A Court of Mist and Fury Page 90

The eldest stiffened. “For the greater good—”

“Many atrocities,” Rhys purred, “have been done in the name of the greater good.”

No small part of me was impressed that she held his gaze. She said simply, “The Book will remain with us. We will weather this storm—”

“That’s enough,” Mor interrupted.

She got to her feet.

And Mor looked each and every one of those queens in the eye as she said, “I am the Morrigan. You know me. What I am. You know that my gift is truth. So you will hear my words now, and know them as truth—as your ancestors once did.”

Not a word.

Mor gestured behind her—to me. “Do you think it is any simple coincidence that a human has been made immortal again, at the very moment when our old enemy resurfaces? I fought side by side with Miryam in the War, fought beside her as Jurian’s ambition and bloodlust drove him mad, and drove them apart. Drove him to torture Clythia to death, then battle Amarantha until his own.” She took a sharp breath, and I could have sworn Azriel inched closer at the sound. But Mor blazed on, “I marched back into the Black Land with Miryam to free the slaves left in that burning sand, the slavery she had herself escaped. The slaves Miryam had promised to return to free. I marched with her—my friend. Along with Prince Drakon’s legion. Miryam was my friend, as Feyre is now. And your ancestors, those queens who signed that Treaty … They were my friends, too. And when I look at you … ” She bared her teeth. “I see nothing of those women in you. When I look at you, I know that your ancestors would be ashamed.

“You laugh at the idea of peace? That we can have it between our peoples?” Mor’s voice cracked, and again Azriel subtly shifted nearer to her, though his face revealed nothing. “There is an island in a forgotten, stormy part of the sea. A vast, lush island, shielded from time and spying eyes. And on that island, Miryam and Drakon still live. With their children. With both of their peoples. Fae and human and those in between. Side by side. For five hundred years, they have prospered on that island, letting the world believe them dead—”

“Mor,” Rhys said—a quiet reprimand.

A secret, I realized, that perhaps had remained hidden for five centuries.

A secret that had fueled the dreams of Rhysand, of his court.

A land where two dreamers had found peace between their peoples.

Where there was no wall. No iron wards. No ash arrows.

The golden queen and ancient queen looked to each other again.

The ancient one’s eyes were bright as she declared, “Give us proof. If you are not the High Lord that rumor claims, give us one shred of proof that you are as you say—a male of peace.”

There was one way. Only one way to show them, prove it to them.

Velaris.

My very bones cried out at the thought of revealing that gem to these … spiders.

Rhys rose in a fluid motion. The queens did the same. His voice was like a moonless night as he said, “You desire proof?” I held my breath, praying … praying he wouldn’t tell them. He shrugged, the silver thread in his jacket catching the sunlight. “I shall get it for you. Await my word, and return when we summon you.”

“We are summoned by no one, human or faerie,” the golden queen simpered.

Perhaps that was why they’d taken so long to reply. To play some power game.

“Then come at your leisure,” Rhys said, with enough of a bite that the queens’ guards stepped forward. Cassian only grinned at them—and the wisest among them instantly paled.

Rhys barely inclined his head as he added, “Perhaps then you’ll comprehend how vital the Book is to both our efforts.”

“We will consider it once we have your proof.” The ancient one nearly spat the word. Some part of me reminded myself that she was old, and royal, and smacking that sneer off her face would not be in our best interests. “That book has been ours to protect for five hundred years. We will not hand it over without due consideration.”

The guards flanked them—as if the words had been some predetermined signal. The golden queen smirked at me, and said, “Good luck.”

Then they were gone. The sitting room was suddenly too big, too quiet.

And it was Elain—Elain—who sighed and murmured, “I hope they all burn in hell.”

CHAPTER

41

We were mostly silent during the flight and winnowing to Velaris. Amren was already waiting in the town house, her clothes rumpled, face unnervingly pale. I made a note to get her more blood immediately.

But rather than gather in the dining or sitting room, Rhys strolled down the hall, hands in his pockets, past the kitchen, and out into the courtyard garden in the back.

The rest of us lingered in the foyer, staring after him—the silence radiating from him. Like the calm before a storm.

“It went well, I take it,” Amren said. Cassian gave her a look, and trailed after his friend.

The sun and arid day had warmed the garden, bits of green now poking their heads out here and there in the countless beds and pots. Rhys sat on the rim of the fountain, forearms braced on his knees, staring at the moss-flecked flagstone between his feet.

We all found our seats in the white-painted iron chairs throughout. If only humans could see them: faeries, sitting on iron. They’d throw away those ridiculous baubles and jewelry. Perhaps even Elain would receive an engagement ring that hadn’t been forged with hate and fear.

“If you’re out here to brood, Rhys,” Amren said from her perch on a little bench, “then just say so and let me go back to my work.”

Violet eyes lifted to hers. Cold, humorless. “The humans wish for proof of our good intentions. That we can be trusted.”

Amren’s attention cut to me. “Feyre was not enough?”

I tried not to let the words sting. No, I had not been enough; perhaps I’d even failed in my role as emissary—

“She is more than enough,” Rhys said with that deadly calm, and I wondered if I’d sent my own pathetic thoughts down the bond. I snapped my shield up once more. “They’re fools. Worse—frightened fools.” He studied the ground again, as if the dried moss and stone made up some pattern no one but him could see.

Cassian said, “We could … depose them. Get newer, smarter queens on their thrones. Who might be willing to bargain.”

Rhys shook his head. “One, it’d take too long. We don’t have that time.” I thought of the past few wasted weeks, how hard Azriel had tried to get into those courts. If even his shadows and spies could not breach their inner workings, then I doubted an assassin would. The confirming shake of the head Azriel gave Cassian said as much. “Two,” Rhys continued, “who knows if that would somehow impact the magic of their half of the Book. It must be given freely. It’s possible the magic is strong enough to see our scheming.” He sucked on his teeth. “We are stuck with them.”

“We could try again,” Mor said. “Let me speak to them, let me go to their palace—”

“No,” Azriel said. Mor raised her brows, and a faint color stained Azriel’s tan face. But his features were set, his hazel eyes solid. “You’re not setting foot in that human realm.”

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