Chapter no 13

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Aelin didn’t know whether she should be comforted by the fact that despite the changes two years had heaped upon her life, despite the hells she’d walked through, the Assassins’ Keep hadn’t altered. The hedges flanking the towering wrought-iron fence around the property were the exact same height, still trimmed with masterful precision; the curving gravel drive beyond still bore the same gray stones; and the sweeping manor home was still pale and elegant, its polished oak doors gleaming in the midmorning sunlight.

No one on the quiet residential street paused to look at the house that held some of the fiercest assassins in Erilea. For years now, the Assassins’ Keep had remained anonymous, unremarkable, one of many palatial homes in a wealthy southwestern district of Rifthold. Right under the King of Adarlan’s nose.

The iron gates were open, and the assassins disguised as common watchmen were unfamiliar to her as she strolled down the drive. But they didn’t stop her, despite the suit and weapons she wore, despite the hood covering her features.

Night would have been better for sneaking across the city. Another test

—to see if she could make it here in daylight without attracting too much attention. Thankfully, most of the city was preoccupied with preparations for the prince’s birthday celebrations the next day: vendors were already out, selling everything from little cakes to flags bearing the Adarlanian wyvern to blue ribbons (to match the prince’s eyes, of course). It made her stomach turn.

Getting here undetected had been a minor test, though, compared to the one looming before her. And the one waiting tomorrow.

Aedion—every breath she took seemed to echo his name. Aedion, Aedion, Aedion.

But she shoved away the thought of him—of what might have already been done to him in those dungeons—as she strode up the expansive front steps of the Keep.

She hadn’t been in this house since the night everything had gone to hell.

There, to her right, were the stables where she’d knocked Wesley unconscious as he tried to warn her about the trap that had been laid for her. And there, a level up, looking out over the front garden, were the three windows of her old bedroom. They were open, the heavy velvet curtains blowing in the cool spring breeze, as if the room were being aired out for her. Unless Arobynn had given her quarters to someone else.

The carved oak doors swung open as she hit the top step, revealing a butler she’d never seen before, who bowed nonetheless and gestured behind him. Just past the grand marble foyer, the double doors of Arobynn’s study were open wide.

She didn’t glance at the threshold as she passed over it, sweeping into the house that had been a haven and a prison and a hellhole.

Gods, this house. Beneath the vaulted ceilings and glass chandeliers of the entry hall, the marble floors were polished so brightly that she could see her own dark reflection as she walked.

Not a soul in sight, not even wretched Tern. They were either out or under orders to stay away until this meeting was done—as though Arobynn didn’t want to be overheard.

The smell of the Keep wrapped around her, tugging at her memory. Fresh-cut flowers and baking bread barely masked the tang of metal, or the lightning-crisp feeling of violence throughout.

Every step toward that ornate study had her bracing herself.

There he was, seated at the massive desk, his auburn hair like molten steel in the sunlight pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling windows flanking one side of the wood-paneled room. She shut out the information she’d learned in Wesley’s letter and kept her posture loose, casual.

But she couldn’t help glancing at the rug before the desk—a movement Arobynn either noted or expected. “A new rug,” he said, looking up from the papers before him. “The bloodstains on the other one never really came out.”

“Pity,” she said, slumping into one of the chairs before his desk, trying not to look at the chair beside hers, where Sam had usually sat. “The other rug was prettier.”

Until her blood had soaked it when Arobynn had beaten her for ruining his slave trade agreement, making Sam watch the entire time. And when she was unconscious, he’d beaten Sam into oblivion, too.

She wondered which of the scars on Arobynn’s knuckles were from those beatings.

She heard the butler approach, but didn’t deign to look at him as Arobynn said, “We’re not to be disturbed.” The butler murmured his understanding, and the study doors clicked shut.

Aelin slung a leg over the arm of her chair. “To what do I owe this summoning?”

Arobynn rose, a fluid movement limned with restrained power, and came around the desk to lean against its edge. “I merely wanted to see how you were doing the day before your grand event.” His silver eyes flickered. “I wanted to wish you luck.”

“And to see if I was going to betray you?” “Why would I ever think that?”

“I don’t think you want to get into a conversation about trust right now.”

“Certainly not. Not when you need all your focus for tomorrow. So many little things that could go wrong. Especially if you’re caught.”

She felt the dagger of the implied threat slide between her ribs. “You know I don’t break easily under torture.”

Arobynn crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Of course not. I expect nothing less from my protégée than to shield me if the king catches you.”

So that explained the summons.

“I never asked,” Arobynn went on. “Will you be doing this as Celaena?”

As good a time as any to cast a bored glance around the study, ever the irreverent protégée. Nothing on the desk, nothing on the shelves, not even a box that might contain the Amulet of Orynth. She allowed herself one sweep before turning indolent eyes on him. “I hadn’t planned on leaving a calling card.”

“And what explanation will you give your cousin when you are reunited? The same you gave the noble captain?” She didn’t want to know how he was aware of that disaster. She hadn’t told Lysandra— since Lysandra still had no idea who she was. She’d think about it later.

“I’ll tell Aedion the truth.”

“Well, let’s hope that’s excuse enough for him.”

It was a physical effort to clamp down on her retort. “I’m tired and don’t feel like having a verbal sparring match today. Just tell me what you want so I can go soak in my tub.” Not a lie. Her muscles ached from tracking Valg foot soldiers across Rifthold the night before.

“You know my facilities are at your disposal.” Arobynn pinned his attention on her right leg, slung over the arm of the chair, as if he’d

somehow figured out that it was giving her trouble. As if he knew that the fight at the Vaults had somehow aggravated the old wound she’d received during her duel with Cain. “My healer could rub down that leg for you. I wouldn’t want you to be in pain. Or handicapped for tomorrow.”

Training kept her features bored. “You truly do like hearing yourself talk, don’t you?”

A sensual laugh. “Fine—no verbal sparring.” She waited, still lounging in the chair.

Arobynn ran an eye down the suit, and when his gaze met hers, there was only a cold, cruel killer staring out at her. “I have it on good authority that you’ve been monitoring patrols of the king’s guard—but leaving them undisturbed. Have you forgotten our little bargain?”

She smiled a little. “Of course not.”

“Then why is my promised demon not in my dungeon?” “Because I’m not capturing one until after Aedion is freed.” A blink.

“These things might lead the king right to you. To us. I’m not jeopardizing Aedion’s safety to satisfy your morbid curiosity. And who’s to say you won’t forget to help me when you’re busy playing with your new toy?”

Arobynn pushed off the desk and approached, bending over her chair close enough to share breath. “I’m a man of my word, Celaena.”

Again, that name.

He took a step back and cocked his head. “Though you, on the other hand … I recall you promising to kill Lysandra years ago. I was surprised when she returned unharmed.”

“You did your best to ensure that we hated each other. I figured why not go the opposite way for once? Turns out she’s not nearly as spoiled and selfish as you made me believe.” Ever the petulant protégée, ever the smart-ass. “Though if you want me to kill her, I’ll gladly turn my attention to that instead of the Valg.”

A soft laugh. “No need. She serves me well enough. Replaceable, though, should you decide you’d like to uphold your promise.”

“Was that the test, then? To see if I follow through on my promises?” Beneath her gloves, the mark she’d carved into her palm burned like a brand.

“It was a present.”

“Stick with jewelry and clothes.” She rose and glanced down at her suit. “Or useful things.”

His eyes followed hers and lingered. “You fill it out better than you did at seventeen.”

And that was quite enough. She clicked her tongue and turned away, but he gripped her arm—right where those invisible blades would snap out. He knew it, too. A dare; a challenge.

“You will need to lie low with your cousin once he escapes tomorrow,” Arobynn said. “Should you decide not to fulfill your end of the bargain … you’ll find out very quickly, Celaena darling, how deadly this city can be for those on the run—even fire-breathing bitch-queens.”

“No more declarations of love or offers to walk over coals for me?”

A sensual laugh. “You were always my favorite dance partner.” He came close enough to graze his lips against hers if she should sway a fraction of an inch. “If you want me to whisper sweet nothings into your ear, Majesty, I’ll do just that. But you’ll still get me what I need.”

She didn’t dare pull back. There was always such a gleaming in his silver eyes—like the cold light before dawn. She’d never been able to look away from it.

He angled his head, the sun catching in his auburn hair. “What about the prince, though?”

“Which prince?” she said carefully.

Arobynn gave a knowing smile, retreating a few inches. “There are three princes, I suppose. Your cousin, and then the two that now share Dorian Havilliard’s body. Does the brave captain know that his friend is currently being devoured by one of those demons?”


“Does he know that you might decide to do the smart thing and put the king’s son down before he can become a threat?”

She held his stare. “Why don’t you tell me? You’re the one who’s been meeting with him.”

His answering chuckle sent ice skittering over her bones. “So the captain has a hard time sharing with you. He seems to share everything just fine with his former lover—that Faliq girl. Did you know that her father makes the best pear tarts in the entire capital? He’s even supplying some for the prince’s birthday. Ironic, isn’t it?”

It was her turn to blink. She’d known Chaol had at least one lover other than Lithaen, but … Nesryn? And how convenient for him not to tell her, especially when he’d thrown whatever nonsense he believed about her and Rowan in her face. Your faerie prince, he’d snapped. She doubted Chaol had done anything with the young woman since she’d left

for Wendlyn, but … But she was feeling exactly what Arobynn wanted her to feel.

“Why don’t you stay out of our business, Arobynn?”

“Don’t you want to know why the captain came to me again last night?”

Bastards, both of them. She’d warned Chaol not to tangle with Arobynn. To reveal that she didn’t know or to conceal that vulnerability

… Chaol wouldn’t jeopardize her safety or her plans for tomorrow, regardless of what information he kept from her. She smirked at Arobynn. “No. I was the one who sent him there.” She sauntered toward the study doors. “You must truly be bored if you summoned me merely to taunt me.”

A glimmer of amusement. “Good luck tomorrow. All the plans are in place, in case you were worried.”

“Of course they are. I’d expect nothing less from you.” She flung open one of the doors and waved her hand in lazy dismissal. “See you around, Master.”



Aelin visited at the Royal Bank again on her way home, and when she returned to her apartment, Lysandra was waiting, as they’d planned.

Even better, Lysandra had brought food. Lots of food.

Aelin plunked down at the kitchen table where Lysandra currently lounged.

The courtesan was gazing toward the wide window above the kitchen sink. “You do realize you’ve got a shadow on the roof next door, don’t you?”

“He’s harmless.” And useful. Chaol had men watching the Keep, the palace gates, and the apartment—all to monitor Arobynn. Aelin cocked her head. “Keen eyes?”

“Your master taught me a few tricks over the years. To protect myself, of course.” To protect his investment, was what she didn’t need to say. “You read the letter, I take it?”

“Every damn word.”

Indeed, she’d read through Wesley’s letter again and again, until she had memorized the dates and names and accounts, until she had seen so much fire that she was glad her magic was currently stifled. It changed little of her plans, but it helped. Now she knew she wasn’t wrong, that the names on her own list were correct. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it,” Aelin said. “Burning it was the only way to stay safe.”

Lysandra just nodded, picking at a piece of lint on the bodice of her rust-colored gown. The red sleeves were loose and billowing, with tight black velvet cuffs and gold buttons that glinted in the morning light as she reached for one of the hothouse grapes Aelin had bought yesterday. An elegant gown, but modest.

“The Lysandra I knew used to wear far less clothing,” Aelin said.

Lysandra’s green eyes flickered. “The Lysandra you knew died a long time ago.”

So had Celaena Sardothien. “I asked you to meet me today so we could … talk.”

“About Arobynn?” “About you.”

Elegant brows narrowed. “And when do we get to talk about you?” “What do you want to know?”

“What are you doing in Rifthold? Aside from rescuing the general tomorrow.”

Aelin said, “I don’t know you well enough to answer that question.” Lysandra merely cocked her head. “Why Aedion?”

“He’s more useful to me alive than dead.” Not a lie.

Lysandra tapped a manicured nail on the worn table. After a moment she said, “I used to be so jealous of you. Not only did you have Sam but also Arobynn … I was such a fool, believing that he gave you everything and denied you nothing, hating you because I always knew, deep down, that I was just a pawn for him to use against you—a way to make you fight for his affection, to keep you on your toes, to hurt you. And I enjoyed it, because I thought it was better to be someone’s pawn than nothing at all.” Her hand shook as she raised it to brush back a strand of her hair. “I think I would have continued on that way for my whole life. But then—then Arobynn killed Sam and arranged for your capture, and

… and summoned me the night you were hauled to Endovier. Afterward, on the carriage ride home, I just cried. I didn’t know why. But Wesley was in the carriage with me. That was the night that everything changed between us.” Lysandra glanced at the scars around Aelin’s wrists, then at the tattoo marring her own.

Aelin said, “The other night, you didn’t just come to warn me about Arobynn.”

When Lysandra raised her head, her eyes were frozen. “No,” she said with soft savagery. “I came to help you destroy him.”

“You must trust me a great deal to have said that.”

“You wrecked the Vaults,” Lysandra said. “It was for Sam, wasn’t it? Because those people—they all worked for Rourke Farran, and were there when …” She shook her head. “It’s all for Sam, whatever you have planned for Arobynn. Besides, if you betray me, there’s little that can hurt me more than what I’ve already endured.”

Aelin leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, trying not to think about the darkness the woman across from her had survived. “I went too long without demanding retribution. I have no interest in forgiveness.”

Lysandra smiled—and there was no joy in it. “After he murdered Wesley, I lay awake in his bed and thought about killing him right there. But it didn’t seem like enough, and the debt didn’t belong only to me.”

For a moment, Aelin couldn’t say anything. Then she shook her head. “You honestly mean to imply that you’ve been waiting for me this whole time?”

“You loved Sam as much as I loved Wesley.”

Her chest hollowed out, but she nodded. Yes, she’d loved Sam—more than she’d ever loved anyone. Even Chaol. And reading in Wesley’s letter exactly what Arobynn had ordered Rourke Farran to do to Sam had left a raging wound in the core of her. Sam’s clothes were still in the two bottom drawers of her dresser, where Arobynn had indeed unpacked them. She’d worn one of his shirts to bed these past two nights.

Arobynn would pay.

“I’m sorry,” Aelin said. “For the years I spent being a monster toward you, for whatever part I played in your suffering. I wish I’d been able to see myself better. I wish I’d seen everything better. I’m sorry.”

Lysandra blinked. “We were both young and stupid, and should have seen each other as allies. But there’s nothing to prevent us from seeing each other that way now.” Lysandra gave her a grin that was more wolfish than refined. “If you’re in, I’m in.”

That fast—that easily—the offer of friendship was tossed her way. Rowan might have been her dearest friend, her carranam, but … she missed female companionship. Deeply. Though an old panic rose up at the thought of Nehemia not being there anymore to provide it— and part of her wanted to throw the offer back in Lysandra’s face just because she wasn’t Nehemia—she forced herself to stare down that fear.

Aelin said hoarsely, “I’m in.”

Lysandra heaved a sigh. “Oh, thank the gods. Now I can talk to someone about clothes without being asked how so-and-so would approve of it, or gobble down a box of chocolates without someone telling me I’d better watch my figure—tell me you like chocolates. You

do, right? I remember stealing a box from your room once when you were out killing someone. They were delicious.”

Aelin waved a hand toward the boxes of goodies on the table. “You brought chocolate—as far as I’m concerned, you’re my new favorite person.”

Lysandra chuckled, a surprisingly deep, wicked sound—probably a laugh she never let Arobynn or her clients hear. “Some night soon, I’ll sneak back in here and we can eat chocolates until we vomit.”

“We’re such refined, genteel ladies.”

“Please,” Lysandra said, waving a manicured hand, “you and I are nothing but wild beasts wearing human skins. Don’t even try to deny it.” The courtesan had no idea how close she was to the truth. Aelin wondered how the woman would react to her other form—to the elongated canines. Somehow, she doubted Lysandra would call her a

monster for it—or for the flames at her command.

Lysandra’s smile flickered. “Everything’s set for tomorrow?” “Is that worry I detect?”

“You’re just going to waltz into the palace and think a different hair color will keep you from being noticed? You trust Arobynn that much?”

“Do you have a better idea?”

Lysandra’s shrug was the definition of nonchalance. “I happen to know a thing or two about playing different roles. How to turn eyes away when you don’t want to be seen.”

“I do know how to be stealthy, Lysandra. The plan is sound. Even if it was Arobynn’s idea.”

“What if we killed two birds with one stone?”

She might have dismissed it, might have shut her down, but there was such a wicked, feral gleam in the courtesan’s eyes.

So Aelin rested her forearms on the table. “I’m listening.”

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