Tower of Dawn Page 38

It was happening again. Here. A Valg demon had come to Antica—an underling at best, a prince at worst. It could be either.

The attack Yrene had described fit Aelin’s account of the remains she and Rowan had found from the Valg prince’s victims in Wendlyn. People teeming with life turned to husks as if the Valg drank their very souls.

He found himself saying quietly, “Prince Kashin suspects Tumelun was killed.”

Yrene sat up, any lingering color draining from her face. “Tumelun’s body was not drained. Hafiza—the Healer on High herself declared it was a suicide.”

There was, of course, a chance the two deaths weren’t connected, a chance that Kashin was wrong about Tumelun. Part of Chaol prayed it was so. But even if they were unrelated, what had happened last night—

“You need to warn the khagan,” Yrene said, seeming to read his mind.

He nodded. “Of course. Of course I will.” Damned as the entire situation was … Perhaps it was the in he’d been waiting for with the khagan. But he studied her haggard face, the fear there. “I’m sorry—to have brought you into this. Has security been increased around the Torre?”

“Yes.” A breathy push of sound. She scrubbed at her face.

“And you? Did you come here under guard?”

She threw him a frown. “In plain daylight? In the middle of the city?”

Chaol crossed his arms. “I would put nothing past the Valg.”

She waved a hand. “I won’t be heading alone into any dark corridors anytime soon. None of us in the Torre will. Guards have been called in—stationed down every hall, in every few feet of the library. I don’t even know where Hafiza summoned them from.”

Valg underlings could take bodies of anyone they wished, but their princes were vain enough that Chaol doubted they’d bother to take the form of a lowly guard. Not when they preferred beautiful young men.

A collar and a dead, cold smile flashed before his eyes.

Chaol blew out a breath. “I am truly sorry—about that healer.” Especially if his being here had somehow triggered this attack, if they pursued Yrene only because of her helping him. He added, “You should be on your guard. Constantly.”

She ignored the warning and scanned the room, the carpets, and the lush palms. “The girls—the young acolytes … They’re frightened.”

And you?

Before, he would have volunteered to stand watch, to guard her door, to organize the soldiers because he knew how these things operated. But he was no captain, and he doubted the khagan or his men would be inclined to listen to a foreign lord, anyway.

But he couldn’t stop himself, that part of him, as he asked, “What can I do to help?”

Yrene’s eyes shifted toward him, assessing. Weighing. Not him, but he had the feeling it was something inside herself. So he kept still, kept his gaze steady, while she looked inward. While she at last took a breath and said, “I teach a class. Once a week. After last night, they were all too tired, so I let them sleep instead. Tonight, we have a vigil for the healer who—who died. But tomorrow …” She chewed on her lip, again debating for a heartbeat before she added, “I should like you to come.”

“What sort of class?”

Yrene toyed with a heavy curl. “There is no tuition for students here—but we pay our way in other forms. Some help with the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning. But when I came, Hafiza … I told her I was good at all those things. I’d done them for—a while. She asked me what else I knew beyond healing, and I told her …” She bit her lip. “Someone once taught me self-defense. What to do against attackers. Usually the male kind.”

It was an effort not to look at the scar across her throat. Not to wonder if she had learned it after—or if even that had not been enough.

Yrene sighed through her nose. “I told Hafiza that I knew a little about it, and that … I had made a promise to someone, to the person who taught me, to show and teach it to as many women as possible. So I have. Once a week, I teach the acolytes, along with any older students, healers, servants, or librarians who would like to know.”

This delicate, gentle-handed woman … He supposed he’d learned that strength could be hidden beneath the most unlikely faces.

“The girls are deeply shaken. There hasn’t been an intruder in the Torre for a great while. I think it would go a long way if you were to join me tomorrow—to teach what you know.”

For a long moment, he stared at her. Blinked.

“You realize I’m in this chair.”

“And? Your mouth still works.” Tart, crisp words.

He blinked again. “They might not find me the most reassuring instructor—”

“No, they’ll likely be swooning and sighing over you so much they’ll forget to be afraid.”

His third and final blink made her smile slightly. Grimly. He wondered what that smile would look like if she ever was truly amused—happy.

“The scar adds a touch of mystery,” she said, cutting him off before he could remember the slice down his cheek.

He studied her as she rose from the sofa to stride back to the desk and unpack her bag. “You would truly like me to be there tomorrow?”

“We’ll have to figure out how to get you there, but it should not be so difficult.”

“Stuffing me into a carriage will be fine.”

She stiffened, glancing over her shoulder. “Save that anger for our training, Lord Westfall.” She fished out a vial of oil and set it on the table. “And you will not be taking a carriage.”

“A litter carried by servants, then?” He’d sooner crawl.

“A horse. Ever heard of one?”

He clenched the arms of his chair. “You need legs to ride.”

“So it’s a good thing you still have both of them.” She went back to studying whatever vials were in that bag. “I spoke to my superior this morning. She has seen similarly injured people ride until they could meet with us—with special straps and braces. They are fashioning them for you in the workshops as we speak.”

He let those words sink in. “So you assumed I would come with you tomorrow.”

Yrene turned at last, satchel in her hand now. “I assumed you would wish to ride regardless.”

He could only stare while she approached, vial in hand. Only a prim sort of irritation on her face. Better than the stark fear. He asked, voice a bit raw, “You think such a thing is possible?”

Prev Next