Home > The Assassin and the Healer (Throne of Glass 0.2)

The Assassin and the Healer (Throne of Glass 0.2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

CHAPTER 1

The strange young woman had been staying at the White Pig Inn for two days now and had hardly spoken to anyone save for Nolan, who had taken one look at her fine night-dark clothes and bent over backward to accommodate her.

He gave her the best room at the Pig—the room he only offered to patrons he intended to bleed dry—and didn’t seem at all bothered by the heavy hood the young woman wore or the assortment of weapons that gleamed along her long, lean body. Not when she tossed him a gold coin with a casual flick of her gloved fingers. Not when she was wearing an ornate gold brooch with a ruby the size of a robin’s egg.

Then again, Nolan was never really afraid of anyone, unless they seemed likely not to pay him—and even then, it was anger and greed, not fear, that won out.

Yrene Towers had been watching the young woman from the safety of the taproom bar. Watching, if only because the stranger was young and unaccompanied and sat at the back table with such stillness that it was impossible not to look. Not to wonder.

Yrene hadn’t seen her face yet, though she’d caught a glimpse every now and then of a golden braid glinting from the depths of her black hood. In any other city, the White Pig Inn would likely be considered the lowest of the low as far as luxury and cleanliness were concerned. But here in Innish, a port town so small it wasn’t on most maps, it was considered the finest.

Yrene glanced at the mug she was currently cleaning and tried not to wince. She did her best to keep the bar and taproom clean, to serve the Pig’s patrons—most of them sailors or merchants or mercenaries who often thought she was up for purchase as well—with a smile. But Nolan still watered down the wine, still washed the sheets only when there was no denying the presence of lice and fleas, and sometimes used whatever meat could be found in the back alley for their daily stew.

Yrene had been working here for a year now—eleven months longer than she had intended—and the White Pig still sickened her. Considering that she could stomach almost anything (a fact that allowed both Nolan and Jessa to demand she clean up the most disgusting messes of their patrons), that was really saying something.

The stranger at the back table lifted her head, signaling with a gloved finger for Yrene to bring another ale. For someone who didn’t seem older than twenty, the young woman drank an ungodly amount—wine, ale, whatever Nolan bade Yrene bring over—but never seemed to lose herself to it. It was impossible to tell with that heavy hood, though. These past two nights she’d merely stalked back to her room with a feline grace, not stumbling over herself like most of the patrons on their way out after last call.

Yrene quickly poured ale into the mug she’d just been drying and set it on a tray. She added a glass of water and some more bread, since the girl hadn’t touched the stew she’d been given for dinner. Not a single bite. Smart woman.

Yrene wove through the packed taproom, dodging the hands that tried to grab her. Halfway through her trek, she caught Nolan’s eye from where he sat by the front door. An encouraging nod, his mostly bald head gleaming in the dim light. Keep her drinking. Keep her buying.

Yrene avoided rolling her eyes, if only because Nolan was the sole reason she wasn’t walking the cobblestone streets with the other young women of Innish. A year ago, the stout man had let her convince him that he needed more help in the tavern below the inn. Of course, he’d only accepted when he realized he’d be receiving the better end of the bargain.

But she’d been eighteen and desperate, and had gladly taken a job that offered only a few coppers and a miserable little bed in a broom closet beneath the stairs. Most of her money came from tips, but Nolan claimed half of them. And then Jessa, the other barmaid, usually claimed two-thirds of what remained, because, as Jessa often said, she was the pretty face that gets the men to part with their money, anyway.

One glance into a corner revealed that pretty face and its attendant body perched on the lap of a bearded sailor, giggling and tossing her thick brown curls. Yrene sighed through her nose but didn’t complain, because Jessa was Nolan’s favorite, and Yrene had nowhere—absolutely nowhere—left to go. Innish was her home now, and the White Pig was her haven. Outside of it, the world was too big, too full of splintered dreams and armies that had crushed and burned everything Yrene held dear.

Yrene at last reached the stranger’s table and found the young woman looking up at her. “I brought you some water and bread, too,” Yrene stammered by way of greeting. She set down the ale, but hesitated with the other two items on her tray.

The young woman just said, “Thank you.” Her voice was low and cool—cultured. Educated. And completely uninterested in Yrene.

Not that there was anything about her that was remotely interesting, with her homespun wool dress doing little for her too-slim figure. Like most who hailed from southern Fenharrow, Yrene had golden-tan skin and absolutely ordinary brown hair and was of average height. Only her eyes, a bright gold-brown, gave her any source of pride. Not that most people saw them. Yrene did her best to keep her eyes down most of the time, avoiding any invitation for communication or the wrong kind of attention.

So, Yrene set down the bread and water and took the empty mug from where the girl had pushed it to the center of the table. But curiosity won out, and she peered into the black depths beneath the young woman’s cowl. Nothing but shadows, a gleam of gold hair, and a hint of pale skin. She had so many questions—so, so many questions. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going? Can you use all those blades you carry?

Nolan was watching the entire encounter, so Yrene curtsied and walked back to the bar through the field of groping hands, eyes downcast as she plastered a distant smile on her face.

Celaena Sardothien sat at her table in the absolutely worthless inn, wondering how her life had gone to hell so quickly.

She hated Innish. Hated the reek of trash and filth, hated the heavy blanket of mist that shrouded it day and night, hated the second-rate merchants and mercenaries and generally miserable people who occupied it.

No one here knew who she was, or why she’d come; no one knew that the girl beneath the hood was Celaena Sardothien, the most notorious assassin in Adarlan’s empire. But then again, she didn’t want them to know. Couldn’t let them know, actually. And didn’t want them knowing that she was just over a week away from turning seventeen, either.

She’d been here for two days now—two days spent either holed up in her despicable room (a “suite,” the oily innkeeper had the nerve to call it), or down here in the taproom that stank of sweat, stale ale, and unwashed bodies.

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