Tower of Dawn Page 58

Another glance between her aunt and uncle, then each took her by the hand. “There is nothing to be sorry for,” her aunt said. Just as her uncle added, “Getting to see you so unexpectedly has been a blessing beyond measure.”

Her throat closed up. This—this was what Erawan was poised to destroy.

She’d find a way to raise that army. Either to rescue her family from war, or keep it from reaching these shores.

Her aunt declared, “We will hire more guards, have an escort for the children to and from school.” A nod to her husband. “And anywhere we go in this city.”

Nesryn’s uncle added, “And what of you? Traipsing about the city on your own.” Nesryn waved a hand, though their concern warmed her. She refrained from telling them she’d hunted Valg in Rifthold’s sewers for weeks, that she’d been stalking them through Antica’s sewers last night. And most certainly refrained from telling them just how involved she’d been in the glass castle’s demise. She had no wish to see her uncle keel over in his chair, or see her aunt’s thick, beautiful hair go white. “I can handle myself.”

Her aunt and uncle did not look so convinced, but they nodded all the same. Just as Cook emerged, smiling broadly at Nesryn, little dishes of chilled salads between her withered hands.

For long moments, Nesryn ate everything her aunt and uncle piled onto her plate, which was indeed as good as any food at the palace. By the time she was stuffed to the point of exploding, by the time she’d drained her tea to its dregs, her aunt said slyly to her, “I had hoped you’d be bringing a guest, you know.”

Nesryn snorted, brushing the hair from her face. “Lord Westfall is quite busy, Aunt.” But if Yrene had gotten him onto a horse this morning … perhaps she’d indeed get him here tomorrow. Introduce him to her family—to the four children who filled this house with chaos and joy.

Her aunt sipped daintily from her tea. “Oh, I didn’t mean him.” A wry grin between Zahida and Brahim. “I meant Prince Sartaq.”

Nesryn was glad she’d finished her tea. “What of him?”

That sly smile didn’t fade. “Rumor claims someone”—a pointed look at Nesryn—“was spotted riding with the prince at dawn yesterday. Atop his ruk.”

Nesryn reined in her wince. “I … was.” She prayed no one had seen her with him last night—that word would not reach the Valg agent’s ears they were being hunted.

Her uncle chuckled. “And you planned to tell us when? The children were beside themselves with excitement that their beloved cousin had ridden on Kadara herself.”

“I did not want to brag.” A pathetic excuse.

“Hmmm,” was all her uncle replied, mischief dancing in his gaze.

But Nesryn’s aunt gave her a knowing look, steel in her brown eyes, as if she, too, did not forget for one moment the family who remained in Adarlan and perhaps now tried to flee to these shores. Her aunt simply said, “The ruks will not fear wyverns.”

18

Yrene’s heart thundered as she knelt beside Chaol on the bed and watched his toes shift.

“Can you—feel that?”

Chaol was still staring as if he didn’t quite believe it.

“I …” The words stalled in his throat.

“Can you control the movement?”

He seemed to concentrate.

Then his toes stopped.

“Good,” she said, sitting upright to watch more closely. “Now move them.”

He again appeared to concentrate and concentrate, and then—

Two toes curled. Then three on the other foot.

Yrene smiled—broadly, widely. Remained smiling as she turned her head toward him.

He only stared at her. Her smile. A sort of focused intensity falling across his features that made her go a bit still.

“How?” he asked.

“The—maybe when I got to you, when my magic blasted back darkness a little …” It had been terrible. To find him inside all that dark. The void, the cold, the shrieking pain and horror.

She had refused to acknowledge what it tried to show her at that wall, again and again: that terrible fortress, the fate that awaited her when she returned. She had refused to acknowledge it as she had struck the wall, her magic begging her to stop, to pull away.

Until … until she’d heard him. Far off and deeper within.

She’d blindly lunged, a spear-throw toward that sound. And there he’d been—or whatever it was of him. As if this was the core of the tether between man and injury, not the wall against the nerves far, far above.

She’d wrapped herself around it, hugging tight even as the darkness pounded in again and again. And in answer, she’d sent her magic slashing into it, a scythe of light into the dark. A torch that burned just a fraction.

Just enough, it seemed.

“This is good,” Yrene declared—perhaps uselessly. “This is wonderful.”

Chaol was still staring at her as he said, “It is.”

She became aware of the blood on her—the state of her.

“Let’s start with this,” she said. “Do a few exercises before we stop for the day.”

What she had admitted about her mother … She had only told Hafiza upon entering the Torre. No one else. She had told no one else, not since she’d staggered onto her mother’s cousin’s farm and begged for sanctuary and shelter.

She wondered how long his own story had been locked in his chest.

“Let me order food first,” Yrene decided. She glanced toward the wood screen shielding the bathing room from sight, then down at her blood-crusted chest and dress. “While we wait … I might beg to use your bath. And borrow a set of your clothes.”

Chaol was still watching her with that focused, calm face. A different one from any she’d seen on him before. As if in shaving off some of that darkness, it had revealed this facet beneath.

This man she had not yet met.

She wasn’t sure what to do with it. With him.

“Take whatever you want,” Chaol told her, his voice low—rough.

Yrene was light-headed when she crawled off the bed, taking his ruined shirt with her, and hurried for the bathing chamber. From the blood loss, she told herself.

Even as she smiled throughout her bath.

“I can’t help but feel neglected, you know,” Hasar drawled as she pored over maps Yrene didn’t dare inquire about. From across the princess’s lavish receiving room, she couldn’t view them properly—and could only watch as Hasar moved several ivory figurines here and there, her dark brows scrunched in concentration.

Prev Next