- زمان مطالعه 15 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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متن انگلیسی فصل
It had been a year since I had stalked through that labyrinth of snow and ice and killed a faerie with hate in my heart.
My family’s emerald-roofed estate was as lovely at the end of winter as it had been in the summer. A different sort of beauty, though—the pale marble seemed warm against the stark snow piled high across the land, and bits of evergreen and holly adorned the windows, the archways, and the lampposts. The only bit of decoration, of celebration, humans bothered with. Not when they’d banned and condemned every holiday after the War, all a reminder of their immortal overseers.
Three months with Amarantha had destroyed me. I couldn’t begin to imagine what millennia with High Fae like her might do—the scars it’d leave on a culture, a people.
My people—or so they had once been.
Hood up, fingers tucked into the fur-lined pockets of my cloak, I stood before the double doors of the house, listening to the clear ringing of the bell I’d pulled a heartbeat before.
Behind me, hidden by Rhys’s glamours, my three companions waited, unseen.
I’d told them it would be best if I spoke to my family first. Alone.
I shivered, craving the moderate winter of Velaris, wondering how it could be so temperate in the far north, but … everything in Prythian was strange. Perhaps when the wall hadn’t existed, when magic had flowed freely between realms, the seasonal differences hadn’t been so vast.
The door opened, and a merry-faced, round housekeeper—Mrs. Laurent, I recalled—squinted at me. “May I help … ” The words trailed off as she noticed my face.
With the hood on, my ears and crown were hidden, but that glow, that preternatural stillness … She didn’t open the door wider.
“I’m here to see my family,” I choked out.
“Your—your father is away on business, but your sisters … ” She didn’t move.
She knew. She could tell there was something different, something off—
Her eyes darted around me. No carriage, no horse.
No footprints through the snow.
Her face blanched, and I cursed myself for not thinking of it—
Something in my chest broke at Elain’s voice from the hall behind her.
At the sweetness and youth and kindness, untouched by Prythian, unaware of what I’d done, become—
I backed away a step. I couldn’t do this. Couldn’t bring this upon them.
Then Elain’s face appeared over Mrs. Laurent’s round shoulder.
Beautiful—she’d always been the most beautiful of us. Soft and lovely, like a summer dawn.
Elain was exactly as I’d remembered her, the way I’d made myself remember her in those dungeons, when I told myself that if I failed, if Amarantha crossed the wall, she’d be next. The way she’d be next if the King of Hybern shattered the wall, if I didn’t get the Book of Breathings.
Elain’s golden-brown hair was half up, her pale skin creamy and flushed with color, and her eyes, like molten chocolate, were wide as they took me in.
They filled with tears and silently overran, spilling down those lovely cheeks.
Mrs. Laurent didn’t yield an inch. She’d shut this door in my face the moment I so much as breathed wrong.
Elain lifted a slender hand to her mouth as her body shook with a sob.
“Elain,” I said hoarsely.
Footsteps on the sweeping stairs behind them, then—
“Mrs. Laurent, draw up some tea and bring it to the drawing room.”
The housekeeper looked to the stairs, then to Elain, then to me.
A phantom in the snow.
The woman merely gave me a look that promised death if I harmed my sisters as she turned into the house, leaving me before Elain, still quietly crying.
But I took a step over the threshold and looked up the staircase.
To where Nesta stood, a hand braced on the rail, staring as if I were a ghost.
The house was beautiful, but there was something untouched about it. Something new, compared to the age and worn love of Rhys’s homes in Velaris.
And seated before the carved marble sitting room hearth, my hood on, hands outstretched toward the roaring fire, I felt … felt like they had let in a wolf.
I had become too big for these rooms, for this fragile mortal life, too stained and wild and … powerful. And I was about to bring that permanently into their lives as well.
Where Rhys, Cassian, and Azriel were, I didn’t know. Perhaps they stood as shadows in the corner, watching. Perhaps they’d remained outside in the snow. I wouldn’t put it past Cassian and Azriel to be now flying the grounds, inspecting the layout, making wider circles until they reached the village, my ramshackle old cottage, or maybe even the forest itself.
Nesta looked the same. But older. Not in her face, which was as grave and stunning as before, but … in her eyes, in the way she carried herself.
Seated across from me on a small sofa, my sisters stared—and waited.
I said, “Where is Father?” It felt like the only safe thing to say.
“In Neva,” Nesta said, naming one of the largest cities on the continent. “Trading with some merchants from the other half of the world. And attending a summit about the threat above the wall. A threat I wonder if you’ve come back to warn us about.”
No words of relief, of love—never from her.
Elain lifted her teacup. “Whatever the reason, Feyre, we are happy to see you. Alive. We thought you were—”
I pulled my hood back before she could go on.
Elain’s teacup rattled in its saucer as she noticed my ears. My longer, slender hands—the face that was undeniably Fae.
“I was dead,” I said roughly. “I was dead, and then I was reborn—remade.”
Elain set her shivering teacup onto the low-lying table between us. Amber liquid splashed over the side, pooling in the saucer.
And as she moved, Nesta angled herself—ever so slightly. Between me and Elain.
It was Nesta’s gaze I held as I said, “I need you to listen.”
They were both wide-eyed.
But they did.
I told them my story. In as much detail as I could endure, I told them of Under the Mountain. Of my trials. And Amarantha. I told them about death. And rebirth.
Explaining the last few months, however, was harder.
So I kept it brief.
But I explained what needed to happen here—the threat Hybern posed. I explained what this house needed to be, what we needed to be, and what I needed from them.
And when I finished, they remained wide-eyed. Silent.
It was Elain who at last said, “You—you want other High Fae to come … here. And … and the Queens of the Realm.”
I nodded slowly.
“Find somewhere else,” Nesta said.
I turned to her, already pleading, bracing for a fight.
“Find somewhere else,” Nesta said again, straight-backed. “I don’t want them in my house. Or near Elain.”
“Nesta, please,” I breathed. “There is nowhere else; nowhere I can go without someone hunting me, crucifying me—”
“And what of us? When the people around here learn we’re Fae sympathizers? Are we any better than the Children of the Blessed, then? Any standing, any influence we have—gone. And Elain’s wedding—”
“Wedding,” I blurted.
I hadn’t noticed the pearl-and-diamond ring on her finger, the dark metal band glinting in the firelight.
Elain’s face was pale, though, as she looked at it.
“In five months,” Nesta said. “She’s marrying a lord’s son. And his father has devoted his life to hunting down your kind when they cross the wall.”
“So there will be no meeting here,” Nesta said, shoulders stiff. “There will be no Fae in this house.”
“Do you include me in that declaration?” I said quietly.
Nesta’s silence was answer enough.
But Elain said, “Nesta.”
Slowly, my eldest sister looked at her.
“Nesta,” Elain said again, twisting her hands. “If … if we do not help Feyre, there won’t be a wedding. Even Lord Nolan’s battlements and all his men, couldn’t save me from … from them.” Nesta didn’t so much as flinch. Elain pushed, “We keep it secret—we send the servants away. With the spring approaching, they’ll be glad to go home. And if Feyre needs to be in and out for meetings, she’ll send word ahead, and we’ll clear them out. Make up excuses to send them on holidays. Father won’t be back until the summer, anyway. No one will know.” She put a hand on Nesta’s knee, the purple of my sister’s gown nearly swallowing up the ivory hand. “Feyre gave and gave—for years. Let us now help her. Help … others.”
My throat was tight, and my eyes burned.
Nesta studied the dark ring on Elain’s finger, the way she still seemed to cradle it. A lady—that’s what Elain would become. What she was risking for this.
I met Nesta’s gaze. “There is no other way.”
Her chin lifted slightly. “We’ll send the servants away tomorrow.”
“Today,” I pushed. “We don’t have any time to lose. Order them to leave now.”
“I’ll do it,” Elain said, taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders. She didn’t wait for either of us before she strode out, graceful as a doe.
Alone with Nesta, I said, “Is he good—the lord’s son she’s to marry?”
“She thinks he is. She loves him like he is.”
“And what do you think?”
Nesta’s eyes—my eyes, our mother’s eyes—met mine. “His father built a wall of stone around their estate so high even the trees can’t reach over it. I think it looks like a prison.”
“Have you said anything to her?”
“No. The son, Graysen, is kind enough. As smitten with Elain as she is with him. It’s the father I don’t like. He sees the money she has to offer their estate—and his crusade against the Fae. But the man is old. He’ll die soon enough.”
A shrug. Then Nesta asked, “Your High Lord … You went through all that”—she waved a hand at me, my ears, my body—“and it still did not end well?”
I was heavy in my veins again. “That lord built a wall to keep the Fae out. My High Lord wanted to keep me caged in.”
“Why? He let you come back here all those months ago.”
“To save me—protect me. And I think … I think what happened to him, to us, Under the Mountain broke him.” Perhaps more than it had broken me. “The drive to protect at all costs, even my own well-being … I think he wanted to stifle it, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t let go of it.” There was … there was much I still had to do, I realized. To settle things. Settle myself.
“And now you are at a new court.”
Not quite a question, but I said, “Would you like to meet them?”
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