Home > Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(8)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(8)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

He sat against a tree and stretched his legs, crossing his ankles. “Not from mortals.”

His first words to her since they’d left the city. It could have been an attempt to spook her, but she still did a mental inventory of all the weapons she carried. She ­wouldn’t ask. Didn’t want to know what manner of thing might crawl toward a fire.

The tangle of wood and moss and stone loomed, full of the rustling of heavy leaves, the gurgling of the swollen brook, the flapping of feathered wings. And there, lurking over the rim of a nearby boulder, ­were three sets of small, glowing eyes.

The hilt of her dagger was in her palm a heartbeat later. But they just stared at her. Rowan didn’t seem to notice. He only leaned his head against the oak trunk.

They had always known her, the Little Folk. Even when Adarlan’s shadow had covered the continent, they still recognized what she was. Small gifts left at campsites—­a fresh fish, a leaf full of blackberries, a crown of flowers. She’d ignored them, and stayed out of Oakwald Forest as much as she could.

The faeries kept their unblinking vigil. Wishing she hadn’t downed the food so quickly, Celaena watched them back, ready to spring to a defensive position. Rowan hadn’t moved.

What ancient oaths the faeries honored in Terrasen might be disregarded ­here. Even as she thought it, more eyes glowed between the trees. More silent witnesses to her arrival. Because Celaena was Fae, or something like a mongrel. Her great-­grandmother had been Maeve’s sister, proclaimed a goddess when she died. Ridiculous, really. Mab had been very much mortal when she tied her life to the human prince who loved her so fiercely.

She wondered how much these creatures knew about the wars that had destroyed her land, about the Fae and faeries that had been hunted down, about the burning of the ancient forests and the butchering of the sacred stags of Terrasen. She wondered if they had ever learned what became of their brethren in the West.

She didn’t know how she found it in herself to care. But they seemed so . . . curious. Surprising even herself, Celaena whispered into the humming night, “They still live.”

All those eyes vanished. When she glanced at Rowan, he hadn’t opened his eyes. But she had the sense that the warrior had been aware the entire time.

6

Dorian Havilliard stood before his father’s breakfast table, his hands held behind his back. The king had arrived moments ago but hadn’t told him to sit. Once Dorian might have already said something about it. But having magic, getting drawn into what­ever mess Celaena was in, seeing that other world in the secret tunnels . . . all of that had changed everything. The best he could do these days was maintain a low profile—to keep his father or anyone ­else from looking too long in his direction. So Dorian stood before the table and waited.

The King of Adarlan finished off the roast chicken and sipped from what­ever was in his bloodred glass. “You’re quiet this morning, Prince.” The conqueror of Erilea reached for a platter of smoked fish.

“I was waiting for you to speak, Father.”

Night-­black eyes shifted toward him. “Unusual, indeed.”

Dorian tensed. Only Celaena and Chaol knew the truth about his magic—­and Chaol had shut him out so completely that Dorian didn’t feel like attempting to explain himself to his friend. But this castle was full of spies and sycophants who wanted nothing more than to use what­ever knowledge they could to advance their position. Including selling out their Crown Prince. Who knew who’d seen him in the hallways or the library, or who had discovered that stack of books he’d hidden in Celaena’s rooms? He’d since moved them down to the tomb, where he went every other night—­not for answers to the questions that plagued him but just for an hour of pure silence.

His father resumed eating. He’d been in his father’s private chambers only a few times in his life. They could be a manor ­house of their own, with their library and dining room and council chamber. They occupied an entire wing of the glass castle—­a wing opposite from Dorian’s mother. His parents had never shared a bed, and he didn’t particularly want to know more than that.

He found his father watching him, the morning sun through the curved wall of glass making every scar and nick on the king’s face even more gruesome. “You’re to entertain Aedion Ashryver today.”

Dorian kept his composure as best he could. “Dare I ask why?”

“Since General Ashryver failed to bring his men ­here, it appears he has some spare time while awaiting the Bane’s arrival. It would be beneficial to you both to become better acquainted—­especially when your choice of friends of late has been so . . . common.”

The cold fury of his magic clawed its way up his spine. “With all due respect, Father, I have two meetings to prepare for, and—”

“It’s not open for debate.” His father kept eating. “General Ashryver has been notified, and you will meet him outside your chambers at noon.”

Dorian knew he should keep quiet, but he found himself asking, “Why do you tolerate Aedion? Why keep him alive—­why make him a general?” He’d been unable to stop wondering about it since the man’s arrival.

His father gave a small, knowing smile. “Because Aedion’s rage is a useful blade, and he is capable of keeping his people in line. He will not risk their slaughter, not when he has lost so much. He has quelled many a would-­be rebellion in the North from that fear, for he is well aware that it would be his own people—­the civilians—who suffered first.”

He shared blood with a man this cruel. But Dorian said, “It’s still surprising that you’d keep a general almost as a captive—­as little more than a slave. Controlling him through fear alone seems potentially dangerous.”

Indeed, he wondered if his father had told Aedion about Celaena’s mission to Wendlyn—­homeland of Aedion’s royal bloodline, where Aedion’s cousins the Ashryvers still ruled. Though Aedion trumpeted about his various victories over rebels and acted like he practically owned half the empire himself . . . How much did Aedion remember of his kin across the sea?

His father said, “I have my ways of leashing Aedion should I need to. For now, his brazen irreverence amuses me.” His father jerked his chin toward the door. “I will not be amused, however, if you miss your appointment with him today.”

And just like that, his father fed him to the Wolf.

Despite Dorian’s offers to show Aedion the menagerie, the kennels, the stables—­even the damned library—­the general only wanted to do one thing: walk through the gardens. Aedion claimed he was feeling restless and sluggish from too much food the night before, but the smile he gave Dorian suggested otherwise.

Aedion didn’t bother talking to him, too preoccupied with humming bawdy tunes and inspecting the various women they passed. He’d dropped the half-­civilized veneer only once, when they’d been striding down a narrow path flanked by towering rosebushes—­stunning in the summer, but deadly in the winter—­and the guards had been a turn behind, blind for the moment. Just enough time for Aedion to subtly trip Dorian into one of the thorny walls, still humming his lewd songs.

A quick maneuver had kept Dorian from falling face-­first into the thorns, but his cloak had ripped, and his hand stung. Rather than give the general the satisfaction of seeing him hiss and inspect his cuts, Dorian had tucked his barking, freezing fingers into his pockets as the guards rounded the corner.

They spoke only when Aedion paused by a fountain and braced his scarred hands on his hips, assessing the garden beyond as though it were a battlefield. Aedion smirked at the six guards lurking behind, his eyes bright—­so bright, Dorian thought, and so strangely familiar as the general said, “A prince needs an escort in his own palace? I’m insulted they didn’t send more guards to protect you from me.”

“You think you could take six men?”

The Wolf had let out a low chuckle and shrugged, the scarred hilt of the Sword of Orynth catching the near-­blinding sunlight. “I don’t think I should tell you, in case your father ever decides my usefulness is not worth my temperament.”

   
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