Home > Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(17)

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(17)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Dorian didn’t wait to see what happened, didn’t wonder.

He crawled for the door, his magic devouring the venom that should have killed him, a raging torrent of light fighting with all of its considerable force against that greenish darkness.

Cleaved skin, muscle, and bone itched as they slowly knit together—and that spark flickered and guttered in his veins.

Dorian was reaching for the door handle when the small wyvern landed in the ruined hole of his tower, its enormous fangs dripping blood onto the scattered paperwork he’d been grousing over mere minutes ago. Its armored, lithe rider nimbly leaped off, the arrows in the quiver across her back clacking against the hilt of the mighty sword now strapped alongside it.

She hauled away the helmet crowned with slender, lancelike blades.

He knew her face before he remembered her name.

Knew the white hair, like moonlight on water, that spilled over her dark, scalelike armor; knew the burnt-gold eyes.

Knew that impossibly beautiful face, full of cold bloodlust and wicked cunning.

“Get up,” Manon Blackbeak snarled.

Shit.

The word was a steady chant in Manon’s head as she stalked across the ruins of the king’s tower, armor thundering against the fallen stones, fluttering paper, and scattered books.

Shit, shit, shit.

Iskra was nowhere to be found—not by the castle, at least. But her coven was.

And when Manon had spied that Yellowlegs sentinel perched inside the tower, readying to claim this kill for herself … a century of training and instinct had barreled into Manon.

All it had taken was one swipe of Wind-Cleaver as Abraxos flew by, and Iskra’s sentinel was dead.

Shit, shit, shit.

Then Abraxos attacked the remaining mount, a dull-eyed bull who hadn’t even the chance to roar before Abraxos’s teeth were clamped around his broad throat and blood and flesh were flying as they tumbled through the air.

She didn’t have a heartbeat to spare to marvel that Abraxos had not balked at the fight, that he had not yielded. Her warrior-hearted wyvern. She’d give him an extra ration of meat.

The young king’s dark, bloody jacket was coated in dust and dirt. But his sapphire eyes were clear, if not wide, as she snarled again over the screaming city, “Get up.”

He reached a hand toward the iron door handle. Not to call for help or flee, she realized, now a foot from him, but to raise himself.

Manon studied his long legs, more muscled than the last time she’d seen him. Then she noted the wound peeking through the side of his torn jacket. Not deep and not gushing, but—

Shit, shit, shit.

The venom of the wyvern’s tail was deadly at worst, paralyzing at best. Paralyzing with just a scratch. He should be dead. Or dying.

“What do you want?” he rasped, eyes darting between her and Abraxos, who was busy monitoring the skies for any other attackers, his wings rustling with impatience.

The king was buying himself time—while his wound healed.

Magic. Only the strongest magic could have kept him from death. Manon snapped, “Quiet,” and hauled him to his feet.

He didn’t flinch at her touch, or at the iron nails that snagged and ripped through his jacket. He was heavier than she’d estimated—as if he’d packed on more muscle beneath those clothes, too. But with her immortal strength, heaving him to a standing position required little energy.

She’d forgotten how much taller he was. Face-to-face, Dorian panted as he stared down at her and breathed, “Hello, witchling.”

Some ancient, predatory part of her awoke at the half smile. It sat up, cocking its ears toward him. Not a whiff of fear. Interesting.

Manon purred back, “Hello, princeling.”

Abraxos gave a warning growl, and Manon whipped her head to discover another wyvern sailing hard and fast for them.

“Go,” she said, letting him support himself as she hauled open the tower door. The screams of the men levels below rose to meet them. Dorian sagged against the wall, as if focusing all his attention on staying upright. “Is there another exit? Another way out?”

The king assessed her with a frankness that had her snarling.

Behind them, as if the Mother had stretched out her hand, a mighty wind buffeted the wyvern and rider away from the tower, sending them tumbling into the city. Even Abraxos roared, clinging to the tower stones so hard the rock cracked beneath his claws.

“There are passages,” the king said. “But you—”

“Then find them. Get out.”

He didn’t move from his spot against the wall. “Why.”

The pale line still sliced across his throat, so stark against the golden tan of his skin. But she did not take questioning from mortals. Not even kings. Not anymore.

So she ignored his question and said, “Perrington is not as he seems. He is a demon in a mortal body, and has shed his former skin to don a new one. A golden-haired man. He breeds evil in Morath that he plans to unleash any day now. This is a taste.” She flicked an iron-tipped hand to the destruction around them. “A way to break your spirits and win favor from other kingdoms by casting you as the enemy. Rally your forces before he is given a chance to grow his numbers to an unconquerable size. He means to take not just this continent, but the whole of Erilea.”

“Why would his crowned rider tell me this?”

“My reasons are none of your concern. Flee.” Again, that mighty wind blasted the castle, shoving back any approaching forces, setting the stones groaning. A wind that smelled of pine and snow—a familiar, strange scent. Ancient and clever and cruel.

“You killed that witch.” Indeed, the sentinel’s blood freckled the stones. It coated Wind-Cleaver and her discarded helmet. Witch Killer.

Manon shoved the thought away, along with his implied question. “You owe me a life debt, King of Adarlan. Prepare yourself for the day I come to claim it.”

His sensuous mouth tightened. “Fight with us. Now—fight with us now against him.”

Through the doorway, screams and battle cries rent the air. Witches had managed to land somewhere—had infiltrated the castle. It’d be a matter of moments before they were found. And if the king was not gone … She yanked him off the wall and shoved him into the stairwell.

His legs buckled, and he braced a tan hand against the ancient stone wall as he shot her a glare over a broad shoulder. A glare.

“Do you not know death when you see it?” she hissed, low and vicious.

“I have seen death, and worse,” he said, those sapphire eyes frozen as he surveyed her from head to armored boot-tip and back again. “The death you’d offer is kind compared to that.”

It struck something in her, but the king was already limping down the stairs, a hand braced on the wall. Moving so damn slowly while that poison worked its way out of him, his magic surely battling with everything it had to keep him on this side of life.

The door at the base of the tower shattered.

Dorian halted at the four Yellowlegs sentinels who rushed in, snarling up the hollow center of the tower. The witches paused, blinking at their Wing Leader.

Wind-Cleaver twitched in her hand. Kill him—kill him now, before they could spread the word that she’d been spotted with him … Shit, shit, shit.

Manon didn’t have to decide. In a whirlwind of steel, the Yellowlegs died before they could turn toward the warrior who exploded through the doorway.

Silver hair, tattooed face and neck, and slightly pointed ears. The source of that wind.

Dorian swore, staggering down a step, but the Fae warrior’s eyes were on her. Only lethal rage flickered there.

The air in Manon’s throat choked away into nothing.

A strangled sound came out of her, and she stumbled back, clawing at her throat as if she could carve an airway. But the male’s magic held firm.

He’d kill her for what she’d tried to do to his queen. For the arrow Asterin had shot, meaning to strike the queen’s heart. An arrow he had jumped in front of.

Manon crashed to her knees. The king was instantly at her side, studying her for a heartbeat before he roared down the stairs, “NO!”

That was all it took. Air flooded her mouth, her lungs, and Manon gasped, back arching as she drank it in.

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