فصل 13

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CHAPTER

13

I woke to sunlight, and open space—nothing but clear sky and snowcapped mountains around me.

And Rhysand lounging in an armchair across from the couch where I was sprawled, gazing at the mountains, his face uncharacteristically solemn.

I swallowed, and his head whipped toward me.

No kindness in his eyes. Nothing but unending, icy rage.

But he blinked, and it was gone. Replaced by perhaps relief. Exhaustion.

And the pale sunlight warming the moonstone floors … dawn. It was dawn. I didn’t want to think about how long I’d been unconscious.

“What happened?” I said. My voice was hoarse. As if I’d been screaming.

“You were screaming,” he said. I didn’t care if my mental shield was up or down or completely shattered. “You also managed to scare the shit out of every servant and sentry in Tamlin’s manor when you wrapped yourself in darkness and they couldn’t see you.”

My stomach hollowed out. “Did I hurt any—”

“No. Whatever you did, it was contained to you.”

“You weren’t—”

“By law and protocol,” he said, stretching out his long legs, “things would have become very complicated and very messy if I had been the one to walk into that house and take you. Smashing that shield was fine, but Mor had to go in on her own two feet, render the sentries unconscious through her own power, and carry you over the border to another court before I could bring you here. Or else Tamlin would have free rein to march his forces into my lands to reclaim you. And as I have no interest in an internal war, we had to do everything by the book.”

That’s what Mor had said—that she did everything by the book.

But— “When I go back …”

“As your presence here isn’t part of our monthly requirement, you are under no obligation to go back.” He rubbed at his temple. “Unless you wish to.”

The question settled in me like a stone sinking to the bottom of a pool. There was such quiet in me, such … nothingness.

“He locked me in that house,” I managed to say.

A shadow of mighty wings spread behind Rhys’s chair. But his face was calm as he said, “I know. I felt you. Even with your shields up—for once.”

I made myself meet his stare. “I have nowhere else to go.”

It was both a question and a plea.

He waved a hand, the wings fading. “Stay here for however long you want. Stay here forever, if you feel like it.”

“I—I need to go back at some point.”

“Say the word, and it’s done.” He meant it, too. Even if I could tell from the ire in his eyes that he didn’t like it. He’d bring me back to the Spring Court the moment I asked.

Bring me back to silence, and those sentries, and a life of doing nothing but dressing and dining and planning parties.

He crossed his ankle over a knee. “I made you an offer when you first came here: help me, and food, shelter, clothing … All of it is yours.”

I’d been a beggar in the past. The thought of doing it now …

“Work for me,” Rhysand said. “I owe you, anyway. And we’ll figure out the rest day by day, if need be.”

I looked toward the mountains, as if I could see all the way to the Spring Court in the south. Tamlin would be furious. He’d shred the manor apart.

But he’d … he’d locked me up. Either he so deeply misunderstood me or he’d been so broken by what went on Under the Mountain, but … he’d locked me up.

“I’m not going back.” The words rang in me like a death knell. “Not—not until I figure things out.” I shoved against the wall of anger and sorrow and outright despair as my thumb brushed over the vacant band of skin where that ring had once sat.

One day at a time. Maybe—maybe Tamlin would come around. Heal himself, that jagged wound of festering fear. Maybe I’d sort myself out. I didn’t know.

But I did know that if I stayed in that manor, if I was locked up one more time … It might finish the breaking that Amarantha had started.

Rhysand summoned a mug of hot tea from nowhere and handed it to me. “Drink it.”

I took the mug, letting its warmth soak into my stiff fingers. He watched me until I took a sip, and then went back to monitoring the mountains. I took another sip—peppermint and … licorice and another herb or spice.

I wasn’t going back. Maybe I’d never even … gotten to come back. Not from Under the Mountain.

When the mug was half-finished, I fished for something, anything, to say to keep the crushing silence at bay. “The darkness—is that … part of the power you gave me?”

“One would assume so.”

I drained the rest of the mug. “No wings?”

“If you inherited some of Tamlin’s shape-shifting, perhaps you can make wings of your own.”

A shiver went down my spine at the thought, at the claws I’d grown that day with Lucien. “And the other High Lords? Ice—that’s Winter. That shield I once made of hardened wind—who did that come from? What might the others have given me? Is—is winnowing tied to any one of you in particular?”

He considered. “Wind? The Day Court, likely. And winnowing—it’s not confined to any court. It’s wholly dependent on your own reserve of power—and training.” I didn’t feel like mentioning how spectacularly I’d failed to even move an inch. “And as for the gifts you got from everyone else … That’s for you to find out, I suppose.”

“I should have known your goodwill would wear off after a minute.”

Rhys let out a low chuckle and got to his feet, stretching his muscled arms over his head and rolling his neck. As if he’d been sitting there for a long, long while. For the entirety of the night. “Rest a day or two, Feyre,” he said. “Then take on the task of figuring out everything else. I have business in another part of my lands; I’ll be back by the end of the week.”

Despite how long I’d slept, I was so tired—tired in my bones, in my crumpled heart. When I didn’t reply, Rhys strode off between the moonstone pillars.

And I saw how I would spend the next few days: in solitude, with nothing to do and only my own, horrible thoughts for company. I began speaking before I could reconsider. “Take me with you.”

Rhys halted as he pushed through two purple gossamer curtains. And slowly, he turned back. “You should rest.”

“I’ve rested enough,” I said, setting down the empty mug and standing. My head spun slightly. When had I last eaten? “Wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing—take me along. I’ll stay out of trouble. Just … Please.” I hated the last word; choked on it. It hadn’t done anything to sway Tamlin.

For a long moment, Rhys said nothing. Then he prowled toward me, his long stride eating up the distance and his face set like stone. “If you come with me, there is no going back. You will not be allowed to speak of what you see to anyone outside of my court. Because if you do, people will die—my people will die. So if you come, you will have to lie about it forever; if you return to the Spring Court, you cannot tell anyone there what you see, and who you meet, and what you will witness. If you would rather not have that between you and—your friends, then stay here.”

Stay here, stay locked up in the Spring Court … My chest was a gaping, open wound. I wondered if I’d bleed out from it—if a spirit could bleed out and die. Maybe that had already happened. “Take me with you,” I breathed. “I won’t tell anyone what I see. Even—them.” I couldn’t bear to say his name.

Rhys studied me for a few heartbeats. And finally he gave me a half smile. “We leave in ten minutes. If you want to freshen up, go ahead.”

An unusually polite reminder that I probably looked like the dead. I felt like it. But I said, “Where are we going?”

Rhys’s smile widened into a grin. “To Velaris—the City of Starlight.”

The moment I entered my room, the hollow quiet returned, washing away with it any questions I might have had about—about a city.

Everything had been destroyed by Amarantha. If there were a city in Prythian, I would no doubt be visiting a ruin.

I jumped into the bath, scrubbing down as swiftly as I could, then hurried into the Night Court clothes that had been left for me. My motions were mindless, each one some feeble attempt to keep from thinking about what had happened, what—what Tamlin had tried to do and had done, what I had done—

By the time I returned to the main atrium, Rhys was leaning against a moonstone pillar, picking at his nails. He merely said, “That was fifteen minutes,” before extending his hand.

I had no glimmering ember to even try to look like I cared about his taunting before we were swallowed by the roaring darkness.

Wind and night and stars wheeled by as he winnowed us through the world, and the calluses of his hand scratched against my own fading ones before—

Before sunlight, not starlight, greeted me. Squinting at the brightness, I found myself standing in what was unmistakably a foyer of someone’s house.

The ornate red carpet cushioned the one step I staggered away from him as I surveyed the warm, wood-paneled walls, the artwork, the straight, wide oak staircase ahead.

Flanking us were two rooms: on my left, a sitting room with a black marble fireplace, lots of comfortable, elegant, but worn furniture, and bookshelves built into every wall. On my right: a dining room with a long, cherrywood table big enough for ten people—small, compared to the dining room at the manor. Down the slender hallway ahead were a few more doors, ending in one that I assumed would lead to a kitchen. A town house.

I’d visited one once, when I was a child and my father had brought me along to the largest town in our territory: it’d belonged to a fantastically wealthy client, and had smelled like coffee and mothballs. A pretty place, but stuffy—formal.

This house … this house was a home that had been lived in and enjoyed and cherished.

And it was in a city.

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