Still Aelin kept burning. Aedion couldn’t even see her in the heart of that power.

There was a cost—there had to be a cost to such power.

She had been born knowing the weight of her crown, her magic. Had felt its isolation long before she’d reached adolescence. And that seemed like punishment enough, but … there had to be a price.

Nameless is my price. That was what the witch had said.

Understanding glimmered at the edge of Aedion’s mind, just out of grasp. He fired his second-to-last arrow, straight between the eyes of a frantic ilken.

One by one, their own foul-bred resistance to magic yielded to those bursts of ice, and wind, and flame.

And then Whitethorn began walking into the firestorm fifty feet ahead. Toward Aelin.

Lorcan pinned Elide to the earth, throwing every last shadow and pocket of darkness into that shield. The flames were so hot that sweat dripped down his brow, right into her silken hair, spread on the green moss. The marsh water around them boiled.

Boiled. Fish floated belly-up. The grasses dried out and caught fire. The entire world was a hell-realm, with no end and no beginning.

Lorcan’s shredded, dark soul tipped its head back and roared in unison to her power’s burning song.

Elide was cringing, fists balled in his shirt, face buried against his neck as he gritted his teeth and weathered the firestorm. Not just fire, he realized. But wind and ice. Two other, mighty magics had joined her—shredding the ilken. And his own shield.

Wave after wave, the magic battered his power. A lesser gift might have been broken against it—a lesser magic might have tried to fight back, and not just let the power wash over them.

If Erawan got a collar around Aelin Galathynius’s neck … it would be over.

To leash that woman, that power … Would a collar even be able to contain that?

There was movement through the flames.

Whitethorn was prowling across the boiling marshes, his steps unhurried.

The flame swirled around the dome of Rowan’s shield, eddying with his icy wind.

Only a male who’d lost his damn mind would wander into that storm.

The ilken died and died and died, slowly and not at all cleanly, as their dark magic failed them. Those that tried to flee the flame or ice or wind were felled by arrows. Those that managed to land were shredded apart by ambushes of claws and fangs and snapping, scaled tails.

They’d made every minute of his warning count. Had easily set a trap for the ilken. That they’d fallen for it so swiftly—

But Rowan reached the queen in the heart of the marshes as her flames winked out. As his own wind died out, and plumes of unforgiving ice shattered the few ilken flapping in the skies.

Ash and glittering ice rained down, thick and swirling as snow, embers dancing between the clumps that had once been the ilken. There were no survivors. Not one.

Lorcan didn’t dare lift his shield.

Not as the prince stepped onto the small island where the queen was standing. Not as Aelin turned toward Rowan, and the only flame that remained was a crown of fire atop her head.

Lorcan watched in silence as Rowan slid a hand over her waist, the other cupping the side of her face, and kissed his queen.

Embers stirred her unbound hair as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed close. A golden crown of flame flickered to life atop Rowan’s head—the twin to the one Lorcan had seen burning that day at Mistward.

He knew Whitethorn. He knew the prince wasn’t ambitious—not in the way that immortals could be. He likely would have loved the woman if she’d been ordinary. But this power …

In his wasteland of a soul, Lorcan felt that tug. Hated it.

It was why Whitethorn had strode to her—why Fenrys was now halfway across the plain, dazed, attention wholly fixed on where they stood, tangled in each other.

Elide stirred beneath him. “Is—is it over?”

Given the heat with which the queen was kissing her prince, he wasn’t entirely sure what to tell Elide. But he let her squirm out from beneath him, twisting to her feet to spy the two figures on the horizon. He rose, watching with her.

“They killed them all,” she breathed.

An entire legion—gone. Not easily, but—they’d done it.

Ash continued to fall, clumping on Elide’s silky night-dark hair. He gently picked out a bit, then put a shield over her to keep it from landing on her again.

He hadn’t touched her since last night. There hadn’t been time, and he hadn’t wanted to think about what her kiss had done to him. How it had utterly wrecked him and still twisted up his guts in ways he wasn’t sure he could live with.

Elide said, “What do we do now?”

It took him a moment to realize what she’d meant. Aelin and Rowan at last pulled apart, though the prince leaned in to nuzzle her neck.

Power called to power among the Fae. Perhaps Aelin Galathynius was unlucky the cadre had been drawn to Maeve’s power long before she was born, had chained themselves to her instead.

Perhaps they were the unlucky ones, for not holding out for something better.

Lorcan shook his head to clear the useless, traitorous thoughts.

That was Aelin Galathynius standing there. Drained of her power.

He felt it now—the utter lack of sound or feeling or heat where there had been such a riotous storm moments before. A creeping cold.

She’d emptied her entire cache. They all had. Maybe Whitethorn had gone to her, put his arms around her, not because he wanted to mount her in the middle of the marshes, but to keep her upright once that power was gone. Once she was left vulnerable.

Open to attack.

What do we do now? Elide had asked.

Lorcan smiled slightly. “We go say hello.”

She balked at the shift in his tone. “You’re not on friendly terms.”

Certainly not, and he wasn’t about to be, not when the queen was within his sights. Not when she had that Wyrdkey … the sibling to the one Elide carried.

“They won’t attack me,” he said, and began heading for them. The marsh water was near-scalding, and he grimaced at the fish floating, milky eyes open wide to the sky. Frogs and other beasts bobbed among them, wobbling in his ripples.

Elide hissed at entering the hot water but followed after him.

Slowly, Lorcan closed in on his prey, too focused on the fire-breathing bitch to notice that Fenrys and Gavriel had vanished from their positions in the reeds.


Every step toward Aelin was an eternity—and every step was somehow too swift.

Elide had never been more aware of her limp. Of her dirty clothes; of her long, unshaped hair; of her small body and lack of any discernible gifts.

She had imagined Aelin’s power, dreamed of how it had shattered the glass castle.

She hadn’t considered that the reality of seeing it unleashed would make her bones quail in terror. Or that the others would possess such harrowing gifts as well—ice and wind twining with fire, until only death rained down. She almost felt bad for the ilken they’d slaughtered. Almost.

Lorcan was silent. Tense.

She was able to read his moods now, the little tells that he believed no one could detect. But there—that faint twitch on the left side of his mouth. That was his attempt to suppress whatever rage was now riding him. And there, that slight angle of his head to the right … that was his assessing and reassessing every surrounding, every weapon and obstacle within sight. Whatever this meeting was, Lorcan didn’t think it would go well.

He expected to fight.

But Aelin—Aelin—had now turned toward them from where she stood on that mound of grass. Her silver-haired prince pivoted with her. Took a casual step in front of her. Aelin sidestepped around him. He tried to block her again. She nudged him with an elbow and held her ground at his side. The Prince of Doranelle—her queen’s lover. How much sway would his opinion hold over Aelin? If he hated Lorcan, would his contempt and mistrust for her as well be immediate?

She should have thought of it—how it’d look to be with Lorcan. Approach with Lorcan.

“Regretting your choice in allies?” Lorcan said with cutting calm. Like he’d been able to read her tells, too.

“It sends a message, doesn’t it?”

She could have sworn something like hurt flashed in his eyes. But it was typical Lorcan—even when she’d ripped into him atop that barge, he’d barely flinched.

He said coolly, “It would seem our bargain with each other is about to end anyway. I’ll be sure to explain the terms, don’t worry. I’d hate for them to think you were slumming it with me.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

He snorted. “I don’t care.”

Elide halted, wanting to call him a liar, half because she knew he was lying and half because her own chest tightened at the words. But she kept silent, letting him walk ahead, that distance between them yawning wider with his every storming step.

But what would she even say to Aelin? Hello? How do you do? Please don’t burn me? Sorry I’m so filthy and lamed?

A gentle hand touched her shoulder. Pay attention. Look around.

Elide glanced up from where she’d been wincing at her dirty clothes. Lorcan was perhaps twenty feet ahead, the others mere figures near the horizon.

The invisible hand on her shoulder squeezed. Observe. See.

See what? Ash and ice rained to the right, ruins rose up on the left, nothing but open marshes spreading ahead. But Elide halted, scanning the world around her.

Something was wrong. Something made any creatures that had survived the maelstrom of magic go silent again. The burnt grasses rustled and sighed.

Lorcan kept walking, his back stiff, though he hadn’t reached for his weapons.

See see see.

See what? She turned in place but found nothing. She opened her mouth to call to Lorcan.

Golden eyes flickered in the brush not thirty paces ahead.

Enormous golden eyes, fixed on Lorcan as he strode mere feet away. A mountain lion, ready to pounce, to shred flesh and sever bone—


The beast exploded from the burnt grasses.

Elide screamed Lorcan’s name.

He whirled, but not to the lion. Toward her, that furious face shooting toward her—

But she was running, leg shrieking in pain, as Lorcan finally sensed the attack about to swoop down on him.

The mountain lion reached him, those thick claws going low while its teeth went right for his throat.

Lorcan drew his hunting knife, so fast it was only the glint of gray light on steel.

Beast and Fae male went down, right into the muddy water.

Elide hurtled for him, a wordless scream breaking from her. Not a normal mountain lion. Not even close. Not with the way it knew Lorcan’s every move as they rolled through the water, as they dodged and swiped and lunged, blood spurting, magic clashing, shield against shield—

Then the wolf attacked.

A massive white wolf, sprinting out of nowhere, wild with rage and all of it focused on Lorcan.

Lorcan broke from the lion, blood streaming down his arm, his leg, panting. But the wolf had vanished into nothing. Where was it, where was it—

It appeared out of thin air, as if it had stepped through an invisible bridge, ten feet from Lorcan.

Not an attack. An execution.

Elide cleared a gap between two mounds of land, icy grass slicing into her palms, something crunching in her leg—

The wolf leaped for Lorcan’s vulnerable back, eyes glazed with bloodlust, teeth shining.

Elide surged up the little hill, time spinning out beneath her.

No no no no no no.

Vicious white fangs neared Lorcan’s spine.

Lorcan heard her then, heard the shuddering sob as she threw herself into him.

His dark eyes flared in what looked like terror as she slammed into his unprotected back.

As he noticed the death blow not coming from the lion at his front, but the wolf whose jaws closed around her arm instead of Lorcan’s neck.

She could have sworn the wolf’s eyes flared in horror as it tried to pull back the physical blow, as a dark, hard shield slammed into her, stealing her breath with its unflinching solidity—

Blood and pain and bone and grass and bellowing fury.

The world tilted as she and Lorcan went down, her body thrown over his, the wolf’s jaws wrenching out of her arm.