A Court of Mist and Fury Page 80

The door opened. “It seems like a stupid place to hide a book,” Amren said by way of greeting as she entered, plopping onto the bed.

“And the last place one would look,” Rhys said, prowling away from me to take a seat on the vanity stool before the window. “They could spell it easily enough against wet and decay. A place only visible for brief moments throughout the day—when the land around it is exposed for all to see? You could not ask for a better place. We have the eyes of thousands watching us.”

“So how do we get in?” I said.

“It’s likely warded against winnowing,” Rhys said, bracing his forearms on his thighs. “I won’t risk tripping any alarms by trying. So we go in at night, the old-fashioned way. I can carry you both, then keep watch,” he added when I lifted my brows.

“Such gallantry,” Amren said, “to do the easy part, then leave us helpless females to dig through mud and seaweed.”

“Someone needs to be circling high enough to see anyone approaching—or sounding the alarm. And masking you from sight.”

I frowned. “The locks respond to his touch; let’s hope they respond to mine.”

Amren said, “When do we move?”

“Tomorrow night,” I said. “We note the guard’s rotations tonight at low tide—figure out where the watchers are. Who we might need to take out before we make our move.”

“You think like an Illyrian,” Rhys murmured.

“I believe that’s supposed to be a compliment,” Amren confided.

Rhys snorted, and shadows gathered around him as he loosened his grip on his power. “Nuala and Cerridwen are already on the move inside the castle. I’ll take to the skies. The two of you should go for a midnight walk—considering how hot it is.” Then he was gone with a rustle of invisible wings and a warm, dark breeze.

Amren’s lips were bloodred in the moonlight. I knew who would have the task of taking out any spying eyes—and wind up with a meal. My mouth dried out a bit. “Care for a stroll?”

CHAPTER

36

The following day was torture. Slow, unending, hot-as-hell torture.

Feigning interest in the mainland as I walked with Tarquin, met his people, smiled at them, grew harder as the sun meandered across the sky, then finally began inching toward the sea. Liar, thief, deceiver—that’s what they’d call me soon.

I hoped they’d know—that Tarquin would know—that we’d done it for their sake.

Supreme arrogance, perhaps, to think that way, but … it was true. Given how quickly Tarquin and Cresseida had glanced at each other, guided me away from that temple … I’d bet that they wouldn’t have handed over that book. For whatever reasons of their own, they wanted it.

Maybe this new world of Tarquin’s could only be built on trust … But he wouldn’t get a chance to build it if it was all wiped away beneath the King of Hybern’s armies.

That’s what I told myself over and over as we walked through his city—as I endured the greetings of his people. Perhaps not as joyous as those in Velaris, but … a tentative hard-won warmth. People who had endured the worst and tried now to move beyond it.

As I should be moving beyond my own darkness.

When the sun was at last sliding into the horizon, I confessed to Tarquin that I was tired and hungry—and, being kind and accommodating, he took me back, buying me a baked fish pie on the way home. He’d even eaten a fried fish at the docks that afternoon.

Dinner was worse.

We’d be gone before breakfast—but they didn’t know that. Rhys mentioned returning to the Night Court tomorrow afternoon, so perhaps an early departure wouldn’t be so suspicious. He’d leave a note about urgent business, thanking Tarquin for his hospitality, and then we’d vanish home—to Velaris. If it went according to plan.

We’d learned where the guards were stationed, how their rotations operated, and where their posts were on the mainland, too.

And when Tarquin kissed my cheek good night, saying he wished that it was not my last evening and perhaps he would see about visiting the Night Court soon … I almost fell to my knees to beg his forgiveness.

Rhysand’s hand on my back was a solid warning to keep it together—even as his face held nothing but that cool amusement.

I went to my room. And found Illyrian fighting leathers waiting for me. Along with that belt of Illyrian knives.

So I dressed for battle once again.

Rhys flew us in close to low tide, dropping us off before taking to the skies, where he’d circle, monitoring the guards on the island and mainland, while we hunted.

The muck reeked, squelching and squeezing us with every step from the narrow causeway road to the little temple ruin. Barnacles, seaweed, and limpets clung to the dark gray stones—and every step into the sole interior chamber had that thing in my chest saying where are you, where are you, where are you?

Rhys and Amren had checked for wards around the site—but found none. Odd, but fortunate. Thanks to the open doorway, we didn’t dare risk a light, but with the cracks in the stone overhead, the moonlight provided enough illumination.

Knee-deep in muck, the tidal water slinking out over the stones, Amren and I surveyed the chamber, barely more than forty feet wide.

“I can feel it,” I breathed. “Like a clawed hand running down my spine.” Indeed, my skin tingled, hair standing on end beneath my warm leathers. “It’s—sleeping.”

“No wonder they hid it beneath stone and mud and sea,” Amren muttered, the muck squelching as she turned in place.

I shivered, the Illyrian knives on me now feeling as useful as toothpicks, and again turned in place. “I don’t feel anything in the walls. But it’s here.”

Indeed, we both looked down at the same moment and cringed.

“We should have brought a shovel,” she said.

“No time to get one.” The tide was fully out now. Every minute counted. Not just for the returning water—but the sunrise that was not too far off.

Every step an effort through the firm grip of the mud, I honed in on that feeling, that call. I stopped in the center of the room—dead center. Here, here, here, it whispered.

I leaned down, shuddering at the icy muck, at the bits of shell and debris that scraped my bare hands as I began hauling it away. “Hurry.”

Amren hissed, but stooped to claw at the heavy, dense mud. Crabs and skittering things tickled my fingers. I refused to think about them.

So we dug, and dug, until we were covered in salty mud that burned our countless little cuts as we panted at a stone floor. And a lead door.

Amren swore. “Lead to keep its full force in, to preserve it. They used to line the sarcophagi of the great rulers with it—because they thought they’d one day awaken.”

“If the King of Hybern goes unchecked with that Cauldron, they might very well.”

Amren shuddered, and pointed. “The door is sealed.”

I wiped my hand on the only clean part of me—my neck—and used the other to scrape away the last bit of mud from the round door. Every brush against the lead sent pangs of cold through me. But there—a carved whorl in the center of the door. “This has been here for a very long time,” I murmured.

Amren nodded. “I would not be surprised if, despite the imprint of the High Lord’s power, Tarquin and his predecessors had never set foot here—if the blood-spell to ward this place instantly transferred to them once they assumed power.”

Prev Next