A Court of Mist and Fury Page 34

I’d expect nothing less from the City of Starlight, but words had again become difficult.

But—dinner. With him. At that House of Wind. I mustered enough focus to say, “Who, exactly, is going to be at this dinner?”

Rhys led us up a steep street, my thighs burning with the movement. Had I become so out of shape, so weakened? “My Inner Circle,” he said. “I want you to meet them before you decide if this is a place you’d like to stay. If you’d like to work with me, and thus work with them. Mor, you’ve met, but the three others—”

“The ones who came this afternoon.”

A nod. “Cassian, Azriel, and Amren.”

“Who are they?” He’d said something about Illyrians, but Amren—the female voice I’d heard—hadn’t possessed wings. At least ones I’d glimpsed through the fogged glass.

“There are tiers,” he said neutrally, “within our circle. Amren is my Second in command.”

A female? The surprise must have been written on my face because Rhys said, “Yes. And Mor is my Third. Only a fool would think my Illyrian warriors were the apex predators in our circle.” Irreverent, cheerful Mor—was Third to the High Lord of the Night Court. Rhys went on, “You’ll see what I mean when you meet Amren. She looks High Fae, but something different prowls beneath her skin.” Rhys nodded to a passing couple, who bowed their heads in merry greeting. “She might be older than this city, but she’s vain, and likes to hoard her baubles and belongings like a firedrake in a cave. So … be on your guard. You both have tempers when provoked, and I don’t want you to have any surprises tonight.”

Some part of me didn’t want to know what manner of creature, exactly, she was. “So if we get into a brawl and I rip off her necklace, she’ll roast and eat me?”

He chuckled. “No—Amren would do far, far worse things than that. The last time Amren and Mor got into it, they left my favorite mountain retreat in cinders.” He lifted a brow. “For what it’s worth, I’m the most powerful High Lord in Prythian’s history, and merely interrupting Amren is something I’ve only done once in the past century.”

The most powerful High Lord in history.

In the countless millennia they had existed here in Prythian, Rhys—Rhys with his smirking and sarcasm and bedroom eyes …

And Amren was worse. And older than five thousand years.

I waited for the fear to hit; waited for my body to shriek to find a way to get out of this dinner, but … nothing. Maybe it’d be a mercy to be ended—

A broad hand gripped my face—gently enough not to hurt, but hard enough to make me look at him. “Don’t you ever think that,” Rhysand hissed, his eyes livid. “Not for one damned moment.”

That bond between us went taut, and my lingering mental shields collapsed. And for a heartbeat, just as it had happened Under the Mountain, I flashed from my body to his—from my eyes to his own.

I had not realized … how I looked …

My face was gaunt, my cheekbones sharp, my blue-gray eyes dull and smudged with purple beneath. The full lips—my father’s mouth—were wan, and my collarbones jutted above the thick wool neckline of my sweater. I looked as if … as if rage and grief and despair had eaten me alive, as if I was again starved. Not for food, but … but for joy and life—

Then I was back in my body, seething at him. “Was that a trick?”

His voice was hoarse as he lowered his hand from my face. “No.” He angled his head to the side. “How did you get through it? My shield.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. I hadn’t done anything. Just … slipped. And I didn’t want to talk about it, not here, not with him. I stormed into a walk, my legs—so damn thin, so useless—burning with every step up the steep hill.

He gripped my elbow, again with that considerate gentleness, but strong enough to make me pause. “How many other minds have you accidentally slipped into?”

Lucien—

“Lucien?” A short laugh. “What a miserable place to be.”

A low snarl rippled from me. “Do not go into my head.”

“Your shield is down.” I hauled it back up. “You might as well have been shouting his name at me.” Again, that contemplative angling of his head. “Perhaps you having my power … ” He chewed on his bottom lip, then snorted. “It’d make sense, of course, if the power came from me—if my own shield sometimes mistook you for me and let you slip past. Fascinating.”

I debated spitting on his boots. “Take your power back. I don’t want it.”

A sly smile. “It doesn’t work that way. The power is bound to your life. The only way to get it back would be to kill you. And since I like your company, I’ll pass on the offer.” We walked a few steps before he said, “You need to be vigilant about keeping your mental wards up. Especially now that you’ve seen Velaris. If you ever go somewhere else, beyond these lands, and someone slipped into your mind and saw this place …” A muscle quivered in his jaw. “We’re called daemati—those of us who can walk into another person’s mind as if we were going from one room to another. We’re rare, and the trait appears as the Mother wills it, but there are enough of us scattered throughout the world that many—mostly those in positions of influence—extensively train against our skill set. If you were to ever encounter a daemati without those shields up, Feyre, they’d take whatever they wanted. A more powerful one could make you their unwitting slave, make you do whatever they wanted and you’d never know it. My lands remain mystery enough to outsiders that some would find you, among other things, a highly valuable source of information.”

Daemati—was I now one if I, too, could do such things? Yet another damned title for people to whisper as I passed. “I take it that in a potential war with Hybern, the king’s armies wouldn’t even know to strike here?” I waved a hand to the city around us. “So, what—your pampered people … those who can’t shield their minds—they get your protection and don’t have to fight while the rest of us will bleed?”

I didn’t let him answer, and just increased my pace. A cheap shot, and childish, but … Inside, inside I had become like that distant sea, relentlessly churning, tossed about by squalls that tore away any sense of where the surface might be.

Rhys kept a step behind for the rest of the walk to the town house.

Some small part of me whispered that I could survive Amarantha; I could survive leaving Tamlin; I could survive transitioning into this new, strange body … But that empty, cold hole in my chest … I wasn’t sure I could survive that.

Even in the years I’d been one bad week away from starvation, that part of me had been full of color, of light. Maybe becoming a faerie had broken it. Maybe Amarantha had broken it.

Or maybe I had broken it, when I shoved that dagger into the hearts of two innocent faeries and their blood had warmed my hands.

“Absolutely not,” I said atop the town house’s small rooftop garden, my hands shoved deep into the pockets of my overcoat to warm them against the bite in the night air. There was room enough for a few boxed shrubs and a round iron table with two chairs—and me and Rhysand.

Prev Next