Home > Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(9)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)(9)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Some of the guards behind them murmured, but Dorian said, “Probably not.”

And that was it—­that was all Aedion said to him for the rest of the cold, miserable walk. Until the general gave him an edged smile and said, “Better get that looked at.” That was when Dorian realized his right hand was still bleeding. Aedion just turned away. “Thanks for the walk, Prince,” the general said over his shoulder, and it felt more like a threat than anything.

Aedion didn’t act without a reason. Perhaps the general had convinced his father to force this excursion. But for what purpose, Dorian ­couldn’t grasp. Unless Aedion merely wanted to get a feel for what sort of man Dorian had become and how well Dorian could play the game. He ­wouldn’t put it past the warrior to have done it just to assess a potential ally or threat—­Aedion, for all his arrogance, had a cunning mind. He probably viewed court life as another sort of battlefield.

Dorian let Chaol’s hand-­selected guards lead him back into the wonderfully warm castle, then dismissed them with a nod. Chaol hadn’t come today, and he was grateful—­after that conversation about his magic, after Chaol refused to speak about Celaena, Dorian ­wasn’t sure what ­else was left for them to talk about. He didn’t believe for one moment that Chaol would willingly sanction the deaths of innocent men, no matter whether they ­were friends or enemies. Chaol had to know, then, that Celaena ­wouldn’t assassinate the Ashryver royals, for what­ever reasons of her own. But there was no point in bothering to talk to Chaol, not when his friend was keeping secrets, too.

Dorian mulled over his friend’s puzzle-­box of words again as he walked into the healers’ catacombs, the smell of rosemary and mint wafting past. It was a warren of supply and examination rooms, kept far from the prying eyes of the glass castle high above. There was another ward high in the glass castle, for those who ­wouldn’t deign to make the trek down ­here, but this was where the best healers in Rifthold—­and Adarlan—­had honed and practiced their craft for a thousand years. The pale stones seemed to breathe the essence of centuries of drying herbs, giving the subterranean halls a pleasant, open feeling.

Dorian found a small workroom where a young woman was hunched over a large oak table, a variety of glass jars, scales, mortars, and pestles before her, along with vials of liquid, hanging herbs, and bubbling pots over small, solitary flames. The healing arts ­were one of the few that his father hadn’t completely outlawed ten years ago—­though once, he’d heard, they’d been even more powerful. Once, healers had used magic to mend and save. Now they ­were left with what­ever nature provided them.

Dorian stepped into the room and the young woman looked up from the book she was scanning, a finger pausing on the page. Not beautiful, but—­pretty. Clean, elegant lines, chestnut hair woven in a braid, and golden-­tan skin that suggested at least one family member came from Eyllwe. “Can I—” She got a good look at him, then, and dropped into a bow. “Your Highness,” she said, a flush creeping up the smooth column of her neck.

Dorian held up his bloodied hand. “Thornbush.” Rosebush made his cuts seem that much more pathetic.

She kept her eyes averted, biting her full bottom lip. “Of course.” She gestured a slender hand toward the wooden chair before the table. “Please. Unless—­unless you’d rather go to a proper examination room?”

Dorian normally hated dealing with the stammering and scrambling, but this young woman was still so red, so soft-­spoken that he said, “This is fine,” and slid into the chair.

The silence lay heavy on him as she hurried through the workroom, first changing her dirty white apron, then washing her hands for a good long minute, then gathering all manner of ban­dages and tins of salve, then a bowl of hot water and clean rags, and then finally, finally pulling a chair around the table to face his.

They didn’t speak, either, when she carefully washed and then examined his hand. But he found himself watching her hazel eyes, the sureness of her fingers, and the blush that remained on her neck and face. “The hand is—­very complex,” she murmured at last, studying the cuts. “I just wanted to make sure that nothing was damaged and that there ­weren’t any thorns lodged in there.” She swiftly added, “Your Highness.”

“I think it looks worse than it actually is.”

With a feather-­light touch, she smeared a cloudy salve on his hand, and, like a damn fool, he winced. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “It’s to disinfect the cuts. Just in case.” She seemed to curl in on herself, as if he’d give the order to hang her merely for that.

He fumbled for the words, then said, “I’ve dealt with worse.”

It sounded stupid coming out, and she paused for a moment before reaching for the ban­dages. “I know,” she said, and glanced up at him.

Well, damn. ­Weren’t those eyes just stunning. She quickly looked back down, gently wrapping his hand. “I’m assigned to the southern wing of the castle—­and I’m often on night duty.”

That explained why she looked so familiar. She’d healed not only him that night a month ago but also Celaena, Chaol, Fleetfoot . . . had been there for all of their injuries these past seven months. “I’m sorry, I ­can’t remember your name—”

“It’s Sorscha,” she said, though there was no anger in it, as there should have been. The spoiled prince and his entitled friends, too absorbed in their own lives to bother learning the name of the healer who had patched them up again and again.

She finished wrapping his hand and he said, “In case we didn’t say it often enough, thank you.”

Those green-­flecked brown eyes lifted again. A tentative smile. “It’s an honor, Prince.” She began gathering up her supplies.

Taking that as his cue to leave, he stood and flexed his fingers. “Feels good.”

“They’re minor wounds, but keep an eye on them.” Sorscha dumped the bloodied water down the sink in the back of the room. “And you needn’t come all the way down ­here the next time. Just—­just send word, Your Highness. ­We’re happy to attend to you.” She curtsied low, with the long-­limbed grace of a dancer.

“You’ve been responsible for the southern stone wing all this time?” The question within the question was clear enough: You’ve seen everything? Every inexplicable injury?

“We keep rec­ords of our patients,” Sorscha said softly—­so no one ­else passing by the open doorway could hear. “But sometimes we forget to write down everything.”

She hadn’t told anyone what she’d seen, the things that didn’t add up. Dorian gave her a swift bow of thanks and strode from the room. How many others, he wondered, had seen more than they let on? He didn’t want to know.

Sorscha’s fingers, thankfully, had stopped shaking by the time the Crown Prince left the catacombs. By some lingering grace of Silba, goddess of healers and bringer of peace—­and gentle deaths—­she’d managed to keep them from trembling while she patched up his hand, too. Sorscha leaned against the counter and loosed a long breath.

The cuts hadn’t merited a ban­dage, but she’d been selfish and foolish and had wanted to keep the beautiful prince in that chair for as long as she could manage.

He didn’t even know who she was.

She’d been appointed full healer a year ago, and had been called to attend to the prince, the captain, and their friend countless times. And the Crown Prince still had no idea who she was.

She hadn’t lied to him—­about failing to keep rec­ords of everything. But she remembered it all. Especially that night a month ago, when the three of them had been bloodied up and filthy, the girl’s hound injured, too, with no explanation and no one raising a fuss. And the girl, their friend . . .

The King’s Champion. That’s who she was.

Lover, it seemed, of both the prince and his captain at one time or another. Sorscha had helped Amithy tend to the young woman after the brutal duel to win her title. Occasionally, she’d checked on the girl and found the prince holding her in bed.

   
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