Queen of Shadows Chapter 26 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 26 of Queen of Shadows novel by Sarah J. Maas for free.

Chapter 26 Part 1 Lady of Shadows of Queen of Shadows:  “I’m not about to keel over dead,” Aedion said to his cousin, his queen, as she helped him walk around the roof. This was their third rotation, the moon shimmering on the tiles beneath them. It was an effort to keep upright, not from the steady throb in his side, but from the fact that Aelin— Aelin—was beside him, an arm around his waist.

A cool night breeze laced with the plume of smoke on the horizon wrapped around him, chilling the sweat on his neck.

But he angled his face away from the smoke, breathing in another, better smell. And found the source of it frowning up at him. Aelin’s exquisite scent soothed him, awakened him. He’d never get sick of that scent. It was a miracle.

But her frown—that was not a miracle. “What?” he demanded. It had been a day since she’d fought in the Pits—a day of more sleeping. Tonight, under cover of darkness, was the first he’d been able to get out of bed. If he were cooped up for another moment, he’d start tearing down the walls.

He’d had enough of cages and prisons.

“I’m making my professional assessment,” she said, keeping pace beside him.

“As an assassin, queen, or pit-brawler?”

Aelin gave him a grin—the sort that told him she was debating kicking his ass. “Don’t be jealous that you didn’t get a shot at those Valg bastards.”

It wasn’t that. She’d been fighting Valg last night, while he’d lain in bed, unaware she was in any sort of danger at all. He tried to convince himself that despite the peril, despite how she’d returned reeking of blood and injured from where one of them had bitten her, she’d at least learned that Morath was where the people with magic were being turned into Valg vessels.

Tried to convince himself, and failed. But—he had to give her space. He wouldn’t be an overbearing, territorial Fae bastard, as she liked to call them. “And if I pass your assessment,” Aedion said at last, “will we go directly

to Terrasen, or are we waiting here for Prince Rowan?”

“Prince Rowan,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You keep needling me for details about Prince Rowan—”

“You befriended one of the greatest warriors in history—perhaps the greatest warrior alive. Your father, and his men, all told me stories about Prince Rowan.”


Oh, he’d been waiting to drop this particular gem of information. “Warriors in the North still talk about him.”

“Rowan’s never been to this continent.”

She said it with such casualness—Rowan. She really had no clue who she now considered a member of her court, who she’d freed from his oath to Maeve. Who she frequently referred to as a pain in her ass.

Rowan was the most powerful full-blooded Fae male alive. And his scent was all over her. Yet she had no gods-damned idea.

“Rowan Whitethorn is a legend. And so is his—what do you call them?” “Cadre,” she said glumly.

“The six of them …” Aedion loosed a breath. “We used to tell stories about them around fires. Their battles and exploits and adventures.”

She sighed through her nose. “Please, please don’t ever tell him that. I’ll never hear the end of it, and he’ll use it in every argument we have.”

Honestly, Aedion didn’t know what he would say to the male—because there were many, many things to say. Expressing his admiration would be the easy part. But when it came to thanking him for what he’d done for Aelin this spring, or what, exactly, Rowan expected as a member of their court—if the Fae Prince expected to be offered the blood oath, then … It was an effort to keep from tightening his grip on Aelin.

Ren already knew that the blood oath was Aedion’s by right, and any other child of Terrasen would know, too. So first thing Aedion would do when the prince arrived would be to make sure he understood that little fact. It wasn’t like in Wendlyn, where warriors were offered the oath whenever their ruler pleased.

No—since Brannon had founded Terrasen, its kings and queens had picked only one of their court to swear the blood oath, usually at their coronation or soon after. Just one, for their entire lives.

Aedion had no interest in yielding the honor, even to the legendary warrior-prince.

Anyway,” Aelin said sharply as they rounded the corner of the roof again, “we’re not going to Terrasen—not yet. Not until you’re well enough to travel hard and fast. Right now, we need to get the Amulet of Orynth from Arobynn.”

Aedion was half tempted to hunt down her former master and rip him to shreds as he interrogated him about where the amulet was kept, but he could play along with her plan.

He was still weak enough that until now, he’d barely been able to stand long enough to piss. Having Aelin help him the first time had been awkward enough that he couldn’t even go until she started singing a bawdy tune at the top of her lungs and turned on the sink faucet, all the while helping him stand over the toilet.

“Give me another day or two, and I’ll help you hunt down one of those demon pricks for him.” Rage slammed into him, as hard as any physical blow. The King of the Assassins had demanded she put herself in such danger—as if her life, as if the fate of their kingdom, were a gods-damned game to him.

But Aelin … Aelin had struck that bargain. For him.

Again, breathing became hard. How many scars would she add to that lithe, powerful body because of him?

Then Aelin said, “You’re not going to hunt the Valg with me.” Aedion stumbled a step. “Oh, yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not,” she said. “One, you’re too recognizable—” “Don’t even start.”

She observed him for a long moment, as if assessing his every weakness and strength. At last she said, “Very well.”

He almost sagged in relief. “But after all that—the Valg, the amulet,” Aedion pushed, “will we free magic?” A nod. “I assume you have a plan.” Another nod. He gritted his teeth. “Do you care to share it?”

“Soon,” she said sweetly.

Gods help him. “And after completing your mysterious, wonderful plan, we’ll go to Terrasen.” He didn’t want to ask about Dorian. He’d seen the anguish on her face that day in the garden.

But if she couldn’t put the princeling down, he’d do it. He wouldn’t enjoy it, and the captain might very well kill him in return, but to keep Terrasen safe, he’d cut off Dorian’s head.

Aelin nodded. “Yes, we’ll go, but—you have only one legion.”

“There are men who would fight, and other territories that might come if you call.”

“We can discuss this later.”

He leashed his temper. “We need to be in Terrasen before the summer is out—before the snow starts falling in autumn, or else we wait until spring.” She nodded distantly. Yesterday afternoon, she’d dispatched the letters Aedion had asked her to write to Ren, the Bane, and the remaining loyal lords of Terrasen, letting them know they’d been reunited, and that anyone with magic in their veins was to lie low. He knew the remaining lords—the old, cunning bastards—wouldn’t appreciate orders like that, even from their queen. But he had to try.

“And,” he added, because she really was going to shut him down about this, “we’ll need money for that army.”

She said quietly, “I know.”

Not an answer. Aedion tried again. “Even if men agree to fight on their honor alone, we stand a better chance of having greater numbers if we can pay them. Not to mention feeding our forces, and arming and supplying them.” For years now, he and the Bane had traversed from tavern to tavern, quietly raising funds for their own efforts. It still killed him to see the poorest of his people plunk hard-earned coins into the pans they’d passed around, to see the hope in their gaunt, scarred faces. “The King of Adarlan emptied our royal coffers; it was one of the first things he did. The only money we have comes from whatever our people can donate—which isn’t much—or whatever is granted by Adarlan.”

“Another way of keeping control all these years,” she murmured.

“Our people are beggared. They don’t have two coppers to rub together these days, let alone to pay taxes.”

“I wouldn’t raise taxes to pay for a war,” she said sharply. “And I’d rather not whore ourselves to foreign nations for loans, either. Not yet, anyway.” Aedion’s throat tightened at the bitterness coating her tone as they both considered the other way money and men could be obtained. But he couldn’t bring himself to mention selling her hand in marriage to a wealthy foreign kingdom—not yet.

So he just said, “It’s something to start contemplating. If magic is indeed freed, we could recruit the wielders to our side—offer them training, money, shelter. Imagine a soldier who can kill with blade and magic. It could turn the tide of a battle.”

Shadows flickered in her eyes. “Indeed.”

He weighed her posture, the clarity of her gaze, her tired face. Too much

—she’d already faced and survived too much.

He’d seen the scars—the tattoos that covered them—peeking over the collar of her shirt every now and then. He hadn’t yet dared to ask to see them. The bandaged bite on her arm was nothing compared to that pain, and the many others she hadn’t mentioned, the scars all over her. The scars all over both of them.

“And then,” he said, clearing his throat, “there’s the blood oath.” He’d had endless hours in bed to compile this list. She stiffened enough that Aedion quickly added, “You don’t have to—not yet. But when you’re ready, I’m ready.”

“You still want to swear it to me?” Her voice was flat.

“Of course I do.” He damned caution to hell and said, “It was my right then—and now. It can wait until we get to Terrasen, but it’s going to be me who takes it. No one else.”

Her throat bobbed. “Right.” A breathless answer that he couldn’t read.

She let go of him and stalked toward one of the little training areas to test out her injured arm. Or maybe she wanted to get away from him—maybe he’d broached the topic the wrong way.

He might have hobbled off the roof had the door not opened and the captain appeared.

Aelin was already striding toward Chaol with predatory focus. He’d hate to be on the receiving end of that gait. “What is it?” she said.

He’d hate to be on the receiving end of that greeting, too.

Aedion limped for them as Chaol kicked the door shut behind him. “The Shadow Market is gone.”

Aelin drew up short. “What do you mean?”

The captain’s face was tight and pale. “The Valg soldiers. They went to the market tonight and sealed the exits with everyone inside. Then they burnt it. The people who tried to escape through the sewers found garrisons of soldiers waiting there, swords ready.”

That explained the smoke in the air, the plume on the horizon. Holy gods. The king had to have lost his mind entirely—had to have stopped caring what the general public thought.

Aelin’s arms slackened at her sides. “Why?” The slight tremor in her voice had Aedion’s hackles rising, those Fae instincts roaring to shut the captain up, to rip out his throat, to end the cause of her pain and fear—

“Because it got out that the rebels who freed him”—Chaol sent a cutting glance in Aedion’s direction—“were meeting in the Shadow Market to buy supplies.”

Aedion reached her side, close enough now to see the tightness of the captain’s face, the gauntness that hadn’t been there weeks ago. The last time they’d spoken.

“And I suppose you blame me?” Aelin said with midnight softness.

A muscle flickered on the captain’s jaw. He didn’t even nod a greeting to Aedion, or acknowledge the months they’d spent working together, what had happened in that tower room—

“The king could have ordered their slaughter by any means,” Chaol said, the slender scar on his face stark in the moonlight. “But he chose fire.”

Aelin went impossibly still.

Aedion snarled. “You’re a prick for suggesting the attack was a message for her.”

Chaol at last turned his attention toward him. “You think it’s not true?”

Aelin cocked her head. “You came all this way to fling accusations in my face?”

You told me to stop by tonight,” Chaol retorted, and Aedion was half tempted to punch his teeth down his throat for the tone he used. “But I came to ask why you haven’t moved on the clock tower. How many more innocent people are going to be caught in the crossfire of this?”

It was an effort to keep his mouth shut. He didn’t need to speak for Aelin, who said with flawless venom, “Are you suggesting that I don’t care?”

“You risked everything—multiple lives—to get out one man. I think you find this city and its citizens to be expendable.”

Aelin hissed, “Need I remind you, Captain, that you went to Endovier and did not blink at the slaves, at the mass graves? Need I remind you that I was starved and chained, and you let Duke Perrington force me to the ground at Dorian’s feet while you did nothing? And now you have the nerve to accuse me of not caring, when many of the people in this city have profited off the blood and misery of the very people youignored?”

Aedion stifled the snarl working its way up his throat. The captain had never said that about the initial meeting with his queen. Never said he hadn’t stepped in while she was manhandled, humiliated. Had the captain even flinched at the scars on her back, or merely examined them as though she were some prize animal?

“You don’t get to blame me,” Aelin breathed. “You don’t get to blame me for the Shadow Market.”

“This city still needs protecting,” Chaol snapped.

Aelin shrugged, heading for the roof door. “Or maybe this city should burn,” she murmured. A chill went down Aedion’s spine, even though he knew she’d said it to piss off the captain. “Maybe the world should burn,” she added, and stalked off the roof.

Aedion turned to the captain. “You want to pick a fight, you come to me, not her.”

The captain just shook his head and stared across the slums. Aedion followed his gaze, taking in the capital twinkling around them.

He’d hated this city from the very first time he’d spotted the white walls, the glass castle. He’d been nineteen, and had bedded and reveled his way from one end of Rifthold to the other, trying to find something, anything, to explain why Adarlan thought it was so gods-damned superior, why Terrasen had fallen to its knees before these people. And when Aedion had finished with the women and the parties, after Rifthold had dumped its riches at his feet and begged him for more, more, more, he’d still hated it—even more than before.

And all that time, and every time after, he’d had no idea that what he truly sought, what his shredded heart still dreamed of, was dwelling in a

house of killers mere blocks away.

At last, the captain said, “You look more or less in one piece.”

Aedion gave him a wolf’s grin. “And you won’t be, if you speak to her that way again.”

Chaol shook his head. “Did you learn anything about Dorian while you were in the castle?”

“You insult my queen and yet have the nerve to ask me for that information?”

Chaol rubbed his brows with his thumb and forefinger. “Please—just tell me. Today has been bad enough.”


“I’ve been hunting the Valg commanders in the sewers since the fight in the Pits. We tracked them to their new nests, thank the gods, but found no sign of humans being held prisoner. Yet more people have vanished than ever—right under our noses. Some of the other rebels want to abandon Rifthold. Establish ourselves in other cities in anticipation of the Valg spreading.”

“And you?”

“I don’t leave without Dorian.”

Aedion didn’t have the heart to ask if that meant alive or dead. He sighed. “He came to me in the dungeons. Taunted me. There was no sign of the man inside him. He didn’t even know who Sorscha was.” And then, maybe because he was feeling particularly kind, thanks to the golden-haired blessing in the apartment beneath, Aedion said, “I’m sorry—about Dorian.” Chaol’s shoulders sagged, as if an invisible weight pushed against them.

“Adarlan needs to have a future.” “So make yourself king.”

“I’m not fit to be king.” The self-loathing in those words made Aedion pity the captain despite himself. Plans—Aelin had plans for everything, it seemed. She had invited the captain over tonight, he realized, not to discuss anything with her, but for this very conversation. He wondered when she would start confiding in him.

These things took time, he reminded himself. She was used to a lifetime of secrecy; learning to depend on him would take a bit of adjustment.

“I can think of worse alternatives,” Aedion said. “Like Hollin.”

“And what will you and Aelin do about Hollin?” Chaol asked, gazing toward the smoke. “Where do you draw the line?”

“We don’t kill children.”

“Even ones who already show signs of corruption?”

“You don’t get the right to fling that sort of horseshit in our faces—not when yourking murdered our family. Our people.”

Chaol’s eyes flickered. “I’m sorry.”

Aedion shook his head. “We’re not enemies. You can trust us—trust Aelin.”

“No, I can’t. Not anymore.”

“Then it’s your loss,” Aedion said. “Good luck.” It was all he really had to offer the captain.

Chaol stormed out of the warehouse apartment and across the street to where Nesryn was leaning against a building, arms crossed. Beneath the shadows of her hood, her mouth quirked to the side. “What happened?”

He continued down the street, his blood roaring in his veins. “Nothing.” “What did they say?” Nesryn kept up with him, meeting him step for


“None of your business, so drop it. Just because we work together doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know everything that goes on in my life.”

Nesryn stiffened almost imperceptibly, and part of Chaol flinched, already yearning to take the words back.

But it was true. He’d destroyed everything the day he fled the castle— and maybe he’d taken to hanging around with Nesryn because there was no one else who didn’t look at him with pity in their eyes.

Maybe it had been selfish of him to do it.

Nesryn didn’t bother with a good-bye before vanishing down an alley. At least he couldn’t hate himself any more than he already did.

Lying to Aedion about the blood oath was … awful.

She would tell him—she would find a way to tell him. When things were less new. When he stopped looking at her as though she were a gods-

damned miracle and not a lying, cowardly piece of shit.

Maybe the Shadow Market had been her fault.

Crouched on a rooftop, Aelin shook off the cloak of guilt and temper that had been smothering her for hours and turned her attention to the alley below. Perfect.

She’d tracked several different patrols tonight, noting which of the commanders wore black rings, which seemed more brutal than the rest, which didn’t even try to move like humans. The man—or was he a demon now?—hauling open a sewer grate in the street below was one of the milder ones.

She’d wanted to shadow this commander to wherever he made his nest, so she could at least give Chaol that information—prove to him how invested she was in the welfare of this piss-poor city.

This commander’s men had headed for the glowing glass palace, the thick river fog casting the entire hillside in greenish light. But he had veered away, going deeper into the slums and to the sewers beneath them.

She watched him disappear through the sewer grate, then nimbly climbed off the roof, hurrying for the closest entrance that would connect to his. Swallowing that old fear, she quietly entered the sewers a block or two down from where he’d climbed in, and listened carefully.

Dripping water, the reek of refuse, the scurrying of rats …

And splashing steps ahead, around the next big intersection of tunnels.


Aelin kept her blades concealed in her suit, not wanting them to rust in the sewer dampness. She clung to the shadows, her steps soundless as she neared the crossroads and peered around the corner. Sure enough, the Valg commander was striding down the tunnel, his back to her, headed deeper into the system.

When he was far enough ahead, she slipped around the corner, keeping to the darkness, avoiding the patches of light that shone through the overhead grates.

Tunnel after tunnel, she trailed him, until he reached a massive pool.

It was surrounded by crumbling walls covered in grime and moss, so ancient that she wondered if they’d been among the first built in Rifthold.

But it wasn’t the man kneeling before the pool, its waters fed by rivers snaking in from either direction, that made her breath catch and panic flood

her veins.

It was the creature that emerged from the water.

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