A Court of Mist and Fury Page 64

The letter was quick, simple. But each word was a battle.

Not because of my former illiteracy. No, I could now read and write just fine.

It was because of the message that Rhys, standing in the foyer, now read:

I left of my own free will.

I am cared for and safe. I am grateful for all that you did for me, all that you gave.

Please don’t come looking for me. I’m not coming back.

He swiftly folded it in two and it vanished. “Are you sure?”

Perhaps it would help with whatever situation was going on at the Spring Court. I glanced to the windows beyond him. The mist wreathing the city had wandered off, revealing a bright, cloudless sky. And somehow, my head felt clearer than it had in days—months.

A city lay out there, that I had barely observed or cared about.

I wanted it—life, people. I wanted to see it, feel its rush through my blood. No boundaries, no limits to what I might encounter or do.

“I am no one’s pet,” I said. Rhys’s face was contemplative, and I wondered if he remembered that he’d told me the same thing once, when I was too lost in my own guilt and despair to understand. “What next?”

“For what it’s worth, I did actually want to give you a day to rest—”

“Don’t coddle me.”

“I’m not. And I’d hardly call our encounter this morning rest. But you will forgive me if I make assessments based on your current physical condition.”

“I’ll be the person who decides that. What about the Book of Breathings?”

“Once Azriel returns from dealing with the Attor, he’s to put his other skill set to use and infiltrate the mortal queens’ courts to learn where they’re keeping it—and what their plans might be. And as for the half in Prythian … We’ll go to the Summer Court within a few days, if my request to visit is approved. High Lords visiting other courts makes everyone jumpy. We’ll deal with the Book then.”

He shut his mouth, no doubt waiting for me to trudge upstairs, to brood and sleep.

Enough—I’d had enough of sleeping.

I said, “You told me that this city was better seen at night. Are you all talk, or will you ever bother to show me?”

A low laugh as he looked me over. I didn’t recoil from his gaze.

When his eyes found mine again, his mouth twisted in a smile so few saw. Real amusement—perhaps a bit of happiness edged with relief. The male behind the High Lord’s mask. “Dinner,” he said. “Tonight. Let’s find out if you, Feyre darling, are all talk—or if you’ll allow a Lord of Night to take you out on the town.”

Amren came to my room before dinner. Apparently, we were all going out tonight.

Downstairs, Cassian and Mor were sniping at each other about whether Cassian could fly faster short-distance than Mor could winnow to the same spot. I assumed Azriel was nearby, seeking sanctuary in the shadows. Hopefully, he’d gotten some rest after dealing with the Attor—and would rest a bit more before heading into the mortal realm to spy on those queens.

Amren, at least, knocked this time before entering. Nuala and Cerridwen, who had finished setting combs of mother-of-pearl into my hair, took one look at the delicate female and vanished into puffs of smoke.

“Skittish things,” Amren said, her red lips cutting a cruel line. “Wraiths always are.”

“Wraiths?” I twisted in the seat before the vanity. “I thought they were High Fae.”

“Half,” Amren said, surveying my turquoise, cobalt, and white clothes. “Wraiths are nothing but shadow and mist, able to walk through walls, stone—you name it. I don’t even want to know how those two were conceived. High Fae will stick their cocks anywhere.”

I choked on what could have been a laugh or a cough. “They make good spies.”

“Why do you think they’re now whispering in Azriel’s ear that I’m in here?”

“I thought they answered to Rhys.”

“They answer to both, but they were trained by Azriel first.”

“Are they spying on me?”

“No.” She frowned at a loose thread in her rain cloud–colored shirt. Her chin-length dark hair swayed as she lifted her head. “Rhys has told them time and again not to, but I don’t think Azriel will ever trust me fully. So they’re reporting on my movements. And with good reason.”

“Why?”

“Why not? I’d be disappointed if Rhysand’s spymaster didn’t keep tabs on me. Even go against orders to do so.”

“Rhys doesn’t punish him for disobeying?”

Those silver eyes glowed. “The Court of Dreams is founded on three things: to defend, to honor, and to cherish. Were you expecting brute strength and obedience? Many of Rhysand’s top officials have little to no power. He values loyalty, cunning, compassion. And Azriel, despite his disobedience, is acting to defend his court, his people. So, no. Rhysand does not punish that. There are rules, but they are flexible.”

“What about the Tithe?”

“What Tithe?”

I stood from the little bench. “The Tithe—taxes, whatever. Twice a year.”

“There are taxes on city dwellers, but there is no Tithe.” She clicked her tongue. “But the High Lord of Spring enacts one.”

I didn’t want to think about it entirely, not yet—not with that letter now on its way to him, if not already delivered. So I reached for the small box on the vanity and pulled out her amulet. “Here.” I handed over the gold-and-jewel-encrusted thing. “Thank you.”

Amren’s brows rose as I dropped it into her waiting palm. “You gave it back.”

“I didn’t realize it was a test.”

She set it back into the case. “Keep it. There’s no magic to it.”

I blinked. “You lied—”

She shrugged, heading for the door. “I found it at the bottom of my jewelry box. You needed something to believe you could get out of the Prison again.”

“But Rhys kept looking at it—”

“Because he gave it to me two hundred years ago. He was probably surprised to see it again, and wondered why I’d given it to you. Likely worried why I might have given it to you.”

I clenched my teeth, but Amren was already breezing through the door with a cheerful, “You’re welcome.”

CHAPTER

29

Despite the chill night, every shop was open as we walked through the city. Musicians played in the little squares, and the Palace of Thread and Jewels was packed with shoppers and performers, High Fae and lesser faeries alike. But we continued past, down to the river itself, the water so smooth that the stars and lights blended on its dark surface like a living ribbon of eternity.

The five of them were unhurried as we strolled across one of the wide marble bridges spanning the Sidra, often moving forward or dropping back to chat with one another. From the ornate lanterns that lined either side of the bridge, faelight cast golden shadows on the wings of the three males, gilding the talons at the apex of each.

The conversation ranged from the people they knew, matches and teams for sports I’d never heard of (apparently, Amren was a vicious, obsessive supporter of one), new shops, music they’d heard, clubs they favored … Not a mention of Hybern or the threats we faced—no doubt from secrecy, but I had a feeling it was also because tonight, this time together … they did not want that terrible, hideous presence intruding. As if they were all just ordinary citizens—even Rhys. As if they weren’t the most powerful people in this court, maybe in all of Prythian. And no one, absolutely no one, on the street balked or paled or ran.

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