Home > Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(15)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(15)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

“And when we are done, when we have served him, he will let us keep the wyverns. To take our host to reclaim the Wastes from the mortal pigs who now dwell there.” A fierce, wild thrill pierced Manon’s chest, sharp as a knife. Following the Matron’s gaze, Manon looked to the horizon, where the mountains ­were still blanketed with winter. To fly again, to soar through the mountain passes, to hunt down prey the way they’d been born to . . .

They ­weren’t enchanted ironwood brooms.

But wyverns would do just fine.

10

After a grueling day of training new recruits, avoiding Dorian, and keeping well away from the king’s watchful eye, Chaol was almost at his rooms, more than ready to sleep, when he noticed that two of his men ­were missing from their posts outside the Great Hall. The two remaining men winced as he stopped dead.

It ­wasn’t unusual for guards to occasionally miss a shift. If someone was sick, if they had some family tragedy, Chaol always found a replacement. But two missing guards, with no replacement in sight . . . “Someone had better start talking,” he ground out.

One of them cleared their throats—­a newer guard, who had just finished his training three months before. The other one was relatively new, too, which was why he’d assigned them to night duty outside the empty Great Hall. But he’d put them under the supposedly responsible and watchful eyes of the two other guards, both of whom had been ­there for years.

The guard who’d cleared his throat went red. “It—­they said . . . Ah, Captain, they said that no one would really notice if they ­were gone, since it’s the Great Hall, and it’s empty and, ah—”

“Use your words,” Chaol snapped. He was going to murder the two deserters.

“The general’s party, sir,” said the other. “General Ashryver walked past on his way into Rifthold and invited them to join him. He said it would be all right with you, so they went with him.”

A muscle feathered in his jaw. Of course Aedion did.

“And you two,” Chaol growled, “didn’t think it would be useful to report this to anyone?”

“With all due respect, sir,” said the second one, “we ­were . . . we didn’t want them to think we ­were ratters. And it’s just the Great Hall—”

“Wrong thing to say,” Chaol snarled. “You’re both on double duty for a month—­in the gardens.” Where it was still freezing. “Your leisure time is now non­ex­is­tent. And if you ever again fail to report another guard abandoning his post, you’re both gone. Understood?”

When he got a mumbled confirmation, he stalked toward the front gate of the castle. Like hell he’d go to sleep now. He had two guards to hunt down in Rifthold . . . and a general to exchange some words with.

Aedion had rented out an entire tavern. Men ­were at the door to keep out the riffraff, but one glare from Chaol, one glimpse of the eagle-­shaped pommel of his sword, had them stepping aside. The tavern was crammed with various nobles, some women who could have been courtesans or courtiers, and men—­lots of drunk, boisterous men. Card games, dice, bawdy singing to the music made by the small quintet by the roaring fire, free-­flowing taps of ale, bottles of sparkling wine . . . Was Aedion going to pay for this with his blood money, or was it on the king?

Chaol spotted his two guards, plus half a dozen others, playing cards, women in their laps, grinning like fiends. Until they saw him.

They ­were still groveling as Chaol sent them packing—­back to the castle, where he would deal with them tomorrow. He ­couldn’t decide whether they deserved to lose their positions, since Aedion had lied, and he didn’t like making choices like that unless he’d slept on them first. So out they went, into the freezing night. And then Chaol began the pro­cess of hunting down the general.

But no one knew where he was. First, someone sent Chaol upstairs, to one of the tavern’s bedrooms. Where he indeed found the two women someone said Aedion had slipped away with—­but another man was between them. Chaol only demanded where the general had gone. The women said they’d seen him playing dice in the cellar with some masked, high-­ranking nobles. So Chaol stormed down there. And indeed, there ­were the masked, high-­ranking nobles. They ­were pretending to be mere revelers, but Chaol recognized them anyway, even if he didn’t call them out by name. They insisted Aedion was last seen playing the fiddle in the main room.

So Chaol went back upstairs. Aedion was certainly not playing the fiddle. Or the drum, or the lute or the pipes. In fact, it seemed that Aedion Ashryver ­wasn’t even at his own party.

A courtesan prowled up to him to sell her wares, and would have walked away at his snarl had Chaol not offered her a silver coin for information about the general. She’d seen him leave an hour ago—­on the arm of one of her rivals. Headed off to a more private location, but she didn’t know where. If Aedion was no longer ­here, then . . . Chaol went back to the castle.

But he did hear one more bit of information. The Bane would arrive soon, people said, and when the legion descended on the city, they planned to show Rifthold a ­whole new level of debauchery. All of Chaol’s guards ­were invited, apparently.

It was the last thing he wanted or needed—­an entire legion of lethal warriors wreaking havoc on Rifthold and distracting his men. If that happened, the king might look too closely at Chaol—­or ask where he sometimes disappeared to.

So he needed to have more than just words with Aedion. He needed to find something to use against him so Aedion would agree not to throw these parties and swear to keep his Bane under control. Tomorrow night, he’d go to what­ever party Aedion threw.

And see what leverage he could find.

11

Freezing and aching from shivering all night, Celaena awoke before dawn in her miserable little room and found an ivory tin sitting outside the door. It was filled with a salve that smelled of mint and rosemary, and beneath it was a note written in tight, concise letters.

You deserved it. Maeve sends her wishes for a speedy recovery.

Snorting at the lecture Rowan must have received, and how it must have ruffled his feathers to bring her the gift, Celaena smeared the salve onto her still-­swollen lip. A glance in the speckled shard of mirror above the dresser revealed that she had seen better days. And was never drinking wine or eating teggya again. Or going more than a day without a bath.

Apparently Rowan agreed, because he’d also left a few pitchers of water, some soap, and a new set of clothes: white underthings, a loose shirt, and a pale-gray surcoat and cloak similar to what he had worn the day before. Though simple, the fabric was thick and of good quality.

Celaena washed as best she could, shaking with the cold leaking in from the misty forest beyond. Suddenly homesick for the giant bathing pool at the palace, she quickly dried and slid into the clothes, thankful for the layers.

Her teeth ­wouldn’t stop chattering. Hadn’t stopped chattering all night, actually. Having wet hair now didn’t help, even after she braided it back. She stuffed her feet into the knee-­high leather boots and tied the thick red sash around her waist as tightly as she could manage without losing the ability to move, hoping to give herself some shape, but . . .

Celaena scowled at the mirror. She’d lost weight—­enough so that her face looked about as hollow as she felt. Even her hair had become rather dull and limp. The salve had already taken down the swelling in her lip, but not the color. At least she was clean again. If frozen to her core. And—­completely overdressed for kitchen duty. Sighing, she unwrapped her sash and shrugged off the overcoat, tossing them onto the bed. Gods, her hands ­were so cold that the ring on her finger was slipping and sliding about. She knew it was a mistake, but she looked at it anyway, the amethyst dark in the early morning light.

What would Chaol make of all this? She was ­here, after all, because of him. Not just ­here in this physical place, but ­here inside this endless exhaustion, the near-­constant ache in her chest. It was not his fault that Nehemia died, not when the princess had orchestrated everything. Yet he had kept information from her. He had chosen the king. Even though he’d claimed he loved her, he still loyally served that monster. Maybe she had been a fool for letting him in, for dreaming of a world where she could ignore the fact that he was captain to the man who had shattered her life again and again.

   
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