heir of fire- Page 5

   The Crown Prince jerked, and Celaena held him tighter, twisting the dagger one final time before she let Dorian slump to the gray stones of the tunnel. Dorian’s blood was already pooling—­too fast. But Chaol still ­couldn’t move, ­couldn’t go to his friend or the woman he loved.

   The wounds on Dorian multiplied, and there was blood—­so much blood. He knew these wounds. Though he’d never seen the body, he’d combed through the reports detailing what Celaena had done to the rogue assassin Grave in that alley, the way she’d butchered him for killing Nehemia.

   Celaena lowered her dagger, ­each drop of blood from its gleaming blade sending ripples through the pool already around her. She tipped back her head, breathing in deep. Breathing in the death before her, taking it into her soul, vengeance and ecstasy mingling at the slaughter of her enemy. Her true enemy. The Havilliard Empire.

   The dream shifted again, and Chaol was pinned beneath her as she writhed above him, her head still thrown back, that same expression of ecstasy written across her blood-­splattered face.

   Enemy. Lover.

   Queen.

   •

   The memory of the dream splintered as Chaol blinked at Dorian, who was sitting beside him at their old table in the Great Hall—­and waiting for an answer to what­ever he had said. Chaol gave an apologetic wince.

   The Crown Prince didn’t return Chaol’s half smile. Instead, Dorian quietly said, “You ­were thinking about her.”

   Chaol took a bite from his lamb stew but tasted nothing. Dorian was too observant for his own good. And Chaol had no interest in talking about Celaena. Not with Dorian, not with anyone. The truth he knew about her could jeopardize more lives than hers.

   “I was thinking about my father,” Chaol lied. “When he returns to Anielle in a few weeks, I’m to go with him.” It was the price for getting Celaena to the safety of Wendlyn: his father’s support in exchange for his return to the Silver Lake to take up his title as the heir of Anielle. And he’d been willing to make that sacrifice; he’d make any sacrifice to keep Celaena and her secrets safe. Even now that he knew who—what she was. Even after she’d told him about the king and the Wyrdkeys. If this was the price he had to pay, so be it.

   Dorian glanced toward the high table, where the king and Chaol’s father dined. The Crown Prince should have been eating with them, but he’d chosen to sit with Chaol instead. It was the first time Dorian had done so in ages—­the first time they had spoken since their tense conversation after the decision was made to send Celaena to Wendlyn.

   Dorian would understand if he knew the truth. But Dorian ­couldn’t know who and what Celaena was, or what the king was truly planning. The potential for disaster was too high. And Dorian’s own secrets ­were deadly enough.

   “I heard the rumors you ­were to go,” Dorian said warily. “I didn’t realize they ­were true.”

   Chaol nodded, trying to find something—­anything—to say to his friend.

   They still hadn’t spoken of the other thing between them, the other bit of truth that had come out that night in the tunnels: Dorian had magic. Chaol didn’t want to know anything about it. If the king decided to interrogate him . . . he hoped he’d hold out, if it ever came to that. The king, he knew, had far darker methods of extracting information than torture. So he hadn’t asked, hadn’t said one word. And neither had Dorian.

   He met Dorian’s gaze. There was nothing kind in it. But Dorian said, “I’m trying, Chaol.”

   Trying, because Chaol’s not consulting him on the plan to get Celaena out of Adarlan had been a breach of trust, and one that shamed him, though Dorian could never know that, either. “I know.”

   “And despite what happened, I’m fairly certain ­we’re not enemies.” Dorian’s mouth quirked to the side.

   You will always be my enemy. Celaena had screamed those words at Chaol the night Nehemia had died. Screamed it with ten years’ worth of conviction and hatred, a de­cade spent holding the world’s greatest secret so deep within her that she’d become another person entirely.

   Because Celaena was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, heir to the throne and rightful Queen of Terrasen.

   It made her his mortal enemy. It made her Dorian’s enemy. Chaol still didn’t know what to do about it, or what it meant for them, for the life he’d imagined for them. The future he’d once dreamed of was irrevocably gone.

   He’d seen the deadness in her eyes that night in the tunnels, along with the wrath and exhaustion and sorrow. He’d seen her go over the edge when Nehemia died, and knew what she’d done to Grave in retribution. He didn’t doubt for one heartbeat that she could snap again. There was such glittering darkness in her, an endless rift straight through her core.

   Nehemia’s death had shattered her. What he had done, his role in that death, had shattered her, too. He knew that. He just prayed that she could piece herself back together again. Because a broken, unpredictable assassin was one thing. But a queen . . .

   “You look like you’re going to be sick,” Dorian said, bracing his forearms on the table. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

   Chaol had been staring at nothing again. For a heartbeat, the weight of everything pressed so heavily upon him that he opened up his mouth.

   But the boom of swords striking shields in salute echoed from the hallway, and Aedion Ashryver—­the King of Adarlan’s infamous General of the North and cousin to Aelin Galathynius—­stalked into the Great Hall.

   The hall fell silent, including his father and the king at the high table. Before Aedion was halfway across the room, Chaol was positioned at the bottom of the dais.

   It ­wasn’t that the young general was a threat. Rather, it was the way Aedion prowled toward the king’s table, his shoulder-­length golden hair gleaming in the torchlight as he smirked at them all.

   Handsome was a light way of describing what Aedion was. Overwhelming was more like it. Towering and heavily muscled, Aedion was every inch the warrior rumor claimed him to be. Even though his clothes ­were mostly for function, Chaol could tell that the leather of his light armor was of fine make and exquisitely detailed. A white wolf pelt was slung across his broad shoulders, and a round shield had been strapped to his back—­along with an ancient-­looking sword.

   But his face. And his eyes . . . Holy gods.

   Chaol put a hand on his sword, schooling his features to remain neutral, disinterested, even as the Wolf of the North came close enough to slaughter him.

   They ­were Celaena’s eyes. Ashryver eyes. A stunning turquoise with a core of gold as bright as their hair. Their hair—­even the shade of it was the same. They could have been twins, if Aedion ­weren’t twenty-­four and tanned from years in the snow-­bright mountains of Terrasen.