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Chapter no 33

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Standing in a wide clearing among the stacks of crates, Aedion blinked against the late-morning sun slanting through the windows high up in the warehouse. He was already sweating, and in dire need of water as the heat of the day turned the warehouse suffocating.

He didn’t complain. He’d demanded to be allowed to help, and Aelin had refused.

He’d insisted he was fit to fight, and she had merely said, “Prove it.”

So here they were. He and the Fae Prince had been going through a workout routine with sparring sticks for the past thirty minutes, and it was thoroughly kicking his ass. The wound on his side was one wrong move away from splitting, but he gritted through it.

The pain was welcome, considering the thoughts that had kept him up all night. That Rhoe and Evalin had never told him, that his mother had died to conceal the knowledge of who sired him, that he was half Fae— and that he might not know for another decade how he would age. If he would outlast his queen.

And his father—Gavriel. That was a whole other path to be explored. Later. Perhaps it’d be useful, if Maeve made good on the threat she posed, now that one of his father’s legendary companions was hunting Aelin in this city.

Lorcan.

Shit. The stories he’d heard about Lorcan had been full of glory and gore—mostly the latter. A male who didn’t make mistakes, and who was ruthless with those who did.

Dealing with the King of Adarlan was bad enough, but having an immortal enemy at their backs … Shit. And if Maeve ever saw fit to send Gavriel over here … Aedion would find a way to endure it, as he’d found a way to endure everything in his life.

Aedion was finishing a maneuver with the stick that the prince had shown him twice now when Aelin paused her own exercising. “I think that’s enough for today,” she said, barely winded.

Aedion stiffened at the dismissal already in her eyes. He’d been waiting all morning for this. For the past ten years, he had learned

everything he could from mortals. If warriors came to his territory, he’d use his considerable charms to convince them to teach him what they knew. And whenever he’d ventured outside of his lands, he’d made a point to glean as much as he could about fighting and killing from whoever lived there. So pitting himself against a purebred Fae warrior, direct from Doranelle, was an opportunity he couldn’t waste. He wouldn’t let his cousin’s pity wreck it.

“I heard a story,” Aedion drawled to Rowan, “that you killed an enemy warlord using a table.”

“Please,” Aelin said. “Who the hell told you that?”

“Quinn—your uncle’s Captain of the Guard. He was an admirer of Prince Rowan’s. He knew all the stories.”

Aelin slid her eyes to Rowan, who smirked, bracing his sparring stick on the floor. “You can’t be serious,” she said. “What—you squashed him to death like a pressed grape?”

Rowan choked. “No, I didn’t squash him like a grape.” He gave the queen a feral smile. “I ripped the leg off the table and impaled him with it.”

“Clean through the chest and into the stone wall,” Aedion said. “Well,” said Aelin, snorting, “I’ll give you points for resourcefulness,

at least.”

Aedion rolled his neck. “Let’s get back to it.”

But Aelin gave Rowan a look that pretty much said, Don’t kill my cousin, pleaseCall it off.

Aedion gripped the wooden sparring stick tighter. “I’m fine.”

“A week ago,” Aelin said, “you had one foot in the Afterworld. Your wound is still healing. We’re done for today, and you’re not coming out.”

“I know my limits, and I say I’m fine.”

Rowan’s slow grin was nothing short of lethal. An invitation to dance.

And that primal part of Aedion decided it didn’t want to flee from the predator in Rowan’s eyes. No, it very much wanted to stand its ground and roar back.

Aelin groaned, but kept her distance. Prove it, she’d said. Well, he would.

Aedion gave no warning as he attacked, feinting right and aiming low. He’d killed men with that move—sliced them clean in half. But Rowan dodged him with brutal efficiency, deflecting and positioning to the offensive, and that was all that Aedion managed to see before he brought up his stick on pure instinct. Bracing himself against the force of

Rowan’s blow had his side bleating in pain, but he kept focused—even though Rowan had almost knocked the stick from his hands.

He managed to strike the next blow himself. But as Rowan’s lips tugged upward, Aedion had the feeling that the prince was toying with him.

Not for amusement—no, to prove some point. Red mist coated his vision.

Rowan went to sweep his legs out, and Aedion stomped hard enough on Rowan’s stick that it snapped in two. As it did, Aedion twisted, lunging to bring his own stick straight into Rowan’s face. Gripping the two pieces in either hand, the Fae warrior dodged, going low, and—

Aedion didn’t see the second blow coming to his legs. Then he was blinking at the wooden beams of the ceiling, gasping for breath as the pain from his wound arced through his side.

Rowan snarled down at him, one piece of the stick angled to cut his throat while the other pushed against his abdomen, ready to spill his guts.

Holy burning hell.

Aedion had known he’d be fast, and strong, but this … Having Rowan fight alongside the Bane might very well decide battles in any sort of war.

Gods, his side hurt badly enough he thought he might be bleeding.

The Fae Prince spoke so quietly that even Aelin couldn’t hear. “Your queen gave you an order to stop—for your own good. Because she needs you healthy, and because it pains her to see you injured. Do not ignore her command next time.”

Aedion was wise enough not to snap a retort, nor to move as the prince dug in the tips of his sticks a little harder. “And,” Rowan added, “if you ever speak to her again the way you did last night, I’ll rip out your tongue and shove it down your throat. Understand?”

With the stick at his neck, Aedion couldn’t nod without impaling himself on the jagged end. But he breathed, “Understood, Prince.”

Aedion opened his mouth again as Rowan backed away, about to say something he would surely regret, when a bright hello sounded.

They all whirled, weapons up, as Lysandra closed the rolling door behind her, boxes and bags in her arms. She had an uncanny way of sneaking into places unnoticed.

Lysandra took two steps, that stunning face grave, and stopped dead as she beheld Rowan.

Then his queen was suddenly moving, snatching some of the bags from Lysandra’s arms and steering her into the apartment a level above.

Aedion eased from where he’d been sprawled on the ground. “Is that Lysandra?” Rowan asked.

“Not too bad on the eyes, is she?” Rowan snorted. “Why is she here?”

Aedion gingerly prodded the wound in his side, making sure it was indeed intact. “She probably has information about Arobynn.”

Whom Aedion would soon begin hunting, once his gods-damned wound was finally healed, regardless of whether Aelin deemed him fit. And then he’d cut the King of the Assassins into little, tiny pieces over many, many days.

“Yet she doesn’t want you to hear it?”

Aedion said, “I think she finds everyone but Aelin boring. Biggest disappointment of my life.” A lie, and he didn’t know why he said it.

But Rowan smiled a bit. “I’m glad she found a female friend.”

Aedion marveled for a heartbeat at the softness in the warrior’s face. Until Rowan shifted his eyes toward him and they were full of ice. “Aelin’s court will be a new one, different from any other in the world, where the Old Ways are honored again. You’re going to learn them. And I’m going to teach you.”

“I know the Old Ways.”

“You’re going to learn them again.”

Aedion’s shoulders pushed back as he rose to his full height. “I’m the general of the Bane, and a prince of both Ashryver and Galathynius houses. I’m not some untrained foot soldier.”

Rowan gave a sharp nod of agreement—and Aedion supposed he should be flattered. Until Rowan said, “My cadre, as Aelin likes to call them, was a lethal unit because we stuck together and abided by the same code. Maeve might be a sadist, but she ensured that we all understood and followed it. Aelin would never force us into anything, and our code will be different—better—than Maeve’s. You and I are going to form the backbone of this court. We will shape and decide our own code.”

“What? Obedience and blind loyalty?” He didn’t feel like getting a lecture. Even if Rowan was right, and every word out of the prince’s mouth was one that Aedion had dreamed of hearing for a decade. He should have been the one to initiate this conversation. Gods above, he’d had this conversation with Ren weeks ago.

Rowan’s eyes glittered. “To protect and serve.”

“Aelin?” He could do that; he had already planned on doing that. “Aelin. And each other. And Terrasen.” No room for argument, no hint

of doubt.

A small part of Aedion understood why his cousin had offered the prince the blood oath.

 

 

“Who is that?” Lysandra said too innocently as Aelin escorted her up the stairs.

“Rowan,” Aelin said, kicking open the apartment door.

“He’s spectacularly built,” she mused. “I’ve never been with a Fae male. Or female, for that matter.”

Aelin shook her head to try to clear the image from her mind. “He’s

—” She swallowed. Lysandra was grinning, and Aelin hissed, setting down the bags on the great room floor and shutting the door. “Stop that.” “Hmm,” was all Lysandra said, dropping her boxes and bags beside Aelin’s. “Well, I have two things. One, Nesryn sent me a note this morning saying that you had a new, very muscled guest staying and to bring some clothes. So I brought clothes. Looking at our guest, I think Nesryn undersold him a good deal, so the clothes might be tight—not that I’m objecting to that one bit—but he can use them until you get

others.”

“Thank you,” she said, and Lysandra waved a slender hand. She’d thank Faliq later.

“The other thing I brought you is news. Arobynn received a report last night that two prison wagons were spotted heading south to Morath— chock full of all those missing people.”

She wondered if Chaol knew, and if he had tried to stop it. “Does he know that former magic-wielders are being targeted?”

A nod. “He’s been tracking which people disappear and which get sent south in the prison wagons. He’s looking into all his clients’ lineages now, no matter how the families tried to conceal their histories after magic was banned, to see if he can use anything to his advantage. It’s something to consider when dealing with him … given your talents.”

Aelin chewed on her lip. “Thank you for telling me that, too.”

Fantastic. Arobynn, Lorcan, the king, the Valg, the key, Dorian … She had half a mind to stuff her face with every remaining morsel of food in the kitchen.

“Just prepare yourself.” Lysandra glanced at a small pocket watch. “I need to go. I have a lunch appointment.” No doubt why Evangeline wasn’t with her.

She was almost to the door when Aelin said, “How much longer— until you’re free of your debts?”

“I still have a great deal to pay off, so—a while.” Lysandra paced a few steps, and then caught herself. “Clarisse keeps adding money as Evangeline grows, claiming that someone so beautiful would have made her double, triple what she originally told me.”

“That’s despicable.”

“What can I do?” Lysandra held up her wrist, where the tattoo had been inked. “She’ll hunt me until the day I die, and I can’t run with Evangeline.”

“I could dig Clarisse a grave no one would ever discover,” Aelin said.

And meant it.

Lysandra knew she meant it, too. “Not yet—not now.” “You say the word, and it’s done.”

Lysandra’s smile was a thing of savage, dark beauty.

 

 

Standing before a crate in the cavernous warehouse, Chaol studied the map Aelin had just handed him. He focused on the blank spots—trying not to stare at the warrior-prince on guard by the door.

It was hard to avoid doing so when Rowan’s presence somehow sucked out all the air in the warehouse.

Then there was the matter of the delicately pointed ears peeking out from the short silver hair. Fae—he’d never seen one other than Aelin in those brief, petrifying moments. And Rowan … Conveniently, in all her storytelling, Aelin had forgotten to mention that the prince was so handsome.

A handsome Fae Prince, whom she’d spent months living and training with—while Chaol’s own life fell apart, while people died because of her actions—

Rowan was watching Chaol as if he might be dinner. Depending on his Fae form, that might not be too far wrong.

Every instinct was screaming at him to run, despite the fact that Rowan had been nothing but polite. Distant and intense, but polite. Still, Chaol didn’t need to see the prince in action to know that he would be dead before he could even draw his sword.

“You know, he won’t bite,” Aelin crooned.

Chaol leveled a stare at her. “Can you just explain what these maps are for?”

“Anything you, Ress, or Brullo can fill in regarding these gaps in the castle defenses would be appreciated,” she said. Not an answer. There

was no sign of Aedion among the stacked crates, but the general was probably listening from somewhere nearby with his keen Fae hearing.

“For you to bring down the clock tower?” Chaol asked, folding up the map and tucking it into the inner pocket of his tunic.

“Maybe,” she said. He tried not to bristle. But there was something settled about her now—as if some invisible tension in her face had vanished. He tried not to look toward the door again.

“I haven’t heard from Ress or Brullo for a few days,” he said instead. “I’ll make contact soon.”

She nodded, pulling out a second map—this one of the labyrinthine network of the sewers—and weighted down the ends with whatever small blades she had on her. A good number of them, apparently.

“Arobynn learned that the missing prisoners were taken to Morath last night. Did you know?”

Another failure that fell on his shoulders—another disaster. “No.” “They can’t have gotten far. You could gather a team and ambush the

wagons.”

“I know I could.” “Are you going to?”

He laid a hand on the map. “Did you bring me here to prove a point about my uselessness?”

She straightened. “I asked you to come because I thought it would be helpful for the both of us. We’re both—we’re both under a fair amount of pressure these days.”

Her turquoise-and-gold eyes were calm—unfazed. Chaol said, “When do you make your move?” “Soon.”

Again, not an answer. He said as evenly as he could, “Anything else I should know?”

“I’d start avoiding the sewers. It’s your death warrant if you don’t.” “There are people trapped down there—we’ve found the nests, but no

sign of the prisoners. I won’t abandon them.”

“That’s all well and good,” she said, and he clenched his teeth at the dismissal in her tone, “but there are worse things than Valg grunts patrolling the sewers, and I bet they won’t turn a blind eye to anyone in their territory. I would weigh the risks if I were you.” She dragged a hand through her hair. “So are you going to ambush the prison wagons?”

“Of course I am.” Even though the rebels’ numbers were down. So many of their people were either fleeing the city altogether or refusing to risk their necks in an increasingly futile battle.

Was that concern flickering in her eyes? But she said, “They use warded locks on the wagons. And the doors are reinforced with iron. Bring the right tools.”

He drew in a breath to snap at her about talking down to him, but— She would know about the wagons; she’d spent weeks in one.

He couldn’t quite meet her stare as he straightened up to go.

“Tell Faliq that Prince Rowan says thank you for the clothes,” Aelin said.

What the hell was she talking about? Perhaps it was another jab.

So he made for the door, where Rowan stepped aside with a murmured farewell. Nesryn had told him she’d spent the evening with Aedion and Aelin, but he hadn’t realized they might be … friends. He hadn’t considered that Nesryn might wind up unable to resist the allure of Aelin Galathynius.

Though he supposed that Aelin was a queen. She did not falter. She did not do anything but plow ahead, burning bright.

Even if it meant killing Dorian.

They hadn’t spoken of it since the day of Aedion’s rescue. But it still hung between them. And when she went to free magic … Chaol would again have the proper precautions in place.

Because he did not think she would put her sword down the next time.

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