فصل 53

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CHAPTER

53

Jurian held up his tanned hands, new calluses dotting his palms and fingers. New—for the remade body he’d had to train to handle weapons these months.

“I came alone,” Jurian said. “You can stop snarling.”

Elain began shaking—either at the truth revealed, or the memories that pelted her, pelted Nesta, at the sight of him. Jurian inclined his head to my sisters. “Ladies.”

“They are no ladies,” Lord Nolan sneered.

“Father,” Graysen warned.

Nolan ignored him. “Upon his arrival, Jurian explained what had been done to you—both of you. What the queens on the continent desire.”

“And what is that?” Rhys asked, his voice a deceptive croon.

“Power. Youth,” Jurian said with a shrug. “The usual things.”

“Why are you here,” I demanded. Kill him—we should kill him now before he could hurt us any further, kill him for that bolt he’d put through Azriel’s chest and the threat he’d made to Miryam and Drakon, perhaps causing them to vanish and leave us to fight this war on our own—

“The queens are snakes,” Jurian said, leaning against the edge of a table shoved by the wall. “They deserve to be butchered for their treachery. It took no effort on my part when Hybern sent me to woo them to our cause. Only one of them was noble enough to play the game—to know we’d been dealt a shitty hand and to play it the best she could. But when she helped you, the others found out. And they gave her to the Attor.” Jurian’s eyes gleamed bright—not with madness, I realized.

But clarity.

And I had the sense of the world sliding out from beneath my feet as Jurian said, “He resurrected me to turn them to his cause, believing I had gone mad during the five hundred years Amarantha trapped me. So I was reborn, and found myself surrounded by my old enemies—faces I had once marked to kill. I found myself on the wrong side of a wall, with the human realm poised to shatter beneath it.”

Jurian looked right to Mor, whose mouth was a tight line. “You were my friend,” he said, voice straining. “We fought back-to-back during some battles. And yet you believed me at first sight—believed that I’d ever let them turn me.”

“You went mad with—with Clythia. It was madness. It destroyed you.”

“And I was glad to do it,” Jurian snarled. “I was glad to do it, if it bought us an edge in that war. I didn’t care what it did to me, what it broke in me. If it meant we could be free. And I have had five hundred years to think about it. While being held prisoner by my enemy. Five hundred years, Mor.” The way he said her name, so familiar and knowing—

“You played the villain convincingly enough, Jurian,” Rhys purred.

Jurian snapped his face toward Rhys. “You should have looked. I expected you to look into my mind, to see the truth. Why didn’t you?”

Rhys was quiet for a long moment. Then he said softly, “Because I didn’t want to see her.”

See any trace of Amarantha.

“You mean to imply,” Mor pushed, “that you’ve been working to help us during this?”

“Where better to plot your enemy’s demise, to learn their weaknesses, than at their side?”

We were silent, Lord Graysen and his father watching—or the latter did. Graysen and Elain were just staring at each other.

“Why this obsession to find Miryam and Drakon?” Mor asked.

“It’s what the world expects of me. What Hybern expects. And if he grants my asking price to find them … Drakon has a legion capable of turning the tide in battle. It was why I allied with him during the War. I don’t doubt Drakon still has it trained and ready. Word will have reached him by now. Especially that I am looking for them.”

A warning. The only way Jurian could send one—by making himself the hunter.

I said to Jurian, “You don’t want to kill Miryam and Drakon.”

There was stark honesty in Jurian’s eyes as he shook his head once. “No,” he said roughly. “I want to beg their forgiveness.”

I looked to Mor. But tears lined her eyes, and she blinked them furiously away.

“Miryam and Drakon have vanished,” Rhys said. “Their people with them.”

“Then find them,” Jurian said. He jerked his chin to Azriel. “Send the shadowsinger, send whomever you trust, but find them.”

Silence.

“Look into my head,” Jurian said to Rhys. “Look, and see for yourself.”

“Why now,” Rhys said. “Why here.”

Jurian held his stare. “Because the wall came down, and now I can move freely—to warn the humans here. Because …” He loosed a long breath. “Because Tamlin ran right back to Hybern after your meeting ended this morning. Right to their camp in the Spring Court, where Hybern now plans to launch a land assault on Summer tomorrow.”

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