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

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

The tang and reek of the woman hit Celaena before she saw her. Then wide, yellowed eyes ­were in her face, and a pair of withered, cracked lips parted to hiss, “Slattern! Don’t let me catch you in front of my door again!”

Celaena pulled back, blinking at the vagrant woman—­and at her door, which . . . was just an alcove in the wall, crammed with rubbish and what had to be sacks of the woman’s belongings. The woman herself was hunched, her hair unwashed and teeth a ruin of stumps. Celaena blinked again, the woman’s face coming into focus. Furious, half-­mad, and filthy.

Celaena held up her hands, backing away a step, then another. “Sorry.”

The woman spat a wad of phlegm onto the cobblestones an inch from Celaena’s dusty boots. Failing to muster the energy to be disgusted or furious, Celaena would have walked away had she not glimpsed herself as she raised her dull gaze from the glob.

Dirty clothes—­stained and dusty and torn. Not to mention, she smelled atrocious, and this vagrant woman had mistaken her for . . . for a fellow vagrant, competing for space on the streets.

Well. ­Wasn’t that just wonderful. An all-­time low, even for her. Perhaps it’d be funny one day, if she bothered to remember it. She ­couldn’t recall the last time she’d laughed.

At least she could take some comfort in knowing that it ­couldn’t get worse.

But then a deep male voice chuckled from the shadows behind her.

2

The man—­male—down the alley was Fae.

After ten years, after all the executions and burnings, a Fae male was prowling toward her. Pure, solid Fae. There was no escaping him as he emerged from the shadows yards away. The vagrant in the alcove and the others along the alley fell so quiet Celaena could again hear those bells ringing in the distant mountains.

Tall, broad-­shouldered, every inch of him seemingly corded with muscle, he was a male blooded with power. He paused in a dusty shaft of sunlight, his silver hair gleaming.

As if his delicately pointed ears and slightly elongated canines ­weren’t enough to scare the living shit out of everyone in that alley, including the now-­whimpering madwoman behind Celaena, a wicked-­looking tattoo was ­etched down the left side of his harsh face, the whorls of black ink stark against his sun-­kissed skin.

The markings could easily have been decorative, but she still remembered enough of the Fae language to recognize them as words, even in such an artistic rendering. Starting at his temple, the tattoo flowed over his jaw and down his neck, where it disappeared beneath the pale surcoat and cloak he wore. She had a feeling the markings continued down the rest of him, too, concealed along with at least half a dozen weapons. As she reached into her cloak for her own hidden dagger, she realized he might have been handsome ­were it not for the promise of violence in his pine-­green eyes.

It would have been a mistake to call him young—­just as it would have been a mistake to call him anything but a warrior, even without the sword strapped across his back and the vicious knives at his sides. He moved with lethal grace and surety, scanning the alley as if he ­were walking onto a killing field.

The hilt of the dagger was warm in her hand, and Celaena adjusted her stance, surprised to be feeling—­fear. And enough of it that it cleared the heavy fog that had been clouding her senses these past few weeks.

The Fae warrior stalked down the alley, his knee-­high leather boots silent on the cobblestones. Some of the loiterers shrank back; some bolted for the sunny street, to random doorways, anywhere to escape his challenging stare.

Celaena knew before his sharp eyes met hers that he was ­here for her, and who had sent him.

She reached for her Eye amulet, startled to find it was no longer around her neck. She’d given it to Chaol—­the only bit of protection she could grant him upon leaving. He’d probably thrown it away as soon as he figured out the truth. Then he could go back to the haven of being her enemy. Maybe he’d tell Dorian, too, and the pair of them would both be safe.

Before she could give in to the instinct to scuttle back up the drainpipe and onto the roof, she considered the plan she’d abandoned. Had some god remembered she existed and decided to throw her a bone? She’d needed to see Maeve.

Well, ­here was one of Maeve’s elite warriors. Ready. Waiting.

And from the vicious temper emanating from him, not entirely happy about it.

The alley remained as still as a graveyard while the Fae warrior surveyed her. His nostrils flared delicately, as if he ­were—

He was getting a whiff of her scent.

She took some small satisfaction in knowing she smelled horrific, but it ­wasn’t that smell he was reading. No, it was the scent that marked her as her—­the smell of her lineage and blood and what and who she was. And if he said her name in front of these people . . . then she knew that Galan Ashryver would come running home. The guards would be on high alert, and that was not part of her plan at all.

The bastard looked likely to do such a thing, just to prove who was in charge. So she summoned her energy as best she could and sauntered over to him, trying to remember what she might have done months ago, before the world had gone to hell. “Well met, my friend,” she purred. “Well met, indeed.”

She ignored the shocked faces around them, focusing solely on sizing him up. He stood with a stillness that only an immortal could achieve. She willed her heartbeat and breathing to calm. He could probably hear them, could probably smell every emotion raging through her. There’d be no fooling him with bravado, not in a thousand years. He’d probably lived that long already. Perhaps there’d be no beating him, either. She was Celaena Sardothien, but he was a Fae warrior and had likely been one for a great while.

She stopped a few feet away. Gods, he was huge. “What a lovely surprise,” she said loudly enough for everyone to hear. When was the last time she’d sounded that pleasant? She ­couldn’t even remember the last time she’d spoken in full sentences. “I thought we ­were to meet at the city walls.”

He didn’t bow, thank the gods. His harsh face didn’t even shift. Let him think what he wanted. She was sure she looked nothing like what he’d been told to expect—­and he’d certainly laughed when that woman mistook her for a fellow vagrant.

“Let’s go,” was all he said, his deep, somewhat bored voice seeming to echo off the stones as he turned to leave the alley. She’d bet good money that the leather vambraces on his forearms concealed blades.

She might have given him a rather obnoxious reply, just to feel him out a bit more, but people ­were still watching. He prowled along, not deigning to look at any of the gawkers. She ­couldn’t tell if she was impressed or revolted.

She followed the Fae warrior into the bright street and through the bustling city. He was heedless of the humans who paused their working and walking and milling about to stare. He certainly didn’t wait for her to catch up as he strode up to a pair of ordinary mares tied by a trough in a nondescript square. If memory served her correctly, the Fae usually possessed far finer ­horses. He had probably arrived in another form and purchased these ­here.

All Fae possessed a secondary animal form. Celaena was currently in hers, her mortal human body as animal as the birds wheeling above. But what was his? He could have been a wolf, she thought, with that layered surcoat that flowed to midthigh like a pelt, his footfalls so silent. Or a mountain cat, with that predatory grace.

He mounted the larger of the mares, leaving her to the piebald beast that looked more interested in seeking out a quick meal than trekking across the land. That made two of them. But they’d gone far enough without any explanation.

She stuffed her satchel into a saddlebag, angling her hands so that her sleeves hid the narrow bands of scars on her wrists, reminders of where the manacles had been. Where she had been. It was none of his business. None of Maeve’s business, either. The less they knew about her, the less they could use against her. “I’ve known a few brooding warrior-­types in my day, but I think you might be the broodiest of them all.” He whipped his head to her, and she drawled, “Oh, hello. I think you know who I am, so I won’t bother introducing myself. But before I’m carted off to gods-­know-­where, I’d like to know who you are.”

   
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