Home > Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(13)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(13)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

“I’ve seen plenty of this big and dangerous world, princeling.”

A soft, harsh laugh. “Just wait, Aelin.”

Another jab. And she let herself fall for it. “Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name. I’m not going to call you anything different.”

She stepped in his path, getting right near those too-­sharp canines. “No one ­here can know who I am. Do you understand?”

His green eyes gleamed, animal-­bright in the dark. “My aunt has given me a harder task than she realizes, I think.” My aunt. Not our aunt.

And then she said one of the foulest things she’d ever uttered in her life, bathing in the pure hate of it. “Fae like you make me understand the King of Adarlan’s actions a bit more, I think.”

Faster than she could sense, faster than anything had a right to be, he punched her.

She shifted enough to keep her nose from shattering but took the blow on her mouth. She hit the wall, whacked her head, and tasted blood. Good.

He struck again with that immortal speed—­or would have. But with equally unnerving swiftness, he halted his second blow before it fractured her jaw and snarled in her face, low and vicious.

Her breathing turned ragged as she purred, “Do it.”

He looked more interested in ripping out her throat than in talking, but he held the line he’d drawn. “Why should I give you what you want?”

“You’re just as useless as the rest of your brethren.”

He let out a soft, lethal laugh that raked claws down her temper. “If you’re that desperate to eat stone, go ahead: I’ll let you try to land the next punch.”

She knew better than to listen. But there was such a roar in her blood that she could no longer see right, think right, breathe right. So she damned the consequences to hell as she swung.

Celaena hit nothing but air—­air, and then his foot hooked behind hers in an efficient maneuver that sent her careening into the wall once more. Impossible—­he’d tripped her as if she was nothing more than a trembling novice.

He was now a few feet away, arms crossed. She spat blood and swore. He smirked. It was enough to send her hurtling for him again, to tackle or pummel or strangle him, she didn’t know.

She caught his feint left, but when she dove right, he moved so swiftly that despite her lifetime of training, she crashed into a darkened brazier behind him. The clatter echoed through the too-­quiet hall as she landed face-­first on the stone floor, her teeth singing.

“Like I said,” Rowan sneered down at her, “you have a lot to learn. About everything.”

Her lip already aching and swollen, she told him exactly what he could go do to himself.

He sauntered down the hall. “Next time you say anything like that,” he said without looking over his shoulder, “I’ll have you chopping wood for a month.”

Fuming, hatred and shame already burning her face, Celaena got to her feet. He dumped her in a very small, very cold room that looked like little more than a prison cell, letting her take all of two steps inside before he said, “Give me your weapons.”

“Why? And no.” Like hell she’d give him her daggers.

In a swift movement, he grabbed a bucket of water from beside her door and tossed the contents onto the hall floor before holding it out. “Give me your weapons.”

Training with him would be absolutely wonderful. “Tell me why.”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

“Then ­we’re going to have another brawl.”

His tattoo seeming impossibly darker in the dim hall, he stared at her beneath lowered brows as if to say, You call that a brawl? But ­in­­stead he growled, “Starting at dawn, you’ll earn your keep by hel­ping in the kitchen. Unless you plan to murder everyone in the fortress, there is no need for you to be armed. Or to be armed while we train. So I’ll keep your daggers until you’ve earned them back.”

Well, that felt familiar. “The kitchen?”

He bared his teeth in a wicked grin. “Everyone pulls their weight ­here. Princesses included. No one’s above some hard labor, least of all you.”

And didn’t she have the scars to prove it. Not that she’d tell him that. She didn’t know what she’d do if he learned about Endovier and mocked her for it—­or pitied her. “So my training includes being a scullery maid?”

“Part of it.” Again, she could have sworn she could read the unspoken words in his eyes: And I’m going to savor every damn second of your misery.

“For an old bastard, you certainly ­haven’t bothered to learn manners at any point in your long existence.” Never mind that he looked to be in his late twenties.

“Why should I waste flattery on a child who’s already in love with herself ?”

“We’re related, you know.”

“We’ve as much blood in common as I do with the fortress pig-­boy.”

She felt her nostrils flare, and he shoved the bucket in her face. She almost knocked it right back into his, but decided that she didn’t want a broken nose and began disarming herself.

Rowan counted every weapon she put in the bucket as though he’d already learned how many she’d been carry­ing, even the hidden ones. Then he tucked the bucket against his side and slammed the door without so much of a good-­bye beyond “Be ready at dawn.”

“Bastard. Old stinking bastard,” she muttered, surveying the room.

A bed, a chamber pot, and a washbasin with icy water. She’d debated a bath, but opted to use the water to clean out her mouth and tend to her lip. She was starving, but going to find food involved meeting people. So once she’d mended her lip as best she could with the supplies in her satchel, she tumbled into bed, reeking vagrant clothes and all, and lay there for several hours.

There was one small window with no coverings in her room. Celaena turned over in bed to look through it to the patch of stars above the trees surrounding the fortress.

Lashing out at Rowan like that, saying the things she did, trying to fight with him . . . She’d deserved that punch. More than deserved it. If she was being honest with herself, she was barely passable as a human being these days. She fingered her split lip and winced.

She scanned the night sky until she located the Stag, the Lord of the North. The unmoving star atop the stag’s head—­the eternal crown—­pointed the way to Terrasen. She’d been told that the great rulers of Terrasen turned into those bright stars so their people would never be alone—­and would always know the way home. She hadn’t set foot there in ten years. While he’d been her master, Arobynn hadn’t let her, and afterward she hadn’t dared.

She had whispered the truth that day at Nehemia’s grave. She’d been running for so long that she didn’t know what it was to stand and fight. Celaena loosed a breath and rubbed her eyes.

What Maeve didn’t understand, what she could never understand, was just how much that little princess in Terrasen had damned them a de­cade ago, even worse than Maeve herself had. She had damned them all, and then left the world to burn into ash and dust.

So Celaena turned away from the stars, nestling under the threadbare blanket against the frigid cold, and closed her eyes, trying to dream of a different world.

A world where she was no one at all.

9

Manon Blackbeak stood on a cliff beside the snow-­swollen river, eyes closed as the damp wind bit her face. There ­were few sounds she enjoyed more than the groans of dying men, but the wind was one of them.

Leaning into the breeze was the closest she came to flying these days—­save in rare dreams, when she was again in the clouds, her ironwood broom still functioning, not the scrap of useless wood it was now, chucked into the closet of her room at Blackbeak Keep.

It had been ten years since she’d tasted mist and cloud and ridden on the back of the wind. Today would have been a flawless flying day, the wind wicked and fast. Today, she would have soared.

Behind her, Mother Blackbeak was still talking with the enormous man from the caravan who called himself a duke. It had been more than coincidence, she supposed, that soon after she’d left that blood-­soaked field in Fenharrow she’d received a summons from her grandmother. And more than coincidence that she’d been not forty miles from the rendezvous point just over the border in Adarlan.

   
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