A Court of Thorns and Roses Page 36

“She took my wings,” the faerie sobbed. “She took them.”

“I know,” I murmured, my fingers aching. “I know.”

Tamlin touched the rag to one of the stumps, and the faerie screamed so loudly that my senses guttered, sending me staggering back. He tried to rise but his arms buckled, and he collapsed face-first onto the table again.

Blood gushed—so fast and bright that it took me a heartbeat to realize that a wound like this required a tourniquet—and that the faerie had lost far too much blood for it to even make a difference. It poured down his back and onto the table, where it ran to the edge and drip-drip-dripped to the floor near my feet.

I found Tamlin’s eyes on me. “The wounds aren’t clotting,” he said under his breath as the faerie panted.

“Can’t you use your magic?” I asked, wishing I could rip that mask off his face and see his full expression.

Tamlin swallowed hard. “No. Not for major damage. Once, but not any longer.”

The faerie on the table whimpered, his panting slowing. “She took my wings,” he whispered. Tamlin’s green eyes flickered, and I knew, right then, that the faerie was going to die. Death wasn’t just hovering in this hall; it was counting down the faerie’s remaining heartbeats.

I took one of the faerie’s hands in mine. The skin there was almost leathery, and, perhaps more out of reflex than anything, his long fingers wrapped around mine, covering them completely. “She took my wings,” he said again, his shaking subsiding a bit.

I brushed the long, damp hair from the faerie’s half-turned face, revealing a pointed nose and a mouth full of sharp teeth. His dark eyes shifted to mine, beseeching, pleading.

“It will be all right,” I said, and hoped he couldn’t smell lies the way the Suriel was able to. I stroked his limp hair, its texture like liquid night—another I would never be able to paint but would try to, perhaps forever. “It will be all right.” The faerie closed his eyes, and I tightened my grip on his hand.

Something wet touched my feet, and I didn’t need to look down to see that his blood had pooled around me. “My wings,” the faerie whispered.

“You’ll get them back.”

The faerie struggled to open his eyes. “You swear?”

“Yes,” I breathed. The faerie managed a slight smile and closed his eyes again. My mouth trembled. I wished for something else to say, something more to offer him than my empty promises. The first false vow I’d ever sworn. But Tamlin began speaking, and I glanced up to see him take the faerie’s other hand.

“Cauldron save you,” he said, reciting the words of a prayer that was probably older than the mortal realm. “Mother hold you. Pass through the gates, and smell that immortal land of milk and honey. Fear no evil. Feel no pain.” Tamlin’s voice wavered, but he finished. “Go, and enter eternity.”

The faerie heaved one final sigh, and his hand went limp in mine. I didn’t let go, though, and kept stroking his hair, even when Tamlin released him and took a few steps from the table.

I could feel Tamlin’s eyes on me, but I wouldn’t let go. I didn’t know how long it took for a soul to fade from the body. I stood in the puddle of blood until it grew cold, holding the faerie’s spindly hand and stroking his hair, wondering if he knew I’d lied when I’d sworn he would get his wings back, wondering if, wherever he had now gone, he had gotten them back.

A clock chimed somewhere in the house, and Tamlin gripped my shoulder. I hadn’t realized how cold I’d become until the heat of his hand warmed me through my nightgown. “He’s gone. Let him go.”

I studied the faerie’s face—so unearthly, so inhuman. Who could be so cruel to hurt him like that?

“Feyre,” Tamlin said, squeezing my shoulder. I brushed the faerie’s hair behind his long, pointed ear, wishing I’d known his name, and let go.

Tamlin led me up the stairs, neither of us caring about the bloody footprints I left behind or the freezing blood soaking the front of my nightgown. I paused at the top of the steps, though, twisting out of his grip, and gazed at the table in the foyer below.

“We can’t leave him there,” I said, making to step down. Tamlin caught my elbow.

“I know,” he said, the words so drained and weary. “I was going to walk you upstairs first.”

Before he buried him. “I want to go with you.”

“It’s too deadly at night for you to—”

“I can hold my—”

“No,” he said, his green eyes flashing. I straightened, but he sighed, his shoulders curving inward. “I must do this. Alone.”

His head was bowed. No claws, no fangs—there was nothing to be done against this enemy, this fate. No one for him to fight. So I nodded, because I would have wanted to do it alone, too, and turned toward my bedroom. Tamlin remained at the top of the stairs.

“Feyre,” he said—softly enough that I faced him again. “Why?” He tilted his head to the side. “You dislike our kind on a good day. And after Andras …” Even in the darkened hallway, his usually bright eyes were shadowed. “So why?”

I took a step closer to him, my blood-covered feet sticking to the rug. I glanced down the stairs to where I could still see the prone form of the faerie and the stumps of his wings.

“Because I wouldn’t want to die alone,” I said, and my voice wobbled as I looked at Tamlin again, forcing myself to meet his stare. “Because I’d want someone to hold my hand until the end, and awhile after that. That’s something everyone deserves, human or faerie.” I swallowed hard, my throat painfully tight. “I regret what I did to Andras,” I said, the words so strangled they were no more than a whisper. “I regret that there was … such hate in my heart. I wish I could undo it—and … I’m sorry. So very sorry.”

I couldn’t remember the last time—if ever—I’d spoken to anyone like that. But he just nodded and turned away, and I wondered if I should say more, if I should kneel and beg for his forgiveness. If he felt such grief, such guilt, over a stranger, then Andras … By the time I opened my mouth, he was already down the steps.

I watched him—watched every movement he made, the muscles of his body visible through that blood-soaked tunic, watched that invisible weight bearing down on his shoulders. He didn’t look at me as he scooped up the broken body and carried it to the garden doors beyond my line of sight. I went to the window at the top of the stairs, watching as Tamlin carried the faerie through the moonlit garden and into the rolling fields beyond. He never once glanced back.

Chapter 18

The next day, the blood of the faerie had been cleaned up by the time I ate, washed, and dressed. I’d taken my time in the morning, and it was nearly noon as I stood atop the staircase, peering down at the entry hall below. Just to make sure it was gone.

I’d been set on finding Tamlin and explaining—truly explaining—how sorry I was about Andras. If I was supposed to stay here, stay with him, then I could at least attempt to repair what I’d ruined. I glanced to the large window behind me, the view so sweeping that I could see all the way to the reflecting pool beyond the garden.

The water was still enough that the vibrant sky and fat, puffy clouds above were flawlessly reflected. Asking about them seemed vulgar after last night, but maybe—maybe once those paints and brushes did arrive, I could venture to the pool to capture it.

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