Standing beneath the latticework of snow-heavy trees, I took in the slumbering forest and wondered if the birds had gone quiet because of my presence. Or that of the High Lord beside me.
“Freezing my ass off first thing in the morning isn’t how I intended to spend our day off,” Rhysand said, frowning at the wood. “I should take you to the Illyrian Steppes when we return—the forest there is far more interesting. And warmer.”
“I have no idea where those are.” Snow crunched under the boots Rhys had summoned when I declared I wanted to train with him. And not physically, but—with the powers I had. Whatever they were. “You showed me a blank map that one time, remember?”
“Am I ever going to see a proper one, or will I be left to guess about where everything is?”
“You’re in a lovely mood today,” Rhys said, and lifted a hand in the air between us. A folded map appeared, which he took his sweet time opening. “Lest you think I don’t trust you, Feyre darling … ” He pointed to just south of the Northern Isles. “These are the Steppes. Four days that way on foot,” he dragged a finger upward and into the mountains along the isles, “will take you into Illyrian territory.”
I took in the map, noted the peninsula jutting out about halfway up the western coast of the Night Court and the name marked there. Velaris. He’d once shown me a blank one—when I had belonged to Tamlin and been little more than a spy and prisoner. Because he’d known I’d tell Tamlin about the cities, their locations.
That Ianthe might learn about it, too.
I pushed back against that weight in my chest, my gut.
“Here,” Rhys said, pocketing the map and gesturing to the forest around us. “We’ll train here. We’re far enough now.”
Far enough from the house, from anyone else, to avoid detection. Or casualties.
Rhys held out a hand, and a thick, stumpy candle appeared in his palm. He set it on the snowy ground. “Light it, douse it with water, and dry the wick.”
I knew he meant without my hands.
“I can’t do a single one of those things,” I said. “What about physical shielding?” At least I’d been able to do some of that.
“That’s for another time. Today, I suggest you start trying some other
facet of your power. What about shape-shifting?”
I glared at him. “Fire, water, and air it is.” Bastard—insufferable bastard.
He didn’t push the matter, thankfully—didn’t ask why shape-shifting might be the one power I’d never bother to pull apart and master. Perhaps for the same reason I didn’t particularly want to ask about one key piece of his history, didn’t want to know if Azriel and Cassian had helped when the Spring Court’s ruling family had been killed.
I looked Rhys over from head to toe: the Illyrian warrior garb, the sword over his shoulder, the wings, and that general sense of overwhelming power that always radiated from him. “Maybe you should
“Why? You seemed so insistent that I train you.”
“I can’t concentrate with you around,” I admitted. “And go … far. I can feel you from a room away.”
A suggestive curve shaped his lips.
I rolled my eyes. “Why don’t you just hide in one of those pocket-realms for a bit?”
“It doesn’t work like that. There’s no air there.” I gave him a look to say he should definitely do it then, and he laughed. “Fine. Practice all you want in privacy.” He jerked his chin at my tattoo. “Give a shout down the bond if you get anything accomplished before breakfast.”
I frowned at the eye in my palm. “What—literally shout at the tattoo?” “You could try rubbing it on certain body parts and I might come
He vanished into nothing before I could hurl the candle at him.
Alone in the frost-gilded forest, I replayed his words and a quiet chuckle rasped out of me.
I wondered if I should have tested out the bow and arrows I’d been given before asking him to leave. I hadn’t yet tried out the Illyrian bow— hadn’t shot anything in months, actually.
I stared at the candle. Nothing happened. An hour passed.
I thought of everything that enraged me, sickened me; thought of Ianthe and her entitlement, her demands. Not even a wisp of smoke emerged.
When my eyes were on the verge of bleeding, I took a break to scrounge through the pack I’d brought. I found fresh bread, a magically warmed canister of stew, and a note from Rhysand that said:
I’m bored. Any sparks yet?
Not surprisingly, a pen clattered in the bottom of the bag.
I grabbed the pen and scribbled my response atop the canister before watching the letter vanish right out of my palm: No, you snoop. Don’t you have important things to do?
The letter flitted back a moment later.
I’m watching Cassian and Nesta get into it again over their tea. Something you subjected me to when you kicked me off training. I thought this was our day off.
I snorted and wrote back, Poor baby High Lord. Life is so hard.
Paper vanished, then reappeared, his scribble now near the top of the paper, the only bit of clear space left. Life is better when you’re around. And look at how lovely your handwriting is.
I could almost feel him waiting on the other side, in the sunny breakfast room, half paying attention to my eldest sister and the Illyrian warrior’s sparring. A faint smile curved my lips. You’re a shameless flirt, I wrote back.
The page vanished. I watched my open palm, waiting for it to return.
And I was so focused on it that I didn’t notice anyone was behind me until the hand covered my mouth and yanked me clean off my feet.
I thrashed, biting and clawing, shrieking as whoever it was hauled me up.
I tried to shove away, snow churning around us like dust on a road, but the arms that gripped me were immovable, like bands of iron and—
A rasping voice sounded in my ear, “Stop, or I snap your neck.” I knew that voice. It prowled through my nightmares.