Queen of Shadows Chapter 14 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 14 of Queen of Shadows novel PDF by Sarah J. Maas for free.

Chapter 14 Part 1 Lady of Shadows of Queen of Shadows: For every person Chaol and the rebels saved, it seemed there were always several more who made it to the butchering block.

The sun was setting as he and Nesryn crouched on a rooftop flanking the small square. The only people who’d bothered to watch were the typical lowlifes, content to breathe in the misery of others. That didn’t bother him half as much as the decorations that had been put up in honor of Dorian’s birthday tomorrow: red and gold streamers and ribbons hung across the square like a net, while baskets of blue and white flowers bordered its outer edges. A charnel house bedecked in late-spring cheer.

Nesryn’s bowstring groaned as she pulled it back farther. “Steady,” he warned her.

“She knows what she’s doing,” Aelin muttered from a few feet away. Chaol cut her a glance. “Remind me why you’re here?”

“I wanted to help—or is this an Adarlanians-only rebellion?” Chaol stifled his retort and turned his glare onto the square below.

Tomorrow, everything he cared about depended on her. Antagonizing her wouldn’t be smart, even if it killed him to leave Dorian in her hands. But—

“About tomorrow,” he said tightly, not taking his attention off the execution about to unfold. “You don’t touch Dorian.”

“Me? Never,” Aelin purred.

“It’s not a joke. You. Don’t. Hurt. Him.”

Nesryn ignored them and angled her bow to the left. “I can’t get a clear shot at any of them.”

Three men now stood before the block, a dozen guards around them. The boards of the wooden platform were already deeply stained with red from weeks of use. Gatherers monitored the massive clock above the execution platform, waiting for the iron hand to hit the six o’clock evening marker. They’d even tied gold and crimson ribbons to the clock’s lower rim. Seven minutes now.

Chaol made himself look at Aelin. “Do you think you’ll be able to save him?”

“Maybe. I’ll try.” No reaction in her eyes, in her posture.

Maybe. Maybe.He said, “Does Dorian actually matter, or is he a pawn for Terrasen?”

“Don’t even start with that.” For a moment he thought she was done, but then she spat, “Killing him, Chaol, would be a mercy. Killing him would be a gift.”

“I can’t make the shot,” Nesryn said again—a bit more sharply.

“Touch him,” Chaol said, “and I’ll make sure those bastards down there find Aedion.”

Nesryn silently turned to them, slackening her bow. It was the only card he had to play, even if it made him a bastard as well.

The wrath Chaol found in Aelin’s eyes was world-ending.

“You bring my court into this, Chaol,” Aelin said with lethal softness, “and I don’t care what you were to me, or what you have done to help me. You betray them, you hurt them, and I don’t care how long it takes, or how far you go: I’ll burn you and your gods-damned kingdom to ash. Then you’ll learn just how much of a monster I can be.”

Too far. He’d gone too far.

“We’re not enemies,” Nesryn said, and though her face was calm, her eyes darted between them. “We have enough shit to worry about tomorrow. And right now.” She pointed with her arrow toward the square. “Five minutes until six. Do we go down there?”

“Too public,” Aelin said. “Don’t risk exposing yourself. There’s another patrol a quarter mile away, headed in this direction.”

Of course she knew about it. “Again,” Chaol said, “why are you here?” She’d just … snuck up on them. With far too much ease.

Aelin studied Nesryn a bit too thoughtfully. “How good’s your accuracy, Faliq?”

“I don’t miss,” Nesryn said.

Aelin’s teeth gleamed. “My kind of woman.” She gave Chaol a knowing smile.

And he knew—he knew that she was aware of the history between them. And she didn’t particularly care. He couldn’t tell whether or not it was a relief.

“I’m debating ordering Arobynn’s men off the mission tomorrow,” Aelin said, those turquoise eyes fixed on Nesryn’s face, on her hands, on her bow. “I want Faliq on wall duty instead.”

“No,” Chaol said.

“Are you her keeper?” He didn’t deign to respond. Aelin crooned, “I thought so.”

But Nesryn wouldn’t be on wall duty—and neither would he. He was too recognizable to risk being close to the palace, and Aelin and her piece-of- shit master had apparently decided he’d be better off running interference along the border of the slums, making sure the coast was clear. “Nesryn has her orders already.”

In the square, people began swearing at the three men who were watching the clock with pale, gaunt faces. Some of the onlookers even threw bits of spoiled food at them. Maybe this city did deserve Aelin Galathynius’s flames. Maybe Chaol deserved to burn, too.

He turned back to the women.

“Shit,” Aelin swore, and he looked behind him in time to see the guards shove the first victim—a sobbing, middle-aged man—toward the block, using the pommels of their swords to knock his knees out from under him. They weren’t waiting until six. Another prisoner, also middle-aged, began shaking, and a dark stain spread across the front of his pants. Gods.

Chaol’s muscles were locked, and even Nesryn couldn’t draw her bow fast enough as the ax rose.

A thud silenced the city square. People applauded—applauded. The sound covered the second thud of the man’s head falling and rolling away.

Then Chaol was in another room, in the castle that had once been his home, listening to the thud of flesh and bone on marble, red mist coating the air, Dorian screaming—

Oath-breaker. Liar. Traitor. Chaol was all of those things now, but not to Dorian. Never to his true king.

“Take out the clock tower in the garden,” he said, the words barely audible. He felt Aelin turn toward him. “And magic will be free. It was a spell—three towers, all built of Wyrdstone. Take out one, and magic is free.”

She glanced northward without so much as a blink of surprise, as though she could see all the way to the glass castle. “Thank you,” she murmured. That was it.

“It’s for Dorian’s sake.” Perhaps cruel, perhaps selfish, but true. “The king is expecting you tomorrow,” he went on. “What if he stops caring about the public knowing and unleashes his magic on you? You know what happened with Dorian.”

She scanned the roof tiles as if reading her mental map of the celebration

—the map he’d given her. Then she swore. “He could lay traps for me—and Aedion. With the Wyrdmarks, he could write out spells on the floor or in the doors, keyed to me or Aedion, and we would be helpless—the exact same way I trapped that thing in the library. Shit,” she breathed. “Shit.”

Gripping her slackened bow, Nesryn said, “Brullo told us the king has his best men escorting Aedion from the dungeons to the hall—perhaps spelling those areas, too. Ifhe spells them.”

If is too big a gamble to make. And it’s too late to change our plans,” Aelin said. “If I had those gods-damned books, I could maybe find some sort of protection for me and Aedion, some spell, but I won’t have enough time tomorrow to grab them from my old rooms. The gods know if they’re even still there.”

“They’re not,” Chaol said. Aelin’s brows flicked up. “Because I have them. I grabbed them when I left the castle.”

Aelin pursed her lips in what he could have sworn was reluctant appreciation. “We don’t have much time.” She began climbing over the roof and out of sight. “There are two prisoners left,” she clarified. “And I think those streamers would look better with some Valg blood on them, anyway.”

Nesryn remained on the rooftop while Aelin went to another across the square—faster than Chaol had thought possible. That left him on street level.

He hurried as swiftly as he could through the crowd, spotting his three men gathered near the other edge of the platform—ready.

The clock struck six just as Chaol positioned himself, after making sure two more of his men were waiting down a narrow alley. Just as the guards finally cleared away the body of the first prisoner and dragged forward the second. The man was sobbing, begging them as he was forced to kneel in the puddle of his friend’s blood.

The executioner lifted his ax.

And a dagger, courtesy of Aelin Galathynius, went clean through the executioner’s throat.

Black blood sprayed—some onto the streamers, as Aelin had promised. Before the guards could shout, Nesryn opened fire from the other direction. That was all the distraction Chaol needed as he and his men surged toward the platform amid the panicking, fleeing crowd. Nesryn and Aelin had both fired again by the time he hit the stage, the wood treacherously slick with blood. He grabbed the two prisoners and roared at them to run, run, run!

His men were blade-to-blade with the guards as he rushed the stumbling prisoners down the steps and into the safety of the alley—and the rebels waiting beyond.

Block after block they fled, leaving the chaos of the square behind, until they hit the Avery, and Chaol set about attaining them a boat.

Nesryn found him leaving the docks an hour later, unharmed but splattered with dark blood. “What happened?”

“Pandemonium,” Nesryn said, scanning the river under the setting sun. “Everything fine?”

He nodded. “And you?”

“Both of us are fine.” A kindness, he thought with a flicker of shame, that she knew he couldn’t bring himself to ask about Aelin. Nesryn turned away, heading back in the direction she’d come.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To wash and change—and then go tell the family of the man who died.” It was protocol, even if it was horrible. Better to have the families genuinely mourn than risk being looked on any longer as rebel

sympathizers. “You don’t have to do that,” he said. “I’ll send one of the men.”

“I’m a city guard,” she said plainly. “My presence won’t be unexpected. And besides,” she said, her eyes glinting with her usual faint amusement, “you yourself said I don’t exactly have a line of suitors waiting outside my father’s house, so what else do I have to do with myself tonight?”

“Tomorrow’s an important day,” he said, even as he cursed himself for the words he’d spat the other night. An ass—that’s what he’d been, even if she’d never let on that it bothered her.

“I was just fine before you came along, Chaol,” she said—tired, possibly bored. “I know my limits. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

But he said, “Why go to the families yourself?”

Nesryn’s dark eyes shifted toward the river. “Because it reminds me what I have to lose if I’m caught—or if we fail.”

Night fell, and Aelin knew she was being followed as she stalked from rooftop to rooftop. Right now, even hours later, hitting the street was the most dangerous thing she could possibly do, given how pissed off the guards were after she and the rebels had stolen their prisoners right out from under them.

And she knew thatbecause she’d been listening to them curse and hiss for the past hour as she trailed a patrol of black-uniformed guards on the route she’d noted the night before: along the docks, then keeping to the shadows off the main drag of taverns and brothels in the slums, and then near—but keeping a healthy distance from—the riverside Shadow Market. Interesting to learn how their route did or didn’t change when chaos erupted

—what hidey-holes they rushed to, what sort of formations they used.

What streets were left unmonitored when all hell broke loose. As it would tomorrow, with Aedion.

But Arobynn’s claims had been right—matching the maps Chaol and Nesryn had made, too.

She’d known that if she told Chaol why she’d shown up at the execution, he would get in the way somehow—send Nesryn to follow her, perhaps.

She’d needed to see how skilled they were—all the parties that would be so crucial in tomorrow’s events—and then see this.

Just as Arobynn had told her, each guard wore a thick black ring, and they moved with jerks and twitches that made her wonder how well the demons squatting inside their bodies were adjusting. Their leader, a pale man with night-dark hair, moved the most fluidly, like ink in water, she thought.

She had left them to stalk toward another part of the city while she continued on toward where the craftsman district jutted out into the curve of the Avery, until all was silent around her and the scent of those rotting corpses faded away.

Atop the roof of a glass-blowing warehouse, the tiles still warm from the heat of the day or the massive furnaces inside, Aelin surveyed the empty alley below.

The infernal spring rain began again, tinkling on the sloped roof, the many chimneys.

Magic—Chaol had told her how to free it. So easy, and yet—a monumental task. In need of careful planning. After tomorrow, though—if she survived—she’d set about doing it.

She shimmied down a drainpipe on the side of a crumbling brick building, splashing down a bit too loudly in a puddle of what she hoped was rain. She whistled as she strolled down the empty alley, a jaunty little tune she’d overheard at one of the slums’ many taverns.

Still, she was honestly a little surprised that she got nearly halfway down the alley before a patrol of the king’s guards stepped into her path, their swords like quicksilver in the dark.

The commander of the patrol—the demon inside him—looked at her and smiled as though it already knew what her blood tasted like.

Aelin grinned right back at him, flicking her wrists and sending the blades shooting out of her suit. “Hello, gorgeous.”

Then she was upon them, slicing and twirling and ducking. Five guards were dead before the others could even move.

The blood they leaked wasn’t red, though. It was black, and slid down the sides of her blades, dense and shining as oil. The stench, like curdled milk and vinegar, hit her as hard as the clashing of their swords.

The reek grew, overpowering the lingering smoke from the glass factories around them, worsening as Aelin dodged the demon’s blow and swiped low. The man’s stomach opened up like a festering wound, and black blood and the gods knew what else sloshed onto the street.

Disgusting. Almost as bad as what wafted from the sewer grate at the other end of the alley—already open. Already oozing that too-familiar darkness.

The rest of the patrol closed in. Her wrath became a song in her blood as she ended them.

When blood and rain lay in puddles on the broken cobblestones, when Aelin stood in a field of fallen men, she began slicing.

Head after head tumbled away.

Then she leaned against the wall, waiting. Counting. They did not rise.

Aelin stalked from the alley, kicking shut the sewer grate, and vanished into the rainy night.

Dawn broke, the day clear and warm. Aelin had been up half the night scouring the books Chaol had saved, including her old friend The WalkingDead.

Reciting what she’d learned in the quiet of her apartment, Aelin donned the clothes Arobynn had sent over, checking and rechecking that there were no surprises and everything was where she needed it to be. She let each step, each reminder of her plan anchor her, keep her from dwelling too long on what would come when the festivities began.

And then she went to save her cousin.

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