Home > Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(16)

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(16)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Spreading into the distance, blotting out the sunset like a storm of bats, flew a legion of wyverns.

Each bore armed witches, roaring their battle cries to the color-stained sky.

Manon and her Thirteen had been flying without stop, without sleep. They’d left the two escort covens behind yesterday, their wyverns too exhausted to keep up. Especially when the Thirteen had been going on all those extra runs and patrols for months—and had quietly, solidly built up their stamina.

They flew high to keep hidden, and through gaps in the clouds, the continent had flashed below in varying shades of summer green and butter yellow and sparkling sapphire. Today had been clear enough that no clouds concealed them as they hurtled for Rifthold, the sun beginning its final descent toward the west.

Toward her lost homeland.

With the height and distance, Manon fully beheld the carnage as the horizon at last revealed the sprawl of the capital city.

The attack had begun without her. Iskra’s legion was still falling upon it, still spearing for the palace and the glass wall that crested over the city at its eastern edge.

She nudged Abraxos with her knees, a silent command to go faster.

He did—but barely. He was drained. They all were.

Iskra wanted the victory for herself. Manon had no doubt the Yellowlegs heir had received orders to yield … but only once Manon arrived. Bitch. Bitch to get here first, not to wait—

Closer and closer they swept for the city.

The screams reached them soon enough. Her red cape became a millstone.

Manon aimed Abraxos for the stone castle atop the hill, barely peeking above that shining glass wall—the wall she had been ordered to bring down—and hoped she had not been too late in one regard.

And that she knew what the hell she was doing.

7

Dorian had sounded the alarm, but the guards already knew. And when he’d gone to rush down the tower stairs, they blocked his path, telling him to stay in his tower. He tried to go again, to help—but they begged him to stay. Begged him, so that they would not lose him.

It was the desperation, how young their voices were, that kept him in the tower. But not useless.

Dorian stood atop his balcony, a hand raised before him.

From the distance, he could do nothing as the wyverns unleashed hell beyond the glass wall. They shredded through buildings, ripping apart roofs with their talons, snatching up people—his people—from the street.

They covered the skies like a blanket of fangs and claws, and though arrows from the city guards hit true, the wyverns did not pause.

Dorian rallied his magic, willing it to obey, summoning ice and wind to his palm, letting it build.

He should have trained, should have asked Aelin to teach him something when she was here.

The wyverns sailed closer to the castle and the glass wall still around it, as if they’d wanted to show him precisely how powerless he was before they came for him.

Let them come. Let them get close enough for his magic.

He might not have Aelin’s long range, might not be able to encircle the city with his power, but if they got close enough…

He would not be weak or cowering again.

The first of the wyverns crested the glass wall. Huge—so much bigger than the white-haired witch and her scarred mount. Six of them flapped for his castle, for his tower. For its king.

He’d give them a king.

He let them draw nearer, clenching his fingers into a fist, burrowing down, down, down into his magic. Many witches lingered at the glass wall, slamming their wyverns’ tails into it, cracking that opaque glass bit by bit. Like the six who sailed for the castle were all it would take to sack it.

He could see their figures now—see their iron-studded leather, the setting sun glinting on the massive breastplates of the wyverns as they raced over the still-healing castle grounds.

And when Dorian could see their iron teeth as they grinned at him, when the shouts of the guards so valiantly firing arrows from the castle doors and windows became a din in his ears, he extended his hand toward the witches.

Ice and wind tore into them, shredding through beast and rider.

The guards shouted in alarm—then fell into a stunned silence.

Dorian gasped for breath, gasped to remember his name and what he was as the magic drained out of him. He’d killed while enslaved, but never of his own free will.

And as the dead meat rained down, thudding on the castle grounds, as their blood misted the air … More, his magic moaned, spiraling down and up at the same time, dragging him again into its icy eddies.

Beyond the cracking glass wall, his city was bleeding. Screaming in terror.

Four more wyverns crossed the now-crumbling glass wall, banking as the riders beheld their shredded sisters. Cries shattered from their immortal throats, the tendrils of the yellow bands across their brows snapping in the wind. They shot their wyverns into the sky, as if they’d rise and rise and then plunge down directly atop him.

A smile danced on Dorian’s lips as he unleashed his magic again, a two-pronged whip snapping for the ascending wyverns.

More blood and chunks of wyvern and witch fell to the ground, all coated with ice so thick they shattered upon the courtyard flagstones.

Dorian tunneled deeper. Maybe if he could get into the city, he could cast a wider net—

That was when the other attack hit. Not from ahead or above or below.

But from behind.

His tower rocked to the side, and Dorian was flung forward, slamming into the stone balcony, narrowly avoiding flipping over the edge.

Stone cracked and wood splintered, and he was spared from a crushing bit of rock only by the magic he’d flung around himself as he covered his head.

He whirled toward the interior of his bedroom. A giant, gaping hole had been ripped into the side and roof. And perched on the broken stone, a solidly built witch now smiled at him with flesh-shredding iron teeth, a faded band of yellow leather around her brow.

He rallied his magic, but it sputtered to a flicker.

Too soon, too fast, he realized. Too uncontrolled. Not enough time to draw up the full depths of his power. The wyvern’s head snaked into the tower.

Behind him, six other wyverns crested the wall, soaring for his exposed back. And the wall itself … Aelin’s wall … Beneath those frantic, furious claws and tails … it collapsed entirely.

Dorian eyed the door to the tower stairs, where the guards should have already been charging through. Only silence waited.

So close—but getting to it would require passing in front of the wyvern’s maw. Exactly why the witch was smiling.

One chance—he’d have one chance to do this.

Dorian clenched his fingers, not granting the witch time to study him further.

He flung out a hand, ice shattering from his palm and into the eyes of the wyvern. It roared, rearing back, and he ran.

Something sharp nicked his ear and embedded in the wall before him. A dagger.

He kept sprinting for the door—

The tail whipped through his vision a heartbeat before it slammed into his side.

His magic was a film around him, shielding his bones, his skull, as he was hurled against the stone wall. Hard enough that the stones cracked. Hard enough that most humans would have been dead.

Stars and darkness danced in his vision. The door was so close.

Dorian tried to rise, but his limbs wouldn’t obey.

Stunned; stunned by—

Wet warmth leaked just below his ribs. Blood. Not a deep cut, but enough to hurt, courtesy of one of the spines on that tail. Spines coated in a greenish sheen.

Venom. Some sort of venom that weakened and paralyzed before it killed—

He wouldn’t be taken again, not to Morath, not to the duke and his collars—

His magic thrashed against the venom’s paralyzing, lethal kiss. Healing magic. But slow, weakened by his careless expenditure moments before.

Dorian tried to crawl for the door, panting through his gritted teeth.

The witch barked a command to her wyvern, and Dorian rallied enough to crane his head. To see her draw her swords and begin to dismount.

No, no, no—

The witch didn’t make it to the ground.

One heartbeat she was perched in her saddle, swinging a leg over.

The next, her head was gone, her blood spraying her wyvern as it roared and turned—

And was slammed off the tower by another, smaller wyvern. Scarred and vicious, with glimmering wings.

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