فصل 59

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CHAPTER

59

Concealed behind the tree, I took in my surroundings. I was exhausted, but … I could winnow. I could winnow and be gone. The ash arrows they’d put into the Suriel, however …

I met its eyes as it lay there, bleeding out on the moss.

The same ash arrows that had brought down Rhys. But my mate’s had been carefully placed to disable him.

These had been aimed to kill.

That mouth of too-big teeth formed a silent word. Run.

“It took the King of Hybern days to unravel what you did to me,” Ianthe purred, her voice drawing closer. “I still can’t use most of my hand.”

I didn’t reply. Winnow—I should winnow.

Black blood dribbled out of the Suriel’s neck, that arrow tip vulgar as it jutted up from its thick skin. I couldn’t heal it—not with those ash arrows still in its flesh. Not until they were out.

“I’d heard from Tamlin how you captured this one,” Ianthe went on, coming closer and closer. “So I adapted your methods. And it would not tell me anything. But since you have made contact so many times, the robe I gave it …” I could hear the smile in her voice. “A simple tracking spell, a gift from the king. To be triggered in your presence. If you should come calling again.”

Run, the Suriel mouthed once more, blood dribbling past its withered lips.

That was pain in its eyes. Real pain, as mortal as any creature. And if Ianthe took it alive to Hybern … The Suriel knew it was a possibility. It had begged me for freedom once … yet it was willing to be taken. For me to run.

Its milky eyes narrowed—in pain and understanding. Yes, it seemed to say. Go.

“The king built shields in my mind,” Ianthe prattled on, “to keep you from harming me again when I found you.”

I peered around the tree to spy her standing at the edge of the clearing, frowning at the Suriel. She wore her pale robes, that blue stone crowning her hood. Only two guards with her. Even after all this time … She still underestimated me.

I ducked back around before she could spot me. Met the Suriel’s stare one more time.

And I let it read every one of the emotions that solidified in me with absolute clarity.

The Suriel began to shake its head. Or tried to.

But I gave it a smile of farewell. And stepped into the clearing.

“I should have slit your throat that night in the tent,” I said to the priestess.

One of the guards shot an arrow at me.

I blocked it with a wall of hard air that instantly buckled. Drained—mostly drained. And if it took another hit from an ash arrow …

Ianthe’s face tightened. “You’ll find you want to reconsider how you speak to me. I’ll be your best advocate in Hybern.”

“I suppose you’ll have to catch me first,” I said coolly—and ran.

I could have sworn that ancient forest moved to make room for me.

Could have sworn it, too, read my final thoughts to the Suriel, and cleared the way.

But not for them.

I hurled every scrap of strength into my legs, into keeping upright, as I sprinted through the trees, leaping over rocks and streams, dodging moss-coated boulders.

Yet those guards, yet Ianthe, managed to keep close behind, even as they swore at the snapping trunks that seemed to shift into their way, the rocks that went loose beneath their feet. I only had to outrun them for so long.

Only for a few miles. Draw them away from the Suriel, buy it time to flee.

And make sure they paid for what they had done. All of it.

I opened my senses, letting them lead the way. The forest did the rest.

Perhaps she was waiting for me. Perhaps she had ordered the woods to open a path.

The Hybern guards gained on me. My feet flew beneath me, swift as a deer.

I began to recognize the trees, the rocks. There, I had stood with Rhys—there, I had flirted with him. There, he had lounged atop a branch while waiting for me.

The air behind me parted—an arrow.

I veered left, nearly slamming into a tree. The arrow went wide.

The light shifted ahead—brighter. The clearing.

I let out a whimper of relief that I made sure they heard.

I broke from the tree line in a leap, knees popping as I flew over the stones leading to that hair-thatched cottage.

“Help me,” I breathed, making sure they heard that, too.

The wooden door was already half-open. The world slowed and cleared with each step, each heartbeat, as I hurtled over the threshold.

And into the Weaver’s cottage.

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