The Assassin's Blade

By: Sarah J. Maas

CHAPTER

1


Seated in the council room of the Assassins’ Keep, Celaena Sardothien leaned back in her chair. “It’s past four in the morning,” she said, adjusting the folds of her crimson silk dressing gown and crossing her bare legs beneath the wooden table. “This had better be important.”

“Perhaps if you hadn’t been reading all night, you wouldn’t be so exhausted,” snapped the young man seated across from her. She ignored him and studied the four other people assembled in the underground chamber.

All male, all far older than she, and all refusing to meet her stare. A chill that didn’t have to do with the drafty room ran down her spine. Picking at her manicured nails, Celaena schooled her features into neutrality. The five assassins gathered at the long table—including herself—were five of Arobynn Hamel’s seven most trusted companions.

This meeting was undeniably important. She’d known that from the moment the serving girl pounded on her door, insisting Celaena come downstairs and not even bother to get dressed. When Arobynn summoned you, you didn’t keep him waiting. Thankfully, her sleepwear was as exquisite as her daytime wardrobe—and cost nearly as much. Still, being sixteen in a room with men made her keep an eye on the neckline of her robe. Her beauty was a weapon—one she kept honed—but it could also be a vulnerability.

Arobynn Hamel, King of the Assassins, lounged at the head of the table, his auburn hair shining in the light from the glass chandelier. His silver eyes met hers, and he frowned. It might have just been the late hour, but Celaena could have sworn that her mentor was paler than usual. Her stomach twisted.

“Gregori’s been caught,” Arobynn finally said. Well, that would explain one person missing from this meeting. “His mission was a trap. He’s now being held in the royal dungeons.”

Celaena sighed through her nose. This was why she’d been awakened? She tapped a slippered foot on the marble floor. “Then kill him,” she said.

She’d never liked Gregori, anyway. When she was ten, she’d fed his horse a bag of candy and he’d thrown a dagger at her head for it. She’d caught the dagger, of course, and ever since, Gregori had borne the scar on his cheek from her return throw.

“Kill Gregori?” demanded Sam, the young man seated at Arobynn’s left—a place that usually went to Ben, Arobynn’s second-in-command. Celaena knew very well what Sam Cortland thought of her. She’d known since they were children, when Arobynn took her in and declared her—not Sam—to be his protégée and heir. That hadn’t stopped Sam from trying to undermine her at every turn. And now, at seventeen, Sam was still a year older than she, and he still hadn’t forgotten that he would always be second best.

She bristled at the sight of Sam in Ben’s seat. Ben would probably throttle Sam for it when he arrived. Or she could just save Ben the effort and do it herself.

Celaena looked to Arobynn. Why hadn’t he reprimanded Sam for sitting in Ben’s place? Arobynn’s face, still handsome despite the silver starting to show in his hair, remained impassive. She hated that unreadable mask, especially when controlling her own expressions—and temper—remained a tad difficult.

“If Gregori’s been caught,” Celaena drawled, brushing back a strand of her long, golden hair, “then the protocol’s simple: send an apprentice to slip something into his food. Nothing painful,” she added as the men around her tensed. “Just enough to silence him before he talks.”

Which Gregori might very well do, if he was in the royal dungeons. Most criminals who went in there never came out again. Not alive. And not in any recognizable shape.

The location of the Assassins’ Keep was a well-guarded secret, one she’d been trained to keep until her last breath. But even if she didn’t, no one was likely to believe that an elegant manor house on a very respectable street in Rifthold was home to some of the greatest assassins in the world. What better place to hide than in the middle of the capital city?

“And if he’s already talked?” challenged Sam.

“And if Gregori’s already talked,” she said, “then kill everyone who heard.” Sam’s brown eyes flashed as she gave him a little smile that she knew made him irate. Celaena turned to Arobynn. “But you didn’t need to drag us here to decide this. You already gave the order, didn’t you?”

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