A Court of Mist and Fury Page 57

A wraith.

I had become too big for these rooms, for this fragile mortal life, too stained and wild and … powerful. And I was about to bring that permanently into their lives as well.

Where Rhys, Cassian, and Azriel were, I didn’t know. Perhaps they stood as shadows in the corner, watching. Perhaps they’d remained outside in the snow. I wouldn’t put it past Cassian and Azriel to be now flying the grounds, inspecting the layout, making wider circles until they reached the village, my ramshackle old cottage, or maybe even the forest itself.

Nesta looked the same. But older. Not in her face, which was as grave and stunning as before, but … in her eyes, in the way she carried herself.

Seated across from me on a small sofa, my sisters stared—and waited.

I said, “Where is Father?” It felt like the only safe thing to say.

“In Neva,” Nesta said, naming one of the largest cities on the continent. “Trading with some merchants from the other half of the world. And attending a summit about the threat above the wall. A threat I wonder if you’ve come back to warn us about.”

No words of relief, of love—never from her.

Elain lifted her teacup. “Whatever the reason, Feyre, we are happy to see you. Alive. We thought you were—”

I pulled my hood back before she could go on.

Elain’s teacup rattled in its saucer as she noticed my ears. My longer, slender hands—the face that was undeniably Fae.

“I was dead,” I said roughly. “I was dead, and then I was reborn—remade.”

Elain set her shivering teacup onto the low-lying table between us. Amber liquid splashed over the side, pooling in the saucer.

And as she moved, Nesta angled herself—ever so slightly. Between me and Elain.

It was Nesta’s gaze I held as I said, “I need you to listen.”

They were both wide-eyed.

But they did.

I told them my story. In as much detail as I could endure, I told them of Under the Mountain. Of my trials. And Amarantha. I told them about death. And rebirth.

Explaining the last few months, however, was harder.

So I kept it brief.

But I explained what needed to happen here—the threat Hybern posed. I explained what this house needed to be, what we needed to be, and what I needed from them.

And when I finished, they remained wide-eyed. Silent.

It was Elain who at last said, “You—you want other High Fae to come … here. And … and the Queens of the Realm.”

I nodded slowly.

“Find somewhere else,” Nesta said.

I turned to her, already pleading, bracing for a fight.

“Find somewhere else,” Nesta said again, straight-backed. “I don’t want them in my house. Or near Elain.”

“Nesta, please,” I breathed. “There is nowhere else; nowhere I can go without someone hunting me, crucifying me—”

“And what of us? When the people around here learn we’re Fae sympathizers? Are we any better than the Children of the Blessed, then? Any standing, any influence we have—gone. And Elain’s wedding—”

“Wedding,” I blurted.

I hadn’t noticed the pearl-and-diamond ring on her finger, the dark metal band glinting in the firelight.

Elain’s face was pale, though, as she looked at it.

“In five months,” Nesta said. “She’s marrying a lord’s son. And his father has devoted his life to hunting down your kind when they cross the wall.”

Your kind.

“So there will be no meeting here,” Nesta said, shoulders stiff. “There will be no Fae in this house.”

“Do you include me in that declaration?” I said quietly.

Nesta’s silence was answer enough.

But Elain said, “Nesta.”

Slowly, my eldest sister looked at her.

“Nesta,” Elain said again, twisting her hands. “If … if we do not help Feyre, there won’t be a wedding. Even Lord Nolan’s battlements and all his men, couldn’t save me from … from them.” Nesta didn’t so much as flinch. Elain pushed, “We keep it secret—we send the servants away. With the spring approaching, they’ll be glad to go home. And if Feyre needs to be in and out for meetings, she’ll send word ahead, and we’ll clear them out. Make up excuses to send them on holidays. Father won’t be back until the summer, anyway. No one will know.” She put a hand on Nesta’s knee, the purple of my sister’s gown nearly swallowing up the ivory hand. “Feyre gave and gave—for years. Let us now help her. Help … others.”

My throat was tight, and my eyes burned.

Nesta studied the dark ring on Elain’s finger, the way she still seemed to cradle it. A lady—that’s what Elain would become. What she was risking for this.

I met Nesta’s gaze. “There is no other way.”

Her chin lifted slightly. “We’ll send the servants away tomorrow.”

“Today,” I pushed. “We don’t have any time to lose. Order them to leave now.”

“I’ll do it,” Elain said, taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders. She didn’t wait for either of us before she strode out, graceful as a doe.

Alone with Nesta, I said, “Is he good—the lord’s son she’s to marry?”

“She thinks he is. She loves him like he is.”

“And what do you think?”

Nesta’s eyes—my eyes, our mother’s eyes—met mine. “His father built a wall of stone around their estate so high even the trees can’t reach over it. I think it looks like a prison.”

“Have you said anything to her?”

“No. The son, Graysen, is kind enough. As smitten with Elain as she is with him. It’s the father I don’t like. He sees the money she has to offer their estate—and his crusade against the Fae. But the man is old. He’ll die soon enough.”

“Hopefully.”

A shrug. Then Nesta asked, “Your High Lord … You went through all that”—she waved a hand at me, my ears, my body—“and it still did not end well?”

I was heavy in my veins again. “That lord built a wall to keep the Fae out. My High Lord wanted to keep me caged in.”

“Why? He let you come back here all those months ago.”

“To save me—protect me. And I think … I think what happened to him, to us, Under the Mountain broke him.” Perhaps more than it had broken me. “The drive to protect at all costs, even my own well-being … I think he wanted to stifle it, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t let go of it.” There was … there was much I still had to do, I realized. To settle things. Settle myself.

“And now you are at a new court.”

Not quite a question, but I said, “Would you like to meet them?”

CHAPTER

24

It took hours for Elain to work her charm on the staff to swiftly pack their bags and leave, each with a purse of money to hasten the process. Mrs. Laurent, though the last to depart, promised to keep what she’d seen to herself.

I didn’t know where Rhys, Cassian, and Azriel had been waiting, but when Mrs. Laurent had hauled herself into the carriage crammed with the last of the staff, heading down to the village to catch transportation to wherever they all had family, there was a knock on the door.

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