The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(8)

“You mean it would be riskier to put one person in charge of daeva if that bone witch hadn’t pledged absolute loyalty to the elders,” I corrected bitterly.

“There are precedents, Tea. There have been Dark asha in the past who’d given in to temptation.”

Still, if Isterans could treat Sakmeet well despite her abilities, then why couldn’t Kion treat Mykaela or me the same way? “Who was she?” I asked.


“The Dark asha Mykaela had to kill. The one who took in too much power and succumbed to the darkrot. Polaire told me about her once, but not in much detail.”

The matronly asha sighed. “It’s not something we like to talk about, child. And now is not the best time for these questions.”

I fell silent as we passed another crowd of people, some stopping to have a brief word with their liege before we moved on. Farsun was a city tucked under a constant blanket of ice, but business thrived. Brightly lit shops were adorned with signs inviting entry, and smoke spiraled out of chimneys, suggesting warmth within. Unlike Kion, there were no displays of opulence here; people chose comfort over luxury. Caps and cloaks were more commonplace than jewelry and spells. Rahim stood out among our lot, flaunting his bright, lavishly embroidered clothes without a care for frostbite.

“What happened to Sakmeet?” Kalen asked as we entered the great hall. From the outside, the royal palace was a forbidding stone fortress. Inside, fireplaces burned warmly, and long, complicated wall tapestries added touches of color amid the gray stone and cemented bricks. “The details of her death were hazy.”

King Rendorvik shook his head sadly. “We found her out in the snow, frozen to death. There was no mark of the daeva on her body, that much we could ascertain. She was prone to journeying on her own for weeks at a time, though we warned her it would grow more difficult in her old age. But she was quite a tenacious, if stubborn, lady. She would not permit us to assist her and insisted on her own independence despite the dangers. We mourned her loss and feared that the zarich might attack now that her hold on it was gone, but we have not heard word from it for the last two years. We have patrols stationed around the area, but the creature does not approach them.”

“I do not understand,” Rahim said. “What Tea has recently started with the azi, Sakmeet had been doing all this time? Why did we not know this?”

“Oh, you did know about it,” Councilor Ludvig said wryly. “I recommended that the Willows follow the same training Sakmeet experimented with long before Mykaela ever became asha. I was shot down every time. As Althy pointed out, there are dangers to controlling multiple daeva, and as it is, there aren’t enough Dark asha around to handle them all.”

“We’re not as luxurious as Kion,” King Rendor said, guiding us to our rooms. “But we claim the softest beds in all the eight kingdoms. Stay for as long as you wish. We rarely have the opportunity to entertain visitors this far north. Would there be anything else you require?”

I cleared my throat. “I was hoping to take a look at your library, Your Majes—Rendor.”

The king chuckled. “Ludvig told us that you were interested in our collection of books, but wouldn’t you rather relax first? It’s a long journey, even on daevaback.”

“I’m afraid our research is that important,” Khalad admitted. “I’m sure you know of the strange creatures sighted along your borders?”

Queen Daeria’s eyes widened, and husband and wife looked at each other. “So you’ve heard,” the king said finally. “Our soldiers have encountered three so far, but it’s three more than we desire. They’re unusual breeds, very unlike any daeva I’ve studied and hard, though not impossible, to kill. If we had encountered them in groups instead of on their own and had we not had at least thirty men in each case, we would have suffered more casualties. We do not know where the creatures came from, much less what they are or why they have been attacking us.”

“We’ve heard similar rumors from Tresea,” the queen chimed in, “though they’ve been tight-lipped about their own troubles. But what do our books have to do with any of this?”

“Your kingdom has the oldest known collection on runic magic, Your Highness,” Althy explained. “Our collection in Kion is severely limited. At this point, any knowledge would be beneficial, no matter how far-fetched.”

“I’ve found that old remedies are still the most effective,” the queen agreed. “Our library is open for your perusal whenever you wish.”

“I do not understand,” Rahim rumbled after we had unpacked and regrouped. “What breed of monster are we talking about?”

“It’s not something the asha elders want public,” Likh explained. “We’ve been hearing reports of odd monsters along the upper kingdoms. There’ve been some rumors in Odalia about similar demons. Except it’s not daeva—they’re far too small. And we can’t investigate in more detail or get support from Prince Kance in Kneave because…um…” The boy turned pale and cast an apologetic glance my way.

“Because Prince Kance doesn’t want anything to do with me right now,” I finished for him. It still hurt to say it, but I had burned my bridges to Odalia the instant I killed Aenah and destroyed Telemaine.

Rahim softened almost immediately, eyes growing bright with tears of sympathy. I saw the signs and was already bracing myself when he engulfed me with arms, twice the size of even Kalen’s. “My uchenik, this is not your doing. You are good person, and the prince will see it. That his father suffered under thrall of Faceless trash is not your doing. He will see in time, little one.”

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