Chaol supposed it was a miracle in itself that Dorian had agreed to do this. The grief on Dorian’s face this morning had told him he could ask. And that Dorian would say yes.
Dorian made Chaol explain everything—to both of them. That was Dorian’s price: the truth owed to him, and to the woman who deserved to know what she was risking herself for.
Chaol quietly, quickly, explained everything: the magic, the Wyrdkeys, the three towers . . . all of it. To her credit, Sorscha didn’t fall apart or doubt him. He wondered if she was reeling, if she was upset with Dorian for not telling her. She revealed nothing, not with that healer’s training and self-control. But the prince watched Sorscha as if he could read her impregnable mask and see what was brewing beneath.
The prince had somewhere to be. He kissed Sorscha before he left, murmuring something in her ear that made her smile. Chaol hadn’t suspected to find Dorian so . . . happy with his healer. Sorscha. It was an embarrassment that Chaol had never known her name until today. And from the way Dorian looked at her, and she him . . . He was glad that his friend had found her.
When Dorian had gone, Sorscha was still smiling, despite what she’d learned. It made her truly stunning—it made her whole face open up.
“I think,” Chaol said, and Sorscha turned, brows high, ready to get to work. “I think,” he said again, smiling faintly, “that this kingdom could use a healer as its queen.”
She did not smile at him, as he’d hoped. Instead she looked unfathomably sad as she returned to her work. Chaol left without further word to ready himself for his experiment with Dorian—the only person in this castle, perhaps in the world, who could help him. Help them all.
Dorian had raw power, Celaena had said, power to be shaped as he willed it. That was the only thing similar enough to the power of the Wyrdkeys, neither good nor evil. And crystals, Chaol had once read in Celaena’s magic books, were good conduits for magic. It hadn’t been hard to buy several from the market—each about as long as his finger, white as fresh snow.
Everything was nearly ready when Dorian finally arrived in one of the secret tunnels and took a seat on the ground. Candles burned around them, and Chaol explained his plan as he finished pouring the last line of red sand—from the Red Desert, the merchant had claimed—between the three crystals. Equidistant from one another, they made the shape Murtaugh had drawn on the map of their continent. In the center of the triangle sat a small bowl of water.
Dorian pinned him with a stare. “Don’t blame me if they shatter.”
“I have replacements.” He did. He’d bought a dozen crystals.
Dorian stared at the first crystal. “You just want me to . . . focus my power on it?”
“Then draw a line of power to the next crystal, then the next, imagining that your goal is to freeze the water in the bowl. That’s all.”
A raised brow. “That’s not even a spell.”
“Just humor me,” Chaol said. “I wouldn’t have asked if this wasn’t the only way.” He dipped a finger in the bowl of water, setting it rippling. Something in his gut said that maybe the spell required nothing more than power and sheer will.
The prince’s sigh filled the stone hall, echoing off the stones and vaulted ceiling. Dorian gazed at the first crystal, roughly representing Rifthold. For minutes, there was nothing. But then Dorian began sweating, swallowing repeatedly.
“I’m fine,” Dorian gasped, and the first crystal began to glow white.
The light grew brighter, Dorian sweating and grunting as if he were in pain. Chaol was about to ask him to stop when a line shot toward the next crystal—so fast it was nearly undetectable save for the slight ripple in the sand. The crystal flashed bright, and then another line shot out, heading south. Again, the sand rippled in its wake.
The water remained fluid. The third crystal glowed, and the final line completed the triangle, making all three crystals flash for a moment. And then . . . slowly, crackling softly, the water froze. Chaol shoved back against his horror—horror and awe at how much Dorian’s control had grown.
Dorian’s skin was pasty and gleamed with sweat. “This is how he did it, isn’t it?”
Chaol nodded. “Ten years ago, with those three towers. They were all built years before so that this could happen precisely when his invading forces were ready, so no one could strike back. Your father’s spell must be far more complex, to have frozen magic entirely, but on a basic level, this is probably similar to what occurred.”
“I want to see where they are—the towers.” Chaol shook his head, but Dorian said, “You’ve told me everything else already. Show me the damn map.”
With a wipe of his hand, a god destroying a world, Dorian knocked down a crystal, releasing the power. The ice melted, the water rippling and sloshing against the bowl. Just like that. Chaol blinked.
If they could knock out one tower . . . It was such a risk. They needed to be sure before acting. Chaol pulled out the map Murtaugh had marked, the map he didn’t dare to leave anywhere. “Here, here, and here,” he said, pointing to Rifthold, Amaroth, and Noll. “That’s where we know towers were built. Watchtowers, but all three had the same traits: black stone, gargoyles . . .”
“You mean to tell me that the clock tower in the garden is one of them?”
Chaol nodded, ignoring the laugh of disbelief. “That’s what we think.”
The prince leaned over the map, bracing a hand against the floor. He traced a line from Rifthold to Amaroth, then from Rifthold to Noll. “The northward line cuts through the Ferian Gap; the southern cuts directly through Morath. You told Aedion that you thought my father had sent Roland and Kaltain to Morath, along with any other nobles with magic in their blood. What are the odds that it’s a mere coincidence?”
“And the Ferian Gap . . .” Chaol had to swallow. “Celaena said she’d heard of wings in the Gap. Nehemia said her scouts did not come back, that something was brewing there.”
“Two spots for him to breed whatever army he’s making, perhaps drawing on this power as it makes a current through them.”
“Three.” Chaol pointed to the Dead Islands. “We had a report that something strange was being bred there . . . and that it’s been sent to Wendlyn.”
“But my father sent Celaena.” The prince swore. “There’s no way to warn them?”
“We’ve already tried.”
Dorian wiped the sweat from his brow. “So you’re working with them—you’re on their side.”