers down the fuller revealed it was a stain that would not be cleansed.

He needed to get off this tower. Find Chaol. Find the others. Start helping the injured. And the unconscious soldiers on the plain. The ones who had not been possessed had already fled, pursued by the strange Fae who had appeared, the giant wolves and their riders amongst them.

He should go. Should leave this place.

And yet he stared at the dark stain. All that remained.

Ten years of suffering and torment and fear, and the stain was all that remained.

He turned the sword in his hand, its weight heavier than it had been. The sword of truth.

What had the truth been in the end? What was the truth, even now?

Erawan had done this, slaughtered and enslaved so many, so he might see his brothers again. He wanted to conquer their world, punish it, but he’d wanted to be reunited with them. Millennia apart, and Erawan had not forgotten his brothers. Longed for them.

Would he have done the same for Chaol? For Hollin? Would he have destroyed a world to find them again?

Damaris’s black blade didn’t reflect the light. It didn’t gleam at all.

Dorian still tightened his hand around the golden hilt and said, “I am human.”

It warmed in his hand.

He peered at the blade. Gavin’s blade. A relic from a time when Adarlan had been a land of peace and plenty.

And it would be that way once more.

“I am human,” he repeated, to the stars now visible above the city.

The sword didn’t answer again. As if it knew he no longer needed it.

Wings boomed, and then Abraxos was landing on the balcony. A white-haired rider atop him.

Dorian stood, blinking, as Manon Blackbeak dismounted. She scanned him, then the dark stain on the balcony stones.

Her golden eyes lifted to his. Weary, heavy—yet glowing. “Hello, princeling,” she breathed.

A smile bloomed on his mouth. “Hello, witchling.” He scanned the skies beyond her for the Thirteen, for Asterin Blackbeak, undoubtedly roaring her victory to the stars.

Manon said quietly, “You will not find them. In this sky, or any other.”

His heart strained as he understood. As the loss of those twelve fierce, brilliant lives carved another hole within him. One he would not forget, one he would honor. Silently, he crossed the balcony.

Manon did not back away as he slid his arms around her. “I am sorry,” he said into her hair.

Tentatively, slowly, her hands drifted across his back. Then settled, embracing him. “I miss them,” she whispered, shuddering.

Dorian only held her tighter, and let Manon lean on him for as long as she needed, Abraxos staring toward that blasted bit of earth on the plain, toward the mate who would never return, while the city below celebrated.


Aelin strode with Rowan up the steep streets of Orynth.

Her people lined those streets, candles in their hands. A river of light, of fire, that pointed the way home.

Straight to the castle gates.

To where Lord Darrow stood, Evangeline at his side. The girl beaming with joy.

Darrow’s face was stone-cold. Hard as the Staghorns beyond the city as he remained blocking the way.

Rowan let out a low growl, the sound echoed by Fenrys, a step behind them.

Yet Aelin let go of her mate’s hand, their crowns of flame winking out as she crossed the last few feet to the castle archway. To Darrow.

Silence fell down the illuminated, golden street.

He’d deny her entry. Here, before the world, he would throw her out. A final, shaming slap.

But Evangeline tugged on Darrow’s sleeve—as if in reminder.

It seemed to spur the old man into speech. “My young ward and I were told that when you went to face Erawan and Maeve, your magic was heavily depleted.”

“It was. And shall remain so forever.”

Darrow shook his head. “Why?”

Not about her magic being whittled to nothing. But why she had gone to face them, with little more than embers in her veins.

“Terrasen is my home,” Aelin said. It was the only answer in her heart.

Darrow smiled—just a bit. “So it is.” He bowed his head. Then his body. “Welcome,” he said, then added as he rose, “Your Majesty.”

But Aelin looked to Evangeline, the girl still beaming.

Win me back my kingdom, Evangeline.

Her order to the girl, all those months ago.

And she didn’t know how Evangeline had done it. How she had changed this old lord before them. Yet there was Darrow, gesturing to the gates, to the castle behind him.

Evangeline winked at Aelin, as if in confirmation.

Aelin just laughed, taking the girl by the hand, and led that promise of Terrasen’s bright future into the castle.


Every ancient, scarred hall brought her back. Snatched her breath away and set her tears running. At the memory, how they’d been. At how they now appeared, sad and worn. And what they would become once more.

Darrow led them toward the dining hall, to find whatever food and refreshment might be available in the dead of night, after such a battle.

Yet Aelin took one look at who waited in the faded grandeur of the Great Hall, and forgot about her hunger and thirst.

The entire hall grew silent as she hurtled for Aedion, and flung herself onto him so hard they rocked back a step.

Home at last; home together.

She had the vague sense of Lysandra joining Rowan and the others behind her, but didn’t turn. Not as her own joyous laugh died upon seeing Aedion’s haggard, weary face. The sorrow in it.

She laid a hand on his cheek. “I’m sorry.”

Aedion closed his eyes, leaning into her touch, mouth wobbling.

She didn’t remark on the shield across his back—her father’s shield. She had never realized he carried it.

Instead she asked softly, “Where is he?”

Wordlessly, Aedion led her from the dining hall. Down the winding passageways of the castle, their castle, to a small, candlelit room.

Gavriel had been laid on a table, a wool blanket obscuring the body she knew was shredded beneath. Only his handsome face visible, still noble and kind in death.

Aedion lingered by the doorway as Aelin walked up to the warrior. She knew Rowan and the others stood by him, her mate with a hand on Aedion’s shoulder. Knew Fenrys and Lorcan bowed their heads.

She stopped before the table where Gavriel had been laid. “I wished to wait to offer you the blood oath until after your son had taken it,” she said, her quiet voice echoing off the stones. “But I offer it to you now, Gavriel. With honor, and gratitude, I offer you the blood oath.” Her tears plopped onto the blanket covering him, and she wiped one away before drawing her dagger from the sheath at her side. She pulled his arm from beneath the covering.

A flick of the blade had her slicing his palm open. No blood flowed beyond a slight swelling. Yet she waited until a drop slid to the stones. Then opened up her own arm, dipped her fingers into the blood, and let three drops fall into his mouth.

“Let the world know,” Aelin said, voice breaking, “that you are a male of honor. That you stood by your son, and this kingdom, and helped to save it.” She kissed the cold brow. “You are blood-sworn to me. And you shall be buried here as such.” She pulled away, stroking his cheek once. “Thank you.”

It was all there was left to say.

When she turned away, it was not Aedion alone who had tears streaking down his face.

She left them there. The cadre, the brotherhood, who now wished to say farewell in their own way.

Fenrys, his bloodied face still untended, sank to a knee beside the table. A heartbeat later, Lorcan did the same.

She’d reached the door when Rowan knelt as well. And began to sing the ancient words—the words of mourning, as old and sacred as Terrasen itself. The same prayers she’d once sung and chanted while he’d tattooed her.

Rowan’s clear, deep voice filling the room, Aelin looped her arm through Aedion’s, and let him lean on her as they walked back to the Great Hall. “Darrow called me ‘Your Majesty,’ ” she said after a minute.

Aedion slid his red-rimmed eyes to her. But a spark lit them—just a bit. “Should we be worried?”

Aelin’s mouth curved. “I thought the same damn thing.”


So many witches. There were so many witches, Ironteeth and Crochan, in the halls of the castle.

Elide scanned their faces as she worked with the healers in the Great Hall. A dark lord and dark queen defeated—yet the wounded remained. And since she had strength left in her, she would help in whatever way she could.

But when a white-haired witch limped into the hall, an injured Crochan slung between her and another witch Elide did not recognize … Elide was halfway across the space, across the hall where she had spent so many happy childhood days, by the time she realized she’d moved.

Manon paused at the sight of her. Gave the wounded Crochan over to her sister-in-arms. But made no move to approach.

Elide saw the sorrow on her face before she reached her. The dullness and pain in the golden eyes.

She went still. “Who?”

Manon’s throat bobbed. “All.”

All of the Thirteen. All those fierce, brilliant witches. Gone.

Elide put a hand to her heart, as if it could stop it from cracking.

But Manon closed the distance between them, and even with that grief in her battered, bloodied face, she put a hand on Elide’s shoulder. In comfort.

As if the witch had learned how to do such things.

Elide’s vision stung and blurred, and Manon wiped away the tear that escaped.

“Live, Elide,” was all the witch said to her before striding out of the hall once more. “Live.”

Manon vanished into the teeming hallway, braid swaying. And Elide wondered if the command had been meant for her at all.

Hours later, Elide found Lorcan standing vigil by Gavriel’s body.

When she’d heard, she had wept for the male who had shown her such kindness. And from the way Lorcan knelt before Gavriel, she knew he had just finished doing the same.

Sensing her in the doorway, Lorcan rose to his feet, an aching, slow movement of the truly exhausted. There was indeed sorrow on his face. Grief and regret.

She held open her arms, and Lorcan’s breath heaved out of him as he pulled her against him.

“I hear,” he said onto her hair, “that you’re to thank for Erawan’s destruction.”

Elide withdrew from his embrace, leading him from that room of sadness and candlelight. “Yrene is,” she said, walking until she found a quiet spot near a bank of windows overlooking the celebrating city. “I just came up with the idea.”

“Without the idea, we’d be filling the bellies of Erawan’s beasts.”

Elide rolled her eyes, despite all that had happened, all that lay before them. “It was a group effort, then.” She bit her lip. “Perranth—have you heard anything from Perranth?”

“A ruk rider arrived a few hours ago. It is the same there as it is here: with Erawan’s demise, the soldiers holding the city either collapsed or fled. Its people have reclaimed control, but those who were possessed will need healers. A group of them will be flown over tomorrow to begin.”

Relief threatened to buckle her knees. “Thank Anneith for that. Or Silba, I suppose.”

“They’re both gone. Thank yourself.”

Elide waved him off, but Lorcan kissed her.

When he pulled away, Elide breathed, “What was that for?”

“Ask me to stay,” was all he said.

Her heart began racing. “Stay,” she whispered.

Light, such beautiful light filled his dark eyes. “Ask me to come to Perranth with you.”

Her voice broke, but she managed to say, “Come to Perranth with me.”

Lorcan nodded, as if in answer, and his smile was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. “Ask me to marry you.”

Elide began crying, even as she laughed. “Will you marry me, Lorcan Salvaterre?”

He swept her up into his arms, raining kisses over her face. As if some final, chained part of him had been freed. “I’ll think about it.”

Elide laughed, smacking his shoulder. And then laughed again, louder.

Lorcan set her down. “What?”

Elide’s mouth bobbed as she tried to stop her laughing. “It’s just … I’m Lady of Perranth. If you marry me, you will take my family name.”

He blinked.

Elide laughed again. “Lord Lorcan Lochan?”

It sounded just as ridiculous coming out.

Lorcan blinked at her, then howled.

She’d never heard such a joyous sound.

He swept her up in his arms again, spinning her. “I’ll use it with pride every damned day for the rest of my life,” he said into her hair, and when he set her down, his smile had vanished. Replaced by an infinite tenderness as he brushed back her hair, hooking it over an ear. “I will marry you, Elide Lochan. And proudly call myself Lord Lorcan Lochan, even when the whole kingdom laughs to hear it.” He kissed her, gently and lovingly. “And when we are wed,” he whispered, “I will bind my life to yours. So we will never know a day apart. Never be alone, ever again.”

Elide covered her face with her hands and sobbed, at the heart he offered, at the immortality he was willing to part with for her. For them.

But Lorcan clasped her wrists, gently prying her hands from her face. His smile was tentative. “If you would like that,” he said.

Elide slid her arms around his neck, feeling his thundering heartbeat raging against hers, letting his warmth sink into her bones. “I would like that more than anything,” she whispered back.




Yrene slumped onto the three-legged stool amid the chaos of the Great Hall. The story was familiar, though the setting slightly altered: another mighty chamber turned into a temporary sick bay. Dawn was not far off, yet she and the other healers kept working. Those bleeding out wouldn’t be able to survive without them.

Human and Fae and witch and Wolf—Yrene had never seen such an assortment of people in one place.

Elide had come in at some point, glowing despite the injured around them.

Yrene supposed they all wore that same smile. Though her own had faltered in the past hour, as exhaustion settled in. She’d been forced to rest after dealing with Erawan, and had waited until her well of power had refilled only just enough to begin working again.

She couldn’t sit still. Not when she saw the thing that lay beneath Erawan’s skin every time she closed her eyes. Forever gone, yes, but … she wondered when she’d forget him. The dark, oily feel of him. Hours ago, she hadn’t been able to tell if the retching that ensued was from the memory of him or the babe in her womb.

“You should find that husband of yours and go to bed,” Hafiza said, hobbling over and frowning. “When was the last time you slept?”

Yrene lifted her head—heavier than it had been minutes ago. “The last time you did, I’d wager.” Two days ago.

Hafiza clicked her tongue. “Slaying a dark lord, healing the wounded … It’s a wonder you’re not unconscious right now, Yrene.”

Yrene was about to be, but the disapproval in Hafiza’s voice steeled her spine. “I can work.”

“I’m ordering you to find that dashing husband of yours and go to sleep. On behalf of the child in your womb.”

Och. When the Healer on High put it like that …

Yrene groaned as she stood. “You’re merciless.”

Hafiza just patted her shoulder. “Good healers know when to rest. Exhaustion makes for sloppy decisions. And sloppy decisions—”

“Cost lives,” Yrene finished. She lifted her eyes toward the vaulted ceiling high, high above. “You never stop teaching, do you?”

Hafiza’s mouth cracked into a grin. “This is life, Yrene. We never stop learning. Even at my age.”

Yrene had long suspected that love of learning was what had kept the Healer on High young at heart all these years. She just smiled back at her mentor.

But Hafiza’s eyes softened. Grew contemplative. “We will remain for as long as we are needed—until the khagan’s soldiers can be transported home. We’ll leave some behind to tend for any remaining wounded, but in a few weeks, we will go.”

Yrene’s throat tightened. “I know.”

“And you,” Hafiza went on, taking her hand, “will not return with us.”

Her eyes burned, but Yrene whispered, “No, I won’t.”

Hafiza squeezed Yrene’s fingers, her hand warm. Strong as steel. “I shall have to find myself a new heir apparent, then.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Whatever for?” Hafiza chuckled. “You have found love, and happiness, Yrene. There is nothing more that I could ever wish for you.”

Yrene wiped away the tear that slipped out. “I just—I don’t want you to think I wasted your time—”

Hafiza crowed with laughter. “Wasted my time? Yrene Towers—Yrene Westfall.” The ancient woman cupped Yrene’s face with her strong, ancient hands. “You have saved us all.” Yrene closed her eyes as Hafiza pressed a kiss to her brow. A blessing and a farewell.

“You will stay in these lands,” Hafiza said, her smile unwavering. “But even with the ocean dividing us, we will remain linked here.” She touched her chest, right over her heart. “And no matter the years, you will forever have a place at the Torre. Always.”

Yrene put a shaking hand over her own heart and nodded.

Hafiza squeezed her shoulder and made to walk back to her patients.

But Yrene said, “What if—”

Hafiza turned, brows rising. “Yes?”

Yrene swallowed. “What if, once I have settled in Adarlan, and had this babe … When the time is right, what if I established my own Torre here?”

Hafiza cocked her head, as if listening to the cadence of the statement while it echoed into her heart. “A Torre Cesme in the North.”

Yrene went on, “In Adarlan. In Rifthold. A new Torre to replenish what Erawan destroyed. To teach the children who might not realize they have the gift, and those who will be born with it.” Because many of the Fae streaming in from the battlefield were descendants of the healers who had gifted the Torre women with their powers—long ago. Perhaps they would wish to help again.

Hafiza smiled anew. “I like that idea very much, Yrene Westfall.”

With that, the Healer on High walked back into the fray of healing and pain.

But Yrene remained standing there, a hand drifting to the slight swelling in her belly.

And she smiled—broad and unfalteringly—at the future that opened before her, bright as the oncoming dawn.


Sunrise was near, yet Manon could not sleep. Had not bothered to find a place to rest, not while the Crochans and Ironteeth remained injured, and she had not yet finished her count of how many had survived the battle. The war.

There was an empty space inside her where twelve souls had once burned fiercely.

Perhaps that was why she had not found her bed, not even when she knew Dorian had likely procured sleeping arrangements. Why she still lingered in the aerie, Abraxos dozing beside her, and stared out at the silent battlefield.

When the bodies were cleared, when the snows melted, when the spring came, would a blasted bit of earth linger on the plain before the city? Would it forever remain as such, a marker of where they fell?

“We have a final count,” Bronwen said behind her, and Manon found the Crochan and Glennis emerging from the tower stairwell, Petrah at their heels.

Manon braced herself for it as she waved a hand in silent request.

Bad. But not as bad as it could have been.

When Manon opened her eyes, the three of them only stared at her. Ironteeth and Crochan, standing together in peace. As allies.

“We’ll collect the dead tomorrow,” Manon said, her voice low. “And burn them at moonrise.” As both Crochans and Ironteeth did. A full moon tomorrow—the Mother’s Womb. A good moon to be burned. To be returned to the Three-Faced Goddess, and reborn within that womb.

“And after that?” Petrah asked. “What then?”

Manon looked from Petrah to Glennis and Bronwen. “What should you like to do?”

Glennis said softly, “Go home.”

Manon swallowed. “You and the Crochans may leave whenever you—”

“To the Wastes,” Glennis said. “Together.”

Manon and Petrah swapped a glance. Petrah said, “We cannot.”

Bronwen’s lips curved upward. “You can.”

Manon blinked. And blinked again as Bronwen extended a fist toward Manon and opened it.

Inside lay a pale purple flower, small as Manon’s thumbnail. Beautiful and delicate.

“A bastion of Crochans just made it here—a bit late, but they heard the call and came. All the way from the Wastes.”

Manon stared and stared at that purple flower.

“They brought this with them. From the plain before the Witch-City.”

The barren, bloodied plain. The land that had yielded no flowers, no life beyond grass and moss and—

Manon’s sight blurred, and Glennis took her hand, guiding it toward Bronwen’s before the witch tipped the flower into Manon’s palm. “Only together can it be undone,” Glennis whispered. “Be the bridge. Be the light.”

A bridge between their two peoples, as Manon had become.

A light—as the Thirteen had exploded with light, not darkness, in their final moments.

“When iron melts,” Petrah murmured, her blue eyes swimming with tears.

The Thirteen had melted that tower. Melted the Ironteeth within it. And themselves.

“When flowers spring from fields of blood,” Bronwen went on.

Manon’s knees buckled as she stared out at that battlefield. Where countless flowers had been laid atop the blood and ruins where the Thirteen had met their end.

Glennis finished, “Let the land be witness.”

The battlefield where the rulers and citizens of so many kingdoms, so many nations, had come to pay tribute. To witness the sacrifice of the Thirteen and honor them.

Silence fell, and Manon whispered, her voice shaking as she held that small, impossibly precious flower in her palm, “And return home.”

Glennis bowed her head. “And so the curse is broken. And so we shall go home together—as one people.”

The curse was broken.

Manon just stared at them, her breathing turning jagged.

Then she roused Abraxos, and was in the saddle within heartbeats. She did not offer them any explanation, any farewell, as they leaped into the thinning night.

As she guided her wyvern to the bit of blasted earth on the battlefield. Right to its heart.

And smiling through her tears, laughing in joy and sorrow, Manon laid that precious flower from the Wastes upon the ground.

In thanks and in love.

So they would know, so Asterin would know, in the realm where she and her hunter and child walked hand in hand, that they had made it.

That they were going home.


Aelin wanted to, but could not sleep. Had ignored the offers to find her a room, a bed, in the chaos of the castle.

Instead, she and Rowan had gone to the Great Hall, to talk to the wounded, to offer what help they could for those who needed it most.

The lost Fae of Terrasen, their giant wolves and adopted human clan with them, wanted to speak to her as much as the citizens of Orynth. How they had found the Wolf Tribe a decade ago, how they’d fallen in with them in the wilds of the mountains and hinterlands beyond, was a tale she’d soon learn. The world would learn.

Their healers filled the Great Hall, joining the Torre women. All descended from those in the southern continent—and apparently trained by them, too. Dozens of fresh healers, each bearing badly needed supplies. They fell seamlessly into work alongside those from the Torre. As if they had been doing so for centuries.

And when the healers both human and Fae had shooed them out, Aelin had wandered.

Each hallway and floor, peering into the rooms so full of ghosts and memory. Rowan had walked at her side, a quiet, unfaltering presence.

Level by level they went, rising ever higher.

They were nearing the top of the north tower when dawn broke.

The morning was brutally cold, even more so atop the tower standing high over the world, but the day would be clear. Bright.

“So there it is,” Aelin said, nodding toward the dark stain on the balcony stones. “Where Erawan met his end at the hands of a healer.” She frowned. “I hope it will wash off.”

Rowan snorted, and when she looked over her shoulder, the wind whipping her hair, she found him leaning against the stairwell door, his arms crossed.

“I mean it,” she said. “It’ll be odious to have his mess there. And I plan to use this balcony to sun myself. He’ll ruin it.”

Rowan chuckled, and pushed off the door, going to the balcony rail. “If it doesn’t wash off, we’ll throw a rug over it.”

Aelin laughed, and joined him, leaning into his warmth as the sun gilded the battlefield, the river, the Staghorns. “Well, now you’ve seen every hall and room and stairwell. What do you make of your new home?”

“A little small, but we’ll manage.”

Aelin nudged him with an elbow, and jerked her chin to the nearby western tower. Where the north tower was tall, the western tower was wide. Grand. Near its upper levels, hanging over the perilous drop, a walled stone garden glowed in the sunlight. The king’s garden.

Queen’s, she supposed.

There had been nothing left but a tangle of thorns and snow. Yet she still remembered it, when it had belonged to Orlon. The roses and drooping latticework of wisteria, the fountains that had streamed right over the edge of the garden and into the open air below, the apple tree with blossoms like clumps of snow in the spring.

“I never realized how convenient it would be for Fleetfoot,” she said of the secret, private garden. Reserved only for the royal family. Sometimes just for the king or queen themselves. “To not have to run down the tower stairs every time she needs to pee.”

“I’m sure your ancestors had canine bathroom habits in mind when they built it.”

“I would have,” Aelin grumbled.

“Oh, I believe it,” Rowan said, smirking. “But can you explain to me why we’re not in there right now, sleeping?”

“In the garden?”

He flicked her nose. “In the suite beyond the garden. Our bedroom.”

She’d led him quickly through the space. Still preserved well enough, despite the disrepair of the rest of the castle. One of the Adarlanian cronies had undoubtedly used it. “I want it cleaned of any trace of Adarlan before I stay in there,” she admitted.


She heaved a breath, sucking down the morning air.

Aelin heard them before she saw them, scented them. And when they turned, they found Lorcan and Elide walking onto the tower balcony, Aedion, Lysandra, and Fenrys trailing. Ren Allsbrook, tentative and wary-eyed, emerged behind them.

How they’d known where to find them, why they’d come, Aelin had no idea. Fenrys’s wounds had closed at least, though twin, red scars slashed from his brow to his jaw. He didn’t seem to notice—or care.

She also didn’t fail to note the hand Lorcan kept on Elide’s back. The glow on the lady’s face.

Aelin could guess well enough what that glow was from. Even Lorcan’s dark eyes were bright.

It didn’t stop Aelin from catching Lorcan’s stare. And giving him a warning look that conveyed everything she didn’t bother to say: if he broke the Lady of Perranth’s heart, she’d flambé him. And would invite Manon Blackbeak to roast some dinner over his burning corpse.

Lorcan rolled his eyes, and Aelin deemed that acceptance enough as she asked them all, “Did anyone bother to sleep?”

Only Fenrys lifted his hand.

Aedion frowned at the dark stain on the stones.

“We’re putting a rug over it,” Aelin told him.

Lysandra laughed. “Something tacky, I hope.”

“I’m thinking pink and purple. Embroidered with flowers. Just what Erawan would have loved.”

The Fae males gaped at them, Ren blinking. Elide ducked her head as she chuckled.

Rowan snorted again. “At least this court won’t be boring.”

Aelin put a hand on her chest, the portrait of outrage. “You were honestly worried it would be?”

“Gods help us,” Lorcan grumbled. Elide elbowed him.

Aedion said to Ren, the young lord lingering by the archway, as if still debating making a quick exit, “Now’s the chance to escape, you know. Before you get sucked into this endless nonsense.”

But Ren’s dark eyes met Aelin’s. Scanned them.

She’d heard about Murtaugh. Knew now was not the time to mention it, the loss dimming his eyes. So she kept her face open. Honest. Warm. “We could always use one more to partake in the nonsense,” Aelin said, an invisible hand outstretched.

Ren scanned her again. “You gave up everything and still came back here. Still fought.”

“All of it for Terrasen,” she said quietly.

“Yes, I know,” Ren said, the scar down his face stark in the rising sun. “I understand that now.” He offered her a small smile. “I think I might need a bit of nonsense myself, after this war.”

Aedion muttered, “You’ll regret saying that.”

But Aelin sketched a bow. “Oh, he certainly will.” She smirked at the males assembled. “I swear to you, I won’t bore you to tears. A queen’s oath.”

“And what will not boring us entail, then?” Aedion asked.

“Rebuilding,” Elide said. “Lots of rebuilding.”

“Trade negotiations,” Lysandra said.

“Training a new generation in magic,” Aelin went on.

Again, the males blinked at them.

Aelin angled her head, blinking right back at them. “Don’t you lot have anything worthwhile to contribute?” She clicked her tongue. “Three of you are ancient as hell, you know. I’d have expected better from cranky old bastards.”

Their nostrils flared. Aedion grinned, Ren wisely clamping his lips together to keep from doing the same.

But Fenrys said, “Four. Four of us are old as hell.”

Aelin arched a brow.

Fenrys smirked, the movement stretching his scars. “Vaughan is still out there. And now free.”

Rowan crossed his arms. “He’ll never be caught again.”

But Fenrys’s smirk turned knowing. He pointed to the camped Fae army on the plain, the wolves and humans amongst them. “I have a feeling someone down there might know where we could start.” He glanced at Aelin. “If you’d be amenable to another cranky old bastard joining this court.”

Aelin shrugged. “If you can convince him, I don’t see why not.” Rowan smiled at that, and scanned the sky, as if he could see his missing friend soaring there.

Fenrys winked. “I promise he’s not as miserable as Lorcan.” Elide smacked his arm, and Fenrys darted away, hands up as he laughed. “You’ll like him,” he promised Aelin. “All the ladies do,” he added with another wink to her, Lysandra, and Elide.

Aelin laughed, the sound lighter, freer than any she had made, and faced the stirring kingdom. “We promised everyone a better world,” she said after a moment, voice solemn. “So we’ll start with that.”

“Starting small,” Fenrys said. “I like it.”

Aelin smirked at him. “I rather liked the whole let’s-vote-on-the-Wyrdkeys thing we did. So we’ll start with more of that, too.”

Silence. Then Lysandra asked, “Voting on what?”

Aelin shrugged, sliding her hands into her pockets. “Things.”

Aedion arched a brow. “Like dinner?”

Aelin rolled her eyes. “Yes, on dinner. Dinner by committee.”

Elide coughed. “I think Aelin means on vital things. On how to run this kingdom.”

“You’re queen,” Lorcan said. “What’s there to vote on?”

“People should have a say in how they are governed. Policies that impact them. They should have a say in how this kingdom is rebuilt.” Aelin lifted her chin. “I will be queen, and my children …” Her cheeks heated as she smiled toward Rowan. “Our children,” she said a bit softly, “will rule. One day. But Terrasen should have a voice. Each territory, regardless of the lords who rule it, should have a voice. One chosen by its people.”

The cadre looked toward one another then. Rowan said, “There was a kingdom—to the east. Long ago. They believed in such things.” Pride glowed in his eyes, brighter than the dawn. “It was a place of peace and learning. A beacon in a distant and violent part of the world. Once the Library of Orynth is rebuilt, we’ll ask the scholars to find what they can about it.”

“We could reach out to the kingdom itself,” Fenrys said. “See if some of their scholars or leaders might want to come here. To help us.” He shrugged. “I could do it. Travel there, if you wish.”

She knew he meant it—to travel as their emissary. Perhaps to work through all he’d seen and endured. To make peace with the loss of his brother. With himself. She had a feeling the scars down his face would only fade when he willed it.

But Aelin nodded. And while she’d gladly send Fenrys wherever he wished—“The library?” she blurted.

Rowan only smiled. “And the Royal Theater.”

“There was no theater—not like in Rifthold.”

Rowan’s smile grew. “There will be.”

Aelin waved him off. “Need I remind you that despite winning this war, we are no longer flush with gold?”

Rowan slid his arm around her shoulders. “Need I remind you that since you beheaded Maeve, I am a Prince of Doranelle once again, with access to my assets and estates? And that with Maeve outed as an imposter, half of her wealth goes to you … and the other to the Whitethorns?”

Aelin blinked at him slowly. The others grinned. Even Lorcan.

Rowan kissed her. “A new library and Royal Theater,” he murmured onto her mouth. “Consider them my mating presents to you, Fireheart.”

Aelin pulled back, scanning his face. Read the sincerity and conviction.

And, throwing her arms around him, laughing to the lightening sky, she burst into tears.


It was to be a day for many meetings, Aelin decided as she stood in a near-empty, dusty chamber and smiled at her allies. Her friends.

Ansel of Briarcliff, bruised and scratched, smiled back. “Your shifter was a good liar,” she said. “I’m ashamed I didn’t notice it myself.”

Prince Galan, equally battered, huffed a laugh. “In my defense, I’ve never met you.” He inclined his head to Aelin. “So, hello, cousin.”

Aelin, leaning against the half-decayed desk that served as the lone piece of furniture in the room, smirked at him. “I saw you from a distance—once.”

Galan’s Ashryver eyes sparked. “I’m going to assume it was during your former profession and thank you for not killing me.”

Aelin chuckled, even as Rolfe rolled his eyes. “Yes, Privateer?”

Rolfe waved a tattooed hand, blood still clinging beneath his nails. “I’ll refrain from commenting.”

Aelin smirked. “You’re the Heir to the Mycenian people,” she said. “Petty squabbles are now beneath you.”

Ansel snorted. Rolfe shot her a look.

“What do you intend to do with them now?” Aelin asked. She supposed the rest of her court should have been here, but when she’d dispatched Evangeline to round up their allies, she’d opted to let them rest. Rowan, at least, had gone to seek out Endymion and Sellene. The latter, it seemed, was about to learn a great deal regarding her own future. The future of Doranelle.

Rolfe shrugged. “We’ll have to decide where to go. Whether to return to Skull’s Bay, or …” His sea-green eyes narrowed.

“Or?” Aelin asked sweetly.

“Or decide if we’d rather rebuild our old home in Ilium.”

“Why not decide yourself?” Ansel asked.

Rolfe waved a tattoed hand. “They offered up their lives to fight in this war. They should be able to choose where they wish to live after it.”

“Wise,” Aelin said, clicking her tongue. Rolfe stiffened, but relaxed upon seeing the warmth in her gaze. But she looked to Ilias, the assassin’s armor dented and scratched. “Did you speak at all this entire war?”

“No,” Ansel answered for him. The Mute Master’s son looked to the young queen. Held her stare.

Aelin blinked at the look that passed between them. No animosity—no fear. She could have sworn Ansel flushed.

Sparing her old friend, Aelin said to them all, “Thank you.”

They faced her again.

She swallowed, and put a hand over her heart. “Thank you for coming when I asked. Thank you on behalf of Terrasen. I am in your debt.”

“We were in your debt,” Ansel countered.

“I wasn’t,” Rolfe muttered.

Aelin flashed him a grin. “We’re going to have fun, you and I.” She surveyed her allies, worn and battle-weary, but still standing. All of them still standing. “I think we’re going to have a great deal of fun.”


At midday, Aelin found Manon in one of the witches’ aeries, Abraxos staring out toward the battlefield.

Bandages peppered his sides and wings. And covered the former Wing Leader.

“Queen of the Crochans and the Ironteeth,” Aelin said by way of greeting, letting out a low whistle that had Manon turning slowly. Aelin picked at her nails. “Impressive.”

Yet the face that turned toward her—

Exhaustion. Grief.

“I heard,” Aelin said quietly, lowering her hands but not approaching.

Manon said nothing, her silence conveying everything Aelin needed to know.

No, she was not all right. Yes, it had destroyed her. No, she did not wish to talk about it.

Aelin only said, “Thank you.”

Manon nodded vaguely. So Aelin walked toward the witch, then past her. Right to where Abraxos sat, gazing toward Theralis. The blasted patch of earth.

Her heart strained at the sight of it. The wyvern and the earth and the witch behind her. But Aelin sat down beside the wyvern. Brushed a hand over his leathery head. He leaned into her touch.

“There will be a monument,” she said to Abraxos, to Manon. “Should you wish it, I will build a monument right there. So no one shall ever forget what was given. Who we have to thank.”

Wind sang through the tower, hollow and brisk. But then footsteps crunched in hay, and Manon sat down beside her.

Yet Aelin did not speak again, and asked no more questions. And Manon, realizing it, let her shoulders curve inward, let her head bow. As she might never do with anyone else. As no one else might understand—the weight they both bore.

In silence, the two queens stared toward the decimated field. Toward the future beyond it.




It took ten days for everything to be arranged.

Ten days to clear out the throne room, to scrub the lower halls, to find the food and cooks they needed. Ten days to clean the royal suite, to find proper clothing, and outfit the throne room in queenly splendor.

Evergreen garlands hung from the pews and rafters, and as Rowan stood on the dais of the throne room, monitoring the assembled crowd, he had to admit that Lysandra had done an impressive job. Candles flickered everywhere, and fresh snow had fallen the night before, covering the scars still lingering from battle.

At his side, Aedion shifted on his feet, Lorcan and Fenrys looking straight ahead.

All of them washed and brushed and wearing clothes that made them look … princely.

Rowan didn’t care. His green jacket, threaded with silver, was the least practical thing he’d ever donned. At his side, at least, he bore his sword, Goldryn hanging from his other hip.

Thankfully, Lorcan looked as uncomfortable as he did, clad in black. If you wore anything else, Aelin had tutted to Lorcan, the world would turn on its head. So burial-black it is.

Lorcan had rolled his eyes. But Rowan had glimpsed Elide’s face when he’d spotted her and Lysandra in the hall off the throne room moments before. Had seen the love and desire when she beheld Lorcan in his new clothes. And wondered how soon this hall would be hosting a wedding.

A glance at Aedion, clad in Terrasen green as well, and Rowan smiled slightly. Two weddings, likely before the summer. Though neither Lysandra nor Aedion had mentioned it.

The last of their guests finished filing into the packed space, and Rowan surveyed the rulers and allies seated in the front rows. Ansel of Briarcliff kept fidgeting in her equally new pants and jacket, Rolfe draping an arm over the pew behind her as he smirked at her discomfort. Ilias, clad in the white, layered clothes of his people, sat on Ansel’s other side, the portrait of unruffled calm. A row ahead, Galan lounged in his princely regalia, chin high. He winked as his Ashryver eyes met Rowan’s.

Rowan only inclined his chin back to the young man. And then inclined it toward his cousins, Enda and Sellene, seated near the aisle, the latter of whom had needed a good few hours of sitting in silence when Rowan had told her that she was now Queen of Doranelle. The Fae Queen of the East.

His silver-haired cousin hadn’t dressed for her new title today, though—like Enda, she had opted for whatever clothing was the least battle-worn.

Such changes would come to Doranelle—ones Rowan knew he could not predict. The Whitethorn family would rule, Mora’s line restored to power at last, but it would remain up to them, up to Sellene, how that reign would shape itself. How the Fae would choose to shape themselves without a dark queen lording over them.

How many of those Fae would choose to stay here, in Terrasen, would remain to be seen. How many would wish to build a life in this war-torn kingdom, to opt for years of hard rebuilding over returning to ease and wealth? The Fae warriors he’d encountered these two weeks had given him no indication, yet he’d seen a few of them gaze toward the Staghorns, toward Oakwald, with longing. As if they, too, heard the wild call of the wind.

Then there was the other factor: the Fae who had dwelled here before Terrasen’s fall. Who had answered Aelin’s desperate plea, and had returned to their hidden home amongst the Wolf Tribe in the hinterlands to prepare for the journey here. To return to Terrasen at last. And perhaps bring some of those wolves with them.

He’d work to make this kingdom worthy of their return. Worthy of all who lived here, human or Fae or witch-kind. A kingdom as great as it had once been—greater. As great as what dwelled in the far South, across the Narrow Sea, proof that a land of peace and plenty could exist.

The khaganate royals had told him much about their kingdom these days—their policies, their peoples. They now sat together on the other side of the throne room, Chaol and Dorian with them. Yrene and Nesryn also sat there, both lovely in dresses that Rowan could only assume had been borrowed. There were no shops open—and none with supplies. Indeed, it was a miracle that any of them had clean clothes at all.

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