A Court of Mist and Fury Page 132

Amren was hardly better off. The tiny female’s gray clothes hung mostly in strips, her skin beneath pale as snow. Half-asleep on the couch across from mine, she leaned against Azriel, who kept casting alarmed glances at her, even as his own wounds leaked a bit. Atop his scarred hands, Azriel’s blue Siphons were dull, muted. Utterly empty.

As I had helped the survivors in the Rainbow tend to their wounded, count their dead, and begin repairs, Rhys had checked in every now and then while he’d rebuilt the wards with whatever power lingered in his arsenal. During one of our brief breaks, he’d told me what Amren had done on her side of the river.

With her dark power, she had spun illusions straight into the soldiers’ minds. They believed they had fallen into the Sidra and were drowning; they believed they were flying a thousand feet above and had dived, fast and swift, for the city—only to find the street mere feet away, and the crunch of their skulls. The crueler ones, the wickedest ones, she had unleashed their own nightmares upon them—until they died from terror, their hearts giving out.

Some had fallen into the river, drinking their own spreading blood as they drowned. Some had disappeared wholly.

“Velaris might be secure,” Cassian replied, not even bothering to lift his head from where it rested against the back of the chair, “but for how long? Hybern knows about this place, thanks to those wyrm-queens. Who else will they sell the information to? How long until the other courts come sniffing? Or Hybern uses that Cauldron again to take down our defenses?”

Rhys closed his eyes, his shoulders tight. I could already see the weight pushing down on that dark head.

I hated to add to that burden, but I said, “If we all go to Hybern to destroy the Cauldron … who will defend the city?”

Silence. Rhys’s throat bobbed.

Amren said, “I’ll stay.” Cassian opened his mouth to object, but Rhys slowly looked at his Second. Amren held his gaze as she added, “If Rhys must go to Hybern, then I am the only one of you who might hold the city until help arrives. Today was a surprise. A bad one. When you leave, we will be better prepared. The new wards we built today will not fall so easily.”

Mor loosed a sigh. “So what do we do now?”

Amren simply said, “We sleep. We eat.”

And it was Azriel who added, his voice raw with the aftermath of battle-rage, “And then we retaliate.”

Rhys did not come to bed.

And when I emerged from the bath, the water clouded with dirt and blood, he was nowhere to be found.

But I felt for the bond between us and trudged upstairs, my stiff legs barking in pain. He was sitting on the roof—in the dark. His great wings were spread behind him, draped over the tiles.

I slid into his lap, looping my arms around his neck.

He stared at the city around us. “So few lights. So few lights left tonight.”

I did not look. I only traced the lines of his face, then brushed my thumb over his mouth. “It is not your fault,” I said quietly.

His eyes shifted to mine, barely visible in the dark. “Isn’t it? I handed this city over to them. I said I would be willing to risk it, but … I don’t know who I hate more: the king, those queens, or myself.”

I brushed the hair out of his face. He gripped my hand, halting my fingers. “You shut me out,” he breathed. “You—shielded against me. Completely. I couldn’t find a way in.”

“I’m sorry.”

Rhys let out a bitter laugh. “Sorry? Be impressed. That shield … What you did to the Attor … ” He shook his head. “You could have been killed.”

“Are you going to scold me for it?”

His brows furrowed. Then he buried his face in my shoulder. “How could I scold you for defending my people? I want to throttle you, yes, for not going back to the town house, but … You chose to fight for them. For Velaris.” He kissed my neck. “I don’t deserve you.”

My heart strained. He meant it—truly felt that way. I stroked his hair again. And I said to him, the words the only sounds in the silent, dark city, “We deserve each other. And we deserve to be happy.”

Rhys shuddered against me. And when his lips found mine, I let him lay me down upon the roof tiles and make love to me under the stars.

Amren cracked the code the next afternoon. The news was not good.

“To nullify the Cauldron’s power,” she said by way of greeting as we crowded around the dining table in the town house, having rushed in from the repairs we’d all been making on very little sleep, “you must touch the Cauldron—and speak these words.” She had written them all down for me on a piece of paper.

“You know this for certain?” Rhys said. He was still bleak-eyed from the attack, from healing and helping his people all day.

Amren hissed. “I’m trying not to be insulted, Rhysand.”

Mor elbowed her way between them, staring at the two assembled pieces of the Book of Breathings. “What happens if we put both halves together?”

“Don’t put them together,” Amren simply said.

With either piece laid out, their voices blended and sang and hissed—evil and good and madness; dark and light and chaos.

“You put the pieces together,” she clarified when Rhys gave her a questioning look, “and the blast of power will be felt in every corner and hole in the earth. You won’t just attract the King of Hybern. You’ll draw enemies far older and more wretched. Things that have long been asleep—and should remain so.”

I cringed a bit. Rhys put a hand on my back.

“Then we move in now,” Cassian said. His face had healed, but he limped a bit from an injury I couldn’t see beneath his fighting leathers. He jerked his chin to Rhys. “Since you can’t winnow without being tracked, Mor and Az will winnow us all in, Feyre breaks the Cauldron, and we get out. We’ll be there and gone before anyone notices and the King of Hybern will have a new piece of cookware.”

I swallowed. “It could be anywhere in his castle.”

“We know where it is,” Cassian countered.

I blinked. Azriel said to me, “We’ve been able to narrow it down to the lower levels.” Through his spying, their planning for this trip all these months. “Every inch of the castle and surrounding lands is heavily guarded, but not impossible to get through. We’ve worked out the timing of it—for a small group of us to get in and out, quick and silent, and be gone before they know what’s happening.”

Mor said to him, “But the King of Hybern could notice Rhys’s presence the moment he arrives. And if Feyre needs time to nullify the Cauldron, and we don’t know how much time, that’s a risky variable.”

Cassian said, “We’ve considered that. So you and Rhys will winnow us in off the coast; we fly in while he stays.” They’d have to winnow me, I realized, since I still had not yet mastered doing it over long distances. At least, not with many stops in between. “As for the spell,” Cassian continued, “it’s a risk we’ll have to take.”

Silence fell as they waited for Rhys’s answer. My mate scanned my face, eyes wide.

Azriel pushed, “It’s a solid plan. The king doesn’t know our scents. We wreck the Cauldron and vanish before he notices … It’ll be a graver insult than the bloodier, direct route we’d been considering, Rhys. We beat them yesterday, so when we go into that castle … ” Vengeance indeed danced in that normally placid face. “We’ll leave a few reminders that we won the last damn war for a reason.”

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