فصل 28

مجموعه: درباری از خار و رز / کتاب: درباری از مه و خشم / فصل 28

فصل 28

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My sisters ate breakfast with Rhys and me, Azriel gone to wherever he’d taken the Attor. Cassian had flown off to join him the moment we returned. He’d given Nesta a mocking bow, and she’d given him a vulgar gesture I hadn’t realized she knew how to make.

Cassian had merely laughed, his eyes snaking over Nesta’s ice-blue gown with a predatory intent that, given her hiss of rage, he knew would set her spitting. Then he was gone, leaving my sister on the broad doorstep, her brown-gold hair ruffled by the chill wind stirred by his mighty wings.

We brought my sisters to the village to mail our letter, Rhys glamouring us so we were invisible while they went into the little shop to post them. After we returned home, our good-byes were quick. I knew Rhys wanted to return to Velaris—if only to learn what the Attor was up to.

I’d said as much to Rhys while he flew us through the wall, into the warmth of Prythian, then winnowed us to Velaris.

Morning mist still twined through the city and the mountains around it. The chill also remained—but not nearly as unforgiving as the cold of the mortal world. Rhys left me in the foyer, huffing hot air into my frozen palms, without so much as a good-bye.

Hungry again, I found Nuala and Cerridwen, and I gobbled down cheese-and-chive scones while thinking through what I’d seen, what I’d done.

Not an hour later, Rhys found me in the living room, my feet propped on the couch before the fire, a book in my lap, a cup of rose tea steaming on the low table before me. I stood as he entered, scanning him for any sign of injury. Something tight in my chest eased when I found nothing amiss.

“It’s done,” he said, dragging a hand through his blue-black hair. “We learned what we needed to.” I braced myself to be shut out, to be told it’d be taken care of, but Rhys added, “It’s up to you, Feyre, to decide how much of our methods you want to know about. What you can handle. What we did to the Attor wasn’t pretty.”

“I want to know everything,” I said. “Take me there.”

“The Attor isn’t in Velaris. He was in the Hewn City, in the Court of Nightmares—where it took Azriel less than an hour to break him.” I waited for more, and as if deciding I wasn’t about to crumple, Rhys stalked closer, until less than a foot of the ornate red carpet lay between us. His boots, usually impeccably polished … that was silver blood speckled on them. Only when I met his gaze did he say, “I’ll show you.”

I knew what he meant, and steadied myself, blocking out the murmuring fire and the boots and the lingering cold around my heart.

Immediately, I was in that antechamber of his mind—a pocket of memory he’d carved for me.

Darkness flowed through me, soft and seductive, echoing up from an abyss of power so great it had no end and no beginning.

“Tell me how you tracked her,” Azriel said in the quiet voice that had broken countless enemies.

I—Rhys—leaned against the far wall of the holding cell, arms crossed. Azriel crouched before where the Attor was chained to a chair in the center of the room. A few levels above, the Court of Nightmares reveled on, unaware their High Lord had come.

I’d have to pay them a visit soon. Remind them who held their leash.

Soon. But not today. Not when Feyre had winnowed.

And she was still pissed as hell at me.

Rightly so, if I was being honest. But Azriel had learned that a small enemy force had infiltrated the North two days ago, and my suspicions were confirmed. Either to get at Tamlin or at me, they wanted her. Maybe for their own experimenting.

The Attor let out a low laugh. “I received word from the king that’s where you were. I don’t know how he knew. I got the order, flew to the wall as fast as I could.”

Azriel’s knife was out, balanced on a knee. Truth-Teller—the name stamped in silver Illyrian runes on the scabbard. He’d already learned that the Attor and a few others had been stationed on the outskirts of the Illyrian territory. I was half tempted to dump the Attor in one of the war-camps and see what the Illyrians did to it.

The Attor’s eyes shifted toward me, glowing with a hatred I’d become well accustomed to. “Good luck trying to keep her, High Lord.”

Azriel said, “Why?”

People often made the mistake of assuming Cassian was the wilder one; the one who couldn’t be tamed. But Cassian was all hot temper—temper that could be used to forge and weld. There was an icy rage in Azriel I had never been able to thaw. In the centuries I’d known him, he’d said little about his life, those years in his father’s keep, locked in darkness. Perhaps the shadowsinger gift had come to him then, perhaps he’d taught himself the language of shadow and wind and stone. His half-brothers hadn’t been forthcoming, either. I knew because I’d met them, asked them, and had shattered their legs when they’d spat on Azriel instead.

They’d walked again—eventually.

The Attor said, “Do you think it is not common knowledge that you took her from Tamlin?”

I knew that already. That had been Azriel’s task these days: monitor the situation with the Spring Court, and prepare for our own attack on Hybern.

But Tamlin had shut down his borders—sealed them so tightly that even flying overhead at night was impossible. And any ears and eyes Azriel had once possessed in the court had gone deaf and blind.

“The king could help you keep her—consider sparing you, if you worked with him …”

As the Attor spoke, I rummaged through its mind, each thought more vile and hideous than the next. It didn’t even know I’d slipped inside, but—there: images of the army that had been built, the twin to the one I’d fought against five centuries ago; of Hybern’s shores full of ships, readying for an assault; of the king, lounging on his throne in his crumbling castle. No sign of Jurian sulking about or the Cauldron. Not a whisper of the Book being on their minds. Everything the Attor had confessed was true. And it had no more value.

Az looked over his shoulder. The Attor had given him everything. Now it was just babbling to buy time.

I pushed off the wall. “Break its legs, shred its wings, and dump it off the coast of Hybern. See if it survives.” The Attor began thrashing, begging. I paused by the door and said to it, “I remember every moment of it. Be grateful I’m letting you live. For now.”

I hadn’t let myself see the memories from Under the Mountain: of me, of the others … of what it had done to that human girl I’d given Amarantha in Feyre’s place. I didn’t let myself see what it had been like to beat Feyre—to torment and torture her.

I might have splattered him on the walls. And I needed him to send a message more than I needed my own vengeance.

The Attor was already screaming beneath Truth-Teller’s honed edge when I left the cell.

Then it was done. I staggered back, spooling myself into my body.

Tamlin had closed his borders. “What situation with the Spring Court?”

“None. As of right now. But you know how far Tamlin can be driven to … protect what he thinks is his.”

The image of paint sliding down the ruined study wall flashed in my mind.

“I should have sent Mor that day,” Rhys said with quiet menace.

I snapped up my mental shields. I didn’t want to talk about it. “Thank you for telling me,” I said, and took my book and tea up to my room.

“Feyre,” he said. I didn’t stop. “I am sorry—about deceiving you earlier.”

And this, letting me into his mind … a peace offering. “I need to write a letter.”

The letter was quick, simple. But each word was a battle.

Not because of my former illiteracy. No, I could now read and write just fine.

It was because of the message that Rhys, standing in the foyer, now read:

I left of my own free will.

I am cared for and safe. I am grateful for all that you did for me, all that you gave.

Please don’t come looking for me. I’m not coming back.

He swiftly folded it in two and it vanished. “Are you sure?”

Perhaps it would help with whatever situation was going on at the Spring Court. I glanced to the windows beyond him. The mist wreathing the city had wandered off, revealing a bright, cloudless sky. And somehow, my head felt clearer than it had in days—months.

A city lay out there, that I had barely observed or cared about.

I wanted it—life, people. I wanted to see it, feel its rush through my blood. No boundaries, no limits to what I might encounter or do.

“I am no one’s pet,” I said. Rhys’s face was contemplative, and I wondered if he remembered that he’d told me the same thing once, when I was too lost in my own guilt and despair to understand. “What next?”

“For what it’s worth, I did actually want to give you a day to rest—”

“Don’t coddle me.”

“I’m not. And I’d hardly call our encounter this morning rest. But you will forgive me if I make assessments based on your current physical condition.”

“I’ll be the person who decides that. What about the Book of Breathings?”

“Once Azriel returns from dealing with the Attor, he’s to put his other skill set to use and infiltrate the mortal queens’ courts to learn where they’re keeping it—and what their plans might be. And as for the half in Prythian … We’ll go to the Summer Court within a few days, if my request to visit is approved. High Lords visiting other courts makes everyone jumpy. We’ll deal with the Book then.”

He shut his mouth, no doubt waiting for me to trudge upstairs, to brood and sleep.

Enough—I’d had enough of sleeping.

I said, “You told me that this city was better seen at night. Are you all talk, or will you ever bother to show me?”

A low laugh as he looked me over. I didn’t recoil from his gaze.

When his eyes found mine again, his mouth twisted in a smile so few saw. Real amusement—perhaps a bit of happiness edged with relief. The male behind the High Lord’s mask. “Dinner,” he said. “Tonight. Let’s find out if you, Feyre darling, are all talk—or if you’ll allow a Lord of Night to take you out on the town.”

Amren came to my room before dinner. Apparently, we were all going out tonight.

Downstairs, Cassian and Mor were sniping at each other about whether Cassian could fly faster short-distance than Mor could winnow to the same spot. I assumed Azriel was nearby, seeking sanctuary in the shadows. Hopefully, he’d gotten some rest after dealing with the Attor—and would rest a bit more before heading into the mortal realm to spy on those queens.

Amren, at least, knocked this time before entering. Nuala and Cerridwen, who had finished setting combs of mother-of-pearl into my hair, took one look at the delicate female and vanished into puffs of smoke.

“Skittish things,” Amren said, her red lips cutting a cruel line. “Wraiths always are.”

“Wraiths?” I twisted in the seat before the vanity. “I thought they were High Fae.”

“Half,” Amren said, surveying my turquoise, cobalt, and white clothes. “Wraiths are nothing but shadow and mist, able to walk through walls, stone—you name it. I don’t even want to know how those two were conceived. High Fae will stick their cocks anywhere.”

I choked on what could have been a laugh or a cough. “They make good spies.”

“Why do you think they’re now whispering in Azriel’s ear that I’m in here?”

“I thought they answered to Rhys.”

“They answer to both, but they were trained by Azriel first.”

“Are they spying on me?”

“No.” She frowned at a loose thread in her rain cloud–colored shirt. Her chin-length dark hair swayed as she lifted her head. “Rhys has told them time and again not to, but I don’t think Azriel will ever trust me fully. So they’re reporting on my movements. And with good reason.”


“Why not? I’d be disappointed if Rhysand’s spymaster didn’t keep tabs on me. Even go against orders to do so.”

“Rhys doesn’t punish him for disobeying?”

Those silver eyes glowed. “The Court of Dreams is founded on three things: to defend, to honor, and to cherish. Were you expecting brute strength and obedience? Many of Rhysand’s top officials have little to no power. He values loyalty, cunning, compassion. And Azriel, despite his disobedience, is acting to defend his court, his people. So, no. Rhysand does not punish that. There are rules, but they are flexible.”

“What about the Tithe?”

“What Tithe?”

I stood from the little bench. “The Tithe—taxes, whatever. Twice a year.”

“There are taxes on city dwellers, but there is no Tithe.” She clicked her tongue. “But the High Lord of Spring enacts one.”

I didn’t want to think about it entirely, not yet—not with that letter now on its way to him, if not already delivered. So I reached for the small box on the vanity and pulled out her amulet. “Here.” I handed over the gold-and-jewel-encrusted thing. “Thank you.”

Amren’s brows rose as I dropped it into her waiting palm. “You gave it back.”

“I didn’t realize it was a test.”

She set it back into the case. “Keep it. There’s no magic to it.”

I blinked. “You lied—”

She shrugged, heading for the door. “I found it at the bottom of my jewelry box. You needed something to believe you could get out of the Prison again.”

“But Rhys kept looking at it—”

“Because he gave it to me two hundred years ago. He was probably surprised to see it again, and wondered why I’d given it to you. Likely worried why I might have given it to you.”

I clenched my teeth, but Amren was already breezing through the door with a cheerful, “You’re welcome.”

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