Chapter no 51

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Manon and her Thirteen stood around a table in a room deep within the witches’ barracks.

“You know why I called you here,” Manon said. None of them replied; none of them sat. They’d barely spoken to her since butchering that tribe in the White Fangs. And then today—more news. More requests.

“The duke asked me to pick another coven to use. A Blackbeak coven.”


“I’d like your suggestions.”

They didn’t meet her eyes. Didn’t utter a word.

Manon snapped down her iron teeth. “You would dare defy me?” Sorrel cleared her throat, attention on the table. “Never you, Manon.

But we defy that human worm’s right to use our bodies as if they were his own.”

“Your High Witch has given orders that will be obeyed.”

“You might as well name the Thirteen,” Asterin said, the only one of them holding Manon’s gaze. Her nose was still swollen and bruised from the beating. “For we would sooner that be our fate than hand over our sisters.”

“And you all agree with this? That you wish to breed demon offspring until your bodies break apart?”

“We are Blackbeaks,” Asterin said, her chin high. “We are no one’s slaves, and will not be used as such. If the price for that is never returning to the Wastes, then so be it.”

None of the others so much as flinched. They’d all met—they’d discussed this beforehand. What to say to her.

As if she were in need of managing.

“Was there anything else you all decided in your little council meeting?”

“There are … things, Manon,” Sorrel said. “Things you need to hear.” Betrayal—this was what mortals called betrayal.

“I don’t give a shit about what you fools dared believe I need to hear. The only thing I need to hear is the sound of you saying Yes, Wing Leader. And the name of a gods-damned coven.”

“Pick one yourself,” Asterin snapped.

The witches shifted. Not a part of the plan, was it?

Manon stalked around the table to Asterin, past the other witches who didn’t dare turn to face her. “You have been nothing but a waste from the minute you set foot in this Keep. I don’t care if you have flown at my side for a century—I am going to put you down like the yapping dog you are—”

“Do it,” Asterin hissed. “Rip my throat out. Your grandmother will be so proud that you finally did.”

Sorrel was at Manon’s back.

“Is that a challenge?” Manon said too quietly. Asterin’s gold-flecked black eyes danced. “It’s a—” But the door opened and shut.

A young man with golden hair now stood in the room, his black stone collar gleaming in the torchlight.



He shouldn’t have gotten in.

There had been witches everywhere, and she’d set sentinels from another coven to guard the halls so that none of the duke’s men could catch them unawares.

As one, the Thirteen turned toward the handsome young man.

And as one, they flinched as he smiled, and a wave of darkness crashed into them.

Darkness without end, darkness even Manon’s eyes couldn’t penetrate, and—

And Manon was again standing before that Crochan witch, a dagger in her hand.

We pity you … for what you do to your children … You force them to kill and hurt and hate until there is nothing left inside of them—of you. That is why you are here,” the Crochan wept … “Because of the threat you posed to the monster you call grandmother when you chose mercy and you saved your rival’s life.”

Manon violently shook her head, blinking. Then it was gone. There was only darkness, and the Thirteen, shouting to one another, struggling, and—

A golden-haired young man had been in that room with the Yellowlegs, Elide had said.

Manon started prowling through the darkness, navigating the room by memory and smell. Some of her Thirteen were nearby; some had backed against the walls. And the otherworldly reek of the man, of the demon inside him—

The smell wrapped around her fully, and Manon drew Wind- Cleaver.

Then there he was, chuckling as someone—Ghislaine—started screaming. Manon had never heard that sound. She’d never heard any of them scream with … with fear. And pain.

Manon hurtled into a blind sprint and tackled him to the ground. No sword—she didn’t want a sword for this execution.

Light cracked around her, and there was his handsome face, and that collar. “Wing Leader,” he grinned, in a voice that was not from this world.

Manon’s hands were around his throat, squeezing, her nails ripping through his skin.

“Were you sent here?” she demanded.

Her eyes met his—and the ancient malice in them shrank back. “Get away,” he hissed.

Manon did no such thing. “Were you sent here?” she roared.

The young man surged up, but then Asterin was there, pinning his legs. “Make him bleed,” she said from behind Manon.

The creature continued thrashing. And in the darkness, some of the Thirteen were still shouting in agony and terror. “Who sent you?” Manon bellowed.

His eyes shifted—turning blue, turning clear. It was with a young man’s voice that he said, “Kill me. Please—please kill me. Roland—my name was Roland. Tell my—”

Then blackness spread across his eyes again, along with pure panic at whatever he beheld in Manon’s face, and in Asterin’s over her shoulder. The demon inside the man shrieked: “Get away!

She’d heard and seen enough. Manon squeezed harder, her iron nails shredding through mortal flesh and muscle. Black, reeking blood coated her hand, and she ripped harder into him, until she got to the bone and slashed through it, and his head thumped against the floor.

Manon could have sworn he sighed.

The darkness vanished, and Manon was instantly on her feet, gore dripping from her hands as she surveyed the damage.

Ghislaine sobbed in the corner, all the color leeched from her rich, dark skin. Thea and Kaya were both tearstained and silent, the two lovers gaping at each other. And Edda and Briar, both of her Shadows, both born and raised in darkness … they were on their hands and knees, puking. Right alongside the green-eyed demon twins, Faline and Fallon.

The rest of the Thirteen were unharmed. Still flush with color, some panting from the momentary surge of rage and energy, but … Fine.

Had only some of them been targeted?

Manon looked at Asterin—at Sorrel, and Vesta, and Lin, and Imogen. Then at the ones that had been drained.

They all met her gaze this time.

Get away, the demon had screamed—as if in surprise and terror. After looking her in the eyes.

Those who had been affected … their eyes were ordinary colors.

Brown and blue and green. But the ones who hadn’t … Black eyes, flecked with gold.

And when he’d looked at Manon’s eyes …

Gold eyes had always been prized among Blackbeaks. She’d never wondered why.

But now wasn’t the time. Not with this reeking blood soaking into her skin.

“This was a reminder,” Manon said, her voice bouncing hollowly off the stones. She turned from the room. Leave them to each other. “Get rid of that body.”



Manon waited until Kaltain was alone, drifting up one of the forgotten spiraling staircases of Morath, before she pounced.

The woman didn’t flinch as Manon pinned her against the wall, her iron nails digging into Kaltain’s pale, bare shoulders. “Where does the shadowfire come from?”

Dark, empty eyes met hers. “From me.” “Why you? What magic is it? Valg power?”

Manon studied the collar around the woman’s thin throat.

Kaltain gave a small, dead smile. “It was mine—to start. Then it was

… melded with another source. And now it is the power of every world, every life.”

Nonsense. Manon pushed her harder into the dark stone. “How do you take that collar off?”

“It does not come off.”

Manon bared her teeth. “And what do you want with us? To put collars on us?”

“They want kings,” Kaltain breathed, her eyes flickering with some strange, sick delight. “Mighty kings. Not you.”

More drivel. Manon growled—but then there was a delicate hand on her wrist.

And it burned.

Oh, gods, it burned, and her bones were melting, her iron nails had become molten ore, her blood was boiling—

Manon leaped back from Kaltain, and only gripping her wrist told her that the injuries weren’t real. “I’m going to kill you,” Manon hissed.

But shadowfire danced on Kaltain’s fingertips even as the woman’s face went blank again. Without a word, as if she had done nothing, Kaltain walked up the stairs and vanished.

Alone in the stairwell, Manon cradled her arm, the echo of pain still reverberating through her bones. Slaughtering that tribe with Wind-Cleaver, she told herself, had been a mercy.

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