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Chapter 1

    Celaena has been led through the Red Desert for the last two weeks by a nomad.  It was a long, difficult journey, not just because of the heat, but because some of the areas of the desert were very dangerous to cross.  Eventually, the nomad stops, points to the westward horizon, and tells her that the Sessiz Suikast is two miles that way, and that he would go no further.

    Hours later, Celaena makes it to the fortress.  She stays aware of her surroundings as she is led to the Mute Master.  She is surprised by how noisy the fortress is, with the clatter of weapons, buzzing of insects, the birds and the gurgle of water that flows in every room.

    When she gets to the Mute Master, she is shocked, because she was sure he would be ancient.  He is middle-aged, with brown skin and green eyes, and wears white robes. Celaena notes that her escort bows, so she does so as well.  The Mute Master looks her up and down and nods.  Her escort elbows her to her her to say something.

    Celaena introduces herself and explains that Arobynn Hamel sends her to him, beseeching him to train her.  Celaena silently fumes at this, because she doesn't think she needs the training, and it's insulting.  The Mute Master comes forward and places his finger on Celaena's chin, tilting her head up.  Celaena knows that this is a test - that he can snap her neck in seconds and she is trusting him not to.  He pushes back her hair and looks over her still bruised face, and seems displeased.  He releases her and steps back.  He motions for her to rise and gives her a crooked smile, before snapping his fingers, which signals for 4 assassin's to charge at her.

Chapter 2

    Celaena fights all four men, and while she is exhausted from her journey and dehydrated, she manages to take all four men down.  She knows she has to, as this is another test from the Mute Master to accept her into the fortress.  Assassin's that were hidden in the shadows step out, and they do not nod at her when she acknowledges them.

    Her skills bring a smile to the master's face, but also to a young woman who has made herself visible.  Celaena describes her as the most beautiful woman she has ever seen.  She had wine-red hair, red-brown eyes, and is wearing intricate, ornate armor. 

    The Mute Master claps a hand over Celaena shoulder and waves over the young woman.  After a few hand gestures, the woman introduces herself as Ansel of Briarcliff, and they are to be roommates.  She tells Celaena that the master is allowing her to start training the next day at dawn.  She offers to show Celaena to the baths so she can get cleaned up.

    As Celaena follows Ansel through the halls of the fortress, she studies her movements, but they are hard to read because of the armor.  She feels awkward, as she isn't used to being around other girls that aren't courtesans that Aro invites over the the guild.  While Celaena studies Ansel, Ansel does the same with her.  She says she thought that Celaena Sardothien would be more dramatic, and Celaena apologizes for disappointing her.

    When Ansel see's Celaena watching the children run from room to room with brooms and clothes, Ansel explains that the children ages 8-12 clean up after the older acolytes, to teach them "responsibility and humility."  Celaena asks how old Ansel was when she came to the fortress, and she tells her she was barely thirteen, and she is now eighteen.  Celaena asks what its like to train with the Mute Master, and Ansel admits bitterly that he has never personally trained her.

    Celaena asks Ansel where she is from, and she says she is from Briarcliff, located in the Flatlands.  Celaena tells her she has never heard of the Flatlands, and Ansel explains it was formerly called the Witch Kingdom - that Celaena does know.  Ansel than tells Celaena that she is at the fortress because her father - Lord Briarcliff - sent her there to make herself useful.  

    Celaena asks Ansel if she gets hot in all the armor, and Ansel admits that she does, but its striking and makes her stand out from the rest of the acolytes.  When Celaena inquires where she got it, Ansel explains that she had it made before arriving at the fortress, and that the sword is her fathers.      When Ansel asks Celaena how many people she has killed, Celaena is bothered by the question, as she doesn't feel like its something to brag about.  She tells Ansel it's not her concern, but Ansel says it would be easy to find out, because every time someone turned up dead that she was contracted to kill, word got around.  Celaena knows this is because while she didn't spread that information around, Arobynn used his connections to get the word out, which is why she is so infamous.  

    Ansel drops Celaena off at the baths, and tells her that when she is done, to grab another acolyte to show her to their room, where she can rest.  She will come get her for dinner and show her where to go.  Celaena sinks into the cold bath, but takes care to hide the bruises on her body.  Thinking of how she got the bruises, she simmers in anger and sorrow, and wonders about Sam.

                                                                           *****

    Celaena and Ansel's room is tiny.  Her things were unpacked for her, which she doesn't love.  She notes that Ansel's side of the room is very sparse, despite being there for over five years.  All she has is a small iron wolf figurine on the bedside table, and a human size dummy she figured help Ansel's armor when she wasn't wearing it.  In Ansel's drawers, all there were was burgundy and white tunics and pants, and plain white underwear.  She thinks of her own wardrobe in Rifthold.  Her closet is enormous, and exploding with color. 

    While thinking of Rifthold, she starts thinking about that night.

                                                                           *****

    Celaena had never seen Arobynn so angry.  He didn't yell or curse.  He went still and quiet.  His rage showed in his eyes.  She was terrified, and didn't speak because she didn't want Arobynn to heard the trembling in her voice.  When Arobynn got up from his desk, she hearts Sam suck in a breath.

    Arobynn asks Celaena if she knows how much money she just cost him.  Her hands start to sweat, but when she thinks about what she did, she knows it was worth it.

    Sam starts to say it wasn't just her fault.  That both of them thought it was wrong, but Arobynn interrupts him, and tells Sam not to lie to him.  He says he only got hooked in because she was the one who planned it, and it was either help her or let her die.  When Sam goes to object when Arobynn whistles. 

    Wesley pokes his head in, and Arobynn tells him to get Tern, Mullin and Harding.  Celaena knew that wasn't a good sign, but she keeps her face neutral.  When the men come in, Aro tells Harding to close the door, then tells Tern and Mullin to hold Sam.  Sam is dragged from the chair, hands behind his back, and Harding stood in front of him with his fists flexing.  Celaena says no while staring into Sam's wide eyes.

    Celaena held her head high as Arobynn tells her that she won't enjoy what is coming, and she won't forget it.  That he doesn't want her to forget.  Celaena looks at Sam and is about to beg Harding not to hurt Sam when Arobynn hits her so hard she falls out of her chair.  Arobynn grabs her collar and hits her again.

    Sam screams at Arobynn as he continues to punch her.  She can taste the blood in her mouth, but she doesn't dare fight back.  She can see Sam struggling to get free, but he can't.  Arobynn continues his punching, being careful to inflict injuries that caused the most pain without scarring her.  She can hear Sam still screaming, but she can't focus enough on what he is saying.

    Before she passes out, she feels a stab of guilt over her blood staining the carpet, and then feels relieved that at least she won't have to watch Sam get hurt.

    

Chapter 3

    Celaena dresses in her nicest tunic, and puts on some cosmetics to her eyes, but not much because she knows the heat will melt it off.  Ansel picks her up not too long after to take her to dinner.  On the walk there, she asks Celaena questions about her journey.  She kept her answers brief because she didn't know where in the fortress she wasn't allowed to talk.

    When they enter the dining hall, Celaena takes note of all the entrances and exits.  Ansel sits at a table and pats the spot next to her.  When Celaena sits down, Ansel introduces Celaena to those sitting there, including Mikhail.  Ansel starts filling Celaena's plate, and tells her to eat - that it's good, and not poisoned.  Celaena didn't eat, wanting to wait to make sure it wasn't poisoned.  

    They start talking, and Lord Berick is brought up.  When Celaena asks who he is, Ansel explains that he is the ruler of Xandria, and that he claims the part of the Red Desert that the Fortress sits on.  Lord Berick wants the Mute Master dead and the rest of the assassins dead, but they are too smart to be taken out by poison.  Ansel explains that every couple of months Lord Berick sends men to the fortress and tries to stage an attack, and it never works.

    Mikhail and Ansel soon start bantering with one another while eating, but Ansel takes a moment to dump more food on Celaena's plate.

    Mikhail tells Celaena that Ansel knows Lord Berick better than most, as she is the one the Mute Master sends to meet with him every so often to negotiate peace.  

    Celaena starts to eat after feeling like enough time passed and the others hadn't died yet.  She observes the other acolytes in the dining hall, and can't believe how many people are here from different places in the world.  She couldn't get over that the room was filled with trained killers, yet everyone had this aura of peace and joy.  As Celaena looks over the people, she settles on the foreign dignitaries and asks about them.  Ansel explains that they are there to bid on assassins.  Mikhail further explains that every assassin has the choice to come and go from the fortress, and what jobs they take.  Celaena asks if they are willing to leave.  Ansel says no, as her father would beat her if she aligned with another court, and Mikhail says maybe one day, but right now he has a reason to stay, while looking at Ansel.  

    Celaena feels someone watching her, and when she looks up, she see's a handsome young man sitting farther down the table stealing glances of her.  When their eyes meet, he smiles at her.  It makes her think of Sam, and this is the first time she thinks of Sam as desirable.  Ansel tells Celaena that his name is Ilias, and he is the Mute Master's son.  She is surprised that he is taking notice of Celaena, since he is mostly focused on training and meditation, but since Celaena is pretty, she shouldn't be surprised.  She assumes that Celaena has a lot of suitors in Rifthold and Celaena tells her that is not the case.  She feels flattered by Ilias's attention.

    Ansel asks if she deserved the beating she got from her master.  She tells her that Arobynn believes so, but she has no remorse, and the 200 slaves she freed would argue it.  At this point, Celaena pulls from the conversation and eats.  

                                                                                    *****

    The next morning Ansel explains to Celaena that they have to start each day with a grueling run.  Ansel prompts Celaena to carry two buckets across her shoulders, and begin the three mile run across the dunes to a small oasis.  Celaena is unhappy about it, as she thought she would be training with the master, but Ansel tells her she needs to prove herself first.

    Celaena manages to get to the oasis, just barely.  She is about to collapse from dehydration when she hears the splashing.  Ansel is already there, and when Celaena gets to the water, she fully submerges herself.

                                                                                    *****

    Celaena drinks a whole bucket of water by time she has completed 1.5 miles of her run back, and finishes the second bucket by time she gets back to the keep at dusk.  Ansel tells Celaena not to be so glum.  She passed out on mile two her first run, and Ilias ended up carrying her back to the fortress on his way back from the oasis.  

    Ilias smiles at her from down the table, making Celaena blush.

    Celaena notices the Mute Master leaving the dining hall, and Celaena takes the chance to go talk to him.  She tries to communicate with gestures that she came to train with him.  He nods, understanding.  When she makes it clear she only wants to train with him, he shakes his head no, signals for her to be patient, and he will come to her when it's time.  He walks away, and when Celaena goes to follow him, Ilias grabs her arm to hold her back, and shakes his head to tell her not to follow.  Celaena tells him she wasn't going to hurt him.  She formally introduces herself to him.  When he makes some gestures she doesn't understand, she laughs and tells him so, and he throws his hands in the air in mock defeat, pats her shoulder, then goes to follow his father.  As she heads to her room, she can feel Ilias watching her from somewhere hidden, making sure she doesn't go after his father.

    Later that night, Celaena and Ansel talk, and Celaena asks about Mikhail and her.  Ansel admits she is annoyed that he doesn't make as much of an effort to hide their relationship.  Ansel tells Celaena that she started seeing Mikhail when she was fifteen years old - which makes Celaena feel sick because he would have been 22 at the time.  

    When she drifts off to sleep that night, she thinks of Sam, and that night when everything changed.  She wonders why it took three men to restrain him.

    

Chapter 4

    Celaena gets better at the run each day, and eventually manages to make it back to the fortress before afternoon drills.  She notes that the Silent Assassin's operate very differently from the Assassin's Guild, and instead of being pitted against each other, they encourage and teach one another.  While she hates being corrected during certain drills, she keeps silent, knowing that her letter of approval depends on it.

                                                                                    *****

    On Celaena's fifth night at the fortress, Lord Berick sends 30 soldiers to attack on a moonless night.  Luckily, the guards see them.  Mikhail wakes Ansel and Celaena and tells them to head to the fortress battlements.

    When they get on top of the parapet, they crouch down amongst the line up of other assassin's.  Ilias gestures for them to ready their arrows, and Ansel silently directs Celaena to dip her fabric tipped arrow into a bucket of oil.  The goal is to shoot the arrows towards an oil soaked rope, to separate the soldiers from the fortress.  It works, and a fight between the two groups continues with arrows.  

    When the arrows stop, and they see the soldiers run off, Celaena and Ansel smile at one another.

                                                                                    *****

    Near dawn, when Celaena and Ansel are in their room, Mikhail stops by with a sealed scroll from the Mute Master, with instructions for Ansel to meet with Lord Berick.  After he leaves, Ansel asks Celaena if she would like to join her.

    

Chapter 5

    Celaena is annoyed because she is having trouble falling asleep in the Red Desert after the first day of travel.  While laying down, Celaena asks Ansel if the Western Wastes are as cursed as the stories say.  Ansel tells her that the Flatlands used to be part of the Witch Kingdom, so in a way, the lands are technically cursed, but the curse only activates if an Ironteeth witch tries to establish themselves there, and they have been gone.

    Celaena asks if Ansel has ever seen an Ironteeth witch, and Ansel tells her the story of the first time she saw one.  She was 8 when her sister, her sister's best friend, and her snuck out of Briarcliff after overhearing a stable boy say that if you look through the archway at the bottom of this lone watchtower on the night of the summer solstice, you can see into another world.  As they got closer, Ansel got scared, so her sister had her hide behind a rock, while her and her friend continued to explore.  

    After some time, Ansel hears screaming.  Her sister runs from the watchtower, grabs Ansel's hand, and they run all the way back to Briarcliff.  She tells Ansel that when they got to the archway, an Ironteeth witch came out of the shadows and grabbed her friend.  She ran to get Ansel and get help.  When Ansel's father and his men went to the watchtower to get her friend back, the witch was gone, and all there was left in the archway was the bones of a girl, picked clean.

    Ansel tells Celaena her father walloped them both as punishment, and made them work the kitchens for six months, but the guilt was her sisters true punishment, and it never went away.  When it's obvious that Celaena is unnerved by the story, Ansel tells her not to worry, as she has learned the secret to killing a witch - cut off their head.  She goes on, saying that if she were the head of the silent assassins, she would send the assassins to the Flatlands to wipe out the witches so that the land could prosper once again, instead of having them whore themselves out to foreign lands.  They could protect the unprotected right here.  Celaena titles her 'Ansel of Briarcliff, Defender of the Realm', which makes Ansel laugh.

    Ansel quickly falls asleep, but Celaena has trouble, because all she can think of is Maddy.

                                                                                    *****

    Ansel and Celaena make is to Xandria on market day.  Celaena notes that despite the embargo from Adarlan, it didn't seem to affect their market.  Ansel tells Celaena to explore, and that she should only be a few hours.  Celaena is annoyed that Ansel isn't letting her attend the meeting, considering she traveled to Xandria with her, and gave up days that she may have been able to get the Mute Master to train her.

    Celaena becomes suspicious of Ansel, and why she is being so secretive.  She tries to follow Ansel to the palace and find out what is going on, but gets jostled in the crowd, and loses her. 

    She spends two hours wandering, sad that she didn't bring more money with her.  She debates between a beautifully scented lilac perfume and curled toed boots.  As she walks away from the shoes, something glimmers from the shadows of an alley, where a tall, lean man stands, surrounded by guards.  When she gets closer, she is shocked by the sight of yards and yards of spidersilk.  The merchant says that Celaena is the first one that day to recognize it.  He asks if she has seen spidersilk before, and she tells him she knows a courtesan that was gifted a handkerchief made from it by a very wealthy client.

     Celaena asks how he got so much of it, and he tells her that he went to the Ruhnn Mountains in search of them.  They found him, and they reached the bargain of 100 yards of spidersilk for 20 years of his life.  He assumed that they were to take the 20 years off the end of his life, but in fact, they took it from the present, aging his 25 year old body to 45.  Despite this, he says he would have agreed to the bargain even if they were clear with their intentions.  Celaena asks why he doesn't try selling it in Rifthold, and he explains that he has already seen Rifthold, and Orynth and Benjali, and wanted to see what 100 yards of spidersilk would get him outside of Adarlan's empire.  

    She asks if there is a way he can get his 20 years back, and he says the only way he knows of  was told to him by a witch, and she said the only way is to kill the spider that consumed them.  Due to Stygian Spiders being very dangerous, only great warriors could kill them.  He wonders if an assassin from the north would be able to defeat one. 

    As they talk, he tells Celaena that he has been hearing rumors of a spy amongst the silent assassins, and strange dealings between the spy and Lord Berick.  Celaena wonders if the reason Ansel didn't want Celaena at the meeting is because she didn't want Celaena to overhear the suspected spy's name,  

    Before they part, the merchant asks if she is interested in taking on the spider for him.  She is intrigued by the possibility of going up against the infamous spiders, and tells him to find her through Arobynn Hamel in Rifthold and they will talk then.  He gives her a 6x6 square of spidersilk as a reminder that everything has a price.

                                                                                    *****

    Celaena ends up purchasing the shoes she was eyeing.  By three in the afternoon she is sitting on the fountain eating mashed beans in a warm bread pocket when Ansel finally comes to get her, later than she said she would be.  She grabs Celaena's arm, refusing to tell her what is wrong.  She leads Celaena to Lord Berick's personal stables, and shows her two, beautiful Asterion horses.

    Ansel tells her that Lord Berick just got them that day, and he was planning on testing them out in half an hour, which is why they are saddled.  She says that that he will use the horses as bribes or will lose interest in them and they will languish in the stables until they die.  She asks Celaena if she is a strong rider, to which she says of course.  Ansel unlocks the gate and guides one of the horses - Hisli - out of her pen.  She gets on, tells Celaena she will have to ride like hell, then gallops towards the exit of the stables.  Celaena curses, then jumps on the other horse - Kasida - and follows Ansel. 

    

Chapter 6

    Celaena follows Ansel out of the side exit of the city, while three guards pursue them.  As they ride through the red dunes, all Celaena can hope for is that she can hold on, as Kasida was that fast.  When Ansel slows down a bit for Celaena to catch up, Celaena asks her if she was nuts.  Ansel just says she didn't want to walk back, and that they were taking a short cut.  Celaena is tempted to push Ansel off her horse and let the guards have her, until Ansel tells her to live a little.  

    The dunes part to reveal the Gulf of Oro.  Ansel whoops and rides towards the beach and waves.  Celaena smiles and when Kasida reaches the hard packed red sand, gets even faster.  Realizing this was an experience that most never got, Celaena feels complete bliss, and tips her head back to the sky and laughed.

    Celaena follows Ansel towards the dunes and the giant wall of rock that rose nearby as the guards reach the beach.  The wall of rock was called the desert cleaver, and was the reason is took 2 days to travel to Xandria, as one had to travel around it.  When Celaena catches up to Ansel once again, she asks what she is doing.  Ansel tells her they are going to jump across the cleaver.  That the asterion horse should be able to do it.  When Celaena makes it clear that she thinks that is a terrible idea, Ansel tells her that the guards will follow them right to the fortress if they take the other way.  They won't be able to make the jump, as they are astride normal horses.

    Celaena is pissed, as Ansel obviously planned this, yet chose not to fill her in.  Ansel speeds ahead, leaving Celaena to choose between the three guards chasing them down, and the jump ahead.  She swears while speeding up Kasida, choosing the jump.  She enters the narrow passage behind Ansel.  

    Celaena hears the guards enter behind her, and she suddenly wishes Sam was with her, as he is dependable and skilled in a fight.  She ducks as arrows are shot at her.  As she turns at a bend in the passage, she see's that straight ahead is a long, straight shot to the ravine, which she suspects is 30 feet wide.  She doesn't want to know how many feet the drop is.

    She watches as Ansel and Hisli makes the jump,.  Ansel let's out a shout of joy as she goes through the air, landing on the other side with just inches to spare.  At this point, there is no room to stop if she wanted to.  Kasida speeds up as if she knows the jump is coming, then jumps.  Celaena see's a river winding it's way through the ravine far below.  She makes the landing.  The guards all stop before the jump, knowing they won't be able to do it with their regular horses.  Ansel and Celaena race out of the ravine into the dunes of the Red Desert.

    When the horses tire, they stop so they could rest.  When Ansel asks Celaena if she thought the experience was wonderful, Celaena doesn't reply with words - just punches Ansel in the face so hard that she falls off the horse.  She just laughs.

                                                                                     *****
    While Celaena wants to continue to the fortress, Ansel wants to camp for the night, so that is what they do.  They are lying side by side in the sand of the Red Desert, staring at the stars.  Celaena loves being able to see them, as you can't really see them in Rifthold because of the lights.  Ansel admits that she never learned the constellations - that in the Western Wastes they would probably have different names anyway.  

    Celaena points, and asks if Ansel see's the dragon, which makes her laugh and says no.  Celaena points to another, called the Swan.  Ansel points to another cluster, and asks what that one is.  Celaena tells her it's The Stag.  The Lord of the North.  She tells Ansel that the Stag remains constant - no matter the season, he is always there, so the people of Terrasen will always be able to find their way home.  

    Ansel asks if she wants to return home.  When Celaena looks at her in confusion, Ansel says she knows she is from Terrasen because she talks of it like her father used to talk about Briarcliff.  Celaena catches on to Ansel's use of the words "used to".  While staring at the stars, Ansel tells Celaena the truth - that her father didn't send her to the Fortress.  She tells Celaena that a man named Lord Loch took over several territories around her homeland.  He calls himself the High King of the High Wastes.  When he demanded that they turn over Briarcliff to him, her father refused.  Lord Loch and his men descended on their home.  While she hid in a kitchen cupboard, she watched as he killed her sister and father.  After they left, she grabbed her father's sword, and ran for days.  She collapses from exhaustion at the campfire of an Ironteeth witch at the base of the White Fang Mountains, and admits to not caring about being eaten at that point.  The witch told her that that is not her fate.  She feeds her, cleans and binds up her injured feet, gives her coin, and tells her to go to the Fortress of the Silent Assassin's, and there, she will learn her fate.

    Ansel wipe at her eyes.  She tells Celaena that when she is strong and fast enough, she will travel back to Briarcliff Hills and take back her home.  She will march into Lord Loch's home and repay him for what he did to her family, and it will be with her father's sword - the only thing she has left of them.  
    Celaena is crying along with Ansel.  Ansel asks how men can find it in themselves to do such monstrou
s things.  Celaena holds her hand, and tells her that they will make them pay for it in the end.

Chapter 7

    When Celaena and Ansel get back to the fortress, they are immediately escorted to the Mute Master.  When Celaena hears his footsteps behind her, it triggers the fear she had when Arobynn beat her that night, and she remembers what Sam was yelling at Arobynn.
                                                                                   "I'll kill you!"
    Ansel apologizes to the Mute Master, and tells him that they just wanted to have a little fun.  While it was foolish, she will handle Lord Berick, as she always has.  Celaena can tell she feels bitter about this, and figures Ansel is more upset about the Mute Master not training her than she lets on.  
    Celaena flinches when the Mute Master lifts her chin with his fingers to look into her eyes.  He gives her a sad smile when she does so, and drops his hand.  When Celaena realizes that he wasn't going to hit her, she feels embarrassed by her reaction.  When she starts to worry that he will kick them both out of the fortress, she steps up and takes the blame.  The Mute Master's brows raise as he looks at them both a long while.  He nods at whatever he see's on Ansel's face.  Ansel suggests that he assign them to the stables for the morning shift as punishment.  He agrees with the punishment.  

    After dismissing them, the Mute Master grabs Celaena's arm, and makes several gestures.  Ansel tells her that he wants to begin training her, and to meet him at sunset the next day.  She smiles and bows to him, before heading to the stables.

                                                                                    *****

    Celaena and Ansel's punishment involves cleaning all the pens of all the livestock.  Because this takes all morning, they don't have to go on the daily run.  That afternoon they spend it sparring.  That evening when she goes to look for the Mute Master, she runs into Ilias, who points her to the roof.  

    She climbs to the roof, where the Muster Master stands by a parapet, looking out over the desert.  He doesn't acknowledge her.  The only thing on the roof is a covered reed basket in the center.  When he looks to her, she bows.  He nods, then points to the basket and beckons for her to open it.  As she gets closer to the basket, she can hear angry hissing, and stops.  She looks to the Mute Master.  He jumps onto the parapet and gestures for her to continue.  

    When she opens the basket, she jumps back.  There is a black asp inside.  When she goes to get up on the parapet, he clicks his tongue at her.  He gestures, and she understands his instructions to be observe it.  Move with it.  Don't kill it.  Absorb.  She doesn't look away from it.  She observes.

    She trains with the snake every night that week until she could move how the snake moved, and until she could face it and anticipate it's attack.  She trained with it until she could strike as fast as the asp, swift and unflinching.  She then spends dangling from the rafters in the stables with the bats, learning to be so silent no one noticed she was there, and to drown out external noise and focus only on the sound of their prey.
    Celaena only see's Ansel during meals, and in the stables in the mornings, but is usually too tired to talk.  Ansel seems to get more cheerful by the day though, and Celaena finds it infectious.  In the quiet moments, though, she thinks about Sam and what he screamed at Arobynn during the beating - and why. 

Chapter 8

    It's Midsummer's Eve, and Ansel's birthday.  Celaena is doing her makeup, while Ansel questions how Celaena can stand wearing it all the time.  Celaena thinks about how unbearable the thought is to leave the fortress and leaving Ansel behind, as she has never really had a friend.

    At the Midsummer Eve party, Celaena notes that is the most unusual party she has been to, as it's mostly silent - not even music - but they dance under the light of the moon.  Everyone is smiling, and there is wine, which Celaena and Ansel indulge in.  

    While Celaena loves parties, she wishes she could be spending the time training with the Mute Master, but he wanted to go to the party.  She watches Ansel and Mikhail dance, and they seem happy.  She thinks that sometimes she catches Sam looking at her the way Mikhail looks at Ansel, but then he would say something absurd or try to undermine her, which makes her think she imagined it.  She worries over Sam's fate after the beating, and thinks to the days after that night.  As soon as she was able to move around, she left and used most of her savings to buy herself an apartment, away and hidden from the keep.  She wasn't sure what her plans were when she returned to Rifthold, but the longer she stays with the Silent Assassin's, the more resolved she gets to tell Arobynn that she is moving out.  She thinks to herself that if Arobynn ever lays a hand on Sam or her again, she will make sure he loses everything below the elbow.

    Her thoughts are interrupted when Ilias taps her shoulder and holds out his hand to dance.  She blushes, and shakes her head no, gesturing that she doesn't know the dances.  He shrugs but still holds out his hand.  She looks at his toes, and he shrugs again.  She looks to Ansel and Mikhail, who are dancing.  Ilias gives her a look that translates as "Live a little, Sardothien", so she shrugs, smiles and takes his hand.  They dance to well after midnight.

    When Celaena indicates that she is tired, she signals that she wants to leave.  Ilias tries to get her to dance longer, but she shakes her head no.  As she leaves, she see's that Ansel and Mikhail are still dancing, holding each other closer than any of the other couples on the floor.

    Ilias walks Celaena to her room.  Celaena's heart races because she wonders if he will kiss her, and she has never kisses anyone before.  Has never found the right person to kiss.  When they get to her door, he is smiling at her as she blushes.  He caresses her jaw, and gently tips her head back to kiss her.  As he goes in for the kiss, she thinks of Sam, and steps back.  He steps back as well, and looks concerned.  She apologizes, and is embarrassed.  She tells him she can't kiss him, because she will be leaving in a week's time.  He bows his head, squeezes her shoulder, shrugs, and walks to his bedroom door.  Before he enters his room, he waves to her, and goes in.

                                                                                    *****

    Ansel doesn't come to bed that night, but she enters the stables that morning still wearing her party clothes.  Celaena gives her a look, and she tells her not to start.  Celaena insists she wasn't going to say anything.  Ansel is glad of it, because she is already being teased.  She is annoyed, because while Mikhail gets congratulated on a well made conquest, she gets teased until she snaps at them.  Celaena asks Ansel if she wants to be with him, and she shrugs.  Ansel says Mikhail is an amazing warrior, and has taught her far more than she would have learned without him.  She decides the teasing is a fair trade off for the extra attention she receives, which doesn't sit well with Celaena.  When Ansel can tell that Celaena doesn't agree with her tactics, Ansel says that not everyone is able to convince the Mute Master to trains them.  This leads to a fight where both say hurtful things to one another, and Ansel storming out of the stables.

Chapter 9

    Celaena is distracted from her training, thinking about her fight with Ansel.  She wonders if Ansel is right about her bring spoiled and selfish.  When the Mute Master decides to stop training early because of her obvious turmoil, he gestures for her to sit with him.  They sit on the roof all night in silence, as she doesn't want to talk about her fight with Ansel.  As dawn approaches, she breaks the silence, and admits that she is scared to go back to Rifthold.  He raises his brows in question, and she tells him she is scared because everything is different now after what happened in Skulls Bay.  While she is scared, she also doesn't want to go back to how it was.  The Mute Master smiles at her, and stretches before standing up.

    He begins a series of movements that are "graceful and winding, as elegant as a dance and deadly as the asp that lurked on the roof."  He looks to her, and she gets up and copies the movements.  They continue until well after the sun rises.

                                                                                    *****

    When Celaena gets back to her room, she see's that Ansel has already left for the stables.  She decides that since Ansel ditched her yesterday, she will skip today at the stables, and goes to sleep.

    Later, Celaena is woken up by Ansel, as it's almost dinner time.  They apologize to one another for what they said to one another.  Ansel tells Celaena that she is her first true friend, and will be sad to see her go.  Celaena reminds her she still has another five days at the fortress.  She notices Ansel keeps looking at the door, but is distracted by Ansel asking her to remember her fondly, to which Celaena says she will try - but it will be hard.  Ansel laughs, than goes to the window and brings over two glasses of wine.  Ansel proposes a toast - to making amends and fond memories.  Celaena adds to being the most fearsome and imposing girls the world has ever seen.  Celaena takes a large mouthful, and has two thoughts before she blacks out: that Ansel's eyes are full of sorrow, and that the wine tasted strange.

Chapter 10

    Celaena wakes up in the middle of the desert with a pounding headache.  Kasida is there with her, watching over her, with saddlebags full of Celaena's things, except for her sword.  She finds a note tucked in her belt.  Finding a lantern, she reads Ansel's note, apologizing for it ending this way, but that the Mute Master felt it was time for her to go, and it was easier to do it this way, than ask her to leave.  She says that his letter of approval is in one of the saddlebags, and that she will miss her.  

    Celaena is confused on why he would want her sent away, but is relieved about the letter of approval.  She stops herself from opening it so that Arobynn can't accuse her of tampering with it.  She wonders if the Mute Master decided what Ansel said was true - that she was spoiled and selfish - and decided to side with one of his own.  She is sad, because for the first time in a long time, she felt like she belonged, and was in a place where she could learn more than to be an ass.

    Holding in her tears, she looks up at the stag constellation, gets on Kasida's back, and rides into the night.

                                                                                    *****

    Celaena heads towards Xandria with the intent of finding a ship there, instead of going across the Singing Sands again.  She takes her time during her travels, sad about leaving.

     The next day, she hears thumps in the distance.  She sees 200 men marching into the desert, carrying the red and black banners that signify Lord Berick's men.  She notes that Lord Berick is not among them.  Celaena figures they are heading to the fortress. A soldier notices her and stares at her, but is too far away to identify her.  She wonders if the Mute Master sent her away so she wouldn't get mixed up in the fight.   She nods to the soldier, and continues on to Xandria.  She decides that if the Mute Master sent her away, she didn't feel the need to warn them, especially since he probably already knew they were coming, and they obviously didn't need her.

                                                                                    *****

    The next morning Xandria was quiet because the markets were gone. She buys passage on a ship that would sail to a Amier, a port in Melisande across the Gulf of Oro. She'd hoped for a ship to a Innish to inquire over the young healer she met, but there were none. Amier was her best bet to get back to Rifthold because of the embargo on Xandria ships going to ports in Adarlan's empire. 

                                                                                    *****

    The ship didn't leave until high noon, so she wandered the city.  She wondered if Lord Berick's men had got to the fortress, yet, though she predicts they won't get there until tonight or tomorrow morning.  She wondered if they were prepared for Lord Berick's men.  She is curious as to what went wrong, as the Mute Master and Lord Berick had been in talks for peace.  Ansel had seemed jovial after the last meeting a week ago. 

    Celaena gets a chill down her spine and pulls out the letter of approval.  It hits Celaena that if the Mute Master knew about the attack, he wouldn't have sent her away.  He was he wasn't proud like Arobynn.  He loved his disciples.  He never trained Ansel.  Why send only Celaena away if danger was coming?  She opens the letter and it's blank.  She realizes that the white line on his finger wasn't a lost wedding band like she thought; it was a missing signet ring.  Why would Ansel drug her and seal an empty letter?
    She looks at Lord Berick's castle and remembers that the spider silk merchant mentioned a spy along the assassins.  She jumps onto Kasida and rides for the city gate.

Chapter 11

    Celaena takes the shortcut across the Cleaver, only stopping to give Kasida a short rest and some water.  

    She see's the smoke first, then the fires.  Then she can hear the shouts and the clash of weapons.  She can tell that the walls were breached but there is no damage, as if someone had let them in.

    Celaena steals a sword off a dead soldier, yet still pulls out her pair of long daggers.  She looks amongst the bodies - both assassin's and soldiers.  The flowing rivers amongst the fortress were red with blood.  As she gets further into the fortress, she wonders where the Mute Master is.  

    Celaena doesn't want to believe Ansel would do this.

    Celaena battles her way through the soldiers, heading towards the Mute Master's rooms.  Halfway up the stairs, a soldier charges towards her with his sword drawn.  She ducks, and guts him.  When she gets up the stairs, she notices the silence compared to the rest of the fortress.

    Celaena rushes into the greeting room, and almost trips over a body; Mikhail.  His throat was cut.  Next to him is Ilias, alive, but wounded in the abdomen.  She goes to kneel by him, but he silently points to the room ahead.  

    Celaena finds the Mute Master in the next room, laying atop the dais, eyes open.  He has been poisoned by the same drug Ansel gave her.  Ansel stands over him with her father's sword, talking.  The Mute Master's eyes go to Celaena, than to his son, filled with pain, asking Celaena to save his son.  As Ansel raises the sword to behead the Mute Master, Celaena throws her dagger, which slams into Ansel's forearm.  She drops her father's sword, and when she see's Celaena, she goes white with shock, before grabbing her sword again.  Ansel once again tries to behead the Mute Master, but Celaena tackles her before she strikes, sending them both to the floor.

    Celaena and Ansel circle one another.  Celaena asks her why she has done this, and she says that Lord Berick has promised her a thousand men to fight for her and take back her home and get revenge if she delivers the Mute Master's head to him.  Celaena trembles, afraid she will be forced to kill her only friend, and begs her to stop.  Ansel refuses, and goes towards the Mute Master again.  Celaena tells her not to do it, or she will put her sword through her neck.  Ansel, not believing her, goes for it anyways.  Celaena throws her other dagger, slicing Ansel's side, and asks her again not to do it.  When Ansel asks her why she should stop, Celaena tells her that she understands, that she knows why it feels like to have this sort of hate.  But this is not the way.  Ansel brings up the hypocrisy of Celaena, an assassin, saying this.  But Celaena says she had no choice but to become an assassin - Ansel has a choice.

    Ansel says that these men do nothing by destroy, and Celaena agrees.  Ansel says that Celaena does nothing about it.  She is a dog chained to her master.  Ansel comes closer to Celaena, lowering her sword.  She says Celaena can come with her.  They can take back Briarcliff.  She would make Celaena her right hand.  While Celaena is tempted to join Ansel, she refuses.  She tells Ansel to take her troops and leave.  In Ansel's rage, she strikes out.  

    Celaena and Ansel fight.  During the fight, Ansel tells Celaena she was trying to protect her when she sent her away.  Celaena is surprised by Ansel's strength and skills.  While Celaena gets a small cut on her face from a dagger Ansel threw at her face, Celaena ultimately bests Ansel.  With her sword to the back of her neck, she asks Ansel if it - their friendship - was ever real, and Ansel says some of it was.  It was real when she sent Celaena away. 
    There are cheers outside the receiving hall from the assassins, signaling that they have won the battle.  She could kill Ansel, but she chooses not to.  She tells Ansel she has twenty minutes to get her things and be far enough away from the fortress that her arrow won't kill her.  Seeing Ansel is about to say something, Celaena stops her and tells her to go home.  She goes white, giving Celaena one last look before running from the room, jumping over Mikhail's body like it was debris.

Chapter 12

    Celaena rips off a piece of her tunic to hold to Ilias's wound while yelling for help, as the Mute Master drags himself towards his son.  A group of assassin's come and assist Ilias, and Celaena goes to the Mute Master and tells him not to move, so he doesn't hurt himself.  She goes and sniffs his goblet, and notes that Ansel poisoned him with a small amount of gloriella - just enough to paralyze him, but not kill him.  She is curious as to why the Mute Master didn't detect it before he drank.  She tells him that the poison should wear off soon, but asks another assassin to get the antidote to speed the process along.

    Celaena sits next to the Mute Master while the assassin's carry Ilias to their medical center.  They tell the Mute Master and Celaena that he will be okay.  The Mute Master squeezes Celaena's hand, his eyes pointing to the doors to remind Celaena of her promise, and that is was time.

                                                                                    *****

    Ansel was heading northeast on Hisli, over the dunes and towards the singing sands.  She was a dark blur in the distance. 

    Celaena aims and fires.  The arrow hits just inches from Hisli's back hooves.  Ansel keeps riding as Celaena lowers her bow, keeping to her promise of one arrow.  

    She gave Ansel an extra minute.

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    The next morning, the Mute Master calls Celaena to his chambers.  Celaena is shocked when he begins to speak.  He tells her he is glad that she didn't kill Ansel, and that he is curious about what Ansel will now do with her fate.  Celaena is surprised that he knew that Ansel was lying about her circumstances.  He tells her he grew suspicious of her story months after her arrival, after noting she never got letters from her family.  After some inquiries, he learns the truth about her family's murders.  Celaena asks why he let her stay after he learned the truth, and he admits that he hoped that one day, she would trust him enough to tell him the truth.  He wanted to give her a chance, despite her lie.  He hoped that she would learn to face her pain and learn to endure it. 
If one can learn to endure pain, one can survive anything.  
Some embrace it.
Some drown in their sorrow or make themselves forget.

Other's turn it to anger.

Ansel let her pain become hate, and let it consume her until she became a person he doesn't think she wanted to be.  

    Celaena asks the Mute Master if he will tell the others that Ansel is the one responsible for the attack, but he says no, wanting to spare them the pain of a friend betraying them.  Celaena wonders how she will endure her own pain.  The Mute Master tells her that he thinks Celaena is the closest thing to a friend Ansel has ever allowed herself to have, and that he believes she genuinely cared for her.  Celaena tells him that that doesn't make it hurt less.  He says he didn't think it would, but sparing her life and giving her back her family sword will leave an impression on her.  Perhaps she will remember the kindness Celaena did her, and leave less death behind her.

    He pulls out a letter for Arobynn and passes it to Celaena.  He tells her to hold her head high when she gives it to him.  Celaena asks why he is breaking his eternal vow of silence to speak with her now, and he shrugs, saying he never did vow to stay silent, he just doesn't think there is much to be said can't be told using gestures.  

    Before they separate, the Mute Master tells Celaena that if she ever wants to leave the north, she will always have a place at the fortress.  Ilias would especially love if she returned, and when Celaena blushes, he laughs.  He also tells her that when she leaves, a few of the other assassin's will be with her to help drive the wagon.  He knows that she is indebted to Arobynn for the fortune he forced her to borrow.  For saving his life, and sparing Ansel's, he gives her three trunks filled with gold.  He wants her to tell Arobynn that in the Red Desert, they do not abuse their disciples.  

    Celaena smiles and says she will do that.  She looks out a window, and for the first time in years, she heard the song of a northern wind, calling her home.

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