A Court of Mist and Fury Page 111

His gaze softened. “Feyre—”

Rhys roared in pain, arching against me.

I felt the impact—felt blinding pain through the bond that ripped through my own mental shields, felt the shudder of the dozen places the arrows struck him as they shot from bows hidden beneath the forest canopy.

And then we were falling.

Rhys gripped me, and his magic twisted around us in a dark wind, readying to winnow us out—and failed.

Failed, because those were ash arrows through him. Through his wings. They’d tracked us—yesterday, the little magic he’d used with Lucien, they’d somehow tracked it and found us even so far away—

More arrows—

Rhys flung out his power. Too late.

Arrows shredded his wings. Struck his legs.

And I think I was screaming. Not for fear as we plummeted, but for him—for the blood and the greenish sheen on those arrows. Not just ash, but poison—

A dark wind—his power—slammed into me, and then I was being thrown far and wide as he sent me tumbling beyond the arrows’ range, tumbling through the air—

Rhys’s roar of wrath shook the forest, the mountains beyond. Birds rose up in waves, taking to the skies, fleeing that bellow.

I slammed into the dense canopy, my body barking in agony as I shattered through wood and pine and leaf. Down and down—

Focus focus focus

I flung out a wave of that hard air that had once shielded me from Tamlin’s temper. Threw it out beneath me like a net.

I collided with an invisible wall so solid I thought my right arm might snap.

But—I stopped falling through the branches.

Thirty feet below, the ground was nearly impossible to see in the growing darkness.

I did not trust that shield to hold my weight for long.

I scrambled across it, trying not to look down, and leaped the last few feet onto a wide pine bough. Hurtling over the wood, I reached the trunk and clung to it, panting, reordering my mind around the pain, the steadiness of being on ground.

I listened—for Rhys, for his wings, for his next roar. Nothing.

No sign of the archers who he’d been falling to meet. Who he’d thrown me far, far away from.Trembling, I dug my nails into the bark as I listened for him.

Ash arrows. Poisoned ash arrows.

The forest grew ever darker, the trees seeming to wither into skeletal husks. Even the birds hushed themselves.

I stared at my palm—at the eye inked there—and sent a blind thought through it, down that bond. Where are you? Tell me and I’ll come to you. I’ll find you.

There was no wall of onyx adamant at the end of the bond. Only endless shadow.

Things—great, enormous things—were rustling in the forest.

Rhysand. No response.

The last of the light slipped away.

Rhysand, please.

No sound. And the bond between us … silent. I’d always felt it protecting me, seducing me, laughing at me on the other side of my shields. And now … it had vanished.

A guttural howl rippled from the distance, like rocks scraping against each other.

Every hair on my body rose. We never stayed out here past sunset.

I took steadying breaths, nocking one of my few remaining arrows into my bow.

On the ground, something sleek and dark slithered past, the leaves crunching under what looked to be enormous paws tipped in needle-like claws.

Something began screaming. High, panicked screeches. As if it were being torn apart. Not Rhys—something else.

I began shaking again, the tip of my arrow gleaming as it shuddered with me.

Where are you where are you where are you

Let me find you let me find you let me find you

I unstrung my bow. Any bit of light might give me away.

Darkness was my ally; darkness might shield me.

It had been anger the first time I’d winnowed—and anger the second time I’d done it.

Rhys was hurt. They had hurt him. Targeted him. And now … Now …

It was not hot anger that poured through me.

But something ancient, and frozen, and so vicious that it honed my focus into razor-sharpness.

And if I wanted to track him, if I wanted to get to the spot I’d last seen him … I’d become a figment of darkness, too.

I was running down the branch just as something crashed through the brush nearby, snarling and hissing. But I folded myself into smoke and starlight, and winnowed from the edge of my branch and into the tree across from me. The creature below loosed a cry, but I paid it no heed.

I was night; I was wind.

Tree to tree, I winnowed, so fast the beasts roaming the forest floor barely registered my presence. And if I could grow claws and wings … I could change my eyes, too.

I’d hunted at dusk often enough to see how animal eyes worked, how they glowed.

Cool command had my own eyes widening, shifting—a temporary blindness as I winnowed between trees again, running down a wide branch and winnowing through the air for the next—

I landed, and the night forest became bright. And the things prowling on the forest floor below … I didn’t look at them.

No, I kept my attention on winnowing through the trees until I was on the outskirts of the spot where we’d been attacked, all the while tugging on that bond, searching for that familiar wall on the other side of it. Then—

An arrow was stuck in the branches high above me. I winnowed onto the broad bough.

And when I yanked out that length of ash wood, when I felt my immortal body quail in its presence, a low snarl slipped out of me.

I hadn’t been able to count how many arrows Rhys had taken. How many he’d shielded me from, using his own body.

I shoved the arrow into my quiver, and continued on, circling the area until I spotted another—down by the pine-needle carpet.

I thought frost might have gleamed in my wake as I winnowed in the direction the arrow would have been shot, finding another, and another. I kept them all.

Until I discovered the place where the pine branches were broken and shattered. Finally I smelled Rhys, and the trees around me glimmered with ice as I spied his blood splattered on the branches, the ground.

And ash arrows all around the site.

As if an ambush had been waiting, and unleashed a hail of hundreds, too fast for him to detect or avoid. Especially if he’d been distracted with me. Distracted all day.

I winnowed in bursts through the site, careful not to stay on the ground too long lest the creatures roaming nearby scent me.

He’d fallen hard, the tracks told me. And they’d had to drag him away. Quickly.

They’d tried to hide the blood trail, but even without his mind speaking to me, I could find that scent anywhere. I would find that scent anywhere.

They might have been good at concealing their tracks, but I was better.

I continued my hunt, an ash arrow now nocked into my bow as I read the signs.

Two dozen at least had taken him away, though more had been there for the initial assault. The others had winnowed out, leaving limited numbers to haul him toward the mountains—toward whoever might be waiting.

They were moving swiftly. Deeper and deeper into the woods, toward the slumbering giants of the Illyrian Mountains. His blood had flowed all the way.

Alive, it told me. He was alive—though if the wounds weren’t clotting … The ash arrows were doing their work.

I’d brought down one of Tamlin’s sentinels with a single well-placed ash arrow. I tried not to think about what a barrage of them could do. His roar of pain echoed in my ears.

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