Home > A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4)(9)

A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4)(9)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

There was no insulting her way out of it. “I won’t be your prisoner—”

“No. You can go wherever you wish. As Amren said, you are free to leave the House. If you can manage those ten thousand steps.” Feyre’s eyes blazed. “But I’m done paying for you to destroy yourself.”

Destroy herself. The silence hummed in Nesta’s ears, rippled across her flames, suffocating them, stilling the unbearable wrath. Utter, frozen silence.

She’d learned to live with the silence that had started the moment her father had died, the silence that had begun crushing her when she’d gone to his study at their half-wrecked manor days later and found one of his pathetic little wood carvings. She’d wanted to scream and scream, but there had been so many people around. She’d held herself together until the meeting with all those war heroes had ended. Then she’d let herself fall. Straight into this silent pit.

“The others are waiting,” Feyre said. “Elain should be done by now.”

“I want to talk to her.”

“She’ll come visit when she’s ready.”

Nesta held her sister’s stare.

Feyre’s eyes gleamed. “You think I don’t know why you’ve pushed even Elain away?”

Nesta didn’t want to talk about it. About the fact that it had always been her and Elain. And, somehow, now it had become Feyre and Elain instead. Elain had chosen Feyre and these people, and left her behind. Amren had done the same. She’d made it clear on the barge.

Nesta didn’t care that during the war with Hybern, her own tentative bond had formed with Feyre, forged over common goals: protect Elain, save the human lands. They were excuses, Nesta had realized, to paper over what now boiled and raged in her heart.

Nesta didn’t bother replying, and Feyre didn’t speak again as she departed.

There was nothing to bind them together anymore.

 

 

CHAPTER

3

Cassian watched Rhysand carefully stir his tea.

He’d seen Rhys slice up their enemies with the same cold precision that he was now using with that spoon.

They sat in the High Lord’s study, illuminated by the light of green glass lamps and a heavy iron chandelier. The two-level atrium occupied the northern end of the business wing, as Feyre called it.

There was the main floor of the study—bedecked in the hand-knotted blue carpets that Feyre had gone to Cesere to select from its artisans—with its two sitting areas, Rhys’s desk, and twin long tables near the bookshelves. At the far end of the room, a little dais led into a broad raised alcove flanked by more books—and in its center, a massive, working model of their world, the stars and planets around it, and some other fancy things that had been explained to Cassian once before he deemed them boring and proceeded to ignore them completely.

Az, of course, had been fascinated. Rhys had built the model himself centuries ago. It could not only track the sun, but also tell time, and it somehow allowed Rhys to ponder the existence of life beyond their own world and other things Cassian had, again, instantly forgotten.

On the mezzanine, accessible by an ornate wrought-iron spiral staircase just to the left when one walked in, were more books—thousands in this space alone—a few glass cabinets full of delicate objects that Cassian stayed away from (for fear of breaking them with his “bear paws,” as Mor described his hands), and several of Feyre’s paintings.

There were plenty of those on the bottom level, too, some in shadow and meant to stay that way, some revealed by the streaming light reflecting off the river at the foot of the sloping lawn. Cassian’s High Lady had a way of capturing the world that always made him pause. Her paintings sometimes unsettled him. The truths she portrayed weren’t always pleasant ones.

He’d gone to her studio a few times to watch her paint. Surprisingly, she had let him.

The first time he’d visited, he’d found Feyre tense at her easel. She was painting what he realized was an emaciated rib cage, so thin he could count most of the bones.

When he spotted a familiar birthmark on the too-thin left arm beside it, he eyed the same mark amid the tattoo on her own extended arm, brush in hand. He merely nodded to her, an acknowledgment that he understood.

He had never been as thin as Feyre during his own years of poverty, but he understood the hunger in each brushstroke. The desperation. The hollow, empty feeling that felt like those grays and blues and pale, sickly white. The despair of the black pit behind that torso and arm. Death, hovering close like a crow awaiting carrion.

He’d thought about that painting a great deal in the days afterward—how it had made him feel, how close they’d all come to losing their High Lady before they’d ever met her.

Rhys finished stirring his tea and set down his spoon with terrible gentleness.

Cassian raised his eyes to the portrait behind his High Lord’s mammoth desk. The golden faelight orbs in the room were positioned to make it seem alive, glowing.

Feyre’s face—a self-portrait—seemed to laugh at him. At the mate whose back was to her. So she could watch over him, Rhys said.

Cassian prayed that the gods were watching over him as Rhys sipped from his tea and said, “You’re ready?”

He leaned back in his seat. “I’ve gotten young warriors in line before.”

Rhys’s violet eyes glowed. “Nesta’s not some young buck pushing the boundaries.”

“I can handle her.”

Rhys stared at his tea.

Cassian recognized that face. That serious, unnervingly calm face.

“You did good work getting the Illyrians back in order this spring, you know.”

He braced himself. He’d been anticipating this talk since he’d spent four months with the Illyrians, soothing the jagged edges amongst the war-bands, making sure the families who’d lost fathers and sons and brothers and husbands were taken care of, that they knew he was there to help and to listen, and generally making it very fucking clear that if they rose up against Rhys, there would be hell to pay.

The Blood Rite last spring had taken care of the worst of them, including the troublemaker Kallon, whose arrogance hadn’t been enough to compensate for his shoddy training when he’d been slain just miles from the slopes of Ramiel. That Cassian had heaved a sigh of relief at the news of the young male’s demise had lingered with him, but the Illyrians had stopped their grumbling soon after. And Cassian had spent the time since then rebuilding their ranks, overseeing the training of promising new warriors and making sure the seasoned ones were still in good enough shape to fight again. Replenishing their depleted numbers had at least given the Illyrians something to focus on—and Cassian knew there was little he could add anymore beyond the occasional inspection and council meeting.

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