Tower of Dawn Page 89

Yrene slid beneath the covers, but made no move to nestle her head onto the pillow. “What is it like—to kill someone?”

Cain’s face flashed in his mind.

“I—I’m new to it,” Chaol admitted.

She angled her head.

“I took my first life … just after Yulemas last year.”

Her brows narrowed. “But—you—”

“I trained for it. Had fought before. But never killed someone.”

“You were the Captain of the Guard.”

“I told you,” he said with a bitter smile, “it was complicated.”

Yrene nestled down at last. “But you have done it since.”

“Yes. But not enough to grow used to it. Against the Valg, yes, but the humans they infest … Some are lost forever. Some are still there, beneath the demon. Figuring out who to kill, who can be spared—I still don’t know where the bad choices lie. The dead do not speak.”

Her head slid against the pillow. “I took an oath before my mother. When I was seven. Never to kill a human being. Some healings … she told me offering death could be a mercy. But that it was different from slaughter.”

“It is.”

“I think—I might have tried to kill whoever it was tonight. I was that …” He waited for her to say frightened. Frightened, with my only defender in a chair. “I was that decided against running. You told me you’d buy me time, but … I can’t do it. Not again.”

His chest tightened. “I understand.”

“I’m glad I didn’t do it. But—whoever it is got away. Perhaps I should not be so relieved.”

“Kashin may be lucky in his search.”

“I doubt it. They were gone before the guards arrived.”

He fell quiet. After a moment, he said, “I hope you never have to use that dagger—or any other, Yrene. Even as a mercy.”

The sorrow in her eyes was enough to knock the breath from him. “Thank you,” she said softly. “For being willing to take that death upon yourself.”

No one had ever said such a thing. Even Dorian. But it had been expected. Celaena—Aelin had been grateful when he’d killed Cain to save her, but she had expected him to one day make a kill.

Aelin had made more than he could count by that point, and his own lack of it had been … embarrassing. As if such a thing were possible.

He had killed plenty since then. In Rifthold. With those rebels against the Valg. But Yrene … she made that number smaller. He hadn’t looked at it that way. With pride. Relief.

“I’m sorry Nesryn left,” Yrene murmured into the dim light.

I hold you to no promises. And I will hold to none of my own.

“I promised her an adventure,” Chaol admitted. “She deserved to go on one.”

Yrene was quiet enough that he turned from the garden doors. She had snuggled deep into his bed, her attention fixed wholly on him. “What about you? What do you deserve?”

“Nothing. I deserve nothing.”

Yrene studied him. “I don’t agree at all,” she murmured, eyelids drooping.

He monitored the exits again. After a few minutes, he said, “I was given enough and squandered it.”

Chaol looked over at her, but Yrene’s face was softened with sleep, her breathing steady.

He watched her for a long while.

Yrene was still sleeping when dawn broke.

Chaol had dozed for a few minutes at a time, as much as he’d allow himself.

But as the sun crept across the bedroom floor, he found himself washing his face. Scrubbing the sleep from his eyes.

Yrene didn’t stir as he moved out of the suite and into the hall. The guards were precisely where Kashin had ordered them to remain. And they told him precisely where he needed to go when he met them each in the eye and asked for directions.

And then he informed them that if Yrene were harmed while he was gone, he’d shatter every bone in their bodies.

Minutes later, he found the training courtyard Yrene had mentioned yesterday.

It was already full of guards, some of whom eyed him and some of whom ignored him fully. Some of whom he recognized from Shen’s shift, and gave him a nod.

One of the guards he did not know approached him, older and grayer than the rest.

Like Brullo, his former instructor and Weapons Master.

Dead—hanging from those gates.

Chaol pushed away the image. Replaced it with the healer still asleep in his bed. How she had looked when she’d declared to the prince, the world, that she felt safer there. With him.

He replaced the pain that rippled through him at the sight of the exercising guards, the sight of this private training space, so similar to the one in which he’d spent so many hours of his life, with the image of Shen’s artificial arm, the unwavering, quiet strength he’d felt supporting him while he’d mounted his horse. No less a man without that arm—no less a guard.

“Lord Westfall,” said the gray-haired guard, using his language. “What can I do for you at this hour?” The man seemed astute enough to know if there had been something related to the attack, this would not be the place to discuss it. No, the man knew Chaol had come here for a different reason, and read the tension in his body as not a source of alarm, but intrigue.

“I trained for years with men from my continent,” Chaol said, lifting the sword and dagger he’d brought with him. “Learned as much as they know.”

The older guard’s brows flicked up.

Chaol held the man’s stare. “I would like to learn what you know.”

The aging guard—Hashim—worked him until Chaol could barely breathe. Even in the chair. And out of it.

Hashim, who was a rank below captain and oversaw the guards’ training, found ways for Chaol to do their exercises either with someone bracing his feet or modified versions from the chair.

He had indeed worked with Shen a year ago—many of the guards had. They’d banded together, assisting Shen in any way they could with the reorienting of his body, his way of fighting, during those long months of recovery.

So not one of them stared or laughed. Not one of them whispered.

They were all too busy, too tired, to bother anyway.

The sun rose over the courtyard, and still they worked. Still Hashim showed him new ways to strike with a blade. How to disarm an opponent.

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