Tower of Dawn Page 163

She’d poked him in the ribs. As if I’ll want to hang around you all day like some lovesick girl!

Chaol had laughed, tucking her in tighter. But Yrene had only patted his arm and said, And I think you can take care of yourself just fine.

He’d just kissed her brow again. And that had been that.

Yrene now brushed her fingers against his, Chaol’s hand curling around her own, as Sartaq cleared his throat and held up Duva’s limp hand. To display the wedding band there. “Our sister has been enslaved by a demon sent by Perrington in the form of this ring.”

Murmurs and shifting about. Arghun spat, “Nonsense.”

“Perrington is no man. He is Erawan,” Sartaq declared, ignoring his elder brother, and Yrene realized Nesryn must have told him everything. “The Valg king.”

Still holding Yrene’s hand, Chaol added for all to hear, “Erawan sent this ring as a wedding gift, knowing Duva would put it on—knowing the demon would entrap her. On her wedding day.” They’d left the second ring at the Torre, locked within one of the ancient chests, to be disposed of later.

“The babe,” the khagan demanded, eyes on that torn-up belly, the scratches marring her neck where Hafiza had already removed the worst of the splinters.

“These are lies,” Arghun seethed. “From desperate, scheming people.”

“They are not lies,” Hafiza cut in, chin high. “And we have witnesses who will tell you otherwise. Guards, healers, and your own brother, Prince, if you will not believe us.”

To challenge the word of the Healer on High … Arghun shut his mouth.

Kashin shoved to the front of the crowd, earning a glare from Hasar as he shouldered past her. “That explains …” He peered at his sleeping sister. “She has not been the same.”

“She was the same,” Arghun snapped.

Kashin leveled a glare on his eldest brother. “If you ever deigned to spend any time with her, you would have known the differences.” He shook his head. “I thought her morose from the arranged marriage, then the pregnancy.” Grief flooded his eyes as he faced Chaol. “She did it, didn’t she? She killed Tumelun.”

A ripple of shock went through the room as all eyes fixed upon him. But Chaol instead turned to the khagan, whose face was bloodless and devastated in a way that Yrene had not yet known, and could not imagine. To lose a child, to endure this … “Yes,” Chaol said, bowing his head to the khagan. “The demon confessed to it, but it was not Duva. The demon made it sound as if Duva fought every second—raged against your daughter’s death.”

The khagan closed his eyes for a long moment.

Kashin lifted his palms to Yrene in the heavy silence. “Can you fix her? If she still somehow remains inside?” A broken plea. Not from a prince to a healer, but one friend to another. As they had once been—as she hoped they might again be.

The gathering focused upon Yrene now. She didn’t let an ounce of doubt curve her spine as she said, “I shall try.”

Chaol added, “There are things you should know, Great Khagan. About Erawan. The threat he poses. What you and this land might offer against him. And stand to gain in the process.”

“You think to scheme at a time like this?” Arghun snapped.

“No,” Chaol said clearly, unhesitatingly. “But consider that Morath has already reached these shores. Has already killed and harmed those you care for. And if we do not rise to face this threat …” His fingers tightened on Yrene’s. “Princess Duva will only be the first. And Princess Tumelun will not be the last victim of Erawan and the Valg.”

Nesryn stepped forward. “We come with grave tidings from the south, Great Khagan. The kharankui are stirring again, called by their dark … master.” Many stirred at the term she’d used. But some glanced to each other, confusion in their eyes, and Nesryn explained, “Creatures of darkness from the Valg realm. This war has already leaked into these lands.”

Murmuring silence and rustling robes.

But the khagan didn’t tear his eyes away from his unconscious daughter. “Save her,” he said—the words directed to Yrene.

Hafiza nodded subtly to Yrene, motioning her forward.

The message was clear enough: a test. The final one. Not between Yrene and the Healer on High. But something far greater.

Perhaps what had indeed called Yrene to these shores. Guided her across two empires, over mountains and seas.

An infection. A parasite. Yrene had faced them before.

But this demon inside … Yrene approached the sleeping princess.

And began.


Yrene’s hands did not tremble as she held them before her.

White light glowed around her fingers, encasing them, shielding them as she picked up the sleeping princess’s hand. It was so slight—so delicate, compared to the horrors she’d done with it.

Yrene’s magic rippled and bent as she reached for the false wedding ring. As if it were some sort of lodestone, warping the world around it.

Chaol’s hand settled on her back in silent support.

She steeled herself, sucking in a breath as her fingers closed around the ring.

It was worse.

So much worse than what had been within Chaol.

Where his had been a mere shadow, this was an inky pool of blackness. Corruption. The opposite of everything in this world.

Yrene panted through her teeth, her magic flaring around her hand, the light a barrier, a glove between her and that ring, and pulled.

The ring slid off.

And Duva began screaming.

Her body arched off the couch, Sartaq and Kashin lunging for her legs and shoulders, respectively.

Teeth gritted, the princes pinned their sister as she thrashed against them, shrieking wordlessly as Hafiza’s sleeping spell kept her unconscious.

“You’re hurting her,” the khagan snapped. Yrene did not bother to look toward him as she studied Duva. The body the princess slammed up and down, over and over.

“Hush,” Hasar hissed at her father. “Let her work. Someone fetch a blacksmith to crack open that damned ring.”

The world beyond them faded into blur and sound. Yrene was distantly aware of a young man—Duva’s husband—sprinting up to them. Covering his mouth with a cry; being held at bay by Nesryn.

Chaol just continued to kneel beside Yrene, removing his hand from her back with a final, soothing rub, while she stared and stared at Duva as she writhed.

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