King of Scars (King of Scars Duology #1)

“Take him out through the tunnels to Lazlayon.”

Genya brushed her fingers over Isaak’s lapel. “I’ll begin work on him right away. He … he didn’t hesitate. When we told him what was at stake he …”

Tolya lifted Isaak’s body carefully in his huge arms. “He had the heart of a king.”

“What did you tell Hiram Schenck?” asked Genya, wiping fresh tears from her scarred cheek. “His grin was as big as a melon rind.”

“I gave him the plans for our submersibles.”

“The izmars’ya?” said Tamar.

“Armed?” asked Tolya, his face distressed.

“Afraid so. As I understand it,” said Nikolai, “the Apparat has gone missing and Fjerda is marching in support of a Lantsov pretender. Is he good looking?”

Tamar frowned. “The Apparat?”

“The Lantsov pretender. I suppose it’s of no matter. But yes, I gave Schenck the real plans. We’re going to war. We’ll be in sore need of Kerch funds as well as our new Shu friends.”

“The Zemeni—” protested Tolya.

“Don’t worry,” said Nikolai. “I gave Schenck what he wanted, but he’s going to discover it’s not what he needs. Sometimes you have to feed the demon.”

“What does that mean?” asked Genya. “And are you going to tell us where you went?”

“Or if you found a cure?” said Tamar.

“We did,” said Nikolai. “But it didn’t quite take.”

“So the monk was no help at all?” asked Tolya.

Nikolai’s gaze met Zoya’s. She drew in a long breath, then nodded. It was time the others knew. “We have some bad news.”

“There’s more?” asked Genya.

“It’s Ravka,” Nikolai and Zoya said together.

“There’s always more,” she heard him finish as she vanished into the antechamber to retrieve their prisoner, hands tightly bound. She’d woken him with Genya’s red bottle, enjoying the way he startled, the brief confusion in his eyes.

“Yuri?” said Genya. “What did he do? Bore someone to death?”

Zoya tugged at the rope, and the monk stepped fully into the light. His hood fell back.

Genya gasped, edging away, her hand flying to the patch that covered her lost eye. “No. It can’t be. No.” Nikolai placed a steadying hand on her shoulder.

The monk was still too tall and too lean, but he moved with a new grace. His face was clean-shaven and his glasses were gone. His hair looked darker, smoothed back from his brow, and the very shape of his features seemed to have altered, the bones winnowing to sharper, more elegant lines. His eyes flashed gray, the color of quartz.

Tamar stepped in front of Genya as if to shield her. “Impossible.”

“Improbable,” said Nikolai gently.

When Zoya had destroyed the vessel that Elizaveta had so lovingly preserved, she had seen a shadow leave the fire, but she hadn’t understood what it meant at the time. The Darkling’s power had fractured—part of it had remained in the wounded shadow soldier that the ritual had almost destroyed and that still lived on in Nikolai. But the rest, the spirit that had begun to bleed from that soldier into the body Elizaveta had prepared … Zoya should have known the Darkling would not miss his chance at freedom.

Yuri had gotten his wish. He’d helped his Saint return. Had the young monk given himself up willingly? Joyously? Or in those final moments of fire and terror, had he begged to keep his life? Zoya knew there would be no mercy from the Starless Saint. The Darkling was not in the business of answering prayers.

Nikolai had made the discovery in the shed where they’d taken shelter, in the hours when Zoya had been trekking to Kribirsk.

“Let me kill him,” she’d told Nikolai when he’d shown her. “We can bury his body here. No one ever has to know he …” She had stumbled over the words. He has returned. She could not say it. She refused to.

“If we kill him, I may never be free of the demon inside me,” Nikolai had said. “And we are about to be at war. I intend to use every resource we have.”

They’d kept him gagged throughout their journey back to Os Alta, but just the amusement in those familiar gray eyes had made her want to snap his neck.

Nikolai insisted there was a way to use his power. Zoya wanted to watch him burn all over again.

So she would wait. She could be patient. The beast inside her knew eternity.

Now Zoya looked at Genya with her scarred hands pressed to her mouth, at Tolya’s fury, at Tamar with her axes drawn. She looked at her king and the woman who would soon be his wife.

We are the dragon and we will bide our time.

“So many of my old friends, gathered in one place,” said the Darkling from the mouth of a loyal, gullible boy, another fool who had loved him. “It’s good to be home.”





LEIGH BARDUGO


is a No.1 New York Times-bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars – with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including Some of the Best from Tor.com and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

The second book in the King of Scars Duology will be coming soon.

leighbardugo.com





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


First, to my readers, new and old, who have made it possible for me to continue this journey through the Grishaverse, thank you. I could not ask for better travel companions.

Many thanks to the magnificent crew at Imprint: my ingenious editor Erin Stein, who let me pitch her this book over lunch at San Diego Comic Con; design warlords Natalie C. Sousa and Ellen Duda; John Morgan; Nicole Otto; Raymond Ernesto Colón; Melinda Ackell; Dawn Ryan; Weslie Turner; and Jessica Chung. I would be lost without the MCPG genius strike force: Mariel Dawson, Morgan Dubin, Molly Ellis, Teresa Ferraiolo, Julia Gardiner, Kathryn Little, Katie Halata, Lucy Del Priore, Allison Verost, Melissa Zar, the Fierce Reads team, Jennifer Gonzalez and the sales team, Kristin Dulaney, and the ever intrepid Jon Yaged.

All the love and gratitude to my New Leaf Literary family: Pouya Shahbazian, Hilary Pecheone, Devin Ross, Joe Volpe, Kathleen Ortiz, Mia Roman, Veronica Grijalva, Abigail Donoghue, Kelsey Lewis, Cassandra Baim, and, of course, Joanna Volpe, who has held my hand and had my six at every turn. And a special thank-you to Melissa Rogal, slayer of giants.

I want to thank Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan, who provided invaluable feedback on the early drafts of this manuscript; Morgan Fahey, who helped me sort my saints and name my kings; Rachael Martin, who offered guidance and encouragement on the final draft; Robyn Bacon, who makes a killer potpie and a glorious Baked Alaska; Ziggy the Human Cannonball, who makes me laugh and laugh; and Erin Daffern, who keeps me moving even when I really, really want to stay still. Thanks also to Marie Lu, Rainbow Rowell, Robin Wasserman, Cassandra Clare, Sabaa Tahir, Robin LaFevers, Daniel José Older, Carrie Ryan, Christine Patrick, Gretchen McNeil, Julia Collard, Nadine Semerau, the Petty Patties (long may they reign), and to Eric for every aloha.

Thank you to Emily, Ryan, Christine, and Sam for all of the love and patience, and to my weird and wonderful mama, who weathers my storms.