But she—at seventeen—had gone to a death camp. And survived.
He wasn’t sure if he could survive Endovier, let alone during the winter months. He’d never been whipped, never seen anyone die. He’d never been cold and starving.
Celaena laughed at something Dorian said. She’d survived Endovier, and yet could still laugh.
While it terrified him to see her down there, a hand’s breadth from Dorian’s unprotected throat, what terrified him even more was that he trusted her. And he didn’t know what that meant about himself.
Celaena walked between the hedges, and couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. They walked closely, but not close enough to touch. Dorian had found her just moments after dinner and invited her for a walk. In fact, he’d showed up so quickly after the servants cleared away her food that she might have thought he’d been waiting outside.
Of course, it was due entirely to the cold that she longed to link arms with him and absorb his warmth. The white, fur-lined cloak did little to keep the frigid air from freezing all of her. She could only imagine how Nehemia would react to such temperatures. But after learning about the fate of those rebels, the princess was spending most of her time in her rooms, and had declined Celaena’s repeated offers to go for walks.
It had been over three weeks since her last encounter with Elena, and she hadn’t seen or heard her at all, despite the three Tests she’d had, the most exciting of which being an obstacle course, which she passed with only a few minor scratches and bruises. Unfortunately, Pelor hadn’t done so well, and had been sent home at long last. But he’d been lucky: three other competitors had died. All found in forgotten hallways; all mutilated beyond recognition. Even Celaena had taken to jumping at every strange sound.
There were only six of them left now: Cain, Grave, Nox, a soldier, and Renault, a vicious mercenary who’d stepped up to replace Verin as Cain’s right-hand man. Not surprisingly, Renault’s favorite new activity was taunting Celaena.
She shoved thoughts of the murders aside as they strode past a fountain and she caught Dorian giving her an admiring glance from the corner of his eye. Of course, she hadn’t been thinking of Dorian when she chose such a fine lavender gown to wear tonight, or when she made sure her hair was so carefully arranged, or that her white gloves were spotless.
“What to do now?” Dorian said. “We’ve walked twice around the garden.”
“Don’t you have princely duties to attend to?” Celaena winced as a gust of icy wind blew back her hood and froze her ears. When she recovered the hood, she found Dorian staring at her throat. “What?” she asked, pulling her cloak tightly around her.
“You always wear that necklace,” he said. “Is it another gift?” Though she wore gloves, he glanced at her hand—where the amethyst ring always sat—and the spark died from his eyes.
“No.” She covered the amulet with her hand. “I found it in my jewelry box and liked the look of it, you insufferably territorial man.”
“It’s very old looking. Been robbing the royal coffer, have you?” He winked, but she didn’t feel any warmth behind it.
“No,” she repeated sharply. Even though a necklace wouldn’t protect her from the murderer, and even though Elena had some agenda she was being cagey about, Celaena wouldn’t take it off. Its presence somehow comforted her in the long hours she sat up, watching her door.
He continued staring at her hand until she lowered it from her throat. He studied the necklace. “When I was a boy, I used to read tales about the dawn of Adarlan; Gavin was my hero. I must have read every legend regarding the war with Erawan.”
How can he be that smart? He can’t have figured it out so quickly. She tried her best to look innocently interested. “And?”
“Elena, First Queen of Adarlan, had a magical amulet. In the battle with the Dark Lord, Gavin and Elena found themselves defenseless against him. He was about to kill the princess when a spirit appeared and gave her the necklace. And when she put it on, Erawan couldn’t harm her. She saw the Dark Lord for what he was and called him by his true name. It surprised him so much that he became distracted, and Gavin slew him.” Dorian looked to the ground. “They called her necklace the Eye of Elena; it’s been lost for centuries.”
How strange it was to hear Dorian, son of the man who had banished and outlawed all traces of magic, talking about powerful amulets. Still, she laughed as best she could. “And you think this trinket is the Eye? I think it’d be dust by now.”
“I suppose not,” he said, and vigorously rubbed his arms for warmth. “But I’ve seen a few illustrations of the Eye, and your necklace looks like it. Perhaps it’s a replica.”
“Perhaps.” She quickly found another subject. “When’s your brother arriving?”
He looked skyward. “I’m lucky. We received a letter this morning that snows in the mountains prevented Hollin from coming home. He’s stuck at school until after his spring term, and he’s beside himself.”
“Your poor mother,” Celaena said, half-smiling.
“She’ll probably send servants to deliver his Yulemas presents, regardless of the storm.”
Celaena didn’t hear him, and though they talked for a good hour afterward meandering through the grounds, she couldn’t get her heart to calm. Elena had to have known someone would recognize her amulet—and if this was the real thing . . . The king could kill her on the spot for wearing not only an heirloom of his house, but something of power.
Yet again, she could only wonder what Elena’s motives actually were.
Celaena glanced from her book to the tapestry on the wall. The chest of drawers remained where she’d shoved it in front of the passageway. She shook her head and returned to her book. Though she scanned the lines, none of the words registered.
What did Elena want with her? Dead queens usually didn’t come back to give orders to the living. Celaena clenched her book. It wasn’t like she wasn’t fulfilling Elena’s command to win, either—she would have fought this hard to become the King’s Champion anyway. And as for finding and defeating the evil in the castle . . . well, now that it seemed tied to who was murdering the Champions, how could she not try to figure out where it was coming from?