A Court of Mist and Fury Page 58

The light was already fading, and the world outside was thick with shades of blue and white and gray, stained golden as I opened the front door and found them waiting.

Nesta and Elain were in the large dining room—the most open space in the house.

Looking at Rhys, Cassian, and Azriel, I knew I’d been right to select it as the meeting spot.

They were enormous—wild and rough and ancient.

Rhys’s brows lifted. “You’d think they’d been told plague had befallen the house.”

I pulled the door open wide enough to let them in, then quickly shut it against the bitter cold. “My sister Elain can convince anyone to do anything with a few smiles.”

Cassian let out a low whistle as he turned in place, surveying the grand entry hall, the ornate furniture, the paintings. All of it paid for by Tamlin—initially. He’d taken such care of my family, yet his own … I didn’t want to think about his family, murdered by a rival court for whatever reason no one had ever explained to me. Not now that I was living amongst them—

He’d been good—there was a part of Tamlin that was good—

Yes. He’d given me everything I needed to become myself, to feel safe. And when he got what he wanted … He’d stopped. Had tried, but not really. He’d let himself remain blind to what I needed after Amarantha.

“Your father must be a fine merchant,” Cassian said. “I’ve seen castles with less wealth.”

I found Rhys studying me, a silent question written across his face. I answered, “My father is away on business—and attending a meeting in Neva about the threat of Prythian.”

“Prythian?” Cassian said, twisting toward us. “Not Hybern?”

“It’s possible my sisters were mistaken—your lands are foreign to them. They merely said ‘above the wall.’ I assumed they thought it was Prythian.”

Azriel came forward on feet as silent as a cat’s. “If humans are aware of the threat, rallying against it, then that might give us an advantage when contacting the queens.”

Rhys was still watching me, as if he could see the weight that had pressed into me since arriving here. The last time I’d been in this house, I’d been a woman in love—such frantic, desperate love that I went back into Prythian, I went Under the Mountain, as a mere human. As fragile as my sisters now seemed to me.

“Come,” Rhys said, offering me a subtle, understanding nod before motioning to lead the way. “Let’s make this introduction.”

My sisters were standing by the window, the light of the chandeliers coaxing the gold in their hair to glisten. So beautiful, and young, and alive—but when would that change? How would it be to speak to them when I remained this way while their skin had grown paper-thin and wrinkled, their backs curved with the weight of years, their white hands speckled?

I would be barely into my immortal existence when theirs was wiped out like a candle before a cold breath.

But I could give them a few good years—safe years—until then.

I crossed the room, the three males a step behind, the wooden floors as shining and polished as a mirror beneath us. I had removed my cloak now that the servants were gone, and it was to me—not the Illyrians—that my sisters first looked. At the Fae clothes, the crown, the jewelry.

A stranger—this part of me was now a stranger to them.

Then they took in the winged males—or two of them. Rhys’s wings had vanished, his leathers replaced with his fine black jacket and pants.

My sisters both stiffened at Cassian and Azriel, at those mighty wings tucked in tight to powerful bodies, at the weapons, and then at the devastatingly beautiful faces of all three males.

Elain, to her credit, did not faint.

And Nesta, to hers, did not hiss at them. She just took a not-so-subtle step in front of Elain, and ducked her fisted hand behind her simple, elegant amethyst gown. The movement did not go unnoticed by my companions.

I halted a good four feet away, giving my sisters breathing space in a room that had suddenly been deprived of all air. I said to the males, “My sisters, Nesta and Elain Archeron.”

I had not thought of my family name, had not used it, for years and years. Because even when I had sacrificed and hunted for them, I had not wanted my father’s name—not when he sat before that little fire and let us starve. Let me walk into the woods alone. I’d stopped using it the day I’d killed that rabbit, and felt its blood stain my hands, the same way the blood of those faeries had marred it years later like an invisible tattoo.

My sisters did not curtsy. Their hearts wildly pounded, even Nesta’s, and the tang of their terror coated my tongue—

“Cassian,” I said, inclining my head to the left. Then I shifted to the right, grateful those shadows were nowhere to be found as I said, “Azriel.” I half turned. “And Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court.”

Rhys had dimmed it, too, I realized. The night rippling off him, the otherworldly grace and thrum of power. But looking in those star-flecked violet eyes, no one would ever mistake him for anything but extraordinary.

He bowed to my sisters. “Thank you for your hospitality—and generosity,” he said with a warm smile. But there was something strained in it.

Elain tried to return the smile but failed.

And Nesta just looked at the three of them, then at me, and said, “The cook left dinner on the table. We should eat before it goes cold.” She didn’t wait for my agreement before striding off—right to the head of the polished cherry table.

Elain rasped, “Nice to meet you,” before hustling after her, the silk skirts of her cobalt dress whispering over the parquet floor.

Cassian was grimacing as we trailed them, Rhys’s brows were raised, and Azriel looked more inclined to blend into the nearest shadow and avoid this conversation all together.

Nesta was waiting at the head of the table, a queen ready to hold court. Elain trembled in the upholstered, carved wood chair to her left.

I did them all a favor and took the one to Nesta’s right. Cassian claimed the spot beside Elain, who clenched her fork as if she might wield it against him, and Rhys slid into the seat beside me, Azriel on his other side. A faint smile bloomed upon Azriel’s mouth as he noticed Elain’s fingers white-knuckled on that fork, but he kept silent, focusing instead, as Cassian was subtly trying to do, on adjusting his wings around a human chair. Cauldron damn me. I should have remembered. Though I doubted either would appreciate it if I now brought in two stools.

I sighed through my nose and yanked the lids off the various dishes and casseroles. Poached salmon with dill and lemon from the hothouse, whipped potatoes, roast chicken with beets and turnips from the root cellar, and some casserole of egg, game meat, and leeks. Seasonal food—whatever they had left at the end of the winter.

I scooped food onto my plate, the sounds of my sisters and companions doing the same filling the silence. I took a bite and fought my cringe.

Once, this food would have been rich and flavorful.

Now it was ash in my mouth.

Rhys was digging into his chicken without hesitation. Cassian and Azriel ate as if they hadn’t had a meal in months. Perhaps being warriors, fighting in wars, had given them the ability to see food as strength—and put taste aside.

I found Nesta watching me. “Is there something wrong with our food?” she said flatly.

Prev Next