A Court of Mist and Fury Page 41

“My father,” Rhys said, swirling his wine once—twice, “saw that his son had not only started to rival him for power, but had allied himself with perhaps the two deadliest Illyrians in history. He got it into his head that if we were given a legion in the War, we might very well turn it against him when we returned.”

Cassian snickered. “So the prick separated us. He gave Rhys command of a legion of Illyrians who hated him for being a half-breed, and threw me into a different legion to be a common foot soldier, even when my power outranked any of the war-leaders. Az, he kept for himself as his personal shadowsinger—mostly for spying and his dirty work. We only saw each other on battlefields for the seven years the War raged. They’d send around casualty lists amongst the Illyrians, and I read each one, wondering if I’d see their names on it. But then Rhys was captured—”

“That is a story for another time,” Rhys said, sharply enough that Cassian lifted his brows, but nodded. Rhys’s violet eyes met mine, and I wondered if it was true starlight that flickered so intensely in them as he spoke. “Once I became High Lord, I appointed these four to my Inner Circle, and told the rest of my father’s old court that if they had a problem with my friends, they could leave. They all did. Turns out, having a half-breed High Lord was made worse by his appointment of two females and two Illyrian bastards.”

As bad as humans, in some ways. “What—what happened to them, then?”

Rhys shrugged, those great wings shifting with the movement. “The nobility of the Night Court fall into one of three categories: those who hated me enough that when Amarantha took over, they joined her court and later found themselves dead; those who hated me enough to try to overthrow me and faced the consequences; and those who hated me, but not enough to be stupid and have since tolerated a half-breed’s rule, especially when it so rarely interferes with their miserable lives.”

“Are they—are they the ones who live beneath the mountain?”

A nod. “In the Hewn City, yes. I gave it to them, for not being fools. They’re happy to stay there, rarely leaving, ruling themselves and being as wicked as they please, for all eternity.”

That was the court he must have shown Amarantha when she first arrived—and its wickedness must have pleased her enough that she modeled her own after it.

“The Court of Nightmares,” Mor said, sucking on a tooth.

“And what is this court?” I asked, gesturing to them. The most important question.

It was Cassian, eyes clear and bright as his Siphon, who said, “The Court of Dreams.”

The Court of Dreams—the dreams of a half-breed High Lord, two bastard warriors, and … the two females. “And you?” I said to Mor and Amren.

Amren merely said, “Rhys offered to make me his Second. No one had ever asked me before, so I said yes, to see what it might be like. I found I enjoyed it.”

Mor leaned back in her seat, Azriel now watching every movement she made with subtle, relentless focus.

“I was a dreamer born into the Court of Nightmares,” Mor said. She twirled a curl around a finger, and I wondered if her story might be the worst of all of them as she said simply, “So I got out.”

“What’s your story, then?” Cassian said to me with a jerk of his chin.

I’d assumed Rhysand had told them everything. Rhys merely shrugged at me.

So I straightened. “I was born to a wealthy merchant family, with two older sisters and parents who only cared about their money and social standing. My mother died when I was eight; my father lost his fortune three years later. He sold everything to pay off his debts, moved us into a hovel, and didn’t bother to find work while he let us slowly starve for years. I was fourteen when the last of the money ran out, along with the food. He wouldn’t work—couldn’t, because the debtors came and shattered his leg in front of us. So I went into the forest and taught myself to hunt. And I kept us all alive, if not near starvation at times, for five years. Until … everything happened.”

They fell quiet again, Azriel’s gaze now considering. He hadn’t told his story. Did it ever come up? Or did they never discuss those burns on his hands? And what did the shadows whisper to him—did they speak in a language at all?

But Cassian said, “You taught yourself to hunt. What about to fight?” I shook my head. Cassian braced his arms on the table. “Lucky for you, you’ve just found yourself a teacher.”

I opened my mouth, protesting, but— Rhysand’s mother had given him an arsenal of weapons to use if the other failed. What did I have in my own beyond a good shot with a bow and brute stubbornness? And if I had this new power—these other powers …

I would not be weak again. I would not be dependent on anyone else. I would never have to endure the touch of the Attor as it dragged me because I was too helpless to know where and how to hit. Never again.

But what Ianthe and Tamlin had said … “You don’t think it sends a bad message if people see me learning to fight—using weapons?”

The moment the words were out, I realized the stupidity of them. The stupidity of—of what had been shoved down my throat these past few months.

Silence. Then Mor said with a soft venom that made me understand the High Lord’s Third had received training of her own in that Court of Nightmares, “Let me tell you two things. As someone who has perhaps been in your shoes before.” Again, that shared bond of anger, of pain throbbed between them all, save for Amren, who was giving me a look dripping with distaste. “One,” Mor said, “you have left the Spring Court.” I tried not to let the full weight of those words sink in. “If that does not send a message, for good or bad, then your training will not, either. Two,” she continued, laying her palm flat on the table, “I once lived in a place where the opinion of others mattered. It suffocated me, nearly broke me. So you’ll understand me, Feyre, when I say that I know what you feel, and I know what they tried to do to you, and that with enough courage, you can say to hell with a reputation.” Her voice gentled, and the tension between them all faded with it. “You do what you love, what you need.”

Mor would not tell me what to wear or not wear. She would not allow me to step aside while she spoke for me. She would not … would not do any of the things that I had so willingly, desperately, allowed Ianthe to do.

I had never had a female friend before. Ianthe … she had not been one. Not in the way that mattered, I realized. And Nesta and Elain, in those few weeks I’d been at home before Amarantha, had started to fill that role, but … but looking at Mor, I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t understand it, but … I felt it. Like I could indeed go to dinner with her. Talk to her.

Not that I had much of anything to offer her in return.

But what she’d said … what they’d all said … Yes, Rhys had been wise to bring me here. To let me decide if I could handle them—the teasing and intensity and power. If I wanted to be a part of a group who would likely push me, and overwhelm me, and maybe frighten me, but … If they were willing to stand against Hybern, after already fighting them five hundred years ago …

I met Cassian’s gaze. And though his eyes danced, there was nothing amused in them. “I’ll think about it.”

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