Chaol wasn’t in his bed when she awoke, and Celaena thanked the gods for their small mercies, because she was certainly too worn out to bother running. His side of the bed was cold enough that she knew he’d left hours before—probably to fulfill his duties as Captain of the Guard.
She lay there for a while, content to daydream, to imagine a time when they could have whole, uninterrupted days with each other. When her stomach started growling, she decided it was a sign that she should drag herself out of bed. She’d taken to leaving some clothes in his room, so she bathed and dressed before returning to her own chambers.
Over breakfast, a list of names arrived from Archer—written in code, as she’d asked—with more men to hunt down. She just hoped he wouldn’t squeal on her again. Nehemia didn’t show up for their daily lesson on the Wyrdmarks, though Celaena wasn’t surprised by that, either.
She didn’t particularly feel like talking to her friend—and if the princess was foolish enough to think of starting a rebellion … She’d stay well enough away from Nehemia until she came to her senses. It did halt her hope of finding a way to use the Wyrdmarks to get through that secret door in the library, but that could wait—at least until both of their tempers had cooled.
After spending the day in Rifthold stalking the men on Archer’s list, Celaena returned to the castle, eager to tell Chaol what else she’d learned. But he didn’t show up for dinner. It wasn’t that unusual for him to be busy, so she dined alone, and curled up on the couch in her bedroom with a book.
She probably needed some rest, too, since the Wyrd knew she hadn’t been getting any sleep this past week. Not that she minded.
When the clock struck ten and he still hadn’t come to her, she found herself walking to his rooms. Perhaps he was waiting for her there. Perhaps he’d just fallen asleep without meaning to.
But she hurried down the halls and stairs, her palms turning slicker with each step. Chaol was the Captain of the Guard. He held his own against her every day. He’d bested her in their first sparring match. Yet Sam had been her equal in many ways, too. And he’d still been caught and tortured by Rourke Farran—still died the most brutal death she’d ever seen. And if Chaol …
She was running now.
Like Sam, Chaol was admired by almost everyone. And when they’d taken Sam from her, it hadn’t been because of anything Sam had done.
No, they’d done it to get at her.
She reached his rooms, part of her still praying that she was just being paranoid, that he’d be sleeping in the bed, that she could curl up with him and make love to him and hold him through the night.
But then she opened the door to his bedroom and saw a sealed note addressed to her on the table beside the door—placed atop his sword, which hadn’t been there this morning. It was placed casually enough that the servants might have just assumed it was a note from Chaol himself—and that nothing was wrong. She ripped open the red seal and unfolded the paper.
WE HAVE THE CAPTAIN. WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF STALKING US, COME FIND US HERE.
It listed the address for a warehouse in the slums of the city.
BRING NO ONE, OR THE CAPTAIN WILL DIE BEFORE YOU SET FOOT IN THE BUILDING. IF YOU FAIL TO ARRIVE BY TOMORROW MORNING, WE’LL LEAVE WHAT’S LEFT OF HIM ON THE BANKS OF THE AVERY.
She stared at the letter.
Every one of the restraints she’d locked into place after she’d rampaged through Endovier snapped free.
An icy, endless rage swept through her, wiping away everything except the plan that she could see with brutal clarity. The killing calm, Arobynn Hamel had once called it. Even he had never realized just how calm she could get when she went over the edge.
If they wanted Adarlan’s Assassin, they’d get her.
And Wyrd help them when she arrived.
Chaol didn’t know why they’d chained him up, only that he was thirsty and had a pounding headache, and that the irons holding him against the stone wall weren’t going to budge. They threatened to beat him every time he tried pulling against them. They’d already knocked him about enough to convince him they weren’t bluffing.
They. He didn’t even know who they were. They all wore long robes and hoods that concealed their masked faces. Some of them were armed to the teeth. They spoke in murmurs, all of them growing increasingly on-edge as the day passed.
From what he could tell, he had a split lip and would have some bruises on his face and ribs. They hadn’t asked questions before unleashing two of their men on him, though he hadn’t been entirely cooperative once he’d awoken and found himself here. Celaena would be impressed by just how creative his curses had been before, during, and after that initial beating.
In the passing hours, he’d moved only once to relieve himself in the corner, since when he asked to use the washroom, they just stared at him. And they’d watched him the entire time, hands on their swords. He’d tried not to snort.
They were waiting for something, he realized with a strange clarity as the day stretched into evening. The fact that they hadn’t killed him yet suggested that they wanted some sort of ransom.
Maybe it was a rebel group, seeking to blackmail the king. He’d heard of nobility being captured for that reason. And heard the king himself order the rebels to kill the petty lord or lady, because he would not yield to traitorous filth.
Chaol didn’t allow himself to consider that possibility, even as he began saving up his strength for whatever stand he’d make before he met his end.
Some of his captors whispered in rapid arguments, but they were usually silenced by others who told them to wait. He was just pretending to doze off when another of these arguments occurred, a hissing back and forth about whether they should just free him, and then—
“She has until dawn. She’ll show up.”
That word was the worst thing he’d ever heard.
Because there was only one she who would bother to show up for him. One she that he could be used against.
“You hurt her,” he said, his voice hoarse from a day without water, “and I’ll rip you apart with my bare hands.”
There were thirty of them, half fully armed, and they all turned to him.
He bared his teeth, even though his face ached. “You so much as touch her, and I’ll gut you.”
One of them—tall, with two swords crossed over his back—approached. Even though his face was obscured, Chaol recognized him by his weapons as one of the men who had beaten him earlier. He stopped just beyond where Chaol’s feet could kick.
“Good luck with that,” the man said. By his voice, he could have been anywhere from twenty to forty. “You’d better pray to whatever gods you favor that your little assassin cooperates.”
He growled, pulling against the chains. “What do you want from her?”
The warrior—he was a warrior, Chaol could tell by the way he moved—cocked his head. “None of your business, Captain. And keep your mouth shut when she arrives, or else I’ll cut out your filthy royal tongue.”
Another clue. The man hated royals. Which meant that these people …
Had Archer known how dangerous this rebel group was? When he got free, he’d kill him for letting Celaena get tangled up with them. And then he’d make sure that the king and his secret guards got their hands on all of these bastards.
Chaol yanked on the chains, and the man shook his head. “Do that, and I’ll knock you out again. For the Captain of the Royal Guard, you were far too easy to capture.”
Chaol’s eyes flashed. “Only a coward captures men the way you did.”
“A coward? Or a pragmatist?”
Not an uneducated warrior, then. Someone with schooling, if he could use vocabulary like that.
“How about a damned fool?” Chaol said. “I don’t think you realize who you’re dealing with.”
The man clicked his tongue. “If you were that good, you would be more than the Captain of the Guard.”
Chaol let out a low, breathy laugh. “I wasn’t talking about me.”
“She’s just one girl.”
Though his guts were twisting at the thought of her in this place, with these people, though he was considering every possible way to get himself and Celaena out of here alive, he gave the man a grin. “Then you’re really in for a surprise.”