The Assassin and the Healer

Meet the Assassin: beautiful, defiant, destined for greatness. Celaena Sardothien has challenged her master. Now she must pay the price. Her journey to the Red Desert will be an arduous one, but it may change the fate of her cursed world for ever...

A prequel to the international bestseller Throne of Glass, sold in 13 languages pre-publication.  

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5. Chapter Five

 

In the darkened kitchen, Yrene leaned against the back door, a hand on her hammering heart as she listened to the melee outside. Earlier, the girl had the element of surprise – but how could she face them again?

 

Her hands trembled as the sound of clashing blades and shouts filtered through the crack beneath the door. Thumps, grunts, growls. What was going on?

 

She couldn’t stand it, not knowing what was happening to the girl.

 

It went against every instinct to open up the back door and peer out.

 

Her breath caught in her throat at the sight:

 

The mercenary who had escaped earlier had returned with more friends – more skilled friends. Two were face down on the cobblestones, pools of blood around them. But the remaining three were engaged with the girl, who was – was –

 

Gods, she moved like a black wind, such lethal grace and –

 

A hand closed over Yrene’s mouth as someone grabbed her from behind and pressed something cold and sharp against her throat. There was another man – he had come in through the inn.

 

‘Walk,’ he breathed in her ear, his voice rough and foreign. She couldn’t see him, couldn’t tell anything about him beyond the hardness of his body, the reek of his clothes, the scratch of a heavy beard against her cheek. He flung open the door and, still holding the dagger to Yrene’s neck, strode into the alley.

 

The young woman stopped fighting. Another mercenary had gone down, and the two before her had their blades pointed at her.

 

‘Drop your weapons,’ the man said. Yrene would have shaken her head to warn her not to put up a fight, but the dagger was pressed so close that any movement would have slit her own throat.

 

The young woman eyed her assailants, then Yrene’s captor, then Yrene herself. Calm – utterly calm and cold as she bared her teeth in a feral grin. ‘Come and get them.’

 

Yrene’s stomach dropped. The man had just to shift his wrist and he’d spill her life’s blood. She wasn’t ready to die – not now, not in Innish.

 

Her captor chuckled. ‘Bold and foolish words, girl.’ He pushed the blade harder, and Yrene winced. She felt the dampness of her blood before she realised he’d cut a thin line across her neck. Silba save her!

 

But the girl’s eyes were on Yrene, and they narrowed slightly. In challenge, in a command. Fight back, she seemed to say. Fight for your miserable life.

 

The two men with the swords circled closer, but she didn’t lower her blade.

 

‘Drop your weapons before I cut her open,’ Yrene’s captor growled. ‘Once we’re done making you pay for our comrades, for all the money you cost us with their deaths, maybe we’ll let her live.’ He squeezed Yrene tighter, but the young woman just watched him. The mercenary hissed, ‘Drop your weapons.’

 

She didn’t.

 

Gods, she was going to let him kill her, wasn’t she?

 

Yrene couldn’t die like this – not here, not as a no-name barmaid in this horrible place. Her mother had gone down swinging – her mother had fought for her, had killed those two soldiers so Yrene could have a chance to flee, to make something of her life. To do some good for the world.

 

She wouldn’t die like this.

 

The rage hit, so staggering that Yrene could hardly see through it, could hardly see anything except a year in Innish, a future beyond her grasp, and a life she was not ready to part with.

 

She gave no warning before she stomped down as hard as she could on the bridge of the man’s foot. He jerked, howling, as Yrene brought up her arms, shoving the dagger from her throat with one hand as she drove her elbow into his gut. Drove it with every bit of rage she had burning in her. He groaned as he doubled over, and she slammed her elbow into his temple, just as the girl had shown her.

 

The man collapsed to his knees, and Yrene bolted. To flee, to get help, she didn’t know.

 

But the girl was already standing in front of her, grinning broadly. Behind her, the two men lay unmoving. And the man on his knees –

 

Yrene dodged aside as the young woman grabbed the gasping man and dragged him into the dark mist beyond. There was a muffled scream, then a thump.

 

And despite her healer’s blood, despite the stomach she’d inherited, Yrene barely made it two steps into the alley before she vomited.

 

When she was done, she found the young woman watching her again, smiling faintly. ‘Fast learner,’ she said. Her fine clothes, even her darkly glittering ruby brooch, were covered with blood. Not her own, Yrene noted with some relief. ‘You sure you want to be a healer?’

 

Yrene wiped her mouth on the corner of her apron. She didn’t want to know what the alternative was – what this girl might be. No, all she wanted was to smack her. Hard.

 

‘You could have dispatched them without me! But you let that man hold a knife to my throat – you let him! Are you insane?’

 

The girl smirked in such a way that said yes, she was most certainly insane. But she said, ‘Those men were a joke. I wanted you to get some real experience in a controlled environment.’

 

‘You call that controlled?’ Yrene couldn’t help shouting. She put a hand to the already-clotted slice in her neck. It would heal quickly but might scar. She’d have to attend to it immediately.

 

‘Look at it this way, Yrene Towers: now you know you can do it. That man was twice your weight and had almost a foot on you, and you downed him in a few heartbeats.’

 

‘You said those men were a joke.’

 

A fiendish grin. ‘To me, they are.’

 

Yrene’s blood chilled. ‘I – I’ve had enough of today. I think I need to go to bed.’

 

The girl sketched a bow. ‘And I should probably be on my way. Word of advice: wash the blood out of your clothes and don’t tell anyone what you saw tonight. Those men might have more friends, and as far as I’m concerned, they were the unfortunate victims of a horrible robbery.’ She held up a leather pouch, heavy with coins, and stalked past Yrene into the inn.

 

Yrene spared a glance at the bodies, felt a heavy weight drop into her stomach and followed the girl inside. She was still furious with her, still shaking with the remnants of terror and desperation.

 

So she didn’t say goodbye to the deadly girl as she vanished.

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