Home > Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(6)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(6)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Aedion dug back into his meal. “More for me, then.”

Chaol clenched his fists under the table. Celaena had not exactly been virtuous in the past ten years, but she’d never killed a natural-­born citizen of Terrasen. Had refused to, actually. And Aedion had always been a gods-­damned bastard, but now . . . Did he know what he wore on his finger? Did he know that despite his arrogance, his defiance and insolence, the king could make him bend to his will whenever he pleased? He ­couldn’t warn Aedion, not without potentially getting himself and everyone he cared about killed should Aedion truly have allegiance to the king.

“How are things in Terrasen?” Chaol asked, because Dorian was studying Aedion again.

“What would you like me to tell you? That we are well-­fed after a brutal winter? That we did not lose many to sickness?” Aedion snorted. “I suppose hunting rebels is always fun, if you’ve a taste for it. Hopefully His Majesty has summoned the Bane to the South to finally give them some real action.” As Aedion reached for the water, Chaol glimpsed the hilt of his sword. Dull metal flecked with dings and scratches, its pommel nothing more than a bit of cracked, rounded horn. Such a simple, plain sword for one of the greatest warriors in Erilea.

“The Sword of Orynth,” Aedion drawled. “A gift from His Majesty upon my first victory.”

Everyone knew that sword. It had been an heirloom of Terrasen’s royal family, passed from ruler to ruler. By right, it was Celaena’s. It had belonged to her father. For Aedion to possess it, considering what that sword now did, the lives it took, was a slap in the face to Celaena and to her family.

“I’m surprised you bother with such sentimentality,” Dorian said.

“Symbols have power, Prince,” Aedion said, pinning him with a stare. Celaena’s stare—­unyielding and alive with challenge. “You’d be surprised by the power this still wields in the North—­what it does to convince people not to pursue foolhardy plans.”

Perhaps Celaena’s skills and cunning ­weren’t unusual in her bloodline. But Aedion was an Ashryver, not a Galathynius—­which meant that his great-­grandmother had been Mab, one of the three Fae-­Queens, in recent generations crowned a goddess and renamed Deanna, Lady of the Hunt. Chaol swallowed hard.

Silence fell, taut as a bowstring. “Trouble between you two?” Aedion asked, biting into his meat. “Let me guess: a woman. The King’s Champion, perhaps? Rumor has it she’s . . . interesting. Is that why you’ve moved on from my sort of fun, princeling?” He scanned the hall. “I’d like to meet her, I think.”

Chaol fought the urge to grip his sword. “She’s away.”

Aedion instead gave Dorian a cruel smile. “Pity. Perhaps she might have convinced me to move on as well.”

“Mind your mouth,” Chaol snarled. He might have laughed had he not wanted to strangle the general so badly. Dorian merely drummed his fingers on the table. “And show some respect.”

Aedion chuckled, finishing off the lamb. “I am His Majesty’s faithful servant, as I have always been.” Those Ashryver eyes once more settled on Dorian. “Perhaps I’ll be your whore someday, too.”

“If you’re still alive by then,” Dorian purred.

Aedion went on eating, but Chaol could still feel his relentless focus pinned on them. “Rumor has it a Matron of a witch clan was killed on the premises not too long ago,” Aedion said casually. “She vanished, though her quarters indicated she’d put up a hell of a fight.”

Dorian said sharply, “What’s your interest in that?”

“I make it my business to know when the power brokers of the realm meet their end.”

A shiver spider-­walked down Chaol’s spine. He knew little about the witches. Celaena had told him a few stories—­and he’d always prayed they ­were exaggerated. But something like dread flickered across Dorian’s face.

Chaol leaned forward. “It’s none of your concern.”

Aedion again ignored him and winked at the prince. Dorian’s nostrils flared, the only sign of the rage that was rising to the surface. That, and the air in the room shifted—­brisker. Magic.

Chaol put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We’re going to be late,” he lied, but Dorian caught it. He had to get Dorian out—­away from Aedion—­and try to leash the disastrous storm that was brewing between the two men. “Rest well, Aedion.” Dorian didn’t bother saying anything, his sapphire eyes frozen.

Aedion smirked. “The party’s tomorrow in Rifthold if you feel like reliving the good old days, Prince.” Oh, the general knew exactly what buttons to push, and he didn’t give a damn what a mess it made. It made him dangerous—­deadly.

Especially where Dorian and his magic ­were concerned. Chaol forced himself to say good night to some of his men, to look casual and unconcerned as they walked from the dining hall. Aedion Ashryver had come to Rifthold, narrowly missing running into his long-­lost cousin.

If Aedion knew Aelin was still alive, if he knew who and what she had become or what she had learned regarding the king’s secret power, would he stand with her, or destroy her? Given his actions, given the ring he bore . . . Chaol didn’t want the general anywhere near her. Anywhere near Terrasen, either.

He wondered how much blood would spill when Celaena learned what her cousin had done.

Chaol and Dorian walked in silence for most of the trek to the prince’s tower. When they turned down an empty hallway and ­were certain no one could overhear them, Dorian said, “I didn’t need you to step in.”

“Aedion’s a bastard,” Chaol growled. The conversation could end there, and part of him was tempted to let it, but he made himself say, “I was worried you’d snap. Like you did in the passages.” He loosed a tight breath. “Are you . . . stable?”

“Some days are better than others. Getting angry or frightened seems to set it off.”

They entered the hallway that ended in the arched wooden door to Dorian’s tower, but Chaol stopped him with an arm on his shoulder. “I don’t want details,” he murmured so the guards posted outside Dorian’s door ­couldn’t hear, “because I don’t want my knowledge used against you. I know I’ve made mistakes, Dorian. Believe me, I know. But my priority has always been—­and still is—­keeping you protected.”

Dorian stared at him for a long moment, cocking his head to the side. Chaol must have looked as miserable as he felt, because the prince’s voice was almost gentle as he said, “Why did you really send her to Wendlyn?”

Agony punched through him, raw and razor-­edged. But as much as he yearned to tell the prince about Celaena, as much as he wanted to unload all his secrets so it would fill the hole in his core, he ­couldn’t. So he just said, “I sent her to do what needs to be done,” and strode back down the hall. Dorian didn’t call after him.

4

Manon pulled her bloodred cloak tightly around herself and pressed into the shadows of the closet, listening to the three men who had broken into her cottage.

She’d tasted the rising fear and rage on the wind all day and had spent the afternoon preparing. She’d been sitting on the thatched roof of the whitewashed cottage when she spotted their torches bobbing over the high grasses of the field. None of the villagers had tried to stop the three men—­though none had joined them, either.

A Crochan witch had come to their little green valley in the north of Fenharrow, they’d said. In the weeks that she’d been living amongst them, carving out a miserable existence, she’d been waiting for this night. It was the same at every village she’d lived in or visited.

She held her breath, keeping still as a deer as one of the men—­a tall, bearded farmer with hands the size of dinner plates—­stepped into her bedroom. Even from the closet, she could smell the ale on his breath—­and the bloodlust. Oh, the villagers knew exactly what they planned to do with the witch who sold potions and charms from her back door, and who could predict the sex of a babe before it was due. She was surprised it had taken these men so long to work up the nerve to come ­here, to torment and then destroy what petrified them.

   
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