A Court of Mist and Fury Page 21

I would not allow another Amarantha. I would not allow the King of Hybern to bring his beasts and minions here to hurt more people. To hurt me and mine. And bring down that wall to hurt countless others across it. “I could use my powers against Hybern.”

“That’s out of the question,” Tamlin said, “especially as there will be no war against Hybern.”

“Rhys says war is inevitable, and we’ll be hit hard.”

Lucien said drily, “And Rhys knows everything?”

“No—but … He was concerned. He thinks I can make a difference in any upcoming conflict.”

Tamlin flexed his fingers—keeping those claws contained. “You have no training in battle or weaponry. And even if I started training you today, it’d be years before you could hold your own on an immortal battlefield.” He took a tight breath. “So despite what he thinks you might be able to do, Feyre, I’m not going to have you anywhere near a battlefield. Especially if it means revealing whatever powers you have to our enemies. You’d be fighting Hybern at your front, and have foes with friendly faces at your back.”

“I don’t care—”

“I care,” Tamlin snarled. Lucien whooshed out a breath. “I care if you die, if you’re hurt, if you will be in danger every moment for the rest of our lives. So there will be no training, and we’re going to keep this between us.”

“But Hybern—”

Lucien intervened calmly, “I already have my sources looking into it.”

I gave him a beseeching look.

Lucien sighed a bit and said to Tamlin, “If we perhaps trained her in secret—”

“Too many risks, too many variables,” Tamlin countered. “And there will be no conflict with Hybern, no war.”

I snapped, “That’s wishful thinking.”

Lucien muttered something that sounded like a plea to the Cauldron.

Tamlin stiffened. “Describe his map room for me again,” was his only response.

End of discussion. No room for debate.

We stared each other down for a moment, and my stomach twisted further.

He was the High Lord—my High Lord. He was the shield and defender of his people. Of me. And if keeping me safe meant that his people could continue to hope, to build a new life, that he could do the same … I could bow to him on this one thing.

I could do it.

You are no one’s subject.

Maybe Rhysand had altered my mind, shields or no.

The thought alone was enough for me to begin feeding Tamlin details once more.

CHAPTER

8

A week later, the Tithe arrived.

I’d had all of one day with Tamlin—one day spent wandering the grounds, making love in the high grasses of a sunny field, and a quiet, private dinner—before he was called to the border. He didn’t tell me why or where. Only that I was to keep to the grounds, and that I’d have sentries guarding me at all times.

So I spent the week alone, waking in the middle of the night to hurl up my guts, to sob through the nightmares. Ianthe, if she’d learned of her sisters’ massacre in the north, said nothing about it the few times I saw her. And given how little I liked to be pushed into talking about the things that plagued me, I opted not to bring it up during the hours she spent visiting, helping select my clothes, my hair, my jewelry, for the Tithe.

When I’d asked her to explain what to anticipate, she merely said that Tamlin would take care of everything. I should watch from his side, and observe.

Easy enough—and perhaps a relief, to not be expected to speak or act.

But it had been an effort not to look at the eye tattooed into my palm—to remember what Rhys had snarled at me.

Tamlin had only returned the night before to oversee today’s Tithe. I tried not to take it personally, not when he had so much on his shoulders. Even if he wouldn’t tell me much about it beyond what Ianthe had mentioned.

Seated beside Tamlin atop a dais in the manor’s great hall of marble and gold, I endured the endless stream of eyes, of tears, of gratitude and blessings for what I’d done.

In her usual pale blue hooded robe, Ianthe was stationed near the doors, offering benedictions to those that departed, comforting words to those who fell apart entirely in my presence, promises that the world was better now, that good had won out over evil.

After twenty minutes, I was near fidgeting. After four hours, I stopped hearing entirely.

They kept coming, the emissaries representing every town and people in the Spring Court, bearing their payments in the form of gold or jewels or chickens or crops or clothes. It didn’t matter what it was, so long as it equated to what they owed. Lucien stood at the foot of the dais, tallying every amount, armed to the teeth like the ten other sentries stationed through the hall. The receiving room, Lucien had called it, but it felt a hell of a lot like a throne room to me. I wondered if he’d called it that because the other words …

I’d spent too much time in another throne room. So had Tamlin.

And I hadn’t been seated on a dais like him, but kneeling before it. Approaching it like the slender, gray-skinned faerie slinking from the front of the endless line full of lesser and High Fae.

She wore no clothes. Her long, dark hair hung limp over her high, firm breasts—and her massive eyes were wholly black. Like a stagnant pond. And as she moved, the afternoon light shimmered on her iridescent skin.

Lucien’s face tightened with disapproval, but he made no comment as the lesser faerie lowered her delicate, pointed face, and clasped her spindly, webbed fingers over her breasts.

“On behalf of the water-wraiths, I greet thee, High Lord,” she said, her voice strange and hissing, her full, sensuous lips revealing teeth as sharp and jagged as a pike’s. The sharp angles of her face accentuated those coal-black eyes.

I’d seen her kind before. In the pond just past the edge of the manor. There were five of them who lived amongst the reeds and lilypads. I’d rarely glimpsed more than their shining heads peeking through the glassy surface—had never known how horrific they were up close. Thank the Cauldron I’d never gone swimming in that pond. I had a feeling she’d grab me with those webbed fingers—those jagged nails digging in deep—and drag me beneath the surface before I could scream.

“Welcome,” Tamlin said. Five hours in, and he looked as fresh as he’d been that morning.

I supposed that with his powers returned, few things tired him now.

The water-wraith stepped closer, her webbed, clawed foot a mottled gray. Lucien took a casual step between us.

That was why he’d been stationed on my side of the dais.

I gritted my teeth. Who did they think would attack us in our own home, on our own land, if they weren’t convinced Hybern might be launching an assault? Even Ianthe had paused her quiet murmurings in the back of the hall to monitor the encounter.

Apparently, this conversation was not the same as all the others.

“Please, High Lord,” the faerie was saying, bowing so low that her inky hair grazed the marble. “There are no fish left in the lake.”

Tamlin’s face was like granite. “Regardless, you are expected to pay.” The crown atop his head gleamed in the afternoon light. Crafted with emeralds, sapphires, and amethyst, the gold had been molded into a wreath of spring’s first flowers. One of five crowns belonging to his bloodline.

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