Chapter no 82

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, 4)

Elide stared at the dark-haired young woman.

And Kaltain stared back.

Manon let out a warning snarl. “Unless you want to die, get the rutting hell out of the way.”

Kaltain, her hair unbound, her face pale and gaunt, said, “They are coming now. To find out why she has not yet arrived.”

Manon’s bloodied hand was sticky and damp as it clamped around Elide’s arm and tugged her toward the door. The single step, the freedom of movement without that chain … Elide almost sobbed.

Until she heard the fighting ahead. Behind them, from the dark stairwell at the other end of the hall, the rushing feet of more men approached from far below.

Kaltain stepped aside as Manon pushed past.

“Wait,” Kaltain said. “They will turn this Keep upside down looking for you. Even if you get airborne, they will send out riders after you and use your own people against you, Blackbeak.”

Manon dropped Elide’s arm. Elide hardly dared to breathe as the witch said, “How long has it been since you destroyed the demon inside that collar, Kaltain?”

A low, broken laugh. “A while.” “Does the duke know?”

“My dark liege sees what he wants to see.” She shifted her eyes to Elide. Exhaustion, emptiness, sorrow, and rage danced there together. “Remove your robe and give it to me.”

Elide backed up a step. “What?”

Manon looked between them. “You can’t trick them.” “They see what they want to see,” Kaltain said again.

The men closing in on either side grew nearer with every uneven heartbeat. “This is insane,” Elide breathed. “It’ll never work.”

“Take off your robe and give it to the lady,” Manon ordered. “Do it now.”

No room for disobedience. So Elide listened, blushing at her own nakedness, trying to cover herself.

Kaltain merely let her black dress slip from her shoulders. It rippled on the ground.

Her body—what they had done to her body, the bruises on her, the thinness …

Kaltain wrapped herself in the robe, her face empty again.

Elide slid on the gown, its fabric horribly cold when it should have been warm.

Kaltain knelt before one of the dead guards—oh, gods, those were corpses lying there—and ran her hand over the hole in the guard’s neck. She smeared and flicked blood over her face, her neck, her arms, the robe. She ran it through her hair, tugging it forward, hiding her face until bits of blood were all that could be seen, folding her shoulders inward, until—

Until Kaltain looked like Elide.

You could be sisters, Vernon had said. Now they could be twins. “Please—come with us,” Elide whispered.

Kaltain laughed quietly. “Dagger, Blackbeak.” Manon pulled out a dagger.

Kaltain sliced it deep into the hideous scarred lump in her arm. “In your pocket, girl,” Kaltain said to her. Elide reached into the dress and pulled out a scrap of dark fabric, frayed and ripped at the edges, as if it had been torn from something.

Elide held it toward the lady as Kaltain reached into her arm, no expression of pain on that beautiful, bloodied face, and pulled out a glimmering sliver of dark stone.

Kaltain’s red blood dripped off it. Carefully, the lady set it onto the scrap of fabric Elide held out, and folded Elide’s fingers around it.

A dull, strange thudding pounded through Elide as she grasped the shard.

“What is that?” Manon asked, sniffing subtly.

Kaltain just squeezed Elide’s fingers. “You find Celaena Sardothien. Give her this. No one else. No one else. Tell her that you can open any door, if you have the key. And tell her to remember her promise to me— to punish them all. When she asks why, tell her I said that they would not let me bring the cloak she gave me, but I kept a piece of it. To remember that promise she made. To remember to repay her for a warm cloak in a cold dungeon.”

Kaltain stepped away.

“We can take you with us,” Elide tried again.

A small, hateful smile. “I have no interest in living. Not after what they did. I don’t think my body could survive without their power.” Kaltain huffed a laugh. “I shall enjoy this, I think.”

Manon tugged Elide to her side. “They’ll notice you without the chains—”

“They’ll be dead before they do,” Kaltain said. “I suggest you run.”

Manon didn’t ask questions, and Elide didn’t have time to say thank you before the witch grabbed her and they ran.



She was a wolf.

She was death, devourer of worlds.

The guards found her curled up in the cell, shuddering at the carnage. They didn’t ask questions, didn’t look twice at her face before they hauled her down the hall and into the catacombs.

Such screaming here. Such terror and despair. But the horrors under the other mountains were worse. So much worse. Too bad she would not have the opportunity to also spare them, slaughter them.

She was a void, empty without that sliver of power that built and ate and tore apart worlds inside of her.

His precious gift, his key, he had called her. A living gate, he promised. Soon, he had said he would add the other. And then find the third.

So that the king inside him might rule again.

They led her into a chamber with a table in the center. A white sheet covered it, and men watched as they shoved her onto the table—the altar. They chained her down.

With the blood on her, they did not notice the cut on her arm, or whose face she wore.

One of the men came forward with a knife, clean and sharp and gleaming. “This won’t take but a few minutes.”

Kaltain smiled up at him. Smiled broadly, now that they had brought her into the bowels of this hellhole.

The man paused.

A red-haired young man walked into the room, reeking of the cruelty born in his human heart and amplified by the demon inside him. He froze as he saw her.

He opened his mouth.

Kaltain Rompier unleashed her shadowfire upon them all.

This was not the ghost of shadowfire they had made her kill with—the reason why they had first approached her, lied to her when they invited her to that glass castle—but the real thing. The fire she had harbored since magic had returned—golden flame now turned to black.

The room became cinders.

Kaltain pushed the chains off her as though they were cobwebs and arose.

She disrobed as she walked out of the room. Let them see what had been done to her, the body they’d wasted.

She made it two steps into the hall before they noticed her, and beheld the black flames rippling off her.

Death, devourer of worlds.

The hallway turned to black dust.

She strode toward the chamber where the screaming was loudest, where female cries leaked through the iron door.

The iron did not heat, did not bend to her magic. So she melted an archway through the stones.

Monsters and witches and men and demons whirled.

Kaltain flowed into the room, spreading her arms wide, and became shadowfire, became freedom and triumph, became a promise hissed in a dungeon beneath a glass castle:

Punish them all.

She burned the cradles. She burned the monsters within. She burned the men and their demon princes. And then she burned the witches, who looked at her with gratitude in their eyes and embraced the dark flame.

Kaltain unleashed the last of her shadowfire, tipping her face to the ceiling, toward a sky she’d never see again.

She took out every wall and every column. As she brought it all crashing and crumbling around them, Kaltain smiled, and at last burned herself into ash on a phantom wind.



Manon ran. But Elide was so slow—so painfully slow with that leg.

If Kaltain unleashed her shadowfire before they got out …

Manon grabbed Elide and hauled her over a shoulder, the beaded dress cutting into Manon’s hand as she sprinted up the stairs.

Elide didn’t say a word as Manon reached the dungeon landing and beheld Asterin and Sorrel finishing off the last of the soldiers. “Run!” she barked.

They were coated in that black blood, but they’d live.

Up and up, they hurtled out of the dungeons, even as Elide became a weight borne on pure defiance of the death surely racing toward them from levels below.

There was a shudder— “Faster!”

Her Second made it to the giant dungeon doors and hurled herself against them, heaving them open. Manon and Sorrel dashed through; Asterin shoved them sealed with a bang. It would only delay the flame a second, if that.

Up and up, toward the aerie. Another shudder and a boom— Screaming, and heat—

Down the halls they flew, as if the god of wind were pushing at their heels.

They hit the base of the aerie tower. The rest of the Thirteen were gathered in the stairwell, waiting.

“Into the skies,” Manon ordered as they took the stairs, one after one, Elide so heavy now that she thought she’d drop her. Only a few more feet to the top of the tower, where the wyverns were hopefully saddled and prepared. They were.

Manon hurtled for Abraxos and shoved the shuddering girl into the saddle. She climbed up behind her as the Thirteen scrambled onto their mounts. Wrapping her arms around Elide, Manon dug her heels into Abraxos’s side. “Fly now!” she roared.

Abraxos leaped through the opening, soaring up and out, the Thirteen leaping with them, wings beating hard, beating wildly—

Morath exploded.

Black flame erupted, taking out stone and metal, racing higher and higher. People shouted and then were silenced, as even rock melted.

The air hollowed out and ruptured in Manon’s ears, and she curled her body around Elide’s, twisting them so the heat of the blast singed her own back.

The aerie tower was incinerated, and crumbled away behind them. The blast sent them tumbling, but Manon gripped the girl tight,

clenching the saddle with her thighs as hot, dry wind blasted past them. Abraxos screeched, shifting and soaring into the gust.

When Manon dared to look, a third of Morath was a smoldering ruin.

Where those catacombs had once been—where those Yellowlegs had been tortured and broken, where they had bred monsters—there was nothing left.

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