Tower of Dawn Page 166

“That explains why the Fae healers might have fled, too,” Yrene murmured when Nesryn fell silent. “Why Maeve’s own healer compound lies on the border with the mortal world. Perhaps not so they can have access to humans who need care … but as a border patrol against the Valg, should they ever try to encroach her territory.”

How close the Valg had unwittingly come when Aelin had fought those princes in Wendlyn.

“It also explains why Aelin reported an owl at Maeve’s side when they first met,” Nesryn said, gesturing to Yrene, whose brows bunched.

Then Yrene blurted, “The owl must be the Fae form of a healer. Some healer of hers that she keeps close—as a bodyguard. Has let everyone believe to be some pet …”

Chaol’s head spun. Sartaq gave him a look as if to say he understood the feeling well.

“What happened before we arrived?” Nesryn asked. “When we found you …”

Yrene’s hand clenched his. And it was his turn to tell them what they had learned, what they had endured. That regardless of what Maeve might plan to do … There remained Erawan to face.

Until Yrene murmured, “When I was healing Duva, the demon …” She rubbed at her chest. He’d never seen anything so remarkable as that healing: the blinding glow of her hands, the near-holy expression on her face. As if she were Silba herself. “The demon told me it was not a Valg prince … but a princess.”

Silence. Until Nesryn said, “The spider. It claimed the Valg kings had sons and daughters. Princes and princesses.”

Chaol swore. No, his legs would not be able to function anytime soon, with or without Yrene’s slowly refilling well of power. “We’re going to need a Fire-Bringer, it seems,” he said. And to translate the books Hafiza said she would gladly hand over to their cause.

Nesryn chewed on her lip. “Aelin now sails north to Terrasen, an armada with her. The witches as well.”

“Or just the Thirteen,” Chaol countered. “The reports were murky. It might not even be Manon Blackbeak’s coven, actually.”

“It is,” Nesryn said. “I’d bet everything on it.” She slid her attention to Sartaq, who nodded—silent permission. Nesryn braced her forearms on her knees. “We did not return alone when we raced back here.”

Chaol glanced between them. “How many?”

Sartaq’s face tightened. “The rukhin are vital enough internally that I can only risk bringing half.” Chaol waited. “So I brought a thousand.”

He was indeed glad he was sitting down. A thousand ruk riders … Chaol scratched his jaw. “If we can join Aelin’s host, along with the Thirteen and any other Ironteeth Manon Blackbeak can sway to our side …”

“We will have an aerial legion to combat Morath’s,” Nesryn finished, eyes bright. With hope, yes, but something like dread, too. As if she perhaps realized what combating would ensue. The lives at stake. Yet she turned to Yrene. “And if you can heal those infected by the Valg …”

“We still need to find a way to get their hosts down,” Sartaq said. “Long enough for Yrene and any others to heal them.” Yes, there was that to account for, too.

Yrene cut in, “Well, as you said, we have Aelin Fire-Bringer fighting for us, don’t we? If she can produce flame, surely she can produce smoke.” Her mouth quirked to the side. “I might have some ideas.”

Yrene opened her mouth as if she’d say more, but the suite doors blew open and Hasar breezed in.

Hasar seemed to check herself at the sight of Sartaq. “It seems I’m late for the war council.”

Sartaq crossed an ankle over a knee. “Who says that’s what we’re discussing?”

Hasar claimed a seat for herself and adjusted the fall of her hair over a shoulder. “You mean to tell me the ruks shitting up the roofs are just here to make you look important?”

Sartaq huffed a quiet laugh. “Yes, sister?”

The princess only looked to Yrene, then Chaol. “I will come with you.”

Chaol didn’t dare move. Yrene said, “Alone?”

“Not alone.” The mocking amusement was gone from her face. “You saved Duva’s life. And ours, if she had grown more bold.” A glance to Sartaq, who watched with mild surprise. “Duva is the best of us. The best of me.” Hasar’s throat bobbed. “So I will go with you, with whatever ships I can bring, so that my sister will never again look over her shoulder in fear.”

Except in fear of one another, Chaol refrained from saying.

But Hasar caught the words in his eyes. “Not her,” she said quietly. “All the others,” she added with a stark look at Sartaq, who nodded grimly. “But never Duva.”

An unspoken promise, Chaol realized, among the other siblings.

“So you will have to suffer my company for a while yet, Lord Westfall,” Hasar said, but that edged smile was not as sharp. “Because for my sisters, both living and dead, I will march with my sulde to the gates of Morath and make that demon bastard pay.” She met Yrene’s stare. “And for you, Yrene Towers. For what you did for Duva, I will help you save your land.”

Yrene rose, her hands shaking. And none of them spoke a word as Yrene reached Hasar’s seat and threw her arms around her neck to hold the princess tightly.

66

Nesryn was utterly drained. Wanted to sleep for a week. A month.

But she somehow found herself walking the halls, aiming for Kadara’s minaret. Alone.

Sartaq had gone to see his father, Hasar joining him. And though it certainly was not awkward with Chaol and Yrene … Nesryn gave them their privacy. He had been upon Death’s threshold after all. She had few illusions about what was likely about to take place in that suite.

And that she’d have to find quarters of her own.

Nesryn supposed she’d have to find quarters for a few people tonight anyway—starting with Borte, who’d marveled at Antica and the sea, even as they’d swept in as fast as the winds could carry them. And Falkan, who’d indeed come with them, riding as a field mouse in Borte’s pocket, Yeran none too pleased about it. Or so he’d seemed the last time she’d seen him at the Eridun aerie, Sartaq charging the various hearth-mothers and the captains to rally their rukhin and fly for Antica.

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