A Court of Mist and Fury Page 17

Each breath was like swallowing glass. “When—when is he going to attack?” The wall had held steady for five centuries, and even then, those damned holes had allowed the foulest, hungriest Fae beasts to sneak through and prey on humans. Without that wall, if Hybern was indeed to launch an assult on the human world … I wished I hadn’t eaten such a large breakfast.

“That is the question,” he said. “And why I brought you here.”

I lifted my head to meet his stare. His face was drawn, but calm.

“I don’t know when or where he plans to attack Prythian,” Rhys went on. “I don’t know who his allies here might be.”

“He’d have allies here?”

A slow nod. “Cowards who would bow and join him, rather than fight his armies again.”

I could have sworn a whisper of darkness spread along the floor behind him. “Did … did you fight in the War?”

For a moment, I thought he wouldn’t answer. But then Rhys nodded. “I was young—by our standards, at least. But my father had sent aid to the mortal-faerie alliance on the continent, and I convinced him to let me take a legion of our soldiers.” He sat in the chair beside mine, gazing vacantly at the map. “I was stationed in the south, right where the fighting was thickest. The slaughter was … ” He chewed on the inside of his cheek. “I have no interest in ever seeing full-scale slaughter like that again.”

He blinked, as if clearing the horrors from his mind. “But I don’t think the King of Hybern will strike that way—not at first. He’s too smart to waste his forces here, to give the continent time to rally while we fight him. If he makes his move to destroy Prythian and the wall, it’ll be through stealth and trickery. To weaken us. Amarantha was the first part of that plan. We now have several untested High Lords, broken courts with High Priestesses angling for control like wolves around a carcass, and a people who have realized how powerless they might truly be.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I said, my voice thin, scratchy. It made no sense—none—that he would reveal his suspicions, his fears.

And Ianthe—she might be ambitious, but she was Tamlin’s friend. My friend, of sorts. Perhaps the only ally we’d have against the other High Priestesses, Rhys’s personal dislike for her or no …

“I am telling you for two reasons,” he said, his face so cold, so calm, that it unnerved me as much as the news he was delivering. “One, you’re … close to Tamlin. He has men—but he also has long-existing ties to Hybern—”

“He’d never help the king—”

Rhys held up a hand. “I want to know if Tamlin is willing to fight with us. If he can use those connections to our advantage. As he and I have strained relations, you have the pleasure of being the go-between.”

“He doesn’t inform me of those things.”

“Perhaps it’s time he did. Perhaps it’s time you insisted.” He examined the map, and I followed where his gaze landed. On the wall within Prythian—on the small, vulnerable mortal territory. My mouth went dry.

“What is your other reason?”

Rhys looked me up and down, assessing, weighing. “You have a skill set that I need. Rumor has it you caught a Suriel.”

“It wasn’t that hard.”

“I’ve tried and failed. Twice. But that’s a discussion for another day. I saw you trap the Middengard Wyrm like a rabbit.” His eyes twinkled. “I need you to help me. To use those skills of yours to track down what I need.”

“What do you need? Whatever was tied to my reading and shielding, I’m guessing?”

“You’ll learn of that later.”

I didn’t know why I’d even bothered to ask. “There have to be at least a dozen other hunters more experienced and skilled—”

“Maybe there are. But you’re the only one I trust.”

I blinked. “I could betray you whenever I feel like it.”

“You could. But you won’t.” I gritted my teeth, and was about to say something vicious when he added, “And then there’s the matter of your powers.”

“I don’t have any powers.” It came out so fast that there was no chance of it sounding like anything but denial.

Rhys crossed his legs. “Don’t you? The strength, the speed … If I didn’t know better, I’d say you and Tamlin were doing a very good job of pretending you’re normal. That the powers you’re displaying aren’t usually the first indications among our kind that a High Lord’s son might become his Heir.”

“I’m not a High Lord.”

“No, but you were given life by all seven of us. Your very essence is tied to us, born of us. What if we gave you more than we expected?” Again, that gaze raked over me. “What if you could stand against us—hold your own, a High Lady?”

“There are no High Ladies.”

His brows furrowed, but he shook his head. “We’ll talk about that later, too. But yes, Feyre—there can be High Ladies. And perhaps you aren’t one of them, but … what if you were something similar? What if you were able to wield the power of seven High Lords at once? What if you could blend into darkness, or shape-shift, or freeze over an entire room—an entire army?”

The winter wind on the nearby peaks seemed to howl in answer. That thing I’d felt under my skin …

“Do you understand what that might mean in an oncoming war? Do you understand how it might destroy you if you don’t learn to control it?”

“One, stop asking so many rhetorical questions. Two, we don’t know if I do have these powers—”

“You do. But you need to start mastering them. To learn what you inherited from us.”

“And I suppose you’re the one to teach me, too? Reading and shielding aren’t enough?”

“While you hunt with me for what I need, yes.”

I began shaking my head. “Tamlin won’t allow it.”

“Tamlin isn’t your keeper, and you know it.”

“I’m his subject, and he is my High Lord—”

“You are no one’s subject.”

I went rigid at the flash of teeth, the smoke-like wings that flared out.

“I will say this once—and only once,” Rhysand purred, stalking to the map on the wall. “You can be a pawn, be someone’s reward, and spend the rest of your immortal life bowing and scraping and pretending you’re less than him, than Ianthe, than any of us. If you want to pick that road, then fine. A shame, but it’s your choice.” The shadow of wings rippled again. “But I know you—more than you realize, I think—and I don’t believe for one damn minute that you’re remotely fine with being a pretty trophy for someone who sat on his ass for nearly fifty years, then sat on his ass while you were shredded apart—”

“Stop it—”

“Or,” he plowed ahead, “you’ve got another choice. You can master whatever powers we gave to you, and make it count. You can play a role in this war. Because war is coming one way or another, and do not try to delude yourself that any of the Fae will give a shit about your family across the wall when our whole territory is likely to become a charnel house.”

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