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Season 3

 Final Episode

The rising sun was staining the Avery River with gold as the cloaked man strode onto a rickety dock in the slums. Fishermen ­were heading out for the day, revelers ­were stumbling in for the night, and Rifthold was still asleep—­unaware of what had happened the night before.

The man pulled out a lovely blade, its ea­gle pommel glinting in the first light of dawn. For a long moment, he stared at the sword, thinking of all that it had once embodied. But there was a new sword at his side—­an ancient king’s blade, from a time when good men had served noble rulers and the world had prospered for it.

He would see that world reborn, even if it took his last breath. Even if he had no name now, no position or title save Oath-­Breaker, Traitor, Liar.

No one noticed when the sword was jettisoned over the river, its pommel catching the sun and burning like golden fire, a flash of light before it was swallowed by the dark water, never to be seen again.

It turned out that the “submission” part of a blood oath was something Rowan liked to interpret as it suited him. During their two-­week trek to the nearest port in Wendlyn, he bossed Celaena around even more—­seeming to believe that now he was part of her court, it entitled him to certain nonnegotiable rights regarding her safety, her movements, and her plans.

She was starting to wonder, as they approached the docks at the end of the cobblestone street, if she had made a teensy mistake in binding him to her forever. They’d been arguing for the past three days about her next move—­about the ship she’d hired to take her back to Adarlan.

“This plan is absurd,” Rowan said for the hundredth time, stopping in the shadows of a tavern by the docks. The sea air was light and crisp. “Going back alone seems like suicide.”

“One, I’m going back as Celaena, not Aelin—”

“Celaena, who did not accomplish the king’s mission, and who they are now going to hunt down.”

“The King and Queen of Eyllwe should have gotten their warning by now.” She’d sent it the first time they’d gone into town while investigating the murder of those poor people. Though letters ­were nearly impossible to send into the empire, Wendlyn had certain ways of getting around that. And as for Chaol . . . well, that was another reason why she was ­here, on this dock, about to get onto this ship. She had awoken this morning and slipped the amethyst ring off her finger. It had felt like a blessed release, a final shadow lifted from her heart. But there ­were still words left unsaid between them, and she needed to make sure he was safe—­and would remain that way.

“So you’re going to get the key from your old master, find the captain, and then what?”

Complete submission to her indeed. “Then I go north.”

“And I’m supposed to sit on my ass for the next gods know how many months?”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re not exactly inconspicuous, Rowan. If your tattoos don’t attract attention, then the hair, the ears, the teeth . . .”

“I have another form, you know.”

“And, just like I said, magic ­doesn’t work there anymore. You’d be trapped in that form. Though I do hear that Rifthold rats are particularly delicious, if you want to eat them for months.”

He glared at her, then scanned the ship—­even though she knew he’d snuck out of their room at the inn last night to inspect it already. “We’re stronger together than apart.”

“If I’d known you would be such a pain in the ass, I never would have let you swear that oath.”

“Aelin.” At least he ­wasn’t calling her “Majesty” or “My Lady.” “Either as yourself or as Celaena, they will try to find you and kill you. They are probably already tracking you down. We could go to Varese right now and approach your mother’s mortal kin, the Ashryvers. They might have a plan.”

“My chance at success in getting the Wyrdkey out of Rifthold lies in stealth as Celaena.”

“Please,” he said.

But she merely lifted her chin. “I am going, Rowan. I will gather the rest of my court—our court—­and then we will raise the greatest army the world has ever witnessed. I will call in every favor, every debt owed to Celaena Sardothien, to my parents, to my bloodline. And then . . .” She looked toward the sea, toward home. “And then I am going to rattle the stars.” She put her arms around him—­a promise. “Soon. I will send for you soon, when the time is right. Until then, try to make yourself useful.” He shook his head, but gripped her in a bone-­crushing embrace.

He pulled back far enough to look at her. “Perhaps I’ll go help repair Mistward.”

She nodded. “You never told me,” she said, “what you ­were praying to Mala for that morning before we entered Doranelle.”

For a moment, it looked like he ­wouldn’t tell her. But then he quietly said, “I prayed for two things. I asked her to ensure you survived the encounter with Maeve—­to guide you and give you the strength you needed.”

That strange, comforting warmth, that presence that had reassured her . . . the setting sun kissed her cheeks as if in confirmation, and a shiver went down her spine. “And the second?”

“It was a selfish wish, and a fool’s hope.” She read the rest of it in his eyes. But it came true.

“Dangerous, for a prince of ice and wind to pray to the Fire-­Bringer,” she managed to say.

Rowan shrugged, a secret smile on his face as he wiped away the tear that escaped down her cheek. “For some reason, Mala likes me, and agreed that you and I make a formidable pair.”

But she didn’t want to know—­didn’t want to think about the Sun Goddess and her agenda as she flung herself on Rowan, breathing in his scent, memorizing the feel of him. The first member of her court—­the court that would change the world. The court that would rebuild it. Together.

She boarded the boat as night fell, herded into the galley with the other passengers to keep them from learning the route through the reef. With little fuss they set sail, and when they ­were at last allowed out of the galley, she emerged onto the deck to find dark, open ocean around them. A white-tailed hawk still flew overhead, and it swooped low to brush its star-­silvered wing against her cheek in farewell before it turned back with a sharp cry.

In the moonless light, she traced the scar on her palm, the oath to Nehemia.

She would retrieve the first Wyrdkey from Arobynn and track down the others, and then find a way to put the Wyrdkeys back in their Gate. She would free magic and destroy the king and save her people. No matter the odds, no matter how long it took, no matter how far she had to go.

She lifted her face to the stars. She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, heir of two mighty bloodlines, protector of a once-­glorious people, and Queen of Terrasen.

She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius—­and she would not be afraid.


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