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The Assassin and the Captain is a short scene, taking place in between of the Throne of Glass, between Chaol and Celaena.

Story

Celaena Sardothien, Erilea’s greatest assassin and now the King’s Champion, hadn’t bothered to hurry her black mare through the teeming streets of Rifthold. Even after two weeks of traveling to and from the base of the Ararat Mountains, even though she was half-frozen and covered in the dust of a hundred roads, she wasn’t all that eager to reach her final destination.

She wasn’t surprised to find Chaol Westfall standing at the bottom of the hill atop which the castle was perched—wasn’t surprised to see the half-dozen or so guards doing their best to pretend they weren’t watching every movement, or signaling up the winding path that she had returned. She’d already spotted the men Chaol had stationed in the city itself: at the wall gates, on street corners, on rooftops, all scouting for any sign of her return.

Chaol looked just as he had when she left, his black and gold uniform clean-pressed, the eagle-shaped pommel of his sword gleaming in the midmorning sun.

At least he was now using the blade. After killing Cain at the duel, he hadn’t worn it for the few weeks it’d taken her to recover from her injuries. When she’d left last month, he’d still been using another blade. Still had those shadows in his bronze eyes.

But those shadows were gone now, as she looked down at him from beneath the black cowl of her hood. He was just standing to the side of the gate, arms crossed over his broad chest, that familiar frown on his lips.

She clicked her tongue and dismounted, tossing the reins to one of the awaiting guards as she turned to face the captain. “What—no flowers?”

The frown deepened. She smiled broadly.

This had been her first mission, the first test of trust, and genuine ability. Celaena jerked her chin to one of the mare’s saddlebags. A massive lump pushed out from under the worn leather. “When do you suppose he’ll give me targets worthy of my skill?”

Chaol’s eyes flicked from her face to the head in the saddle bag, then back to her, the frown deepening. “You’re three days late.”

She shrugged, and didn’t wait for his permission to begin walking up the sloped path to the castle itself.  No, she didn’t need any sort of permission anymore—not as King’s Champion. But Chaol stiffened nonetheless.

She chuckled under her breath. “You try going to the foothills of the Ararat Mountains in the dead of winter and see if you make it anywhere on time. I almost lost my fingers and toes to the cold.” She wriggled the former in his face. “You don’t even want to know how I managed to keep warm.”

Nothing. Not even a hint of a smile.

Chaol’s eyes flicked from her face to the head in the saddle bag, then back to her, the frown deepening. “You’re three days late.”

She shrugged, and didn’t wait for his permission to begin walking up the sloped path to the castle itself.  No, she didn’t need any sort of permission anymore—not as King’s Champion. But Chaol stiffened nonetheless.

She chuckled under her breath. “You try going to the foothills of the Ararat Mountains in the dead of winter and see if you make it anywhere on time. I almost lost my fingers and toes to the cold.” She wriggled the former in his face. “You don’t even want to know how I managed to keep warm.”

Nothing. Not even a hint of a smile.

She sighed and looked skyward. “Will it be a whipping, or the rack, or shall I just be forced to attend the Queen’s Court for an afternoon?”

He didn’t react to that, either, but merely fell into step beside her. “I’m not the one you have to explain yourself to.”

She gave him a sidelong glance. “Were you worried I wouldn’t come back?” When he didn’t respond, she said, “How long before you sent out your dogs to hunt me down?”

He looked at her this time, his golden-brown eyes fierce. “A week. I’d have given you a week before I sent out my mento make inquiries. But you were lucky—news of Sir Carlin’s death reached us fairly soon after you…took care of him.”

Killed him. Slit his throat and cut off his head. Dumped his body in the Ararat River. She watched him silently, daring him to say it, but he had already looked away.

They were halfway up the long path before he quietly said, “Were you hurt at all?”

She snorted. “Killing men in their beds doesn’t involve much risk.”

His eyes narrowed.

And though she knew she shouldn’t, she added, “Or involve much honor. That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

A muscle feathered in his jaw. “I know what your position entails.”

But she still wondered if he’d somehow forgotten until now—as if the Yulemas ball and the duel with Cain had made him think she was someone else, someone harmless. A wolf with no fangs.

More silence, the castle growing ever-nearer. “I suppose His Majesty knows I’m here?”

“He wants to meet with you immediately. And bring your…proof.”

She made a face. “I knew he wanted the heads, but… He wants to see them in the meeting? Who will be there?”

“What concern is it to you?”

She shrugged again. Every detail of that meeting was a concern, especially Chaol with his too-keen eyes and ability to sniff out even the whitest of lies from her.

“I just want to know how candid I can be.”

“In front of the king? Do you want to wind up back in the mines?”

She gave him a sweet smile. “And here I was, thinking he and I had become such good friends.”

A flash of teeth. “Don’t you even thinkof—”

“A month without me and you’ve returned to taking me seriously? We’re back to that already?”

She hadn’t realized just how deep that question ran until he had stopped walking. 

For a moment, they just looked at each other, a moment during which she remembered that day after the duel when he’d held her—not a captain holding an assassin, or a friend holding a friend, but a man holding a woman…

If she tried to hold him now, would he shove her aside? She didn’t want to know—didn’t quite have the nerve to try it.

Or the nerve to wonder why she wanted to. “I trust you,” was all he said. “That’s why you had men around the city spying on me?”

“I had men around the city,” he said through gritted teeth, “because I wanted to have a chance to greet you first. To see if you were all right.”

She blinked and cocked her head. Looking after her, not spying. It had been so long since she’d had who cared enough to bother.

She had to swallow a few times before she could reply. “Of course I’m all right.” A stupid response, but he began walking again. She followed him, blinking against the brightness of melting snow off the glass castle.

“But if I wasn’t all right,” she dared ask, “what would you have done?” A shrug of those powerful shoulders. “It doesn’t matter now.”

“Indulge me.” He didn’t look at her as he said, “I would have done what I needed to do.” She ground her teeth. “Stop being so cagey.” “I don’t see how knowing it makes any difference.” She felt her nostrils flare, but kept her mouth shut.

Fine. They reached the front gates of the castle. The usual hustle and bustle of courtiers, servants, guards, and visitors was hardly lessened by the frigid day. She glanced up at the upper spires, her stomach twisting at more than the thought of climbing all those stairs to the king’s council room.

So much depended on this meeting—so much that she didn’t dare let herself think about it. And certainly not in front of Chaol, who could read her face with unnerving ease.

So she grinned before he could turn to glimpse her face, to discover the doubt and fear underneath. Absolute confidence, absolute arrogance: her best shields and most beloved masks.

“I hope His Majesty has a decent spread of food for me to eat while I’m being interrogated.”

“Watch your mouth or the only thing you’ll be eating is hot coals.”

“Do you actually make people do that?”

His eyes narrowed. “What kind of person do you take me for?”

“You are the Captain of the Guard of the most powerful man in the world. Wyrd knows what horrible things you’ve done to people.”

“You must be nervous as hell if you’re resorting to taunting me.”

She wouldn’t let that shake her, wouldn’t allow the grin or the swagger to pause for an instant. But she halted before the wide, sweeping front steps into the castle. The best lies were always mixed with the truth—let him believe what he would.

So much depended on this meeting—so much that she didn’t dare let herself think about it. And certainly not in front of Chaol, who could read her face with unnerving ease.

So she grinned before he could turn to glimpse her face, to discover the doubt and fear underneath.

Absolute confidence, absolute arrogance: her best shields and most beloved masks.

“I hope His Majesty has a decent spread of food for me to eat while I’m being interrogated.”

“Watch your mouth or the only thing you’ll be eating is hot coals.”

“Do you actually make people do that?”

His eyes narrowed. “What kind of person do you take me for?”

“You are the Captain of the Guard of the most powerful man in the world. Wyrd knows what horrible things you’ve done to people.”

“You must be nervous as hell if you’re resorting to taunting me.”

She wouldn’t let that shake her, wouldn’t allow the grin or the swagger to pause for an instant. But she halted before the wide, sweeping front steps into the castle. The best lies were always mixed with the truth—let him believe what he would.

“You know my history with His Majesty.” After all, he’d been the one to bring her to that meeting with the king on the first day of the competition. He’d seen her near-panic at the thought of meeting him, seen her go pale.

Undoubtedly, he was thinking of the same encounter. His eyes softened, and he put a hand on her shoulder. “Just—be polite. Submissive.”

“Now that is a true challenge worthy of me.”

A half-smile. “If you’re well-behaved, I’ll have a chocolate-hazelnut cake sent to your rooms during our lunch.”

“Our lunch?”

A hint of wariness, but a growing smile. “Unless you had someone else you’d prefer to dine with?”

She chewed on the inside of her lip, looking toward one of the stone towers—the tower in which Dorian had his rooms. She’d meant every word she’d said to the Crown Prince that day she’d ended things between them, and had kept away ever since.

So no—there was no one else she’d rather eat with today, not even Nehemia. “I suppose I could endure lunch with you,” she said.

She couldn’t help but wonder if his grin was from amusement or something else. But the full force of his smile was enough to make the world pause.

“I missed you,” she admitted.

Chaol’s smile faltered, and he again stared at her—questioning, calculating, wondering. She waited for him to look around, to factor in the people swarming the grounds and how best to respond, but he just kept looking at her. As if the world had paused for him, too.

And then he chuckled under his breath, more to himself than to her, and said, “It was boring as hell without you.”

She laughed, and ascended the steps into the castle. And though she didn’t reach for him, and though he didn’t offer his arm, they walked a bit closer as they made their way to the king.

Trivia

TBA

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