But Dorian gritted his teeth, leashing his magic to his will, Rowan’s bellowed warnings to hold echoing off the water—amplified in the way that Gavriel had used his voice in Skull’s Bay.
But even with the chaos of Maeve’s armada finding their ships under siege from beneath the water, the lines of it stretched away forever.
Aelin and Manon had not returned.
A Fae male in a raging, lethal panic was a terrifying thing to behold. Two of them were near cataclysmic.
When Aelin and Manon had vanished into that mirror, Dorian suspected it was only Aedion’s roaring that had made Rowan snap out of the blood fury he’d descended into. And only the throbbing bruise on Dorian’s cheek that made Rowan refrain from giving him a matching one.
Dorian glanced toward the front lines, where the Fae Prince stood at the prow of his ship, his sword and hatchet out, a quiver of arrows and bow strapped across his back, various hunting knives honed razor-sharp. The prince had not snapped out of it at all, he realized.
No, Rowan had already descended to a level of icy wrath that had Dorian’s magic trembling, even from the distance now between them.
He could feel it, Rowan’s power—feel it as he’d sensed Aelin’s surging up.
Rowan had already been deep within his reservoir of power when Aelin and Manon had left. He’d used the last hour, once Aedion had focused that fear and anger on the battle ahead, to plunge even deeper. It now flowed around them like the sea mere feet below.
Dorian had followed suit, falling back on the training the prince had instilled in him. Ice coated his veins, his heart.
Aedion had said only one thing to him before departing for his own section of the armada. The general-prince had looked him over once, his Ashryver eyes lingering on the bruise he’d given him, and said, “Fear is a death sentence. When you’re out there, remember that we don’t need to survive. Only put enough of a dent in them so that when she comes back … she’ll wipe out the rest.”
When. Not if. But when Aelin found their bodies, or whatever was left of them if the sea didn’t claim them … she might very well end the world for rage.
Maybe she should. Maybe this world deserved it.
Maybe Manon Blackbeak would help her do it. Maybe they’d rule over the ruins together.
He wished he’d had more time to talk to the witch. To get to know her beyond what his body had already learned.
Because even with the rudders being disabled … ships now advanced.
Fae warriors. Born and bred to kill.
Aedion and Rowan sent another volley of arrows aiming for the ships. Shields disintegrated them before they could meet any targets. This would not end well.
His heart thundered, and he swallowed as the ships crept around their foundering brethren, inching toward that demarcation line.
His magic writhed.
He’d have to be careful where to aim. Have to make it count.
He did not trust his power to remain focused if he unleashed it all.
And Rowan had told him not to. Had told him to wait until the armada was truly upon them. Until they crossed that line. Until the Fae Prince gave the order to fire.
For it was fire—and ice—that warred in Dorian now, begging for release.
He kept his chin high as more ships inched toward those disabled at the front, then slipped alongside them.
Dorian knew it would hurt. Knew it would hurt to wreck his magic, and then wreck his body. Knew it would hurt to see his companions go down, one by one.
Still Rowan held the front line, did not let his ships turn to flee.
Closer and closer, those enemy ships speared toward their front lines, hauled by waving limbs of mighty oars. Archers were poised to fire, and sunlight glinted off the burnished armor of the battle-hungry Fae warriors aboard. Ready and rested, primed to slaughter.
There would be no surrender. Maeve would destroy them just to punish Aelin.
He’d failed them—in sending Manon and Aelin away. On that gamble, he’d perhaps failed all of them.
But Rowan Whitethorn had not.
No, as those enemy ships slid into place among their foundering companions, Dorian saw that they each bore the same flag:
A silver banner, with a screaming hawk.
And where Maeve’s black flag of a perching owl had once flapped beside it … now that black flag lowered.
Now the dark queen’s flag vanished entirely, as Fae ships bearing the silver banner of the House of Whitethorn opened fire upon their own armada.
Rowan had told Enda about Aelin.
He had told his cousin about the woman he loved, the queen whose heart burned with wildfire. He had told Enda about Erawan, and the threat of the keys, and Maeve’s own desire for them.
And then he had gotten on his knees and begged his cousin to help.
To not open fire on Terrasen’s armada.
But on Maeve’s.
To not squander this one chance at peace. At halting the darkness before it consumed them all, both from Morath and Maeve. To fight not for the queen who had enslaved him, but the one who had saved him.
I will consider it, Endymion had said.
And so Rowan had gotten off his knees and flown to another cousin’s ship. Princess Sellene, his youngest, cunning-eyed cousin, had listened. Had let him beg. And with a small smile, she had said the same thing. I will consider it.
So he’d gone, ship to ship. To the cousins he knew might listen.
An act of treason—that was what he had begged them for. Treason and betrayal so great they could never go home. Their lands, their titles, would be seized or destroyed.
And as their unharmed ships sailed into place beside those Lysandra had already disabled, as they opened an assault of arrows and magic upon their unsuspecting forces, Rowan roared at his own fleet, “Now, now, now!”
Oars splashed into the waves, men grunting as they rowed like hell for the armada in utter chaos.
Every single one of his cousins had attacked.
Every single one. As if they had all met, all decided to risk ruination together.
Rowan had not possessed an army of his own to give to Aelin. To give to Terrasen.
So he had won an army for her. Through the only things Aelin had claimed were all she wanted from him.
His heart. His loyalty. His friendship.
And Rowan wished his Fireheart were there to see it as the House of Whitethorn slammed into Maeve’s fleet, and ice and wind exploded across the waves.
Lorcan didn’t believe it.
He didn’t believe what he was seeing as a third of Maeve’s fleet opened fire upon the stunned majority of her ships.
And he knew—he knew without having it confirmed that the banners flying on those ships would be silver.
However he’d convinced them, whenever he’d convinced them …
Whitethorn had done it. For her.
All of it, for Aelin.
Rowan bellowed the order to press their advantage, to break Maeve’s armada between them.
Lorcan, a bit dazed, passed on the order to his own ships.
Maeve wouldn’t allow it. She’d wipe the Whitethorn line off the map for this.
But there they were, unleashing their ice and wind upon their own ships, accented with arrows and harpoons that speared through wood and soldiers.
Wind whipped at his hair, and he knew Whitethorn was now pushing his magic to the breaking point to haul their own ships into the fray before his cousins lost the advantage of surprise. Fools, all of them.
Fools, and yet …
Gavriel’s son was bellowing Whitethorn’s name. A gods-damned victory cry. Over and over, the men taking up the call.
Then Fenrys’s voice lifted. And Gavriel’s. And that red-haired queen. The Havilliard king.
Their armada soared for Maeve’s, sun and sea and sails all around, blades glinting in the morning brightness. Even the rise and fall of the oars seemed to echo the chant.
On into battle, on into bloodshed, they called the prince’s name.
For a heartbeat, Lorcan allowed himself to ponder it—the power of the thing that had compelled Rowan to risk it all. And Lorcan wondered if it would perhaps be the one force that Maeve, that Erawan, would not see coming.
But Maeve—Maeve was in that armada somewhere.
She would retaliate. She would strike back, make them all suffer—
Rowan slammed their armada into Maeve’s front lines, unleashing the fury of his ice and wind alongside their arrows.
And where Rowan’s power paused, Dorian’s magic leaped out.
Not a chance in hell of winning had now become a fool’s chance. If Whitethorn and the others could hold their lines, keep themselves steady.
Lorcan found himself scanning for Fenrys and Gavriel across ship and soldier.
And he knew Maeve’s answer had come when he spied them, one after the other, go rigid. Spied Fenrys take a running leap and vanish into thin air. The White Wolf of Doranelle instantly appeared at Gavriel’s side, men shouting at his appearance out of a pocket of nothing.
But he gripped Gavriel’s arm, and then they were both gone again, their faces taut. Only Gavriel managed to look toward Lorcan before they vanished—his eyes wide in warning. Gavriel pointed, then they were nothing but sunlight and spindrift.
Lorcan stared at where Gavriel had managed to point, that bit of defiance that had likely cut deep.
Lorcan’s blood went cold.
Maeve was allowing the battle to explode across the water because she had other games afoot. Because she was not on the seas at all.
But on the shore.
Gavriel had pointed to it. Not to the distant beach, but up the shore—westward.
Precisely where he had left Elide hours ago.
And Lorcan did not care about the battle, about what he’d agreed to do for Whitethorn, the promise he’d made the prince.
He had made a promise to her first.
The soldiers weren’t stupid enough to try to stop him as Lorcan ordered one of them in charge, and seized a longboat.
Elide couldn’t view the battle from where she waited among the sand dunes, the seagrasses hissing around her. But she could hear it, the shouting and the booming.
She tried not to listen to the din of battle, tried to instead beg Anneith to give her friends guidance. To keep Lorcan alive, and Maeve far from him.
But Anneith was sticking close, hovering behind her shoulder.
See, she said, as she always did. See, see, see.
There was nothing but sand and grass and water and blue sky. Nothing but the eight guards Lorcan had commanded to stay with her, lounging on the dunes, looking either relieved or put-out to miss the battle raging on the waves around the bend in the coast.
The voice became urgent. See, see, see.
Then Anneith vanished entirely. No—fled.
Clouds gathered, sweeping from the marshes. Heading toward the sun beginning its ascent.
Elide got to her feet, sliding a bit on the steep dune.
The wind whipped and hissed through the grasses—and warm sand turned gray and muted as those clouds passed over the sun. Blotting it out.
Something was coming.
Something that knew Aelin Galathynius drew strength from sunlight. From Mala.
Elide’s mouth dried. If Vernon found her here … there would be no escaping him now.
The guards on the dunes behind her stirred, noticing the strange wind, the clouds. Sensing that approaching storm was not of natural origin. Would they stand against the ilken long enough for help to come? Or would Vernon bring more of them this time?
But it was not Vernon who appeared on the beach, as if walking out of a passing breeze.
It was an agony.
An agony, to see Nehemia, young and strong and wise. Speaking to Elena in the marshes, among those same ruins.
And then there was the other agony.
That Elena and Nehemia had known each other. Worked together.
That Elena had laid these plans a thousand years ago.
That Nehemia had gone to Rifthold knowing she’d die.
Knowing she’d need to break Aelin—use her death to break her, so she could walk away from the assassin and ascend her throne.
Aelin and Manon were shown another scene. Of a whispered conversation at midnight, deep beneath the glass castle.
A queen and a princess, meeting in secret. As they had for months.
The queen asking the princess to pay that price she’d offered back in the marshes. To arrange for her own death—to set this all in motion. Nehemia had warned Elena that she—that Aelin—would be broken. Worse, that she would go so far into an abyss of rage and despair that she wouldn’t be able to get out. Not as Celaena.