فصل 37

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER

37

“NO!” Amren screamed, at the door in an instant, her fist a radiant forge as she slammed it into the lead—once, twice.

And above—the rush and gargle of water tumbling downstairs, filling the chamber—

No, no, no—

I reached the door, sliding the box into the wide inside pocket of my leather jacket while Amren’s blazing palm flattened against the door, burning, heating the metal, swirls and whorls radiating out through it as if they were a language all her own, and then—

The door burst open.

Only for a flood to come crashing in.

I grappled for the threshold, but missed as the water slammed me back, sweeping me under the dark, icy surface. The cold stole the breath from my lungs. Find the floor, find the floor—

My feet connected and I pushed up, gulping down air, scanning the dim chamber for Amren. She was clutching the threshold, eyes on me, hand out—glowing bright.

The water already flowed up to my breasts, and I rushed to her, fighting the onslaught flooding the chamber, willing that new strength into my body, my arms—

The water became easier, as if that kernel of power soothed its current, its wrath, but Amren was now climbing up the threshold. “You have it?” she shouted over the roaring water.

I nodded, and I realized her outstretched hand wasn’t for me—but for the door she’d forced back into the wall. Holding it away until I could get out.

I shoved through the archway, Amren slipping around the threshold—just as the door rolled shut again, so violently that I wondered at the power she’d used to push it back.

The only downside was that the water in the hall now had much less space to fill.

“Go,” she said, but I didn’t wait for her approval before I grabbed her, hooking her feet around my stomach as I hoisted her onto my back.

“Just—do what you have to,” I gritted out, neck craned above the rising water. Not too much farther to the stairs—the stairs that were now a cascade. Where the hell was Rhysand?

But Amren held out a palm in front of us, and the water buckled and trembled. Not a clear path, but a break in the current. I directed that kernel of Tarquin’s power—my power now—toward it. The water calmed further, straining to obey my command.

I ran, gripping her thighs probably hard enough to bruise. Step by step, water now raging down, now at my jaw, now at my mouth—

But I hit the stairs, almost slipping on the slick step, and Amren’s gasp stopped me cold.

Not a gasp of shock, but a gasp for air as a wall of water poured down the stairs. As if a mighty wave had swept over the entire site. Even my own mastery over the element could do nothing against it.

I had enough time to gulp down air, to grab Amren’s legs and brace myself—

And watch as that door atop the stairs slid shut, sealing us in a watery tomb.

I was dead. I knew I was dead, and there was no way out of it.

I had consumed my last breath, and I would be aware for every second until my lungs gave out and my body betrayed me and I swallowed that fatal mouthful of water.

Amren beat at my hands until I let go, until I swam after her, trying to calm my panicking heart, my lungs, trying to convince them to make each second count as Amren reached the door and slammed her palm into it. Symbols flared—again and again. But the door held.

I reached her, shoving my body into the door, over and over, and the lead dented beneath my shoulders. Then I had talons, talons not claws, and I was slicing and punching at the metal—

My lungs were on fire. My lungs were seizing—

Amren pounded on the door, that bit of faelight guttering, as if it were counting down her heartbeats—

I had to take a breath, had to open my mouth and take a breath, had to ease the burning—

Then the door was ripped away.

And the faelight remained bright enough for me to see the three beautiful, ethereal faces hissing through fish’s teeth as their spindly webbed fingers snatched us out of the stairs, and into their frogskin arms.

Water-wraiths.

But I couldn’t stand it.

And as those spiny hands grabbed my arm, I opened my mouth, water shoving in, cutting off thought and sound and breath. My body seized, those talons vanishing—

Debris and seaweed and water shot past me, and I had the vague sense of being hurtled through the water, so fast the water burned beneath my eyelids.

And then hot air—air, air, air, but my lungs were full of water as—

A fist slammed into my stomach and I vomited water across the waves. I gulped down air, blinking at the bruised purple and blushing pink of the morning sky.

A sputter and gasp not too far from me, and I treaded water as I turned in the bay to see Amren vomiting as well—but alive.

And in the waves between us, onyx hair plastered to their strange heads like helmets, the water-wraiths floated, staring with dark, large eyes.

The sun was rising beyond them—the city encircling us stirring.

The one in the center said, “Our sister’s debt is paid.”

And then they were gone.

Amren was already swimming for the distant mainland shore.

Praying they didn’t come back and make a meal of us, I hurried after her, trying to keep my movements small to avoid detection.

We both reached a quiet, sandy cove and collapsed.

A shadow blocked out the sun, and a boot toed my calf. “What,” said Rhysand, still in battle-black, “are you two doing?”

I opened my eyes to find Amren hoisting herself up on her elbows. “Where the hell were you?” she demanded.

“You two set off every damned trigger in the place. I was hunting down each guard who went to sound the alarm.” My throat was ravaged—and sand tickled my cheeks, my bare hands. “I thought you had it covered,” he said to her.

Amren hissed, “That place, or that damned book, nearly nullified my powers. We almost drowned.”

His gaze shot to me. “I didn’t feel it through the bond—”

“It probably nullified that, too, you stupid bastard,” Amren snapped.

His eyes flickered. “Did you get it?” Not at all concerned that we were half-drowned and had very nearly been dead.

I touched my jacket—the heavy metal lump within.

“Good,” Rhys said, and I looked behind him at the sudden urgency in his tone.

Sure enough, in the castle across the bay, people were darting about.

“I missed some guards,” he gritted out, grabbed both our arms, and we vanished.

The dark wind was cold and roaring, and I had barely enough strength to cling to him.

It gave out entirely, along with Amren’s, as we landed in the town house foyer—and we both collapsed to the wood floor, spraying sand and water on the carpet.

Cassian shouted from the dining room behind us, “What the hell?”

I glared up at Rhysand, who merely stepped toward the breakfast table. “I’m waiting for an explanation, too,” he merely said to wide-eyed Cassian, Azriel, and Mor.

But I turned to Amren, who was still hissing on the floor. Her red-rimmed eyes narrowed. “How?”

“During the Tithe, the water-wraith emissary said they had no gold, no food to pay. They were starving.” Every word ached, and I thought I might vomit again. He’d deserve it, if I puked all over the carpet. Though he’d probably take it from my wages. “So I gave her some of my jewelry to pay her dues. She swore that she and her sisters would never forget the kindness.”

“Can someone explain, please?” Mor called from the room beyond.

We remained on the floor as Amren began quietly laughing, her small body shaking.

“What?” I demanded.

“Only an immortal with a mortal heart would have given one of those horrible beasts the money. It’s so … ” Amren laughed again, her dark hair plastered with sand and seaweed. For a moment, she even looked human. “Whatever luck you live by, girl … thank the Cauldron for it.”

The others were all watching, but I felt a chuckle whisper out of me.

Followed by a laugh, as rasping and raw as my lungs. But a real laugh, perhaps edged by hysteria—and profound relief.

We looked at each other, and laughed again.

“Ladies,” Rhysand purred—a silent order.

I groaned as I got to my feet, sand falling everywhere, and offered a hand to Amren to rise. Her grip was firm, but her quicksilver eyes were surprisingly tender as she squeezed it before snapping her fingers.

We were both instantly clean and warm, our clothes dry. Save for a wet patch around my breast—where that box waited.

My companions were solemn-faced as I approached and reached inside that pocket. The metal bit into my fingers, so cold it burned.

I dropped it onto the table.

It thudded, and they all recoiled, swearing.

Rhys crooked a finger at me. “One last task, Feyre. Unlock it, please.”

My knees were buckling—my head spinning and mouth bone-dry and full of salt and grit, but … I wanted to be rid of it.

So I slid into a chair, tugging that hateful box to me, and placed a hand on top.

Hello, liar, it purred.

“Hello,” I said softly.

Will you read me?

“No.”

The others didn’t say a word—though I felt their confusion shimmering in the room. Only Rhys and Amren watched me closely.

Open, I said silently.

Say please.

“Please,” I said.

The box—the Book—was silent. Then it said, Like calls to like.

“Open,” I gritted out.

Unmade and Made; Made and Unmade—that is the cycle. Like calls to like.

I pushed my hand harder, so tired I didn’t care about the thoughts tumbling out, the bits and pieces that were a part of and not part of me: heat and water and ice and light and shadow.

Cursebreaker, it called to me, and the box clicked open.

I sagged back in my chair, grateful for the roaring fire in the nearby fireplace.

Cassian’s hazel eyes were dark. “I never want to hear that voice again.”

“Well, you will,” Rhysand said blandly, lifting the lid. “Because you’re coming with us to see those mortal queens as soon as they deign to visit.”

I was too tired to think about that—about what we had left to do. I peered into the box.

It was not a book—not with paper and leather.

It had been formed of dark metal plates bound on three rings of gold, silver, and bronze, each word carved with painstaking precision, in an alphabet I could not recognize. Yes, it indeed turned out my reading lessons were unnecessary.

Rhys left it inside the box as we all peered in—then recoiled.

Only Amren remained staring at it. The blood drained from her face entirely.

“What language is that?” Mor asked.

I thought Amren’s hands might have been shaking, but she shoved them into her pockets. “It is no language of this world.”

Only Rhys was unfazed by the shock on her face. As if he’d suspected what the language might be. Why he had picked her to be a part of this hunt.

“What is it, then?” Azriel asked.

She stared and stared at the Book—as if it were a ghost, as if it were a miracle—and said, “It is the Leshon Hakodesh. The Holy Tongue.” Those quicksilver eyes shifted to Rhysand, and I realized she’d understood, too, why she’d gone.

Rhysand said, “I heard a legend that it was written in a tongue of mighty beings who feared the Cauldron’s power and made the Book to combat it. Mighty beings who were here … and then vanished. You are the only one who can uncode it.”

It was Mor who warned, “Don’t play those sorts of games, Rhysand.”

But he shook his head. “Not a game. It was a gamble that Amren would be able to read it—and a lucky one.”

Amren’s nostrils flared delicately, and for a moment, I wondered if she might throttle him for not telling her his suspicions, that the Book might indeed be more than the key to our own salvation.

Rhys smiled at her in a way that said he’d be willing to let her try.

Even Cassian slid a hand toward his fighting knife.

But then Rhysand said, “I thought, too, that the Book might also contain the spell to free you—and send you home. If they were the ones who wrote it in the first place.”

Amren’s throat bobbed—slightly.

Cassian said, “Shit.”

Rhys went on, “I did not tell you my suspicions, because I did not want to get your hopes up. But if the legends about the language were indeed right … Perhaps you might find what you’ve been looking for, Amren.”

“I need the other piece before I can begin decoding it.” Her voice was raw.

“Hopefully our request to the mortal queens will be answered soon,” he said, frowning at the sand and water staining the foyer. “And hopefully the next encounter will go better than this one.”

Her mouth tightened, yet her eyes were blazing bright. “Thank you.”

Ten thousand years in exile—alone.

Mor sighed—a loud, dramatic sound no doubt meant to break the heavy silence—and complained about wanting the full story of what happened.

But Azriel said, “Even if the book can nullify the Cauldron … there’s Jurian to contend with.”

We all looked at him. “That’s the piece that doesn’t fit,” Azriel clarified, tapping a scarred finger on the table. “Why resurrect him in the first place? And how does the king keep him bound? What does the king have over Jurian to keep him loyal?”

“I’d considered that,” Rhys said, taking a seat across from me at the table, right between his two brothers. Of course he had considered it. Rhys shrugged. “Jurian was … obsessive in his pursuits of things. He died with many of those goals left unfinished.”

Mor’s face paled a bit. “If he suspects Miryam is alive—”

“Odds are, Jurian believes Miryam is gone,” Rhys said. “And who better to raise his former lover than a king with a Cauldron able to resurrect the dead?”

“Would Jurian ally with Hybern just because he thinks Miryam is dead and wants her back?” Cassian said, bracing his arms on the table.

“He’d do it to get revenge on Drakon for winning her heart,” Rhys said. He shook his head. “We’ll discuss this later.” And I made a note to ask him who these people were, what their history was—to ask Rhys why he’d never hinted Under the Mountain that he knew the man behind the eye on Amarantha’s ring. After I’d had a bath. And water. And a nap.

But they all looked to me and Amren again—still waiting for the story. Brushing a few grains of sand off, I let Amren launch into the tale, each word more unbelievable than the last.

Across the table, I lifted my gaze from my clothes and found Rhys’s eyes already on me.

I inclined my head slightly, and lowered my shield only long enough to say down the bond: To the dreams that are answered.

A heartbeat later, a sensual caress trailed along my mental shields—a polite request. I let it drop, let him in, and his voice filled my head. To the huntresses who remember to reach back for those less fortunate—and water-wraiths who swim very, very fast.

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