Home > A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(3)

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(3)
Author: Sarah J. Maas


“I’m surprised you’re so calm, given your promises in Hybern,” Lucien said by way of greeting.

The promise I’d made to kill the human queens, the King of Hybern, Jurian, and Ianthe for what they’d done to my sisters. To my friends.

“You yourself said Ianthe had her reasons. Furious as I might be, I can hear her out.”

I had not told Lucien of what I knew regarding her true nature. It would mean explaining that Rhys had thrown her out of his own home, that Rhys had done it to defend himself and the members of his court, and it would raise too many questions, undermine too many carefully crafted lies that had kept him and his court—my court—safe.

Though I wondered if, after Velaris, it was even necessary. Our enemies knew of the city, knew it was a place of good and peace. And had tried to destroy it at the first opportunity.

The guilt for the attack on Velaris after Rhys had revealed it to those human queens would haunt my mate for the rest of our immortal lives.

“She’s going to spin a story that you’ll want to hear,” Lucien warned.

I shrugged, heading down the carpeted, empty hall. “I can decide for myself. Though it sounds like you’ve already chosen not to believe her.”

He fell into step beside me. “She dragged two innocent women into this.”

“She was working to ensure Hybern’s alliance held strong.”

Lucien halted me with a hand around my elbow.

I allowed it because not allowing it, winnowing the way I’d done in the woods those months ago, or using an Illyrian defensive maneuver to knock him on his ass, would ruin my ruse. “You’re smarter than that.”

I studied the broad, tan hand wrapped around my elbow. Then I met one eye of russet and one of whirring gold.

Lucien breathed, “Where is he keeping her?”

I knew who he meant.

I shook my head. “I don’t know. Rhysand has a hundred places where they could be, but I doubt he’d use any of them to hide Elain, knowing that I’m aware of them.”

“Tell me anyway. List all of them.”

“You’ll die the moment you set foot in his territory.”

“I survived well enough when I found you.”

“You couldn’t see that he had me in thrall. You let him take me back.” Lie, lie, lie.

But the hurt and guilt I expected weren’t there. Lucien slowly released his grip. “I need to find her.”

“You don’t even know Elain. The mating bond is just a physical reaction overriding your good sense.”

“Is that what it did to you and Rhys?”

A quiet, dangerous question. But I made fear enter my eyes, let myself drag up memories of the Weaver, the Carver, the Middengard Wyrm so that old terror drenched my scent. “I don’t want to talk about that,” I said, my voice a rasping wobble.

A clock chimed on the main level. I sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Mother and launched into a quick walk. “We’ll be late.”

Lucien only nodded. But I felt his gaze on my back, fixed right on my spine, as I headed downstairs. To see Ianthe.

And at last decide how I was going to shred her into pieces.

 

The High Priestess looked exactly as I remembered, both in those memories Rhys had shown me and in my own daydreamings of using the talons hidden beneath my nails to carve out her eyes, then her tongue, then open up her throat.

My rage had become a living thing inside my chest, an echoing heartbeat that soothed me to sleep and stirred me to waking. I quieted it as I stared at Ianthe across the formal dining table, Tamlin and Lucien flanking me.

She still wore the pale hood and silver circlet set with its limpid blue stone.

Like a Siphon—the jewel in its center reminded me of Azriel’s and Cassian’s Siphons. And I wondered if, like the Illyrian warriors’, the jewel somehow helped shape an unwieldy gift of magic into something more refined, deadlier. She had never removed it—but then again, I had never seen Ianthe summon any greater power than igniting a ball of faelight in a room.

The High Priestess lowered her teal eyes to the dark wood table, the hood casting shadows on her perfect face. “I wish to begin by saying how truly sorry I am. I acted out of a desire to … to grant what I believed you perhaps yearned for but did not dare voice, while also keeping our allies in Hybern satisfied with our allegiance.”

Pretty, poisoned lies. But finding her true motive … I’d been waiting these weeks for this meeting. Had spent these weeks pretending to convalesce, pretending to heal from the horrors I’d survived at Rhysand’s hands.

“Why would I ever wish for my sisters to endure that?” My voice came out trembling, cold.

Ianthe lifted her head, scanning my unsure, if not a bit aloof, face. “So you could be with them forever. And if Lucien had discovered that Elain was his mate beforehand, it would have been … devastating to realize he’d only have a few decades.”

The sound of Elain’s name on her lips sent a snarl rumbling up my throat. But I leashed it, falling into that mask of pained quiet, the newest in my arsenal.

Lucien answered, “If you expect our gratitude, you’ll be waiting a while, Ianthe.”

Tamlin shot him a warning look—both at the words and the tone. Perhaps Lucien would kill Ianthe before I had the chance, just for the horror she’d put his mate through that day.

“No,” Ianthe breathed, eyes wide, the perfect picture of remorse and guilt. “No, I don’t expect gratitude in the least. Or forgiveness. But understanding … This is my home, too.” She lifted a slender hand clad in silver rings and bracelets to encompass the room, the manor. “We have all had to make alliances we didn’t believe we’d ever forge—perhaps unsavory ones, yes, but … Hybern’s force is too great to stop. It now can only be weathered like any other storm.” A glance toward Tamlin. “We have worked so hard to prepare ourselves for Hybern’s inevitable arrival—all these months. I made a grave mistake, and I will always regret any pain I caused, but let us continue this good work together. Let us find a way to ensure our lands and people survive.”

“At the cost of how many others?” Lucien demanded.

Again, that warning look from Tamlin. But Lucien ignored him.

“What I saw in Hybern,” Lucien said, gripping the arms of his chair hard enough that the carved wood groaned. “Any promises he made of peace and immunity …” He halted, as if remembering that Ianthe might very well feed this back to the king. He loosened his grip on the chair, his long fingers flexing before settling on the arms again. “We have to be careful.”

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