The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass #0.1) - Chapter 10
And with a boom that echoed across the bay, the chain collapsed, taking out a chunk of the tower—taking out the spot where she’d last seen Sam.
Celaena, at the tower at last, paused to watch as the white sails of the slaves’ ships unfurled, glowing golden in the sunrise.
The wind filled their sails and set them cruising, flying swiftly from the mouth of the bay and into the ocean beyond it. By the time the pirates fixed their ships, the slaves would be too far away to catch.
She murmured a prayer for them to find a safe harbor, her words carrying on the wings of the wind, and wished them well.
A block of stone crashed near her. Celaena’s heart gave a lurch. Sam.
He couldn’t be dead. Not from that dagger, or those dozen pirates, or from the catapult. No, Sam couldn’t be so stupid that he’d get himself killed. She’d … she’d … Well, she’d kill him if he was dead.
Drawing her sword despite the ache in her arm, she made to rush into the half-wrecked tower, but a dagger pressed against her neck halted her in her tracks.
“I don’t think so,” Rolfe whispered in her ear.
“You make a move, and I’ll spill your throat on the ground,” Rolfe hissed, his free hand ripping Celaena’s dagger from its sheath and tossing it into the brush. Then he took her sword, too.
“Why not just kill me right now?”
Rolfe’s breathy laugh tickled her ear. “Because I want to take a long, long while to enjoy killing you.”
She stared at the half-ruined tower, at the dust still swirling from the catapult’s destruction. How could Sam have survived that?
“Do you know how much your attempt at playing hero cost me?” Rolfe pushed his blade into her neck, and her skin split open with a stinging burst. “Two hundred slaves, plus two ships, plus the seven ships you disabled in the harbor, plus countless lives.”
She snorted. “Don’t forget the ale from last night.”
Rolfe shifted his blade, digging in and making Celaena wince despite herself. “I’ll take that from your flesh, too, don’t worry.”
“How’d you find me?” She needed time. Needed something to work with. If she moved the wrong way, she’d find herself with a cut throat.
“I knew you’d follow Sam. If you were so set on freeing the slaves, then you certainly wouldn’t leave your companion to die alone. Though I think you arrived a bit too late for that.”
In the dense jungle, the cries of birds and beasts slowly returned. But the watchtower remained silent, interrupted only by the hiss of crumbling stone.
“You’re going to return with me,” Rolfe said. “And after I’m done with you, I’ll contact your master to come pick up the pieces.”
Rolfe took a step, pivoting them toward the town, but Celaena had been waiting.
Throwing her back into his chest, she hooked her foot behind his. Rolfe stumbled, tripping over her leg, and she wedged her hand between her neck and his dagger just as he remembered to act on his promise to slit her throat.
Blood from her palm splattered down her tunic, but she shoved the pain aside and butted her elbow into his stomach. Rolfe’s breath whooshed out of him, and he doubled over, only to meet her knee slamming into his face. A faint crack sounded as her kneecap connected with his nose. When she hurled Rolfe to the dirt, blood was on her pant leg—his blood.
She grabbed his fallen dagger as the Pirate Lord reached for his sword. He scrambled to his knees, lunging for her, but she stomped her foot down upon his sword, sending it crashing to the ground. Rolfe raised his head just in time for her to knock him onto his back. Crouching over him, she held his dagger to his throat.
“Well, that didn’t go the way you expected, did it?” she asked, listening for a moment to ensure no pirates were about to come crashing down the road. But the animals still hooted and screeched, the insects still hummed. They were alone. Most of the pirates were probably still brawling in the town.
Her hand throbbed, blood pouring out as she grasped the collar of his tunic to lift his head closer to hers.
“So,” she said, her smirk widening at the blood dripping from his nose. “This is what’s going to happen.” She dropped his collar and fished out the two papers from inside her tunic. Compared to the pain in her hand, the injury on her arm had faded to a dull pulsing. “You are going to sign these and stamp each with your seal.”
“I refuse,” Rolfe seethed.
“You don’t even know what they say.” She pushed the tip of his dagger into his heaving throat. “So allow me to clarify: one of these is a letter to my master. It says that the deal is over, that you won’t be sending him slaves, and if you catch him entering into another slave-trade agreement with anyone else, you’ll bring your whole armada to punish him.”
Rolfe choked. “You’re insane.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But I’m not done yet.” She picked up the second letter. “This one … I wrote this one for you. I did my best to try to write it in your voice, but you’ll forgive me if it’s a tad more elegant than you’re used to being.” Rolfe struggled, but she pushed the blade a little harder, and he stopped. “Basically,” she said, sighing dramatically, “this one says that you, Captain Rolfe, bearer of the magical map inked on your hands, will never, ever sell a slave again. And if you catch any pirates selling or transporting or trading slaves, you’ll hang, burn, or drown them yourself. And that Skull’s Bay is forevermore a safe haven for any slaves fleeing Adarlan’s clutches.”
Rolfe practically had steam blowing out his ears. “I won’t sign either of them, you stupid girl. Don’t you know who I am?”
“Fine,” she said, angling the blade to sink into his neck more easily. “I memorized your signature when I was in your office that first day. It won’t be hard to forge. And as for your seal ring …” She removed something else from her pocket. “I also took that the first day in your office, just in case I needed it. Turns out I was right.” Rolfe croaked as she held it up in her free hand, the garnet flashing in the light. “I figure I can return to town and tell your cronies that you decided to set sail after those slaves, and to expect you back in … I don’t know—six months? A year? Long enough that they won’t notice the grave I’ll dig for you right off the road here. Frankly, you’ve seen who I am, and I should end your life for it. But consider it a favor—and a promise that if you don’t follow my orders, I’ll change my decision to spare you.”
Rolfe’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Why?”
“You’ll have to clarify that.”
He took a breath. “Why go to so much trouble for slaves?”
“Because if we don’t fight for them, who will?” She pulled a fountain pen from her pocket. “Sign the papers.”
Rolfe raised an eyebrow. “And how will you know that I’m holding true to my word?”
She removed the dagger from his throat, using the blade to brush back a strand of his dark hair. “I have my sources. And if I hear that you’re trading slaves, no matter where you go, no matter how far you run, I will hunt you down. That’s twice now I’ve disabled you. The third time, you won’t be so lucky. I swear that on my name. I’m almost seventeen, and I can already wallop you; imagine how good I’ll be in a few years.” She shook her head. “I don’t think you’ll want to try me now—and certainly not then.”
Rolfe stared at her for a few heartbeats. “If you ever set foot in my territory again, your life is forfeit.” He paused, then muttered, “May the gods help Arobynn.” He took the pen. “Any other requests?”
She eased off him, but kept the dagger in her hand. “Why, yes,” she said. “A ship would be nice.”
Rolfe only glared at her before he grabbed the documents.
When Rolfe had signed, stamped, and handed the documents to Celaena, she took the liberty of knocking him out again. Swift blows to two points in his neck did the trick, and he’d be out long enough for her to accomplish what she needed: to find Sam.
She raced up the half-crumbling stairs of the tower, leaping over pirate corpses and chunks of stone, not stopping until she found the crushed bodies of the dozen pirates who were closest to Sam and the ruins of the catapults. Blood, bone, squished bits of flesh that she didn’t particularly care to look at for too long …
“Sam!” she shouted, slipping over a bit of debris. She heaved a slab of wood off the side, scanning the landing for any sign of him. “Sam!”
Her hand began bleeding again, leaving smears of blood as she turned over stone and wood and metal. Where was he?
It had been her plan. If one of them had to die for it, it should have been her. Not him.
She reached the second catapult, its entire frame snapped in half from a fallen piece of tower. She’d last seen him here. A slab of stone jutted up from where it had hit the landing. It was large enough to have squashed someone beneath.
She hurled herself against it, her feet sliding against the ground as she pushed and pushed and pushed. The stone didn’t move.
Grunting, gasping, she shoved harder. Still the stone was too large.
Cursing, she beat a fist against the gray surface, her injured hand aching in protest. The pain snapped something open, and she struck the stone again and again, clenching her jaw to keep the building scream inside of her.
“For some reason, I don’t think that’s going to make the rock move,” said a voice, and Celaena whirled.
Emerging from the other side of the landing was Sam. He was covered head to toe in gray dust, and blood leaked from a cut in his forehead, but he was …
She lifted her chin. “I’ve been shouting for you.”
Sam shrugged, sauntering over to her. “I figured you could wait a few minutes, given that I saved the day and all.” His brows rose high on his ash-covered face.
“Some hero.” She gestured to the ruin of the tower around them. “I’ve never seen such sloppy work.”
Sam smiled, his brown eyes turning golden in the dawn. It was such a Sam look, the twinkle of mischief, the hint of exasperation, the kindness that would always, always make him a better person than she was.
Before she knew what she was doing, Celaena threw her arms around him and held him close.
Sam stiffened, but after a heartbeat, his arms came around her. She breathed him in—the smell of his sweat, the tang of the dust and rock, the metallic odor of his blood … Sam rested his cheek on her head. She couldn’t remember—honestly couldn’t recall—the last time anyone had held her. No, wait—it had been a year ago. With Ben, after she’d come back from a mission two hours late and with a sprained ankle. He’d been worried, and given how close she’d come to being captured by the royal guards, she was more than a bit shaken.
But embracing Sam was different, somehow. Like she wanted to curl into his warmth, like for one moment, she didn’t have to worry about anything or anybody.
“Sam,” she murmured into his chest.
She peeled away from him, stepping out of his arms. “If you ever tell anyone about me embracing you … I’ll gut you.”
Sam gaped at her, then tipped his head back and laughed. He laughed and laughed, until dust lodged in his throat and he launched into a coughing fit. She let him suffer through it, not finding it very funny at all.
When he could breathe again, Sam cleared his throat. “Come on, Sardothien,” he said, slinging an arm around her shoulders. “If you’re done liberating slaves and destroying pirate cities, then let’s go home.”
Celaena glanced at him sidelong and grinned.