The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(5)

Mykaela shook her head. “We still have much work to do, Tea. It’s hard enough for the asha association to relinquish one bone witch, much less two.” She smiled at me and took my hand. “There are other battles to be fought here. And I expect you to bring back valuable information when you return.”

I nodded. The asha association and I were not on the best of terms. I believed they were at least partly responsible for losing Mykaela’s heartsglass, to prevent her from becoming too powerful for their interests. But Mykaela and the others didn’t think they would go so far. They believed the association hoarded their influence while still adhering to the asha codes. I had little evidence to change their minds.

Recently, we’d received word about strange creatures prowling near Istera—creatures that resembled smaller daeva. Officially, we were to head to the ice kingdom to investigate the sightings. Unofficially, we were following up on the only lead we had: Aenah’s cryptic words before she died.

In her last moments, the Faceless had shared how the legend of the Blade that Soars and Dancing Wind were corrupted sources, and that only the true version held the answers to the mysterious and powerful shadowglass that Aenah and the elder asha were keen on possessing. We hoped that Istera, which was home to the world’s oldest library and largest collection of books on runic magic and asha history, would provide clues.

“I’ve never ridden dragons before,” Rahim said to me, rubbing his hands excitedly. “But ah, my uchenik, I always wanted to.”

“Always wanted to?” echoed Likh, who had ridden the azi before and did not feel the same way.

“It must feel good to be up so high, looking down at the world below.” Rahim combed at his beard with thick fingers. “Good to think about how little one’s problems can be when everything is small in the grand scheme of things, no? Was that not how you felt when you rode the azi, dear Likh?”

“I was mostly thinking about not throwing up,” my new asha-brother admitted, the latest recruit to House Valerian. The asha association had initially opposed his candidacy, but after his part in fighting the Faceless in Daanoris had been revealed, support for him among the other asha had been too overwhelming for the association not to concede.

“We’d best be going, Tea,” Khalad reminded me with a small smile. “Let’s not keep Mistress Parmina waiting.”

I laughed at that, then cast my mind out, searching—and finding—my target as its familiar presence seeped into my thoughts like molasses over scones. The asha association had wanted me to kill the azi. With both Mykaela and Empress Alyx’s blessing, I had refused. Controlling the azi made the association wary to plot directly against me. And a docile azi, much to my surprise, had brought even more tourists to Ankyo. Where my attempts at invoking empathy in the asha leaders had failed, greed had prevailed. “It’s here,” I confirmed.

The words were barely out of my mouth when the azi landed, not ungracefully, several meters away. The sight of the three-headed dragon was familiar to many of us in our gathering, but Councilor Ludvig and Rahim swore in unison, staring at the large daeva. Likh gripped Khalad’s arm.

“Good luck,” Zoya said, as the Heartforger began clambering up the beast’s back, assisting a nervous Likh once he found steadier footing. “Just so it’s official, Tea, I will be crashing in your room while you’re away.”

I rolled my eyes. “Everyone knows you’ll be in Shadi’s room, Zoya, no matter what Mistress Parmina promised you.”

The asha grinned as the others dragged personal trunks up the azi, the creature sitting quietly with minimal fuss.

“Be careful,” Mykkie told me. “None of those reports we’ve received from Istera match what we know of daeva. Keep an eye out, and you and Althy watch over Likh. This is only his second trip outside of Ankyo.”

“I will.” I hugged her. “Don’t overwork yourself.”

“I will try. I shall let Fox know of new developments here, so he can relay them to you.” She stepped back and looked up at the azi. It crooned and bowed its head respectfully at her.

“You better not get into trouble in Istera without me around,” Fox said.

“You better not get into trouble in Kion without me around,” I shot back, and nearly knocked him over with the force of my embrace.

“Quit dillydallying,” Althy said from atop the dragon. “Or we’ll be all day trading good-byes.”

I hugged Fox one last time, did the same to Inessa, and accepted Kalen’s help climbing up the azi. Once we were all settled, the daeva made a soft keening noise and flapped its magnificent wings. It leaped into the air, and I watched as my friends grew smaller as the azi ascended. The creature sang out. Rahim swore again.

Smiling, I glanced down for one last look at Ankyo—and startled, mouth agape.

The city was on fire. Balls of flame fanned against the gates, and I watched in horror as buildings and houses collapsed, thick clouds of dark smoke rising to obscure my view. Everything burned—


I jumped when a hand touched my shoulder.

Kalen looked at me quizzically. “Is something the matter?”

“I…” The city of Ankyo gleamed back at me from below, pristine and unchanged. Soon, even that view disappeared, as the azi barreled through the sky, the Swiftsea soon replacing the land below us.

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