A Court of Mist and Fury Page 138

I was going to vomit. Tamlin, to his credit, looked like he might, too.

Lucien’s face had slackened. “She sold out—she sold out Feyre’s family. To you.”

I had told Ianthe everything about my sisters. She had asked. Asked who they were, where they lived. And I had been so stupid, so broken … I had fed her every detail.

“Sold out?” The king snorted. “Or saved from the shackles of mortal death? Ianthe suggested they were both strong-willed women, like their sister. No doubt they’ll survive. And prove to our queens it can be done. If one has the strength.”

My heart stopped. “Don’t you—

The king cut me off, “I would suggest bracing yourselves.”

And then hell exploded in the hall.

Power, white and unending and hideous, barreled into us.

All I knew was Rhysand’s body covering mine as we were all thrown to the floor, the shout of pain as he took the brunt of the king’s power.

Cassian twisted, wings flaring wide as he shielded Azriel.

His wings—his wings—

Cassian’s scream as his wings shredded under talons of pure magic was the most horrific sound I’d ever heard. Mor surged for him, but too late.

Rhys was moving in an instant, as if he’d lunge for the king, but power hit us again, and again. Rhys slammed to his knees.

My sisters were shrieking over their gags. But Elain’s cry—a warning. A warning to—

To my right, now exposed, Tamlin ran for me. To grab me at last.

I hurled a knife at him—as hard as I could.

He had to dive to miss it. And he backed away at the second one I had ready, gaping at me, at Rhys, as if he could indeed see the mating bond between us.

But I whirled as soldiers pressed in, cutting us off. Whirled, and saw Cassian and Azriel on the ground, Jurian laughing softly at the blood gushing from Cassian’s ravaged wings—

Shreds of them remained.

I scrambled for him. My blood. It might be enough, be—

Mor, on her knees beside Cassian, hurtled for the king with a cry of pure wrath.

He sent a punch of power to her. She dodged, a knife angled in her hand, and—

Azriel cried out in pain.

She froze. Stopped a foot from the throne. Her knife clattered to the floor.

The king rose. “What a mighty queen you are,” he breathed.

And Mor backed away. Step by step.

“What a prize,” the king said, that black gaze devouring her.

Azriel’s head lifted from where he was sprawled in his own blood, eyes full of rage and pain as he snarled at the king, “Don’t you touch her.”

Mor looked at Azriel—and there was real fear there. Fear—and something else. She didn’t stop moving until she again kneeled beside him and pressed a hand to his wound. Azriel hissed—but covered her bloody fingers with his own.

Rhys positioned himself between me and the king as I dropped to my knees before Cassian. I ripped at the leather covering my forearm—

“Put the prettier one in first,” the king said, Mor already forgotten.

I twisted—only to have the king’s guards grab me from behind. Rhys was instantly there, but Azriel shouted, back arching as the king’s poison worked its way in.

“Please refrain,” the king said, “from getting any stupid ideas, Rhysand.” He smiled at me. “If any of you interfere, the shadowsinger dies. Pity about the other brute’s wings.” He gave my sisters a mockery of a bow. “Ladies, eternity awaits. Prove to their Majesties the Cauldron is safe for … strong-willed individuals.”

I shook my head, unable to breathe, to think a way out of it—

Elain was shaking, sobbing, as she was hauled forward. Toward the Cauldron.

Nesta began thrashing against the men that held her.

Tamlin said, “Stop.”

The king did no such thing.

Lucien, beside Tamlin, again put a hand on his sword. “Stop this.”

Nesta was bellowing at the guards, at the king, as Elain yielded step after step toward that Cauldron. As the king waved his hand, and liquid filled it to the brim. No, no—

The queens only watched, stone-faced. And Rhys and Mor, separated from me by those guards, did not dare to even shift a muscle.

Tamlin spat at the king, “This is not part of our deal. Stop this now.”

“I don’t care,” the king said simply.

Tamlin launched himself at the throne, as if he’d rip him to shreds.

That white-hot magic slammed into him, shoving him to the ground. Leashing him.

Tamlin strained against the collar of light on his neck, around his wrists. His golden power flared—to no avail. I tore at the fist still gripping my own, sliced at it, over and over—

Lucien staggered a step forward as Elain was gripped between two guards and hoisted up. She began kicking then, weeping while her feet slammed into the sides of the Cauldron as if she’d push off it, as if she’d knock it down—

“That is enough.” Lucien surged for Elain, for the Cauldron.

And the king’s power leashed him, too. On the ground beside Tamlin, his single eye wide, Lucien had the good sense to look horrified as he glanced between Elain and the High Lord.

“Please,” I begged the king, who motioned Elain to be shoved into the water. “Please, I will do anything, I will give you anything.” I shot to my feet, stepping away from where Cassian lay prostrate, and looked to the queens. “Please—you do not need proof, I am proof that it works. Jurian is proof it is safe.”

The ancient queen said, “You are a thief, and a liar. You conspired with our sister. Your punishment should be the same as hers. Consider this a gift instead.”

Elain’s foot hit the water, and she screamed—screamed in terror that hit me so deep I began sobbing. “Please,” I said to none of them.

Nesta was still fighting, still roaring through her gag.

Elain, who Nesta would have killed and whored and stolen for. Elain, who had been gentle and sweet. Elain, who was to marry a lord’s son who hated faeries …

The guards shoved my sister into the Cauldron in a single movement.

My cry hadn’t finished sounding before Elain’s head went under.

She did not come up.

Nesta’s screaming was the only sound. Cassian blindly lurched toward it—toward her, moaning in pain.

The King of Hybern bowed slightly to the queens. “Behold.”

Rhys, a wall of guards still cleaving us, curled his fingers into a fist. But he did not move, as Mor and I did not dare move, not with Azriel’s life dangling in the king’s grasp.

And as if it had been tipped by invisible hands, the Cauldron turned on its side.

More water than seemed possible dumped out in a cascade. Black, smoke-coated water.

And Elain, as if she’d been thrown by a wave, washed onto the stones facedown.

Her legs were so pale—so delicate. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them bare.

The queens pushed forward. Alive, she had to be alive, had to have wanted to live—

Elain sucked in a breath, her fine-boned back rising, her wet nightgown nearly sheer.

And as she rose from the ground onto her elbows, the gag in place, as she twisted to look at me—

Nesta began roaring again.

Pale skin started to glow. Her face had somehow become more beautiful—infinitely beautiful, and her ears … Elain’s ears were now pointed beneath her sodden hair.

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