فصل 89

سرفصل: سریر شیشه ای / سرفصل: Queen of Shadows / درس 89

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فصل 89

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CHAPTER 89

For three weeks they rode straight north, keeping off the main roads and out of the villages. There was no need to announce that Aelin was on her way back to Terrasen. Not until she saw her kingdom for herself and knew what she faced, both from within and from what gathered down in Morath. Not until she had somewhere safe to hide the great, terrible thing in her saddlebag.

With her magic, no one noticed the Wyrdkey’s presence. But Rowan would occasionally glance at the saddlebag and angle his head in inquiry. Each time, she’d silently tell him she was fine, and that she hadn’t noticed anything strange regarding the amulet. Or regarding the Eye of Elena, which she again wore at her throat. She wondered if Lorcan was indeed on his way to hunt down the second and third keys, perhaps where Perrington—Erawan—had held them all along. If the king hadn’t been lying.

She had a feeling Lorcan would start looking in Morath. And prayed the Fae warrior would defy the odds stacked against him and emerge triumphant. It would certainly make her life easier. Even if he’d one day come to kick her ass for deceiving him.

The summer days grew cooler the farther north they rode. Evangeline, to her credit, kept pace with them, never complaining about having to sleep on a bedroll night after night. She seemed perfectly happy to curl up with Fleetfoot, her new protector and loyal friend.

Lysandra used the journey to test out her abilities—sometimes flying with Rowan overhead, sometimes running as a pretty black dog alongside Fleetfoot, sometimes spending days in her ghost leopard form and pouncing on Aedion whenever he least expected it.

Three weeks of grueling travel—but also three of the happiest weeks Aelin had ever experienced. She would have preferred a little more privacy, especially with Rowan, who kept looking at her in that way that made her want to combust. Sometimes when no one was watching, he’d sneak up behind her and nuzzle her neck or tug at her earlobe with his teeth, or just slide his arms around her and hold her against him, breathing her in.

One night—just one gods-damned night with him was all she wanted.

They didn’t dare stop at an inn, so she was left to burn, and to endure Lysandra’s quiet teasing.

The terrain grew steeper, hillier, and the world turned lush and green and bright, the rocks becoming jagged granite outcroppings.

The sun had barely risen as Aelin walked beside her horse, sparing it from having to carry her up a particularly steep hill. She was already on her second meal of the day—already sweaty and dirty and cranky. Fire magic, it turned out, came in rather handy while traveling, keeping them warm on the chill nights, lighting their fires, and boiling their water. She would have killed for a tub big enough to fill with water and bathe in, but luxuries could wait.

“It’s just up this hill,” Aedion said from her left.

“What is?” she asked, finishing her apple and chucking the remains behind her. Lysandra, wearing the form of a crow, squawked in outrage as the core hit her. “Sorry,” Aelin called.

Lysandra cawed and soared skyward, Fleetfoot barking merrily at her as Evangeline giggled from atop her shaggy pony.

Aedion pointed to the hillcrest ahead. “You’ll see.”

Aelin looked at Rowan, who had been scouting ahead for part of the morning as a white-tailed hawk. Now he walked beside her, guiding his black stallion along. He lifted his brows at her silent demand for information. I’m not going to tell you.

She glowered at him. Buzzard.

Rowan grinned. But with every step, Aelin did the calculations about what day it was, and— They crested the hill and halted.

Aelin released the reins and took a staggering step, the emerald grass soft underfoot.

Aedion touched her shoulder. “Welcome home, Aelin.”

A land of towering mountains—the Staghorns—spread before them, with valleys and rivers and hills; a land of untamed, wild beauty.

Terrasen.

And the smell—of pine and snow … How had she never realized that Rowan’s scent was of Terrasen, of home? Rowan came close enough to graze her shoulder and murmured, “I feel as if I’ve been looking for this place my entire life.” Indeed—with the wicked wind flowing fast and strong between the gray, jagged Staghorns in the distance, with the dense spread of Oakwald to their left, and the rivers and valleys sprawling toward those great northern mountains—it was paradise for a hawk. Paradise for her.

“Right there,” Aedion said, pointing to a small, weather-worn granite boulder carved with whorls and swirls. “Once we pass that rock, we’re on Terrasen soil.” Not quite daring to believe she wasn’t still asleep, Aelin walked toward that rock, whispering the Song of Thanks to Mala Fire-Bringer for leading her to this place, this moment.

Aelin ran a hand over the rough rock, and the sun-warmed stone tingled as if in greeting.

Then she stepped beyond the stone.

And at long last, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius was home.

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