Home > A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(9)

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)(9)
Author: Sarah J. Maas


No wonder she’d backed off him. She’d gotten what she wanted.

“Please don’t tell Elain,” he said. “When we—when we find her again,” he amended.

He might have completed the Great Rite with Ianthe of his own free will, but he certainly hadn’t enjoyed it. Some line had been blurred—badly.

And my heart shifted a bit in my chest as I said to him with no guile whatsoever, “I won’t tell anyone unless you say so.” The weight of that jeweled knife and belt seemed to grow. “I wish I had been there to stop it. I should have been there to stop it.” I meant every word.

Lucien squeezed our linked arms as we rounded a hedge, the house rising up before us. “You are a better friend to me, Feyre,” he said quietly, “than I ever was to you.”

 

Alis frowned at the two dresses hanging from the armoire door, her long brown fingers smoothing over the chiffon and silk.

“I don’t know if the waist can be taken out,” she said without peering back at where I sat on the edge of the bed. “We took so much of it in that there’s not much fabric left to play with … You might very well need to order new ones.”

She faced me then, running an eye over my robed body.

I knew what she saw—what lies and poisoned smiles couldn’t hide: I had become wraith-thin while living here after Amarantha. Yet for all Rhys had done to harm me, I’d gained back the weight I’d lost, put on muscle, and discarded the sickly pallor in favor of sun-kissed skin.

For a woman who had been tortured and tormented for months, I looked remarkably well.

Our eyes held across the room, the silence hewn only by the humming of the few remaining servants in the hallway, busy with preparations for the solstice tomorrow morning.

I’d spent the past two days playing the pretty pet, allowed into meetings with the Hybern royals mostly because I remained quiet. They were as cautious as we were, hedging Tamlin and Lucien’s questions about the movements of their armies, their foreign allies—and other allies within Prythian. The meetings went nowhere, as all they wanted to know was information about our own forces.

And about the Night Court.

I fed Dagdan and Brannagh details both true and false, mixing them together seamlessly. I laid out the Illyrian host amongst the mountains and steppes, but selected the strongest clan as their weakest; I mentioned the efficiency of those blue stones from Hybern against Cassian’s and Azriel’s power but failed to mention how easily they’d worked around them. Any questions I couldn’t evade, I feigned memory loss or trauma too great to bear recalling.

But for all my lying and maneuvering, the royals were too guarded to reveal much of their own information. And for all my careful expressions, Alis seemed the only one who noted the tiny tells that even I couldn’t control.

“Do you think there are any gowns that will fit for solstice?” I said casually as her silence continued. “The pink and green ones fit, but I’ve worn them thrice already.”

“You never cared for such things,” Alis said, clicking her tongue.

“Am I not allowed to change my mind?”

Those dark eyes narrowed slightly. But Alis yanked open the armoire doors, the dresses swaying with it, and riffled through its dark interior. “You could wear this.” She held up an outfit.

A set of turquoise Night Court clothes, cut so similarly to Amren’s preferred fashion, dangled from her spindly fingers. My heart lurched.

“That—why—” Words stumbled out of me, bulky and slippery, and I silenced myself with a sharp yank on my inner leash. I straightened. “I have never known you to be cruel, Alis.”

A snort. She chucked the clothes back into the armoire. “Tamlin shredded the two other sets—missed this one because it was in the wrong drawer.”

I wove a mental thread into the hallway to ensure no one was listening. “He was upset. I wish he’d destroyed that pair, too.”

“I was there that day, you know,” Alis said, folding her spindly arms across her chest. “I saw the Morrigan arrive. Saw her reach into that cocoon of power and pick you up like a child. I begged her to take you out.”

My swallow wasn’t feigned.

“I never told him that. Never told any of them. I let them think you’d been abducted. But you clung to her, and she was willing to slaughter all of us for what had happened.”

“I don’t know why you’d assume that.” I tugged the edges of my silk robe tighter around me.

“Servants talk. And Under the Mountain, I never heard of or saw Rhysand laying a hand on a servant. Guards, Amarantha’s cronies, the people he was ordered to kill, yes. But never the meek. Never those unable to defend themselves.”

“He’s a monster.”

“They say you came back different. Came back wrong.” A crow’s laugh. “I never bother to tell them I think you came back right. Came back right at last.”

A precipice yawned open before me. Lines—there were lines here, and my survival and that of Prythian depended upon navigating them. I rose from the bed, hands shaking slightly.

But then Alis said, “My cousin works in the palace at Adriata.”

Summer Court. Alis had originally been from the Summer Court, and had fled here with her two nephews after her sister had been brutally murdered during Amarantha’s reign.

“Servants in that palace are not meant to be seen or heard, but they see and hear plenty when no one believes they’re present.”

She was my friend. She had helped me at great risk Under the Mountain. Had stood by me in the months after. But if she jeopardized everything—

“She said you visited. And that you were healthy, and laughing, and happy.”

“It was a lie. He made me act that way.” The wobble in my voice didn’t take much to summon.

A knowing, crooked smile. “If you say so.”

“I do say so.”

Alis pulled out a dress of creamy white. “You never got to wear this one. I had it ordered for after your wedding day.”

It wasn’t exactly bride-like, but rather pure. Clean. The kind of gown I’d have resented when I returned from Under the Mountain, desperate to avoid any comparison to my ruined soul. But now … I held Alis’s stare, and wondered which of my plans she’d deciphered.

Alis whispered, “I will only say this once. Whatever you plan to do, I beg you leave my boys out of it. Take whatever retribution you desire, but please spare them.”

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