فصل 87

سرفصل: سریر شیشه ای / سرفصل: Queen of Shadows / درس 87

فصل 87

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CHAPTER 87

The duke survived. So did Vernon.

A third of Morath had been blown out, and a good number of guards and servants with it, along with two covens and Elide Lochan.

A solid loss, but not nearly as devastating as it might have been. Manon herself had spilled three drops of her own blood in thanks to the Three-Faced Goddess that most of the covens had been out on a training exercise that day.

Manon stood in the duke’s council chamber, hands behind her back as the man ranted.

A major setback, he hissed at the other men who were assembled: war leaders and councilmen. It would take months to repair Morath, and with so many of their supplies incinerated, they would have to put their plans on hold.

Day and night, men hauled away the stones piled high above the ruins of the catacombs—searching, Manon knew, for the body of a woman who was no more than ash, and the stone she’d borne. Manon had not even told her Thirteen who now limped northward with that stone.

“Wing Leader,” the duke snapped, and Manon lazily turned her eyes toward him. “Your grandmother will be arriving in two weeks. I want your covens trained with the latest battle plans.” She nodded. “As you will it.”

Battles. There would be battles, because even now that Dorian Havilliard was king, the duke had no plans to let go—not with this army. As soon as those witch towers were built and he found another source of shadowfire, Aelin Galathynius and her forces would be obliterated.

Manon quietly hoped that Elide would not be on those battlefields.

The council meeting was soon over, and Manon paused as she walked past Vernon on her way out. She put a hand on his shoulder, her nails digging into his skin, and he yelped as she brought her iron teeth close to his ear. “Just because she is dead, Lord, do not think that I will forget what you tried to do to her.” Vernon paled. “You can’t touch me.”

Manon dug her nails in deeper. “No, I can’t,” she purred into his ear. “But Aelin Galathynius is alive. And I hear that she has a score to settle.” She yanked out her nails and squeezed his shoulder, setting the blood running down Vernon’s green tunic before she stalked from the room.

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“What now?” Asterin said as they studied the new aerie they’d commandeered from one of the lesser covens. “Your grandmother arrives, and then we fight in this war?” Manon gazed out the open archway to the ashy sky beyond. “For now, we stay. We wait for my grandmother to bring those towers.” She didn’t know what she’d do when she saw her grandmother. She glanced sidelong at her Second. “That human hunter … How did he die?” Asterin’s eyes gleamed. For a moment she said nothing. Then: “He was old—very old. I think he went into the woods one day and lay down somewhere and never came back. He would have liked that, I think. I never found his body.” But she’d looked.

“What was it like?” Manon asked quietly. “To love.”

For love was what it had been—what Asterin perhaps alone of all the Ironteeth witches had felt, had learned.

“It was like dying a little every day. It was like being alive, too. It was joy so complete it was pain. It destroyed me and unmade me and forged me. I hated it, because I knew I couldn’t escape it, and knew it would forever change me. And that witchling … I loved her, too. I loved her in a way I cannot describe—other than to tell you that it was the most powerful thing I’ve ever felt, greater than rage, than lust, than magic.” A soft smile. “I’m surprised you’re not giving me the ‘Obedience. Discipline. Brutality’ speech.” Made into monsters.

“Things are changing,” Manon said.

“Good,” Asterin said. “We’re immortals. Things should change, and often, or they’ll get boring.” Manon lifted her brows, and her Second grinned.

Manon shook her head and grinned back.

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