Queen of Shadows Chapter 31 Read Online

Full Read the Online Chapter 31 of Queen of Shadows novel by Sarah J. Maas for free.

Chapter 31 Part 1 Lady of Shadows of Queen of Shadows: Manon stormed into Perrington’s massive war tent, shoving aside the heavy canvas flap so violently that her iron nails slashed through the material. “Why are my Thirteen being denied access to the Yellowlegs coven? Explain. Now.”

As the last word snapped out of her, Manon stopped dead.

Standing in the center of the dim tent, the duke whirled toward her, his face dark—and, Manon had to admit with a thrill, a bit terrifying. “Get out,” he said, his eyes flaring like embers.

But Manon’s attention was fixed on what—who—stood beyond the duke. Manon stepped forward, even as the duke advanced on her.

Her black, filmy dress like woven night, Kaltain was facing a kneeling, trembling young soldier, her pale hand outstretched toward his contorted face.

And all over her, an unholy aura of dark fire burned. “What is that?” Manon said.

Out,” the duke barked, and actually had the nerve to lunge for Manon’s arm. She swiped with her iron nails, sidestepping the duke without so much as glancing at him. All her focus, every pore of her, was pinned on the dark- haired lady.

The young soldier—one of Perrington’s own—was silently sobbing as tendrils of that black fire floated from Kaltain’s fingertips and slithered over

his skin, leaving no marks. The human turned pain-filled gray eyes to Manon. Please, he mouthed.

The duke snatched for Manon again, and she darted past him. “Explain this.”

“You do not give orders, Wing Leader,” the duke snapped. “Now get out.”

“What is that?” Manon repeated.

The duke surged for her, but then a silken female voice breathed, “Shadowfire.”

Perrington froze, as if surprised she had spoken.

“Where does this shadowfire come from?” Manon demanded. The woman was so small, so thin. The dress was barely more than cobwebs and shadows. It was cold in the mountain camp, even for Manon. Had she refused a cloak, or did they just not care? Or perhaps, with this fire … Perhaps she did not need one at all.

“From me,” Kaltain said, in a voice that was dead and hollow and yet vicious. “It has always been there—asleep. And now it has been awoken. Shaped anew.”

“What does it do?” Manon said. The duke had stopped to observe the young woman, like he was figuring out some sort of puzzle, like he was waiting for something else.

Kaltain smiled faintly at the soldier shaking on the ornate red carpet, his golden-brown hair shimmering in the light of the dimmed lantern above him. “It does this,” she whispered, and curled her delicate fingers.

The shadowfire shot from her hand and wrapped around the soldier like a second skin.

He opened his mouth in a silent scream—convulsing and thrashing, tipping his head back to the ceiling of the tent and sobbing in quiet, unheard agony.

But no burns marred his skin. As if the shadowfire summoned only pain, as if it tricked the body into thinking it was being incinerated.

Manon didn’t take her eyes away from the man spasming on the carpet, tears of blood now leaking from his eyes, his nose, his ears. Quietly she asked the duke, “Why are you torturing him? Is he a rebel spy?”

Now the duke approached Kaltain, peering at her blank, beautiful face. Her eyes were wholly fixed on the young man, enthralled. She spoke again.

“No. Just a simple man.” No inflection, no sign of empathy.

“Enough,” the duke said, and the fire vanished from Kaltain’s hand. The young man sagged on the carpet, panting and weeping. The duke pointed to the curtains in the back of the tent, which no doubt concealed a sleeping area. “Lie down.”

Like a doll, like a ghost, Kaltain turned, that midnight gown swirling with her, and stalked toward the heavy red curtains, slipping through them as if she were no more than mist.

The duke walked over to the young man and knelt before him on the ground. The captive lifted his head, blood and tears mingling on his face. But the duke’s eyes met Manon’s as he put his massive hands on either side of his soldier’s face.

And snapped his neck.

The death-crunch shuddered through Manon like the twanging of a harp.

Normally, she would have chuckled.

But for a heartbeat she felt warm, sticky blue blood on her hands, felt the hilt of her knife imprinted against her palm as she gripped it hard and slashed it across the throat of that Crochan.

The soldier slumped to the carpet as the duke rose. “What is it that you want, Blackbeak?”

Like the Crochan’s death, this had been a warning. Keep her mouth shut.

But she planned to write to her grandmother. Planned to tell her everything that had happened: this, and that the Yellowlegs coven hadn’t been seen or heard from since entering the chamber beneath the Keep. The Matron would fly down here and start shredding spines.

“I want to know why we have been blocked from the Yellowlegs coven.

They are under my jurisdiction, and as such, I have the right to see them.” “It was successful; that’s all you need to know.”

“You’re to tell your guards immediately to grant me and mine permission to enter.” Indeed, dozens of guards had blocked her path—and short of killing her way through, Manon had no way in.

“You choose to ignore my orders. Why should I follow yours, Wing Leader?”

“You won’t have a gods-damned army to ride those wyverns if you lock them all up for your breedingexperiments.”

They were warriors—they were Ironteeth witches. They were not objects to be crossed. It was not appropriate to experiment on them. Her grandmother would slaughter him.

The duke merely shrugged. “I told you I wanted Blackbeaks. You refused to give them to me.”

“Is this punishment?” The words snapped out of her. The Yellowlegs were still Ironteeth, after all. Still under her command.

“Oh, no. Not at all. But if you disobey my orders again, the next time, it might be.” He cocked his head, and the light gilded his dark eyes. “There are princes, you know—among the Valg. Powerful, cunning princes, capable of splattering people on walls. They’ve been very keen to test themselves against your kind. Perhaps they’ll pay a visit to your barracks. See who survives the night. It’d be a good way to weed out the lesser witches. I have no use for weak soldiers in my armies, even if it decreases your numbers.”

For a moment, there was a roaring silence in her head. A threat.

A threat from this human, this man who had lived but a fraction of her existence, this mortal beast

Careful, a voice said in her head. Proceedwithcunning.

So Manon allowed herself to nod slightly in acquiescence, and asked, “And what of your other … activities? What goes on beneath the mountains circling this valley?”

The duke studied her, and she met his gaze, met every inch of blackness within it. And found something slithering inside that had no place in this world. At last he said, “You do not wish to learn what is being bred and forged under those mountains, Blackbeak. Don’t bother sending your scouts in. They won’t see daylight again. Consider yourself warned.”

The human worm clearly didn’t know precisely how skilled her Shadows were, but she wasn’t about to correct him, not when it could be used to her advantage one day. Yet whatever did go on inside those mountains wasn’t her concern—not with the Yellowlegs and the rest of the legion to deal with. Manon jerked her chin toward the dead soldier. “What do you plan to use this shadowfire for? Torture?”

A flash of ire at yet another question. The duke said tightly, “I have not yet decided. For now, she will experiment like this. Perhaps later, she will learn to incinerate the armies of our enemies.”

A flame that did not leave burns—loosed upon thousands. It would be glorious, even if it was grotesque. “And are there armies of enemies gathering? Will you use this shadowfire on them?”

The duke again cocked his head, the scars on his face thrown into stark contrast in the dim lantern light. “Your grandmother didn’t tell you, then.”

“About what?” she bit out.

The duke strode toward the curtained-off part of the room. “About the weapons she has been making for me—for you.”

“What weapons?” She didn’t bother wasting time with tactical silence.

The duke just grinned at her as he disappeared, the curtains swinging enough to reveal Kaltain lying on a low bed covered in furs, her thin, pale arms at her sides, her eyes open and unseeing. A shell. A weapon.

Two weapons—Kaltain, and whatever her grandmother was making. That was why the Matron had stayed in the Fangs with the other High


If the three of them were combining their knowledge, wisdom, and cruelty to develop a weapon to use against the mortal armies …

A shiver skidded down Manon’s spine as she glanced once more at the broken human on the rug.

Whatever this new weapon was, whatever the three High Witches came up with …

The humans wouldn’t stand a chance.

“I want you all spreading the word to the other covens. I want sentinels on constant surveillance at the entrances to the barracks. Three-hour watch rotations, no longer—we don’t need anyone passing out and letting the enemy slip in. I’ve dispatched a letter to the Matron already.”

Elide awoke with a jolt inside the aerie, warm and rested and not daring to breathe. It was still dark, but the moonlight was gone, dawn far off. And in the blackness, she could faintly make out the gleam of snow-white hair and the flicker of a few sets of iron teeth and nails. Oh, gods.

She’d planned to sleep for only an hour. She must have slept for at least four. Abraxos didn’t move behind her, his wing still shielding her.

Since that encounter with Asterin and Manon, every hour, waking or sleeping, had been a nightmare for Elide, and even days afterward she caught herself holding her breath at odd moments, when the shadow of the fear gripped her by the throat. The witches hadn’t bothered with her, even though she’d claimed her blood ran blue. But neither had Vernon.

But tonight … she’d been limping back to her room, the stairwell dark and quiet—too quiet, even with the scraping of her chains on the floor. And by her door, a pocket of utter silence, as if even the dust mites had held their breath. Someone was inside her room. Waiting for her.

So she’d kept walking, all the way to the moonlit aerie, where her uncle wouldn’t dare go. The wyverns of the Thirteen had been curled up on the floor like cats or perched on their posts over the drop. To her left, Abraxos had watched her from where he’d sprawled on his belly, his depthless eyes wide, unblinking. When she’d come close enough to smell the carrion on his breath, she’d said, “I need somewhere to sleep. Just for tonight.”

His tail moved slightly, the iron spikes clinking on the stones. Wagging. Like a dog—sleepy, but pleased to see her. There was no growl to be heard, no glint of iron teeth readying to gulp her down in two bites. She would rather be gobbled down than face whoever had been in her room.

Elide had slid down against the wall, tucking her hands under her armpits and curling her knees to her chest. Her teeth began clacking against each other, and she curled tighter. It was so cold in here that her breath clouded in front of her.

Hay crunched, and Abraxos sidled closer.

Elide had tensed—might have sprung to her feet and bolted. The wyvern had extended one wing toward her as if in invitation. To sit beside him.

“Please don’t eat me,” she’d whispered.

He’d huffed, as if to say, Youwouldn’tbemuchofamouthful.

Shivering, Elide rose. He seemed bigger with every step. But that wing remained extended, as if she were the animal in need of calming.

As she reached his side, she could hardly breathe as she extended a hand and stroked the curving, scaly hide. It was surprisingly soft, like worn leather. And toasty, as if he were a furnace. Carefully, aware of the head he angled to watch her every move, she sat down against him, her back instantly warmed.

That wing had gracefully lowered, folding down until it became a wall of warm membrane between her and the chill wind. She’d leaned farther into his softness and delightful heat, letting it sink into her bones.

She hadn’t even realized that she’d tumbled into sleep. And now … they

were here.

Abraxos’s reek must be concealing her own human scent, or else the Wing Leader would have found her by now. Abraxos kept still enough that she wondered if he knew that, too.

The voices moved toward the center of the aerie, and Elide gauged the distance between Abraxos and the door. Perhaps she could slip away before they noticed—

“Keep it quiet; keep it secret. If anyone reveals our defenses, they die at my hand.”

“As you will it,” Sorrel said.

Asterin said, “Do we tell the Yellowlegs and Bluebloods?”

“No,” Manon said, her voice like death and bloodshed. “Blackbeaks only.”

“Even if another coven winds up volunteering for the next round?” Asterin said.

Manon gave a snarl that made the hair on Elide’s neck rise. “We can only tug so much at the leash.”

“Leashes can snap,” Asterin challenged. “So can your neck,” Manon said.

Now—now, while they were fighting. Abraxos remained unmoving, as if not daring to draw attention to himself while Elide prepared to hurry out. But the chains … Elide sat back down and carefully, slowly, lifted her foot just a little off the floor, holding the chains so they wouldn’t drag. With one foot and one hand, she began pushing herself across the stones, sliding for the door.

“This shadowfire,” Sorrel mused, as if trying to diffuse the brewing storm between the Wing Leader and her cousin. “Will he use it on us?”

“He seemed inclined to think it could be used on entire armies. I wouldn’t put it past him to hold it over our heads.”

Closer and closer, Elide edged for the open doorway.

She was almost there when Manon crooned, “If you had any backbone, Elide, you would have stayed beside Abraxos until we left.”

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