Home > Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)(16)

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)(16)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

The door to Hafiza’s office opened at last, and the acolyte emerged, smiling apologetically at Yrene, red-nosed and glassy-eyed.

Yrene sighed through her nose and offered a smile back. She was not the person who had just barged into the office. No, even busy as she was, Yrene had always taken time for the acolytes, the homesick ones especially.

No one had sat beside her in the mess hall below during those initial days.

Yrene still remembered those lonely meals. Remembered that she’d broken after two days and began taking her food to the vast healers’ library belowground, hiding from the stiff-backed librarians who forbade such things, with only the occasional mercurial Baast Cat and carved owl for company.

Yrene had returned to the mess hall once her lessons had garnered enough acquaintances to make the prospect of finding a place to sit less daunting, spotting familiar and smiling faces giving her enough courage to leave the library and its enigmatic cats behind for anything but research.

Yrene touched the acolyte on the shoulder and whispered, “Cook made almond cookies this morning. I smelled them on the way out. Tell her I want six, but take four of those for yourself.” She winked at the girl. “Leave the other two for me at my room.”

The girl beamed, nodding. Cook was perhaps Yrene’s first friend in the Torre. She’d spied Yrene eating alone and began sneaking extra treats onto her tray. Leaving them in her room. Even in her favorite secret spot in the library. Yrene had repaid Cook last year by saving her granddaughter from an insidious lung sickness that had crept up on her. Cook still got weepy whenever they ran into each other, and Yrene had made it a point to stop by the girl’s house once a month to check on her.

When she left, she’d have to ask someone to look after the girl. Cleaving herself from this life she’d built … It would be no easy task. And come with no small amount of guilt.

Yrene watched the still-sniffling acolyte hop down the wide spiral stairs, then took a deep breath and strode into Hafiza’s office.

“Will the young lord walk again?” Hafiza asked by way of greeting, white brows high on her forehead.

Yrene slid into her usual chair, the seat still warm from the girl who’d just vacated it.

“He will. The injury is nearly twin to the one I healed last winter. But it will be tricky.”

“In regard to the healing, or you?”

Yrene blushed. “I behaved … poorly.”

“That was to be expected.”

Yrene wiped the sweat from her brow. “I’m embarrassed to tell you how badly.”

“Then don’t. Do better the next time, and we’ll consider this another lesson.”

Yrene sagged in her chair, stretching her aching legs on the worn carpet. No matter how Hafiza’s servants begged, she refused to change the red-and-green rug. It had been good enough for the last five of her predecessors, and it was good enough for her.

Yrene leaned her head against the soft back of the chair, staring at the cloudless day beyond the open windows. “I think I can heal him,” she said, more to herself than Hafiza. “If he cooperates, I could get him walking again.”

“And will he cooperate?”

“I was not the only one who behaved poorly,” she said. “Though he’s from Adarlan—it could be his nature.”

Hafiza huffed a laugh. “When do you return to him?”

Yrene hesitated.

“You will return, won’t you?” Hafiza pushed.

Yrene picked at the sun-blanched threads of the chair’s arm. “It was hard—hard to look at him, hear his accent, and …” She stilled her hand. “But you are right. I shall … try. If only so Adarlan may never hold it against me.”

“Do you expect them to?”

“He has powerful friends who might remember. His companion is the new Captain of the Guard. Her family hails from here, yet she serves them.”

“And what does that tell you?”

Always a lesson, always a test. “It tells me …” Yrene blew out a breath. “It tells me I don’t know as much as I assumed.” She straightened. “But it also doesn’t forgive them of any sins.”

Yet she had met plenty of bad people in her life. Lived among them, served them, in Innish. She had taken one look at Lord Westfall’s brown eyes and had known, deep down, he was not one of them. Neither was his companion.

And with his age … He had been a boy when so many of those atrocities had been committed. He still could have played some part, and plenty more had been done in recent years—enough to make her ill at the thought—but …

“The injury to his spine,” Yrene said. “He claims some foul magic did it.”

Her magic had recoiled against the splattered mark. Curved away.


She shivered. “I’ve never … I’ve never felt anything like that. As if it was rotted, yet empty. Cold as the longest winter night.”

“I shall have to take your word on that one.”

Yrene snorted, grateful for the dry humor. Indeed, Hafiza had never so much as seen snow. With Antica’s year-round warm climate, the closest they’d gotten to winter these two years was perhaps a crust of frost sparkling over the lavender and lemon trees one morning.

“It was …” Yrene brushed off the memory of the echo still held within that scar. “It was not any magic-wound I had encountered before.”

“Will it impact the healing of his spine?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t tried to probe with my power yet, but … I’ll let you know.”

“I’m at your disposal.”

“Even if this is my final test?”

“A good healer,” Hafiza said with a smile, “knows when to ask for help.”

Yrene nodded absently. And when she sailed back home, to war and bloodshed, who would she turn to then?

“I’ll go back,” Yrene said at last. “Tomorrow. I want to look into spinal injuries and paralysis in the library tonight.”

“I’ll let Cook know where to find you.”

Yrene gave Hafiza a wry grin. “Nothing escapes you, does it?”

Hafiza’s knowing look wasn’t comforting.

The healer didn’t return that day. Nesryn waited for another hour, then two, Chaol filling his time with reading in the sitting room, before she finally declared she was going to see her family.

It had been years since she’d seen her aunt and uncle and their children. She prayed they were still in the house where she’d last visited.

She’d barely slept. Had barely been able to think or feel things like hunger or exhaustion thanks to the thoughts wreaking havoc within her.

The healer with her lack of answers hadn’t soothed her.

And with no formal meeting scheduled with the khagan or his children today …

“I can entertain myself, you know,” Chaol said, setting his book on his lap as Nesryn again looked to the foyer door. “I’d join you, if I could.”

“You soon will be able to,” she promised. The healer had seemed skilled enough, despite her refusal to even give them a shred of hope.

If the woman couldn’t help them, then Nesryn would find another. And another. Even if she had to beg the Healer on High to help.

“Go, Nesryn,” Chaol ordered. “You’ll get no peace until you do.”

She rubbed her neck, then rose from her spot on the golden couch and strode over to him. Braced her hands on either arm of his chair, currently positioned by the open garden doors. She brought her face close to his, closer than it’d been in days. His own eyes seemed … brighter, somehow. A smidge better than yesterday. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”

He gave her a quiet smile. “Take your time. See your family.” He had not seen his mother or brother in years, he’d told her. His father … Chaol did not talk about his father.

“Perhaps,” she said quietly, “we could get an answer for the healer.”

He blinked at her.

She murmured, “About the completion.”

That fast, the light winked out from his eyes.

She withdrew quickly. He’d stopped her on the boat, when she’d practically leaped atop him. And seeing him without his shirt earlier, those muscles rippling along his back, his stomach … She’d almost begged the healer to let her do the inspecting.

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