Chapter no 22

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Chaol left his watch on the roof of Aelin’s apartment the moment the hooded head of one of the rebels appeared and signaled that he would take over. Thank the gods.

He didn’t bother stopping in the apartment to see how Aedion was holding up. Each of his pounding steps on the wooden stairs accented the raging, thunderous beat of his heart, until it was all he could hear, all he could feel.

With the other rebels lying low or monitoring the city and Nesryn gone to make sure her father wasn’t in danger, Chaol found himself alone as he stalked through the city streets. Everyone had their orders; everyone was where they were supposed to be. Nesryn had already told him Ress and Brullo had given her the signal that all was clear on their end—and now …

Liar. Aelin was and had always been a gods-damned liar. She was as much an oath-breaker as he was. Worse.

Dorian wasn’t gone. He wasn’t. And he didn’t give a shit how much Aelin trumpeted about mercy for Dorian, or that she said it was a weakness not to kill him. The weakness lay in his death—that’s what he should have said. The weakness lay in giving up.

He stormed down an alley. He should have been hiding as well, but the roaring in his blood and bones was unrelenting. A sewer grate rang beneath his feet. He paused, and peered into the blackness below.

There were still things to do—so many things to do, so many people to keep from harm. And now that Aelin had yet again humiliated the king, he had no doubt that the Valg would round up more people as punishment, as a statement. With the city still in an uproar, perhaps it was the perfect time for him to strike. To even the odds between them.

No one saw as he climbed into the sewer, closing the lid overhead.

Tunnel after tunnel, his sword gleaming in the afternoon light streaming in through the grates, Chaol hunted those Valg pieces of filth, his steps near-silent. They usually kept to their nests of darkness, but every now and then, stragglers prowled the tunnels. Some of their nests

were small—only three or four of them guarding their prisoners—or meals, he supposed. Easy enough for him to ambush.

And wouldn’t it be wonderful to see those demon heads roll.

GoneDorian is gone.

Aelin didn’t know everything. Fire or beheading couldn’t be the only choices. Maybe he would keep one of the Valg commanders alive, see just how far gone the man inside of the demon truly was. Maybe there was another way—there had to be another way …

Tunnel after tunnel after tunnel, all the usual haunts, and no sign of them.

Not one.

Chaol hurried into a near-run as he headed for the largest nest he knew of, where they’d always been able to find civilians in need of rescuing, if they were lucky enough to catch the guards unawares. He would save them—because they deserved it, and because he had to keep at it, or else he would crumble and—

Chaol stared at the gaping mouth of the main nest.

Watery sunlight filtering from above illuminated the gray stones and the little river at the bottom. No sign of the telltale darkness that usually smothered it like a dense fog.


The Valg soldiers had vanished. And taken their prisoners with them. He didn’t think they’d gone into hiding from fear.

They’d moved on, concealing themselves and their prisoners, as a giant, laughing go-to-hell to every rebel who’d actually thought they were winning this secret war. To Chaol.

He should have thought of pitfalls like this, should have considered what might happen when Aelin Galathynius made a fool of the king and his men.

He should have considered the cost. Maybe he was the fool.

There was a numbness in his blood as he emerged from the sewers onto a quiet street. It was the thought of sitting in his ramshackle apartment, utterly alone with that numbness, that sent him southward, trying to avoid the streets that still teemed with panicked people. Everyone demanded to know what had happened, who had been killed, who had done it. The decorations and baubles and food vendors had been entirely forgotten.

The sounds eventually died away, the streets clearing out as he reached a residential district where the homes were of modest size but

elegant, well kept. Little streams and fountains of water from the Avery flowed throughout, lending themselves to the surplus of blooming spring flowers at every gate, windowsill, and tiny lawn.

He knew the house from the smell alone: fresh-baked bread, cinnamon, and some other spice he couldn’t name. Taking the alley between the two pale-stoned houses, he kept to the shadows as he approached the back door, peering through the pane of glass to the kitchen within. Flour coated a large worktable, along with baking sheets, various mixing bowls, and—

The door swung open, and Nesryn’s slim form filled the entryway. “What are you doing here?”

She was back in her guard’s uniform, a knife tucked behind her thigh. She’d no doubt spotted an intruder approaching her father’s house and readied herself.

Chaol tried to ignore the weight pushing down on his back, threatening to snap him in two. Aedion was free—they’d accomplished that much. But how many other innocents had they doomed today?

Nesryn didn’t wait for his reply before she said, “Come in.”



“The guards came and went. My father sent them on their way with pastries.”

Chaol glanced up from his own pear tart and scanned the kitchen. Bright tiles accented the walls behind the counters in pretty shades of blue, orange, and turquoise. He’d never been to Sayed Faliq’s house before, but he’d known where it was—just in case.

He’d never let himself consider what that “just in case” might entail.

Showing up like a stray dog at the back door hadn’t been it. “They didn’t suspect him?”

“No. They just wanted to know whether he or his workers saw anyone who looked suspicious before Aedion’s rescue.” Nesryn pushed another pastry—this one almond and sugar—toward him. “Is the general all right?”

“As far as I know.”

He told her about the tunnels, the Valg.

Nesryn only said, “So we’ll find them again. Tomorrow.”

He waited for her to pace, to shout and swear, but she remained steady

—calm. Some tight part of him uncoiled.

She tapped a finger on the wooden table—lovingly worn, as if the kneading of a thousand loaves of bread had smoothed it out. “Why did

you come here?”

“For distraction.” There was a suspicious gleam in those midnight eyes of hers—enough so that he said, “Not for that.”

She didn’t even blush, though his own cheeks burned. If she had offered, he probably would have said yes. And hated himself for it.

“You’re welcome here,” she said, “but surely your friends at the apartment—the general, at least—would provide better company.”

“Are they my friends?”

“You and Her Majesty have done a great job trying to be anything but.”

“It’s hard to be friends without trust.”

“You are the one who went to Arobynn again, even after she warned you not to.”

“And he was right,” Chaol said. “He said she would promise not to touch Dorian, and then do the opposite.” And he would be forever grateful for the warning shot Nesryn had fired.

Nesryn shook her head, her dark hair glimmering. “Let’s just imagine that Aelin is right. That Dorian is gone. What then?”

“She’s not right.” “Let’s just imagine—”

He slammed his fist on the table hard enough to rattle his glass of water. “She’s not right!

Nesryn pursed her lips, even as her eyes softened. “Why?”

He scrubbed at his face. “Because then it’s all for nothing. Everything that happened … it’s all for nothing. You wouldn’t understand.”

“I wouldn’t?” A cold question. “You think that I don’t understand what’s at stake? I don’t care about your prince—not the way you do. I care about what he represents for the future of this kingdom, and for the future of people like my family. I won’t allow another immigrant purge to happen. I don’t ever want my sister’s children coming home with broken noses again because of their foreign blood. You told me Dorian would fix the world, make it better. But if he’s gone, if we made the mistake today in keeping him alive, then I will find another way to attain that future. And another one after that, if I have to. I will keep getting back up, no matter how many times those butchers shove me down.”

He’d never heard so many words from her at once, had never … never even known she had a sister. Or that she was an aunt.

Nesryn said, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stay the course, but also plot another one. Adapt.”

His mouth had gone dry. “Were you ever hurt? For your heritage?”

Nesryn glanced toward the roaring hearth, her face like ice. “I became a city guard because not a single one of them came to my aid the day the other schoolchildren surrounded me with stones in their hands. Not one, even though they could hear my screaming.” She met his stare again. “Dorian Havilliard offers a better future, but the responsibility also lies with us. With how common people choose to act.”

True—so true, but he said, “I won’t abandon him.”

She sighed. “You’re even more hardheaded than the queen.” “Would you expect me to be anything else?”

A half smile. “I don’t think I would like you if you were anything but a stubborn ass.”

“You actually admit to liking me?” “Did last summer not tell you enough?” Despite himself, Chaol laughed.

“Tomorrow,” Nesryn said. “Tomorrow, we continue on.”

He swallowed. “Stay the course, but plot a new path.” He could do that; he could try it, at least.

“See you in the sewers bright and early.”





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