فصل 58

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CHAPTER

58

I turned, but did not sheath my blade across my back.

The Suriel was standing a few feet away, clad not in the cloak I had given it months ago, but a different one—heavier and darker, the fabric already torn and shredded. As if the wind it traveled on had ripped through it with invisible talons.

Only a few months since I had last seen it—when it had told me that Rhys was my mate. It might as well have been a lifetime ago.

Its over-large teeth clacked faintly. “Thrice now, we have met. Thrice now, you have hunted for me. This time, you sent the trembling fawn to find me. I did not expect to see those doe-eyes peering at me from across the world.”

“I’m sorry if it was a violation,” I said as steadily as I could. “But it’s an urgent matter.”

“You wish to know where Hybern is hiding its army.”

“Yes. And other things. But let’s start with that.”

A hideous, horrific smile. “Even I cannot see it.”

My stomach tightened. “You can see everything but that?”

The Suriel angled its head in a way that reminded me it was indeed a predator. And there was no snare this time to hold it back.

“He uses magic to cloak it—magic far older than I.”

“The Cauldron.”

Another awful smile. “Yes. That mighty, wicked thing. That bowl of death and life.” It shivered with what I could have sworn was delight. “You have one already who can find Hybern.”

“Elain says she cannot see it—see past his magic.”

“Then use the other to track it.”

“Nesta. Use Nesta to track the Cauldron?”

“Like calls to like. The King of Hybern does not travel without the Cauldron. So where it is, he and his army shall be. Tell the beautiful thief to find it.”

The hair on my arms rose. “How?”

It angled its head, as if listening. “If she is unskilled … bones will do the talking for her.”

“Scrying—you mean scrying with bones?”

“Yes.” Those tattered robes flitted in a phantom wind. “Bones and stones.”

I swallowed again. “Why did the Cauldron not react when I joined the Book and spoke the spell to nullify its power?”

“Because you did not hold on for long enough.”

“It was killing me.”

“Did you think you could leash its power without a cost?”

My heart stuttered. “I need to—to die for it to be stopped?”

“So dramatic, human-heart. But yes—yes, that spell would have drained the life from you.”

“Is there—is there another spell to use instead? To nullify its powers.”

“If there were such a thing, you would still have to get close enough to the Cauldron to do it. Hybern will not make that mistake twice.”

I swallowed. “Even if we nullify the Cauldron … will it be enough to stop Hybern?”

“It depends on your allies. If they survive long enough to battle afterward.”

“Would the Bone Carver make a difference?” And Bryaxis.

The Suriel had no eyelids. But its milky eyes flared with surprise. “I cannot see—not him. He is not … born of this earth. His thread has not been woven in.” Its twisted mouth tightened. “You wish to save Prythian so much that you would risk unleashing him.”

“Yes.” The moment I located that army, I’d unleash Bryaxis upon it. But as for the Carver … “He wanted a—gift. In exchange. The Ouroboros.”

The Suriel let out a sound that might have been a gasp—delight or horror, I did not know. “The Mirror of Beginnings and Endings.”

“Yes—but … I cannot retrieve it.”

“You are afraid to look. To see what is within.”

“Will it drive me—mad? Break me?”

It was an effort not to flinch at that monstrous face, at the milky eyes and lipless mouth. All focused upon me. “Only you can decide what breaks you, Cursebreaker. Only you.” Not an answer—not really. Certainly not enough to risk retrieving the mirror. The Suriel again listened to that phantom wind. “Tell the silver-eyed messenger that the answer lies on the second and penultimate pages of the Book. Together they hold the key.”

“The key to what?”

The Suriel clicked its bony fingers together, like the many-jointed limbs of a crustacean, tip-tapping against each other. “The answer to what you need to stop Hy—”

It took me a heartbeat to register what happened.

To identify the wooden thing that burst through the Suriel’s throat as an ash arrow. To realize that what sprayed in my face, landing on my tongue and tasting like soil, was black blood.

To realize that the thudding before the Suriel could even scream … more arrows.

The Suriel stumbled to its knees, a choking sound coming out of that mouth.

It had been afraid of the naga that day in the woods. Had known it could be killed.

I surged toward it, palming a knife with my left hand, sword angling up.

Another arrow fired, and I ducked behind a gnarled tree.

The Suriel let out a scream at the impact. Birds scattered into flight, and my ears rang—

And then its labored, wet breathing filled the wood. Until a lilting female voice crooned, “Why does it talk to you, Feyre, when it would not even deign to speak with me?”

I knew that voice. That laughter beneath the words.

Ianthe.

Ianthe was here. With two Hybern soldiers behind her.

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