Home > Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)(10)

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)(10)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

“Is she coming tonight?” Celaena demanded.

“No,” Mort said simply, as if she should have known already. “She nearly burnt herself out helping you these past few months.”

“What? So she’s … gone?”

“For the time being—until she regains her strength.”

Celaena crossed her arms, taking yet another long, long breath. The chamber seemed the same as it had been the last time she was here. Two stone sarcophagi lay in the center, one depicting Gavin, Elena’s husband and the first King of Adarlan, and the other Elena, both with eerily lifelike quality. Elena’s silver hair spilled over the side of the coffin, disrupted only by the crown atop her head and the delicately pointed ears that marked her as half human, half Fae. Celaena’s attention lingered on the words etched at Elena’s feet: Ah! Time’s Rift!

Brannon, Elena’s Fae father—not to mention the first King of Terrasen—had carved the words into the sarcophagus himself.

The whole tomb was strange, actually. Stars had been carved into the floor, and trees and flowers adorned the arched ceiling. The walls were all etched with Wyrdmarks, the ancient symbols that could be used to access a power that still worked—a power that Nehemia and her family had long kept secret until Cain had somehow mastered it. If the king ever learned of their power, if he knew it could summon creatures as Cain had done, he could unleash endless evil upon Erilea. And his plans would become even more deadly.

“But Elena did tell me that if you deigned to come here again,” Mort said, “she had a message for you.”

Celaena had a feeling of standing in front of a cresting wave, waiting-waiting-waiting for it to break. It could wait—the message could wait, the oncoming burden could wait—for another moment or two of freedom. She walked to the back of the tomb, which had been piled with jewels and gold and trunks overflowing with treasure.

Before it all was displayed a suit of armor and Damaris, the legendary sword of Gavin. Its hilt was silvery gold and had little ornamentation save for a pommel in the shape of an eye. No jewel lay in the socket; it was only an empty ring of gold. Some legends claimed that when Galavin wielded Damaris, he would see only the truth, and that was why he had been crowned king. Or some nonsense like that.

Damaris’s scabbard was decorated by a few Wyrdmarks. Everything seemed connected to those blasted symbols. Celaena scowled and examined the king’s armor. It still bore scratches and indentations upon its golden front. From battles, no doubt. Perhaps even the fight with Erawan, the dark lord who had led an army of demons and the dead against the continent when the kingdoms had been little more than warring territories.

Elena had said that she was a warrior, too. But her armor was nowhere to be seen. Where had it gone? It was probably lying forgotten in a castle somewhere in the kingdoms.

Forgotten. The same way legend had reduced the fierce warrior-princess to nothing more than a damsel in a tower, whom Gavin had rescued.

“It’s not over, is it?” Celaena asked Mort at last.

“No,” Mort said, quieter than he’d been before. This was what Celaena had been dreading for weeks—for months.

The moonlight in the tomb was fading. Soon the eclipse would be complete, and the tomb would be dark, save for the candle.

“Let’s hear her message,” Celaena said, sighing.

Mort cleared his throat, and then said in a voice that sounded eerily like the queen’s, “‘If I could leave you in peace, I would. But you have lived your life aware that you will never escape certain burdens. Whether you like it or not, you are bound to the fate of this world. As the King’s Champion, you are now in a position of power, and you can make a difference in the lives of many.’” Celaena’s stomach turned over.

“Cain and the ridderak were just the beginning of the threat to Erilea,” Mort said, the words echoing around the tomb. “There is a far deadlier power poised to devour the world.”

“And I have to find it, I suppose?”

“Yes. There will be clues to lead you to it. Signs you must follow. Refusing to kill the king’s targets is only the first and smallest step.”

Celaena looked toward the ceiling, as if she could see through the tree-carved surface to the library far, far above. “I saw someone in the castle hallway tonight. Something. It made the amulet glow.”

“Human?” Mort asked, sounding reluctantly intrigued.

“I don’t know,” Celaena admitted. “It didn’t feel like it.” She closed her eyes, taking a steadying breath. She’d been waiting for this for months. “It’s all connected to the king, isn’t it? All of these awful things? Even Elena’s command—that’s about finding whatever power he has, the threat he poses.”

“You already know the answer to that.”

Her heart thundered—with fear, with anger, she didn’t know. “If she’s so damn powerful and knows so much, then she can go find the king’s source of power herself.”

“It is your fate, and your responsibility.”

“There is no such thing as fate,” Celaena hissed.

“Says the girl who was saved from the ridderak because some force compelled her down here on Samhuinn, to see Damaris and learn it was here.”

Celaena took a step closer to the door. “Says the girl who spent a year in Endovier. Says the girl who knows that the gods care no more for our lives than we care for an insect beneath our feet.” She glared into Mort’s gleaming face. “Come to think of it, I can’t quite recall why I should bother helping Erilea, when the gods so clearly don’t bother to help us, either.”

“You don’t mean that,” he said.

Celaena gripped the hilt of her dagger. “I do. So tell Elena to find some other fool to impose upon.”

“You must discover where the king’s power comes from and what he plans to do—before it’s too late.”

Celaena snorted. “Don’t you understand? It’s already too late. It’s been too late for years now. Where was Elena ten years ago, when there was a whole host of heroes that she could have had her pick of? Where were she and her ridiculous quests when the world truly needed them—when Terrasen’s heroes were cut down or hunted and executed by Adarlan’s armies? Where was she when the kingdoms fell, one by one, to the king?” Her eyes burned, but she shoved the pain down to that dark place where it dwelled inside of her. “The world is already in ruin, and I won’t be set on some fool’s errand.”

Mort’s eyes narrowed. Inside the tomb, the light had faded; the moon was almost fully covered now. “I am sorry for what you have lost,” he said in a voice that was not quite his. “And I am sorry about your parents’ deaths that night. It was—”

“Don’t you ever talk about my parents,” Celaena snarled, pointing a finger at his face. “I don’t give a damn if you’re magic or if you’re Elena’s lackey or if you’re just some figment of my imagination. You talk about my parents again, and I’ll hack this door to pieces. Understand?”

Mort just glowered at her. “You’re that selfish? That cowardly? Why did you come down here tonight, Celaena? To help us all? Or just to help yourself? Elena told me about you—about your past.”

“Shut your rutting face,” she snapped, and stormed up the stairs.

Chapter 7

Celaena awoke before dawn with a pounding headache. It took one look at the mostly melted candle on her nightstand to know that her encounter in the tomb hadn’t been some awful dream. Which meant that far beneath her room, there was a talking door knocker imbued with an ancient animation spell. And that Elena had yet again found a way to make her life infinitely more complicated.

Celaena groaned and buried her face in her pillow. She’d meant what she said last night. The world was beyond helping. Even if … even if she’d seen firsthand just how dangerous things could become—how much worse it could be. And that person in the hall …

She flipped onto her back, and Fleetfoot poked her cheek with a wet nose. Idly stroking the dog’s head, Celaena stared up at the ceiling and the pale gray light seeping through the curtains.

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