Chapter no 17

The Ashes & the Star-Cursed King


Raihn tapped the map again. “Lahor.”

I stared at the city at the tip of his finger—a little ink drawing of

broken stone. A single, tiny sigil was inked above it—a taloned claw holding a rose.

The last two weeks had passed in an uneventful blur. Sleeping. Training.

Waiting for the next move.

The next move, apparently, turned out to be Lahor. One night, after training, Raihn pulled me into his chambers and dragged an extra chair to his desk, which was covered with maps and papers. He’d pulled out a heavy atlas of the House of Night, and pointed at a city on the far eastern shores.

Now, I stared at it.

“Alright,” I said, in a tone that said, Why the hell are you showing me this?

“You’re familiar with it?” “Of course.”

I’d memorized this map when I was a small child and these ink lines were all I’d had of the outside world. Lahor had always interested me, because its crest matched the one that Vincent bore on some of his clothing. The thought of Vincent came with the obligatory stab of grief, and then,

shortly after, a wave of realization.

“You’re asking, I assume,” I said, “because it’s Vincent’s homeland. But he didn’t talk about it much.”

I’d rarely asked about Vincent’s past. I learned quickly that he didn’t like to talk about it, and I wasn’t in the business of saying things that

Vincent did not like.

“It was a very long time ago that I lived there,” he had told me. “It’s not my banner anymore. All of the House of Night is mine.”

I’d accepted that. After all, it had taken me years to see Vincent as a person who had existed beyond the walls of his castle—as a fallible being with a history. Hell, maybe right up until the end, I hadn’t seen him that way.

“If Vincent had needed to hide something,” Raihn said, “and he needed to put it somewhere where only he could find it, do you think that’s where he’d go?”

I didn’t answer for a long moment, my chest tight.

At first, I wanted to say no. Vincent hadn’t wanted to even acknowledge his past before his reign. But then again, just because Vincent didn’t want to acknowledge something didn’t make it any less true. The lie of my own blood was more than enough proof of that.

“I don’t know,” I said at last.

I knew so damned little of my father.

“Septimus wants us to go there,” Raihn said. “He thinks that Vincent hid something there. Something to do with the god blood.”

“And why does Septimus think this?”

A dark laugh. “I wish I knew how that man knows half the things he does.”

I felt that, too. Especially since I had my own secrets to protect.

“I have to admit,” Raihn said, “it does seem like the perfect hiding spot. Right there on the eastern tip of the House of Night. No one needs to go there for anything. Inaccessible as fuck. Overrun with hellhounds and demons. And Vincent had kept some odd trinkets from there in his chambers, which seems unlike him. The place, from what I hear, is little more than ruins now. Fallen into some disarray since Vincent left it two hundred years ago.”

My brow furrowed in thought. “I think his niece lives there. Or… niece once removed. Twice removed.”

Evelaena? Something like that.

“Right. Another reason why this will be complicated. I don’t think she’ll be very happy to see us.”

To see us?

We’re going?”

“What did you think we were going to do? Send a couple of servants to go search for us?”

At my flat stare, Raihn laughed. “My, how you’ve adjusted to royal life, Your Highness.”

“Fuck you,” I muttered.

But then the truth of his words sunk in. Complicated. That was right. No Hiaj would welcome the Rishan king at their gates. Not even accompanied by me. Perhaps especially not accompanied by me, because this was Vincent’s only living relative—who probably thought she would be Heir when Vincent died.

“That was the face I made when I thought about it, too,” Raihn said. “Tell me we’re taking an army with us.”

“Right, with all those loyal warriors that I have to spare.” He raised his brows at me. “What about you? You plan on calling in some loyal and cooperative Hiaj soldiers to escort us? Or are they all too busy trying to kill my people?”

My face answered his question. “Exactly,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be smarter if you stayed here? A king shouldn’t leave his castle unguarded.”

“A king shouldn’t leave his queen unguarded, either, especially not one as prone to getting into trouble as you.” He gave me a sly grin. “Besides, if you think I’m going to miss the chance to get out of this damned place and go get my hands dirty, you don’t know me at all.”

I thought he would say that.

You'll Also Like