A Court of Mist and Fury Page 103

Cassian and Rhys were silent as a tall, broad-shouldered older male approached, flanked by five other Illyrian warriors, wings all tucked in, hands within casual reach of their weapons.

No matter that Rhys could rip their minds apart without lifting a finger.

They each wore Siphons of varying colors on the backs of their hands, the stones smaller than Azriel and Cassian’s. And only one. Not like the seven apiece that my two friends wore to manage their tremendous power.

The male in front said, “Another camp inspection? Your dog,” he jerked his chin at Cassian, “was here just the other week. The girls are training.”

Cassian crossed his arms. “I don’t see them in the ring.”

“They do chores first,” the male said, shoulders pushing back and wings flaring slightly, “then when they’ve finished, they get to train.”

A low snarl slipped past Mor’s mouth, and the male turned our way. He stiffened. Mor flashed him a wicked smile. “Hello, Lord Devlon.”

The leader of the camp, then.

He gave her a dismissive once-over and looked back to Rhys. Cassian’s warning growl rumbled in my stomach.

Rhys said at last, “Pleasant as it always is to see you, Devlon, there are two matters at hand: First, the girls, as you were clearly told by Cassian, are to train before chores, not after. Get them out on the pitch. Now.” I shuddered at the pure command in that tone. He continued, “Second, we’ll be staying here for the time being. Clear out my mother’s old house. No need for a housekeeper. We’ll look after ourselves.”

“The house is occupied by my top warriors.”

“Then un-occupy it,” Rhysand said simply. “And have them clean it before they do.”

The voice of the High Lord of the Night Court—who delighted in pain, and made his enemies tremble.

Devlon sniffed at me. I poured every bit of cranky exhaustion into holding his narrowed gaze. “Another like that … creature you bring here? I thought she was the only one of her ilk.”

“Amren,” Rhys drawled, “sends her regards. And as for this one … ” I tried not to flinch away from meeting his stare. “She’s mine,” he said quietly, but viciously enough that Devlon and his warriors nearby heard. “And if any of you lay a hand on her, you lose that hand. And then you lose your head.” I tried not to shiver, as Cassian and Mor showed no reaction at all. “And once Feyre is done killing you,” Rhys smirked, “then I’ll grind your bones to dust.”

I almost laughed. But the warriors were now assessing the threat Rhys had established me as—and coming up short with answers. I gave them all a small smile, anyway, one I’d seen Amren make a hundred times. Let them wonder what I could do if provoked.

“We’re heading out,” Rhys said to Cassian and Mor, not even bothering to dismiss Devlon before walking toward the tree line. “We’ll be back at nightfall.” He gave his cousin a look. “Try to stay out of trouble, please. Devlon hates us the least of the war-lords and I don’t feel like finding another camp.”

Mother above, the others must be … unpleasant, if Devlon was the mildest of them.

Mor winked at us both. “I’ll try.”

Rhys just shook his head and said to Cassian, “Check on the forces, then make sure those girls are practicing like they should be. If Devlon or the others object, do what you have to.”

Cassian grinned in a way that showed he’d be more than happy to do exactly that. He was the High Lord’s general … and yet Devlon called him a dog. I didn’t want to imagine what it had been like for Cassian without that title growing up.

Then finally Rhys looked at me again, his eyes shuttered. “Let’s go.”

“You heard from my sisters?”

A shake of the head. “No. Azriel is checking today if they received a response. You and I … ” The wind rustled his hair as he smirked. “We’re going to train.”

“Where?”

He gestured to the sweeping land beyond—to the forested steppes he’d once mentioned. “Away from any potential casualties.” He offered his hand as his wings flared, his body preparing for flight.

But all I heard were those two words he’d said, echoing against the steady beat of traitor, traitor:

She’s mine.

Being in Rhys’s arms again, against his body, was a test of stubbornness. For both of us. To see who’d speak about it first.

We’d been flying over the most beautiful mountains I’d ever seen—snowy and flecked with pines—heading toward rolling steppes beyond them when I said, “You’re training female Illyrian warriors?”

“Trying to.” Rhys gazed across the brutal landscape. “I banned wing-clipping a long, long time ago, but … at the more zealous camps, deep within the mountains, they do it. And when Amarantha took over, even the milder camps started doing it again. To keep their women safe, they claimed. For the past hundred years, Cassian has been trying to build an aerial fighting unit amongst the females, trying to prove that they have a place on the battlefield. So far, he’s managed to train a few dedicated warriors, but the males make life so miserable that many of them left. And for the girls in training … ” A hiss of breath. “It’s a long road. But Devlon is one of the few who even lets the girls train without a tantrum.”

“I’d hardly call disobeying orders ‘without a tantrum.’ ”

“Some camps issued decrees that if a female was caught training, she was to be deemed unmarriageable. I can’t fight against things like that, not without slaughtering the leaders of each camp and personally raising each and every one of their offspring.”

“And yet your mother loved them—and you three wear their tattoos.”

“I got the tattoos in part for my mother, in part to honor my brothers, who fought every day of their lives for the right to wear them.”

“Why do you let Devlon speak to Cassian like that?”

“Because I know when to pick my fights with Devlon, and I know Cassian would be pissed if I stepped in to crush Devlon’s mind like a grape when he could handle it himself.”

A whisper of cold went through me. “Have you thought about doing it?”

“I did just now. But most camp-lords never would have given the three of us a shot at the Blood Rite. Devlon let a half-breed and two bastards take it—and did not deny us our victory.”

Pines dusted with fresh snow blurred beneath us.

“What’s the Blood Rite?”

“So many questions today.” I squeezed his shoulder hard enough to hurt, and he chuckled. “You go unarmed into the mountains, magic banned, no Siphons, wings bound, with no supplies or clothes beyond what you have on you. You, and every other Illyrian male who wants to move from novice to true warrior. A few hundred head into the mountains at the start of the week—not all come out at the end.”

The frost-kissed landscape rolled on forever, unyielding as the warriors who ruled over it. “Do you—kill each other?”

“Most try to. For food and clothes, for vengeance, for glory between feuding clans. Devlon allowed us to take the Rite—but also made sure Cassian, Azriel, and I were dumped in different locations.”

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