Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) - Sarah J. Maas Page 0,1

fight,” Celaena said.

The king leaned forward, examining the mauled face and the jagged cuts in the neck. “I can barely recognize him.”

Celaena gave him a crooked smile, though her throat tightened. “I’m afraid severed heads don’t travel well.” She fished in her sack again, pulling out a hand. “Here’s his seal ring.” She tried not to focus too much on the decaying flesh she held, the reek that had worsened with each passing day. She extended the hand to Chaol, whose bronze eyes were distant as he took it from her and offered it to the king. The king’s lip curled, but he pried the ring off the stiff finger. He tossed the hand at her feet as he examined the ring.

Beside his father, Dorian shifted. When she’d been dueling in the competition, he hadn’t seemed to mind her history. What did he expect would happen when she became the King’s Champion? Though she supposed severed limbs and heads would turn the stomachs of most people—even after living for a decade under Adarlan’s rule. And Dorian, who had never seen battle, never witnessed the chained lines shuffling their way to the butchering blocks … Perhaps she should be impressed he hadn’t vomited yet.

“What of his wife?” the king demanded, turning the ring over in his fingers again and again.

“Chained to what’s left of her husband at the bottom of the sea,” Celaena replied with a wicked grin, and removed the slender, pale hand from her sack. It bore a golden wedding band, engraved with the date of the marriage. She offered it to the king, but he shook his head. She didn’t dare look at Dorian or Chaol as she put the woman’s hand back in the thick canvas sack.

“Very well, then,” the king murmured. She remained still as his eyes roved over her, the sack, the head. After a too-long moment, he spoke again. “There is a growing rebel movement here in Rifthold, a group of individuals who are willing to do anything to get me off the throne—and who are attempting to interfere with my plans. Your next assignment is to root out and dispatch them all before they become a true threat to my empire.”

Celaena clenched the sack so tightly her fingers ached. Chaol and Dorian were staring at the king now, as if this were the first they were hearing of this, too.

She’d heard whispers of rebel forces before she’d gone to Endovier—she’d met fallen rebels in the salt mines. But to have an actual movement growing in the heart of the capital; to have her be the one to dispatch them one by one … And plans—what plans? What did the rebels know of the king’s maneuverings? She shoved the questions down, down, down, until there was no possibility of his reading them on her face.

The king drummed his fingers on the arm of the throne, still playing with Nirall’s ring in his other hand. “There are several people on my list of suspected traitors, but I will only give you one name at a time. This castle is crawling with spies.”

Chaol stiffened at that, but the king waved his hand and the captain approached her, his face still blank as he extended a piece of paper to Celaena.

She avoided the urge to stare at Chaol’s face as he gave her the letter, though his gloved fingers grazed hers before he let go. Keeping her features neutral, she looked at the paper. On it was a single name: Archer Finn.

It took every ounce of will and sense of self-preservation to keep her shock from showing. She knew Archer—had known him since she was thirteen and he’d come for lessons at the Assassins’ Keep. He’d been several years older, already a highly sought-after courtesan … who was in need of some training on how to protect himself from his rather jealous clients. And their husbands.

He’d never minded her ridiculous girlhood crush on him. In fact, he’d let her test out flirting with him, and had usually turned her into a complete giggling mess. Of course, she hadn’t seen him for several years—since before she went to Endovier—but she’d never thought him capable of something like this. He’d been handsome and kind and jovial, not a traitor to the crown so dangerous that the king would want him dead.

It was absurd. Whoever was giving the king his information was a damned idiot.

“Just him, or all his clients, too?” Celaena blurted.

The king gave her a slow smile. “You