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Chapter no 74

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Time. She needed to buy more time, or steal it, while the bridge still lay in shadow, while the sun slowly, slowly moved.

“Dorian,” Aelin pleaded again.

“I’m going to rip you apart from the inside out,” the demon said.

Ice spread across the bridge. The glass in her back shifted and ripped into her with each step she retreated toward the tower door.

Still the clock tower had not come down. But the king had not yet arrived.

“Your father is currently in his council room,” she said, fighting the pain splintering through her. “He is in there with Chaol—with your friend—and your father has likely already killed him.”

“Good.”

“Chaol,” Aelin said, her voice breaking. Her foot slid against a patch of ice, and the world tilted as she steadied her balance. The drop to the ground hundreds of feet below hit her in the gut, but she kept her eyes on the prince even as agony rippled down her body again. “Chaol. You sacrificed yourself. You let them put that collar on you—so he could get out.”

“I’m going to let him put a collar on you, and then we can play.” She hit the tower door, fumbling for the latch.

But it was iced over.

She clawed at the ice, glancing between the prince and the sun that had begun to peek around the corner of the tower.

Dorian was ten steps away.

She whirled back around. “Sorscha—her name was Sorscha, and she loved you. You loved her. And they took her away from you.”

Five steps.

There was nothing human in that face, no flicker of memory in those sapphire eyes.

Aelin began weeping, even as blood leaked down her nose from his nearness. “I came back for you. Just like I promised.”

A dagger of ice appeared in his hand, its lethal tip glinting like a star in the sunlight. “I don’t care,” Dorian said.

She shoved a hand between them as if she could push him away, grabbing one of his own hands tight. His skin was so cold as he used the other to plunge the knife into her side.

 

 

Rowan’s blood sprayed from his mouth as the creature slammed into him, knocking him to the ground.

Four were dead, but three remained between him and the fuse.

Aedion bellowed in pain and fury, holding the line, keeping the other three at bay as Rowan drove his blade home—

The creature flipped back, away out of reach.

The three beasts converged again, wild with the Fae blood now covering the passage. His blood. Aedion’s. The general’s face was already pale from the loss of it. They couldn’t stand this much longer.

But he had to get that tower down.

As though they were of one mind, one body, the three Wyrdhounds lunged, driving him and Aedion apart, one leaping for the general, two snapping for him—

Rowan went down as stone jaws clamped onto his leg. Bone snapped, and black crushed in—

He roared against the darkness that meant death.

Rowan slammed his fighting knife into the creature’s eye, driving up and deep, just as the second beast lunged for his outstretched arm.

But something massive slammed into the creature, and it yelped as it was thrown against the wall. The dead one was hurled away a heartbeat later, and then—

And then there was Lorcan, swords out and swinging, a battle cry on his lips as he tore into the remaining creatures.

Rowan bellowed against the agony in his lower leg as he got to his feet, balancing his weight. Aedion was already up, his face a bloody mess but his eyes clear.

One of the creatures lunged for Aedion, and Rowan hurled his fighting knife—hurled it hard and true, right into its gaping mouth. The Wyrdhound hit the ground not six inches from the general’s feet.

Lorcan was a whirlwind of steel, his fury unmatched. Rowan drew his other knife, readying to throw it—

Just as Lorcan drove his sword clean down into the creature’s skull. Silence—utter silence in the bloodied tunnel.

Aedion scrambled, limping and swaying, for the fuse twenty paces away. It was still attached to the spool.

Now,” Rowan barked. He didn’t care if they didn’t make it out. For all he knew—

A phantom pain lanced through his ribs, brutally violent and nauseating.

His knees buckled. Not pain from a wound of his—but another’s.

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

He might have been screaming it, might have been roaring it, as he surged for the passage exit—as he felt that agony, that lick of cold.

Things had gone very, very wrong.

He made it another step before his leg gave out, and it was only that invisible bond, straining and fraying, that kept him conscious. A hard, blood-soaked body slammed into his, an arm wrapping around his waist, hauling him up. “Run, you stupid fool,” Lorcan hissed, hauling him from the fuse.

Aedion was crouched over it, his bloody hands steady as he grasped the flint and struck.

Once. Twice.

Then a spark, and a flame that went roaring off into the darkness. They ran like hell.

Faster,” Lorcan said, and Aedion caught up to them, taking Rowan’s other arm and adding his strength and speed.

Down the passage. Past the broken iron gates, into the sewers. There was not enough time and space between them and the tower. And Aelin—

The bond stretched tighter, splintering. No. Aelin—

They heard it before they felt it.

The utter lack of sound, like the world had paused. Followed by a cracking boom.

Move,” Lorcan said, a barked order that had Rowan blindly obeying just as he had for centuries.

Then the wind—the dry, burning wind that flayed his skin. Then a flash of blinding light.

Then heat—such heat that Lorcan swore, shoving them into an alcove. The tunnels shook; the world shook.

The ceilings came crashing down.

When the dust and debris cleared, when Rowan’s body was singing with pain and joy and power, the way into the castle was blocked. And

behind them, stretching into the gloom of the sewers, were a hundred Valg commanders and foot soldiers, armed and smiling.

 

 

Reeking to Hellas’s realm with Valg blood, Manon and Asterin were soaring down the continent, back to Morath, when—

A soft wind, a shudder in the world, a silence.

Asterin barked a cry, her wyvern banking right as if the reins had been yanked. Abraxos loosed a yelp of his own, but Manon just peered down at the land, where birds were taking flight at the shimmer that seemed to rush past …

At the magic that now rippled through the world, free. Darkness embrace her.

Magic.

Whatever had happened, however it had been freed, Manon didn’t care.

That mortal, human weight vanished. Strength coursed through her, coating her bones like armor. Invincible, immortal, unstoppable.

Manon tipped her head back to the sky, spread her arms wide, and roared.

 

 

The Keep was in chaos. Witches and humans were running around, shouting.

Magic.

Magic was free.

Not possible.

But she could feel it, even with the collar around her neck and that scar on her arm.

The loosing of some great beast inside her. A beast who purred at the shadowfire.

 

 

Aelin crawled away from the door stained with her blood, away from the Valg prince who laughed as she clutched at her side and inched across the bridge, her blood a smear behind her.

The sun was still creeping around that tower.

“Dorian,” she said, her legs pushing against the glass, her blood dribbling out from between her freezing fingers, warming them.

“Remember.”

The Valg prince stalked her, smiling faintly as she collapsed onto her front in the center of the bridge. The shadowed spires of the glass castle loomed around her—a tomb. Her tomb.

“Dorian, remember,” she gasped out. He’d missed her heart—barely. “He said to retrieve you, but perhaps I’ll have my fun first.”

Two knives appeared in his hands, curved and vicious. The sun began glinting just above the tower overhead.

“Remember Chaol,” she begged. “Remember Sorscha. Remember me.”

boom shook the castle from somewhere on the other side of the building.

And then a great wind, a soft wind, a lovely wind, as if the heart-song of the world were carried on it.

She closed her eyes for a moment and pressed her hand against her side, drawing in a breath.

“We get to come back,” Aelin said, pushing her hand harder and harder into her wound until the blood stopped, until it was only her tears that flowed. “Dorian, we get to come back from this loss—from this darkness. We get to come back, and I came back for you.”

She was weeping now, weeping as that wind faded away and her wound knitted closed.

The prince’s daggers had gone slack in his hands. And on his finger, Athril’s golden ring glowed.

“Fight it,” she panted. The sun angled closer. “Fight it. We get to come back.”

Brighter and brighter, the golden ring pulsed at his finger.

The prince staggered back a step, his face twisting. “You human worm.”

He had been too busy stabbing her to notice the ring she’d slipped onto his finger when she’d grabbed his hand as if to shove him away.

“Take it off,” he growled, trying to touch it—and hissing as though it burned. “Take it off!

Ice grew, spreading toward her, fast as the rays of sunlight that now shot between the towers, refracting across every glass parapet and bridge, filling the castle with Mala Fire-Bringer’s glorious light.

The bridge—this bridge that she and Chaol had selected for this purpose, for this one moment at the apex of the solstice—was smack in the middle of it.

The light hit her, and it filled her heart with the force of an exploding star.

With a roar, the Valg prince sent a wave of ice for her, spears and lances aimed at her chest.

So Aelin flung her hands out toward the prince, toward her friend, and hurled her magic at him with everything she had.

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