Tower of Dawn Page 159

And take Hafiza with her.

Yrene opened her mouth to tell him no, but he had already faced ahead again. Toward the princess who advanced one step.

Her dress was torn, revealing the firm, round belly beneath. A fall like that with a baby—

A baby.

Yrene gripped Hafiza under her thin shoulders, hauling her slight weight across the floor.

Chaol wouldn’t kill her. Duva.

Yrene sobbed through her clenched teeth as she dragged Hafiza back and back through that gold-lined avenue, the statues looking on unfeelingly.

He wouldn’t so much as harm Duva, not with that baby in her womb.

Yrene’s chest caved in at the low hum of power that filled the room.

He would not fight back. He would buy Yrene time.

To get Hafiza out and to run.

Duva purred, “This will likely hurt a great deal.”

Yrene whirled back just as shadows lashed from the princess, aimed right at Chaol.

He rolled to the side, the blast going wide and striking the statue he ducked behind.

“Such theatrics,” Duva tutted, and Yrene hurried, sliding Hafiza toward those distant stairs. Leaving him—leaving him behind.

But movement caught her eye, and then—

A statue crashed into the princess’s path.

Duva blasted it aside with her power. Gold showered the room in chunks that thundered atop the sarcophagi, the cracking echoing through the chamber.

“You will make this boring,” Duva tsked, and hurled a handful of darkness toward where he’d been. Yrene stumbled as the room shuddered, but she kept upright.

Another blow.

Another.

Duva hissed, rounding the sarcophagus where she’d guessed Chaol was hiding. She fired her power blindly.

Chaol appeared, shield in hand.

Not a shield—an ancient mirror.

The power bounced off the metal, shattering glass, even as it rebounded into the princess.

Yrene saw the blood first. On both of them.

Then saw the dread in his face as Duva was blasted back, slamming into a stone sarcophagus so hard her bones cracked.

Duva hit the ground and did not move.

Yrene waited one breath. Two.

She lowered Hafiza to the floor and ran. Ran right for Chaol, where he panted, gaping at the woman’s fallen body.

“What have I done,” he breathed, refusing to take his eyes off the too-still princess. Blood slid down his face from the shards of that mirror, but nothing major—nothing lethal.

Duva, however …

Yrene shoved past him, past his sword, to the princess on the ground. If she was down, she could potentially get the Valg demon out, potentially try to fix her body—

She turned Duva over.

And found the princess smiling at her.

It happened so fast. Too fast.

Duva lunged for her face, her throat, black bands of power leaping from her palms.

Then Yrene was not there. Then she was on the stones, thrown to the side as Chaol hurled himself between her and the princess.

No shield, no weapon.

Only his back, utterly exposed, as he shoved Yrene away and took the full brunt of the Valg attack.

63

Agony roared through his spine. Down his legs. His arms. Into his very fingertips.

Worse than it had been in the glass castle.

Worse than in those healing sessions.

But all he could see, all he’d seen, was Yrene, that power spearing for her heart—

Chaol hit the ground, and Yrene’s scream shattered through the pain.

Get up get up get up

“Such a pity all that hard work amounted to nothing,” Duva trilled, and pointed a finger at his spine. “Your poor, poor back.”

That dark power slammed into his spine again.

Something cracked.

Again. Again.

The feeling in his legs vanished first.

“Stop,” Yrene sobbed, on her knees. “Stop!”

“Run,” he breathed, forcing his palms flat onto the stones, forcing his arms to push, to lift him—

Duva only reached into her pocket and pulled out that black ring. “You know how this stops.”

“No,” he snarled, and his back bellowed as he tried and tried to get his legs beneath him—

Yrene crawled away a step. Another. Eyes darting between them.

Not again. He would not endure seeing this, endure living this one more time.

But then he beheld what Yrene grabbed in her right hand.

What she had been crawling toward.

His sword.

Duva snickered, stepping over his sprawled, unmoving legs as she advanced on Yrene. As Yrene rose to her feet and lifted his sword between them.

The blade trembled, and Yrene’s shoulders shook as she sobbed through her teeth.

“What do you think that could possibly do,” Duva crooned, “against this?”

Whips of dark power unfurled from the princess’s palms.

No. He groaned the word, screamed it at his body, at the wounds pushing in, the agony dragging him under. Duva lifted her arm to strike—

And Yrene threw the sword. A straight throw, unskilled and wild.

But Duva ducked—

Yrene ran.

Swift as a doe, she turned and ran, sprinting into the labyrinth of corpses and treasure.

And like a hound on a scent, Duva snarled and gave chase.

She had no plan. She had nothing.

No options. Nothing whatsoever.

Chaol’s spine—

Gone. All that work … shattered.

Yrene ran through the piles of gold, searching, searching—

Duva’s shadows blasted around her, sending shards of gold flying into the air. Gilding every breath Yrene took.

She snatched a short-sword off a chest overflowing with treasure as she ran, the blade whirring through the air.

If she could trap her, get Duva down for long enough—

A lash of power shattered the stone sarcophagus before her. Chunks of rock soared.

Yrene heard the thud before she felt the impact.

Then her head bleated with pain, and the world tilted.

She fought to stay upright with every heartbeat, every bit of focus she’d ever mastered.

Yrene did not let her feet falter. She kept moving, buying them any sort of time. Rounding a statue, she—

Duva stood before her.

Yrene careened into her, that short-sword so close to the princess’s gut, to that womb—

She splayed her hands, dropping the weapon. Duva held firm, arms snatching around Yrene’s neck and middle. Pinning her.

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