Aedion braced himself, spreading apart his feet as wind and ice tore into the enemy lines. Fae soldiers, perhaps ones Rowan himself had commanded, screamed. But Rowan and Dorian struck relentlessly.

Line after line, Rowan and Dorian blasted their power into Maeve’s fleet.

Yet more ships flooded past them, engaging Aedion and the others. Ansel of Briarcliff held the left flank, and … the lines remained steady. Even if Maeve’s armada still outnumbered them.

The first Fae soldier who cleared the railing of their ship headed right for Lysandra.

It was the last mistake the male made.

She leaped, dodging past his guard, and closed her jaws around his neck.

Bone crunched and blood sprayed.

Aedion leaped forward to engage the next soldier over the railing, cutting through the grappling hooks that arced and landed true.

Aedion loosed himself into a killing calm, an eye on the shifter, who took down soldier after soldier, his father’s gold shield holding strong around her, too.

Death rained upon him.

Aedion did not let himself think about how many were left. How many Rowan and Dorian felled, the ruins of ships sinking around them, blood and flotsam choking the sea.

So Aedion kept killing.

And killing.

And killing.

Dorian’s breath burned his throat, his magic was sluggish, a headache pulsed at his temples, but he kept unleashing his power upon the enemy lines while soldiers fought and died around him.

So many. So many trained warriors, a scant few of whom were blessed with magic—and had been wielding it to get past them.

He didn’t dare see how the others were faring. All he heard were roars and snarls of wrath, shrieks of dying people, and the crack of wood and the snap of rope. Clouds had formed and gathered above, blocking out the sun.

His magic sang as it froze the life out of ships, out of soldiers, as it bathed in their death. But it still flagged. He’d lost track of how long it had been.

Still, they kept coming. And still, Manon and Aelin did not return.

Rowan held the front line, weapons angled, ready for any soldiers stupid enough to approach. But too many broke past their magic. Too many now steadily overwhelmed them.

As soon as he thought it, Aedion’s bark of pain cut across the waves.

There was a roar of rage that echoed it. Was Aedion—

The coppery tang of blood coated Dorian’s mouth—the burnout. Another roar, deep and bellowing, cleaved the world. Dorian braced himself, rallying his magic perhaps for the last time.

That roar sounded again as a mighty shape shot down from the heavy clouds.

A wyvern. A wyvern with shimmering wings.

And behind it, descending upon the Fae fleet with wicked delight, flew twelve others.


Lysandra knew that roar.

And then there was Abraxos, plunging from the heavy clouds, twelve other wyverns with riders behind him.

Ironteeth witches.

“Hold your fire!” Rowan bellowed from half a dozen ships away, at the archers who had trained their few remaining arrows on the golden-haired witch closest to Abraxos, her pale-blue wyvern shrieking a war cry.

The other witches and their wyverns unleashed hell upon the Fae, smashing through the converging lines, snapping grappling ropes, buying them a moment’s reprieve. How they knew who to attack, what side to fight for—

Abraxos and eleven others angled northward in one smooth movement, then plowed into the panicking enemy fleet. The golden-haired rider, however, swept for Lysandra’s ship, her sky-blue wyvern gracefully landing on the prow.

The witch was beautiful, a strip of black braided leather across her brow, and she called to none of them in particular, “Where is Manon Blackbeak?”

“Who are you?” Aedion demanded, his voice a rasp. But there was recognition in his eyes, as if remembering that day at Temis’s temple—

The witch grinned, revealing white teeth, but iron glinted at her fingertips. “Asterin Blackbeak, at your service.” She scanned the embattled ships. “Where is Manon? Abraxos led—”

“It’s a long story, but she’s here,” Aedion shouted over the din. Lysandra crept closer, sizing up the witch, the coven that was now wreaking havoc upon the Fae lines. “You and your Thirteen save our asses, witch,” Aedion said, “and I’ll tell you anything you damn want.”

A wicked grin and an incline of her head. “Then we shall clear the field for you.”

Then Asterin and the wyvern soared up, and blasted between the waves, spearing for where the others were fighting.

At Asterin’s approach, the wyverns and riders reeled back, rising high into the air, falling into formation. A hammer about to strike.

The Fae knew it. They began throwing up feeble shields, shooting wildly for them, their panic making their aim sloppy. But the wyverns were covered in armor—efficient, beautiful armor.

The Thirteen laughed at their enemy as they slammed into its southern flank.

Lysandra wished she had strength left to shift—one last time. To join them in that glorious destruction.

The Thirteen herded the panicking ships between them, smashed them apart, wielding every weapon in their arsenal—wyverns, blades, iron teeth. What got past them received the brutal mercy of Rowan’s and Dorian’s magic. And what got past that magic …

Lysandra found Aedion’s blood-splattered stare. The general-prince smirked in that insolent way of his, sending a thrill wilder than bloodlust through her. “We don’t want the witches to make us look bad, do we?”

Lysandra returned his smirk and lunged back into the fray.

Not many more.

Rowan’s magic was strained to the breaking point, his panic a dull roaring in the back of his mind, but he kept attacking, kept swinging his blades at any that got past his wind and ice, or Dorian’s own blasts of raw, unchecked power. Fenrys, Lorcan, and Gavriel had bolted an hour or lifetimes ago, vanishing to wherever Maeve had no doubt summoned them, but the armada held fast. Whoever Ansel of Briarcliff’s men were, they weren’t cowed by Fae warriors. And they were no strangers to bloodshed. Neither were Rolfe’s men. None of them ran.

The Thirteen continued to wreak havoc on Maeve’s panicking fleet. Asterin Blackbeak barked commands high above them, the twelve witches breaking the enemy lines with fierce, clever determination. If this was how one coven fought, then an army of them—

Rowan gritted his teeth as the remaining ships decided to be smarter than their dead companions and began to peel away. If Maeve gave the order to retreat—

Too bad. Too damn bad. He’d send her own ship down to the inky black himself.

He gave Asterin a sharp whistle the next time she passed overhead, rallying her Thirteen again. She whistled back in confirmation. The Thirteen launched after the fleeing armada.

The battle ebbed, red waves laden with debris flowing past on the swift tide.

Rowan gave the order to the captain to hold the lines and deal with any stupidity from Maeve’s armada if any ships decided not to turn tail.

His legs trembling, his arms shaking so badly he was afraid that if he let go of his weapons he wouldn’t be able to pick them up again, Rowan shifted and soared high.

His cousins had joined the Thirteen in their pursuit of the fleet now trying to run. He avoided the urge to count. But—Rowan flew higher, scanning.

There was one boat missing.

A boat he’d sailed on, worked on, fought on in past wars and journeys.

Maeve’s personal battleship, the Nightingale, was nowhere to be seen.

Not within the retreating fleet now fending off the Whitethorn royals and the Thirteen.

Not within the sinking hulks of ships now bleeding out in the water.

Rowan’s blood chilled. But he dove fast and hard for Aedion and Lysandra’s ship, where gore covered the deck so thickly it rippled as he shifted and set down in it.

Aedion was covered in blood, both his own and others’; Lysandra was purging a stomach full of it. Rowan managed to will his legs into maneuvering around fallen Fae. He did not look too closely at their faces.

“Is she back?” Aedion instantly demanded, wincing as he put weight on his thigh. Rowan surveyed his brother’s wound. He’d have to heal him soon—as soon as his magic replenished. In a place like this, even Aedion’s Fae blood couldn’t keep the infection away long.

“I don’t know,” Rowan said.

“Find her,” Aedion growled. He broke Rowan’s stare only to watch Lysandra shift into her human form—and ran an eye over the injuries that peppered her skin.

Rowan’s skin tightened over his bones. He had the feeling that the ground was about to slip from under his feet as Dorian appeared at the rail of the main deck, gaunt-faced and haggard, no doubt having used the last of his magic to propel a longboat over, and panted, “The coast. Aelin is out by the coast where we sent Elide—they all are.”

That was miles away. How the hell had they gotten there?

“How do you know?” Lysandra demanded, tying back her hair with bloody fingers.

“Because I can feel something out there,” Dorian said. “Flame and shadow and death. Like Lorcan and Aelin and someone else. Someone ancient. Powerful.” Rowan braced himself for it, but he still wasn’t ready for the pure terror when Dorian added, “And female.”

Maeve had found them.

The battle had not been for any sort of victory or conquest.

But a distraction. While Maeve slipped away to get the real prize.

They’d never arrive fast enough. If he flew on his own, his magic already drained to the breaking point, he would be of little help. They stood a better chance, Aelin stood a better chance, if they were all there.

Rowan whirled to the horizon behind them—to the wyverns destroying the remnants of the fleet. Rowing would take too long; his magic was gutted. But a wyvern … That might do.


The Queen of the Fae was exactly as Aelin remembered. Swirling dark robes, a beautiful pale face beneath onyx hair, red lips set in a faint smile … No crown adorned her head, for all who breathed, even the dead who slumbered, would know her for what she was.

Dreams and nightmares given form; the dark face of the moon.

And kneeling before Maeve, a stone-faced sentry holding a blade to her bare throat, Elide trembled. Her guards, all men in Ansel’s armor, had likely been killed before they could shout a warning. From the weapons that were only half out of their sheaths, they hadn’t even had the chance to fight.

Manon had gone still as death at the sight of Elide, her iron nails sliding free.

Aelin forced a half smile to her mouth, shoved her raw, bleeding heart into a box deep inside her chest. “Not as impressive as Doranelle, if you ask me, but at least a swamp really reflects your true nature, you know? It’ll be a wonderful new home for you. Definitely worth the cost of coming all this way to conquer it.”

At the edge of the hill that flowed down to the beach a small party of Fae warriors monitored them. Male and female, all armed, all strangers. A massive, elegant ship idled in the calm bay beyond.

Maeve smiled slightly. “What a joy, to learn that your usual good spirits remain undimmed in such dark days.”

“How could they not, when so many of your pretty males are in my company?”

Maeve cocked her head, her heavy curtain of dark hair sliding off a shoulder. And as if in answer, Lorcan appeared at the edge of the dunes, panting, wild-eyed, sword out. His focus—and horror, Aelin realized—on Elide. On the sentry holding the blade against her white neck. Maeve gave a little smile to the warrior, but looked to Manon.

With her attention elsewhere, Lorcan took up a place at Aelin’s side—as if they were somehow allies in this, would fight back-to-back. Aelin didn’t bother to say anything to him. Not as Maeve said to the witch, “I know your face.”

That face remained cold and impassive. “Let the girl go.”

A small, breathy laugh. “Ah.” Aelin’s stomach clenched as that ancient focus shifted to Elide. “Claimed by queen, and witch, and … my Second, it seems.”

Aelin tensed. She didn’t think Lorcan was breathing beside her.

Maeve toyed with a strand of Elide’s limp hair. The Lady of Perranth shook. “The girl who Lorcan Salvaterre summoned me to save.”