Tower of Dawn Page 132

Chaol ripped away the vines for her with his free hand, his back protesting.

Ripped and tore them down to survey what had been carved into the gates of the necropolis.

“Nousha said legend claimed some of those scrolls came from here,” Chaol said. “From a place full of Wyrdmarks, of carvings of the Fae and Valg. But this was no living city. So they had to have been removed from tombs or archives below our feet.” From the doorway just beyond them.

“They did not bury humans here,” Yrene whispered.

For the markings on the sealed, stone gates … “The Old Language.”

He’d seen it inked on Rowan’s face and arm.

This was a Fae burial site. Fae—not human.

Chaol said, “I thought only one group of Fae ever left Doranelle—to establish Terrasen with Brannon.”

“Maybe another settled here during whatever this war was.”

The first war. The first demon war, before Elena and Gavin were born, before Terrasen.

Chaol studied Yrene. Her bloodless face. “Or maybe they wanted to hide something.”

Yrene frowned at the ground as if she could see to the tombs beneath. “A treasure?”

“Of a different sort.”

She met his eyes at his tone—his stillness. And fear, cool and sharp, slid into his heart.

Yrene said softly, “I don’t understand.”

“Fae magic is passed down through their bloodlines. It doesn’t appear at random. Perhaps these people came here. And then were forgotten by the world, forces good and evil. Perhaps they knew this place was far away enough to remain untouched. That wars would be waged elsewhere. By them.” He jerked his chin to a carving of a Valg soldier. “While the southern continent remained mostly mortal-held. While the seeds planted here by the Fae were bred into the human bloodlines and grew into a people gifted and prone to healing magic.”

“An interesting theory,” she said hoarsely, “but you don’t know if it could stand to reason.”

“If you wanted to hide something precious, wouldn’t you conceal it in plain sight? In a place where you were willing to bet a powerful force would spring up to defend it? Like an empire. Several of them. Whose walls had not been breached by outside conquerors for the entirety of its history. Who would see the value of its healers and think their gift was for one thing, but never know that it might be a treasure waiting to be used at another time. A weapon.”

“We do not kill.”

“No,” Chaol said, his blood going cold. “But you and all the healers here … There is only one other such place in the world. Guarded as heavily, protected by a power just as mighty.”

“Doranelle—the Fae healers in Doranelle.”

Guarded by Maeve. Fiercely.

Who had fought in that first war. Who had fought against the Valg.

“What does it mean?” she breathed.

Chaol had the sense of the ground slipping from beneath him. “I was sent here to retrieve an army. But I wonder … I wonder if some other force brought me to retrieve something else.”

She slid her hand into his, a silent promise. One he’d think of later.

“Perhaps that is why whoever it is that’s been stalking the Torre, was hunting me,” Yrene whispered. “If they are indeed sent from Morath … They don’t want us realizing any of this. Through healing you.”

He squeezed her fingers. “And those scrolls in the library … either they were taken or brought from here, forgotten save for legend about where they came from. Where the healers of this land might have originated from.”

Not the necropolis—but the Fae people who had built it.

“The scrolls,” she blurted. “If we return and find someone to—to translate them …”

“They might explain this. What the healers could do against the Valg.”

She swallowed. “Hafiza. I wonder if she knows what those scrolls are, somehow. The Healer on High is not just a position of power, but of learning. She’s a walking library herself, taught things by her predecessor that no one else at the Torre knows.” She twisted a curl around a finger. “It’s worth showing her some of the texts. To see if she might know what they are.”

A gamble to share the information with anyone else, but one worth taking. Chaol nodded.

Someone’s laughter pierced through even the heavy silence of the oasis.

Yrene released his hand. “We’ll need to smile, enjoy ourselves amongst them. And then leave at first light.”

“I’ll send word to Nesryn to return. As soon as we’re back. I’m not sure we can afford any longer to wait for the khagan’s aid.”

“We’ll try to convince him again anyway,” she promised. He angled his head. “You will still have to win this war, Chaol,” she said quietly. “Regardless of what role we might play.”

He brushed a thumb over her cheek. “I have no intention of losing it.”

It was no easy task to pretend they had not stumbled across something enormous. That something had not rattled them down to their bones.

Hasar grew bored of bathing and called for music and dancing and lunch. Which turned into hours of lounging in the shade, listening to the musicians, eating an array of delicacies that Yrene had no idea how they’d managed to bring all the way out here.

But as the sun set, they all dispersed into their tents to change for dinner. After what she’d learned with Chaol, even being alone for a moment had her jumpy, but Yrene washed and changed into the purple gauzy gown Hasar had provided.

Chaol was waiting outside the tent.

Hasar had brought him clothes, too. Beautiful deep blue that brought out the gold in his brown eyes, the summer-kissed tan of his skin.

Yrene blushed as his gaze slid along her neckline, to the swaths of skin the flowing folds of the dress revealed along her waist. Her thighs. Silver and clear beads had been sewn onto the entire thing, making the gown shimmer like the stars now flickering to life in the night sky above them.

Torches and lanterns had been lit around the oasis pool, tables and couches and cushions brought out. Music was playing, people were already loosing themselves upon the feast laid across the various tables, with Hasar holding court, regal as any queen from her spot at the centermost table alongside the fire-gilded pool.

She spotted Yrene and signaled her over. Chaol, too.

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