Mort chuckled when she staggered through the tomb door. “Witch Slayer, are you? Another lovely title to add to your repertoire.”
“How do you know about that?” she asked, setting down her candle. She’d already burned her bloodied clothes. They had reeked as they burned—reeked like rotting flesh, just as Yellowlegs had. Fleetfoot had growled at the fireplace and tried to herd Celaena away by pressing her body against her legs.
“Oh, I can smell her on you,” Mort said. “Smell her fury and wickedness.”
Celaena peeled back the collar of her tunic to show the little cuts where Yellowlegs’s nails had pierced the skin right above her collarbone. She’d cleaned them out, but had a feeling they would leave marks, a necklace of scars. “What do you make of those?”
Mort winced. “Those make me grateful I’m made of bronze.”
“Will they harm me?”
“You killed a witch—and you’re now marked by a witch. It will not be the usual sort of wound.” Mort’s eyes narrowed. “You understand that you may have just landed yourself in a heap of trouble.”
“Baba Yellowlegs was a leader—a queen to her clan,” Mort went on. “When they destroyed the Crochan family, they joined with the Blackbeaks and the Bluebloods in the Ironteeth Alliance. They still honor those oaths.”
“But I thought all the witches were gone—scattered to the winds.”
“Gone? The Crochans and those who followed them have been in hiding for generations. But the clans in the Ironteeth Alliance still travel about, as Baba did. Though many more of them live in the ruined and dark places of the world, content in their wickedness. But I suspect that when the Yellowlegs learn of their matron’s death, they will muster the Blackbeaks and the Bluebloods and demand answers from the king. And you will be fortunate if they do not come on their brooms and drag you into it.”
She grimaced. “I hope you’re wrong.”
Mort’s brows lowered slightly. “So do I.”
Celaena spent an hour in the tomb, reading through the riddle on the wall, puzzling over Yellowlegs’s words. Wyrdkeys, Wyrdgates … it was all so strange, so incomprehensible and terrifying. And if the king had them—if he even had one …
When staring at the riddle gave her no further answers, Celaena trudged back to her rooms for a much-needed nap.
At least she’d finally discovered a possible source of the king’s power. But she still needed to learn more. And then the real question: what was the king planning to do with the keys that he had not done already?
She had a feeling she didn’t want to know.
But the library catacombs might contain the answer to that most horrible of questions. There was a book she could use to gain access to that answer—a book that might have the unlocking spell she was looking for. And she knew that The Walking Dead would find her the moment she began looking for it.
Halfway up to her rooms, all plans for a nap vanished as Celaena turned back around and went to retrieve Damaris, and every other ancient blade she could carry.
He shouldn’t be here. He was only asking for trouble—another fight that might wind up tearing the castle in two. And if Celaena attacked him again, Chaol knew with absolute certainty that he’d let her kill him, if she really wanted.
He didn’t even know what he’d say to her. But he had to say something, if only to end the silence and the tension that kept him awake night after night and prevented him from focusing on his duties.
She wasn’t in her rooms, but he went in anyway, wandering over to her desk. It was as messy as Dorian’s, and covered in papers and books. He might have turned away had he not seen the strange symbols written on everything, symbols that reminded him of the mark he’d seen burn on her forehead at the duel. He’d somehow forgotten about it in the months that had gone by. Was it … was it something connected to her past?
Glancing over his shoulder, listening for any sign of Philippa or Celaena, he rifled through the documents. Just scribblings—drawings of the symbols and random underlined words. Perhaps they were no more than doodles, he tried to tell himself.
He was about to turn away when he caught sight of a document peeking out from a stack of books. It was written in careful calligraphy and signed by multiple people.
Easing it out from under the books, Chaol picked up the thick paper and read.
The world dropped out from beneath his feet.
It was Celaena’s will. Signed two days before Nehemia’s death.
And she’d given everything—every last copper—to him.
His throat tightened as he stared at the sum and the list of assets, including an apartment in a warehouse in the slums and all the wealth inside.
And she had signed it all to him, with only one request: that he consider giving some of it to Philippa.
“I’m not going to change it.”
He whirled, finding her leaning against the doorframe, her arms crossed. Though the position was so familiar, her face was cold, blank. He let the document slip from his fingers.
The list of noble houses in his pocket became leaden. What if he’d been jumping to conclusions? Perhaps the song wasn’t actually a dirge of Terrasen. Maybe it had been another language he’d never heard of.
She watched him like a cat. “It would be too much trouble to bother changing it,” she went on. She wore a beautiful, ancient-looking blade at her side, along with a few daggers he’d never seen before. Where had she gotten them?
There were so many words trying to work their way out of him that he couldn’t speak at all. All of that money—she’d left everything to him. Left it to him because of what she’d felt for him … even Dorian had seen it from the start.
“At least now,” she said, pushing off the doorframe and turning away, “when the king sacks you for being so damn lousy at your job, you’ll have something to fall back on.”
He couldn’t breathe. She hadn’t just done it out of generosity. But rather because she knew that if he ever lost his position, he’d have to consider going back to Anielle, to his father’s money. And that it’d kill part of him to do that.
But she’d have to be dead for him to see that money. Verifiably dead, and not a traitor to the crown, either—if she died a traitor, then all her assets had to go to the king.
And the only way she’d die a traitor would be for her to do what he feared: ally with this secret organization, find Aelin Galathynius, and return to Terrasen. This was a hint that she had no intention of doing that. She had no plans to reclaim her lost title, and posed no threat to Adarlan or Dorian. He’d been wrong. Yet again, he’d been wrong.
“Get out of my chambers,” she said from the foyer, before striding into the gaming room and slamming the door behind her.
He hadn’t wept when Nehemia died, or when he’d thrown Celaena in the dungeons, or even when she’d returned with Grave’s head, utterly different from the woman he had grown to love so fiercely.
But when Chaol walked out, leaving that damning will behind him, he didn’t even make it to his own room. He barely made it into an empty broom closet before the sobs hit.