“No. I don’t know. We just share information. But this is all information that helps us. You.”
Dorian’s eyes hardened, and Chaol winced as a cool breeze swept in.
“So what are you going to do?” Dorian asked. “Just . . . knock down the clock tower?”
Destroying the clock tower was an act of war—an act that could endanger the lives of too many people. There would be no going back. He didn’t even want to tell Aedion or Ren, for fear of what they’d do. They wouldn’t think twice before incinerating it, perhaps killing everyone in this castle in the process. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. You were right about that.”
He wished he had something more to say to Dorian, but even small talk was an effort now. He was closing in on candidates to replace him as Captain of the Guard, sending more trunks to Anielle every week, and he could barely bring himself to look at his own men. As for Dorian . . . there was so much left between them.
“Now’s not the time,” Dorian said quietly, as if he could read Chaol’s mind.
Chaol swallowed. “I want to thank you. I know what you’re risking is—”
“We’re all risking something.” There was so little of the friend he’d grown up with. The prince glanced at his pocket watch. “I need to go.” Dorian stalked to the stairs, and there was no fear in his face, no doubt, as he said, “You gave me the truth today, so I’ll share mine: even if it meant us being friends again, I don’t think I would want to go back to how it was before—who I was before. And this . . .” He jerked his chin toward the scattered crystals and the bowl of water. “I think this is a good change, too. Don’t fear it.”
Dorian left, and Chaol opened his mouth, but no words came out. He was too stunned. When Dorian had spoken, it hadn’t been a prince who looked at him.
It had been a king.
Celaena slept for two days.
She hardly remembered what had happened after she incinerated Narrok and the Valg prince, though she had a vague sense of Rowan’s men and the others having the fortress under control. They’d lost only about fifteen in total, since the soldiers had not wanted to kill the demi-Fae but to capture them for the Valg princes to haul back to Adarlan. When they subdued the surviving enemy soldiers, locking them in the dungeon, they’d come back hours later to find them all dead. They’d carried poison with them—and it seemed they had no inclination to be interrogated.
Celaena stumbled up the blood-soaked steps and into bed, briefly stopping to frown at the hair that now fell just past her collarbones thanks to the razor-sharp nails of the Valg princes, and collapsed into a deep sleep. By the time she awoke, the gore was cleaned away, the soldiers were buried, and Rowan had hidden the four Wyrdstone collars somewhere in the woods. He would have flown them out to the sea and dumped them there, but she knew he’d stayed to look after her—and did not trust his friends to do anything but hand them over to Maeve.
Rowan’s cadre was leaving when she finally awoke, having lingered to help with repairs and healing, but it was only Gavriel who bothered to acknowledge her. She and Rowan were heading into the woods for a walk (she’d had to bully him into letting her out of bed) when they passed by the golden-haired male lingering by the back gate.
Rowan stiffened. He’d asked her point-blank what had happened when his friends had arrived—if any of them had tried to help. She had tried to avoid it, but he was relentless, and she finally told him that only Gavriel had shown any inclination. She didn’t blame his men. They didn’t know her, owed her nothing, and Rowan had been inside, in harm’s way. She didn’t know why it mattered so much to Rowan, and he told her it was none of her business.
But there was Gavriel, waiting for them at the back gate. Since Rowan was stone-faced, she smiled for both of them as they approached.
“I thought you’d be gone by now,” Rowan said.
Gavriel’s tawny eyes flickered. “The twins and Vaughan left an hour ago, and Lorcan left at dawn. He said to tell you good-bye.”
Rowan nodded in a way that made it very clear he knew Lorcan had done no such thing. “What do you want?”
She wasn’t quite sure they had the same definition of friend that she did. But Gavriel looked at her from head to toe and back up again, then at Rowan, and said, “Be careful when you face Maeve. We’ll have given our reports by then.”
Rowan’s stormy expression didn’t improve. “Travel swiftly,” he said, and kept walking.
Celaena lingered, studying the Fae warrior, the glimmer of sadness in his golden eyes. Like Rowan, he was enslaved to Maeve—and yet he thought to warn them. With the blood oath, Maeve could order him to divulge every detail, including this moment. And punish him for it. But for his friend . . .
“Thank you,” she said to the golden-haired warrior. He blinked, and Rowan froze. Her arms ached from the inside out, and her cut hand was bandaged and still tender, but she extended it to him. “For the warning. And for hesitating that day.”
Gavriel looked at her hand for a moment before shaking it with surprising gentleness. “How old are you?” he asked.
“Nineteen,” she said, and he loosed a breath that could have been sadness or relief or maybe both, and told her that made her magic even more impressive. She debated saying that he would be less impressed once he learned of her nickname for him, but winked at him instead.
Rowan was frowning when she caught up to him, but said nothing. As they walked away, Gavriel murmured, “Good luck, Rowan.”
Rowan brought her to a forest pool she’d never seen before, the clear water fed by a lovely waterfall that seemed to dance in the sunlight. He took a seat on a broad, flat, sun-warmed rock, pulling off his boots and rolling up his pants to dip his feet in the water. She winced at every sore muscle and bone in her body as she sat. Rowan scowled, but she gave him a look that dared him to order her back to bed rest.
When her own feet were in the pool and they had let the music of the forest sink into them, Rowan spoke. “There is no undoing what happened with Narrok. Once the world hears that Aelin Galathynius fought against Adarlan, they will know you are alive. He will know you are alive, and where you are, and that you do not plan to cower. He will hunt you for the rest of your life.”
“I accepted that fate from the moment I stepped outside the barrier,” she said quietly. She kicked at the water, the ripples spreading out across the pool. The movement sent shuddering pain through her magic-ravaged body, and she hissed.
Rowan handed her the skein of water he’d brought with him but hadn’t touched. She took a sip and found it contained the pain-killing tonic she’d been guzzling since she’d awoken that morning.