Queen of Shadows Chapter 25 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 25 of Queen of Shadows novel by Sarah J. Maas for free.

Chapter 25 Part 1 Lady of Shadows of Queen of Shadows: Elide was washing dishes, carefully listening to the cook complain about the next scheduled shipment of supplies. A few wagons would arrive in two weeks, it seemed, carrying wine and vegetables and perhaps, if they were lucky, salted meat. Yet it wasn’t what was coming that interested her, but how it was carried, what sort of wagons might bear it. And where Elide might best hide in one.

That was when one of the witches walked in.

Not Manon, but the one named Asterin, golden-haired with eyes like a star-flecked night and a wildness in her very breath. Elide had long ago noted how quick she was to grin, and had marked the moments when Asterin thought no one was looking and gazed across the horizon, her face tight. Secrets—Asterin was a witch with secrets. And secrets made people deadly.

Elide kept her head down, shoulders tucked in, as the kitchen quieted in the Third’s presence. Asterin just swaggered right up to the cook, who had gone pale as death. He was a loud, kind man most days, but a coward at heart.

“Lady Asterin,” he said, and everyone—Elide included—bowed.

The witch smiled—with white, normal teeth, thank the gods. “I was thinking I might help with the dishes.”

Elide’s blood chilled. She felt the eyes of everyone in the kitchen fix on her.

“As much as we appreciate it, Lady—”

“Are you rejecting my offer, mortal?” Elide didn’t dare to turn around. Beneath the soapy water, her pruny hands shook. She fisted them. Fear was useless; fear got you killed.

“N-no. Of course, Lady. We—and Elide—will be glad for the help.” And that was that.

The clatter and chaos of the kitchen slowly resumed, but conversation remained hushed. They were all watching, waiting—either for Elide’s blood to spill on the gray stones, or to overhear anything juicy from the ever- smiling lips of Asterin Blackbeak.

She felt each step the witch took toward her—unhurried, but powerful. “You wash. I’ll dry,” the sentinel said at her side.

Elide peeked out from behind the curtain of her hair. Asterin’s black-and- gold eyes glittered.

“Th-thank you,” she made herself stammer.

The amusement in those immortal eyes grew. Not a good sign.

But Elide continued her work, passing the witch the pots and plates.

“An interesting task, for a lord’s daughter,” Asterin observed, quietly enough that no one else in the bustling kitchen could hear.

“I’m happy to help.”

“That chain says otherwise.”

Elide didn’t falter with the washing; didn’t let the pot in her hands slip an inch. Five minutes, and then she could murmur some explanation and run.

“No one else in this place is chained up like a slave. What makes you so dangerous, Elide Lochan?”

Elide gave a little shrug. An interrogation—that’s what this was. Manon had called her a spy. It seemed her sentinel had decided to assess what level of threat she posed.

“You know, men have always hated and feared our kind,” Asterin went on. “It’s rare for them to catch us, to kill us, but when they do … Oh, they delight in such horrible things. In the Wastes, they’ve made machines to break us apart. The fools never realized that all they needed to do to torture our kind, to make us beg”—she glanced down at Elide’s legs—“was to chain us. Keep us tied to the earth.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Two of the fowl-pluckers had hooked their hair behind their ears in a futile attempt to overhear them. But Asterin knew how to keep her voice low.

“You’re, what—fifteen? Sixteen?” “Eighteen.”

“Small for your age.” Asterin gave her a look that made Elide wonder if she could see through the homespun dress to the bandage she used to flatten her full breasts into an unnoticeable chest. “You must have been eight or nine when magic fell.”

Elide scrubbed at the pot. She’d finish it and go. Talking about magic around these people, so many of them eager to sell any bit of information to the dread-lords who ruled this place … It would earn her a trip to the gallows.

“The witchlings who were your age at the time,” the sentinel went on, “never even had a chance to fly. The power doesn’t set in until their first bleeding. At least now they have the wyverns. But it’s not the same, is it?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

Asterin leaned in close, an iron skillet in her long, deadly hands. “But your uncle does, doesn’t he?”

Elide made herself smaller and bought herself a few more seconds of time as she pretended to consider. “I don’t understand.”

“You’ve never heard the wind calling your name, Elide Lochan? Never felt it tug at you? You’ve never listened to it and yearned to fly toward the horizon, to foreign lands?”

She’d spent most of her life locked in a tower, but there had been nights, wild storms …

Elide managed to get the last bit of burnt food off the pot and rinsed it, handing it to the witch before wiping her hands on her apron. “No, Lady. I don’t see why I would.”

Even if she did want to flee—wanted to run to the other end of the world and wash her hands of these people forever. But it had nothing to do with the whispering wind.

Asterin’s black eyes seemed to devour her whole. “You would hear that wind, girl,” she said with expert quiet, “because anyone with Ironteeth blood does. I’m surprised your mother never told you. It’s passed on through the maternal line.”

Witch-blood. Ironteethblood. In her veins—in her mother’slineage.

It wasn’t possible. Her blood flowed red; she had no iron teeth or nails. Her mother had been the same. If there was ancestry, it was so old that it had been forgotten, but …

“My mother died when I was a child,” she said, turning away and nodding her farewell to the head cook. “She never told me anything.”

“Pity,” Asterin said.

The servants all gawked at Elide as she limped out, their questioning eyes telling her enough: they hadn’t heard. A small relief, then.

Gods—oh, gods. Witch-blood.

Elide took the stairs up, each movement sending shooting pains through her leg. Was that why Vernon had kept her chained? To keep her from flying off if she ever showed a lick of power? Was that why the windows in that tower in Perranth had been barred?

No—no. She was human. Fully human.

But at the very moment these witches had gathered, when she’d heard those rumors about the demons who wanted to … to … breed, Vernon had brought her here. And had become very, very close with Duke Perrington.

She prayed to Anneith with every step upward, prayed to the Lady of Wise Things that she was wrong, that the Third was wrong. It wasn’t until she reached the foot of the Wing Leader’s tower that Elide realized she had no idea where she was going.

She had nowhere to go at all. No one to run to.

The delivery wagons wouldn’t arrive for another few weeks. Vernon could hand her over whenever he wished. Why hadn’t he done so immediately? What was he waiting for? To see if the first of the experiments worked before offering her as a bargaining chip for more power?

If she wassuch a valuable commodity, she’d have to go farther than she’d suspected to escape Vernon. Not just to the Southern Continent, but beyond, to lands she’d never heard of. But with no money, how would she? No money—except for the bags of coins the Wing Leader left scattered around her room. She peered up the stairs stretching into the gloom. Maybe she could use the money to bribe someone—a guard, a lower-coven witch

—to get her out. Immediately.

Her ankle barked in pain as she hurried up the staircase. She wouldn’t take an entire bag, but rather a few coins from each, so the Wing Leader wouldn’t notice.

Mercifully, the witch’s room was empty. And the various bags of coins had been left out with a carelessness only an immortal witch more interested in bloodshed could achieve.

Elide carefully set about stuffing coins into her pocket, the binding around her breasts, and her shoe so that they wouldn’t be discovered all at once, so they wouldn’t jingle.

“Are you out of your mind?” Elide froze.

Asterin was leaning against the wall, her arms crossed.

The Third was smiling, each of those razor-sharp iron teeth glinting in the afternoon light.

“Bold, mad little thing,” the witch said, circling Elide. “Not as docile as you pretend, eh?”

Oh, gods.

“To steal from our Wing Leader …”

“Please,” Elide whispered. Begging—maybe that would work. “Please— I need to leave this place.”

“Why?” A glance at the pouch of money clenched in Elide’s hands.

“I heard what they’re doing with the Yellowlegs. My uncle—if I have … if I have your blood, I can’t let him use me like that.”

“Running away because of Vernon … At least now we know you’re not his spy, witchling.” The witch grinned, and it was almost as terrifying as one of Manon’s smiles.

That was why she’d ambushed her with the knowledge: to see where Elide would run to after.

“Don’t call me that,” Elide breathed.

“Is it so bad to be a witch?” Asterin spread her fingers, appreciating her iron nails in the dim light.

“I’m not a witch.” “What are you, then?”

“Nothing—I’m nobody. I’m nothing.”

The witch clicked her tongue. “Everybody is something. Even the most common witch has her coven. But who has your back, Elide Lochan?”

“No one.” Only Anneith, and Elide sometimes thought even that could be her imagination.

“There is no such thing as a witch being alone.”

“I’m not a witch,” she said again. And once she got away, once she left this festering empire, she’d be no one at all.

“No, she’s certainly not a witch,” Manon snapped from the doorway, gold eyes cold. “Start talking. Now.”

Manon had endured a fairly shitty day, which was saying something, given her century of existence.

The Yellowlegs coven had been implanted in a subterranean chamber of the Keep, the room carved into the mountain rock itself. Manon had taken one sniff of that bed-lined room and walked right back out again. The Yellowlegs didn’t want her there, anyway, while they were cut open by men, while that bit of stone was sewn inside them. No, a Blackbeak had no place in a room where Yellowlegs were vulnerable, and she’d likely make them vicious and lethal as a result.

So she’d gone to training, where Sorrel had kicked her ass in hand-to- hand combat. Then there had been not one, not two, but three different fights to break apart between the various covens, including the Bluebloods, who were somehow excited about the Valg. They had gotten their noses broken by suggesting to a Blackbeak coven that it was their divine duty not just to go through with the implantation but also to go so far as to physically mate with the Valg.

Manon didn’t blame her Blackbeaks for shutting down the talk. But she’d had to dole out equal punishment between the two groups.

And then this. Asterin and Elide in her rooms, the girl wide-eyed and reeking of terror, her Third seeming to try to convince the girl to join their ranks.

“Start talking now.”

Temper—she knew she should rein it in, but the room smelled like human fear, and this was herspace.

Asterin stepped in front of the girl. “She’s not a spy for Vernon, Manon.” Manon did them the honor of listening as Asterin told her what had happened. When she finished, Manon crossed her arms. Elide was cowering

by the bathing chamber door, the bag of coins still gripped in her hands. “Where does the line get drawn?” Asterin said quietly.

Manon flashed her teeth. “Humans are for eating and rutting and bleeding. Not helping. If she’s got witch-blood in her, it’s a drop. Not enough to make her our own.” Manon stalked toward her Third. “You are one of the Thirteen. You have duties and obligations, and yet this is how you spend your time?”

Asterin held her ground. “You said to keep an eye on her, and I did. I got to the bottom of things. She’s barely past being a witchling. You want Vernon Lochan bringing her down to that chamber? Or over to one of the other mountains?”

“I don’t give a shit what Vernon does with his human pets.” But once the words were out, they tasted foul.

“I brought her here so you could know—”

“You brought her here as a prize to win back your position.” Elide was still trying her best to vanish through the wall.

Manon snapped her fingers in the girl’s direction. “I’m escorting you back to your room. Keep the money, if you want. My Third has an aerie full of wyvern shit to clean out.”

“Manon,” Asterin began.

Wing Leader,” Manon growled. “When you’ve stopped acting like a simpering mortal, you may again address me as Manon.”

“And yet you tolerate a wyvern who sniffs flowers and makes puppy eyes at this girl.”

Manon almost struck her—almost went for her throat. But the girl was watching, listening. So Manon grabbed Elide by the arm and yanked her toward the door.

Elide kept her mouth shut as Manon led her down the stairs. She didn’t ask how the Wing Leader knew where her room was.

She wondered if Manon would kill her once they reached it. Wondered if she’d beg and grovel for mercy when the time came.

But after a while, the witch said, “If you try to bribe anyone here, they’ll just turn you in. Save the money for when you run.”

Elide hid the shaking in her hands and nodded.

The witch gave her a sidelong glance, her golden eyes shimmering in the torchlight. “Where the hell would you have run to, anyway? There’s nothing within a hundred miles. The only way you would stand a chance is if you got on the …” Manon snorted. “The supply wagons.”

Elide’s heart sank. “Please—please don’t tell Vernon.”

“Don’t you think if Vernon wanted to use you like that, he’d have done it already? And why make you play servant?”

“I don’t know. He likes games; he might be waiting for one of you to confirm what I am.”

Manon fell silent again—until they rounded a corner.

Elide’s stomach dropped down to her feet when she beheld who stood in front of her door as if she’d summoned him by mere thought.

Vernon was wearing his usual vibrant tunic—today a Terrasen green— and his brows rose at the sight of Manon and Elide.

“What are you doing here?” Manon snapped, coming to a stop in front of Elide’s little door.

Vernon smiled. “Visiting my beloved niece, of course.”

Though Vernon was taller, Manon seemed to look down her nose at him, seemed bigger than him as she kept her grip on Elide’s arm and said, “For what purpose?”

“I was hoping to see how you two were getting along,” her uncle purred. “But …” He looked at the hand Manon had around Elide’s wrist. And the door beyond them. “It seems I needn’t have worried.”

It took Elide longer to catch it than Manon, who bared her teeth and said, “I’m not in the habit of forcing my servants.”

“Only slaughtering men like pigs, correct?”

“Their deaths equate to their behavior in life,” Manon replied with a kind of calm that made Elide wonder whether she should start running.

Vernon let out a low laugh. He was so unlike her father, who had been warm and handsome and broad-shouldered—a year past thirty when he was executed by the king. Her uncle had watched that execution and smiled. And then come to tell her all about it.

“Allying yourself with the witches?” Vernon asked Elide. “How ruthless of you.”

Elide lowered her eyes to the ground. “There is nothing to ally against, Uncle.”

“Perhaps I kept you too sheltered for all those years, if you believe that’s so.”

Manon cocked her head. “Say your piece and be gone.”

“Careful, Wing Leader,” Vernon said. “You know precisely where your power ends.”

Manon shrugged. “I also know precisely where to bite.”

Vernon grinned and bit the air in front of him. His amusement honed itself into something ugly as he turned to Elide. “I wanted to check on you. I know how hard today was.”

Her heart stopped. Had someone told him about the conversation in the kitchens? Had there been a spy in the tower just now?

“Why would it be hard for her, human?” Manon’s stare was as cold as iron.

“This date is always difficult for the Lochan family,” Vernon said. “Cal Lochan, my brother, was a traitor, you know. A rebel leader for the few months after Terrasen was inherited by the king. But he was caught like the rest of them and put down. Difficult for us to curse his name and still miss him, isn’t it, Elide?”

It hit her like a blow. How had she forgotten? She hadn’t said the prayers, hadn’t beseeched the gods to look after him. Her father’s death-day, and she had forgotten him, as surely as the world had forgotten her. Keeping her head down wasn’t an act now, even with the Wing Leader’s eyes on her.

“You’re a useless worm, Vernon,” Manon said. “Go spew your nonsense elsewhere.”

“Whatever would your grandmother say,” Vernon mused, stuffing his hands into his pockets, “about such … behavior?” Manon’s growl chased after him as he sauntered down the hall.

Manon flung open Elide’s door, revealing a room barely big enough for a cot and a pile of clothes. She hadn’t been permitted to bring any belongings, none of the keepsakes that Finnula had hidden all these years: the small doll her mother had brought back from a trip to the Southern Continent, her father’s seal ring, her mother’s ivory comb—the first gift Cal Lochan had given Marion the Laundress while courting her. Apparently, Marion the Ironteeth Witch would have been a better name.

Manon shut the door with a backward kick.

Too small—the room was too small for two people, especially when one of them was ancient and dominated the space just by breathing. Elide slumped onto the cot, if only to put more air between her and Manon.

The Wing Leader stared at her for a long moment, and then said, “You can choose, witchling. Blue or red.”


“Does your blood run blue or red? You decide. If it runs blue, it turns out I have jurisdiction over you. Little shits like Vernon can’t do as they will to my kind—not without my permission. If your blood runs red … Well, I don’t particularly care about humans, and seeing what Vernon does with you might be entertaining.”

“Why would you offer this?”

Manon gave her a half smile, all iron teeth and no remorse. “Because I can.”

“If my blood runs … blue, won’t it confirm what Vernon suspects? Won’t he act?”

“A risk you’ll have to take. He can try to act on it—and learn where it gets him.”

A trap. And Elide was the bait. Claim her heritage as a witch, and if Vernon took her to be implanted, Manon could have the grounds to kill him.

She had a feeling Manon might hope for that. It was not just a risk; it was a suicidal, stupidrisk. But better than nothing.

The witches, who lowered their eyes for no man … Until she could get away, perhaps she might learn a thing or two about what it was like to have fangs and claws. And how to use them.

“Blue,” she whispered. “My blood runs blue.”

“Good choice, witchling,” Manon said, and the word was a challenge and an order. She turned away, but glanced over her shoulder. “Welcome to the


Witchling. Elide stared after her. She had likely just made the biggest mistake of her life, but … it was strange.

Strange, that feeling of belonging.

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