Tower of Dawn Page 102

“Your legs are responding well to the training,” she observed, fingers digging into the powerful muscle of his thighs.

Yrene hadn’t asked what had changed. Why he’d started going to the guards’ courtyard at the palace. He hadn’t explained, either.

“They are,” Chaol merely answered, scrubbing his jaw. He hadn’t shaved that morning. When she’d entered his suite after he’d returned from this morning’s practice with the guard, he’d said he wanted to go for a ride—and to get a change in scenery for the day.

That he was so eager, so willing to see the city, to adapt to his surroundings … Yrene hadn’t been able to say no. So they’d come here, after a meandering ride through Antica, to work in one of the quiet rooms down this hall. The rooms were all the same, each occupied by a desk, cot, and wall of cabinets, and each adorned with a solitary window that overlooked the neat rows of the sprawling herb garden. Indeed, despite the heat, the scents of rosemary, mint, and sage filled the chamber.

Chaol grunted as Yrene lowered his left leg to the cool stone floor and started on his right. Her magic was a low thrum flowing through her and into him, careful to avoid the black stain that slowly—so, so slowly—receded down his spine.

They fought against it every day. The memories devoured him, fed on him, and Yrene shoved back against them, chipping away at the darkness that pushed in to torment him.

Sometimes, she glimpsed what he endured in that whirling black pit. The pain, the rage and guilt and sorrow. But only flickers, as if they were tendrils of smoke drifting past her. And though he did not discuss what he saw, Yrene managed to push back against that dark wave. So little at a time, mere chips of stone off a boulder, but … better than nothing.

Closing her eyes, Yrene let her power seep into his legs like a swarm of white fireflies, finding those damaged pathways and congregating, surrounding the frayed bits that went silent during these exercises, when they should have been lit up like the rest of him.

“I’ve been researching,” she said, opening her eyes as she rotated his leg in his hip socket. “Things ancient healers did for people with spinal injuries. There was one woman, Linqin—she was able to make a magical brace for the entire body. An invisible sort of exoskeleton that allowed the person to walk, until they could reach a healer, or if the healing was somehow unsuccessful.”

Chaol cocked a brow. “I’m assuming you don’t have one?”

Yrene shook her head, lowering his leg and again picking up the other to begin the next set. “Linqin only made about ten, all connected to talismans that the user could wear. They’ve been lost to time, along with her method of creating them. And there was another healer, Saanvi, who legend says was able to bypass the healing entirely by planting some sort of tiny, magical shard of stone in the brain—”

He cringed.

“I wasn’t suggesting I experiment on you,” she said, slapping his thigh. “Or need to.”

A half smile tugged on his mouth. “So how did this knowledge become lost? I thought the library here contained all your records.”

Yrene frowned. “Both were healers working at outposts far from the Torre. There are four throughout the continent—small centers for Torre healers to live and work. To help the people who can’t make the trip here. Linqin and Saanvi were so isolated that by the time anyone remembered to fetch their records, they’d been lost. All we have now is rumor and myth.”

“Do you keep records? Of all this?” He gestured between them.

Yrene’s face heated. “Parts of it. Not when you’re acting like a stubborn ass.”

Again, that smile tugged on his face, but Yrene set down his leg and pulled back, though she remained kneeling on the tiles. “My point,” she said, steering conversation from the journals in her room levels and levels above, “is that it has been done. I know it’s taking us a long while, and I know you’re anxious to return—”

“I am. But I’m not rushing you, Yrene.” He sat up in a smooth movement. On the floor like this, he towered over her, the sheer size of him nearly overwhelming. He rotated his foot slowly—fighting for each movement as the muscles in the rest of his legs objected.

Chaol lifted his head, meeting her stare. Reading it easily. “Whoever is hunting you won’t get the chance to hurt you—whether you and I finish tomorrow, or in six months.”

“I know,” she breathed. Kashin and his guards hadn’t caught or found traces of whoever had tried to attack her. And though it had been quiet these last few nights, she’d barely slept, even in the safety of the Torre. Only exhaustion from healing Chaol granted her any measure of reprieve.

She sighed. “I think we should see Nousha again. Take another visit to the library.”

His gaze turned wary. “Why?”

Yrene frowned at the open window behind them, the bright gardens and lavender bushes swaying in the sea breeze, the bees bobbing amongst them all. No sign of anyone listening nearby. “Because we still haven’t asked how those books and scrolls wound up here.”

“There are no records for acquisitions dating that far back,” Nousha said in Yrene and Chaol’s own tongue, her mouth a tight line of disapproval as she gazed at them over her desk.

Around them, the library was a dim hive of activity, healers and assistants flowing in and out, some whispering hello to Yrene and Nousha as they passed. Today, an orange Baast Cat lounged by the massive hearth, her beryl eyes tracking them from her spot draped over the rolled arm of a sofa.

Yrene offered Nousha her best attempt at a smile. “But maybe there’s some record of why those books were even needed here?”

Nousha braced her dark forearms on the desk. “Some people might be wary of what knowledge they’re seeking if they’re being hunted—which started around the time you began poking into the topic.”

Chaol leaned forward in his chair, teeth flashing. “Is that a threat?”

Yrene waved him off. Overprotective man. “I know it is dangerous—and likely tied to it. But it is because of that, Nousha, that any additional information about the material here, where it came from, who acquired it … It could be vital.”

“For getting him to walk again.” A dry, disbelieving statement.

Yrene didn’t dare glance at Chaol.

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