A Court of Wings and Ruin Page 15

“For me—you asked them for me.”

“Yes. I went last winter to inquire about breaking your bargain with Rhys.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I—we didn’t want to give you false hope. And we didn’t dare let Rhysand get wind of what we were doing, in case he found a way to interfere. To stop it.”

“So Ianthe pushed Tamlin to Hybern instead.”

“He was frantic. The scholars at the Day Court worked too slowly. I begged him for more time, but you’d already been gone for months. He wanted to act, not wait—despite that letter you sent. Because of that letter you sent. I finally told him to go ahead with it after—after that day in the forest.”

I turned onto my back, staring at the sloped ceiling of the tent.

“How bad was it?” I asked quietly.

“You saw your room. He trashed it, the study, his bedroom. He—he killed the sentries who’d been on guard. After he got the last bit of information from them. He executed them in front of everyone in the manor.”

My blood chilled. “You didn’t stop him.”

“I tried. I begged him for mercy. He didn’t listen. He couldn’t listen.”

“The sentries didn’t try to stop him, either?”

“They didn’t dare. Feyre, he’s a High Lord. He’s a different breed.”

I wondered if he’d say the same thing if he knew what I was.

“We were backed into a corner with no options. None. It was either go to war with the Night Court and Hybern, or ally with Hybern, let them try to stir up trouble, and then use that alliance to our own advantage further down the road.”

“What do you mean,” I breathed.

But Lucien realized what he’d said, and hedged, “We have enemies in every court. Having Hybern’s alliance will make them think twice.”

Liar. Trained, clever liar.

I loosed a heaving, sleepy breath. “Even if they’re now our allies,” I mumbled, “I still hate them.”

A snort. “Me too.”

 

“Get up.”

Blinding sunlight cut into the tent, and I hissed.

The order was drowned out by Lucien’s snarl as he sat up. “Out,” he ordered Jurian, who looked us over once, sneered, and stalked away.

I’d rolled onto Lucien’s bedroll at some point, any schemes indeed second to my most pressing demand—warmth. But I had no doubt Jurian would tuck away the information to throw in Tamlin’s face when we returned: we’d shared a tent, and had been very cozy upon awakening.

I washed in the nearby stream, my body stiff and aching from a night on the ground, with or without the help of a bedroll.

Brannagh was prowling for the stream by the time I’d finished. The princess gave me a cold, thin smile. “I’d pick Beron’s son, too.”

I stared at the princess beneath lowered brows.

She shrugged, her smile growing. “Autumn Court males have fire in their blood—and they fuck like it, too.”

“I suppose you know from experience?”

A chuckle. “Why do you think I had so much fun in the War?”

I didn’t bother to hide my disgust.

Lucien caught me cringing at him when her words replayed for the tenth time an hour later, while we hiked the half mile toward the crack in the wall. “What?” he demanded.

I shook my head, trying not to imagine Elain subject to that … fire.

“Nothing,” I said, just as Jurian swore ahead.

We were both moving at his barked curse—and then broke into a run at the sound of a sword whining free of its sheath. Leaves and branches whipped at me, but then we were at the wall, that invisible, horrible marker humming and throbbing in my head.

And staring right at us through the hole were three Children of the Blessed.

 

 

CHAPTER

7

 

Brannagh and Dagdan looked like they’d just found second breakfast waiting for them.

Jurian had his sword out, the two young women and one young man gaping between him and the others. Then at us, their eyes widening further as they noted Lucien’s cruel beauty.

They dropped to their knees. “Masters and Mistresses,” they beseeched us, their silver jewelry glinting in the dappled sunlight through the leaves. “You have found us on our journey.”

The two royals smiled so broadly I could see all of their too-white teeth.

Jurian, for once, seemed torn before he snapped, “What are you doing here?”

The dark-haired girl at the front was lovely, her honey-gold skin flushed as she lifted her head. “We have come to dwell in the immortal lands; we have come as tribute.”

Jurian cut cold, hard eyes to Lucien. “Is this true?”

Lucien stared him down. “We accept no tribute from the human lands. Least of all children.”

Never mind that the three of them appeared only a few years younger than myself.

“Why don’t you come through,” Brannagh cooed, “and we can … enjoy ourselves.” She was indeed sizing up the brown-haired young man and the other girl, her hair a ruddy brown, face sharp but interesting. From the way Dagdan was leering at the beautiful girl in front, I knew he’d silently made his claim already.

I shoved in front of them and said to the three mortals, “Get out. Go back to your villages, back to your families. You cross this wall, and you will die.”

They balked, rising to their feet, faces taut with fear—and awe. “We have come to live in peace.”

“There is no such thing here. There is only death for your kind.”

Their eyes slid to the immortals behind me. The dark-haired girl blushed at Dagdan’s intent stare, seeing the High Fae beauty and none of the predator.

So I struck.

The wall was a screeching, terrible vise, crushing my magic, battering my head.

But I speared my power through that gap, and slammed into their minds.

Too hard. The young man flinched a bit.

So soft—defenseless. Their minds yielded like butter melting on my tongue.

I beheld pieces of their lives like shards in a broken mirror, flashing every which way: the dark-haired girl was rich, educated, headstrong—had wanted to escape an arranged marriage and believed Prythian was a better option. The ruddy-haired girl had known nothing but poverty and her father’s fists, which had turned more violent after they’d ended her mother’s life. The young man had sold himself on the streets of a large village until the Children had come one day and offered him something better.

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