heir of fire- Page 54

   Chaol didn’t know, and he ­wasn’t sure he wanted to. As for Dorian . . . he could not ask that of his friend. Could not expect it. His goal was keeping Dorian safe. Even if it would cost him their friendship, he didn’t want Dorian involved. Ever.

   •

   The past week had been terrifying and wonderful for Dorian.

   Terrifying because two more people knew his secret, and because he walked such a fine line when it came to controlling his magic, which seemed more volatile with each passing day.

   Wonderful because every afternoon, he visited the forgotten workroom Sorscha had discovered tucked in a lower level of the catacombs where no one would find them. She brought books from the gods knew where, herbs and plants and salts and powders, and every day, they researched and trained and pondered.

   There ­weren’t many books about dampening a power like his—­many had been burned, she’d told him. But she looked at the magic like a disease: if she could find the right channels to block, she could keep it contained. And if not, she always said, they could resort to drugging him, just enough to even out his moods. She didn’t like the idea of it, and neither did he, though it was a comfort to know the option was there.

   An hour each day was all they could manage together. For that hour, regardless of the laws they ­were breaking, Dorian felt like himself again. Not twisted and reeling and stumbling through the dark, but grounded. Calm. No matter what he told Sorscha, she never judged or betrayed him. Chaol had been that person once. Yet now, when it came to his magic, he could still see fear and a hint of disgust in Chaol’s eyes.

   “Did you know,” Sorscha said from her spot across the worktable, “that before magic vanished, they had to find special ways of subduing gifted prisoners?”

   Dorian looked up from his book, a useless tome on garden remedies. Before magic vanished . . . at the hand of his father and his Wyrdkeys. His stomach turned. “Because they’d use their magic to break out of prison?”

   Sorscha studied the book again. “That’s why a lot of the old prisons use solid iron—­it’s immune to magic.”

   “I know,” he said, and she raised a brow. She was slowly starting to come alive around him—­though he’d also learned to read her subtle expressions better. “Back when my power first appeared, I tried using it on an iron door, and . . . it didn’t go well.”

   “Hmm.” Sorscha chewed on her lip. It was surprisingly distracting. “But iron’s in your blood, so how does that work?”

   “I think it was the gods’ way of keeping us from growing too powerful: if we keep contact with the magic, if it’s flowing through us for too long, we faint. Or worse.”

   “I wonder what would happen if we increased the iron in your diet, perhaps adding a large amount of treacle to your food. We give it to anemic patients, but if we gave you a highly concentrated dose . . . it would taste awful, and could be dangerous, but—”

   “But perhaps if it’s in my body, then when the magic rises up . . .” He grimaced. He might have balked at the memory of the agony when he’d tried to seal that iron door, but . . . He ­couldn’t bring himself to say no to her. “Do you have any ­here? Just something to add to a drink?”

   She didn’t, but she got some. And within a quarter of an hour, Dorian said a prayer to Silba and swallowed it, cringing at the obscene sweetness. Nothing.

   Sorscha’s eyes darted from his own to the pocket watch in her hand. Counting. Waiting to see if there was an adverse reaction. A minute passed. And then ten. Dorian had to go soon, and so did she, but after a while, Sorscha quietly said, “Try it. Try summoning it. The iron should be in your blood now.” He shut his eyes, and she added, “It reacts when you’re upset—­angry or scared or sad. Think about something that makes you feel that way.”

   She was risking her position, her life, everything for this. For him, the son of the man who had ordered his army to destroy her village, then slaughter her family with the other unwanted immigrants squatting in Rifthold. He didn’t deserve it.

   He breathed in. Out. She also didn’t deserve the world of trouble he was bringing down upon her—­or would continue to bring to her door every time he came ­here. He knew when women liked him, and he’d known from the first moment he’d seen her that she found him attractive. He’d hoped that opinion hadn’t changed for the worse, but now . . . Think of what upsets you.

   Everything upset him. It upset him that she was risking her life, that he had no choice but to endanger her. Even if he took that final step toward her, even if he took her into his bed like he so badly wanted to, he was still . . . the Crown Prince. You will always be my enemy, Celaena had once said.

   There was no escaping his crown. Or his father, who would behead Sorscha, burn her, and scatter her ashes to the wind if he found out she’d helped him. His father, whom his friends ­were now working to destroy. They had lied to him and ignored him for that cause. Because he was a danger, to them, to Sorscha, and—

   Roaring pain surged from his core and up his throat, and he gagged. There was another wave, and a cool breeze tried to kiss his face, but it vanished like mist under the sun as the pain trembled through him. He leaned forward, squeezing his eyes shut as the agony and then the nausea went through him again. And again.

   But then it was quiet. Dorian opened his eyes to find Sorscha, clever, steady, wonderful Sorscha, standing there, biting her lip. She took one step—­toward him, not away, for once. “Did it—”

   Dorian was on his feet so fast the chair rocked behind him, and had her face between his hands a heartbeat after that. “Yes,” he breathed, and kissed her. It was fast—­but her face was flushed, and her eyes wide as he pulled back. His own eyes ­were wide, gods be damned, and he was still rubbing his thumb against her soft cheek. Still contemplating going back for more, because that hadn’t been nearly enough.

   But she pulled away, returning to her work. As if—­as if it hadn’t been anything, ­other than an embarrassment. “Tomorrow?” she murmured. She ­wouldn’t look at him.

   He could hardly muster the words to tell her yes as he staggered out. She’d looked so surprised, and if he didn’t get out, he was likely to kiss her again.

   But maybe she didn’t want to be kissed.

   27

   Standing atop a viewing platform on the side of the Omega, Manon watched the first Yellowlegs coven of the day take the Crossing. The plunge down followed by the violent sweep up was stunning, even when it was the Yellowlegs riders astride the wind.

   Leading them along the sheer face of the Northern Fang was Iskra. Her bull, a massive beast named Fendir, was a force of nature in himself. Though smaller than Titus, he was twice as nasty.

   “They suit each other,” Asterin said from beside Manon. The rest of the Thirteen ­were in the sparring room, instructing the other covens in hand-­to-­hand combat. Faline and Fallon, the green-­eyed demon-­twins, ­were undoubtedly taking some plea­sure from torturing the newest sentinels. They thrived on that sort of thing.