Tower of Dawn Page 23

7

Chaol waited until Nesryn had been gone for a good thirty minutes before he summoned Kadja. She’d been waiting in the exterior hallway and slipped inside his suite mere moments after he’d called her name. Lingering in the foyer, he watched the serving girl approach, her steps light and swift, her eyes downcast as she awaited his order.

“I have a favor to ask you,” he said slowly and clearly, cursing himself for not learning Halha during the years Dorian had studied it.

A dip of the chin was her only answer.

“I need you to go down to the docks, to wherever information comes in, to see if there’s any news about the attack on Rifthold.” Kadja had been in the throne room yesterday—she’d undoubtedly heard about it. And he’d debated asking Nesryn to do some searching while she was out, but if the news was grim … he didn’t want her learning it alone. Bearing it alone, all the way back up to the palace. “Do you think you could do that?”

Kadja lifted her eyes at last, though she kept her head low. “Yes,” she said simply.

He knew she was likely answering to one of the royals or viziers in this palace. But his asking for more information, while certainly a detail to mark, wasn’t any threat to his cause. And if they deemed it weak or stupid to be concerned for his country, they could go to hell.

“Good,” Chaol said, the chair beneath him groaning as he wheeled it forward a foot and tried not to scowl at the sound, at his silent body. “And there is another favor I would ask of you.”

Just because Nesryn was occupied with her family didn’t mean he had to be idle.

But as Kadja deposited him in Arghun’s chambers, he wondered if he should have waited for Nesryn’s return to have this meeting.

The eldest prince’s entry room was as large as Chaol’s entire suite. It was a long, oval space, the far end opening into a courtyard adorned with a sparkling fountain and patrolled by a pair of white peacocks. He watched them sweep by, the mass of their snowy feathers trailing over the slate tiles, their delicate crowns bobbing with each step.

“They are beautiful, are they not?”

A sealed set of carved doors to the left had opened, revealing the slim-faced, cold-eyed prince, his attention on the birds.

“Stunning,” Chaol admitted, hating the way he had to angle his head upward to look the man in the eye. Had he been standing, he’d be a good four inches taller, able to use his size to his advantage during this meeting. Had he been standing—

He didn’t let himself continue down that path. Not now.

“They are my prized pair,” Arghun said, his use of Chaol’s home tongue utterly fluent. “My country home is full of their offspring.”

Chaol searched for an answer, something Dorian or Aelin might have easily supplied, but found nothing. Absolutely nothing that didn’t sound inane and insincere. So he said, “I’m sure it’s beautiful.”

Arghun’s mouth tugged upward. “If you ignore their screaming at certain points of the year.”

Chaol clenched his jaw. His people were dying in Rifthold, if not already dead, and yet bandying words about screeching, preening birds … this was what he was to do?

He debated it, whether to parry more or get to the point, but Arghun said, “I suppose you are here to ask what I know regarding your city.” The prince’s cool glance finally landed on him, and Chaol held the look. This—the staring contest—was something he could do. He’d had plenty, with unruly guard and courtier alike.

“You supplied your father with the information. I want to know who gave you the details of the attack.”

Amusement lit up the prince’s dark brown eyes. “A blunt man.”

“My people are suffering. I would like to know as much as I can.”

“Well,” Arghun said, picking at a piece of lint clinging to the golden embroidery along his emerald tunic, “in the spirit of honesty, I can tell you absolutely nothing.”

Chaol blinked—once, and slowly.

Arghun went on, extending a hand toward the outer doors, “There are far too many eyes watching, Lord Westfall, and my being seen with you sends a message, for better or worse, regardless of what we discuss. So while I appreciate your visit, I will ask you to leave.” The servants waiting at the door came forward, presumably to wheel him away.

And the sight of one of them reaching their hands toward the back of his chair …

Chaol bared his teeth at the servant, stopping him dead. “Don’t.”

Whether the man spoke his language, he clearly understood the expression on his face.

Chaol twisted back to the prince. “You really want to play this game?”

“It is no game,” Arghun said simply, striding toward the office where he’d been ensconced. “The information is correct. My spies do not invent stories to entertain. Good day to you.”

And then the double doors to the prince’s office were sealed.

Chaol debated banging on those doors until Arghun started talking, perhaps pounding his fist into the prince’s face, too, but … the two servants behind him were waiting. Watching.

He’d met enough courtiers in Rifthold to sense when someone was lying. Even if those senses had failed him so spectacularly these past few months. With Aelin. With the others. With … everything.

But he didn’t think Arghun was lying. About any of it.

Rifthold had been sacked. Dorian remained missing. His people’s fate unknown.

He didn’t fight the servant again when the man stepped up to escort him back to his room. And that might have enraged him more than anything.

Nesryn did not return for dinner.

Chaol did not let the khagan, his children, or the thirty-six hawk-eyed viziers get a whiff of the worry that wracked him with every passing minute that she did not emerge from one of the hallways to join them in the great hall. She had been gone hours with no word.

Even Kadja had returned, an hour before dinner, and one look at her carefully calm face told him everything: she’d learned nothing new at the docks about the attack on Rifthold, either. She only confirmed what Arghun claimed: the captains and merchants had spoken to credible sources who’d either sailed past Rifthold or barely escaped. The attack had indeed happened, with no accurate number on the lives lost or the status of the city. All trade from the southern continent was halted—at least to Rifthold and anywhere north of it that required passing near the city. No word had come at all of Dorian’s fate.

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