The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 127

“Hey!” I smacked his arm.

“Perhaps you do need to feed now,” he teased, eyes glittering. “Once you get to the point where food no longer eases your hunger, you’ll need to feed.”

I nodded. “Okay.”

“You probably wouldn’t need to feed by now, anyway. If we’re basing it on when Atlantians need to feed,” he said. “But you may be different. You may not even need to, but I wanted to check in.”

I searched to find even a flicker of unease at the possibility of feeding and found none, when a knock sounded.

Casteel let Kieran in. The wolven appeared to have managed a shower and a change of clothing. A fresh white shirt and black breeches had replaced what he’d worn earlier. I was jealous.

“We won’t keep you long,” Casteel said, coming to join me. “But there is something important we wanted to ask you.”

Kieran raised a brow as he glanced between us. “Is it about the Joining?”

For the second time in twenty-four hours, I choked on my breath. “What?”

“Am I wrong?” Kieran crossed his arms.

“Yeah.” I nodded while Casteel appeared to do his best not to burst into laughter. “That so wasn’t where we were going with that, and by the way, the Joining isn’t necessary, right? I’m a deity. I have an incomprehensible lifespan now.”

“Well,” Casteel drew out the word.

I looked over at him, and then it struck me—what I’d worried about when I first learned that I could be immortal or the closest thing to it. “I’ll outlive you, won’t I?”

“Deities have double the lifespan of Atlantians, maybe even longer if they take the deep sleep,” Casteel explained. I didn’t feel a single ounce of worry coming from him while I was five seconds away from throwing myself onto the floor. “But we have a very long time before we have to stress over that.”

“I’m stressing over it now.”

“Obviously,” stated Kieran. “I’m bonded to you—all the wolven are. Not in the same way the bonds worked with the elemental lines, but a wolven would still be the connecting piece that fuses two lifelines together.” He frowned. “Or three, I suppose. It’s just your life that his would be bonded to.”

I stared at him.

“Anyway, it could be any wolven.” Kieran shrugged.

I continued staring at him.

“Okay. That’s good to know.” Casteel patted my shoulder, and I sat down on the thick, black cushion of a chair. “But that really wasn’t what we wanted to discuss with you.”

“No shit,” Kieran said.

Blinking, I shook my head. We were about to ask him to be our advisor. Tomorrow, we would travel to Iliseeum and then into Solis. I so did not need to think about any of that right now.

“We wanted to ask if you would do us the honor of being the Advisor to the Crown,” Casteel began. “I had this whole speech planned in my head about how you have been a brother to me and that there is no one I trust more, but now things are just kind of awkward, so…yeah. We would like for you to be our advisor.”

Now it was Kieran who stared at us, his eyes wide, and I felt the coolness of shock from him—something I didn’t think he often felt.

“You’re…you’re surprised,” I said. “How can that be? You have to know that Casteel trusts you. As do I.”

“Yeah, but…” Kieran rubbed the heel of his palm down the center of his chest. “The Advisor to the Crown is usually someone far older than me, with more experience and connections.”

“The King and Queen are usually people far older than us,” Casteel replied dryly.

“I know, but…why wouldn’t you choose my father?” he asked. “He would serve you well.”

“But not as good as you,” Casteel told him. “You don’t have to accept—”

“No, I accept,” Kieran confirmed. “It would be an honor.” His wide, pale blue eyes darted between us. “I just…I really thought you’d ask my father.”

I was shocked that he’d thought that.

“Literally no one else entered my mind.” Casteel stepped forward, clasping the back of Kieran’s neck. “It would always have been you.”

What I felt from Kieran warmed my chest. He was surprised but proud and swimming in that warmth. I swore tears glimmered in his eyes as he said, “It will be my honor to serve as advisor to both of you,” he repeated. “From this moment to the last moment.”

“It is our honor,” Casteel said, pulling him in for a one-armed hug. “Seriously.”

Kieran returned the embrace. Seeing them hug it out brought a smile to my face. Friendship was a far stronger bond than even something the gods could create. “Okay.” Kieran cleared his throat as he stepped back.

“I know there’s normally a ceremony,” Casteel said, glancing over at me. “It’s like the one we did in the throne room of the Temple.” He turned back to Kieran. “We could do it when we have the larger coronation.”

Kieran nodded. “I would like for my parents and my sisters to be there.”

Sisters. My smile grew. He was already thinking of his baby sister.

“As would I,” Casteel said.

He dragged a hand over his head. “I feel like I need a drink. Or five.”

Casteel chuckled. “I think all of us could use one after today.” He turned to the credenza where several bottles and crystal glasses with vines carved into them sat. “What would you like?” he asked of me.

“Whatever you’re having.”

An eyebrow rose. “Intriguing.”

I shook my head.

“You know,” Kieran said, looking over at me as he sat in an identical chair, “I’ve never heard of a response like that to a crowning before. The people are happy. That’s what they’re celebrating.”

“I imagine they’re relieved that there’ll be no more tension over how long Cas’s parents have ruled.” I sat back as Casteel sent me a heated look while pouring three glasses of something I would probably regret later.

“I think it has more to do with you,” Casteel said.

“Because I’m special.” I rested my chin on my fist and rolled my eyes. “A unique snowflake.”

He laughed deeply. “Hell, yeah, you are.”

Still not as special as those who could shift forms. I would never get over that, but the reaction was probably also in response to the fact that their Prince Ascended—

My eyes widened as I sat up straight. “Oh, my gods. I just thought of something.”

“Can’t wait to hear this,” Kieran murmured.

“Nyktos is protected by guards,” I said, remembering what had been said during the Council meeting. That wasn’t exactly breaking news. “The…draken either went to sleep or protect the resting place of the gods, right?”

Kieran took the drink that Casteel offered him. “Yes.”

My stomach dropped to my toes. “And the guards that Ian told us we need? Would they happen to be the ones protecting Nyktos’s resting place?”

Casteel put my drink in my hand. “Are you just now realizing who and what Nyktos’s guards are?”

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