Tower of Dawn Page 155

Hers. He was hers, Yrene wanted to crow at them. This beautiful, brave, selfless man—he was hers.

And she was going home with him.

It was that thought that sobered her slightly. The sense that these endless hikes up the interior of the Torre might now be limited. That she might not smell the lavender and baked bread for a long time. Not hear those giggles.

Chaol’s hand brushed hers as if to say he understood. Yrene only gripped his fingers tightly. Yes, she would leave a part of herself here. But what she took with her upon leaving … Yrene was smiling when they at last reached the top of the Torre.

Chaol panted, bracing a hand on the wall of the landing. Hafiza’s office door was cracked open, letting in the last of the sunset. “Whoever built this thing was a sadist.”

Yrene laughed, knocking on Hafiza’s office door and pushing it open. “That would be Kamala. And rumor says she—” Yrene halted, finding the Healer on High’s office empty.

She edged around him on the landing, striding for the workroom—the door ajar. “Hafiza?”

No answer, but she pushed open the door anyway.

Empty. That bookcase, mercifully, still locked.

Likely making rounds, or at dinner, then. Though they’d seen everyone coming down after the dinner bell’s summons, and Hafiza hadn’t been among them.

“Wait here,” Yrene said, and bounded down the stairs to the next landing, a level above Yrene’s own room.

“Eretia,” she said, stepping into the small room.

The healer grunted in answer. “Saw a nice backside walk past here a moment ago.”

Chaol’s cough sounded from above.

Yrene snorted, but said, “Do you know where Hafiza is?”

“In her workroom.” The woman didn’t so much as turn. “She’s been in there all day.”

“You’re … certain?”

“Yes. Saw her go in, shut the door, and she hasn’t come out.”

“The door was open just now.”

“Then she likely slipped past me.”

Without saying a word? That wasn’t Hafiza’s nature.

Yrene scratched her head, scanning the landing behind her. The few doors on it. She didn’t bother saying good-bye to Eretia before knocking on them. One was empty; the other healer told her the same: Hafiza was in her workroom.

Chaol was waiting atop the stairs when Yrene climbed back up. “No luck?”

Yrene tapped her foot on the ground. Perhaps she was paranoid, but …

“Let’s check the mess hall,” was all she said.

She caught the gleam in Chaol’s eyes. The worry—and warning.

They went down two levels until Yrene halted on her own landing.

Her door was shut—but there was something wedged beneath it. As if a passing foot had kicked it under. “What is that?”

Chaol drew his sword so fast she didn’t even see him move, every movement of his body, his blade, a dance. She bent and pulled the object out. Metal scraped on stone.

And there, dangling from its chain … Hafiza’s iron key.

Chaol studied the door, the stairs, as Yrene pulled the necklace over her head with shaking fingers. “She didn’t slide it there by accident,” he said.

And if she had thought to hide the key here … “She knew something was coming for her.”

“There was no sign of forced entry or attack upstairs,” he countered.

“She could have just been spooked, but … Hafiza does nothing without thought.”

Chaol put a hand on the small of her back, ushering her toward the stairs. “We need to notify the guard—start a search party.”

She was going to be ill. She was going to vomit right down the steps.

If she had brought this upon Hafiza—

Panic helped no one. Nothing.

She forced herself to take a breath. Another one. “We need to be quick. Can your back—”

“I can manage. It feels fine.”

Yrene assessed his stance, his balance. “Then hurry.”

Around and around, they flew down the steps of the Torre. Asking anyone who passed if they’d seen Hafiza. In her workroom, they all said.

As if she had simply vanished into nothing. Into shadow.

Chaol had seen enough, endured enough, to listen to his gut.

And his gut told him that something either had happened or was unfurling.

Yrene’s face was bone white with dread, that iron key bouncing against her chest with each of their steps. They reached the bottom of the Torre, and Yrene had the guard on alert in a matter of words, calmly explaining that the Healer on High was missing.

But search parties took too long to organize. Anything could happen in the span of minutes. Seconds.

In the busy hallway of the Torre’s main level, Yrene called out to a few healers about Hafiza’s location. No, she was not in the mess hall. No, she was not in the herb gardens. They had just been that way and had not seen her.

It was an enormous complex. “We’d cover more ground if we split up,” Yrene panted, scanning the hall.

“No. They might be expecting that. We stick together.”

Yrene scrubbed her hands over her face. “Widespread hysteria might make the—person act quicker. Rasher. We keep it quiet.” She lowered her hands. “Where do we start? She could be in the city, she could be d—”

“How many exits lead from the Torre into the streets?”

“Just the main gate, and a small side one for the deliveries. Both heavily guarded.”

They visited both within a span of minutes. Nothing. The guards were well trained and had kept a record of everyone who went in and out. Hafiza had not been seen. And no wagons had come in or left since early morning. Before Eretia had last seen her.

“She has to be somewhere on the premises,” Chaol said, surveying the tower looming above, the physicians’ complex. “Unless you can think of another way in or out. Perhaps something that might have been forgotten.”

Yrene went wholly still, her eyes bright as flame in the sinking twilight.

“The library,” she breathed, and launched into a sprint.

Swift—she was swift, and it was all he could do to keep up with her. To run. Holy gods, he was running, and—

“There are rumors of tunnels in the library,” Yrene panted, leading him down a familiar hallway. “Deep below. That connect outside. To where, we don’t know. Rumor claims they were sealed up, but—”

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