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suelky · 5 minutes ago
Why rejection leads to the endgame: Rowaelin and Elriel comparison.
This meta is based solely on textual pieces of evidence that can be found through the whole ACTOAR and TOG series written by SJM. My observations come from the text and what was given to us, the audience, by the author of the book. This post is going to be about two very prominent scenes that occur to the main characters and how they are played in the books, setting-wise but also plot-wise. Of course, a small warning: this is strictly pro-Elriel meta, so if it isn't your cup of tea you are in the wrong place. Also: SPOILERS FOR TOG!
I would like to start this meta with a short preface about how I am going to approach the subject. The things I will be looking into are setting, wording, and emotional attachments. (With a sprinkle of speculations).
We will begin with Rowaelin and how the rejection scene developed. The plotline setting is after a very tense situation, which was confronting Arobynn.
Queen of Shadows, pg. 321
Rowan was done waiting. (...) The lamplight glinted off the combs in her hair and along the golden dragon on the dress.
Emphasis on: - hair - light, and how it glides across combs of Aelin hair - "glinted"
Also worth mentioning is how Rowan finally overcame his inner battle. He became impatient.
Azriel POV, pg. 1
Azriel couldn't stop it. (...) he found himself leaving the room. Entering the foyer. (...) and there she was. The faelights gilded Elain's unbound hair, making her glow like the sun at dawn.
Emphasis on: - hair - light, and how it lightens Elain hair - "gilded"
Again, we have a male who is questioning his inner feelings and after an imminent mind battle, he decides to move and goes towards a place when he meets up with a female.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 321-322
She half turned toward him. (...) The look in her eyes—guilt, anger, agony—hit him like a blow to the gut.
(...) and though she tried to hide it, he could see the fear in her gaze, and the guilt.
Rowan can read Aelin without words. Just one look and he knows exactly what she feels or what hides behind her words - which often are laced with lies. Yet, he, Rowan was able to always see beneath the false facade - even before they were told about them being true mates.
Azriel POV, pg. 2
Lie. Well, the second part was a lie. He didn't need his shadows to read her tone, the slight tightening of her face.
Elain's large brown eyes flickered, well aware of all that. Just as he knew she was well aware of why Azriel so rarely came to family dinners these days.
Azriel, just as Rowan can easily deduct lies underneath Elain's words. Him being a shadowsinger and spymaster could help him in knowing the truth, yet we have an emphasis on the fact that he didn't need his powers to realize and catch Elain's lie based on her tone and facial expressions.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 322
He watched her throat bob as she swallowed.
Azriel POV, pg. 2
He watched her swallow.
The same imagery, similar wording. Both males are focused on the females' emotions and their nervousness/trepidation.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 322
She rested her head against his chest, the tips of the bat-wing combs digging into him enough that he eased them one at a time from her hair. The gold was slick and cold in his hands (...)
Emphasis on: - Aelin initiating physical contact - piece of jewelry - golden color - Aelin's hair
Azriel POV, pg. 2-3
"Put it on me?" His head went quiet. But he took the necklace, opening the clasp as she exposed her back, sweeping her hair up in one hand to bare her long, creamy neck.
The golden necklace seemed ordinary -- its chain unremarkable.
Emphasis on: - Elain initiating physical contact - piece of jewelry - golden color - Elain's hair
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 323
She huffed a laugh that might have been a sob and wrapped her arms around his waist as if trying to steal his warmth.
He flattened his hand against her waist, his fingers contracting once as if debating letting her go.
We have Aelin seeking Rowan's touch, she is the one who pushes on the physical line between them. It's important to note that it's her constantly assessing Rowan, trying to close the distance between them. She's acting on her feelings and a need for closure.
Emphasis on the wording used by SJM: - "flattened his hand (...)"
Azriel POV pg. 3
Elain shivered, and he took a damn long time fastening the clasp.
Slowly, Elain pivoted into his touch. Until his palm lay flat against her neck.
Emphasis on: - "until his palm lay flat (...)"
In this setting, we have Elain who, once again, closes on the distance between her and Azriel. Just like Aelin she chooses to move along her feelings - which are obstructed from the reader's point of view due to the text being singular POV. It is her who slowly builds up the courage and makes Azriel touch her. Settle on her skin.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 323
She waited for him to pull back, but he just stared at her—stared into her in that way he always did. Friends, but more. So much more, and she’d known it longer than she wanted to admit.
Carefully, she stroked her thumb across his cheekbone, his face slick with the rain.
Aelin realizes her feelings. She comes with the terms of their friendship and its possible development - both she and Rowan started out on the wrong foot, yet they formed an amazing friendship. They built their relation slowly, surely with many heartful moments that bordered on the line of friendship and something more.
Emphasis on: - Aelin "stroking" Rowan's face
Azriel POV pg. 3
It had never gone this far. They'd exchanged looks, the occasional brush of their fingers, but never this. Never blatant, unrestricted touching.
Azriel's fingers lingered at her nape, atop the first knob of her spine.
Letting them brush the side of her throat, savoring the velvet-soft texture.
As in the Rowaelin case, Elain and Azriel also built their relationship from a friendship. It was formed during the very dark period of time on Elain's behalf - just like it was for Aelin's. Both Azriel and Elain found comfort with each other, they both started to enjoy the company of the other - sitting in comfortable silence. Yet, we have an idea that this friendship slowly started to bloom into something riskier, more emotional. Both, Azriel and Elain already had their first love ripped away, never fulfilled, and ending in a painful manner. And for the first time when we are inside Azriel POV, it confirms that they balanced on this thin line for a while.
Emphasis on: - Azriel "brushing" Elain's throat and nape
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 323
It hit her like a stone—the wanting. She was a fool to have dodged it, denied it, even when a part of her had screamed it every morning that she’d blindly reached for the empty half of the bed.
Emphasis on: - realization of desire - mornings in the bed - desperate search for Rowan in the sheets
Azriel POV, pg. 2-3
Prayed she didn't understand the shift in his scent. He had only allowed himself these thoughts in the dead of night.
(...) a headache powder he kept on his nightstand at the House of Wind. Not to use, but just to look at. Which he'd done every night he’d slept there. Or attempted to sleep there.
Emphasis on: - desire - night and bed - looking at the gift from Elain on his nightstand
Both scenes and paragraphs signalize that both Aelin and Azriel fought with their newfound feelings. They were realizing that the friendship was slowly turning into something more - a feeling of desire to not only be close to the other person but also a desire to close the distance between friends and lovers.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 324
She lifted her other hand to his face and his eyes locked onto hers, his breathing ragged as she traced the lines of the tattoo along his temple.
His hands tightened slightly on her waist, his thumbs grazing the bottom of her ribcage. It was an effort not to arch into his touch.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
(...) his thumb sweeping in long strokes along the side of her throat.
But Azriel just stroked her neck again. Elain shuddered, drifting closer.
Emphasis on: - constant engaging in physical contact - touching vulnerable parts of the other person - answering to the touch
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 324
“Rowan,” she breathed, his name a plea and a prayer. She slid her fingers down the side of his tattooed cheek, and—
Azriel POV pg. 4
“Yes" Elain breathed, like she read the decision. Just this taste in the dead of the longest night of the year, where only the Mother might witness them.
Emphasis on: - how the last word before the almost kiss is breathed - "religious" themes such as comparison to Rowan's name to the prayer - Mother (a "religious" figure) being present during this intimate scene between Elain and Azriel
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 324
Faster than she could see, he grabbed one wrist and then the other, yanking them away from his face and snarling softly. The world yawned open around her, cold and still.
He dropped her hands as if they were on fire, stepping away, those green eyes flat and dull in a way she hadn’t seen for some time now. Her throat closed up even before he said, “Don’t do that. Don’t—touch me like that.”
Rowan rejected Aelin in a brusque manner - and it wasn't necessarily because he didn't want to engage in expanding their relationship past the friendship. Rowan at this moment still lacks self-reassurance about how he should feel after Lyria. He is scared. It is something different than the feelings that restrained him from the kiss.
Azriel POV, pg. 4
Rhys's voice thundered through him, halting him mere inches from Elain's sweet mouth.
His stomach twisted as he pulled his hand from her hair and stepped back. Forced himself to say, "This was a mistake.”
We have Azriel who rejects the kiss because of Rhysand. It was not on his own terms. It was an order of his High Lord that involuntarily stopped him from kissing Elain.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 324
There was a roaring in her ears, a burning in her face, and she swallowed hard. “I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t mean—” She backed away a step, toward the door on the other side of the roof. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “It was nothing.”
Azriel POV pg. 4
She opened her eyes, hurt and confusion warring there before she whispered, "I’m sorry."
He shook his head, unable to stand the bleakness he'd brought to her expression.
In both scenes, it's the female that apologizes. The one who initiated physical contact. Aelin apologizes twice, meanwhile, Elain is rendered speechless and hurt - and it's Azriel who assures her that it is she doesn't need to apologize. However, Elain is left alone without an explanation and Azriel can't stand seeing her like that.
Both scenes are built in a similar manner - we have friendships border lining on a thin line of something more. Both Elain and Aelin are the ones who initiate physical contact and are the ones who are "rejected", left hurt, and confused. Rowan and Azriel are battling their self-hatred and feeling of unworthiness that is very sound in both of their POVS. There is a lot of things that contribute to the rejection - especially their feelings. Rowan and Azriel feel the romantic pull towards their loved ones - they know that desire and their feelings are reciprocated. Yet, their inner struggles are in the way of fully accepting the fact that the female they yearn for is able to accept them.
More parallels:
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 322
He’d almost fallen to his knees when he’d first seen her earlier tonight.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
He'd beg on his knees for a chance to taste it.
Both males are on the verge of falling to their knees in front of Aelin/Elain. They are ready to submit to their loved ones.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 324
(...) understood that though she’d seen his eyes shine with hunger—hunger for her—it didn’t mean he wanted to act on it. Didn’t mean he might not hate himself for it.
In this chapter in Queen Of Shadows, we are presented with dual POV, both from Rowan and Aelin so it's easier to see what Aelin had felt when she was rejected. She tells the audience that she was aware of the fact that Rowan exhibited a desire for her. Furthermore, we have another instance of Aelin being able to understand Rowan without words. She knows that Rowan feeling lust for her might have resulted in him hating himself for that because of what had happened with Lyria.
Azriel POV, pg. 2
Just as he knew she was well aware of why Azriel so rarely came to family dinners these days.
We are obstructed from Elain's point of view and her understanding is explained by Azriel. He knows that Elain understands him. It's an important thing to remember since their friendship was built on the comfortable silence in which both of them bask. Elain and Azriel, just like Aelin and Rowan understand each other without words.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 337
He hated it. Hated that he couldn’t reach her when she was that person. Hated that he’d snapped at her last night, had panicked at the touch of her hands. Now she’d shut him out entirely. This person she’d become today had no kindness, no joy.
Azriel POV, pg. 2-4
(...) Azriel had needed to stay by the door the whole time because he couldn't stand the sight of it, the scent of their mating bond, and needed to have the option of leaving if it became too much.
He shook his head, unable to stand the bleakness he'd brought to her expression.
Both Rowan and Azriel don't want to hurt their significant other. They battle their inner demons, their inner self-worth problems while trying not to put the weight of it on Aelin and Elain. Rowan has his mind troubled because he, at this moment in the books, is still burdened with what had happened to his "mate". On the other hand, we have Azriel who can't bring himself to be in the same room as Elain and Lucien due to their bond. A mate that Elain doesn't want. Azriel's reaction to the mating bond is also very strange - he can see it and scent it. Which I believe should be very telling if we're taking true mate/second mate theories into consideration. So, overall the problem of both males stems from the notion of "mate".
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 345
Even now, he honestly couldn’t decide if he was amused or enraged by Rowan’s words—Don’t touch me like that—when it was obvious the warrior-prince felt quite the opposite.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
He needed to know what the skin of her neck tasted like. What those perfect lips tasted like. Her breasts. Her sex. He needed her coming on his tongue --
Rowan and Azriel want to indulge in their desire for Aelin and Elain. Both of them weren't able to do so because of the "rejection", yet we are presented with the fact that even the rejection doesn't mean anything as long as both males feel completely opposite to what they had told during the refusal scenes.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 348
Her scent hit him as she unbound her hair and nestled into the pile of pillows. That scent had always struck him, had always been a call and a challenge. It had shaken him so thoroughly from centuries encased in ice that he’d hated her at first. And now … now that scent drove him out of his mind.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
Her arousal drifted up to him, and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head at the sweet scent. He'd beg on his knees for a chance to taste it.
Emphasis on: - the scent - how it affects the male
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 348
They were both really damn lucky that she currently couldn’t shift into her Fae form and smell what was pounding through his blood. It had been hard enough to conceal it from her until now.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
Azriel's cock strained behind his pants, aching so fiercely he could hardly think. He prayed she didn't peer down. Prayed she didn't understand the shift in his scent.
Both males explain to the audience that their desire and lust were and are something they are battling as well. Rowan and Azriel are anxious because of their own problems with self-worth that they are struggling to keep as a secret.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 348
He’d seen her naked before—a few times. And gods, yes, there had been moments when he’d considered it, but he’d mastered himself. He’d learned to keep those useless thoughts on a short, short leash. Like that time she’d moaned at the breeze he sent her way on Beltane—the arch of her neck, the parting of that mouth of hers, the sound that came out of her—
Azriel POV, pg. 3
He had only allowed himself these thoughts in the dead of night. Had only allowed his hand to fist his cock and think about her then, when even his shadows had gone to sleep. How that beautiful face might appear as he entered her, what sounds she'd make.
Emphasis on: - keeping the desire to himself - imagery of the female body - the sounds/moans
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 348
She was now lying on her side, her back to him. “About last night,” he said through his teeth. “It’s fine. It was a mistake.”
Azriel POV, pg. 4
His stomach twisted as he pulled his hand from her hair and stepped back. Forced himself to say, "This was a mistake.”
I think this is self-explanatory. The same words, similar situation. Rejection followed by a declaration of it being a mistake when the truth is that both couples are yearning for each other and want to be with one another.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 349
The desire hadn’t been what shook him at all. It was just … Aelin had driven him insane these past few weeks, and yet he hadn’t considered what it would be like to have her look at him with interest.
Azriel POV, pg. 3
Her arousal drifted up to him, and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head at the sweet scent.
So close one deep breath would brush her breasts against his chest. She looked up at him, her face so trusting and hopeful and open (...)
Rowan and Azriel didn't even think about the fact that their desire could be reciprocated- and more than lust they were shocked that Aelin/Elain would look at them with interest, longing, hope. They weren't ready to acknowledge the fact that they weren't alone in this spiral of emotions and feelings.
Moving forward we have the acceptance stage and romantic moments for Rowaelin in Queen Of Shadows. Of course in the case of Elriel we are limited to an extra chapter, however, there are still very prominent similarities in setting and wording.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 378
“Aelin,” he breathed. Not in reprimand or warning, but … a plea. It sounded like a plea. He lowered his head to her exposed neck and hovered a hair’s breadth away. She arched her neck farther, a silent invitation. Rowan let out a soft groan and grazed his teeth against her skin.
He let out another low groan, answer and confirmation and request, and the rumble echoed inside her
Azriel POV, pg. 4
“Yes" Elain breathed, like she read the decision.
Azriel's hand slid up her neck, burying in her thick hair. Tilting her face the way he wanted it. Elain's mouth parted slightly, her eyes scanning his before fluttering shut. Offer and permission. He nearly groaned with relief and need as he lowered his head toward hers.
Both couples operate without words. In the case of Rowaelin we have: - a plea - a silent invitation - an answer - a confirmation - a request
In the case of Elriel we have: - an offer - a permission - a decision - a relief - a need
The same setting, very similar description, and usage of words. As I was saying, in the case of Elain and Azriel relationship we are obstructed from Elain's point of view due to the content being a bonus chapter. Yet, we can draw a comparison between both couples. Why? Because SJM structured both rejections in the same way. Rowaeiln's rejection leads to a relationship, later to a discovery of being true mates. Is it a coincidence? From a writer's point of view and an avid reader - I don't believe so. She structured both rejections, in the same manner, using very similar vocabulary and even the familiar setting. In the case of Elriel - Azriel's "rejection" is what essentially builds a start for their relationship in the next book. We also have to remember that in Elain and Azriel situation we have:
- a mate - political background - forbidden romance - compatible powers - blood duel - connection to Koschei SJM gave us a setup for the premise of the next book which we know is Elain's. Azriel and Feyre's POV focus on her, but we know that it's one couple per book. Which perfectly aligns with Elriel and their rejection and pining. In SJM universe such rejections as the ones presented are used to further develop a couple, not to bring it down. The parallels are evident and if you are thinking that she doesn't use foreshadowing and she doesn't focus on details I would recommend rereading both series and see that SJM is an expert in foreshadowing - even the tiniest bits of it come out through the series.
That's why in the cases of her HEA couples rejection means endgame.
Queen Of Shadows, pg. 379
“This changes things,” she said, hardly able to get the words out. “Things have been changing for a while already. We’ll deal with it.”
2 notes · View notes
throneofhavilliard · 30 minutes ago
Rowan: are you ready to commit?
Aelin: a felony or to a relationship?
Aelin: because the answer to both would be yes
6 notes · View notes
yabai-korra · an hour ago
Best Throne of Glass ships voting poll
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hellodeedles · 2 hours ago
New Pillow
Rowan was absolutely drained. Work had been kicking his ass lately and his new boss was methodical and cruel in the amount of work he was piling on. Always demanding that he put more and more hours in at the office, hinting that if he met all of these new ridiculous requirements, he'd be in the running for the promotion he had been hoping for.
Tonight, Rowan had only left the office only an hour late, the earliest he had left in the last month. The only reason he did was because he brought his work computer home with him so he could continue once he was finally sitting on his own couch.
Home was once the only thing Rowan looked forward to. Now it wasn't anything like it had been. Aelin had moved in right before his new boss got to town and those first few weeks where they actually were able to spend more than a few minutes together to share a brief kiss and hello had been the best of his life.
Now however, he was constantly working late and Aelin was picking up overtime at the hospital saying that she didn't want to be home if Rowan wasn't there. Using the extra argument that they could use the extra money anyway.
Rowan walks up to the apartment door and sighs. He didn't look at the little calendar Aelin had posted on the fridge with all of her shifts before he ran out the door this morning and he couldn't remember if she was working today. If she was, it was too early for her to be back. Maybe he would be able to get some work done before she got home, and they would actually get to spend some time together that didn't involve the phrase "where are my keys?".
Rowan unlocks the door and to his surprise a cacophony of noise of falling pans and the smell of burning food floods his senses as soon as the door opens.
"Shit, shit, shit." Rowan hears Aelin say.
"Aelin?" Rowan asks, dropping his keys on the entry way table. "What's going on?"
Aelin who was standing in front of the stove turns to him eyes wide like a deer caught in headlights.
"Rowan! I didn't think you'd be home so early."
Rowan shrugs trying to see past her to the stove knowing it can't be good. "I brought work home with me. I had to get out of the office, I was losing my mind being shut up in there."
"Oh," she says taking a too casual step to hide more of the stove from view.
"Still doesn't answer my question though," he says a slight smile on his face as he realizes what she's doing.
"And what question would that be?"
"What's going on here?"
"Absolutely nothing you need to be worried about?"
Really now?" He asks a full smile breaking through, the thoughts of the amount of work he had to still do tonight disappearing from his mind. "It smells like I should be worried."
"Well you don't, so just go and mind your own business elsewhere." Aelin says turning her back to him to face the stove. "I have everything under control."
"Uh, huh." He says walking up to stand behind her to get a better view of the disaster that he knows is going on.
"I do," she glares at him over her shoulder. "Now go change and leave it to me. I know exactly what I am doing."
Holding back a chuckle Rowan just kisses Aelins cheek and makes his way to their bedroom to change. He knows that there is no stopping her once she has set her mind to things.
Rowan has just slipped off his dress shirt when he hears, "Oh fuck," come from the kitchen. He stops what he's doing and runs out to the kitchen to make sure that there's no fire. He wouldn't put it past Aelin to accidentally set fire to a pan again.
"What happened?" He asks quickly scanning the stove to make sure everything is still intact.
Aelin looks over at him, silver misting her eyes. "I screwed up, I thought I could make dinner for you because you've been working so hard and you're busy all of the time. I know your boss is stressing you out with the promotion and everything. I just wanted you to have a nice home cooked meal to come home to and I messed it up so bad it'll probably kill you if you eat it." Rowans heart swells at her words. Even though Aelin is overworking herself she too she notices how run down he's been and she's trying to make it better.
"Fireheart," Rowan says opening his arms to her. Aelin rushes to him nuzzling her face into his bare chest. "I love you, you know that right." She nods and Rowan kisses her head. "But for the love of the gods you cannot cook even if it was to save your own life."
Aelin gives him a sad chuckle as her response. "What do you say to me cleaning this whole mess up and ordering delivery from Emmrys?" Rowan asks.
Aelin nods looking up at him. "I'll help you, it was my mess to begin with."
The two of them begin to clean the kitchen, Rowan smiling all through it even though it looks like Aelin has ruined yet another pan. Rowan goes to finished changing once the kitchen is clean and their delivery arrives quickly after that. The two of them take their respective meals over to the couch not having the energy to set the table.
"Tell me how work has been," Aelin says between bites. "All I really know is that you keep staying late at the office."
Rowan shrugs. "Basically, the boss did some reshuffling of roles and it looks like I am currently doing all the work I was doing before plus the work of someone who used to be working on the same project as me but got pushed to a different one."
"But that's not fair. He's going to run you ragged Rowan, you loved this job when you started, I would hate for you to lose that."
"I know," Rowan says looking down at his food. "Truth is I don't know what to do about it. I know I can't keep going on like this. My boss says he's planning on hiring someone else to fill the role, but I don't know how true that is."
Aelin pursed her lips in a way that told him she knew exactly what he could do but instead she held her tongue. That was one of the things Rowan loved most about Aelin. She was hotheaded and had a wicked mouth where she would say whatever the hell she wanted but when it really came down to it, she always let Rowan come to his own decisions. She let him use her as more of soundboard for his own thoughts knowing how tangled they could get inside his head.
Rowan moves his food to the coffee table and puts his head in his hands. He really doesn't know what to do about his job and he says as much to Aelin.
"Oh, Rowan," she says, moving her own food out of the way. "Come here." She pulls him so they're both laying on the couch, Rowan on top of her with his head resting on her chest. The two of them don't really fit on the couch like this but right now Rowan doesn't think that there could be a position that is more comfortable in the world right now.
He signs in content as Aelin begins to comb her fingers through his hair, her nails scratching at his scalp.
"You know," she begins after a few minutes. "You don't have to make a decision tonight. You can just think about keeping your options open so if it gets to the point where you don't think you can take anymore you're not starting from scratch."
Rowan grumbles something that he thinks sounds like an agreement and nudges Aelins hand with his head to get her to continue to play with his hair.
Aelin laughs. "You're no better than a house cat," but she continues anyway.
"I like this," Rowan says turning his head and nuzzling his face into her chest.
"What using my boobs as a pillow?"
"Yes. I think I am going to use you as my new pillow from now on."
Aelins laugh is bright and joyous. Rowan doesn't think he realized until this moment just how much he missed her.
Turning his head up to hers he says letting all of his emotions be visible on his face, "I love you Aelin, to whatever end."
She looks at him, fire burning in her turquoise eyes as she says, "I love you too Rowan, to whatever end."
Reaching up to kiss her, butterflies fill his heart and Rowan thinks he falls in love with her just a little bit more, reaffirming his decision about the little box he has tucked away in his dresser for her.
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morganofthewildfire · 9 hours ago
- 1000 words
Rowan Whitethorn hadn’t expected his day to turn out like this. He’d woken up that morning to the sun shining, birds chirping, everything just as it always was. He’d changed into his work clothes, tossing down some coffee and breakfast before hopping in his car and driving to the station.
He’d cursed at the traffic like always, tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel as he waited at lights, frowning as he pulled into the parking lot, rolling his eyes at other people’s abysmal parking jobs.
But it was when he got into the building that he noticed something was off. Everyone was tense, hushed whispers and rushed movements from the normal black and whites, his fellow detectives, and the chief herself. Rowan frowned as he made his way to his desk, making eye contact with his coworker Lorcan, who was waiting for him and staring with a look that only meant one thing.
“Another one?” He asked, already cursing again when Lorcan nodded. “Shit.”
Doranelle was a relatively safe city, without much crime, keeping their job fairly easy, but there’d recently been an upsurge. And not petty crimes like small value theft or fights, no. There was a serial killer on the loose.
“Middle aged man, found early this morning in the alley behind The Vaults,” Lorcan said flatly, slapping down a file on Rowan’s desk as he sat down. “They’re prepping for the briefing in the conference room right now, and we’ll go see the scene after that, but - “ he trailed off, holding something back.
“What?” He pressed, but Lorcan just shook his head.
“You’ll see.”
Rowan huffed but flipped through the file as Lorcan left, going to the conference room, where he himself would go in a second. He needed to look through the previous kills first, so he’d be prepared to better make connections when he saw the new scene.
He sighed through his nose as he flipped through the pictures of the past murders, most of them middle aged men, all killed with a knife. He knew they must be connected in some way, likely shady shit based on where each killing took place. He couldn’t really know yet how each of them were involved, without the final piece that would link them all. Rowan knew that that piece had to be a suspect. Just one single suspect.
Because they didn’t have any yet.
So far, all the killings had been clean, no traces of anything to lead back to someone, no motive detected because they couldn’t even figure out who all the damned victims were. Some of them were off the grid, or deep underground, and they weren’t in the system. So they were stuck.
It had been a constant knot in Rowan’s brain, the intense focus on this case almost drowning out his other pain. The more recent heartbreak that he’d been shoving aside.
He could put himself into catching this killer rather than examining where everything had gone wrong, letting red as dark as blood fill his mind instead of a golden as bright as sunlight.
So with another huff, he slammed the file shut, rubbing a hand down his face before pushing up into a stand and walking toward the conference room, where Lorcan, the Moonbeam twins, Vaughan, and even the chief of the station Maeve, were waiting for him.
His attention went straight toward the board Lorcan was standing next to, automatically analyzing the crime scene photos taped on. The body was sprawled out on the asphalt alleyway, auburn hair tangled and partly in the large pool of blood spilling from the wounds in his chest.
But his face paled, because he recognized the man. Had seen his face in an old picture, a picture his ex girlfriend had found when going through her old boxes of stuff, which she then showed him and promptly torn up, spitting on it as she threw it into the fireplace. She’d then proceeded to give Rowan a short and abridged version of his involvement in her past, her mouth tight with anger the whole time. He’d wormed his way into control over me and someone I was close to, and then proceeded to take that control and wreck us both.
And he had never pushed for more. But now he wished he had, as the man’s empty eyes stared up to the sky.
“What’s different about this one?” Rowan asked tensely, staring his closest friend in the eyes. Lorcan tightened his mouth, looking down at the paper he still held in his hands.
“They made a mistake,” he said.
“The victim?” Rowan asked, furrowing his brows. Lorcan shook his head.
“The killer,” he clarified, and Rowan breathed in sharply. “They were too frantic this time, or maybe the victim managed to fight back and pulled it off of them, but either way, it’s something.”
“What do we have?” Rowan breathed, leaning forward in his chair. Without saying anything, Lorcan slapped up the next picture, and Rowan froze, blood draining from his face.
Because the picture was of a very familiar necklace. A necklace he himself had bought, had taken weeks to pick out, determined the gift should be special for their one year anniversary. Even if that year, and the second year after it, had been tossed aside and torn up by the very person who he’d given that necklace to.
It was a simple one, with a plain silver chain, with the pendant a single word, spelled out in silver cursive letters:
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the-queenofshadowss · 9 hours ago
Friendly Reminder that Celaena Sardothien Beat Cain whilst she was posioned/drugged. My Queen is brilliant. I will personally gut anyone that says otherwise.
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the-queenofshadowss · 10 hours ago
“My name is Celaena Sardothien,” she whispered. “But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”
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bellewithabook · 15 hours ago
My problem with SJM's books is that I lack critical thinking skills when it comes to reading her love interests. I like who she tells me to like, when she tells me to like them. I liked Celaena and Sam and then I liked Celaena with both Dorian and Chaol. Then I fell hard for Aelin and Rowan. Also, Dorian and Manon. On first read, I even liked Feyre and Tamlin (until like chapter 4 of ACOMAF) and now, obviously, I adore Feyre and Rhys. And honestly I'm afraid to read Crescent City because I know it's just going to happen again.
Maybe that only means that I'm gullible and easily led... but I still think SJM writes excellent relationships. She's not a perfect author by any means, but damn, I love the way she writes love.
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helion-ism · 15 hours ago
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whitethornflames · 17 hours ago
– throne of glass couples headers
– rowaelin, samlaena, elorcan and manorian
– credits on twitter @warnerfires
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tomtenadia · 18 hours ago
A Little Braver - Chapter 1
Here I am!
As i promised here is the first chapter of my new Rowaelin.
This one will be very different from Island Dream. It’s meant to have a slightly more challenging plot line and a smidge more angst in it. Also, i know very little about fire fighters and the airforce. I did research for both of them and for the firefighters I used some shows I follow as inspiration. Whereas for the airforce... it’s mostly research. I based the ranks system on the UK RAF.
THIS is Rowan’s jet (it actually exists. It’s called a Eurofighter Typhoon. I have seen it live at some airshow here in Scotland and it’s so damn sexy.), just imagine it in deep green for Terrasen. 
I have 12 chapters down but still no actual direction in mind yet. I have a few ideas I want to develop but the storyline is still hazy. 
And this is the SONG that gave the idea for the title.
Anyway, I’ll leave you to it
Aelin is a firefighter for the Terrasen Fire Department (TFD) and one day her squadron get called to deal with a fire at the airbase of the Terrasen airforce (TAF). During the incident she meets icy Captain Whitethorn. They are thown together in a forced cooperation.  Slowly they will find their lives entwined beyond work. And both of them, with a tragic past at their backs... will have to be a little braver...
(Sorry i suck at introductions)
“Again!” Shouted a blonde woman standing in front of a training tower on fire. Her long braid gently placed on her shoulder. Blue eyes like the clearest of days fixed on the inferno in front of her and a concentrated expression. 
“Brullo, help Luca and start again, perhaps this time without killing our victim.”
They had been at it for a while but it seemed like the newbie was struggling with training. Being a firefighter was not a job for everyone. Aelin knew Luca was still a probie and still learning the ropes but sometimes she felt as if the boy was not as tough as he tried to be. Luca had been with them for three months and he had become the mascot of the group. He was eighteen an eager and she was happy to support him as much as she could, but her job was also to make sure her people would walk out of a raging fire alive. She had already lost enough in the line of duty. 
She was about to call for a break when the dispatch siren went off.
“Everyone, time to go.” She turned to Luca “You stay at the station and cover dispatch or just study for your exam.” She winked at him and ran to the engine, donned her gear and climbed to her seat.
Being the Captain she took the passenger seat in the engine and joined Nox who was the driver.
“Were are we heading?”
“Airforce base.” Replied Nox while driving the engine to its destination with incredible skill.
“Did a pilot forgot to turn off one of their fancy planes?” Then she turned to Aedion, the man was her lieutenant and her second  “Are our EMTs with us?”
The man nodded “right behind us.”
The engine sped through traffic, siren blazing “what’s our ETA?” Asked Aelin.
“Five minutes, Cap.” Replied Nox.
Not long after they reached their destination and arrived at the main gates of the airbase which were shut. Aelin swore. She opened the door and jumped off the truck.
To meet her there was a tall man, his hair silver and the eyes of the deepest of green. She thought Aedion was tall. She was wrong. This man was a good twenty centimetre taller. 
“Fire department at your service, did one of men’s arse caught fire?”
The man glared at her. His face harsh.
Ok, wrong audience.
“We have a fire in hangar bay 2.”
“Good, now open these gates and let us through if you want us to work our magic.”
“This is a restricted area as you can imagine.” His tone flat and almost bored.
Aelin took a step toward him, not afraid “Listen, you either let us through with the engine and the ambulance or you start praying the gods for a fuckload of rain. Which will it be, sir?”
Aelin noticed a flash of anger pass through his eyes. He would have been the most gorgeous man she had ever seen if it wasn’t for his stick up his arse attitude.
The man in front of her made a gesture and a car appeared in front of the truck “Follow the car and do not wander. This is a restricted area.”
“Sure, I always wanted a picnic in an airbase.”
Aelin ignored him and gestured at the ambulance to follow them. She jumped back on the truck and noticed the silver haired arsehole getting in the car in front of them.
It did not take long to reach their destination and Aelin swore when she noticed the fire engulfing hangar bay 2.
“And that’s me hoping in a boring day. How silly of me.” Joked Aedion from his seat behind Aelin. 
Aelin jumped off the truck and started shouting orders then joined again the officer “Do you have all staff accounted for?”
The man shook his head “Two engineers are missing and we have a few injured as well.”
Aelin shouted for the EMTs and the two women appeared in front of her in an instant “there are few injured that need treatment. Go and call for backup if you need it.” The taller brunette nodded and they disappeared again. 
Aedion’s voice reached her over the radio “copy that, Aedion. There are still two civilians trapped inside.” She turned to see her squad at work and a pang of pride rushed through her. They were an amazing well oiled machine and all the gruelling training paid off in the end. 
She turned to look at the grumpy officer and noticed the man was like a statue. His eyes fixed on the raging fire in front of them.
“We’ll get them out.” She offered as a comfort but the man didn’t even notice her. 
“Any idea on how it started?”
He turned his head slightly and his icy stare focused on her “isn’t that your job, captain?” She did not like the tone she used to call her captain. She could hear a veil of mockery.
“Ansel, Ress,” she shouted while donning the rest of her fire suit “direct the jet there.” She pointed to the location that looked like the epicentre. Once her mask and oxygen tank were on, she grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran into the building to join the rest of the squad.
Rowan stared at the woman ran into the fire. The captain had struck him stupid when she had the guts to challenge him without any fear. He was so used to give orders without ever receiving a rebuttal that it totally threw him off that the woman had fought him that way. Soon after he had found himself staring while she directed her squad to take positions and start to tackle the fire. She was fierce, of that he had no doubts. And with the same fierceness she had ran into the hangar and joined her team.
He was too busy staring at her that he missed the instant in which the structure had started to collapse on the ground. It went down as if made of paper and he froze at the realisation that there were still people inside the building. Engineers and firefighters alike. And for a brief second he felt a pang of panic for a woman he did not know and who had a temper of fire.
“Captain!” His head whipped to the side at the subtle veil of panic in the dark-haired man, handling the jet of water on their truck. “Lieutenant, come in.” But no sound came over the radio “fuck.” The man intensified the jet of water. 
Rowan knew that level of panic. He had experienced it a few times in his career. The soul crashing fear of losing a member of his team, the fear gripping his heart until a response came over the radio. He knew that fear very well. 
It took ten minutes for the auxiliary vehicles of the airbase to reach the site. They were not proper fire engines. For that they had to use the firefighters. But they could help and they started spreading a sort of special agent that slowly stifled the fire.
Rowan sighed in relief when he noticed some figures appearing from the smoke. The captain amongst them. Her hair was now covered in soot and her face just as dirty. He relaxed completely when he spotted the captain carrying one of the engineers and another fire fighters carrying the second one. The firefighter deposited the victims gently on the ground and the two EMTs went to check for them. He saw her collapsing on the ground on her knees then she stood, almost regretting that moment of weakness and went back to the engine to give some more orders. A tall blonde man approached her and after discussing something he moved away and stood staring at the collapsed building and the fire now fully extinguished.
She coughed once and then turned noticing the presence at her back.
“You should ask one of your EMTs to have a look at you.” His tone flat and devoid of emotions.
“I am fine.” She admitted with defiance “I don’t need you to babysit me. Sir or whatever rank your insignia has.”
“Captain. Captain Whitethorn.” And his words had a far gentler tone that he expected and it surprised him.
She walked away from him and went to the rest of the team to make sure everyone was okay and then checked on the civilians that had been saved and finally returned to captain Whitethorn.
“The two engineers will be fine.” She coughed one more time “They inhaled a lot of smoke but they are now on their way to the hospital for a few more checks. There are a few other with minor burns but everyone has been treated and on their way to the hospital as well.”
“Thank you.”
“Once the embers cool down I want to have a look at the site. Something clearly went completely wrong in here which means that some of your safety systems or your basic procedures are not working.”
“Are you saying that we are slacking in terms of safety?” His tone became harsh once again.
Aelin again stood straight in front of him “I saw sprinkles, but there was no trace of water which means they did not activate as soon as the fire started as they are meant to. Which in a place with so much fuel and flames is a big infraction and can land you in a shit ton of problems. Whoever was in charge of safety fucked up big time, Captain.”
Whitethorn ran his hand through his hair. That was his CO’s job. Lorcan was the one meant to look after all those things. But Lorcan had inherited a situation that was a bit of a clusterfuck and he had been working hard to fix it since his promotion. 
“I will need to come back tomorrow to do an inspection of the site and I want to inspect all the other remaining buildings and make sure they are up to code. And I don’t care if this is a restricted zone,” she moved a step closer to him and Whitethorn stared in her deep blue eyes “You get me a pass into here for tomorrow with access to all areas. And if you don’t, I’ll go high enough that when I come back you will have to roll out the red carpet. Do you read me on this Captain?”
He nodded silently. A part of him was in awe. Who was this woman? She did not seem to be intimidated by rank or a pretty uniform. He was speechless. Even civilians often tended to offer a certain level of respect to him just because of his rank. She stood in front of him, chin high and defiant. 
“Yes ma’am,” he heard himself say with unexpected obedience.
“Good. I will see you tomorrow, Captain Whitethorn.” She turned on her heels and left him still planted in his spot and completely stunned.
Aelin joined her team again and once the scene was cleared up and all the gear tucked back in the truck they left the premises.
“I hope Luca had some sort of food ready, I am starving.” Added Aelin sitting back in her seat in the truck.
“The day you will say that you are not hungry it will be a day when doom will descend upon us.” Chimed in Aedion.
“Hey, I use a lot of energy.”
“Sure, having a stand off with Captain silver fox must have been exhausting.”
Aelin turned and stared at Ansel. The red haired woman was smirking.
“He was being a pompous arsehole who think he is a god just because he wears a uniform.”
“Yeah, one hot arsehole though. I mean did you even notice him?”
Aelin did not reply. She had actually noticed him but her first impression of him hadn’t changed. The man was impossibly gorgeous but he still needed a bit of manners.
Eventually the squad got back to the station and got off the truck abandoning their equipment for checks later. “Let’s all go and get some chow in.”Aelin shouted while removing her boots “Aedion make sure you and Ansel check the truck and take Luca with you he needs some training in what we do after a call out.”
The ambulance pulled over beside them a bit later and the two women joined the rest of the group.
“Lys, all okay with the victims?”
The taller woman nodded “dropped them off. No serious injuries though.” Then she opened the back of the ambulance car and grabbed a clipboard and handed it to Aelin “our supplies order for the hospital. I was going to give it to you before but then we got called out and I forgot.”
Aelin grabbed the document “I’ll get it done today. You and Elide go and join the guys for food.”
Lysandra walked over to Aedion and dropped him a kiss on his lips. The two had been dating for years now and the whole squadron had been taking bets on when Aedion would pop the question. 
Aelin eventually joined the rest of her team for their meal and Luca had overdone himself and prepared some amazing food. She was ravenous, however during her meal her head kept going over the call they had received at the airbase. There were a few things that bugged her and she was looking forward to her visit the next morning to check the scene again. The sprinklers had been her first clue. She just hoped Captain tight-pants would be more willing to help after he had a nice night of sleep. 
It was much later when Aedion found her in her office buried under layers of folders and papers on her desk.
He gently knocked at her door “Lys and I are going home. Are you staying late again?”
“Aedion, look at these documents.” she passed him a pile of sheet of paper “That is the last safety check they had a look at the signature of who passed it.”
“Fucking Havillard senior.” The man had been the fire chief and had finally retired a few months before and the event had created a sense of relief in every single firefighter in Orynth. The man had a bad reputation and a penchant for currying far too many favours with politicians “I am so glad Dorian finally took over. He is a much better fire chief. He has done more for the fire department in a few months than his father in years of his rule.”
“I want to check every single thing he signed off as to code. I don’t trust the bastard and if he passed things not operating correctly I am going to cause a shitstorm.”
“And do what, Aelin? The man is retired and back to his mansion in Adarlan. There is nothing you can do.” Aedion was always the rational one and sometimes Aelin hated him for that.
“His negligence could have killed hundreds of people.”
“I know, but all we can do now is to fix his wrongs and make sure that the airbase is up to code. And keep your friend the Captain safe.”
Aelin snorted “Why everyone thinks I have the hots for the Captain?”
“I have known you all my life and you totally are into him. I recognised the signs.”
“Well, my dear cousin, you are highly mistaken.”
Aelin and Aedion were cousins. The man had served in the army and when he retired she had told him that her fire house was looking for recruits and asked if he wanted a shot at being a fire fighter. Aedion accepted and went through training at the academy and in the end the skills he had gained in the military had proven amazing for his new role. 
“Don’t tell me you guys are taking bets on me.”
Aedion laughed “my revenge for starting the one about me and Lys.”
Aelin growled “Yours is bound to happen eventually.” She looked at him “me and his stiffness? Not a chance. He might be hot as hell but he has no sense of humour and probably cannot go to the toilet unless he gets permission from his CO.”
Aedion sighed “That’s military training. It gets drilled into you from day one. He is still active and it’s normal. I am retired and still have that instinct.”
Aelin laughed “No, you don’t do anything without Lys’ approval.”
He nodded “I love her but the woman is scary. And now that she had Elide as a partner she is getting craftier.”
Aelin smiled “Go home and relax you two. Just don’t make me an aunt yet.”
“Don’t stay too long okay?” The man waved at her and left. 
Aelin sat five more minutes then she heard the second team arrive on the premises she packed up her stuff and decided to go home. She walked down the corridor greeting the other team and had a catch up with the lieutenant and eventually she left the station. The weather had turned cold and winter was definitely in the air. Aelin sniffled the air, cosied up in her jacket and walked home. It took her much longer than usual to go home as she took a different route and stopped at the park. Not the best idea at night but she had enough knowledge of hand to hand combat that she would easily kick the arse of whoever tried to assault her. She stopped in her favourite spot and leaned against the rail to look at the ducks in the pond. Going back home was still hard. Since she had lost Sam she hated her empty house. Even after over a year. They were both firefighters. He was the captain at the west station. They had met during a call out and got along from the start. Then got along a bit more until things got serious and they moved in together. They had two years of happiness until he went out on a call with his squadron and thing went south. He and another firefighter lost their lives that night. It had been over a year now but her heart still ached and missed him.
She heard ambulance sirens in the background and her instinct was to look for a cause for it. 
She said goodbye to the ducks and eventually walked home.
The next morning Aelin had got to work so early that the second team was still on. She had shared breakfast with them and was glad to hear they had a quiet night with just a call.
She walked back to her office and went over one the documents one more time. As a courtesy she decided tray and phone Captain Whitethorn but then realised she did not have his number and doubted the airbase would advertise its number freely. Ach well, he knew they she was going. 
Once Aedion arrived she gave him instructions on what to do while she was away. She wanted a few more drills run and the truck scrubbed and equipment checked. She knew that when she was away they tended to have far too much fun “And if I come back and I discover you guys slacked off I am going to unleash Lysandra on you.”
“I will keep them in check.”
“You better.” And with that she left and drove away to the airbase. 
It took her a good half an hour to finally reach the main gate. She got out of the car and went to the guards posted at the entrance “Hi, I am a firefighter on the TFD. I am here to see Captain Whitethorn, he is waiting for me.”
“What is your name?”
“Captain Aelin Galathynius.”
The man walked away to check something with another guard and got back to her “You can go in. The Captain will meet you at the next check point.”
Aelin grunted. They did not have this many checks the day before. Although, with a building on fire they were probably quite eager to have them in as soon as possible.
She got back in the car and drove the short distance where another military man stopped her and she noticed the captain behind him. Still stiff and a face that deserved to be punched. 
He knocked on her passenger window and Aelin lowered the glass “good morning, Captain.”
“I will need to get in the car.”
Aelin rolled her eyes and unlocked the door for him.
“Follow the main road until you see the main building. Park there and we’ll get you all signed in.”
What was his problems? Didn’t they used greeting in the military?
Aelin drove in silence until she spotted the main building.
“Park over there.” She sensed the command in his voice.
She did as told and once done she grabbed all her stuff from the back of the car and followed him. He had exited the vehicle and started walking not bothering waiting for her.
She was going to kill him. 
Once inside the main building she found him waiting for her at the reception area with a clipboard in his hands “Fill this in.” Again, that tone of command and not a single please.
Aelin had a look and realised they were annoyingly thorough in term of security “Do you want my bra size as well?” She smiled at him “it’s a 38A, by the way.”
No reaction. She sighed and filled in all her details. Once she was done the captain took the clipboard and gave her her badge “Keep this on you at all times Miss Galathynius.”
“You can call me Aelin. I gave you my bra size, I guess we are on a name basis kind of relationship.” She grabbed the badge and wore it around her neck.
“Were do you want to start?”
Fine. No jokes and back to business “your office for starters.”
“I thought you wanted to see the fire scene.”
“Yes, but I need to ask a few questions first.” And she waved the big pile of documents in her hand.
He tensed and with a hand he gestured for her to follow him. 
They walked until they reached an office at the end of a corridor “This is my CO office. I discussed the situation with him and he believes it’s a matter that needs his presence as well.”
“The more the merrier” and flashed him a smile but she had no reaction from him.
They entered the room and Aelin froze. The man in front of her was huge. He stood to greet her and she thought she had never met anyone as tall as the man behind the desk.
“Sir, this is the Captain.”
“Miss Galathynius, isn’t it?”
“Captain, if you don’t mind. I earned my rank like all of you, even if I am a woman.”
“I am Air Commodore Lorcan Salvaterre.” She shook his hand and took a seat after he offered. Captain Whitethorn stood behind her, rigid and cold as his usual. Gods, the man needed to get laid. 
“I believe you had some concerns with regard to that accident from yesterday.”
“I do.” And she slammed the pile of documents on the desk. If they wanted to play tough, they had met their match “My first concern is that some of your safety checks are two years old. As you are aware Mr Salvaterre, considered the nature of your business and the level of dangerous materials present on site you are required by law an annual check.” She passed over a piece of paper with the current regulations “and again in your case there are aspects that need to be checked twice a year and you have not done so.” She sat back on the chair “Yesterday I noticed that the sprinkles had not activated during the fire. Again, your reports show that the last maintenance check was three years ago.” Another sheet landed on the man’s desk “A hangar that could, according to your plans, have up to a 100 personnel on site at the same time, only had one fire exit.”
“If you had a look at hangar bay two blueprints you could see why only one exit was added.”
Aelin unfolded the blueprints in challenge. They had no idea who they were dealing with “I can see that one side of the hangar share the door with the airstrip and I can see that this is a very bad idea for an evacuation spot. However,” and she pointed at the plan “this area here, as you can see is perfectly safe. It offer protection from a possible explosion of fire and it looks like it could accommodate at least half of the staff.” She closed the folder “I am going to be frank with you. It’s a miracle you are still allowed to operate. This are only the biggest infractions, I am sure that once I will inspect the site of the fire I will find more.”
She noticed Salvaterre flinch.
“I am also aware that it was the old fire chief who signed off the last inspections and that explains a lot. The man had been a thorn in my side for a very long time but his son is a far more capable chief.” She sat comfortably again “My concern here is for all the staff. Yesterday could have had a far worse outcome. I can see that at least your team has a good grasp on how safely evacuate and I am positive that once we add a second door it will be even more efficient.”
“Any big changes will have to get approved by the military.”
“Well, get that done. If you value your people you will grovel until you get what you need. You don’t seem the man to back down from a valid fight.” She leaned forward a bit, not breaking eye contact with him.
“What do you suggest?”
“I will make you a deal.” She offered “I am aware it might take some time to fix all the issues and bring the whole base up to code. I am giving you six months. Work with us, I am willing to help as a consultant. I had a chat with chief Havillard and he is okay with my plan and authorised me to cooperate with you.”
“I guess I can work with that.” Then he stared at Captain Whitethorn behind her “Captain Whitethorn will be you liaison. I am too busy, but he has my authorisation to help you with what you need.”
She turned to the man at her back and noticed at his panicked face “I am sure the Captain and I will have fun. We are best buddies already.” She flashed him a smile and the man flinched. Well, at least that was a reaction. 
“Perfect. Captain Galathynius I expect you will keep me updated on the progress.” And he offered her his business card “my email is at the bottom. It’s the best way to get in touch with me.”
“Thank you sir,”Aelin said pocketing the card. The man was just as cold as the captain but seemed a bit more willing to cooperate “Now if you’ll excuse me sir I have some work to do.”
The man nodded and Captain Whitethorn walked outside, probably already dreading the idea of working with her. She was not ecstatic either. 
They were walking toward the hangar when four men stopped them and Whitethorn stopped 
“I thought I told you to go over the last tactics we developed.” He really had no idea on how to talk to people.
“We just finished.” Said the older of the group.
“Hi gorgeous.” 
Aelin turned to the voice and saw a stunning blonde man staring at her “I am Flight Lieutenant Fenrys Moonbeam, m’lady. I hope our cold hearted captain is treating you nicely. We have been trying to teach him manners…”
Aelin laughed. So they had sense of humour. It was just Whitethorn.
“Lieutenant, why don’t you go and clean your jet until it shines like a mirror?”
Fenrys got closer to her “he is old and cranky.” Then he straightened up “call me if you need a fun guide during your time at the base, Captain.”
“Lieutenant!” Whitethorn barked with a tone that did not admit any more games. 
The older man grabbed Fenrys arm and pulled him away “let’s go pup. Don’t anger the man.”
“Bye guys.” Aelin waved as they walked away.
“They are my squadron.” Whitethorn finally spoke and she turned at him in surprise “The man who took Fenrys away is Gavriel and he is Wing Commander. He is basically my second. The other two were Vaughan and Connall and, well, Fenrys. They are all Flight Lieutenants.” He sighed “Fenrys is a good pilot but he is still young.”
“The only person with a sense of humour inside here and you shot him down that way?” She shook her head “Come on grampa, let’s go and do our job.”
Aelin walked away with a swagger and when she was not looking his lips bent in a fraction of a smile. The woman was a force of nature and for some reason he could not explain why he had spent the previous night wondering about the fierce woman who had not backed down and who face him fiercely. Not that he would ever admit to anyone, but  he found her madly attractive. 
She was now walking in front of him and was almost skipping and he had to try very hard not to chuckle at the scene.
“You are going the wrong way.” His tone cold again.
“Well, then get your arse in front of me and lead the way.” She stopped and waited for him to walk past her. While behind him she sneaked a peak at the man and she realised that Ansel had been right. Her gaze lingered on his backside and some very improper thoughts passed through her mind. Her gaze trailed up to his broad shoulders and lingered on his short silver hair and then dropped to the strong hands folded behind his back. Some very improper thought passed through her mind but she shook them off. He was a horrible man. She was not going down that road. Boundaries. 
“We are here.” His voice woke her up from her thoughts.
From her bag Aelin extracted two masks and a torch. She threw one of the masks to Mr cranky pants “put this on. There will be still fumes lingering and they are very toxic.”
Thankfully he accepted the mask without complaints. It looks like he was intelligent enough to understand the risks.
He unlocked the place and allowed Aelin to go in first. He trailed behind and let her work in silence. 
“What kind of jobs do you do in here?”
“Hangar two is were the jets needing heavy maintenance are moved to. Hangar one is the main one where all the jets ready for take off are kept.”
She moved around pointing the light in some specific areas “Am I correct in saying that the planes in here do not have any fuel and are not armed.”
She saw him nod “The fuel is removed as soon as they are moved in here. A small amount is added only when they need to be moved back to the main hangar. And yes, no weapon of any type is held here or in hangar one for all that matters. We have very tight procedure for ammunition and the missiles are loaded only an hour prior to take off and armed only after the jets have left the base.”
Aelin nodded, well, at least it seemed that on some areas they had their shit together.
She moved to what looked like the epicentre of the fire and crouched down and touched a strange puddle on the floor. She smelled it and cursed. That smelled like kerosene but a doubt was nagging her. The puddle looked big enough to be a leak.
“Do you keep track of the repairs done in each bay?”
“We do and I have the jobs recorded for yesterday in bay four.” Then his eyes reacted in shock “It looks like the jet in bay four had suffered a fuel tank leak and was scheduled for a repair or possibly a replacement.”
Aelin walked around the charred remains of the jet then she noticed a panel missing on the side “help me here Captain, what is this panel for?” And she flashed the light inside the livery.
“This is the access panel for the tank. It looks like they had started the works already.”
“I am allowed to make a guess Captain?”
“By all means.” He stood at her side.
“My theory is that while the tank was emptied fuel leaked out. Whoever did the job, did not realise it. Once the tank was empty he proceeded with the replacement job and used tools that might have caused a spark and ignited the fuel and caused the explosion. Am I getting closer?”
“I have a feeling ma’am that you are on the right track, alas.”
She crouched again and stared at the puddle “however, this is not how kerosene works… kerosene does not catches fire easily. It has a high flash point.” she muttered to herself then she turned to the man behind her “Captain, are you using a special type of fuel? Jets are usually powered by kerosene.”
He froze and she knew she had hit the jackpot.
He cleared his throat “we have been experimenting with other fuels and liquid oxygen.”
“Fuck,” muttered Aelin turning and standing “do you really need all that power?”
“As I said we have been experimenting. This plane was one of the new prototypes.” He confessed.
“How many of these monsters do you have?”
“I am not allowed to tell. This is as much as I have been authorised to say.”
“Damn it Captain.” She shouted.
“They are not on the premises and in a very remote location away from inhabited areas. This one was here for testing.” His face grew dark all of a sudden “I was meant to fly it.”
Aelin gasped “are you telling me that you were willing to strap yourself in this crazy thing and risk your life with something clearly not stable?”
He looked away “It’s my job after all.”
“Shit.” Aelin stood and walked away. Why was she even caring about him.
But she brushed him off and kept inspecting the area “your fire extinguishers a too far away and it takes a person too much time to grab one. And you need more.” Then she turned to the Captain “I assume they at least know how to use it…” he nodded.
“Well, that’s a start but we will have refresher session. That never hurts and you guys will have to do it as well.”
He nodded.
“Fine. Take me to hangar bay one.”
“Follow me.” He just said and started walking still thinking about her reaction and was stunned that for a moment she had seemed to care.
The two walked in silence and Aelin followed him looking around the base and noticing things.
Once in the main hangar bay, Whitethorn opened the door and Aelin stood still at the sight. In front of her there were at least ten jets. All painted in the Terrasen green. They were a sight to behold.
“I am not sure I agree with their use but they look majestic.”
The captain nodded while he stood at her side, hands folded behind his back “come.”
He walked to one of the jets, said something to one of the engineers buzzing around it and it was just the two of them “This one is mine.”
Aelin traced her hand to the livery “Iceman?” She asked noticing the word painted just under the canopy.
“My call sign.”
Aelin chuckled “I guess it fits you perfectly.” Then she walked to the stepladder “Can I?” She asked. She was dying to sit in the cockpit. Just for a few minutes. She could not get distracted but she wanted to do it.
The Captain moved closer to her “be careful on the ladder.” She flashed him a smug smile and Whitethorn kept a watchful eye while she climbed turning his head when her backside was basically in his face. Once at the top she climbed over the edge and sat in the cockpit quite skilfully and now she looked down at him with a big grin. His heart jumped. When she smiled she was the most stunning creature he had seen. A brat, but still a gorgeous brat.
A moment later he had noticed she had taken his helmet and was now trying to wear it. He held back a chuckle and climbed the ladder “let me.” He was so close to her that he could smell her scent of lavender and jasmine. He helped her fastening the helmet properly then he turned to some of the dials on the dashboard.
“This is the altimeter” for some reason he leaned forward and started to explain her some of the dials in the cockpit “this is to check the speed and this one tells how many g’s we are pulling. That is—“ but he got interrupted.
“I know what that is Captain. How many g’s do you pull max?”
“9 in a vertical steep ascent, dogfights and in some turns as well. We never sustain it for too long because it’s dangerous.” He leaned on the livery “we wear special suits called G suits that help with the pressure and we undergo a crazy amount of training in the centrifuge and we also have to keep a strict exercise and health regime.”
That, she had noticed the previous day and on a couple of occasions she had imagined the amount of muscles under that uniform of his.
“Let’s get back to work.” She said, saving herself from the strange direction her thoughts had wondered. She stood and the Captain straightened and moved closer to her “be careful, climbing is much easier than coming down.” She turned and gave her back to him and felt a phantom of his hand on her back. He was not touching her but she could feel his hand lingering there, protecting her.
“Ok, one rung at a time.” His tone had changed as well and somehow the iciness had gone “Good, one more and you are there.”
Aelin climbed off the last rung and turned only to crash into his hard chest. She had not realised how close he was standing and when she looked up she met his eyes. They looked brighter and they had a strange light she could not place. As soon as she realised how close they were standing she backed away and for a very brief second she thought she noticed disappointment in his expression.
“Thank you for that Captain. Now I can brag that I sat in a fighter jet.”
He nodded but did not added anything. 
They finished inspecting the main hangar and Aelin looked puzzled “How is it possible that this hangar is all up to code and perfect. Such a discrepancy does not make sense.”
“Salvaterre took over from our old CO only six months ago.” He sighed “do you want the diplomatic answer or the actual truth?”
“What do you think?” Her answer was a bit harsher than she intended “Sorry, I did not mean it like that. The truth of course.”
“Our old CO was very much a friend with Havillard senior. And I think politics and money are the answer to your question.”
“I don’t fucking it believe it.” She almost shouted in frustration “so these bastards prefer to save some money and leave a hangar with very little safety?” She leaned against the plane and looked up to try and calm down for a moment “It’s disgusting.”
“We both got new COs who both seem to be more decent individual. Let’s leave the past where it is and fix things from now onwards.”
Aelin smiled at him “this might be one of the wisest thing you said since I met you.”
Whitethorn glared at her but she ignored him.
They spent another hour going around the base and Aelin completed her inspection. There were some issues but all things that could be easily fixed and she was relieved that although the base was not in its best of state it was definitely not as in bad condition as she thought after the disaster in the secondary hangar.
“Captain, that’s me all done. I would like you to come to the station tomorrow so we can discuss an action plan and put forward some ideas for your CO.”
“I can do that. Do you have a preferred time?”
“Would morning at 9am be okay for you or is it too early?”
“It’s fine.” 
“Amazing.” Aelin flashed him a very bright smile and then extracted a card from the pocket of her jacket “These are my contact details. If you have any question you can email me or phone me.” She pointed at the card “that is my direct phone number at work. The address of the fire station is on as well.”
The man accepted the card and placed in the trousers pockets of his uniform.
“Well, Captain Whitethorn, thank you for today. And I will see you tomorrow.” She extended her hand and the man took it.
He nodded and in silence he walked her back to the check point. Another nod and he turned on his heels with military precision and walked away.
Aelin stood to study the man for a moment. She found him fascinating. He was still an emotionless prick but there was something that got her attention. She hoped that working together would become easier in the long run otherwise it would be a very long and touch liaison mission.
Eventually she got back in the car and returned to work.
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foughtconquered · 20 hours ago
Rereads Queen of Shadows just to experience Rowaelin reuniting because I need the serotonin.
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kirsteink · 22 hours ago
Finally reading TOG series, I know I know I’m late to the party! 🙈 I’m on Heir of Fire.... and I’m honestly concerned how quickly my allegiance to the men in this book shifted 😂😂😂 I have been 100% for Chaol so far in this series and then BAM! Here is this Fae prince who is all mean and harsh and I am like YAS babe I love you. Seeking professional help now.
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Ok so I am late on the Throne of Glass train cause I'd never bothered reading the series knowing it had a lot of 'issues', but I needed some light and mindless reading these days so I thought 'why the hell not'..
And now I am genuinely curious. I know Celeana ends up with a dude called Rowan later on (thanks years of spoilers), but when the book first came out, who did people ship her with? Dorian or Chaol? I am sure there must have been shipping wars, I need to know!!! Someone please tell me!!! Ahh..
Personally I don't like Dorian too much, I prefer Chaol.. maybe cause I have a thing for the quiet and brooding type (Azriel in Acotar lol)
Also ngl it's kinda awkward reading about them liking each other knowing they will end up with different people ugh lol
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fireheart-ale · a day ago
GAVRIEL from Throne of Glass
By Sarah J Maas
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My Instagram:
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lord-of-perranth · a day ago
Rowan had not possessed an army of his own to give to Aelin. To give to Terrasen. So he had won an army for her.
– Empire of Storms, chapter 67
i don’t care this is one of the most romantic things i’ve ever read
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morganofthewildfire · a day ago
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Ivy - Chapter 23
So this is it. The last one, apart from the epilogue. It’s been a long road, and I want to thank you all for staying on this journey with me. I know I’ve put through a lot, but I really appreciate all of the notes and the likes and the comments and the reblogs. You motivated me to write every chapter, to get out every word even when I didn’t feel like writing, just so I could get it posted for you. This story has been a lot emotionally for me, and it’s made me cry a few times that’s it’s coming to a close. I promise to make the epilogue as fluffy as possible though, to try and make up for some angst! And I don’t think this fic will ever be completely over, I’d love to write more oneshots from this world. But enough rambling, here’s the chapter. It’s a beast.
CW: mentions of miscarriage, mentions of violence and implied mentions of sexual assault, graphic violence
- 10,200 words
Orynth, 1886
Rowan was exhausted. Weary to his very bones. His face was pounding, blood dripping down his face and down his neck from the split lip and broken nose. He felt like he’d been awake for thousands of years and all he wanted to do was lay down and sleep.
But he couldn’t. Because it wasn’t over yet.
He was staring at Arobynn’s body. Staring at the stab wounds, the blood, the emptiness in his face. It was clear he was dead. As dead as the other body laying on the same carpet a few yards over.
Rowan panted, catching his breath from the fight. And from everything. He was bracing himself on his hands, keeping himself seated on the carpet while bringing himself back to real life. There was a ringing in his ears, but it was slowly fading as the room settled.
And then he heard a laugh.
It shocked him so much he turned his head, his gaze landing on Aelin, who was laying on her back, blood soaked, with the letter opener still clutched tightly in her hands. She was chuckling, her eyes closed, the sound bordering on hysteric.
If not for the noise, and for the shaking of her chest, she could’ve passed for another body strewn across the carpet. And that struck a nervous chord in his mind, making him need to see her eyes again.
“Aelin,” he whispered reverently, as if a prayer. She paused, breathing deeply and turning her head where it rested against the floor. Her eyes opened slowly, the blue and gold meeting his green. And then she smiled faintly, the expression tinging the edges of her lips, not reaching her eyes.
She looked exhausted too, if a little dazed. No wonder, considering what she’d just done and been through.
Rowan opened his mouth to say something, anything, to address what just happened, to figure out where to go from here, to comfort her. And to distract himself from the deaths they’d just incurred. Arobynn was one thing, he deserved to die, and Aelin deserved to be the one to do it. But Tern. He’d just been a lackey, a sidekick, paid to be there. And now he was dead on the floor, murdered by Rowan’s own hand. He didn’t know how to feel.
But he’d also killed him to get to Aelin, which would always be worth it. Even if she ended up saving herself, he’d rather stain his soul a thousand times than let her go through that alone.
A knock sounded at the door, seizing his attention. He froze, darting his gaze to the door. Aelin did too, albeit a little more slowly.
“Aelin?” A soft voice called through the wood. Aelin’s eyes widened in alarm. “I heard some noises, are you in here? I wanted to talk.”
Rowan squinted, trying to place the voice through his headache. But Aelin apparently did, because she pushed herself up weakly onto her hands, that horrid word bleeding down her back as she looked at the door.
She opened her mouth to say something when the door cracked open. And his face paled even more when Evalin Galathynius appeared from around the frame.
“Oh!” She exclaimed, her face paling too as she took in the scene. “Shit.” The word sounded strange coming from the woman’s mouth, but he didn’t have enough energy to be too shocked. She looked about ready to scamper when she froze, looking at her daughter’s condition. And then she slipped inside, closing the door behind her. Rowan watched as she darted her gaze to the bodies quickly before kneeling down next to Aelin, who was watching her with wary eyes, hand still clutching the knife.
“Are you okay?” Evalin asked Aelin, obviously concerned by the blood coating her.
“What are you doing here?” She croaked, turning to face her, hiding her back from her mother’s gaze. “The party’s downstairs.” Her tone was tired but sharp, and her words were nonchalant, like there weren’t two dead bodies lying next to them.
Evalin glanced toward Tern, passing over him without much care and landing on Arobynn. Her mouth tightened and she looked up at him, staring at him with the eyes so similar to the ones he loved.
“Did you do this?” She asked, with a clear hint of tension, like she thought he was a danger. Rowan shook his head.
“Your daughter is the one holding the knife,” he said simply. Aelin’s grip tightened, as if she couldn’t let it go.
“I have to go back downstairs,” Aelin murmured to herself, not looking at either of them. It filled him with relief to hear her voice, but he froze at her words. She looked up then, making eye contact with him and avoiding her mother. “I shouldn’t’ve been gone this long.”
“Aelin -”
“If anyone finds us, with this mess, we’ll both be fucked.” Evalin rose her brows at the harsh language coming from her daughter. “I said I was coming up to check on him, people will be confused if I never come back down, and it’ll just be suspicious when he’s then found de-” she stuttered on the word, taking a breath, “dead.”
“Why is he dead?” Evalin asked sharply. And then she soothed her expression. “What happened?” She looked over the scene again, eyes landing on Aelin’s state of dress, and then flickering to him. “Did he… find you doing something regrettable?”
Finally, Aelin’s eyes flashed with something besides emptiness, a flicker of rage passing. “If he did, then he’d be a two faced hypocritical bastard for it. He cheats on me often enough.” She closed her eyes. “Cheated,” she corrected, before sighing. Evalin reached out a hand hesitantly, but Aelin jerked away, darting her eyes open with an almost feral expression of defense.
“Well,” Evalin said with a resigned huff, “we should get this cleaned up.”
“What?” Aelin asked, furrowing her brows. The way she was angled away from her mother allowed Rowan to see her back, the nasty red lines and the still spilling blood making him nauseous. He couldn’t even move, frozen at the sight and stuck with the shame rolling through him. He didn’t stop that from happening. He didn’t help. He didn’t do anything.
“We can’t leave the room like this.” Evalin raised her brows and Aelin frowned, a sort of conflicted confusion filling her features. She looked like she didn’t understand, like she just wanted to fall asleep and avoid the consequences of what had just happened. He felt the same way.
It had been the scariest moment of his life when she wasn’t waking up after being thrown against the dresser. When she stayed unmoving, her eyes shut and her breaths so godsdamned slow, Rowan felt like he was shattering, like it wouldn’t be worth it to continue fighting if there was nothing for him to fight for. And he almost hadn’t continued, he’d almost lost. But it was Aelin who saved him, like she always did.
“We can’t do anything,” Aelin argued, “you aren’t a part of this.” Her hands shook as she lifted one and wiped it down her face, trails of blood following her fingertips and creating an eerie image on her cheek. The sight moved him to action. Rowan reached into his ripped jacket, pulling out a plain handkerchief. It had been protected from the blood wrapped in his inside pocket.
He managed to scoot over, every part of his body aching with hurt, until he was next to her. She looked up at him with once again empty eyes, watching as he stretched out the handkerchief for her to take. Instead, Aelin just tilted her head toward him, as if asking him to do it for her.
So he obliged, wiping the fabric gently down her face, cupping her cheek with his other hand while he softly cleaned her skin. She closed her eyes, letting her head rest in his hand, and Rowan’s heart swelled at the trust she put in him. Especially with everything that had just happened.
He brushed his thumb softly along her cheekbone, looking up at Evalin, who was still kneeling there, obviously confused at the scene in front of her.
“We had a plan,” he said quietly, and Aelin let out a sigh, “And we thought it would work, but it… didn’t.” Evalin stayed still, waiting to hear as Rowan gave her a very abridged version. “Aelin came up here to see if it worked, and when she didn’t come back down, I followed. I found them up here, and got angry with what was going on.” Aelin ducked her head into his arm, avoiding her mother’s gaze. “Things got heated, and here we are.” He looked at Evalin, conviction in his tone. “I promise you, I would never hurt your daughter. I only ever want to protect her the best I can.”
“Does Aedion know about this?” She asked, gesturing between the two of them. That made Aelin look up.
“I think we have bigger things to worry about,” she delivered with a bit of snap.
“Right,” Evalin sighed, looking around as if cataloguing every spot of blood in the room. “We have to get you cleaned up, and figure out what to do about this mess.” She stood up, and Aelin kept her eyes on her, her expression wary.
“Why are you helping?” She asked, and Rowan moved the hand on her cheek to rub down her arm, slowly traveling down to grab the blade from her hand. Aelin hesitated, but let him take it from her and set it down on the ground. She winced slightly at the movement, pain likely shooting to her back. But she covered it quickly, masking her face back into one of stone.
Evalin hesitated, chewing on her lip in a way similar to her daughter, and chose her words carefully. “I - don’t want to lose you. No matter what you think, I do love you, and when you said that to me earlier, it made me think about the choices I was actually making, the mistakes I was actually making.” Rowan didn’t know what conversation she was referencing, but knew it must’ve been important if Aelin had made her change her mind like that. “I can explain more later, but for now, will you let me help you?”
Aelin blinked back a tear, only noticed by him because of how well he knew her, and nodded slowly.
“Okay,” Evalin breathed in relief, nodding too. “Rowan,” she addressed him, turning to face his way. “Do you have your mask?” He nodded. “Good. That can be used to hide some of the swelling around your eyes.” Smart. She turned to Aelin, who was significantly more blood soaked. “Do you have any other undergarments available? We don’t want the blood soaking through your dress. Speaking of, where is it?” She looked around, noticeably avoiding looking at the dead bodies, until she spotted it splayed out on the ground by the door, very much looking like it had been ripped off. “Ah,” she said, her voice dropping, and she went over to pick it up.
Aelin shifted again to avoid her seeing her back, and Rowan gently traced up and down her spine with his free hand, relishing in how she leaned into him for comfort.
Evalin walked over to place the golden fabric gently on the bed, and then made her way back to the door.
“I’ll get you some new clothes, Aelin,” she said, “I’m assuming they’re in your room?” Aelin nodded and then her mother slipped back out of the room quickly, shutting the door discreetly behind her. Once it was closed, Aelin sighed, dropping her eyes to the ground. Rowan pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“How are you feeling?” He asked, tucking loose hair behind her ear. She looked up at him, trying to smile.
“Tired,” she managed to say. “But I know we have a lot to do.”
“You’re more important,” he said, but she shook her head.
“If anyone else found us, Rowan, you’d likely be blamed for this, and I’d really rather you not go to jail.” Aelin began pushing herself to a stand weakly. He stood up with her, walking carefully across the floor to the pitcher of water resting on the dresser. The dresser she had been thrown against. He picked it up gently, pouring a bit on his already dirty handkerchief.
“Okay,” he conceded with a nod, because it was true. Everyone would assume he was the murderer, when really it was a shared job. Even though he would take the blame for her any day. “You’re right. So let’s get you cleaned up.”
She snorted slightly at his matter of fact tone of voice, but obliged, stepping over Arobynn’s body to get to him. Her hair was a mess, her skin splattered with red, her movements heavy, but there was a spark of determination in her eyes. When Aelin reached him, Rowan grabbed her arm lightly, dragging the damp fabric down her skin to remove the blood. He scrubbed gently, successfully cleaning off the skin. He switched to the other arm, letting a comfortable silence overtake the room. She let him wipe her neck and upper chest off too, as gently as possible, and to return the favor, Aelin grabbed the cloth from him, dabbing at his lip.
He grabbed her shaking hand carefully, pressing a light kiss to her palm. “We did it, Fireheart,” he whispered, “he’s gone. You’re free.” She nodded, the heaviness leaving her face for a split moment, returning when he gestured for her to turn around. He had to attend to her back before she could do anything, especially putting rough fabric on over it and being forced to pretend like nothing was wrong. It would bleed through if there wasn’t a bandage covering it, and it would likely get infected if it wasn’t cleaned out.
But as she slowly turned around, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip, Rowan was hit with the awfulness of the wound again. He wanted to bring Arobynn back to life and then murder him again, if only for the way he’d marked her. It was then he realized that Aelin probably didn’t even know what it said. Didn’t know that he’d carved the word whore into her skin. Obviously she knew he’d done something, but she hadn’t really gotten a chance to see it due to its location.
A tear slipped out of his eye as he lifted the handkerchief to dab at the blood surrounding it, trying to avoid irritating the hurt as much as possible. The cuts were red and angry, the mar in her beautiful skin echoing the mar in his heart. She lifted her hand to grab his free one, squeezing it to comfort him when he should be comforting her.
A sharp gasp sounded behind him, and he turned around quickly to meet the shocked face of Evalin Galathynius, having returned to the room, carrying a set of undergarments with a new corset in her arms. Rowan hadn’t realized that when they’d moved over to the dresser, they’d turned so that her back was to the door, leaving it open for view, the opposite of what he knew Aelin wanted. But it was too late.
Aelin whipped around, blood draining from her face as her mother’s paled too.
“Who did that to you?” She whispered, utter devastation in her eyes. Aelin’s eyes dropped to Arobynn’s body before rising back to hers, looking at her with the most strength she’d displayed since the murder.
“Who do you think?” She said sternly. “The person that I’ve told you time and time again was not a man I’d ever want to be alone in a room with.” She shook her head and walked over, grabbing the clothes roughly from her mother without bothering to say anything.
“I didn’t know,” Evalin breathed, and Aelin just scoffed.
“You didn’t believe me is more accurate.” Her lip trembled, likely against her will. Rowan could tell she was close to breaking, and as much as he wanted to give her a chance to grieve, they couldn’t yet. They still had to tie up all the loose ends.
Aelin was running on spite, anger, frustration, nerves, fear, and a good dose of exhilaration as she stood in that damned room, watching as her mother looked at her with fear in her eyes. Her heart was racing, like it was going to beat out of her chest as she fought to ground herself in everything. She squeezed Rowan’s hand to help, grounding herself in him.
Her back felt like a brand more than anything now, making her tremble at the white hot pain, and at the overwhelming knowledge that Evalin saw it. That someone else besides Rowan had seen it. She hadn’t even seen it.
But she had to put that aside for now. What she’d said was true, she didn’t want Rowan to go to jail. So they had to hurry.
Without wasting another moment, Aelin snatched the clothes from her mother’s hands, dumping them on the bed and yanking at the corset she still had on. It loosened easily, and she slid it off and threw it to the side quickly.
“Aelin - “ her mother said hesitantly, conflict brewing in the eyes that were so similar to her own. She probably was concerned by the fact that Aelin was about to strip in front of a man who was not her husband, even if her husband was dead and she’d already been with the other man. Not that her mother knew that.
So Aelin just ignored her and yanked off her chemise, leaving her whole chest and stomach bare. Rowan obviously didn’t care, he was just turned around, pulling off a sheet from the bed. She grabbed the fresh pair of drawers, non blood stained ones, and exchanged them with her own, changing efficiently. She left her shirt off though, because Rowan started ripping the sheet into strips of fabric, making a bandage for her to wear underneath the new chemise and dress. It was fine, she’d lost all modesty over the past year, but her mother was frozen for a second before she darted into action.
Evalin had brought a brush over from her room too, and came up behind Aelin to brush her hair, smoothing out the blood with a little bit of water from the pitcher. Her hair hadn’t been too fancy that evening, her maids wanting to highlight her dress, so Evalin was able to quickly pull it back into the loose low bun, making it almost identical to the style it had been.
“I can go distract people downstairs,” she murmured, “so people lose focus on where you are.”
“Okay,” Aelin whispered, a bit of hesitant gratefulness rising in her.
“How are you planning on cleaning this up?” She addressed Rowan, raising her brows, trusting in him only due to the situation.
“I don’t know if we can,” he said honestly, and Aelin could practically see the gears turning in his head as he thought through a plan. “It might be better just to burn it.”
They all paused, Evalin with shock, Rowan with hesitancy, and Aelin with a whole mix of emotions. Burning it. Burning the house that she’d gone through all of this in. The house she’d been manipulated in, attacked in, belittled in. The house she’d lost her baby in. It was a bold move, but she felt a sick sort of relief at the thought of this house being gone forever. And it would get rid of another problem that she had been trying to work through.
So she nodded.
“I think that would be smart,” she told him. “It would get rid of any evidence and save us the trouble of dealing with these bodies.” She avoided looking at them. “It could be framed as an accident, a lamp either I or him left burning when he ‘fell asleep’ and I went back downstairs.”
Rowan nodded and grabbed a makeshift bandage from his pile, and she turned to face away from him so he could wrap it around her so it covered the cuts. “It wouldn’t be noticed until we could both be safely away. But it would still be noticed soon enough that everyone could safely get out.”
“And any suspicion would be lost in the chaos,” she agreed.
“And the house?” Evalin added, looking at them from a few feet away.
Aelin’s expression cooled, her stomach turning to ash as she said vindictively, “let it burn.” But wait. “Shit. My ring.” She turned to Rowan with a look of panic. “I can’t leave that.”
“You have your ring,” Evalin tried to clarify, nodding at her hand. But Aelin just ripped it off, throwing it across the room.
“Not that piece of vile garbage,” she spit before looking back at Rowan. “It’s in my closet, under a loose floorboard. Can you grab it for me?”
He nodded with a soft smile and disappeared, slipping out the door and down the hallway, leaving Aelin alone with Evalin.
“How long has that been going on?” Her mother asked good naturedly as she helped Aelin into her chemise and dress. She was hesitant to engage in the conversation, given the nature of it, but she decided to be honest.
“A little less than three years,” she spoke softly. Evalin paused in the middle of buttoning up her dress.
“Three years?!” She asked with shock. “And you never told us about it?”
“What was I supposed to say?” She shrugged. “I would’ve been ignored.”
Evalin had no defense against the truth, so they fell into silence as she finished buttoning up her dress, handing her her mask from where it had fallen on the floor, and grabbing her shoes. Aelin slid into all of it quickly, piecing herself back up to the image of the woman she’d been before she first entered the room. Everything was different now. Especially when she could still see Arobynn’s body on the floor, could see all of the stab wounds she’d made in his chest, in the fury and rage and haze of destruction. Tern’s body was there too, and though she didn’t care as much about him, he should have known better than to get involved with a man like Arobynn, the sight of his open and empty eyes were a bit disturbing. He wasn’t brutalized. Instead, he looked like he could get up right now and go kill Rowan for daring to kill him. She shuddered.
“Okay,” Evalin said, “I have to go now. I’ll keep everyone’s attention away from you until they all have to leave anyway.” Aelin nodded in thanks, conflicting feelings rising in her stomach at the situation.
“Thank you,” she murmured quietly, having to force the words out.
“Of course,” Evalin said, smiling at her. “You’re my daughter.” And then she was leaving, her chin up and her hands clasped together as she made her way back down to go charm the entirety of the upper class of Orynth.
Aelin watched as she left, taking deep breaths to center herself. She’d be following her any minute now. Rowan came back into the room, carrying the emerald ring he’d given her. He walked up to her, and grabbed her hand, pressing the ring into it and closing her fingers around the metal, wrapping his hand around hers. He then pressed a kiss to their joined skin.
“To whatever end,” he whispered, love in his green eyes as he stared at her.
“To whatever end,” she confirmed, leaning up to meet him as he laid a delicate kiss on her lips. And then she pulled her hand back, sliding the ring into the hidden pocket of her dress, where it clanged against the empty vial of poison. She released the ring, feeling it sit against the charm Elide had made for her, and grabbed the bottle instead, pulling it out of the skirt. Understanding what she was doing, Rowan dropped a kiss to her forehead and darted out the door, to where she couldn’t see him, and came in with the spilled glass of champagne. The poisoned one.
With a sort of air of reverence, he set it on the table between the armchairs, next to Arobynn’s last cigar, and she set the bottle inside the glass.
Aelin buried her head in his chest, feeling his arms wrap around her. She let herself bask in the comforting scent, the scent of home. Rowan placed a kiss to her hair, murmuring “Go. I’ll handle the rest here.”
She nodded into his shirt, sighing and closing her eyes and not listening to him. He brushed a hand over her hair, before sliding it down and caressing her back carefully. Her back still hurt like a bitch, but she was trying to ignore the pain until she could finally have a chance to breathe.
“I love you,” he murmured, pulling back. He smiled at her softly and she smiled weakly back.
“I love you too.” And then it was her turn to leave. But she needed her old ring first. If she didn’t have it when she went downstairs, she’d be calling suspicion to herself. And when the house was burnt, and she didn’t have it, she’d be really screwed. She needed it as visible proof of her connection to him, even if she was legally married to him, for the next part of her plan. So she walked over and grabbed it from where she had thrown it on the floor, tensing as she pushed it on to her finger. She could do this.
With her head held high, Aelin walked out the door, delicately stepping over Arobynn’s body on her way. She barely registered the passing hallway, the doors, the carpet, the normalcy of it all that didn’t match the storm inside of her.
She stepped down the stairs slowly but deliberately, fighting a battle with herself mentally. She could do this. She could do this. She could do this.
She took a deep breath as she made her way back into the ballroom, forcing a soft smile on her face as she watched couples on the floor spin around, as she heard laughter and watched as people drunk on the alcohol and drunk on life pranced around the room. Who should she talk to?
She scanned the room, glancing across Lorcan and Elide standing on the other side. They both made eye contact with her and smiled with relief as she nodded at them, confirming she was okay when she really was anything but. Aelin loosed a breath and moved on, finding the group of women she had been around last time. Georgiana Havilliard was still talking to Clarisse DuVency, walking around with glasses of champagne as they laughed and probably gossipped about other attendants, and the fabulous wedding party that they were sure to be invited to, supposed to be thrown by Aelin herself. Too bad that wouldn’t happen.
So Aelin changed her walking path to make sure she ran into them, letting out a fake “oh!” when she did.
“Oh hello, Lady Hamel!” Mrs. Havilliard crooned. “I just talked to your mother, but I wasn’t sure when you were coming back down! Is everything okay with your husband?”
“Oh yes,” Aelin lied, smiling and nodding. “I think he’s catching a bit of a cold, but he’s sleeping it off now. I had to practically force him to go to bed, he wanted to come back down and spend time with all of you, but I told him that he has to get better! I can’t stand when he’s not feeling well.” She was lying. Lying through her teeth with a sugary sweet tone that made her want to gag, but she was managing.
“Well he has to get better before the wedding!” Clarisse said with a false cheer, trying to casually insert herself into the top social tier. “We can’t have our host out of commission.”
“Of course not,” Aelin agreed, tossing a hand. “He’ll be fine by then. I’ll make sure to take good care of him. I’m going to go check on him in a little bit. I left the lamp lit up there, so I’ll go back and see how he’s feeling before I go to bed.”
“You’re so sweet,” Mrs. Havilliard said, lifting a hand to her chest. “I wish Mr. Havilliard took care of me the same way.”
“Well,” Aelin shrugged, a bashful smile and a blush on her face. Think of Rowan. Think of Rowan. She could survive this if she thought of him. “Newlyweds you know. We may be different in a few years.”
They laughed and cooed and then she was off, spouting the same bullshit to group after group, person after person, all the while waiting for Rowan to reappear.
She even danced a few times, with Lorcan, with her father, with Dorian, keeping one eye on the door the whole time. Every second that passed by where Rowan wasn’t back was filling her body with more stress than it could handle. It made her back ache, her arms and legs tremble, her heart race with steady nerves that weren’t going away.
“FIRE!” A frantic voice yelled. “FIRE UPSTAIRS!”
Panic immediately broke out, the music cutting out in a shrill squeak as people registered what was said, the room filling with noise as people started shouting and running, desperate to get away. The young servant who’d spotted the flames got caught up in the chaos as people rushed both exits, no one stopping to think of the best plan of action.
Aelin knew she was supposed to run, to get out of the house that was about to burn down, but she was frozen. Because of Rowan. Where was he?
“Is anyone up there?” “What’s happening?” “Is everyone safe?”
The voices rushed around her as she got caught up in the crowd. She couldn’t leave yet. She couldn’t leave him. She almost got knocked to the floor as someone rammed into her shoulder as they passed, all respect forgotten in the panic, but she still didn’t move, even as she saw the glow of the fire against the wood upstairs as it spread through the hallway up there. Arobynn’s body, Tern’s body, his room, her room, all her stuff. It was gone.
A strangled sob left her as someone grabbed her arm, yanking her through the bustling crowd as she fought to get to the stairs. Even amidst her fear for Rowan though, she knew she had to play this up. Lady Aelin Hamel’s husband was upstairs, her room was upstairs, all of her precious clothes and jewels were upstairs. She would be expected to be upset. Mrs. Aelin Whitethorn on the other hand, was just concerned about Rowan. And he was up there too. But no one cared about her.
So she forced herself to shout Arobynn’s name as she threw herself against Lorcan’s grip. “Arobynn!” Rowan. “Arobynn!” Rowan.
She sobbed more as she was hauled away, letting people think she was crying over the loss of everything she cared about, because technically it was true.
Aelin barely felt the outside air as she was pulled out into the night, joining all the other guests and servants as they huddled in the street in front of her home. She darted her gaze up and down the house, around the sides and into the yard as she waited for Rowan to appear.
“Where is he?” She choked on a sob as fire burst one of the windows, the heat spreading downstairs. Fire marshals were already on the scene, trying to control it the best they could, but it was clear to everyone that the house was gone.
“Where is he?” She said desperately again, looking up at Lorcan for the answer. He just shook his head with a sad expression on his face.
“I don’t know,” he murmured, voice full of regret.
“Where is he?!” Aelin practically shouted, pushing away from his grip as she darted around, fighting through the crowd as she cried out desperately. A few more people tried to grab her, trying to comfort her and keep her from running back into the house. Tears were streaming down her face as she fought to get to him.
To Rowan.
Rowan, who’d seen every single broken piece of her and vowed to put her back together, who was doing just that with every touch, every word, every reminder of his love. She didn’t want that love to be gone.
A cooler hand wrapped around hers, pulling her back as her heart beat so fast she couldn’t breathe. Tears burned her eyes and blurred her vision, so she barely made out the sight of her mother before she was collapsing into her arms, hugging her tight. Everything else was too much, she just wanted her mother.
“Is he gone, mama?” She whispered, sniffing back tears. Evalin ran a hand down her hair, trying to soothe her.
“Everything will turn out fine,” she said, deflecting the question. It just made Aelin start crying again, ignoring everything else around her until she heard some familiar sounding footsteps a few yards to her right. She looked up hesitantly, crying harder as she saw Rowan, watching as he approached Lorcan and a few others gathered around.
“Sorry,” he said, “I was looking for the bathroom and got stuck as the fire was spreading. I had to jump out through a window.” He looked over and smiled slightly at her, and she nearly laughed at his words, at the excuse he came up with for the wounds on his face. It worked, but the mischief in his eyes brought a little lightness to her heart.
She was still crying, but she was smiling at him too as the rest of her life burned to ashes.
It took two more days for things to finally calm down enough to where Aelin could breathe. After the fire had been extinguished, leaving her house burnt to a crisp but saving the surrounding ones, the crowd had begun tapering off, and she had gone with her mother back to her family home.
So now she was staying in her childhood bedroom, back in the place that she’d never thought she’d be in again. It was peaceful there, the willow tree outside her window the same as it had been her whole life, the light pink curtains and blankets exactly as she remembered. Birds were chirping, and Aelin thought it was a nice place to relax.
She was laying on her bed, tucked under the blanket with a hand brushing over Fleetfoot’s fur. Elide had dropped her off the day before. Aelin would’ve gone to get her herself, but she was on strict bed rest, being told her “emotional trauma” was too much for her.
She would never admit she was affected by what happened, choosing to believe she was being shut up for no good reason other than appearances. Or maybe for her back, which was scarring over slowly. She hadn’t garnered the courage to look at it yet, despite the mirror in her room. She just kept the bandage wrapped on it tight. A proper bandage this time, not one salvaged from the sheets she’d been violated on.
Aelin smiled as Fleetfoot leaned up and licked her face, joyous to be reunited. It was a small step, but a momentous one, same as moving back into this room. It was a move toward reclaiming her life, taking it back under her control. Now that she was free.
A knock on her door sounded, and she glanced up to see her mother hesitantly opening the door. “Can I come in?” She asked cautiously. Aelin nodded, looking down at her bed as Evalin came and perched on the edge, shutting the door behind her. “How are you feeling?” She continued, furrowing her brows. Aelin sat up slightly, slowly leaning against the headboard to make sure it didn’t irritate her back before relaxing all the way.
“Overwhelmed,” she said honestly, chuckling to bring some lightness to the dark answer. She didn’t mention that she’d cried herself to sleep the past two nights, and then had woken up in the middle of the night both times from nightmares that Arobynn wasn’t dead, that he was going to walk in her room, that he was going to be angry at her and decide to act. Or from nightmares of him cutting into her skin, the helplessness she’d felt as she was shoved onto that bed. She hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep after that.
“Well that’s understandable,” Evalin said diplomatically, nodding. “A lot happened. A lot of which I don’t know. I hope you’ll trust me enough one day to tell me.” Her voice tapered off, a hint of sadness overtaking it. Aelin’s mouth tightened.
“I hope so too.” She looked at her mother, before leaning forward and grabbing her hand. Evalin looked at it, and then smiled softly up at her. “And I hope you can fill me in on your side of the story too, so that we can work toward that.”
Evalin squeezed her hand, leaning in to pet Fleetfoot too, running her hand through her soft fur. “To be honest, I don’t really know when it all started. When my views got warped I stopped seeing my daughter as a person.” She sighed. “Maybe it was when I was told I couldn’t have another child, and I threw my grief into trying to make you have the best life possible, ignoring that I was making everything worse.” She looked up, furrowing her brows as if contemplating. “That kind of hurt - it doesn’t go away.”
Aelin’s lip trembled, focusing her gaze on Fleetfoot. “Yes, I know.” And she did know, the sting of her loss still hurting all these months later.
“But that’s not an excuse, and I’m sorry.” Evalin looked at her, the sorrow in her eyes adamant. “I know I wrecked everything, and I’m so sorry for my role in it.” Now. Now was the time. She could tell her about what she’d learned, about how it wasn’t really her fault at all.
Aelin shook her head. “He caused it all,” she clarified, “I found that out. He manipulated father into taking that investment so we’d lose all of our money and you’d be forced to give me to him. It was never you two, it was him all along.”
Her mother’s eyes filled with horror and devastation, her mouth dropping open before she snapped it closed, anger taking over.
“Well,” she stuttered, “then fuck him.” The curse sounded unnatural from her lips and Aelin couldn’t help but laugh, a tear slipping out at the sentiment of the words.
“Thank you,” Aelin whispered, tears blurring her vision. Evalin just shook her head.
“Don’t thank me for doing something I should’ve done a long time ago.” Her tone was filled with disgust for herself, before she took a deep breath, looking back up at her. “It was your words at the ball that made me snap out of it, when you threatened to cut ties with me. I turned the words over and over in my mind, wondering where it went wrong, and then I realized it was me. So I went and found Aedion after you left, and I talked to him.” Aelin froze. “I apologized for my behavior, and said I would love to meet Miss Ennar, and would be happy to bless the marriage. It was a few months later than it should’ve been, but I’m trying to make amends.”
Evalin’s eyes were filled with tears too. “I only wish I’d been able to find that clarity long ago. And I know this doesn’t make up for everything I’ve done, everything I’ve contributed to, but I’d like to start again. I love you so so much, Aelin. You’re the pride and joy of my life. The only thing that really matters. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure you’re happy. I just hope I can do enough to deserve your forgiveness.” Her voice trailed off after the declaration, tears spilling over her cheeks. And in that moment, Aelin truly saw her mother for the first time. And saw a person not too different from herself. Maybe she veered off the path along the way, but they both had that same heart of fire.
“I forgive you already,” Aelin managed to say, smiling a watery smile at her. “You’re my mother, of course I do.” She sniffed, trying to quell her tears as she looked down at Fleetfoot, considering. Her mother had explained, it was her turn to tell her story if she wished. And she did.
She took a deep breath and looked back up, meeting Evalin’s blue eyes with a soft smile as she thought about the words she was going to say. “Do you remember all those years ago, when we went out to the Florine River because the weather was so nice? And we met that other family there?” Evalin nodded, furrowing her brows in confusion. “That’s when I first met Rowan.”
“That long ago?” Her mother’s voice was incredulous. “You’ve known him since then?”
Aelin chuckled. “Not quite. I didn’t meet him again for many years after that.” She sighed and leaned back against the headboard more, smiling as Fleetfoot shifted to lay her head on her leg. “But when I did, I couldn’t say goodbye.”
And so she spilled the story of their secret love, telling their tale of joy and woe, every moment where he made her feel like the most important thing in the world, and every moment where she thought she was going to die from the ache of not being able to have him. From the decisions they both made, to their painful separation and the letters she wrote. She told her about the tragedy that struck them both, the joy turning sour too damn quickly. And then about when he came back, and they reunited, and how the passion between them had never really gone away, just growing over the years.
By the end, both of them were crying. Evalin, from hearing all of this for the first time, the pain her daughter had gone through. Aelin, for reliving it all, but also feeling the simple joy of being loved. Not just by Rowan, but by her too.
“You’re strong, Aelin,” Evalin whispered, standing up and leaning forward to press a kiss to her forehead. “Your spirit is strong, don’t ever forget that.” And with that, she left, telling her to get some rest.
Aelin nodded, smiling at her as she left, and then sighed, dropping her head to look at her dog.
“Am I strong, Fleetfoot? What do you think?” She didn’t answer of course, but she chuckled at herself anyway. The lightness in her heart faded though as the movement sent a shot of pain to her back. Could she call herself strong if she couldn’t even face that? She didn’t think so. But she wanted to be able to.
So with a heavy feeling, Aelin pushed herself slowly to a stand, every nerve on edge as she walked across her rug, every brush of the fibers on her skin lighting up as she trembled. She could do this. She could come to terms with this. His last mark on her. It was the first step to forgetting him.
She breathed deeply, trying to expel her nerves as she turned in front of her mirror, pulling down the straps of her old nightgown so she could get to the bandage. She reached to the tie on the side, unwrapping it the best she could with her shaking hands. Slowly, her heart racing, Aelin pulled off the bandage, squeezing her eyes shut as air brushed the skin before slowly, ever so slowly, she peeled open her eyes. And there it was.
She let out a shuddering sigh, a rush of emotions pouring through her as a piece of her heart cracked. The word was angry against her pale skin, the red lines thick and stark from the brutality of the knife. She shouldn’t’ve been surprised, he used to call her that all the time. But... still.
She blinked back a tear and looked away, unable to stare at it any longer. It was one thing to hear the word thrown at you when you were already in a state of defense, but to see it etched into your skin - a burning rose in her throat and she barely made it to the bathroom before she was vomiting.
Aelin sobbed as she laid her head back against the wall, giving herself one minute to break down. She tucked her legs into herself, wrapping her arms around them as she dropped her head to her knees. One minute to grieve, one minute to let it all go, one minute to collapse.
And then when that minute passed, she straightened up, wiping at her eyes as she methodically walked back into her room, the rug barely making an impression as she numbly walked back to the mirror. And she turned and stared that ugly word in the face, clenching her jaw. She was better than that. She wouldn’t let it defeat her. She wouldn’t let his final attempt at staining her be the thing that she couldn’t recover from. No.
She was strong.
Rowan took a breath as he knocked on the front door, stepping back and putting his hands in his pockets as he waited for someone to answer. Anticipation was rolling in his stomach, his hands shaking slightly as he waited and waited and waited. He hadn’t seen Aelin since the day everything happened, three days ago now, and every single second of those felt like too many.
He hadn’t been at the Galathynius house in ages, but the sight was familiar to him, a staple in Orynth. He was glad Aelin was back here, was glad she was offered that little bit of comfort.
The whole city had been buzzing for days, the news passing from person to person as quick as a sharp gust of wind. The fire was common knowledge, as it wasn’t every day that a giant house in the middle of town burnt down while hosting one of the biggest balls of the year. But now the other piece was confirmed.
Lord Arobynn Hamel had died in the fire. Leaving his poor wife, Lady Aelin Hamel, a widow.
Tern was confirmed dead too, but no one cared about him. Rowan was just glad that there seemed to be no suspicion surrounding the deaths, as everyone just accepted that the fire was the reason, started by a lamp left lit in the room, left too close to a handkerchief and a very flammable wooden desk. Ignoring the fact that Rowan himself had doused the handkerchief and desk in oil from the lamp and had taken a flame from the lamp to set it on fire, spreading it more artificially than the accident that people were proposing.
It just made it easier for him.
It helped that everyone was sympathetic toward Aelin, and her devastating loss. First her baby, and now her husband, who she’d only been married to for a little over a year. So no one wanted to break her heart further by theorizing it was murder. Despite the fact that she was the one who’d murdered him.
But because of the appearances of it, no one was allowed to come visit her right now, for an indefinite amount of time, while she grieved. Rowan knew she wouldn’t agree with it, but he thought it was smart, as she didn’t need to be forced to deal with people’s fake apologies and sorrow. They were only sorry for themselves.
He was taking a chance by coming today, but he couldn’t bear not seeing her any longer. He hoped Evalin would let him in.
After a few minutes, where Rowan had considered leaving, the door opened, revealing Evalin Galathynius herself, who was already smiling at him.
“I don’t want to intrude -” he began, but she was already waving him inside.
“She’s in the library,” she said, gesturing to a hallway heading to the back. Rowan nodded in thanks and walked in, passing her as she disappeared back into the parlor.
He took another deep breath as he walked down the hallway, barely taking in the expensive art and decor that made up the Galathynius home. All he could think about was Aelin. Aelin.
He grasped the handle of the door, opening it slowly, revealing the large library. Huge bookshelves spanned the walls, comfy chairs and couches lining the middle. It was exactly a type of room she would love, and he knew she would want a room similar to it in their future home. The thought made him smile.
Aelin was sitting curled up in a comfy looking armchair, with a book in her arms that she seemingly just started, given the way she had it open to the first page. There was no ring in sight. Rowan couldn’t help but stand and watch her for a second, leaning against the doorframe and reveling in the peacefulness on her features. He knew it was likely a facade, but it had been so long since he’d seen her look so untroubled, and it soothed his heart.
She stayed on that page for a while before flipping to the next, and when she moved her head, she caught on his figure and looked up, smiling.
“Rowan,” she breathed before jumping up and running to him. She leapt into his arms laughing, and he spun her around, his arms tight around hers as he dropped his head to her neck and breathed her in.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her skin with each iteration, making her giggle. He set her down, and she buried her face in his chest, smiling into him.
“I love you too,” she said, looking up and resting her chin on his shirt.
“How’ve you been?” He asked, caressing a hand gently down her back.
“You know,” she said softly, “Everyone keeps asking me that.”
“And what’s your answer?” He replied softly too, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
“I don’t really know,” she said honestly, before huffing. “There’s a lot to - process.” She shook her head, looking to the side, away from him. “I looked at my back yesterday,” she said, almost guiltily, even though she had no reason to be. His heart ached for how small she sounded.
“And how do you feel about it?” He asked carefully, trying to prompt her into sharing her feelings without overwhelming or pushing her. He brushed one hand gently over the bandage. Her eyes darkened.
“I’d rather just pretend it’s not there at all,” she sighed, “and it helps that I can’t really see it, but I’m dealing with it. I will deal with it. I’m just not right now.” She shook her head, still looking away. Rowan decided not to press more, just leaning forward and placing a small kiss on her forehead.
“Well, whenever you decide you’re ready, I’ll be here to help you. Just like I always am.” He was glad the words were true. Aelin smiled and looked up at him, pursing her lips, asking for a kiss. He obliged. But there was a flicker of worry in the back of his mind, a little nag of a doubt that was wondering if she still wanted this, still wanted him. He figured he should address it. “Aelin - “ he began, and he could see her eyes shutter at his hard tone, could see her mental barriers go up, like it was a natural defense. “I know we promised things, and I still stand by my promise, but I know things have changed. And I don’t want to rush you into anything, or if maybe your feelings have changed, or if you just want space after all of this, I understand.” His words were rushed, his heart already breaking at the thought of having to stay away from her. But he would, if that’s what she wanted.
But Aelin’s eyes warmed and she laughed, a bright musical sound.
“For someone so smart, you really are a dumbass.” She shook her head again, a brilliant smile on her face. She lifted her hand to cup his cheek. “Yes, things have changed, and I know I’ve changed and I know I have issues and things to work through, but I’d love it if you were there by my side.”
“Thank the gods,” he muttered, before sweeping her in for a deeper kiss. She laughed into it until they had to break it because they were both smiling too much. There were still shadows in her eyes, flickers of things she was pushing away, but it meant everything to him that she could still go through all of that and smile. They settled into a hug, his arms holding her in tight, before she stepped back.
“Can I take you somewhere?” She asked carefully, and he nodded hesitantly. “There’s something I want to show you.”
The air was a bit colder than he expected, but the birds were still singing and the sun was still bright as they made their way to their destination. Aelin’s hand was clasped in his, her knuckles almost white with how hard she was gripping. Rowan was gripping just as hard back, needing her support as much as he was offering hers.
Because he knew where they were going. He knew the moment they got into the carriage and she asked the driver to take them to the Florine River.
There could only be one thing she wanted to show him there.
Her hand started shaking as they approached, the sounds of the gently flowing river getting louder, and he just squeezed her hand tighter. But his own heart was beating faster, if only to keep itself from splintering.
The tree was up ahead, with the swing that he’d carved To Whatever End in, and the words were never more fitting than now, when he saw the new addition. Because there was a gravestone now, right in front of the trunk of the tree, the river behind it and the birds overhead.
He let out a shuddering breath as Aelin broke from him to go ahead and kneel in front of it, brushing her hand over the simple carving. All it said was Eliott. No other adornment, no other name. Just that one was enough. Rowan’s heart clenched as he knelt next to her, staying silent as he breathed in the moment.
“Hi baby,” Aelin murmured, letting her hand drop as she started talking. “I know I haven’t been here in a while. A lot’s been going on, but I’m sorry to have stayed away.” Her voice was soft, a sad smile on her face as she talked to their daughter. “Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it, about everything that led us here, but not today. Because today I brought your father with me, for the first time.” Rowan sniffed back a tear as Aelin gestured to him slightly, still looking at the stone. “And he loves you just as much as I do, with all of his heart, just like he loves me.”
She sighed, her voice shaky with emotion as she continued. “And I know we never got the chance to meet you, but he would’ve been the best father in the world, and you would’ve been the most cared for and adored little girl.” Rowan reached for her hand quickly as her voice broke, holding it in his lap as she held back a sob. “Life is complicated, and messy, and I’m so sorry that it’s kept us apart from you. But I hope that one day, we’ll all be reunited, and I’ll finally get to see your face.” She shuddered then, a tear spilling down her cheek, but she closed her eyes, composing herself as she finished her speech.
Rowan’s heart was breaking, a tear slipping down his own face as his throat felt too tight to even breathe. But he did. He breathed in and out, matching them with the incredible woman sitting next to him. They returned to silence, letting the birds chirp as they sat there, keeping each other strong.
“He never cared about her,” she finally said, her voice quiet as she referenced Arobynn. “Never for one moment when he knew she was yours did he care about what happened. He wanted me to forget, when that was the opposite of what I could do.” She was reiterating what she’d said in the letters, but he let her talk, wanting her to share whatever she was feeling. “That’s when I truly knew he was soulless.”
She took a deep breath. “He was spiteful about it too, throwing it at me whenever he could, calling me a failure, a waste, a useless wife.” His heart squeezed, remembering that time at dinner when he’d brought it up and she’d left to go get some air. “It was the one thing that I never could avoid. I was always affected by it. And he knew it.” Her voice shook. “He even put a provision in his will saying I couldn't inherit his money unless we had an heir, knowing that I likely wouldn’t be able to.”
Rowan looked at her, horror and anger filling up inside him at the words. But she just sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, a small triumphant smile curling on her face. “But I survived him, and I beat him too. Not just because he’s dead, but because of that will.” He furrowed his brows in confusion, but didn’t interrupt. “I can thank you for that actually. He was so egotistical he only had one copy of it, hidden in his office desk.” She actually chuckled slightly, a humorless one. “And now that desk is burnt to the ground, leaving him without a will.” His eyes widened, that meant… “and now, according to Orynth law, his next of kin can come collect his wealth from the bank within the next seven years before it’s taken by the government.”
“And his next of kin is you,” he breathed, and she squeezed his hand.
“I now own everything he owned, his money, his assets, his company,” she said, smiling. “I can get us a house, I can make sure my parents’ company is set, I can give Vaughan that job he was denied, I can do whatever we want.”
Rowan laughed incredulously, reveling in her brilliance. They’d factored in his wealth in their plan, and he’d been the one to come up with the solution for Vaughan in the first place, but she’d made it reality.
“You’re amazing, Fireheart,” he said, kissing the top of her head.
“It’s all part of my charm.” She smiled again. He breathed another laugh and shook his head, before looking back out at the grave and the water behind it. It felt right, for her to be out here, with nature, at the place where he and Aelin had first met. Where they’d said goodbye. Where they now took those next steps together, finally ready for the future they’d only been able to dream about.
They sat there in the quiet, enjoying the peacefulness, and soon, Aelin was closing her eyes, resting against his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her, holding her close as he began to talk himself, saying the words held inside him.
“Hi Eliott,” he said quietly, trying not to disturb Aelin. “I’m your father, Rowan. I’m sure your mother’s mentioned me at least once, and I’m sorry I haven’t been here before now.” He sighed. “Like she said earlier, there’s been a lot happening, a lot of turmoil and a lot of stress. But I’m glad I got to come now, glad I got to see you. You and your mother are the most important people in my life.” He trailed off, his throat tight as a tear slipped out. “Your mother has been through a lot recently, more than anyone should ever have to go through. And I wish I’d been able to protect her from it, been able to protect you both. But life doesn’t always work that way.” He couldn’t stop the tears now. “But I promise to keep her safe from now on, until we can finally meet you.” He reached a hand out, feeling the cool stone just like she had. “I love you.”
He knew Aelin wasn’t sleeping when he saw the tear stream down her rosy cheek, when he saw her sniff and open her eyes, deep emotion filling them as she looked at him. Love, and sorrow, and compassion… and hope.
And in that moment, Rowan knew they would be okay. Maybe they weren’t yet, and it would take a while for them to get there, but they were together now, they were safe. And he wouldn’t let anything separate them ever again.
“To whatever end,” he whispered, looking down at her. Aelin linked their fingers, her eyes misty as she smiled a beautifully bittersweet smile.
“To whatever end.”
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the-queenofshadowss · a day ago
Friendly reminder
Sam Cortland never got to Kill arobynn like he said he would.
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