Chapter no 81

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Elide’s uncle sent two stone-faced female servants down to scrub her, both bearing buckets of water. She tried to fight when they stripped her, but the women were walls of iron. Any sort of Blackbeak blood in Elide’s veins, she realized, had to be the diluted kind. When she was naked before them, they dumped the water on her and attacked her with their brushes and soaps, not even hesitating as they washed her everywhere, even when she shrieked at them to stop.

A sacrificial offering; a lamb to the slaughter.

Shaking, weak from the effort of fighting them, Elide had hardly any strength to retaliate as they dragged combs through her hair, yanking hard enough that her eyes watered. They left it unbound, and dressed her in a plain green robe. With nothing beneath.

Elide begged them, over and over. They might as well have been deaf.

When they left, she tried to squeeze out the cell door after them. The guards shoved her back in with a laugh.

Elide backed up until she was pressed against the wall of her cell. Every minute was closer to her last.

A stand. She’d make a stand. She was a Blackbeak, and her mother had secretly been one, and they would both go down swinging. Force them to gut her, to kill her before they could touch her, before they could implant that stone inside her, before she could birth those monsters—

The door clicked open. Four guards appeared. “The prince is waiting in the catacombs.”

Elide dropped to her knees, shackles clanking. “Please. Please—”


Two of them shoved into the cell, and she couldn’t fight back against the hands that grabbed under her arms and dragged her toward that door. Her bare feet tore on the stones as she kicked and thrashed, despite the chain, trying to claw free.

Closer and closer, they hauled her like a bucking horse toward the open cell door.

The two waiting guards sniggered, eyes on the flap of the robe that fell open as she kicked, revealing her thighs, her stomach, everything to

them. Elide sobbed, even as she knew the tears would do her no good. They just laughed, devouring her with their eyes—

Until a hand with glittering iron nails shoved through the throat of one of them, puncturing it wholly. The guards froze, the one at the door whirling at the spray of blood—

He screamed as his eyes were slashed into ribbons by one hand, his throat shredded by another.

Both guards collapsed to the ground, revealing Manon Blackbeak standing behind them.

Blood ran down her hands, her forearms.

And Manon’s golden eyes glowed as if they were living embers as she looked at the two guards gripping Elide. As she beheld the disheveled robe.

They released Elide to grab their weapons, and she sagged to the floor. Manon just said, “You’re already dead men.”

And then she moved.

Elide didn’t know if it was magic, but she’d never seen anyone in her life move like that, as if she were a phantom wind.

Manon snapped the neck of the first guard with a brutal crunch. As the second lunged for her, Elide scrambling out of the way, Manon only laughed—laughed and twirled away, moving behind him to plunge her hand into his back, into his body.

His shriek blasted through the cell. Flesh tore, revealing a white column of bone—his spine—which she gripped, her nails shredding deep, and broke in two.

Elide trembled—at the man who fell to the ground, bleeding and broken, and at the witch standing over him, bloodied and panting. The witch who had come for her.

“We need to run,” Manon said.



Manon knew rescuing Elide would be a statement—and knew there were others who would want to make it with her.

But chaos had broken out in the Keep as she had raced to summon her Thirteen. News had come.

The King of Adarlan was dead. Destroyed by Aelin Galathynius.

She had shattered his glass castle, used her fire to spare the city from a deadly wave of glass, and declared Dorian Havilliard King of Adarlan.

The Witch Killer had done it.

People were in a panic; even the witches were looking to her for answers. What would they do now that the mortal king was dead? Where would they go? Were they free of their bargain?

Later—Manon would think of those things later. Now she had to act.

So she had found her Thirteen and ordered them to get the wyverns saddled and ready.

Three dungeons.

Hurry, Blackbeak, whispered a strange, soft female voice in her head that was at once old and young and wise. You race against doom.

Manon had hit the nearest dungeon, Asterin, Sorrel, and Vesta at her back, the green-eyed demon twins behind them. Men began dying—fast and bloody.

No use arguing—not when the men took one look at them and drew their weapons.

The dungeon held rebels of all kingdoms, who pleaded for death when they saw them, in such states of unspeakable torment that even Manon’s stomach turned. But no sign of Elide.

They had swept the dungeon, Faline and Fallon lingering to make sure they hadn’t missed anything.

The second dungeon held more of the same. Vesta stayed this time to sweep it again.

Faster, Blackbeak, that wise female voice begged her, as if there were only so much she might interfere. Faster

Manon ran like hell.

The third dungeon was above the catacombs, and so heavily guarded that black blood became a mist around them as they launched themselves into tier after tier of soldiers.

Not one more. Not one more female would she allow them to take. Sorrel and Asterin plunged into the soldiers, plowing a path for her.

Asterin ripped out the throat of one man with her teeth while she gutted another with her nails. Black blood sprayed from Asterin’s mouth as she pointed to the stairs ahead and roared, “Go!

So Manon had left her Second and Third behind, leaping down the stairs, around and around. There had to be a secret entrance from these dungeons into the catacombs, some quiet way to transport Elide—

Faster, Blackbeak! that sage voice barked.

And as a little wind pushed at Manon’s feet as if it could hurry her along, she knew that it was a goddess peering over her shoulder, a lady of wise things. Who perhaps had watched over Elide her entire life, muted without magic, but now that it was free …

Manon hit the lowest level of the dungeon, a mere floor above the catacombs. Sure enough, at the end of the hall, a door opened onto a descending staircase.

Between her and that staircase were two guards sniggering at an open cell door as a young woman begged for their mercy.

It was the sound of Elide’s weeping—that girl of quiet steel and quicksilver wit who had not wept for herself or her sorry life, only faced it with grim determination—that made Manon snap entirely.

She killed those guards in the hall.

She saw what they had been laughing at: the girl gripped between two other guards, her robe tugged open to reveal her nakedness, the full extent of that ruined leg—

Her grandmother had sold them to these people.

She was a Blackbeak; she was no one’s slave. No one’s prize horse to breed.

Neither was Elide.

Her wrath was a song in her blood, and Manon had merely said, “You’re already dead men,” before she unleashed herself on them.

When she’d chucked the last guard’s body onto the ground, when she was covered in black and blue blood, Manon looked at the girl on the floor.

Elide tugged her green robe shut, shaking so badly Manon thought she’d puke. She could smell vomit already in the cell. They had kept her here, in this rotting place.

“We need to run,” Manon said.

Elide tried to rise, but couldn’t so much as get to her knees.

Manon stalked to her, helping the girl to her feet, leaving a smear of blood on her forearm. Elide swayed, but Manon was looking at the old chain around her ankles.

With a swipe of her iron nails, she snapped through it.

She’d unlock the shackles later. “Now,” Manon said, tugging Elide into the hall.

There were more soldiers shouting from the way she’d come, and Asterin and Sorrel’s battle cries rang out down the stairs. But behind them, from the catacombs below …

More men—Valg—curious about the clamor leaking in from above.

Bringing Elide into the melee might very well kill her, but if the soldiers from the catacombs attacked from behind … Worse, if they brought one of their princes …

Regret. It had been regret she’d felt that night she’d killed the Crochan. Regret and guilt and shame, for acting on blind obedience, for being a coward when the Crochan had held her head high and spoken truth.

They have made you into monsters. Made, Manon. And we feel sorry for you.

It was regret that she’d felt when she heard Asterin’s tale. For not being worthy of trust.

And for what she had allowed to happen to those Yellowlegs.

She did not want to imagine what she might feel should she bring Elide to her death. Or worse.

Brutality. Discipline. Obedience.

It did not seem like a weakness to fight for those who could not defend themselves. Even if they weren’t true witches. Even if they meant nothing to her.

“We’re going to have to battle our way out,” Manon said to Elide. But the girl was wide-eyed, gaping at the cell doorway.

Standing there, her dress flowing around her like liquid night, was Kaltain.

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