The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(2)

Lord Fox took out the thick sheaf of papers and stared at them. He looked tired and worn; his love for his sister has aged him, I realized, even if time had not.

Finally, he inhaled a long, shuddering breath. He handed the letters to me. “You were there when she began telling her story. Tell me how she ends it.”

I accepted. My fingers touched the soft parchment, noting the faint smears in her otherwise-elegant writing. With my practiced eyes, I knew these stains were not caused by faulty ink, but rather tears.

Above us, the pomegranate-colored sky gave way to darker clouds, suggesting only a few hours of brief, portentous respite before the storm.


I have always known darkness.

It has been my friend. Yet it has also been my enemy. Some days, it is a mist over my eyes, leaving me blind to what should be obvious. But some days, I wipe away that fog and see more clearly in its aftermath than I ever have before it.

The darkness was inside me, I think, long before I raised my brother from the dead. My silver heartsglass merely gave it a mouth, made the darkness realize that it too can hunger…

This is not Fox’s fault. This is not Lady Mykaela’s fault.

I have told the bard much of my story—all but its end. Once we leave Daanoris, it will be far too dangerous for him to travel with Kalen and me. And so I write the rest of it now, with the clarity it deserves. I write while the fog is lifted. While I can see.

I am sorry about many things, but I am not sorry about this.

I start with a happy memory. They are so few nowadays. As I write, Kalen patrols the city with my azi, and Khalad is hard at work with his forging. It is a lonely vigil tonight in the Santiang Palace, with none but my own thoughts for company.

My brother always asks me to be candid, though I know it sometimes makes him uncomfortable.

Let me be candid now.

? ? ?

On the day we were to leave for Istera, I woke up later than I intended and with every desire of prolonging the hour. With a low grunt, I rolled onto my stomach and pressed my face against the sheets, content to breathe into the mattress. The bed was harder than its downy counterpart at the Valerian, but I preferred this. The bed in my asha-ka didn’t have his scent on the covers, and his warmth was better than any blanket. He was the only place I could rest my head and dream without nightmares plaguing me, as they had for the last three months.

I felt the bed dip beside me, felt his lips ghost over my skin. “You need to get up,” Kalen murmured, his voice husky from sleep, but the rough fabric against my shin told me he’d already dressed. I squinted in the direction of the windows. It was a little past dawn. Of the two of us, he was the morning person. I no longer needed to attend classes in the Willows, but with many mandatory nights spent entertaining visitors at the asha-ka, I frequently crawled into his bed a couple of hours past midnight.

I muttered something inconsequential and burrowed my head underneath the pillow. “Go away.”

I heard him chuckle, and the mattress dipped farther. “Tea.”

“A few minutes.”

Kalen nudged the pillow out of the way. “I know you’re tired, but as generous as Zahid has been regarding our room accommodations, I don’t think sleeping in would be a good plan for today.”

That was true enough. Asha were offered some leeway when it came to pursuing personal relationships, as long as those relationships didn’t conflict with their duties. Lord Zahid, the Deathseekers’ master-at-arms, had been understanding of Kalen and me; Kalen’s fellow soldiers were not above some friendly ribbing. Faced with the choice between losing my visiting hours with Kalen or embarrassment from his mostly good-natured comrades, I had quickly learned to live with the latter.

“Five more minutes…”

His breath warmed the spot behind my neck, the part that never fails to break into goose bumps from his touch. His tongue flicked out, and within a few seconds, I was both wide eyed and wide awake.

“Kalen! You cheater!”

He laughed and dodged my attempts to flail at him. “Don’t make me kick you out.”

He was wearing a maroon jobba instead of the dark coat and pants he preferred. Deathseeker or not, Kalen was nobility, and any visits he made to allied countries required formal dress. Remembering that I too needed to hurry home and change given the crumpled state of my hua, I sat up and turned toward the mirror. With common cosmetics, I would have resembled a raccoon. With apothecary spells mixed in, my rouge and liner managed to look only slightly marred. “This is all your fault.”

“I know,” he agreed, unrepentant.

“It’s rare enough for Parmina to give me the night off. I should have been resting. You said you were going to walk me home.”

“We are home.”

“I meant to the Valerian, you lout.”

“I can walk you home now.”

I glared at him. He walked me home in the mornings, regardless of where we ended up the night before.

He smiled back. Gruff as he usually was, Kalen could look insidiously innocent if he wished. “And I will. Councilor Ludvig isn’t expecting us for another hour.”

“An hour?” I swore loudly and hopped out of bed, pulling on my hua haphazardly. “You never mentioned how late it was!”

“Yes. My trying to get you out of bed had nothing to do with that.”

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