فصل 13

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CHAPTER

13

“Run,” Lucien breathed.

I didn’t dare take my eyes off his brothers. Not as Eris lowered that hand to the frozen edge of the lake. “Run where, exactly?”

Flesh met ice and steam rippled. The ice went opaque, thawing in a line that shot for us—

We ran. The slick ice made for a treacherous sprint, my ankles roaring with the effort of keeping me upright.

Ahead, the lake stretched on forever. And with the sun barely awake, the dangers would be even harder to spot—

“Faster,” Lucien ordered. “Don’t look!” he barked as I began to turn my head to see if they’d followed. He lashed out a hand to grip my elbow, steadying me before I could even register that I’d stumbled.

Where would we go where would we go where would we go

Water splashed beneath my boots—thawed ice. Eris had to either be expending all his power to get through millennia of ice, or was just doing it slowly to torture us—

“Zag,” Lucien panted. “We need to—”

He shoved me aside, and I staggered, arms wheeling.

Just as an arrow ricocheted off the ice where I’d been standing.

“Faster,” Lucien snapped, and I didn’t hesitate.

I hurtled into a flat-out sprint, Lucien and I weaving in and out of each other’s paths as those arrows continued firing. Ice sprayed where they landed, and no matter how fast we ran, the ground beneath us melted and melted—

Ice. I had ice in my veins, and now that we were over the border of the Winter Court—

I didn’t care if they saw it—my power. Kallias’s power. Not when the alternatives were far worse.

I threw out a hand before us as a melting splotch began to spread, ice groaning.

A spray of ice shot from my palm, freezing the lake once more.

With each pump of my arms as I ran, I fired that ice from my palms, solidifying what Eris sought to melt ahead of us. Maybe—just maybe we could clear the lake, and if they were stupid enough to be atop it when we did … If I could form ice, I could certainly un-form it.

I crossed paths with Lucien again, meeting his wide eyes as we did, and opened my mouth to tell him my plan, when Eris appeared.

Not behind. Ahead.

But it was the other brother at his side, arrow aimed and already flying for me, who drew the shout from my throat.

I lunged to the side, rolling.

Not fast enough.

The arrow’s edge sliced the shell of my ear, my cheek, leaving a stinging wake. Lucien shouted, but another arrow was flying.

It went clean through my right forearm this time.

Ice sliced into my face, my hands, as I went down, knees barking, arm shrieking in agony at the impact—

Behind, steps thudded on ice as the third brother closed in.

I bit my lip hard enough to draw blood as I ripped away the cloth of my jacket and shirt from my forearm, snapped the arrow in two, and tore the pieces from my flesh. My roar shattered and bounced across the ice.

Eris had taken one step toward me, smiling like a wolf, when I was up again, my last two Illyrian knives in my palms, my right arm screaming at the movement—

Around me, the ice began to melt.

“This can end with you going under, begging me to get you out once that ice instantly refreezes,” Eris drawled. Behind him, cut off by his brothers, Lucien had drawn his own knife and now sized up the other two. “Or this can end with you agreeing to take my hand. But either way, you will be coming with me.”

Already, the flesh in my arm was knitting together. Healing—from Dawn’s powers reawakening in my veins—

And if that was working—

I didn’t give Eris time to read my move.

I sucked in a sharp breath.

White, blinding light erupted from me. Eris swore, and I ran.

Not toward him, not when I was still too injured to wield my knives. But away—toward that distant shore. Half-blinded myself, I stumbled and staggered until I was clear of the treacherous, melting splotches, then sprinted.

I made it all of twenty feet before Eris winnowed in front of me and struck.

A backhanded blow to the face, so hard my teeth went through my lip.

He struck again before I could even fall, a punch to my gut that ripped the air from my lungs. Beyond me, Lucien had unleashed himself upon his two brothers. Metal and fire blasted and collided, ice spraying.

I’d no sooner hit the ice than Eris grabbed me by the hair, right at the roots, the grip so brutal tears stung my eyes. But he dragged me back toward that shore, back across the ice—

I fought against the blow to my gut, fought to get a wisp of air down my throat, into my lungs. My boots scraped against the ice as I feebly kicked, yet Eris held firm—

I think Lucien shouted my name.

I opened my mouth, but a gag of fire shoved its way between my lips. It didn’t burn, but was hot enough to tell me it would if Eris willed it. Equal bands of flame wrapped around my wrists, my ankles. My throat.

I couldn’t remember—couldn’t remember what to do, how to move, how to stop this—

Closer and closer to the shore, to the awaiting party of sentries that winnowed in out of nowhere. No, no, no—

A shadow slammed into the earth before us, cracking the ice toward every horizon.

Not a shadow.

An Illyrian warrior.

Seven red Siphons glinted over his scaled black armor as Cassian tucked in his wings and snarled at Eris with five centuries’ worth of rage.

Not dead. Not hurt. Whole.

His wings repaired and strong.

I loosed a shuddering sob over the burning gag. Cassian’s Siphons flickered in response, as if the sight of me, at Eris’s hand—

Another impact struck the ice behind us. Shadows skittered in its wake.

Azriel.

I began crying in earnest, some leash I’d kept on myself snapping free as my friends landed. As I saw that Azriel, too, was alive, was healed. As Cassian drew twin Illyrian blades, the sight of them like home, and said to Eris with lethal calm, “I suggest you drop my lady.”

Eris’s grip on my hair only tightened, wringing a whimper from me.

The wrath that twisted Cassian’s face was world-ending.

But his hazel eyes slid to mine. A silent command.

He had spent months training me. Not just to attack, but to defend. Had taught me, over and over, how to get free of a captor’s grasp. How to manage not only my body, but my mind.

As if he’d known that it was a very real possibility that this scenario would one day happen.

Eris had bound my limbs, but—I could still move them. Still use parts of my magic.

And getting him off balance long enough to let go, to let Cassian jump between us and take on the High Lord’s son …

Towering over me, Eris didn’t so much as glance down as I twisted, spinning on the ice, and slammed my bound legs up between his.

He lurched, bending over with a grunt.

Right into the fisted, bound hands I drove into his nose. Bone crunched, and his hand sprang free of my hair.

I rolled, scrambling away. Cassian was already there.

Eris hardly had time to draw his sword as Cassian brought his own down upon him.

Steel against steel rang out across the ice. Sentries on the shore unleashed arrows of wood and magic—only to bounce against a shield of blue.

Azriel. Across the ice, he and Lucien were engaging the other two brothers. That any of Lucien’s siblings held out against the Illyrians was a testament to their own training, but—

I focused the ice in my veins on the gag in my mouth, the binds around my wrists and ankles. Ice to smother fire, to sing it to sleep …

Cassian and Eris clashed, danced back, clashed again.

Ropes of fire snapped free, dissolving with a hiss of steam.

I was on my feet again, reaching for a weapon I did not have. My daggers had been lost forty feet away.

Cassian got past Eris’s guard with brutal efficiency. And Eris screamed as the Illyrian blade punched through his gut.

Blood, red as rubies, stained the ice and snow.

For a heartbeat, I saw how it would play out: three of Beron’s sons dead at our hands. A temporary satisfaction for me, five centuries of satisfaction for Cassian, Azriel, and Mor, but if Beron still debated what side to support in this war …

I had other weapons to use.

“Stop,” I said.

The word was a soft, cold command.

And Azriel and Cassian obeyed.

Lucien’s other two brothers were back-to-back, bloody and gaping. Lucien himself was panting, sword still raised, as Azriel flicked the blood off his own blade and stalked toward me.

I met the hazel eyes of the shadowsinger. The cool face that hid such pain—and kindness. He had come. Cassian had come.

The Illyrians fell into place beside me. Eris, a hand pressed to his gut, was breathing wetly, glaring at us.

Glaring—then considering. Watching the three of us as I said to Eris, to his other two brothers, to the sentries on the shore, “You all deserve to die for this. And for much, much more. But I am going to spare your miserable lives.”

Even with a wound through his gut, Eris’s lip curled.

Cassian snarled his warning.

I only removed the glamour I’d kept on myself these weeks. With the sleeve of my jacket and shirt gone, there was nothing but smooth skin where that wound had been. Smooth skin that now became adorned with swirls and whorls of ink. The markings of my new title—and my mating bond.

Lucien’s face drained of color as he strode for us, stopping a healthy distance from Azriel’s side.

“I am High Lady of the Night Court,” I said quietly to them all.

Even Eris stopped sneering. His amber eyes widened, something like fear now creeping into them.

“There’s no such thing as a High Lady,” one of Lucien’s brothers spat.

A faint smile played on my mouth. “There is now.”

And it was time for the world to know it.

I caught Cassian’s gaze, finding pride glimmering there—and relief.

“Take me home,” I ordered him, my chin high and unwavering. Then to Azriel, “Take us both home.” I said to the Autumn Court’s scions, “We’ll see you on the battlefield.”

Let them decide whether it was better to be fighting beside us or against us.

I turned to Cassian, who opened his arms and tucked me in tight before launching us skyward in a blast of wings and power. Beside us, Azriel and Lucien did the same.

When Eris and the others were nothing but specks of black on white below, when we were sailing high and fast, Cassian observed, “I don’t know who looks more uncomfortable: Az or Lucien Vanserra.”

I chuckled, glancing over my shoulder to where the shadowsinger carried my friend, both of them making a point not to speak, look, or talk. “Vanserra?”

“You never knew his family name?”

I met those laughing, fierce hazel eyes.

Cassian’s smile softened. “Hello, Feyre.”

My throat tightened to the point of pain, and I threw my arms around his neck, embracing him tightly.

“I missed you, too,” Cassian murmured, squeezing me.

We flew until we reached the border of the sacred, eighth territory. And when Cassian set us down in a snowy field before the ancient wood, I took one look at the blond female in Illyrian leathers pacing between the gnarled trees and launched into a sprint.

Mor held me as tightly as I gripped her.

“Where is he?” I asked, refusing to let go, to lift my head from her shoulder.

“He—it’s a long story. Far away, but racing home. Right now.” Mor pulled back enough to scan my face. Her mouth tightened at the lingering injuries, and she gently scraped away flecks of dried blood caked on my ear. “He picked up on you—the bond—minutes ago. The three of us were closest. I winnowed in Cassian, but with Eris and the others there …” Guilt dimmed her eyes. “Relations with the Winter Court are strained—we thought if I was out here on the border, it might keep Kallias’s forces from looking south. At least long enough to get you.” And to avoid an interaction with Eris that Mor was perhaps not ready for.

I shook my head at the shame still shadowing her usually bright features. “I understand.” I embraced her again. “I understand.”

Mor’s answering squeeze was rib-crushing.

Azriel and Lucien landed, plumes of snow spraying in the former’s wake. Mor and I released each other at last, my friend’s face going grave as she sized up Lucien. Snow and blood and dirt coated him—coated us both.

Cassian explained to Mor, “He fought against Eris and the other two.”

Mor’s throat bobbed, noting the blood staining Cassian’s hands—realizing it wasn’t his own. Scenting it, no doubt, as she blurted, “Eris. Did you—”

“He remains alive,” Azriel answered, shadows curling around the clawed tips of his wings, so stark against the snow beneath our boots. “So do the others.”

Lucien was glancing between all of them, wary and quiet. What he knew of Mor’s history with his eldest brother … I’d never asked. Never wanted to.

Mor tossed her mass of golden waves over a shoulder. “Then let’s go home.”

“Which one?” I asked carefully.

Mor swept her attention over Lucien once more. I almost pitied Lucien for the weight in her gaze, the utter judgment. The stare of the Morrigan—whose gift was pure truth.

Whatever she beheld in Lucien was enough for her to say, “The town house. You have someone waiting there for you.”

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