A Court of Mist and Fury Page 29

He’d trapped me in here; he’d locked me up.

I stopped seeing the marble floor, or the paintings on the walls, or the sweeping staircase looming behind me. I stopped hearing the chirping of the spring birds, or the sighing of the breeze through the curtains.

And then crushing black pounded down and rose up from beneath, devouring and roaring and shredding.

It was all I could do to keep from screaming, to keep from shattering into ten thousand pieces as I sank onto the marble floor, bowing over my knees, and wrapped my arms around myself.

He’d trapped me; he’d trapped me; he’d trapped me—

I had to get out, because I’d barely escaped from another prison once before, and this time, this time—

Winnowing. I could vanish into nothing but air and appear somewhere else, somewhere open and free. I fumbled for my power, for anything, something that might show me the way to do it, the way out. Nothing. There was nothing and I had become nothing, and I couldn’t ever get out—

Someone was shouting my name from far away.

Alis—Alis.

But I was ensconced in a cocoon of darkness and fire and ice and wind, a cocoon that melted the ring off my finger until the golden ore dripped away into the void, the emerald tumbling after it. I wrapped that raging force around myself as if it could keep the walls from crushing me entirely, and maybe, maybe buy me the tiniest sip of air—

I couldn’t get out; I couldn’t get out; I couldn’t get out—

Slender, strong hands gripped me under the shoulders.

I didn’t have the strength to fight them off.

One of those hands moved to my knees, the other to my back, and then I was being lifted, held against what was unmistakably a female body.

I couldn’t see her, didn’t want to see her.

Amarantha.

Come to take me away again; come to kill me at last.

There were words being spoken around me. Two women.

Neither of them … neither of them was Amarantha.

“Please—please take care of her.” Alis.

From right by my ear, the other replied, “Consider yourselves very, very lucky that your High Lord was not here when we arrived. Your guards will have one hell of a headache when they wake up, but they’re alive. Be grateful.” Mor.

Mor held me—carried me.

The darkness guttered long enough that I could draw breath, that I could see the garden door she walked toward. I opened my mouth, but she peered down at me and said, “Did you think his shield would keep us from you? Rhys shattered it with half a thought.”

But I didn’t spy Rhys anywhere—not as the darkness swirled back in. I clung to her, trying to breathe, to think.

“You’re free,” Mor said tightly. “You’re free.”

Not safe. Not protected.

Free.

She carried me beyond the garden, into the fields, up a hill, down it, and into—into a cave—

I must have started bucking and thrashing in her arms, because she said, “You’re out; you’re free,” again and again and again as true darkness swallowed us.

Half a heartbeat later, she emerged into sunlight—bright, strawberry-and-grass-scented sunlight. I had a thought that this might be Summer, then—

Then a low, vicious growl split the air before us, cleaving even my darkness.

“I did everything by the book,” Mor said to the owner of that growl.

I was passed from her arms to someone else’s, and I struggled to breathe, fought for any trickle of air down my lungs. Until Rhysand said, “Then we’re done here.”

Wind tore at me, along with ancient darkness.

But a sweeter, softer shade of night caressed me, stroking my nerves, my lungs, until I could at last get air inside, until it seduced me into sleep.

CHAPTER

13

I woke to sunlight, and open space—nothing but clear sky and snowcapped mountains around me.

And Rhysand lounging in an armchair across from the couch where I was sprawled, gazing at the mountains, his face uncharacteristically solemn.

I swallowed, and his head whipped toward me.

No kindness in his eyes. Nothing but unending, icy rage.

But he blinked, and it was gone. Replaced by perhaps relief. Exhaustion.

And the pale sunlight warming the moonstone floors … dawn. It was dawn. I didn’t want to think about how long I’d been unconscious.

“What happened?” I said. My voice was hoarse. As if I’d been screaming.

“You were screaming,” he said. I didn’t care if my mental shield was up or down or completely shattered. “You also managed to scare the shit out of every servant and sentry in Tamlin’s manor when you wrapped yourself in darkness and they couldn’t see you.”

My stomach hollowed out. “Did I hurt any—”

“No. Whatever you did, it was contained to you.”

“You weren’t—”

“By law and protocol,” he said, stretching out his long legs, “things would have become very complicated and very messy if I had been the one to walk into that house and take you. Smashing that shield was fine, but Mor had to go in on her own two feet, render the sentries unconscious through her own power, and carry you over the border to another court before I could bring you here. Or else Tamlin would have free rein to march his forces into my lands to reclaim you. And as I have no interest in an internal war, we had to do everything by the book.”

That’s what Mor had said—that she did everything by the book.

But— “When I go back …”

“As your presence here isn’t part of our monthly requirement, you are under no obligation to go back.” He rubbed at his temple. “Unless you wish to.”

The question settled in me like a stone sinking to the bottom of a pool. There was such quiet in me, such … nothingness.

“He locked me in that house,” I managed to say.

A shadow of mighty wings spread behind Rhys’s chair. But his face was calm as he said, “I know. I felt you. Even with your shields up—for once.”

I made myself meet his stare. “I have nowhere else to go.”

It was both a question and a plea.

He waved a hand, the wings fading. “Stay here for however long you want. Stay here forever, if you feel like it.”

“I—I need to go back at some point.”

“Say the word, and it’s done.” He meant it, too. Even if I could tell from the ire in his eyes that he didn’t like it. He’d bring me back to the Spring Court the moment I asked.

Bring me back to silence, and those sentries, and a life of doing nothing but dressing and dining and planning parties.

He crossed his ankle over a knee. “I made you an offer when you first came here: help me, and food, shelter, clothing … All of it is yours.”

I’d been a beggar in the past. The thought of doing it now …

“Work for me,” Rhysand said. “I owe you, anyway. And we’ll figure out the rest day by day, if need be.”

I looked toward the mountains, as if I could see all the way to the Spring Court in the south. Tamlin would be furious. He’d shred the manor apart.

But he’d … he’d locked me up. Either he so deeply misunderstood me or he’d been so broken by what went on Under the Mountain, but … he’d locked me up.

Prev Next