Queen of Shadows Chapter 17 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 17 of Queen of Shadows novel PDF by Sarah J. Maas for free.

Chapter 17 Part 1 Lady of Shadows of Queen of Shadows: Once Florine and the rest of the dancers were allowed in, they were all stuffed down a narrow servants’ hallway. In a matter of moments, the door at the far end would open into the side of the ballroom and they would flutter out like butterflies. Black, glittering butterflies, here to perform the “Handmaidens of Death” dance from one of the more popular symphonies.

They weren’t stopped or questioned by anyone else, though the guards in every hall watched them like hawks. And not the shape-shifting Fae Prince kind.

So few of Chaol’s men were present. No sign of Ress or Brullo. But everyone was where Chaol had promised they would be, based on Ress and Brullo’s information.

A platter of honey-roasted ham with crackling sage was carried past on a servant’s shoulder, and Aelin tried not to appreciate it, to savor the scents of the food of her enemy. Even if it was damn fine food.

Platter after platter went by, hauled by red-faced servants, no doubt winded from the trek up from the kitchens. Trout with hazelnuts, crisped asparagus, tubs of freshly whipped cream, pear tarts, meat pies—

Aelin cocked her head, watching the line of servants. A half smile grew on her face. She waited for the servants to return with empty hands, on their return journey to the kitchens. Finally the door opened again, and a slim servant in a crisp white apron filed into the dim hall, the loose strands of her

inky hair falling out of her braid as she hurried to retrieve the next tray of pear tarts from the kitchen.

Aelin kept her face blank, disinterested, as Nesryn Faliq glanced her way. Those dark, upturned eyes narrowed slightly—surprise or nerves, Aelin couldn’t tell. But before she could decide how to deal with it, one of the

guards signaled to Florine that it was time.

Aelin kept her head down, even as she felt the demon within the man rake its attention over her and the others. Nesryn was gone—vanished down the stairs—when Aelin turned back.

Florine strode down the line of dancers waiting by the door, her hands clasped behind her. “Backs straight, shoulders back, necks uplifted. You are light, you are air, you are grace. Do not disappoint me.”

Florine took up the basket of black glass flowers she’d had her steadiest dancer carry in, each exquisite bloom flickering like an ebony diamond in the dim hall light. “If you break these before it is time to throw them down, you are finished. They cost more than you’re worth, and there are no extras.”

One by one, she handed the flowers down the line, each of them sturdy enough not to snap in the next few minutes.

Florine reached Aelin, the basket empty. “Watch them, and learn,” she said loud enough for the demon guard to hear, and put a hand on Aelin’s shoulder, ever the consoling teacher. The other dancers, now shifting on their feet, rolling their heads and shoulders, didn’t look in her direction.

Aelin nodded demurely, as if trying to hide bitter tears of disappointment, and ducked out of line to stand at Florine’s side.

Trumpets blasted in through the cracks around the door, and the crowd cheered loud enough to make the floor rumble.

“I peeked into the Great Hall,” Florine said so quietly Aelin could barely hear her. “To see how the general is faring. He is gaunt and pale, but alert. Ready—for you.”

Aelin went still.

“I always wondered where Arobynn found you,” Florine murmured, staring at the door as if she could see through it. “Why he took such pains to break you to his will, more so than all the others.” The woman closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, steel gleamed there. “When you shatter the chains of this world and forge the next, remember that art is

as vital as food to a kingdom. Without it, a kingdom is meaningless and will be forgotten over time. I have amassed enough money in my miserable life to not need any more—so you will understand me clearly when I say that wherever you set your throne, no matter how long it takes, I will come to you, and I will bring music and dancing.”

Aelin swallowed hard. Before she could say anything, Florine left her standing at the back of the line and strolled to the door. She paused before it, looking down the line at each dancer. She spoke only when her eyes met Aelin’s. “Give our king the performance he deserves.”

Florine opened the door, flooding the hallway with light and music and the scent of roasted meats.

The other dancers sucked in a collective breath and sprang forward, one by one, waving those dark glass flowers overhead.

As she watched them go, Aelin willed the blood in her veins into black fire. Aedion—her focus was on Aedion, not on the tyrant seated at the front of the room, the man who had murdered her family, murdered Marion, murdered her people. If these were her last moments, then at least she would go down fighting, to the sound of exquisite music.

It was time.

One breath—another. She was the heir of fire.

She wasfire, and light, and ash, and embers. Aelin Fireheart, as she was known, bowed before no one and nothing but the crown that was rightfully hers by virtue of her blood, survival, and victory.

Aelin squared her shoulders and slipped into the bejeweled crowd.

In the hours he’d spent chained to the stool, Aedion had observed the guards and determined who was best to attack first, who preferred a particular side or leg, who might hesitate when confronted with the Wolf of the North, and, most importantly, who was impulsive and stupid enough to finally run him through despite the king’s orders.

The performances had begun, drawing the attention of the crowd that had been shamelessly gawking at him, and as the two dozen women floated and leaped and twirled into the wide space between the dais and his execution

platform, for a moment Aedion felt … bad for interrupting. These women had no cause to be caught up in the bloodshed he was about to unleash.

It did seem fitting, though, that their sparkling costumes were of darkest black, accented with silver—Death’s Handmaidens, he realized. That was who they portrayed.

It was as much a sign as anything. Perhaps the dark-eyed Silba would offer him a kind death instead of a cruel one at the blood-drenched hands of Hellas. Either way, he found himself smiling. Death was death.

The dancers were tossing fistfuls of black powder, coating the floor with it—representing ashes of the fallen, probably. One by one, they made pretty little spins and bowed before the king and his son.

Time to move. The king was distracted by a uniformed guard whispering in his ear; the prince was watching the dancers with bored disinterest, and the queen was chatting with whichever courtier she favored that day.

The crowd clapped and cooed over the unfolding performance. They’d all come in their finery—such careless wealth. The blood of an empire had paid for those jewels and silks. The blood of his people.

An extra dancer was moving through the crowd: some understudy, no doubt trying to get a better view of the performance. And he might not have thought twice about it, had she not been taller than the others—bigger, curvier, her shoulders broader. She moved more heavily, as if somehow rooted innately to the earth. The light hit her, shining through the lace of the costume’s sleeves to reveal swirls and whorls of markings on her skin. Identical to the paint on the dancers’ arms and chests, save for her back, where the paint was a little darker, a little different.

Dancers like that didn’t have tattoos.

Before he could see more, between one breath and the next, as a cluster of ladies in massive ball gowns blocked her from sight, she vanished behind a curtained-off doorway, walking right past the guards with a sheepish smile, as if she were lost.

When she emerged again not a minute later, he only knew it was her from the build, the height. The makeup was gone, and her flowing tulle skirt had disappeared—

No—not disappeared, he realized as she slipped back through the doorway without the guards so much as looking at her. The skirt had been reversed into a silken cape, its hood covering her ruddy brown hair, and she

moved … moved like a swaggering man, parading for the ladies around him.

Moved closer to him. To the stage.

The dancers were still tossing their black powder everywhere, circling around and around, flitting their way across the marble floor.

None of the guards noticed the dancer-turned-noble prowling toward him. One of the courtiers did—but not to cry an alarm. Instead, he shouted a name—a man’s name. And the dancer in disguise turned, lifting a hand in greeting toward the man who’d called and giving a cocky grin.

She wasn’t just in disguise. She’d become someone else completely.

Closer and closer she strutted, the music from the gallery orchestra rising into a clashing, vibrant finale, each note higher than the last as the dancers raised their glass roses above their heads: a tribute to the king, to Death.

The disguised dancer stopped outside the ring of guards flanking Aedion’s stage, patting herself down as if checking for a handkerchief that had gone missing, muttering a string of curses.

An ordinary, believable pause—no cause for alarm. The guards went back to watching the dancers.

But the dancer looked up at Aedion beneath lowered brows. Even disguised as an aristo man, there was wicked, vicious triumph in her turquoise-and-gold eyes.

Behind them, across the hall, the dancers shattered their roses on the floor, and Aedion grinned at his queen as the entire world went to hell.

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