Tower of Dawn Page 16

Kadja had dressed him again in his teal jacket, even going so far as to polish the buckles down the front. There was a quiet pride to her work, not at all like the timidity and fear of so many of the castle servants in Rifthold.

“She’s late,” Nesryn murmured. Indeed, the ornate wooden clock in the corner announced the healer was ten minutes late. “Should we call for someone to find out if she’s coming?”

“Give her time.”

Nesryn paused before him, frowning deeply. “We need to begin immediately. There is no time to waste.”

Chaol took a breath. “I understand that you want to return home to your family—”

“I will not rush you. But even a day makes a difference.”

He noted the lines of strain bracketing her mouth. He had no doubt twin ones marked his own. Forcing himself to stop contemplating and dreading where Dorian might now be had been an effort of pure will this morning. “Once the healer arrives, why don’t you go track down your kin in the city? Perhaps they’ve heard from your family in Rifthold.”

A slicing wave of her slender hand. “I can wait until you’re done.”

Chaol lifted his brows. “And pace the entire time?”

Nesryn sank onto the nearest sofa, the gold silk sighing beneath her slight weight. “I came here to help you—with this, and with our cause. I won’t run off for my own needs.”

“What if I give you an order?”

She only shook her head, her dark curtain of hair swaying with the movement.

And before he could give that exact order, a brisk knock thudded on the heavy wood door.

Nesryn shouted a word that he assumed meant enter in Halha, and he listened to the footsteps as they approached. One set—quiet and light.

The door to the sitting room drifted open beneath the press of a honey-colored hand.

It was her eyes that Chaol noticed first.

She likely stopped people dead in the street with those eyes, a vibrant golden brown that seemed lit from within. Her hair was a heavy fall of rich browns amid flashes of dark gold, curling slightly at the ends that brushed her narrow waist.

She moved with a nimble grace, her feet—clad in practical black slippers—swift and unfaltering as she crossed the room, either not noticing or caring about the ornate furnishings.

Young, perhaps a year or two older than twenty.

But those eyes … they were far older than that.

She paused at the carved wooden chair across from the golden couch, Nesryn shooting to her feet. The healer—for there was no one else she could be, with that calm grace, those clear eyes, and that simple, pale blue muslin dress—glanced between them. She was a few inches shorter than Nesryn, built with similar delicacy, yet despite her slender frame … He didn’t look long at the other features the healer had been generously blessed with.

“Are you from the Torre Cesme?” Nesryn asked in Chaol’s own tongue.

The healer only stared at him. Something like surprise and anger lighting those remarkable eyes.

She slid a hand into the pocket of her gown, and he waited for her to withdraw something, but it remained there. As if she was grasping an object within.

Not a doe ready to bolt, but a stag, weighing the options of fighting or fleeing, of standing its ground, lowering its head, and charging.

Chaol held her gaze, cool and steady. He’d taken on plenty of young bucks during the years of being captain—had gotten them all to heel.

Nesryn asked something in Halha, no doubt a repeat of her question.

A thin scar sliced across the healer’s throat. Perhaps three inches long.

He knew what sort of weapon had given that scar. All the possibilities that burst into his head for why it might have happened were not pleasant ones.

Nesryn fell silent, watching them.

The healer only turned on her heel, walked to the desk near the windows, took a seat, and pulled a piece of parchment toward her from the neat stack in the corner.

Whoever these healers were, the khagan was right: they certainly did not answer to his throne. Or find it in themselves to be impressed with any manner of nobility and power.

She opened a drawer, found a glass pen, and held it poised over the paper.

“Name.”

She did not have an accent—or, rather, the accent of these lands.

“Chaol Westfall.”

“Age.”

The accent. It was from—

“Fenharrow.”

Her pen stalled. “Age.”

“You’re from Fenharrow?”

What are you doing here, so far from home?

She leveled a cool, unimpressed stare at him.

He swallowed and said, “Twenty-three.”

She scribbled something down. “Describe where the injury begins.”

Each word was clipped, her voice low.

Had it been an insult to be assigned his case? Had she other things to do when she was summoned here? He thought again of Hasar’s wicked smile the night before. Perhaps the princess knew that this woman was not praised for her bedside manner.

“What is your name?”

The question came from Nesryn, whose face was beginning to tighten.

The healer stilled as she took in Nesryn, blinking like she had not really noticed her. “You—are from here?”

“My father was,” Nesryn said. “He moved to Adarlan, wed my mother, and I now have family there—and here.” She impressively hid any trace of dread at the mention of them as she added coaxingly, “My name is Nesryn Faliq. I am the Captain of the Royal Guard of Adarlan.”

That surprise in the healer’s eyes turned wary. But she again gazed at him.

She knew who he was. The look conveyed it—the analysis. She knew he’d once held that title, and now was something else. So the name, the age … the questions were bullshit. Or some bureaucratic nonsense. He doubted it was the latter.

A woman from Fenharrow, meeting with two members from Adarlan’s court …

It didn’t take much to read her. What she saw. Where that mark on her throat might have come from.

“If you don’t want to be here,” Chaol said roughly, “then send someone else.”

Nesryn whirled on him.

The healer only held his stare. “There is no one else to do this.” The unspoken words said the rest: They sent their best.

With that steady, self-assured posture, he didn’t doubt it. She angled her pen again. “Describe where the injury begins.”

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