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Kingdom of Ash

Sarah J. Maas

  For my parents—who taught me to believe that girls can save the world


  The Throne of Glass series

  The Assassin’s Blade

  Throne of Glass

  Crown of Midnight

  Heir of Fire

  Queen of Shadows

  Empire of Storms

  Tower of Dawn

  Kingdom of Ash


  The Throne of Glass Colouring Book

  A Court of Thorns and Roses series

  A Court of Thorns and Roses

  A Court of Mist and Fury

  A Court of Wings and Ruin

  A Court of Frost and Starlight


  A Court of Thorns and Roses Colouring Book


  The Prince

  The Princess

  Part One: Armies and Allies

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Part Two: Gods and Gates

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Chapter 92

  Chapter 93

  Chapter 94

  Chapter 95

  Chapter 96

  Chapter 97

  Chapter 98

  Chapter 99

  Chapter 100

  Chapter 101

  Chapter 102

  Chapter 103

  Chapter 104

  Chapter 105

  Chapter 106

  Chapter 107

  Chapter 108

  Chapter 109

  Chapter 110

  Chapter 111

  Chapter 112

  Chapter 113

  Chapter 114

  Chapter 115

  Chapter 116

  Chapter 117

  Chapter 118

  Chapter 119

  Chapter 120

  Chapter 121

  A Better World


  The Prince

  He had been hunting for her since the moment she was taken from him.

  His mate.

  He barely remembered his own name. And only recalled it because his three companions spoke it while they searched for her across violent and dark seas, through ancient and slumbering forests, over storm-swept mountains already buried in snow.

  He stopped long enough to feed his body and allow his companions a few hours of sleep. Were it not for them, he would have flown off, soared far and wide.

  But he would need the strength of their blades and magic, would need their cunning and wisdom before this was through.

  Before he faced the dark queen who had torn into his innermost self, stealing his mate long before she had been locked in an iron coffin. And after he was done with her, after that, then he’d take on the cold-blooded gods themselves, hell-bent on destroying what might remain of his mate.

  So he stayed with his companions, even as the days passed. Then the weeks.

  Then months.

  Still he searched. Still he hunted for her on every dusty and forgotten road.

  And sometimes, he spoke along the bond between them, sending his soul on the wind to wherever she was held captive, entombed.

  I will find you.

  The Princess

  The iron smothered her. It had snuffed out the fire in her veins, as surely as if the flames had been doused.

  She could hear the water, even in the iron box, even with the iron mask and chains adorning her like ribbons of silk. The roaring; the endless rushing of water over stone. It filled the gaps between her screaming.

  A sliver of island in the heart of a mist-veiled river, little more than a smooth slab of rock amid the rapids and falls. That’s where they’d put her. Stored her. In a stone temple built for some forgotten god.

  As she would likely be forgotten. It was better than the alternative: to be remembered for her utter failure. If there would be anyone left to remember her. If there would be anyone left at all.

  She would not allow it. That failure.

  She would not tell them what they wished to know.

  No matter how often her screams drowned out the raging river. No matter how often the snap of her bones cleaved through the bellowing rapids.

  She had tried to keep track of the days.

  But she did not know how long they had kept her in that iron box. How long they had forced her to sleep, lulled into oblivion by the sweet smoke they’d poured in while they traveled here. To this island, this temple of pain.

  She did not know how long the gaps lasted between her screaming and waking. Between the pain ending and starting anew.

  Days, months, years—they bled together, as her own blood often slithered over the stone floor and into the river itself.

  A princess who was to live for a thousand years. Longer.

  That had been her gift. It was now her curse.

  Another curse to bear, as heavy as the one placed upon her long before her birth. To sacrifice her very self to right an ancient wrong. To pay another’s debt to the gods who had found their world, become trapped in it. And then ruled it.

  She did not feel the warm hand of the goddess who had blessed and damned her with such terrible power. She wondered if that goddess of light and flame even cared that she now lay trapped within the iron box—or if the immortal had transferred her attentions to another. To the king who might offer himself in her stead and in yielding his life, spare their world.

  The gods did not care who pai
d the debt. So she knew they would not come for her, save her. So she did not bother praying to them.

  But she still told herself the story, still sometimes imagined that the river sang it to her. That the darkness living within the sealed coffin sang it to her as well.

  Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom …

  Down she would drift, deep into that darkness, into the sea of flame. Down so deep that when the whip cracked, when bone sundered, she sometimes did not feel it.

  Most times she did.

  It was during those infinite hours that she would fix her stare on her companion.

  Not the queen’s hunter, who could draw out pain like a musician coaxing a melody from an instrument. But the massive white wolf, chained by invisible bonds. Forced to witness this.

  There were some days when she could not stand to look at the wolf. When she had come so close, too close, to breaking. And only the story had kept her from doing so.

  Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom …

  Words she had spoken to a prince. Once—long ago.

  A prince of ice and wind. A prince who had been hers, and she his. Long before the bond between their souls became known to them.

  It was upon him that the task of protecting that once-glorious kingdom now fell.

  The prince whose scent was kissed with pine and snow, the scent of that kingdom she had loved with her heart of wildfire.

  Even when the dark queen presided over the hunter’s ministrations, the princess thought of him. Held on to his memory as if it were a rock in the raging river.

  The dark queen with a spider’s smile tried to wield it against her. In the obsidian webs she wove, the illusions and dreams she spun at the culmination of each breaking point, the queen tried to twist the memory of him as a key into her mind.

  They were blurring. The lies and truths and memories. Sleep and the blackness in the iron coffin. The days bound to the stone altar in the center of the room, or hanging from a hook in the ceiling, or strung up between chains anchored into the stone wall. It was all beginning to blur, like ink in water.

  So she told herself the story. The darkness and the flame deep within her whispered it, too, and she sang it back to them. Locked in that coffin hidden on an island within the heart of a river, the princess recited the story, over and over, and let them unleash an eternity of pain upon her body.

  Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom …


  Armies and Allies


  The snows had come early.

  Even for Terrasen, the first of the autumnal flurries had barreled in far ahead of their usual arrival.

  Aedion Ashryver wasn’t entirely sure it was a blessing. But if it kept Morath’s legions from their doorstep just a little longer, he’d get on his knees to thank the gods. Even if those same gods threatened everything he loved. If beings from another world could be considered gods at all.

  Aedion supposed he had more important things to contemplate, anyway.

  In the two weeks since he’d been reunited with his Bane, they’d seen no sign of Erawan’s forces, either terrestrial or airborne. The thick snow had begun falling barely three days after his return, hindering the already-slow process of transporting the troops from their assembled armada to the Bane’s sweeping camp on the Plain of Theralis.

  The ships had sailed up the Florine, right to Orynth’s doorstep, banners of every color flapping in the brisk wind off the Staghorns: the cobalt and gold of Wendlyn, the black and crimson of Ansel of Briarcliff, the shimmering silver of the Whitethorn royals and their many cousins. The Silent Assassins, scattered throughout the fleet, had no banner, though none was needed to identify them—not with their pale clothes and assortment of beautiful, vicious weapons.

  The ships would soon rejoin the rearguard left at the Florine’s mouth and patrol the coast from Ilium to Suria, but the footsoldiers—most hailing from Crown Prince Galan Ashryver’s forces—would go to the front.

  A front that now lay buried under several feet of snow. With more coming.

  Hidden above a narrow mountain pass in the Staghorns behind Allsbrook, Aedion scowled at the heavy sky.

  His pale furs blended him into the gray and white of the rocky outcropping, a hood concealing his golden hair. And keeping him warm. Many of Galan’s troops had never seen snow, thanks to Wendlyn’s temperate climate. The Whitethorn royals and their smaller force were hardly better off. So Aedion had left Kyllian, his most trusted commander, in charge of ensuring that they were as warm as could be managed.

  They were far from home, fighting for a queen they did not know or perhaps even believe in. That frigid cold would sap spirits and sprout dissent faster than the howling wind charging between these peaks.

  A flicker of movement on the other side of the pass caught Aedion’s eye, visible only because he knew where to look.

  She’d camouflaged herself better than he had. But Lysandra had the advantage of wearing a coat that had been bred for these mountains.

  Not that he’d said that to her. Or so much as glanced at her when they’d departed on this scouting mission.

  Aelin, apparently, had secret business in Eldrys and had left a note with Galan and her new allies to account for her disappearance. Which allowed Lysandra to accompany them on this task.

  No one had noticed, in the nearly two months they’d been maintaining this ruse, that the Queen of Fire had not an ember to show for it. Or that she and the shape-shifter never appeared in the same place. And no one, not the Silent Assassins of the Red Desert, or Galan Ashryver, or the troops that Ansel of Briarcliff had sent with the armada ahead of the bulk of her army, had picked up the slight tells that did not belong to Aelin at all. Nor had they noted the brand on the queen’s wrist that no matter what skin she wore, Lysandra could not change.

  She did a fine job of hiding the brand with gloves or long sleeves. And if a glimmer of scarred skin ever showed, it could be excused as part of the manacle markings that remained.

  The fake scars she’d also added, right where Aelin had them. Along with the laugh and wicked grin. The swagger and stillness.

  Aedion could barely stand to look at her. Talk to her. He only did so because he had to uphold this ruse, too. To pretend that he was her faithful cousin, her fearless commander who would lead her and Terrasen to victory, however unlikely.

  So he played the part. One of many he’d donned in his life.

  Yet the moment Lysandra changed her golden hair for dark tresses, Ashryver eyes for emerald, he stopped acknowledging her existence. Some days, the Terrasen knot tattooed on his chest, the names of his queen and fledgling court woven amongst it, felt like a brand. Her name especially.

  He’d only brought her on this mission to make it easier. Safer. There were other lives beyond his at risk, and though he could have unloaded this scouting task to a unit within the Bane, he’d needed the action.

  It had taken over a month to sail from Eyllwe with their newfound allies, dodging Morath’s fleet around Rifthold, and then these past two weeks to move inland.

  They had seen little to no combat. Only a few roving bands of Adarlanian soldiers, no Valg amongst them, that had been dealt with quickly.

  Aedion doubted Erawan was waiting until spring. Doubted the quiet had anything to do with the weather. He’d discussed it with his men, and with Darrow and the other lords a few days ago. Erawan was likely waiting until the dead of winter, when mobility would be hardest for Terrasen’s army, when Aedion’s soldiers would be weak from months in the snow, their bodies stiff with cold. Even the king’s fortune that Aelin had schemed and won for them this past spring couldn’t prevent that.

  Yes, food and blankets and clothes could be purchased, but when the supply lines were buried under snow, what good were they then? All
the gold in Erilea couldn’t stop the slow, steady leeching of strength caused by months in a winter camp, exposed to Terrasen’s merciless elements.

  Darrow and the other lords didn’t believe his claim that Erawan would strike in deep winter—or believe Ren, when the Lord of Allsbrook voiced his agreement. Erawan was no fool, they claimed. Despite his aerial legion of witches, even Valg foot soldiers could not cross snow when it was ten feet deep. They’d decided that Erawan would wait until spring.

  Yet Aedion was taking no chances. Neither was Prince Galan, who had remained silent in that meeting, but sought Aedion afterward to add his support. They had to keep their troops warm and fed, keep them trained and ready to march at a moment’s notice.

  This scouting mission, if Ren’s information proved correct, would help their cause.

  Nearby, a bowstring groaned, barely audible over the wind. Its tip and shaft had been painted white, and were now barely visible as it aimed with deadly precision toward the pass opening.

  Aedion caught Ren Allsbrook’s eye from where the young lord was concealed amongst the rocks, his arrow ready to fly. Cloaked in the same white and gray furs as Aedion, a pale scarf over his mouth, Ren was little more than a pair of dark eyes and the hint of a slashing scar.

  Aedion motioned to wait. Barely glancing toward the shape-shifter across the pass, Aedion conveyed the same order.

  Let their enemies draw closer.

  Crunching snow mingled with labored breathing.

  Right on time.

  Aedion nocked an arrow to his own bow and ducked lower on the outcropping.

  As Ren’s scout had claimed when she’d rushed into Aedion’s war tent five days ago, there were six of them.

  They did not bother to blend into the snow and rock. Their dark fur, shaggy and strange, might as well have been a beacon against the glaring white of the Staghorns. But it was the reek of them, carried on a swift wind, that told Aedion enough.

  Valg. No sign of a collar on anyone in the small party, any hint of a ring concealed by their thick gloves. Apparently, even demon-infested vermin could get cold. Or their mortal hosts did.

  Their enemies moved deeper into the throat of the pass. Ren’s arrow held steady.

  Leave one alive, Aedion had ordered before they’d taken their positions.

  It had been a lucky guess that they’d choose this pass, a half-forgotten back door into Terrasen’s low-lying lands. Only wide enough for two horses to ride abreast, it had long been ignored by conquering armies and the merchants seeking to sell their wares in the hinterlands beyond the Staghorns.