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The Crown of Gilded Bones: Chapter 37


The weight of the gilded crown was unexpected, lighter than I imagined but only in the physical sense. An intangible heaviness came with it, one that spoke of thousands of years of decisions, choices, sacrifices, and gains.

But I would bear the weight because I’d sworn to, just like Casteel had.

He looked rather striking with the crown resting upon his head.

I looked over at him as we stood just inside the palace foyer before a row of banners that hung from the ceiling to rest a scant inch or two from the floor. The palace staff had been called and briefly introduced to us by Eloana and Valyn. There had been hundreds of them, from kitchen staff to housekeeping to the stable hands and those responsible for the grounds. My head had spun from all the faces and names, and now they were filing out from the foyer while my gaze swept over Casteel.

He wore the crown as if he’d been born to.

Eloana approached us, along with an older woman wearing a long-sleeved gown of gold—the color that all the staff wore. I’d learned that many lived within the palace on the floors above, while some maintained homes offsite with family. I’d been shocked to learn that they held quarters among the Lords and Ladies. In Solis, the staff was considered servants, and they shared bare rooms lined with cots and very little personal items.

“I would like to introduce you to Rose,” Casteel’s mother said, touching the woman’s arm. “She is the palace manager—or the magician of the palace. Whatever you need or would like done, she is your woman.”

Rose bowed as warmth and bubbly happiness radiated from her. “It will be an honor to serve Your Majesties.”

“It will be an honor to have you continue on as the magician of the palace,” Casteel replied smoothly.

A bright smile broke out across Rose’s face. “The Royal Chambers are being cleared as we speak, and I took it upon myself to have some of your personal items moved, Your Majesty.” This was said to Casteel, and I was curious to discover what these personal items were. “I have already had refreshments sent to the State Room for your session with the Council of Elders. Is there anything else that you would like?”

I couldn’t think of anything.

“There is one thing.” Casteel looked over at me, his eyes twinkling. “I believe my wife and I would like to make a change.”

My gaze flew to the banners. “The crest,” I blurted out, and both Rose and Casteel’s mother turned to look at the banners. “I mean, I would like to change the Atlantian Crest. I was told that we could.”

“You can.” Eloana turned back to us.

“Yes.” Rose nodded. “What change would you like to make?”

I glanced at Casteel, grinning when he winked. “I would like the arrow and sword to be crossed equally over one another so that neither is longer than the other.”

“We can do that,” Rose conferred while I felt a splash of surprise from Casteel’s mother. “I will have the banners pulled down at once and send word to the steel workers, seamstresses, and leather shops that they can expect an influx of work—which they will be happy to hear,” she added quickly and brightly. “There are saddles and stamps, shields and flags which will need to be changed. The banners we could have completed within the week, the shields will take a bit longer. And the rest—”

“There is no rush,” I assured her. “Whenever it can be done is fine.”

Her look turned perplexed. “It will be done at once. Anything else?”

“I…I don’t think so?” I said.

Casteel shook his head. “That should be all for now.”

“Perfect.” She bowed and then spun, hurrying off as she motioned to several staff members who waited by the walls.

“She is mortal. I know you were going to ask,” Casteel stated before I could do just that. “I don’t think she has any Atlantian blood in her. Does she, Mother?”

Eloana shook her head. “Many generations ago, her family did, but by now, she is of a mortal line. I was surprised by your request,” she admitted, turning to me. “The sword represents the strongest one in the union. That would be you, Your Majesty.”

Casteel was utterly unfazed by the blunt statement. “I believe that Casteel and I are of equal strength,” I reasoned, a little surprised that she would even question it. “I want the people of Atlantia to see us as such.”

Eloana held my gaze for several moments and then nodded. “I think that is a wise choice,” she said finally.

“And, please, just call me Penellaphe,” I said.

Her smile widened as she nodded. “I will join you all shortly in the State Room.” She started to turn and then faced Casteel. Her gaze roamed over his face. “I am so very proud of you today.” Stretching up, she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

Casteel cleared his throat. “Thank you.”

His mother smiled and then left, heading down the same hall that Rose had disappeared down. She was leaving to make sure the announcements were sent out.

“Ready?” he asked.

I nodded.

Taking my hand, we walked forward under the banners and into a hall straight ahead. Evaemon Palace was a surprise. Based on the exterior alone, I would’ve imagined that the inside would be cold and unwelcoming, but only the floors were made of the crisp black I now knew was shadowstone. The walls were covered with a cream-hued type of plaster, and all the windows and glass ceilings let in a surprising amount of natural light.

Staff hurried along the sides of the corridor near the walls, stopping to bow hastily before disappearing into other wider halls. I caught sight of a sparse atrium, one full of night-blooming roses, and the hall we entered had numerous closed doors.

“These are meeting spaces,” Casteel explained, his hand wrapped firmly around mine. Kieran, Delano, Emil, and Naill walked with us. Some of the wolven had remained in the foyer while Vonetta and Lyra followed with a dozen or so wolven.

They weren’t the only ones who trailed behind us. From the moment the crowns had been placed on our heads, Hisa and several Crown Guards followed. I wondered if it was strange for them to switch who they protected so quickly, and if it was also odd for Casteel’s parents to suddenly be lacking familiar shadows—although at least two guards had flanked Eloana when she parted ways with us in the foyer.

The hall we traveled down spilled into another foyer, one where a grand staircase spiraled up to the second floor and several above it. “Guest rooms are above, along with the staff rooms.”

I resisted the urge to break from Casteel and rush over to the staircase to see if the black stone of the banister was as smooth as it looked. “What—what about our rooms?”

“They are the east wing,” he answered, nodding at an older male who descended the stairs, carrying a platter of empty glasses.

“Oh,” I murmured and then frowned. “Wait. They’re in the east wing, right?”

A smirk appeared as Kieran said, “His and Her Majesty’s quarters are the east wing.”

I…

Well, I had nothing to say to that as we entered the hall beyond the staircase, passing several paintings I would have to stop and look at later when I wasn’t thinking about the fact that the Royal Chambers were an entire wing of the palace. “Where will your parents live?” I blurted out the thought as it occurred to me.

Casteel grinned. “They will probably remain here for a bit while the transition is made, and then they’ll either stay or move to one of the estates.”

“Oh,” I repeated.

We entered a circular chamber where the breezeways connected the east and west wings. A goddess statue stood in the middle, her arms stretched above her head and palms tilted upward. I had no idea which goddess she was, but she was definitely…ample in the hips and chest areas.

We passed a family room, a rather inviting space with couches and thick carpets and a glass ceiling, and then continued on through the Great Hall and past a dining area large enough to seat dozens.

The State Room was more than one space, situated toward the west wing of the palace. Cream settees lined the walls of the reception hall, placed in between large potted plants with leafy palms. Staff lingered near the banquet tables, where people I assumed were members of the Council helped themselves to drinks and finger foods. At the back of the hall, two open doors led to a chamber that was long and oval, set with a table that stretched nearly the length of the room.

We’d taken perhaps two steps into the Hall when the Elders turned from the table. Along with the staff, they all bowed deeply, even Gregori—the only one I recognized.

“As you were,” Casteel issued with a nod, and I committed that phrase to memory as the staff and Elders immediately straightened.

His father broke away from where he’d stood with a woman with deep brown skin, and a man with long, reddish-brown hair.

“We are still waiting on a few to return from their rooms, but they should be here shortly,” Valyn said, clasping his hand on Casteel’s shoulder. His voice lowered. “You will be expected to choose an advisor. Both of you. It doesn’t have to happen today, but you should choose one soon.”

“I already know who I will choose.” Casteel looked at me, and I could only think of one person. I glanced to where Kieran now stood just inside the door, his head tilted as Delano spoke quietly to him. I nodded in agreement. “I will want to speak with him first.”

Valyn’s gaze flicked to Kieran. “He is a good choice.” He squeezed Casteel’s shoulder, and I was relieved to see the gesture. “For both of you.” There was a pause as he looked at his son, clearing his throat.

Opening myself up, I could…taste what reminded me of vanilla—sincerity—but there was also a warm, cinnamon flavor. Pride. Emotions seeped through the cracks in the walls his father had built around himself, and even without my gift, I could sense that he probably wished to speak with his son alone. The gods only knew how long Valyn had waited for this moment, having gone from expecting one son to assume the role and then hoping the other would eventually take the throne.

My gaze skittered over to where Naill and Emil had roamed into the chamber. “I’ll be right back,” I said, and Casteel’s gaze shot to me. I smiled at him and then his father. “Excuse me.”

Vonetta prowled alongside me as I walked into the chamber, aware of the eyes that followed. I let my senses open wide, and once again, I tasted the springy freshness of curiosity and the undertone of concern, thick like buttermilk. As I continued on, my chin lifted, my gaze moving from Naill and Emil to the round windows spaced between similar-shaped mirrors throughout the chamber. I could see just the steel gray and ivory of buildings. Eager to see more of Evaemon, I almost didn’t catch my reflection in the mirror just inside the room.

But I did.

My steps faltered. My eyes appeared brighter than normal, the silvery sheen behind my pupils more noticeable. There was a faint pink blush to my cheeks. I didn’t really notice the scars. The crown of twisted bone that sat upon my head drew my attention.

And the fact that my hair was a bit of a mess. It was braided, but the ride here and the skirmish with the Unseen had caused many strands to sneak free.

Realizing that I was still in clothing dusty from the road and probably stained with blood during my crowning and my first Council meeting, I swallowed a sigh and glanced out into the reception hall. My head tilted as I scanned the Elders. It wasn’t until then that I realized they were dressed similarly to Casteel and me. They were all dressed in either black or gray tunics and pants trimmed in gold—even the women. There were no fancy, gauzy gowns made of rich, supple material. The clothing was pragmatic. I suspected that all of them were fighters in one way or another.

I glanced at my reflection once more, still a bit startled to see the golden crown. Gods, what would Tawny think if she saw this? She’d probably laugh in surprise and then fall into stunned silence. A sad smile tugged at my lips. And Vikter? Gods, he…

Blowing out a sharp breath, I managed to resist the urge to reach up and touch the crown and forced myself to walk past the mirror. I was sure that Vonetta probably wondered how long I would stare at my reflection.

“I see you found sanctuary and more.”

That throaty, smoky voice stopped me. A wave of tiny bumps pimpled my skin. I turned around and felt as if the floor fell out from under my feet. A woman stood there, her hair a deep black and thickly curled, hanging loosely to frame deep, rich brown skin. Full, red lips curved into an impish smile as she dipped in a bow that was subtle even in a gray tunic and pants.

My lips parted. I couldn’t believe who I was staring at. “You were at the Red Pearl,” I exclaimed as Vonetta looked up, cocking her head to the side. “You sent me to the room Casteel was in.”

The woman before me’s smile grew as she straightened, the soft scent of jasmine surrounding us as she whispered, “I was right, wasn’t I? About what you found in that room.”

“You were, but how…?” Was she a changeling? I knew they could know things by speaking or touching someone. Others simply knew things. So many questions rose to the tip of my tongue, starting with why she’d done that and what she had been doing at the Red Pearl. She had been dressed as one of the employees—

Casteel slid his arm along my lower back as he came to stand by my side. He lowered his head, pressing his lips against my cheek as he said, “I grew lonely and came to find you.”

In any other situation, I would’ve pointed out that he hadn’t been alone, and I also would’ve been secretly thrilled with his willingness to say such a thing in front of another, but this was not a normal situation. I stared at the woman before us.

“Ah, the last of you have arrived,” Valyn announced as he joined us, stopping beside the woman from the Red Pearl. Over his shoulder, I saw Eloana. He smiled at the woman. “I don’t think you’ve had a chance to meet before.”

“We haven’t,” Casteel confirmed, as I kept my mouth shut, and the woman smiled at me.

“This is Wilhelmina Colyns,” Valyn announced, and every single part of my body flashed hot and then cold. “She joined the Council after you…”

Valyn was speaking, but my heart was pounding so fast that I couldn’t be sure if he even spoke a language I understood. Oh, my gods, it was Miss Willa.

The Miss Willa.

Standing in front of us.

How could I have forgotten that she was a member of the Council?

A wild wave of amusement rolled off Casteel so strong that I almost laughed. “Wilhelmina,” Casteel drawled, and I looked at him.

And then I remembered that this was Casteel, and he could say anything in front of his father—and his mother. And, oh my gods—

“We have not met,” I said quickly, reaching down and placing my hand on his arm. I squeezed hard. “It is an honor to meet you.”

“A huge honor,” Casteel added while confusion pinched his father’s features.

Miss Willa smiled. “The honor is all mine.”

“Are you all ready?” Eloana asked, thankfully interrupting.

I could’ve hugged and kissed the woman. “Yes.” I squeezed Casteel’s arm, just knowing he was about to say something else. “We are.”

“Perfect.” Eloana glanced at Willa. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Whiskey, if you have it,” Willa answered.

Eloana laughed. “Now you know we always have that on hand.”

The remaining Elders entered the room, taking seats at the table. Only Vonetta remained inside with us, the rest of the wolven standing guard outside the closed doors. Willa joined the Elders, whiskey in hand. Casteel’s parents did not take seats at the table but took two against the wall where Naill, Delano, and Emil stood with Kieran and Hisa. No other guards were in the room. There were two seats left at the head of the table, reserved for the King and Queen.

For us.

Taking those seats felt as surreal as the crowning had, and thoughts of Willa faded as introductions were made. There were eight members in attendance. We were missing only Jasper, who had remained in Saion’s Cove. Another wolven had taken his place, a Lady Cambria, whose blonde hair was sprinkled with silver strands. In the aftermath of all that was happening, I knew it would be difficult to remember most of the names, but I would remember Sven, who looked very much like the son I had met by the stables. There were three others, two males I suspected were mortal, and a female Atlantian.

And they all sat in silence, staring at Casteel, their combined ages and experience wholly intimidating. Muscles tightened in my neck and shoulders, and suddenly, the crown felt heavier. An urge to shrink in the chair, to make myself as small and invisible as possible swept through me, but it was brief because I was neither small nor invisible.

And I would never be that again.

“I’m not sure what the formalities of such meetings are, but those of you who already know me are well aware that I’m not one for formalities,” Casteel announced as he looked over at me. “And neither is my wife, Penellaphe. So, we may as well get to the point. There is a lot to discuss, and very little time to waste.”

“If I may speak,” a pale-skinned man with golden eyes sitting near the middle of the table said. All I could think about was the last time I had sat at a table with Casteel, and similar words had been uttered. This man hadn’t been in the reception hall. I would’ve recognized his icy-blond hair.

“Of course, Lord Ambrose.” Casteel leaned back, resting his hands on the arms of the chair.

“Lord Gregori spoke for those of us who have concerns,” the Atlantian began, and my senses zeroed in on him. Distrust coated him. “We understand that there was nothing that could stop the ascension of the Crown, but we do feel that we must address those concerns.”

Across from him, Willa took a drink of her whiskey and not-so-discreetly rolled her eyes.

“Didn’t Lord Gregori address them in the Temple?” Casteel questioned, head tilted. “I believe he stated them as succinctly as possible. Or rather your Queen stated them as succinctly as possible.”

Ambrose glanced in my direction. “She did, and she was right. We do not know her, and she was raised by the enemy. That was stated but not discussed.”

“There’s nothing to discuss beyond what was already stated,” I spoke up, meeting Ambrose’s stare. “I understand your concerns, but I also know that nothing I say will change them. All I can do is prove that you have nothing to fear.”

“Then, if you wish to prove that there is nothing to fear, you should have no issue with us voicing our concerns,” Ambrose countered.

“I don’t,” I replied as Casteel began tapping his finger on the arm of the chair, his ring making soft thuds against the wood. “I’ve been told that it is wise to heed the advice of the Council, and that when it hasn’t been, nothing good has come from it—advice Casteel and I plan to follow. But I already know how you feel, Lord Ambrose. I already know how several of you feel.” My gaze swept around the table. Gregori’s lips thinned. A woman with dark hair sat back. Lady Cambria’s smirk matched Willa’s. Sven appeared bored. “There is too much to discuss to sit here and talk about what cannot be changed in a discussion, nor will I sit here and answer for crimes or choices or decisions that the Ascended or the deities made before me. I have already paid dearly for their sins.” My gaze returned to Ambrose. “I will not entertain doing so again.”

The Atlantian swallowed. “We have heard of the resurgence of the Unseen and the attack on you. We condemn it and do not stand for such actions.” His hand flattened on the table. “But—”

“There is no but,” Casteel interrupted, his tone soft but full of smoke.

Ambrose’s mouth tightened, but he nodded stiffly. “Understood.”

I started to relax, but Casteel’s head tilted. “You were not in the reception hall when we arrived.”

“I was not, Your Majesty.”

“You did not bow upon entering the room,” he continued, and I glanced at him.

“Cas,” I started softly.

“It’s a common courtesy,” Casteel said, his gaze trained on the Atlantian. “The most basic of them. Nor have you once referred to your Queen as ‘Your Majesty’ or even ‘Your Highness’ as you spoke to her. Again, the most basic of common courtesies and respect.” Silence fell throughout the room. “Am I not right, Father? Mother?”

“You are right,” Eloana answered. “Those who did not greet either of you as such in the hall should have done so once within sight.”

“Lord Ambrose, you did bow to my son,” Valyn added.

Anger simmered in Lord Ambrose, as did embarrassment. He said nothing.

“You will bow before your Queen.” Casteel eyed the Atlantian coolly. “Or you will bleed before her. It is your choice.”

A low growl of agreement echoed from where Vonetta was crouched beside me.

I tensed. I wanted to intervene, to put a stop to this before something unnecessarily bloody happened during our very first Council meeting as rulers, but instinct warned that an example was being made—one that would indicate whether or not Casteel or I would tolerate disrespect. And respect was important. If we didn’t have the Elders’ respect, how would we have the kingdom’s respect? Still, the threat made my skin itchy.

Wood scraped against stone as Ambrose rose. He bowed stiffly. “I apologize, Your Majesty,” he said to me. “I meant no offense.”

I nodded, and as he straightened, I called on what Casteel had said before. “You may sit.”

Ambrose did just that, and the thread of tension eased from the room.

“Now, can we get started?” Casteel asked as he scanned the Elders and was met with several nods. “Good, because we want to stop a war before one starts.”

Sven leaned forward. “This, I am very interested in hearing.”

Others seemed to share his sentiment, and some didn’t, but they all listened to our plan to meet with the Blood Crown in Oak Ambler and offer our ultimatum, explaining why we believed it would work.

“It could,” Lady Cambria stated, brows pinched. “You’re ripping out the foundation that holds all their lies together. The Ascended are a lot of things, but they are not stupid. They know what that will do to their people.”

I glanced at Valyn. “It will lessen, if not destroy, their control over the people of Solis and destabilize their society. I do not believe they will risk that.”

“None of us want war,” Lord Gregori stated, looking around the table. “Those who were alive during the War of Two Kings are still haunted by those horrors. But you’re asking for us to agree to give the Ascended a second chance? To prove they control their bloodlust? We’ve been down that road before.”

“We know. Right now, we are asking that you understand our decision to keep the soldiers in the north at bay,” Casteel said, making it clear he was not asking for their permission. “Once we meet with the Blood Crown and have their answer, then we can reconvene and discuss whether or not you feel that you can give any of them a second chance. But we haven’t crossed that bridge yet, and we have no intention to burn it before we do.”

“I have innumerable reasons for why I want to see the Ascended killed,” a female Atlantian stated. Her sand-colored skin was without a trace of wrinkles and her brown hair was free of any gray or white. I believed her name to be Josahlynn. “But I only need one. My husband and son died in that war.”

My heart clenched. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Her chest rose with a deep breath. “As the rest of you know, I’ve been on the fence about what to do. If we can prevent more husbands and wives, sons and daughters from dying, we should.”

There were many nods of agreement, but Lady Cambria leaned forward, resting her arm on the table. “But it is far too dangerous for you two to be the ones to meet with the Blood Crown. You are the King and Queen—our Liessa. Someone else should be sent in your place. I will gladly go.”

“As will I,” Sven announced, and so did many others.

I felt Kieran’s wry amusement the moment our gazes touched. “Neither of us will ask any of you to do what we are not willing to risk ourselves,” I said. “Plus, it will be far safer for us than it will be for any of you. The Blood Crown does not want us dead.”

“We will also enter the city before we’re expected,” Casteel explained. “Giving us time to see what they may have in store for us.”

“And who set up this meeting?” Ambrose asked.

I braced myself. “My brother, who was Ascended.”

As expected, this created several outbursts and questions. Once they quieted, I explained who Ian was to me, and that even if we shared no blood, he was still my brother. Throughout the discussion, Casteel had extended his arm, placing his hand on the back of my neck where his fingers moved in slow, soothing circles. There were echoes of empathy from around the table, mingled with blunt pity. “Before we left, Ian told me that the only way we could defeat the Blood Crown—force them into taking our ultimatum—was by waking Nyktos and gaining the assistance of his guards.”

“We plan to travel to Iliseeum in the morning,” Casteel explained.

“Travel to Iliseeum? To wake Nyktos?” a mortal Elder exclaimed. “I mean no offense by saying this, but are you two out of your minds? Wake the King of Gods? And I truly mean no offense,” he quickly repeated when Casteel’s gaze fixed on him. “But we will be having another coronation before you even leave to meet with the Blood Crown.”

“Well, that was highly encouraging,” Casteel murmured, and I cracked a grin.

“The resting place of the gods is well protected, either by Primal magic or guards,” Lord Ambrose stated, his brows raised. “I imagine the King of Gods is surrounded by both.”

“Yes, but Pennelaphe is of his bloodline,” Willa noted. “What is guarding him should be able to sense that.” She paused. “Hopefully.”

The hopefully part was really reassuring.

“Or he could become extraordinarily angered by such an intrusion and kill any who dare to wake him,” another Elder pointed out.

“There is that.” Willa lifted her drink.

“Do you need to travel to Iliseeum?” Casteel’s father asked. “We do not know if you will need Nyktos’s guards. It may be an unnecessary risk.”

“Or it could be what forces the Blood Crown’s hand,” Eloana countered.

Casteel’s fingers continued moving along the nape of my neck as his gaze shifted to mine. “What do you think, my Queen? The plan isn’t set in stone.”

It wasn’t, but I believed my brother. Whatever these Revenants were, we needed all the help we could get.

“He’s slept long enough, hasn’t he?” I said, and approval flashed in those amber eyes despite the insanity of what we were considering. “We will wake him.”

“How would you even begin to locate his resting place?” asked Lady Josahlynn.

That was a good question. I started to look at Casteel, but Willa spoke. “I imagine he slumbers in his Temple. It shouldn’t be hard to find, as it looks like the palace and the Temple of Nyktos here, but larger.”

Well, I supposed Malec had been correct in his belief that his renovations were more in line with the Temples in Iliseeum.

Casteel raised a brow as he leaned into me and murmured, “Now we know where to find him.”

I nodded, wondering how Willa knew. Had she been to Iliseeum? Then again, she had sent me to Casteel’s room without his knowledge. The Atlantians didn’t believe in prophecies, but they did believe in Seers.

“You’re willing to do this—all of this?” Ambrose asked with a shake of his head. “Because of what an Ascended said? When we know you cannot trust an Ascended?”

Willa rolled her eyes with a delicate snort. “Anyone who has lived long enough and can look past their own asses knows that not even the vamprys are inherently evil.”

Mutters of derision rose from other Elders. Glancing at Casteel, I saw a slight frown tug at his lips as I leaned forward. “You mean those who have managed to control their bloodlust?”

“Those who have managed have been few and far between,” Gregori countered. “At this point, they are more legend than reality.”

“Legend or not, when they are first turned, vamprys are consumed by bloodlust. That is correct.” Willa’s eyes met mine with a look that made me think of my Ascension. “And it can take time for them to find their way out of that, but it is who they are in their hearts and souls that determines whether or not they can be trusted.”

My breath caught. Could that be why a part of Ian remained? Because he had been a good person before his Ascension? If so, then there was hope for Tawny and how many others?

“That is an extremely optimistic and naïve outlook on the Ascended,” Gregori asserted.

Willa looked at the Elder. “I’d rather be optimistic than bigoted and close-minded, but I am never naïve. I have more than a thousand years on you,” she said softly, and I blinked. “Consider that before you speak so ignorantly, and maybe you will save yourself future embarrassment.”

I…I really liked Willa.

And it had nothing to do with her diary.

She held Gregori’s stare until he looked away, a muscle flexing in his jaw. Then she turned to Casteel and me. “You have my support, even if you do not require it. You also have my advice. I’ve never been to Iliseeum. Obviously,” she told us, finishing off her glass of whiskey. “But I know those who have.”

A thought I really didn’t want to entertain entered my mind. Malec apparently knew what the Temples in Iliseeum looked like, and my father had a lot of mistresses.

And Willa had had a lot of partners.

What if she’d written about him in— Nope, I stopped myself from going there. I did not want to think about that.

Willa’s gaze met mine and then Casteel’s. “Whatever you do, do not enter Dalos, the City of the Gods. You will know it when you see it. If you enter, you will never return.”


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