Chapter no 80

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Elide had been in the dungeon so long that she’d lost track of time.

But she’d felt that ripple in the world, could have sworn she heard the wind singing her name, heard panicked shouts—and then nothing.

No one explained what it was, and no one came. No one was coming for her.

She wondered how long Vernon would wait before he gave her to one of those things. She tried counting meals to track time, but the food they gave her was the same for breakfast and dinner, and her meal times changed around … As if they wanted her to lose track. As if they wanted her to fold herself into the darkness of the dungeon so that when they came for her, she’d be willing, desperate just to see the sun again.

The door to her cell clicked open, and she staggered to her feet as Vernon slipped inside. He left the door ajar behind him, and she blinked at the torchlight as it stung her eyes. The stone hallway beyond was empty. He probably hadn’t brought guards with him. He knew how futile running would be for her.

“I’m glad to see they’ve been feeding you. A shame about the smell, though.”

She refused to be embarrassed by it. Smell was the least of her concerns.

Elide pressed herself against the slick, freezing stone wall. Maybe if she got lucky, she’d find a way to get the chain around his throat.

“I’ll send someone to clean you up tomorrow.” Vernon began to turn, as if his inspection were done.

“For what?” she managed to ask. Her voice was already hoarse with disuse.

He looked over his thin shoulder. “Now that magic has returned …”

Magic. That was what the ripple had been.

“I want to learn what lies dormant in your bloodline—our bloodline.

The duke is even more curious what will come of it.”

“Please,” she said. “I’ll disappear. I’ll never bother you. Perranth is yours—it’s all yours. You’ve won. Just let me go.”

Vernon clicked his tongue. “I do like it when you beg.” He glanced into the hall beyond and snapped his fingers. “Cormac.”

A young man stepped into view.

He was a man of unearthly beauty, with a flawless face beneath his red hair, but his green eyes were cold and distant. Horrific.

There was a black collar around his throat.

Darkness leaked from him in tendrils. And as his eyes met with hers

Memories tugged at her, horrible memories, of a leg that had slowly broken, of years of terror, of—

“Leash it,” Vernon snapped. “Or she’ll be no fun for you tomorrow.”

The red-haired young man sucked the darkness back into himself, and the memories stopped.

Elide vomited her last meal onto the stones.

Vernon chuckled. “Don’t be so dramatic, Elide. A little incision, a few stitches, and you’ll be perfect.”

The demon prince smiled at her.

“You’ll be given into his care afterward, to make sure that everything takes as it should. But with magic so strong in your bloodline, how could it not? Perhaps you’ll outshine those Yellowlegs. After the first time,” Vernon mused, “maybe His Highness will even perform his own experiments with you. The acquaintance that sold him out mentioned in his letter that Cormac enjoyed … playing with young women, when he lived in Rifthold.”

Oh, gods. Oh, gods. “Why?” she begged. “Why?” Vernon shrugged. “Because I can.”

He walked out of the cell, taking the demon prince—her betrothed— with him.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Elide bolted for it, yanking on the handle, tugging until the metal bit into her hands and rubbed them raw, begging Vernon, begging anyone, to hear her, remember her.

But there was no one.



Manon was more than ready to fall into bed at last. After all that had happened … She hoped that the young queen was lingering around Rifthold, and had understood the message.

The halls of the Keep were in an uproar, bustling with messengers who avoided looking at her. Whatever it was, she didn’t care. She wanted to bathe, and then sleep. For days.

When she awoke, she’d tell Elide what she’d learned about her queen.

The final piece of the life debt she owed.

Manon shouldered into her room. Elide’s pallet of hay was tidy, the room spotless. The girl was probably skulking about somewhere, spying on whoever seemed most useful to her.

Manon was halfway to the bathing room when she noticed the smell. Or lack of it.

Elide’s scent was worn—stale. As if she hadn’t been here for days. Manon looked toward the fire. No embers. She reached a hand over it.

Not a hint of warmth.

Manon scanned the room.

No signs of a struggle. But …

Manon was out the door the next moment, headed back downstairs. She made it three steps before her prowl turned into a full-on sprint.

She took the stairs two and three at a time and leaped the last ten feet onto the landing, the impact shuddering through her legs, now strong, so wickedly strong, with magic returned.

If there had been a time for Vernon to get back at her for taking Elide from him, it would have been while she was away. And if magic ran in Elide’s family along with the Ironteeth blood in her veins … Its return might have awakened something.

They want kings, Kaltain had said that day.

Hall after hall, stairwell after stairwell, Manon ran, her iron nails sparking as she gripped corners to swing herself around. Servants and guards darted out of her way.

She reached the kitchens moments later, iron teeth out. Everyone went dead silent as she leaped down the stairs, heading right for the head cook. “Where is she?

The man’s ruddy face went pale. “W-who?” “The girl—ElideWhere is she?”

The cook’s spoon clattered to the floor. “I don’t know; I haven’t seen her in days, Wing Leader. She sometimes volunteers at the laundry, so maybe—”

Manon was already sprinting out.

The head laundress, a haughty bull, snorted and said she hadn’t seen Elide, and perhaps the cripple had gotten what was coming to her. Manon left her screaming on the floor, four lines gouged across her face.

Manon hurtled up the stairs and across an open stone bridge between two towers, the black rock smooth against her boots.

She had just reached the other side when a woman shouted from the opposite end of the bridge, “Wing Leader!”

Manon slammed to a stop so hard she almost collided with the tower wall. When she whirled, a human woman in a homespun gown was running for her, reeking of whatever soaps and detergents they used in the laundry.

The woman gulped down great breaths of air, her dark skin flushed. She had to brace her hands on her knees to catch her breath, but then she lifted her head and said, “One of the laundresses sees a guard who works in the Keep dungeons. She said that Elide’s locked up down there. No one’s allowed in but her uncle. Don’t know what they’re planning to do, but it can’t be good.”

“What dungeons?” There were three different ones here—along with the catacombs in which they kept the Yellowlegs coven.

“She didn’t know. He’ll only tell her so much. Some of us girls were trying to—to see if there was anything to be done, but—”

“Tell no one that you spoke to me.” Manon turned. Three dungeons, three possibilities.

“Wing Leader,” the young woman said. Manon looked over her shoulder. The woman put a hand on her heart. “Thank you.”

Manon didn’t let herself think about the laundress’s gratitude, or what it meant for those weak, helpless humans to have even considered trying to rescue Elide on their own.

She did not think that woman’s blood would be watery or taste of fear. Manon launched into a sprint—not to the dungeon, but to the witches’


To the Thirteen.

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