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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3. Chapter Three

 

Gods. Oh, gods.

 

Yrene’s breath came quickly as the girl stepped closer to the two remaining attackers. The mercenary who had been holding her barked a laugh, but the one by the door was wide-eyed. Yrene carefully, so carefully, backed away.

 

‘You killed my men?’ the mercenary said, blade held aloft.

 

The young woman flipped one of her daggers into a new position. The kind of position that Yrene thought would easily make the blade go straight up through the ribs and into the heart. ‘Let’s just say your men got what was coming to them.’

 

The mercenary lunged, but the girl was waiting. Yrene knew she should run – run and run and not look back – but the girl was only armed with two daggers, and the mercenary was enormous, and –

 

It was over before it really started. The mercenary got in two hits, both met with those wicked-looking daggers. And then she knocked him out cold with a swift blow to the head. So fast – unspeakably fast and graceful. A wraith moving through the mist.

 

He crumpled into the fog and out of sight, and Yrene didn’t listen too hard as the girl followed where he’d fallen.

 

Yrene whipped her head to the mercenary in the doorway, preparing to shout a warning to her saviour. But the man was already sprinting down the alley as fast as his feet could carry him.

 

Yrene had half a mind to do that herself, when the stranger emerged from the mist, blades clean but still drawn. Still ready.

 

‘Please don’t kill me,’ Yrene whispered. She was ready to beg, to offer everything in exchange for her useless, wasted life.

 

But the young woman just laughed under her breath and said, ‘What would have been the point in saving you, then?’

 

*

 

Celaena hadn’t meant to save the barmaid.

 

It had been sheer luck that she’d spotted the four mercenaries creeping about the streets, sheer luck that they seemed as eager for trouble as she was. She had hunted them into that alley, where she found them ready to hurt that girl in unforgivable ways.

 

The fight was over too quickly to really be enjoyable or be a balm to her temper. If you could even call it a fight.

 

The fourth one had got away, but she didn’t feel like chasing him, not with the serving-girl stood in front of her, shaking from head to toe. Celaena had a feeling hurling a dagger after the sprinting man would only make the girl start screaming. Or faint. Which would just . . . complicate things.

 

But the girl didn’t scream or faint. She just pointed a trembling finger at Celaena’s arm. ‘You . . . You’re bleeding.’

 

Celaena frowned down at the shining little spot on her bicep. ‘I suppose I am.’

 

A careless mistake. The thickness of her tunic had saved it from being a troublesome wound, but she’d have to clean it. It’d be healed in a week or less. She made to turn back to the street, to see what else she could find to amuse her, but the girl spoke again.

 

‘I-I-I could bind it up for you.’

 

She wanted to shake the girl. Shake her for about ten different reasons. The first, and biggest, was because she was trembling and scared and had been utterly useless. The second was for being stupid enough to just stand in that alley in the middle of the night. She didn’t feel like thinking about all the other reasons – not when she was already so angry.

 

‘I can bind myself up just fine,’ Celaena said, heading for the door that led into the White Pig’s kitchens. Days ago, she’d scoped out the inn and its surrounding buildings – and now could navigate it blindfolded.

 

‘Silba knows what was on that blade,’ the girl said, and Celaena paused. Invoking the Goddess of Healing. Very few did that these days – unless they were –

 

‘I – my mother was a Healer, and she taught me a few things,’ the girl stammered. ‘I could – I could . . . Please just let me repay the debt I owe you.’

 

‘You wouldn’t owe me anything if you’d used some common sense.’

 

The girl flinched as if Celaena had struck her. That just annoyed her even more. Everything annoyed her – this town, this kingdom, this cursed world.

 

‘I’m sorry,’ the girl said softly.

 

‘What are you apologizing to me for? Why are you apologizing at all? Those men had it coming. But you should have been smarter on a night like this – when I’d bet all my money that you could taste the aggression in that filthy damned taproom.’

 

It wasn’t the girl’s fault, she had to remind herself. Not her fault at all that she didn’t know how to fight back.

 

The girl put her face in her hands, her shoulders curving inwards. Celaena counted down the seconds until the girl burst into sobs, until she fell apart.

 

But the tears didn’t come. The girl just took a few deep breaths, then lowered her hands. ‘Let me clean your arm,’ she said in a voice that was . . . different, somehow. Stronger, clearer. ‘Or you’ll wind up losing it.’

 

And the slight change in the girl’s manner was interesting enough that Celaena followed her inside.

 

She didn’t bother about the three bodies in the alley. She had a feeling no one but the rats and carrion-feeders would care about them in this town.

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