Tower of Dawn Page 60

But Hasar then said, “I heard that killer in the library hunted you.” Unforgiving will filled her face. “Why did you not come to me first?”

Before Yrene could answer, Hasar mercifully went on, “They said it was some strange death—not a typical one at all.”

Yrene tried and failed to block out the memory of the gaunt, leathery face. “It was.”

Hasar sipped her tea. “I don’t care if the attack was a deliberate move on your life or whether it was just piss-poor coincidence.” She set down her cup with delicate precision. “When I find whoever it is, I’ll behead them myself.” The princess tapped a hand on the sheathed blade discarded along the edge of her oak desk.

Yrene didn’t doubt her. But she said, “I’ve been told the danger is … considerable.”

“I do not take lightly to my friends being hunted like beasts.” Not the voice of a princess—but a warrior-queen. “And I do not take lightly to Torre healers being killed and terrorized.”

Hasar was many things, but she was loyal. To her core. To the few, few people whom she favored. It had always warmed something in Yrene. To have someone who actually meant what they said. Hasar would behead the killer if they were unfortunate enough to encounter her. She would ask no questions, either.

Yrene considered all she knew about the potential murderer and struggled to refrain from telling the princess that beheading was, in fact, the proper way to deal with a Valg demon.

Unless you were facing the remnants of it within someone. In which case … As awful, as exhausting as today’s session with Lord Westfall had been, she’d already cataloged and tucked away the small scraps of information she’d gleaned. Not just for his healing, but if she should ever face it again—on those battlefields. Even if the prospect of seeing those Valg demons in the flesh …

Taking a steadying drink of her tea, Yrene asked, “Are you not concerned that perhaps it is no coincidence war is upon the northern continent, and now we have enemies in our midst?” She didn’t dare mention Tumelun’s death.

“Perhaps Lord Westfall and Captain Faliq brought in their own spies to track you.”

“That is not possible.”

“Are you so certain? They are desperate. And desperation breeds people who are willing to do anything to get what they need.”

“And what would they need from me beyond what I am already giving them?”

Hasar beckoned Yrene over with a flick of her fingers. Yrene set down her teacup and strode across the deep blue carpet to the desk before the windows. Hasar’s rooms commanded a view of the teal bay—the ships and the gulls and the glittering sprawl of the Narrow Sea beyond.

Hasar gestured to the map in front of her. “What do you see here?”

Yrene’s throat tightened as she recognized the landmass. The northern continent—her own home. And all the figures on it, in red and green and black …

“Are those—armies?”

“This is Duke Perrington’s force,” Hasar said, pointing to the line of black figures stretching like a wall across the middle of the continent. Other clusters lay to the south.

And to the north: one small green cluster. And a lone red figure just beyond the shores of Rifthold.

“What are the others?”

Hasar said, “There is a small army in Terrasen.” She snickered at the green figures clustered around Orynth.

“And in Adarlan?”

Hasar picked up the red figurine, twirling it between two figures. “No army to speak of. Dorian Havilliard remains unaccounted for. Will he flee north or south? Or perhaps cut inland—though there is certainly nothing beyond the mountains save for half-feral tribes.”

“What is that figure?” Yrene asked, noting the gold pawn Hasar had set off the map entirely.

Hasar picked it up, too. “It is Aelin Galathynius. Also unaccounted for.”

“She is not in Terrasen? With her army?”

“No.” Hasar patted the documents she’d been referencing as she’d adjusted her own maps. Reports, Yrene realized. “The latest news indicates the Queen of Terrasen is nowhere to be found in her own kingdom. Or in any other.” A slight smile. “Perhaps you should ask your lord that.”

“I doubt he’ll tell me.” She refrained from saying he wasn’t her lord.

“Then perhaps you should make him.”

Yrene carefully asked, “Why?”

“Because I would like to know.”

Yrene read between the words. Hasar wanted the information—before her father or siblings.

“To what end?”

“When a power broker of the realms goes missing, it is not a cause for celebration. Especially one who destroys palaces and takes cities on a whim.”

Fear. Well hidden, but Hasar was at least considering the possibility that Aelin Galathynius might set her sights beyond her own lands.

But to play spy for Hasar … “You think the library attack has something to do with this?”

“I think that perhaps Lord Westfall and Captain Faliq are aware of how to play the game. And if they make it appear as if a threat from Perrington is in our midst, why wouldn’t we consider allying with them?”

Yrene didn’t think they played those sorts of games at all. “You think they’re doing this to help Aelin Galathynius? Or because she is missing and they’re frightened of losing a powerful ally themselves?”

“That’s what I would like to know. Along with the queen’s location. Or their best guess.”

Yrene made herself hold the princess’s stare. “And why should I help you?”

A Baast Cat’s smile. “Beyond the fact that we are dear friends? Is there nothing I could give you to sweeten the offer, lovely Yrene?”

“I have all I need.”

“Yes, but you do remember that the armadas are mine. The Narrow Sea is mine. And crossing it may be very, very difficult to those who forget.”

Yrene did not dare back down. Didn’t dare break the princess’s dark gaze.

Hasar knew. Knew, or guessed, that Yrene wanted to leave. And if she did not aid the princess … Yrene had no doubt that as fiercely as Hasar loved, so, too, could her need for retribution drive her. Enough to make sure Yrene never left these shores.

“I shall see what I can learn,” Yrene said, refusing to soften her voice.

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