A Court of Wings and Ruin Page 148

Azriel did not confirm that he was there, that he’d heard.

Jurian studied me for a heartbeat longer. “Save a dagger for your own heart. If they catch you alive, the king will—” He shook his head. “Don’t let them catch you alive.”

Then he was gone.

Azriel emerged from the deep shadows in the corner of the tent a heartbeat later. He jerked his chin toward the curtains in the back. I began intoning one of Ianthe’s many prayers, a pretty speech I’d heard her say a thousand times at the Spring Court.

We rushed across the rugs, dodging tables and furniture. I chanted her prayers all the while.

Azriel slid back the curtain—

Elain was in her nightgown. Gagged, wrists wrapped in steel that glowed violet. Her eyes went wide as she saw us—Azriel and me—

I shifted my face back into my own, raising a hand to my lips as Azriel knelt before her. I kept up my litany of praying, beseeching the Cauldron to make my womb fruitful, on and on—

Azriel gently removed the gag from her mouth. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head, devouring the sight of him as if not quite believing it. “You came for me.” The shadowsinger only inclined his head.

“Hurry,” I whispered, then resumed my prayer. We had until it ran out.

Azriel’s Siphons flared, the one atop my head warming.

The magic did nothing when it came into contact with those bonds. Nothing.

Only a few more verses of my prayer left to chant.

Her wrists and ankles were bound. She couldn’t run out of here with them on.

I reached a hand toward her, scrambling for a thread of Helion’s power to unravel the king’s spell on the chains. But my magic was still depleted, in shambles—

“We don’t have time,” Azriel murmured. “He’s coming.”

The screaming and shouting began.

Azriel scooped up Elain, looping her bound arms around his neck. “Hold tight,” he ordered her, “and don’t make a sound.”

Barking and baying rent the night. I drew off the robe, and pocketed Azriel’s Siphon before palming two knives. “Out the back?”

A nod. “Get ready to run.”

My heart thundered. Elain glanced between us, but did not tremble. Did not cringe.

“Run, and don’t stop,” he told me. “We sprint for the western edge—the cliff.”

“If Jurian’s not there with the girl in time—”

“Then you will go. I’ll get her.”

I blew out a breath, steadying myself.

The barking and growling grew louder—closer.

“Now,” Azriel hissed, and we ran.

His Siphons blazed, and the canvas of the back of the tent melted into nothing. We bolted through it before the guards nearby noticed.

They didn’t react to us. Only peered at the hole.

Azriel had made us invisible—shadow-bound.

We sprinted between tents, feet flying over the grass and dirt. “Hurry,” he whispered. “The shadows won’t last long.”

For in the east, behind us … the sun was beginning to rise.

A piercing howl split the dying night. And I knew they’d realized what we’d done. That we were here. And even if they couldn’t see us … the King of Hybern’s hounds could scent us.

“Faster,” Azriel snarled.

The earth shuddered behind us. I didn’t dare look behind.

We neared a rack of weapons. I sheathed my knives, freeing my hands as we hurtled past and I snatched a bow and quiver of arrows from their stand. Ash arrows.

The arrows clacked as I slung the quiver over a shoulder. As I nocked an arrow into place.

Azriel cut right, swerving around a tent.

And with the angle … I turned and fired.

The nearest hound—it was not a hound, I realized as the arrow spiraled for its head.

But some cousin of the naga—some monstrous, scaled thing that thundered on all fours, serpentine face snarling and full of bone-shredding white teeth—

My arrow went right through its throat.

It went down, and we rounded the tent, hurtling for that still-dim western horizon.

I nocked another arrow.

Three others. Three more behind us, gaining with every clawed step—

I could feel them around us—Hybern commanders, racing along with the hounds, tracking the beasts because they still could not see us. That arrow I’d fired had told them enough about the distance. But the moment the hounds caught up … those commanders would appear. Kill us or drag us away.

Row after row of tents, slowly awakening at the ruckus in the center of the camp.

The air rippled, and I looked up to see the rain of ash arrows unleashed from behind, so many they were a blind attempt to hit any target—

Azriel’s blue shield shuddered at the impact, but held. Yet our shadows shivered and faded.

The hounds closed in, two breaking away—to cut to the side. To herd us.

For that was a cliff at the other edge of the camp. A cliff with a very, very long drop, and unforgiving river below.

And standing at its end, huddled in a dark cloak …

That was the girl.

Jurian had left her there—for us. Where he’d gone … I saw no sign of him.

But behind us, filling the air as if he’d used magic to do so … The king spoke.

“What intrepid thieves,” he drawled, the words everywhere and nowhere. “How shall I punish you?”

I had no doubt the wards ended just beyond the cliff’s edge. It was confirmed by the snarls of the hounds, who seemed to know that their prey would escape in less than a hundred yards. If we could jump far enough to be clear of them.

“Get her out, Azriel,” I begged him, panting. “I’ll get the other.”

“We’re all—”

“That’s an order.”

A clean shot, an unimpeded path right to that cliff’s edge, and to freedom beyond—

“You need to—” My words were cut off.

I felt the impact before the pain. The searing, burning pain that erupted through my shoulder. An ash arrow—

My feet snagged beneath me, blood spraying, and I hit the rocky ground so hard my bones groaned. Azriel swore, but with Elain in his arms, fighting—

The hounds were there in a second.

I fired an arrow at one, my shoulder screaming with the movement. The hound fell, clearing the view behind.

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