A Court of Mist and Fury Page 16

“What?”

“Copy. The. Alphabet. Until—”

“I heard what you said.” Prick. Prick, prick, prick.

“Then get to work.” Rhys uncoiled to his feet. “And at least have the decency to only call me a prick when your shields are back up.”

He vanished into a ripple of darkness before I realized that I’d let the wall of adamant fade again.

By the time Rhys returned, my mind felt like a mud puddle.

I spent the entire hour doing as I’d been ordered, though I’d flinched at every sound from the nearby stairwell: quiet steps of servants, the flapping of sheets being changed, someone humming a beautiful and winding melody. And beyond that, the chatter of birds that dwelled in the unnatural warmth of the mountain or in the many potted citrus trees. No sign of my impending torment. No sentries, even, to monitor me. I might as well have had the entire place to myself.

Which was good, as my attempts to lower and raise that mental shield often resulted in my face being twisted or strained or pinched.

“Not bad,” Rhys said, peering over my shoulder.

He’d appeared moments before, a healthy distance away, and if I hadn’t known better, I might have thought it was because he didn’t want to startle me. As if he’d known about the time Tamlin had crept up behind me, and panic had hit me so hard I’d knocked him on his ass with a punch to his stomach. I’d blocked it out—the shock on Tam’s face, how easy it had been to take him off his feet, the humiliation of having my stupid terror so out in the open …

Rhys scanned the pages I’d scribbled on, sorting through them, tracking my progress.

Then, a scrape of claws inside my mind—that only sliced against black, glittering adamant.

I threw my lingering will into that wall as the claws pushed, testing for weak spots …

“Well, well,” Rhysand purred, those mental claws withdrawing. “Hopefully I’ll be getting a good night’s rest at last, if you can manage to keep the wall up while you sleep.”

I dropped the shield, sent a word blasting down that mental bridge between us, and hauled the walls back up. Behind it, my mind wobbled like jelly. I needed a nap. Desperately.

“Prick I might be, but look at you. Maybe we’ll get to have some fun with our lessons after all.”

I was still scowling at Rhys’s muscled back as I kept a healthy ten steps behind him while he led me through the halls of the main building, the sweeping mountains and blisteringly blue sky the only witnesses to our silent trek.

I was too drained to demand where we were now going, and he didn’t bother explaining as he led me up, up—until we entered a round chamber at the top of a tower.

A circular table of black stone occupied the center, while the largest stretch of uninterrupted gray stone wall was covered in a massive map of our world. It had been marked and flagged and pinned, for whatever reasons I couldn’t tell, but my gaze drifted to the windows throughout the room—so many that it felt utterly exposed, breathable. The perfect home, I supposed, for a High Lord blessed with wings.

Rhys stalked to the table, where there was another map spread, figurines dotting its surface. A map of Prythian—and Hybern.

Every court in our land had been marked, along with villages and cities and rivers and mountain passes. Every court … but the Night Court.

The vast, northern territory was utterly blank. Not even a mountain range had been etched in. Strange, likely part of some strategy I didn’t understand.

I found Rhysand watching me—his raised brows enough to make me shut my mouth against the forming question.

“Nothing to ask?”

“No.”

A feline smirk danced on his lips, but Rhys jerked his chin toward the map on the wall. “What do you see?”

“Is this some sort of way of convincing me to embrace my reading lessons?” Indeed, I couldn’t decipher any of the writing, only the shapes of things. Like the wall, its massive line bisecting our world.

“Tell me what you see.”

“A world divided in two.”

“And do you think it should remain that way?”

I whipped my head toward him. “My family—” I halted on the word. I should have known better than to admit to having a family, that I cared for them—

“Your human family,” Rhys finished, “would be deeply impacted if the wall came down, wouldn’t they? So close to its border … If they’re lucky, they’ll flee across the ocean before it happens.”

“Will it happen?”

Rhysand didn’t break my stare. “Maybe.”

“Why?”

“Because war is coming, Feyre.”

CHAPTER

7

War.

The word clanged through me, freezing my veins.

“Don’t invade,” I breathed. I’d get on my knees for this. I’d crawl if I had to. “Don’t invade—please.”

Rhys cocked his head, his mouth tightening. “You truly think I’m a monster, even after everything.”

“Please,” I gasped out. “They’re defenseless, they won’t stand a chance—”

“I’m not going to invade the mortal lands,” he said too quietly.

I waited for him to go on, glad for the spacious room, the bright air, as the ground started to slide out from beneath me.

“Put your damn shield up,” he growled.

I looked inward, finding that invisible wall had dropped again. But I was so tired, and if war was coming, if my family—

“Shield. Now.”

The raw command in his voice—the voice of the High Lord of the Night Court—had me acting on instinct, my exhausted mind building the wall brick by brick. Only when it’d ensconced my mind once more did he speak, his eyes softening almost imperceptibly. “Did you think it would end with Amarantha?”

“Tamlin hasn’t said … ” And why would he tell me? But there were so many patrols, so many meetings I wasn’t allowed to attend, such … tension. He had to know. I needed to ask him—demand why he hadn’t told me—

“The King of Hybern has been planning his campaign to reclaim the world south of the wall for over a hundred years,” Rhys said. “Amarantha was an experiment—a forty-nine-year test, to see how easily and how long a territory might fall and be controlled by one of his commanders.”

For an immortal, forty-nine years was nothing. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear he’d been planning this for far longer than a century. “Will he attack Prythian first?”

“Prythian,” Rhys said, pointing to the map of our massive island on the table, “is all that stands between the King of Hybern and the continent. He wants to reclaim the human lands there—perhaps seize the faerie lands, too. If anyone is to intercept his conquering fleet before it reaches the continent, it would be us.”

I slid into one of the chairs, my knees wobbling so badly I could hardly keep upright.

“He will seek to remove Prythian from his way swiftly and thoroughly,” Rhys continued. “And shatter the wall at some point in the process. There are already holes in it, though mercifully small enough to make it difficult to swiftly pass his armies through. He’ll want to bring the whole thing down—and likely use the ensuing panic to his advantage.”

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