Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(12)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(12)
Author: Marie Lu

He’s luring you there so that Teren can slit your throat.

The memory of Enzo fades, claimed by the whispers, and morphs instead into the image of him confronting me on Maeve’s ship, sword pointed straight ahead, wishing me dead. My heart ices over. You are only a ghost, I remind myself, pushing against the familiar tether between us with an illusion of ice, snow, cold. I hope he feels it, wherever he is. You are already dead to me.

A man is waiting for us on the lowest level, a marked soldier with a pale streak in his dark blond hair, grease glossy on his face, his Inquisition uniform stained and dirty with ash. He nods to Sergio and then bows low at me.

“Your Majesty,” he says. Then he holds an arm out toward the dungeons and ushers us along.

The palace’s cells are each their own space, with no bars and no windows. He leads us down a wide hall with iron doors lining either side of it, each one guarded by two Inquisitors. Some of the doors are spaced farther apart than others. When we near the end, we reach several that are spaced so far apart that I cannot see the next door from the one we’ve just passed. Finally, the dungeon keeper stops at the very last door on our right.

There are six Inquisitors outside this one, instead of two. They line up in formation when I approach, bow, and make way for the keeper. He takes out one key while the senior Inquisitor takes out a second. Undoing this lock requires inserting two keys simultaneously.

Sergio and I exchange a brief glance. The last time I saw Teren was several months ago, before our expedition to conquer Dumor. I wonder how Teren looks now.

The lock squeaks, then clicks—and the door edges open. I enter behind the Inquisitors.

The chamber is large and circular, with a high ceiling, lit by eight torches along the walls. There is a moat in here, with dirty water fed down from the pipes of the bathhouse. Soldiers line the walls. The moat surrounds an island of stone, and upon this island lies a figure, chained by a dozen heavy links anchored at the very edges and guarded by two soldiers who rotate out once an hour, assigned to raise and lower a rope bridge between the island and the rest of the chamber. The figure stirs when he hears us gather at the far side of the moat. In the torchlight, his hair shines gold, and when he lifts his face in our direction, his eyes glint a familiar madness. Pale, pulsing, colorless. Even now, with our roles reversed, his stare sends a surge of energy through me, a mix of fear and hate and excitement.

Teren smiles at me. His voice echoes in the chamber, low and smoky. “Mi Adelinetta.”

Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan

A letter from Raffaele should have arrived by dove today, but it didn’t. Maeve wonders whether the bird has been killed in flight or delayed by storms. The seas have been strange lately. Whatever the reason, she didn’t receive an answer yet on Lucent’s current condition—so she stays in the training yard long after midnight, restlessly swinging her wooden practice sword.

A few of her guards are scattered around the yard’s perimeter. Her brother Augustine is here too, helping her practice. He gives her a sympathetic look as she slowly swings her sword and stumbles in the dirt.

“You must be tired enough now to sleep,” Augustine says as he gently nudges Maeve back a step and waits for her to switch her stance. He uses his sword to gesture at the apartments. “Go, Your Majesty. You’re no good to anyone out here like this.”

Maeve shakes her head and scowls. She hefts her sword again. “I’ll stay,” she replies.

Augustine lunges at her. She blocks his attack, sidesteps, and swings her weapon high over her head. She brings it down at him and he stops it with his wooden blade. As Maeve grits her teeth, Augustine leans closer to her and frowns. “You need to go to Lucent,” he says. “I’m tired of seeing you like this.”

Maeve’s eyes flash in irritation. “I’m not going to leave my country behind just to visit an old riding companion.”

Augustine’s lips tense into a line. “Oh, for the gods’ sakes, Little Jac,” he snaps. “We know Lucent wasn’t just your riding companion.” At her stunned expression, Augustine laughs. “You are good at many things, but you are horrible at keeping your love interests a secret.”

Maeve’s temper flares. She pushes Augustine away and swings her sword at him again. The wooden blade hits him squarely in his side before he can block her attack. He grunts at the hit and doubles over. Maeve seizes the opportunity, knocks him flat on his back, and shoves her knee against his chest. She presses the sword roughly against his neck and Augustine holds his hands up in defeat. “I’m not leaving my country,” Maeve repeats through gritted teeth, “to visit an old riding companion. Not after our last battle. Adelina is on the move. She will come north.”

Augustine pushes her sword away. “So are you just going to wait for her to arrive on our shores?” he argues back. “Word is that she has taken Dumor. She may have set her sights on Tamoura for now, but soon she will turn her attention to the Skylands.”

Maeve sighs, lowering her sword. She hops back up and watches as Augustine struggles to his feet. “I can’t leave,” she repeats, quieter this time. “Tristan.”

At the mention of their youngest brother’s name, Augustine’s mood softens. “I know.”

“Did you see him yesterday?”

“Still the same, the doctors say. No change.”

Maeve forces herself to lift her sword and concentrate on Augustine again. She needs the distraction. Tristan has not said a word for weeks now—the longest he has ever gone—and his gaze these days is always fixed toward the sea, pointed in some direction to the south. What little spark of light that was left in his eyes has disappeared entirely, leaving behind flat pools and a vacant, lifeless stare. Once, when she’d brought him out to the winter carnivals with her, he’d attacked her in a state of confusion. He’d done it halfheartedly, like some part of him knew he didn’t want to, but even then, it had taken Augustine and another man to subdue him. Since then, he has not slept. He has instead stayed by his window, eyes turned to the sea.

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