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"ROYAL ASSASSIN" SEASON 2, EPISODE 54"


ROYAL ASSASSIN

Season 2

Episode 54


The shattered lock on Celaena’s bedroom door still wasn’t fixed by the time Dorian appeared after breakfast, a stack of books in his arms. She stood before her bed, stuffing clothing into a large leather satchel. Fleetfoot was the first to acknowledge him, though he had no doubt Celaena heard him coming from the hallway.


The dog limped to him, tail wagging, and Dorian set the books on the desk before kneeling on the plush rug. He ran his hands over Fleetfoot’s head, letting her lick him a few times.


“The healer said her leg is going to be fine,” Celaena said, still focused on her satchel. Her left hand was bandaged—a wound he hadn’t noticed last night. “She just left a few minutes ago.”


“Good,” Dorian said, rising to his feet. She was wearing a heavy tunic and pants and a thick cloak. Her brown boots were sturdy and sensible, far more subdued than her usual attire. Traveling clothes. “Were you going to leave without saying good-bye?”


“I thought it would be easier this way,” she said. In two hours, she would sail to Wendlyn, that land of myths and monsters, a kingdom of dreams and nightmares made flesh.


Dorian approached her. “This plan is madness. You don’t have to go. We can convince my father to do something else. If they catch you in Wendlyn—”


“They won’t catch me.”


“There will be no help for you,” Dorian said, putting a hand on the satchel. “If you are captured, if you are hurt, you are beyond our reach. You will be entirely on your own.”


“I’ll be fine.”


“But I won’t be. Every day that you’re there, I will wonder what has become of you. I won’t … I won’t forget you. Not for one hour.”


Her throat bobbed, the only sign of emotion she allowed to show, and she looked toward her dog, watching them from the rug. “Will you …” He watched her swallow again before meeting his gaze. The gold in her eyes glowed in the morning sun. “Will you look after her while I’m gone?”


He took her hand, squeezing. “As if she’s one of my own. I’ll even let her sleep in the bed.”


She gave him a small smile, and he had a feeling that any greater sign of emotion would shatter her self-control. He waved a hand to the books he’d brought. “I hope you don’t mind, but I need a place to store these, and your rooms might be … safer than mine.”


She glanced at the desk but, to his relief, didn’t go to it. The books he’d brought would only lead to more questions. Geneaologies, royal chronicles, anything on how and why he might have magic. “Of course,” was all she said. “I think The Walking Dead is still floating around in here, anyway. Maybe it’ll be glad to have company.”


He might have smiled had it not been eerily true. “I’ll leave you to your packing. I have a council meeting at the same time your ship departs,” he said, fighting the ache in his chest. It was a lie—and a bad one. But he didn’t want to be at the docks, not when he knew someone else would be there to see her off. “So … I suppose this is good-bye.” He didn’t know whether he was allowed to embrace her anymore, so he stuffed his hands into his pockets and gave her a smile. “Take care of yourself.”


A faint nod.


They were friends now, and he knew that the physical boundaries between them had been altered, but … He turned away rather than let her see the disappointment he knew was all too clear on his face.


He took all of two steps toward the door before she spoke, the words soft and strained. “Thank you for all that you have done for me, Dorian. Thank you for being my friend. For not being like the others.”


He paused, turning to face her. She kept her chin high, but her eyes were gleaming.


“I’ll come back,” she said quietly. “I’ll come back for you.” And he knew that there was more that she wasn’t saying, some bigger meaning behind those words.


But Dorian still believed her.


The docks were crowded with sailors and slaves and workers loading and unloading cargo. The day was warm and breezy, the first hint of spring in the air, and the sky was cloudless. A good day for sailing.


Celaena stood before the ship that would carry her through the first leg of the journey. It would sail to a prearranged location where a ship from Wendlyn would meet it to take aboard refugees fleeing the shadow of Adarlan’s empire. Most of the women traveling on her ship were already belowdecks. She shifted the fingers of her bandaged left hand, wincing at the dull pain radiating outward from her palm.


She had hardly slept that night, holding Fleetfoot close to her instead. Saying good-bye an hour ago had been like ripping out a piece of her heart, but the dog’s leg was still too injured for her to risk the journey to Wendlyn.


She hadn’t wanted to see Chaol, hadn’t bothered saying good-bye, because she had so many questions for him that it was easier not to ask at all. Hadn’t he known what an impossible trap he was setting for her now?


The ship captain bellowed a five-minute departure warning. The sailors started scrambling, doubling their efforts to prepare to leave the harbor and set out down the Avery, and then into the Great Ocean itself.


To Wendlyn.


She swallowed hard. Do what needs to be done, Elena had told her. Did that mean actually killing the royal family of Wendlyn, or something else?


A salty breeze ruffled her hair, and she stepped forward.


But someone emerged from the shadows of the buildings lining the docks.


“Wait,” Chaol said.


Celaena froze as he walked to her, and didn’t move even when she found herself looking up into his face.


“Do you understand why I did this?” he asked softly.


She nodded, but said, “I have to return here.”


“No,” he said, his eyes flashing. “You—”


“Listen.”


She had five minutes. She couldn’t explain it to him now—couldn’t explain that the king would kill him if she didn’t return. That knowledge could be fatal to him. And even if he ran away, the king had threatened Nehemia’s family, too.


But she knew that Chaol was trying to protect her. And she couldn’t leave him wholly ignorant. Because if she did die in Wendlyn, if something happened to her …


“Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you.”


His brows rose. But she didn’t give herself a moment to reconsider, to second-guess her decision.


As succinctly as she could, she told him about the Wyrdkeys. She told him about the Wyrdgates, and about Baba Yellowlegs. She told him about the papers she’d stashed down in the tomb—the riddle with the locations of the three Wyrdkeys. And then she told him that she knew the king had at least one. And that there was a dead creature sealed beneath the library. And that he should never open the door to the catacombs—never. And that Roland and Kaltain might be part of some bigger, deadlier plan.


And when that horrible truth had been revealed, she unfastened the Eye of Elena from her neck and folded it into his palm. “Never take it off. It will protect you from harm.”


He was shaking his head, his face deathly pale. “Celaena, I can’t—”


“I don’t care if you go looking for the keys, but someone has to know about them. Someone other than me. All the proof is in the tomb.”


Chaol grabbed her hand with his free one. “Celaena—”


“Listen,” she repeated. “If you hadn’t convinced the king to send me away, we could have … figured them out together. But now …”


Two minutes, the sea captain shouted. Chaol was just staring at her, such grief and fear in his eyes that speech failed her.


And then she did the most reckless thing she’d ever done in her life. She stood on her toes and whispered the words into his ear.


The words that would make him understand, understand why it was so important to her, and what it meant when she said she would return. And he would hate her forever for it, once he understood.


“What does that mean?” he demanded.


She smiled sadly. “You’ll figure it out. And when you do …” She shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t say it, but doing it anyway. “When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. It’s never made any difference to me when it came to you. I’d still pick you. I’ll always pick you.”


“Please—please, just tell me what that means.”


But there was no time, so she shook her head and stepped back.


Chaol took one step toward her, though. One step, then he said, “I love you.”


She strangled the sob that built in her throat. “I’m sorry,” she said, hoping he would remember those words later—later, when he knew everything.


Her legs found the strength to move. She took a breath. And with a final look at Chaol, she strode up the gangplank. Taking no notice of those onboard, she set down her sack and took up a place by the railing. She looked down at the dock to find Chaol still standing by the walkway as it was lifted.


The ship’s captain called for them to cast off. Sailors scurried, ropes were untied, tossed, and tied again, and the ship lurched. Her hands clasped the railing so hard they hurt.


The ship began moving. And Chaol—the man she hated and loved so much that she could hardly think around him—just stood there, watching her go.


The current grabbed the ship, and the city began to diminish. The ocean breeze soon caressed her neck, but she never stopped staring at Chaol. She stared toward him until the glass castle was a sparkling speck in the distance. She stared toward him until there was only gleaming ocean around her. She stared toward him until the sun dropped beyond the horizon and a smattering of stars hung overhead.


It was only when her eyelids drooped and she swayed on her feet that Celaena stopped staring toward Chaol.


The smell of salt filled her nostrils, so different from the salt of Endovier, and a spirited wind whipped through her hair.


With a hiss through her teeth, Celaena Sardothien turned her back on Adarlan and sailed toward Wendlyn.
________

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