The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(6)

“It’s nothing,” I said shakily, but I kept glancing behind us, struggling to see any telltale trace of smoke and finding none.

A young woman met us as we boarded the ship that would take us to Kion. She was dressed in brilliant gold, her hua a symphony of vines and roses. Jewels glittered in her black hair. Several other asha stood beside her, their expressions strange combinations of worry and grimness.

“Took you long enough,” the woman in gold groused. “You were supposed to be here a day ago.”

“We rode as fast as we could, Zoya,” Lord Fox told the woman shortly. “What are you doing here?”

“Empress Alyx sent me, of course. We heard word of what happened.” The woman took a long breath, a catch in her voice. “I am so sorry. I should have been there. Maybe I could have—”

“You had your own duties,” Princess Inessa interrupted her firmly. “I took charge of this expedition. If there is anyone to blame, then I bear that burden.”

“Your Highness—”

“How are the others?”

The asha exhaled again. “Awaiting orders in Kion. It would ease Zahid to know if the rest of the Deathseekers will be returning quickly. It’s not easy defending Kion with only a handful of us present. The asha are spread thin as it is.”

“And Aadil?”

“Sighted in the south.”

The princess swore.

“A cadre of our soldiers were ambushed. No missing limbs or insanity—they were simply put to sleep. Druj must be getting soft. Kance tells us Druj’s army is making for the Hollows next, that they’ve seen Drychta camped there. That’s about all the information he sent. Frankly, I’m surprised Kance’s even given us that much. They’re to leave next week, and he asks if we could spare some soldiers. We’ll talk more about this on the ship.”

“What’s that for?” Lord Khalad asked, gesturing toward the mast.

I saw nothing where he pointed.

“I’m sure you’ve seen runes before, Khalad.” Lady Zoya shrugged. “Speed is our priority, or so Empress Alyx told me. With my help, I can get you across the sea and back to Kion in under two days. It’s not as quick as a daeva perhaps, but we’re not paid enough for all this tomfoolery.”

“Two days?” I blurted before I could help myself. “A ship’s journey from here to Kion takes three times that long.”

“What can I say? We’re women of many talents.” She stared hard at me. “And who in the seven hells are you?”

“Tea found a scribe,” Lord Khalad said, watching the men cast off the lines and hoist the anchor.

“A scribe? All the havoc she’s wreaked in the kingdoms, and she wishes to have that immortalized on paper? She needs a good thrashing.”

“Her story needed telling!” Perhaps traces of her compulsion still lingered inside me, goading me into defending a woman I still sometimes feared.

“Her side of the story?” The asha shot an arm out toward the horizon as the sails unfurled behind her. “Take a long, hard look, you idiotic man. Tell me what defense you can make of that.”

I saw faint wisps of gray smoke wafting from a long way off. “What is that?” I asked, horrified.

“The smoke is from Kion, you little simperseed. Her azi attacked Ankyo five days ago. I don’t know where the rest of her daeva are, but one was more than enough to destroy Ankyo. You may not know what she intends, Fox, but I do. She’s calling for war, and damnation to anyone who stands in her path.”


It takes great inner strength and perseverance to survive in the coldest place in the world, but the Isterans have always done so with style. Brass fanfare greeted us as we landed at the edge of the Runeswood. While I was certain most of those waiting had never seen the azi before, to their credit, they stood their ground when the dragon turned its three heads toward them, rumbling noisily. There was, however, a faint clatter of metal hitting metal as more than a few swords slid out of scabbards. The Isterans were a friendly people, but they were also pragmatic.

The cold bit through my cloak. The ground was caked in snow, crunching beneath our boots as we walked. Likh shivered. Wordlessly, Khalad shook off his thick cape and draped it around Likh’s shoulders. The younger boy smiled his gratitude, white teeth chattering even as his cheeks turned pink from more than the frost. The younger boy’s crush on the Heartforger grew every day.

King Rendorvik stepped forward, bowing low to his old mentor, Ludvig. His wife, Daeri, an attractive brunette with deep-set blue eyes, took her welcome further, hugging and kissing the cheeks of the women in the group, including Likh, in friendly fashion. “It’s been quite some time since you’ve honored us with a visit, Ludvig. You’ve been sorely missed.”

Councilor Ludvig snorted. “I’m surprised Scalzieg and the others haven’t burned the place down without me around, Rendor,” he said.

I started, the words calling to mind my horrific vision of Ankyo in flames from only a few hours ago.

Ludvig continued, “The lack of visible wreckage tells me they might be more competent than I first thought when they started their training under me.”

The Isteran king laughed. “We stand in winter all year, my old friend. You know better than any of us how fires fear our kind of cold.” He turned curious eyes toward the azi. At my silent command, it had lowered its three snouts to prostrate itself on the ground, a sign of its submission. “I am afraid I do not have a large enough stable to house your daeva friend here.”

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