The Assassin's Blade - Sarah J. Maas Page 0,1

cast the smooth, elegant panes of Sam’s face into light and shadow—a face, she’d been told, that could have earned him a fortune if he’d followed in his mother’s footsteps. But Sam’s mother had opted instead to leave him with assassins, not courtesans, before she died.

Silence fell, and a roaring noise filled her ears as Arobynn took a breath. Something was wrong.

“What else?” she asked, leaning forward. The other assassins focused on the table. Whatever had happened, they knew. Why hadn’t Arobynn told her first?

Arobynn’s silver eyes became steel. “Ben was killed.”

Celaena gripped the arms of her chair. “What?” Ben—Ben, the ever-smiling assassin who had trained her as often as Arobynn had. Ben, who had once mended her shattered right hand. Ben, the seventh and final member of Arobynn’s inner circle. He was barely thirty years old. Celaena’s lips pulled back from her teeth. “What do you mean, ‘killed’?”

Arobynn eyed her, and a glimmer of grief flashed across his face. Five years Ben’s senior, Arobynn had grown up with Ben. They’d been trained together; Ben had seen to it that his friend became the unrivaled King of the Assassins, and never questioned his place as Arobynn’s Second. Her throat closed up.

“It was supposed to be Gregori’s mission,” Arobynn said quietly. “I don’t know why Ben was involved. Or who betrayed them. They found his body near the castle gates.”

“Do you have his body?” she demanded. She had to see it—had to see him one last time, see how he’d died, how many wounds it had taken to kill him.

“No,” Arobynn said.

“Why the hell not?” Her fists clenched and unclenched.

“Because the place was swarming with guards and soldiers!” Sam burst out, and she whipped her head to him. “How do you think we learned about this in the first place?”

Arobynn had sent Sam to see why Ben and Gregori were missing?

“If we’d grabbed his body,” Sam said, refusing to back down from her glare, “it would have led them right to the Keep.”

“You’re assassins,” she growled at him. “You’re supposed to be able to retrieve a body without being seen.”

“If you’d been there, you would have done the same.”

Celaena pushed her chair back so hard it flipped over. “If I’d been there, I would have killed all of them to get Ben’s body back!” She slammed her hands on the table, rattling the glasses.

Sam shot to his feet, a hand on the hilt of his sword. “Oh, listen to you. Ordering us about like you run the Guild. But not yet, Celaena.” He shook his head. “Not yet.”

“Enough,” Arobynn snapped, rising from his chair.

Celaena and Sam didn’t move. None of the other assassins spoke, though they gripped their various weapons. She’d seen firsthand what fights at the Keep were like; the weapons were as much for the bearers’ own safety as they were to prevent her and Sam from doing serious damage to each other.

“I said, enough.”

If Sam took one step toward her, drew his sword a fraction of an inch, that concealed dagger in her robe would find itself a new home in his neck.

Arobynn moved first, grabbing Sam’s chin in one hand, forcing the young man to look at him. “Check yourself, or I’ll do it for you, boy,” he murmured. “You’re a fool for picking a fight with her tonight.”

Celaena bit down on her reply. She could handle Sam tonight—or any other night, for that matter. If it came down to a fight, she’d win—she always beat Sam.

But Sam released the hilt of his sword. After a moment, Arobynn removed his grip on Sam’s face, but didn’t step away. Sam kept his gaze on the floor as he strode to the far side of the council room. Crossing his arms, he leaned against the stone wall. She could still reach him—one flick of her wrist, and his throat would spout blood.

“Celaena,” Arobynn said, his voice echoing in the silent room.

Enough blood had been spilled tonight; they didn’t need another dead assassin.

Ben. Ben was dead and gone, and she’d never again run into him in the halls of the Keep. He’d never set her injuries with his cool, deft hands, never coax a laugh from her with a joke or a lewd anecdote.

“Celaena,” Arobynn warned again.

“I’m done,” Celaena snapped. She rolled her neck, running a hand through her hair. She stalked to the door, but paused on the threshold.

“Just so you know,” she said, speaking to all of them but still watching Sam, “I’m going to retrieve Ben’s body.”