A Court of Mist and Fury Page 130

“Regards,” it hissed, “of the mortal queens. And Jurian.” Then the Attor leaped into flight, fast and sleek—heading right for the theater district we’d left.

Cassian had pressed me back down against the bridge—and he surged toward the Attor. He halted, remembering me, but I rasped, “Go.”

“Run home. Now.”

That was the final order—and his good-bye as he shot into the sky after the Attor, who had already disappeared into the screaming streets.

Around me, hole after hole was punched through that red shield, those winged creatures pouring in, dumping the Hybern soldiers they had carried across the sea.

Soldiers of every shape and size—lesser faeries.

The golden queen’s gaping mouth was opening and closing like a fish on land. Save her, help her—

My blood. I could—

I took a step. Her body slumped.

And from wherever in me that power originated, I felt her death whisper past.

The screams, the beating wings, the whoosh and thud of arrows erupted in the sudden silence.

I ran. I ran for my side of the Sidra, for the town house. I didn’t trust myself to winnow—could barely think around the panic barking through my head. I had minutes, perhaps, before they hit my street. Minutes to get there and bring as many inside with me as I could. The house was warded. No one would get in, not even these things.

Faeries were rushing past, racing for shelter, for friends and family. I hit the end of the bridge, the steep hills rising up—

Hybern soldiers were already atop the hill, at the two Palaces, laughing at the screams, the pleading as they broke into buildings, dragging people out. Blood dribbled down the cobblestones in little rivers.

They had done this. Those queens had … had given this city of art and music and food over to these … monsters. The king must have used the Cauldron to break its wards.

A thunderous boom rocked the other side of the city, and I went down at the impact, blades flying, hands ripping open on the cobblestones. I whirled toward the river, scrambling up, lunging for my weapons.

Cassian and Azriel were both in the skies now. And where they flew, those winged creatures died. Arrows of red and blue light shot from them, and those shields—

Twin shields of red and blue merged, sizzling, and slammed into the rest of the aerial forces. Flesh and wings tore, bone melted—

Until hands encased in stone tumbled from the sky. Only hands. Clattering on rooftops, splashing into the river. All that was left of them—what two Illyrian warriors had worked their way around.

But there were countless more who had already landed. Too many. Roofs were wrenched apart, doors shattered, screaming rising and then silenced—

This was not an attack to sack the city. It was an extermination.

And rising up before me, merely a few blocks down, the Rainbow of Velaris was bathed in blood.

The Attor and his ilk had converged there.

As if the queens had told him where to strike; where in Velaris would be the most defenseless. The beating heart of the city.

Fire was rippling, black smoke staining the sky—

Where was Rhys, where was my mate—

Across the river, thunder boomed again.

And it was not Cassian, or Azriel, who held the other side of the river. But Amren.

Her slim hands had only to point, and soldiers would fall—fall as if their own wings failed them. They slammed into the streets, thrashing, choking, clawing, shrieking, just as the people of Velaris had shrieked.

I whipped my head to the Rainbow a few blocks away—left unprotected. Defenseless.

The street before me was clear, the lone safe passage through hell.

A female screamed inside the artists’ quarter. And I knew my path.

I flipped my Illyrian blade in my hand and winnowed into the burning and bloody Rainbow.

This was my home. These were my people.

If I died defending them, defending that small place in the world where art thrived …

Then so be it.

And I became darkness, and shadow, and wind.

I winnowed into the edge of the Rainbow as the first of the Hybern soldiers rounded its farthest corner, spilling onto the river avenue, shredding the cafés where I had lounged and laughed. They did not see me until I was upon them.

Until my Illyrian blade cleaved through their heads, one after another.

Six went down in my wake, and as I halted at the foot of the Rainbow, staring up into the fire and blood and death … Too many. Too many soldiers.

I’d never make it, never kill them all—

But there was a young female, green-skinned and lithe, an ancient, rusted bit of pipe raised above her shoulder. Standing her ground in front of her storefront—a gallery. People crouched inside the shop were sobbing.

Before them, laughing at the faerie, at her raised scrap of metal, circled five winged soldiers. Playing with her, taunting her.

Still she held the line. Still her face did not crumple. Paintings and pottery were shattered around her. And more soldiers were landing, spilling down, butchering—

Across the river, thunder boomed—Amren or Cassian or Azriel, I didn’t know.

The river.

Three soldiers spotted me from up the hill. Raced for me.

But I ran faster, back for the river at the foot of the hill, for the singing Sidra.

I hit the edge of the quay, the water already stained with blood, and slammed my foot down in a mighty stomp.

And as if in answer, the Sidra rose.

I yielded to that thrumming power inside my bones and blood and breath. I became the Sidra, ancient and deep. And I bent it to my will.

I lifted my blades, willing the river higher, shaping it, forging it.

Those Hybern soldiers stopped dead in their tracks as I turned toward them.

And wolves of water broke from behind me.

The soldiers whirled, fleeing.

But my wolves were faster. I was faster as I ran with them, in the heart of the pack.

Wolf after wolf roared out of the Sidra, as colossal as the one I had once killed, pouring into the streets, racing upward.

I made it five steps before the pack was upon the soldiers taunting the shop owner.

I made it seven steps before the wolves brought them down, water shoving down their throats, drowning them—

I reached the soldiers, and my blade sang as I severed their choking heads from their bodies.

The shopkeeper was sobbing as she recognized me, her rusted bar still raised. But she nodded—only once.

I ran again, losing myself amongst my water-wolves. Some of the soldiers were taking to the sky, flapping upward, backtracking.

So my wolves grew wings, and talons, and became falcons and hawks and eagles.

They slammed into their bodies, their armor, drenching them. The airborne soldiers, realizing they hadn’t been drowned, halted their flight and laughed—sneering.

I lifted a hand skyward, and clenched my fingers into a fist.

The water soaking them, their wings, their armor, their faces … It turned to ice.

Ice that was so cold it had existed before light, before the sun had warmed the earth. Ice of a land cloaked in winter, ice from the parts of me that felt no mercy, no sympathy for what these creatures had done and were doing to my people.

Frozen solid, dozens of the winged soldiers fell to the earth as one. And shattered upon the cobblestones.

My wolves raged around me, tearing and drowning and hunting. And those that fled them, those that took to the skies—they froze and shattered; froze and shattered. Until the streets were laden with ice and gore and broken bits of wing and stone.

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