A Court of Mist and Fury Page 43

He shot straight down, wings beating to keep us smooth as we landed on the roof of the town house. I made to step away, but he gripped my chin. “You know the cost already.”

Amarantha’s whore.

He nodded, and I think I might have said the two vile words aloud.

“When she tricked me out of my powers and left the scraps, it was still more than the others. And I decided to use it to tap into the mind of every Night Court citizen she captured, and anyone who might know the truth. I made a web between all of them, actively controlling their minds every second of every day, every decade, to forget about Velaris, to forget about Mor, and Amren, and Cassian, and Azriel. Amarantha wanted to know who was close to me—who to kill and torture. But my true court was here, ruling this city and the others. And I used the remainder of my power to shield them all from sight and sound. I had only enough for one city—one place. I chose the one that had been hidden from history already. I chose, and now must live with the consequences of knowing there were more left outside who suffered. But for those here … anyone flying or traveling near Velaris would see nothing but barren rock, and if they tried to walk through it, they’d find themselves suddenly deciding otherwise. Sea travel and merchant trading were halted—sailors became farmers, working the earth around Velaris instead. And because my powers were focused on shielding them all, Feyre, I had very little to use against Amarantha. So I decided that to keep her from asking questions about the people who mattered, I would be her whore.”

He’d done all of that, had done such horrible things … done everything for his people, his friends. And the only piece of himself that he’d hidden and managed to keep her from tainting, destroying, even if it meant fifty years trapped in a cage of rock …

Those wings now flared wide. How many knew about those wings outside of Velaris or the Illyrian war-camps? Or had he wiped all memory of them from Prythian long before Amarantha?

Rhys released my chin. But as he lowered his hand, I gripped his wrist, feeling the solid strength. “It’s a shame,” I said, the words nearly gobbled up by the sound of the city music. “That others in Prythian don’t know. A shame that you let them think the worst.”

He took a step back, his wings beating the air like mighty drums. “As long as the people who matter most know the truth, I don’t care about the rest. Get some sleep.”

Then he shot into the sky, and was swallowed by the darkness between the stars.

I tumbled into a sleep so heavy my dreams were an undertow that dragged me down, down, down until I couldn’t escape them.

I lay naked and prone on a familiar red marble floor while Amarantha slid a knife along my bare ribs, the steel scraping softly against my skin. “Lying, traitorous human,” she purred, “with your filthy, lying heart.”

The knife scratched, a cool caress. I struggled to get up, but my body wouldn’t work.

She pressed a kiss to the hollow of my throat. “You’re as much a monster as me.” She curved the knife over my breast, angling it toward my peaked nipple, as if she could see the heart beating beneath. I started sobbing. “Don’t waste your tears.”

Someone far away was roaring my name; begging for me.

“I’m going to make eternity a hell for you,” she promised, the tip of the dagger piercing the sensitive flesh beneath my breast, her lips hovering a breath above mine as she pushed—

Hands—there were hands on my shoulders, shaking me, squeezing me. I thrashed against them, screaming, screaming—

“FEYRE.”

The voice was at once the night and the dawn and the stars and the earth, and every inch of my body calmed at the primal dominance in it.

“Open your eyes,” the voice ordered.

I did.

My throat was raw, my mouth full of ash, my face soaked and sticky, and Rhysand—Rhysand was hovering above me, his eyes wide.

“It was a dream,” he said, his breathing as hard as mine.

The moonlight trickling through the windows illuminated the dark lines of swirling tattoos down his arm, his shoulders, across his sculpted chest. Like the ones I bore on my arm. He scanned my face. “A dream,” he said again.

Velaris. I was in Velaris, at his house. And I had—my dream—

The sheets, the blankets were ripped. Shredded. But not with a knife. And that ashy, smoky taste coating my mouth …

My hand was unnervingly steady as I lifted it to find my fingers ending in simmering embers. Living claws of flame that had sliced through my bed linens like they were cauterizing wounds—

I shoved him off with a hard shoulder, falling out of bed and slamming into a small chest before I hurtled into the bathing room, fell to my knees before the toilet, and was sick to my stomach. Again. Again. My fingertips hissed against the cool porcelain.

Large, warm hands pulled my hair back a moment later.

“Breathe,” Rhys said. “Imagine them winking out like candles, one by one.”

I heaved into the toilet again, shuddering as light and heat crested and rushed out of me, and savored the empty, cool dark that pooled in their wake.

“Well, that’s one way to do it,” he said.

When I dared to look at my hands, braced on the bowl, the embers had been extinguished. Even that power in my veins, along my bones, slumbered once more.

“I have this dream,” Rhys said as I retched again, holding my hair. “Where it’s not me stuck under her, but Cassian or Azriel. And she’s pinned their wings to the bed with spikes, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. She’s commanded me to watch, and I have no choice but to see how I failed them.”

I clung to the toilet, spitting once, and reached up to flush. I watched the water swirl away entirely before I twisted my head to look at him.

His fingers were gentle, but firm where he’d fisted them in my hair. “You never failed them,” I rasped.

“I did … horrible things to ensure that.” Those violet eyes near-glowed in the dim light.

“So did I.” My sweat clung like blood—the blood of those two faeries—

I pivoted, barely turning in time. His other hand stroked long, soothing lines down the curve of my back, as over and over I yielded my dinner. When the latest wave had ebbed, I breathed, “The flames?”

“Autumn Court.”

I couldn’t muster a response. At some point, I leaned against the coolness of the nearby bathtub and closed my eyes.

When I awoke, sun streamed through the windows, and I was in my bed—tucked in tightly to the fresh, clean sheets.

I stared up at the sharp grassy slope of the small mountain, shivering at the veils of mist that wafted past. Behind us, the land swept away to brutal cliffs and a violent pewter sea. Ahead, nothing but a wide, flat-topped mountain of gray stone and moss.

Rhys stood at my side, a double-edged sword sheathed down his spine, knives strapped to his legs, clothed in what I could only assume were Illyrian fighting leathers, based on what Cassian and Azriel had worn the night before. The dark pants were tight, the scale-like plates of leather worn and scarred, and sculpted to legs I hadn’t noticed were quite that muscled. His close-fitting jacket had been built around the wings that were now fully out, bits of dark, scratched armor added at the shoulders and forearms.

If his attire hadn’t told me enough about what we might be facing today—if my own, similar attire hadn’t told me enough—all I needed was to take one look at the rock before us and know it wouldn’t be pleasant. I’d been so distracted in the study an hour ago by what Rhys had been writing as he drafted a careful request to visit the Summer Court that I hadn’t thought to ask what to expect here. Not that Rhys had really bothered explaining why he wanted to visit the Summer Court beyond “improving diplomatic relations.”

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