Chapter no 11

A Court of Silver Flames

The private library’s doors were locked. Nesta jangled the handle, but it refused to open.

She said quietly, “Open this door.” The House ignored her.

She tried the handle again, shoving a shoulder into the door. “Open this door.”


She continued slamming her shoulder into the door. “Open this door right now.

The House declined to obey.

She gritted her teeth, panting. She’d had more books than yesterday to shelve, as the priestesses had apparently heard from Gwyn that Nesta was to be their errand girl.

So they began dumping their tomes on her cart—and a few asked her to retrieve books as well. Nesta had heeded them, if only because finding the requested books took her to new places in the library and occupied her thoughts, but by the time the clock had struck six, she was exhausted and dusty and hungry. She’d ignored the sandwich the House had laid out for her in the afternoon, and this had apparently pissed off the House enough that it now refused to allow her entry into the private library.

“All I want,” Nesta ground out, “is a nice, hot meal and a good book.” She tried the handle again. “Please.”

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Fine.” She stormed down the hall. Hunger alone carried her up to the dining room, where she found Cassian mid-meal, Azriel across from him.

The shadowsinger’s face was solemn, his eyes wary. Cassian, his back to her, only stiffened, no doubt alerted either by her scent or the cadence of her steps.

She didn’t speak as she aimed for a chair halfway down the table. A place setting and spread of food appeared as she reached her seat. She had a feeling that if she took the plate and left, it’d vanish from her hands before she reached the door.

Nesta maintained her silence as she slid into her chair, picked up her fork, and dug into the fillet of beef and roasted asparagus.

Cassian cleared his throat and said to Azriel, “How long will you be gone?”

“I’m not sure.” The shadowsinger’s eyes bore into her before he added, “Vassa was right to suspect something deadly amiss. Things are dangerous enough over there that it would be wiser for me to keep my base here at the House and winnow back and forth.”

Curiosity bit deep, but Nesta said nothing. Vassa—she hadn’t seen the enchanted human queen since the war had ended. Since the young woman had tried to speak to her about how wonderful Nesta’s father had been, how he had been a true father to her, helped her and won her this temporary freedom, and on and on until Nesta’s bones were screaming to get away, her blood boiling to think that her father had found his courage for someone other than her and her sisters. That he’d been the father she had needed— but for someone else. He had let their mother die in his refusal to send his merchant fleet hunting for a cure for her, had fallen into poverty and let them starve, but had decided to fight for this stranger? This nobody queen peddling a sad tale of betrayal and loss?

That thing deep in Nesta stirred, but she ignored it, pushed it down as best she could without the distraction of music or sex or wine. She took a

sip of her water, letting it cool her throat, her belly, and supposed that would have to be enough.

“What’d Rhys say about it?” Cassian asked around a mouthful of food. “Who do you think insisted I not risk a base over there?”

“Protective bastard.” A note of affection rang in Cassian’s words, though.

Silence fell again. Azriel nodded at her. “What happened to you?”

She knew what he meant: the black eye that was finally fading. Her hands and chin had healed, along with the bruising on her body, but the black eye had turned greenish. By tomorrow morning, it’d be gone entirely. “Nothing,” she said without looking at Cassian.

“She fell down the stairs,” Cassian said, not looking at her, either.

Azriel’s silence was pointed before he asked, “Did someone … push you?”

“Asshole,” Cassian growled.

Nesta lifted her eyes from her plate enough to note the amusement in Azriel’s gaze, even though no smile graced his sensuous mouth.

Cassian went on, “I told her earlier today: if she’d bother to train, she’d at least have bragging rights for the bruises.”

Azriel took a calm sip of his water. “Why aren’t you training, Nesta?” “I don’t want to.”

“Why not?”

Cassian muttered, “Don’t waste your breath, Az.”

She glared at him. “I’m not training in that miserable village.”

Cassian glared right back. “You’ve been given an order. You know the consequences. If you don’t get off that fucking rock by the end of this week, what happens next is out of my hands.”

“So you’ll tattle to your precious High Lord?” she crooned. “Big, tough warrior needs oh-so-powerful Rhysand to fight his battles?”

“Don’t you fucking talk about Rhys with that tone,” Cassian snarled.

“Rhys is an asshole,” Nesta snapped. “He is an arrogant, preening


Azriel sat back in his seat, eyes simmering with anger, but said nothing.

“That’s bullshit,” Cassian spat, the Siphons on the backs of his hands burning like ruby flames. “You know that is bullshit, Nesta.”

“I hate him,” she seethed.

“Good. He hates you, too,” Cassian shot back. “Everyone fucking hates you. Is that what you want? Because congratulations, it’s happened.”

Azriel let out a long, long breath.

Cassian’s words pelted her, one after another. Hit her somewhere low and soft, and hit hard. Her fingers curled into claws, scraping along the table as she flung back at him, “And I suppose now you’ll tell me that you are the only person who doesn’t hate me, and I’m supposed to feel something like gratitude, and agree to train with you.”

“Now I tell you I’m done.”

The words rumbled between them. Nesta blinked, the only sign of surprise she’d allow.

Azriel tensed, as if surprised as well.

But she sliced into Cassian before he could go on. “Does that mean you’re done panting after me as well? Because what a relief that will be, to know you’ve finally taken the hint.”

Cassian’s muscled chest heaved, his throat working. “You want to rip yourself apart, go right ahead. Implode all you like.” He stood, meal half-finished. “The training was supposed to help you. Not punish you. I don’t know why you don’t fucking get that.”

“I told you: I’m not training in that miserable village.”

“Fine.” Cassian stalked out, his pounding steps fading down the hall. Alone with Azriel, Nesta bared her teeth at him.

Azriel watched her with that cool quiet, keeping utterly still. Like he saw everything in her head. Her bruised heart.

She couldn’t bear it. So she stood, only two bites taken from her food, and left the room as well.

She returned to the library. The lights blazed as brightly as they had during the day, and a few lingering priestesses wandered the levels. She found her cart, filled again with books needing to be shelved.

No one spoke to her, and she spoke to no one as she began to work, with only the roaring silence in her head for company.



Amren had been wrong. Keep reaching out your hand was utter bullshit when the person it was extended to could bite hard enough to rip off fingers.

Cassian sat on the flat top of the mountain in which the House of Wind had been built, peering down into the open-air training ring beneath him. The stars glinted overhead, and a brisk autumn breeze that whispered of changing leaves and crisp nights flowed past him. Below, Velaris was a golden sparkle, accented along the Sidra with a rainbow of color.

He had never failed at anything. Not like this.

And he’d been so stupidly desperate, so stupidly hopeful, that he hadn’t believed she’d truly refuse. Until today, when he’d seen her on that rock and known she’d wanted to get up, but watched her shut down the instinct. Watched her clamp that steel will over herself.

“You’re not the brooding type.”

Cassian started, whipping his head to find Feyre sitting beside him. She dangled her feet into the emptiness, her golden-brown hair ruffled by the wind as she peered into the training pit. “Did you fly in?”

“Winnowed. Rhys said you were ‘thinking loudly.’ ” Feyre’s mouth quirked to the side. “I figured I’d see what was happening.”

A fine skin of power remained wrapped around his High Lady, invisible to the naked eye but glittering with strength. Cassian nodded toward her. “Why’s Rhysie still got that ironclad shield on you?” It was mighty enough to guard all of Velaris.

“Because he’s a pain in the ass,” Feyre said, but smiled softly. “He’s still learning how it works, and I still haven’t figured out how to break free of it. But with the queens a renewed threat, and Beron in the mix, especially if Koschei is their puppet master, Rhys is perfectly happy to leave it on.

“Everything with those queens is a fucking headache,” Cassian grumbled. “Hopefully, Az will figure out what they’re really up to. Or at least what Briallyn and Koschei are up to.”

Rhys was still contemplating what to do about Eris’s demands. Cassian supposed he’d get his orders on that front soon. And would then have to

deal with the asshole. General to general.

“Part of me dreads what Azriel will find,” Feyre said, leaning back on her hands. “Mor’s heading off to Vallahan again tomorrow. I worry about that, too. That she’ll come back with worse news about their intentions.”

“We’ll deal with it.”

“Spoken like a true general.”

Cassian knocked Feyre’s shoulder with his wing, a casual, affectionate gesture. One he never dared make with the females of any Illyrian community. Illyrians were psychotic on a good day about who touched their wings and how, and wing-touching outside of the bedroom, training, or mortal combat was an enormous taboo. But Rhys never cared, and Cassian had needed the contact. Always needed physical contact, he’d learned. Probably thanks to a childhood spent with precious little of it.

Feyre seemed to understand his need for a reassuring touch, because she said, “How bad is it?”

“Bad.” It was all he could bring himself to admit. “But she’s going to the library?”

“She went back to the library tonight. She’s still down there for all I know.”

Feyre gave a hmm of contemplation, gazing at the city. His High Lady looked so young—he always forgot how young she truly was, considering what she’d already faced and achieved in her life. At twenty-one, he’d still been drinking and brawling and fucking, unconcerned with anything and anybody except his ambition to be the most skilled of Illyrian warriors since Enalius himself. At twenty-one, Feyre had saved their world, mated, and found true happiness.

Feyre asked, “Did Nesta say why she won’t train?” “Because she hates me.”

Feyre snorted. “Cassian, Nesta does not hate you. Believe me.” “She sure as shit acts like it.”

Feyre shook her head. “No, she doesn’t.” Her words were pained enough that he frowned.

“She doesn’t hate you, either,” he said quietly.

Feyre shrugged. The gesture made his chest ache. “For a while, I thought she didn’t. But now I don’t know.”

“I don’t understand why you two can’t just …” He struggled for the right word.

“Get along? Be civil? Smile at each other?” Feyre’s laugh was hollow. “It’s always been that way.”


“I have no idea. I mean, it was always that way with us, and our mother. She only had an interest in Nesta. She ignored me, and saw Elain as barely more than a doll to dress up, but Nesta was hers. Our mother made sure we knew it. Or she just cared so little what we thought or did that she didn’t bother to hide it from us.” Resentment and long-held pain laced every word. That a mother would do such a thing to her children … “But when we fell into poverty, when I started hunting, it got worse. Our mother was gone, and our father wasn’t exactly present. He wasn’t fully there. So it was me and Nesta, always at each other’s throats.” Feyre rubbed her face. “I’m too exhausted to go over every detail. It’s all just a tangled mess.”

Cassian refrained from observing that both sisters seemed to need each other—that Nesta perhaps needed Feyre more than she realized. And from mentioning that this mess between the two females hurt him more than he could express.

Feyre sighed. “That’s my long way of saying that if Nesta hated you … I know what it looks like, and she doesn’t hate you.”

“She might after what I said to her tonight.”

“Azriel filled me in.” Feyre rubbed her face again. “I don’t know what to do. How to help her.”

“Three days in and I’m already at my wits’ end,” he said.

They sat in silence, the wind drifting past them. Mist gathered on the Sidra far below, and white plumes of smoke from countless chimneys rose to meet it.

Feyre asked, “So what do we do?”

He didn’t know. “Maybe the library work will be enough to pull her out of this.” But even as he spoke the words, they rang false.

Feyre apparently agreed. “No, in the library she can hide in the silence and amongst the shelves. The library was meant to balance what the training does.”

He rolled his shoulders. “Well, she said she’s not training in that

miserable village, so we’re at an impasse.” Feyre sighed again. “Seems like it.”

But Cassian paused. Blinked once, and peered down at the training ring before him.


He snorted, shaking his head. “I should have known.”

A tentative smile bloomed on Feyre’s mouth, and Cassian leaned in to kiss her cheek. He only got within an inch of her face before his lips met night-kissed steel.

Right—the shield. “That level of protection is insane.” She smoothed her thick cream sweater. “So is Rhys.”

Cassian sniffed, trying and failing to detect her scent. “He’s got your scent shielded, too?”

Feyre grinned. “It’s all part of the same shield. Helion wasn’t joking about it being impenetrable.”

And despite everything, Cassian grinned back. Memory washed over him from when he’d met her in the dining room several levels below, this girl who would become his High Lady. She’d been so horribly thin then, so dead-eyed and withdrawn that it had taken all his self-control not to fly to the Spring Court and rip Tamlin limb from limb.

Cassian shook the thought away, focusing instead on the revelation before him.

One last time. He’d try one last time.

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