Queen of Shadows Chapter 58 Read Online

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Chapter 58 Part 2 (Queen Of Light) of Queen of Shadows: Manon Blackbeak hated this forest.

The trees were unnaturally close—so close that they’d had to leave the wyverns behind in order to make their way to the clearing a half mile from the crumbling temple. At least the humans hadn’t been stupid enough to pick the temple itself as a meeting site. It was too precariously perched, the ravine too open to spying eyes. Yesterday, Manon and the Thirteen had scouted all the clearings within a mile radius, weighing them for their visibility, accessibility, and cover, and finally settled on this one. Near enough to where the king had originally demanded they meet—but a far more protected spot. Rule one of dealing with mortals: never let them pick the exact location.

First, her grandmother and her escort coven strode through the trees from wherever they’d landed, a covered wagon in tow, no doubt carrying the weapon she’d created. She assessed Manon with a slashing glance and merely said, “Keep silent and out of our way. Speak only when spoken to. Don’t cause trouble, or I’ll rip out your throat.”

Later, then. She would talk to her grandmother about the Valg later.

The king was late, and his party made enough gods-damned noise as they traipsed through the woods that Manon heard them a good five minutes before the king’s massive black warhorse appeared around the bend in the path. The other riders flowed behind him like a dark shadow.

The scent of the Valg slithered along her body.

They’d brought a prison wagon with them, containing a prisoner to be transferred to Morath. Female, from the smell of her—and strange. She’d never come across that scent before: not Valg, not Fae, not entirely human. Interesting.

But the Thirteen were warriors, not couriers.

Her hands behind her back, Manon waited as her grandmother glided toward the king, monitoring his human-Valg entourage while they surveyed the clearing. The man closest to the king didn’t bother glancing around. His sapphire eyes went right to Manon, and stayed there.

He would have been beautiful were it not for the dark collar around his throat and the utter coldness in his perfect face.

He smiled at Manon as though he knew the taste of her blood.

She stifled the urge to bare her teeth and shifted her focus to the Matron, who had now stopped before the mortal king. Such a reek from these people. How was her grandmother not grimacing as she stood before them?

“Your Majesty,” her grandmother said, her black robes like liquid night as she gave the slightest of bobs. Manon shut down the bark of protest in her throat. Never—never had her grandmother bowed or curtsied or so much as nodded for another ruler, not even the other Matrons.

Manon shoved the outrage down deep as the king dismounted in one powerful movement. “High Witch,” he said, angling his head in not quite a bow, but enough to show some kernel of acknowledgment. A massive sword hung at his side. His clothes were dark and rich, and his face …

Cruelty incarnate.

Not the cold, cunning cruelty that Manon had honed and delighted in, but base, brute cruelty, the kind that sent all those men to break into her cottages, thinking her in need of a lesson.

This was the man to whom they were to bow. To whom her grandmother had lowered her head a fraction of an inch.

Her grandmother gestured behind her with an iron-tipped hand, and Manon lifted her chin. “I present to you my granddaughter, Manon, heir of the Blackbeak Clan and Wing Leader of your aerial cavalry.”

Manon stepped forward, enduring the raking gaze of the king. The dark- haired young man who had ridden at his side dismounted with fluid grace, still smirking at her. She ignored him.

“You do your people a great service, Wing Leader,” the king said, his voice like granite.

Manon just stared at him, keenly aware of the Matron judging her every move.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” the king demanded, his thick brows

—one scarred—high.

“I was told to keep my mouth shut,” Manon said. Her grandmother’s eyes flashed. “Unless you’d prefer I get on my knees and grovel.”

Oh, there would certainly be hell to pay for that remark. Her grandmother turned to the king. “She’s an arrogant thing, but you’ll find no deadlier warrior.”

But the king was smiling—though it didn’t reach his dark eyes. “I don’t think you’ve ever groveled for anything in your life, Wing Leader.”

Manon gave him a half smile in return, her iron teeth out. Let his young companion wet himself at the sight. “We witches aren’t born to grovel before humans.”

The king chuckled mirthlessly and faced her grandmother, whose iron- tipped fingers had curved as if she were imagining them around Manon’s throat. “You chose our Wing Leader well, Matron,” he said, and then gestured to the wagon painted with the Ironteeth banner. “Let us see what you’ve brought for me. I hope it will be equally impressive—and worth the wait.”

Her grandmother grinned, revealing iron teeth that had begun to rust in some spots, and ice licked up Manon’s spine. “This way.”

Shoulders back, head high, Manon waited at the bottom of the wagon steps to follow the Matron and the king inside, but the man—so much taller and wider than she up close—frowned at the sight of her. “My son can entertain the Wing Leader.”

And that was it—she was shut out as he and her grandmother vanished within. Apparently, she wasn’t to see this weapon. At least, not as one of the first, Wing Leader or not. Manon took a breath and checked her temper.

Half of the Thirteen encircled the wagon for the Matron’s safety, while the others dispersed to monitor the royal party around them. Knowing their place, their inadequacy in the face of the Thirteen, the escort coven faded back into the tree line. Black-uniformed guards watched them all, some armed with spears, some with crossbows, some with vicious swords.

The prince was now leaning against a gnarled oak. Noticing her attention, he gave her a lazy grin.

It was enough. King’s son or not, she didn’t give a damn.

Manon crossed the clearing, Sorrel behind her. On edge, but keeping her distance.

There was no one in earshot as Manon stopped a few feet away from the Crown Prince. “Hello, princeling,” she purred.

The world kept slipping out from underneath Chaol’s feet, so much so that he grabbed a handful of dirt just to remember where he was and that this was real, not some nightmare.


His friend; unharmed, but—but not Dorian.

Not even close to Dorian, as the prince smirked at that beautiful, white- haired witch.

The face was the same, but the soul gazing out of those sapphire eyes had not been created in this world.

Chaol squeezed the dirt harder.

He had run. He had run from Dorian, and let this happen.

It hadn’t been hope that he carried when he fled, but stupidity. Aelin had been right. It would be a mercy to kill him.

With the king and Matron occupied … Chaol glanced toward the wagon and then at Aelin, lying on her stomach in the brush, a dagger out. She gave him a quick nod, her mouth a tight line. Now. If they were going to make their move to free Lysandra, it would have to be now.

And for Nehemia, for the friend vanished beneath a Wyrdstone collar, he would not falter.

The ancient, cruel demon squatting inside him began thrashing as the white- haired witch sauntered up to him.

It had been content to sneer from afar. One of us, one of ours, it hissed to him. We made it, so we’ll take it.

Every step closer made her unbound hair shimmer like moonlight on water. But the demon began scrambling away as the sun lit up her eyes.

Not too close, it said. Do not let the witchling too close. The eyes of the Valg kings—

“Hello, princeling,” she said, her voice bedroom-soft and full of glorious death.

“Hello, witchling,” he said. And the words were his own.

For a moment he was so stunned that he blinked. He blinked. The demon inside of him recoiled, clawing at the walls of his mind. Eyes of the Valg kings, eyes of our masters, it shrieked. Do not touch that one!

“Is there a reason you’re smiling at me,” she said, “or shall I interpret it as a death wish?”

Do not speak to it.

He didn’t care. Let this be another dream, another nightmare. Let this new, lovely monster devour him whole. He had nothing beyond the here and now.

“Do I need a reason to smile at a beautiful woman?”

“I’m not a woman.” Her iron nails glinted as she crossed her arms. “And you …” She sniffed. “Man or demon?”

“Prince,” he said. That’s what the thing inside him was; he had never learned its name.

Do not speak to it!

He cocked his head. “I’ve never been with a witch.” Let her rip out his throat for that. End it.

A row of iron fangs snapped down over her teeth as her smile grew. “I’ve been with plenty of men. You’re all the same. Taste the same.” She looked him over as if he were her next meal.

“I dare you,” he managed to say.

Her eyes narrowed, the gold like living embers. He’d never seen anyone so beautiful.

This witch had been crafted from the darkness between the stars.

“I think not, Prince,” she said in her midnight voice. She sniffed again, her nose crinkling slightly. “But would you bleed red, or black?”

“I’ll bleed whatever color you tell me to.”

Step away, get away. The demon prince inside him yanked so hard he took a step. But not away. Toward the white-haired witch.

She let out a low, vicious laugh. “What is your name, Prince?” His name.

He didn’t know what that was.

She reached out, her iron nails glimmering in the dappled sunlight. The demon’s screaming was so loud in his head that he wondered if his ears would bleed.

Iron clinked against stone as she grazed the collar around his neck.

Higher—if she just slashed higher—

“Like a dog,” she murmured. “Leashed to your master.”

She ran a finger along the curve of the collar, and he shuddered—in fear, in pleasure, in anticipation of the nails tearing into his throat.

“What is your name.” A command, not a question, as eyes of pure gold met his.

“Dorian,” he breathed.

Your name is nothing, your name is mine, the demon hissed, and a wave of that human woman’s screaming swept him away.

Crouched in the brush just twenty feet from the prison wagon, Aelin froze.


It couldn’t have been. There wasn’t a chance of it, not when the voice that Dorian had spoken with was so empty, so hollow, but—

Beside her, Chaol’s eyes were wide. Had he heard the slight shift?

The Wing Leader cocked her head, her iron-tipped hand still touching the Wyrdstone collar. “Do you want me to kill you, Dorian?”

Aelin’s blood went cold.

Chaol tensed, his hand going to his sword. Aelin gripped the back of his tunic in silent reminder. She had no doubt that across the clearing, Nesryn’s arrow was already pointed with lethal accuracy at the Wing Leader’s throat. “I want you to do lots of things to me,” the prince said, raking his eyes

along the witch’s body.

The humanity was gone again. She’d imagined it. The way the king had acted … That was a man who held pure control over his son, confident that

there was no struggle inside.

A soft, joyless laugh, and then the Wing Leader released Dorian’s collar. Her red cloak flowed around her on a phantom wind as she stepped back. “Come find me again, Prince, and we’ll see about that.”

A Valg prince inhabited Dorian—but Aelin’s nose did not bleed in its presence, and there was no creeping fog of darkness. Had the king muted its powers so his son could deceive the world around him? Or was that battle still being waged inside the prince’s mind?

Now—they had to move now, while the Matron and the king remained in that painted wagon.

Rowan cupped his hands to his mouth and signaled with a bird’s call, so lifelike that none of the guards shifted. But across the clearing, Aedion and Nesryn heard, and understood.

She didn’t know how they managed to accomplish it, but a minute later, the wyverns of the High Witch’s coven were roaring with alarm, the trees shuddering with the sound. Every guard and sentinel turned toward the racket, away from the prison wagon.

It was all the distraction Aelin needed.

She’d spent two weeks in one of those wagons. She knew the bars of the little window, knew the hinges and the locks. And Rowan, fortunately, knew exactly how to dispatch the three guards stationed at the back door without making a sound.

She didn’t dare breathe too loudly as she climbed the few steps to the back of the wagon, pulled out her lock-picking kit, and set to work. One look over here, one shift of the wind—

There—the lock sprang open, and she eased back the door, bracing for squeaky hinges. By some god’s mercy, it made no sound, and the wyverns went on bellowing.

Lysandra was curled against the far corner, bloody and dirty, her short nightgown torn and her bare legs bruised.

No collar. No ring on either hand.

Aelin bit back her cry of relief and flicked her fingers to tell the courtesan to hurry

On near-silent feet, Lysandra hurtled past her, right into the speckled brown-and-green cloak Rowan was holding out. Two heartbeats later she was down the steps and into the brush. Another beat, and the dead guards

were inside the wagon with the door locked. Aelin and Rowan slipped back into the forest amid the roars of the wyverns.

Lysandra was shivering where she knelt in the thicket, Chaol before her, inspecting her wounds. He mouthed to Aelin that she was fine and helped the courtesan rise to her feet before hauling her deeper into the woods.

It had taken less than two minutes—and thank the gods, because a moment later the painted wagon’s door was flung open and the Matron and king stormed out to see what the noise was about.

A few paces from Aelin, Rowan monitored every step, every breath their enemy took. There was a flash of movement beside her, and then Aedion and Nesryn were there, dirty and panting, but alive. The grin on Aedion’s face faltered as he peered back at the clearing behind them.

The king stalked to the heart of the clearing, demanding answers. Butchering bastard.

And for a moment, they were again in Terrasen, at that dinner table in her family’s castle, where the king had eaten her family’s food, drunk their finest wine, and then he’d tried to shatter her mind.

Aedion’s eyes met hers, his body trembling with restraint—waiting for her order.

She knew she might live to regret it, but Aelin shook her head. Not here

—not now. There were too many variables, and too many players on the board. They had Lysandra. It was time to go.

The king told his son to get onto his horse and barked orders to the others as the Wing Leader backed away from the prince with a casual, lethal grace. The Matron waited across the clearing, her voluminous black robes billowing despite her stillness.

Aelin prayed that she and her companions would never run into the Matron—at least not without an army behind them.

Whatever the king had seen inside the painted wagon had been important enough that they hadn’t risked letters about its specific details.

Dorian mounted his horse, his face cold and empty.

I’ll come back for you, she’d promised him. She had not thought it would be in this way.

The king’s party departed with eerie silence and efficiency, seemingly unaware that they were now missing three of their own. The stench of the

Valg faded as they vanished, cleared away by a brisk wind as if Oakwald itself wanted to wipe away any trace.

Headed in the opposite direction, the witches prowled into the trees, lugging the wagon behind them with inhuman strength, until only the Wing Leader and her horrifying grandmother remained in the clearing.

The blow happened so fast that Aelin couldn’t detect it. Even Aedion flinched.

The smack reverberated through the forest, and the Wing Leader’s face snapped to the side to reveal four lines of blue blood now running down her cheek.

“Insolent fool,” the Matron hissed. Lingering near the trees, the beautiful, golden-haired lieutenant observed every movement the Matron made—so intensely that Aelin wondered if she would go for the Matron’s throat. “Do you wish to cost me everything?”

“Grandmother, I sent you letters—”

“I received your whining, sniveling letters. And I burned them. You are under orders to obey. Did you think my silence was not intentional? Do as the duke says.”

“How can you allow these—”

Another strike—four more lines bleeding down the witch’s face. “You dare question me? Do you think yourself as good as a High Witch, now that you’re Wing Leader?”

“No, Matron.” There was no sign of that cocky, taunting tone of minutes before; only cool, lethal rage. A killer by birth and training. But the golden eyes turned toward the painted wagon—a silent question.

The Matron leaned in, her rusted iron teeth within shredding distance of her granddaughter’s throat. “Ask it, Manon. Ask what’s inside that wagon.”

The golden-haired witch by the trees was ramrod straight.

But the Wing Leader—Manon—bowed her head. “You’ll tell me when it’s necessary.”

“Go look. Let’s see if it meets my granddaughter’s standards.”

With that, the Matron strode into the trees, the second coven of witches now waiting for her.

Manon Blackbeak didn’t wipe away the blue blood sliding down her face as she walked up the steps of the wagon, pausing on the landing for only a heartbeat before entering the gloom beyond.

It was as good a sign as any to get the hell out. With Aedion and Nesryn guarding their backs, Aelin and Rowan hurried for the spot where Chaol and Lysandra would be waiting. Not without magic would she take on the king and Dorian. She didn’t have a death wish—either for herself or her friends.

She found Lysandra standing with a hand braced against a tree, wide- eyed, breathing hard.

Chaol was gone.

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