Chapter no 14

A Court of Silver Flames

Cassian stood in the training ring, trying not to stare at the empty doorway.

Nesta hadn’t come to breakfast. He’d let it slide because she hadn’t come to dinner, either, but that had been because she’d been passed out cold in her bed. Naked. Or close to it.

He hadn’t seen anything when he’d poked his head into her room—at least, nothing that might have scrambled his mind to the point of uselessness—but her bare shoulder had suggested enough. He’d debated waking her and insisting that she eat, but the House had stepped in.

A tray had appeared beside her doorway, full of empty plates.

As if the House was showing him precisely how much she’d eaten. As if the House was proud of what it had gotten her to eat.

“Good work,” he’d muttered into the air, and the tray vanished. He made a mental note to ask Rhys about it later—whether the House was sentient. He’d never heard his High Lord mention it in five centuries.

Considering the filthy things he’d done in his bedroom, his bathroom— fuck, in so many of the rooms here—the idea of the House watching him … Cauldron boil him alive.

So Cassian had let Nesta sleep through breakfast, hoping the House had at least brought the meal to her room. But it meant he had no idea if she’d show up. She’d made a bargain with him yesterday, and he’d come here today to see if she’d at least meet him. Prove yesterday hadn’t been a fluke.

Minutes dripped by.

Maybe he’d been a fool to hope. To think one lesson might be enough

Muffled cursing filled the stairwell beyond the archway. Each scrape of

boots seemed to move slowly.

He didn’t dare to breathe, not as her cursing grew nearer. Inch by inch.

As if it was taking her a long, long time to climb the stairs.

And then she was there, hand braced on the wall, a grimace of such misery on her face that Cassian laughed.

Nesta scowled, but he only said, relief wobbling his knees, “I should have realized.”

“Realized what?” She stopped five feet from him.

“That you’d be late because you’re so sore you can’t climb the stairs.” She pointed to the archway. “I got up here, didn’t I?”

“True.” He winked. “I’ll let that count as part of your warm-up. To get the muscles in your legs loose.”

“I need to sit down.”

“And risk not being able to get back up?” He grinned. “Not a chance.” He nodded to the space beside him. “Stretches.”

She grumbled. But she got into position.

And when Cassian began to instruct her through the movements, she listened.



Two hours later, sweat poured down Nesta’s body, but the aching had at least ceased. You need to get the lactic acid out of your muscles—that’s what’s hurting you, Cassian had said when she’d complained nonstop for the first thirty minutes. Whatever the hell that meant.

She lay on the black mat, panting again, taking in the cloudy sky. It was a good deal crisper than yesterday, with tendrils of mist wandering past the ring every now and then.

“When do I stop being sore?” she asked Cassian breathlessly. “Never.”

She turned her head toward him, about as much movement as she could manage. “Never?

“Well, it gets better,” he amended, and moved down to her feet. “May


She had no idea what he was asking, but she nodded.

Cassian lightly wrapped his hands around her ankle, his skin warm

against her foot, and lifted her leg upward. She hissed as a muscle along the back of her thigh shrieked in protest, drawing so tight she gritted her teeth. “Breathe into it when I push the leg toward you,” he ordered.

He waited until she exhaled before he lifted her leg higher. The tightness in her thigh was considerable enough that she stopped thinking about his callused, warm hands against her bare ankle, about how he knelt between her legs, so close she turned her head away to stare at the red rock of the wall.

“Again,” he told her, and she exhaled, winning another inch. “Again.

Cauldron, your hamstrings are tight enough to snap.”

Nesta obeyed, and he kept stretching her leg upward, gaining inch after inch.

“The soreness does get easier,” Cassian said after a moment, as if he weren’t holding her leg flush to his chest. “Though I have plenty of days when I can barely walk at the end. And after a battle? I need a week to recover from that alone.”

“I know.” His eyes found hers, and she clarified, “I mean—I saw you.

In the war.”

Saw him hauled in unconscious, his guts hanging out. Saw him in the sky, death racing at him until she screamed for him, saved him. Saw him on the ground, broken and bleeding, the King of Hybern about to kill them both—

Cassian’s face gentled. As if he knew what memories pelted her. “I’m a soldier, Nesta. It’s part of my duties. Part of who I am.”

She looked back toward the wall, and he lowered her leg before starting on the other. The tightness in that hamstring was unbearable.

“The more stretching you do,” he explained when she squeezed her eyes shut against the pain, “the more mobility you’ll gain.” He nodded

toward the rope ladder laid out on the floor of the training ring, where he’d had her run it up and down, knees to chest, keeping within each of the boxes, for five minutes straight. “You’re nimble on your feet.”

“I took dancing lessons as a girl.” “Really?”

“We weren’t always poor. Until I was fourteen, my father was as rich as a king. They called him the Prince of Merchants.”

He gave her a tentative smile. “And you were his princess?”

Ice cracked through her. “No. Elain was his princess. Even Feyre was more his princess than I ever was.”

“And what were you?”

“I was my mother’s creature.” She said it with such cold it nearly froze her tongue.

Cassian said carefully, “What was she like?” “A worse version of me.”

His brows twitched together. “I …”

She didn’t want to have this conversation. Even the sunlight failed to warm her. She pulled her leg from his hands and sat up, needing the distance between them.

And because it looked like he’d speak again, Nesta said the only thing she could think of. “What happened to the priestesses in Sangravah two years ago?”

He went wholly still.

It was terrifying. The stillness of a male ready to kill, to defend, to bloody himself. But his voice was terribly calm as he asked, “Why?”

“What happened?”

His mouth tightened, and he swallowed once before he said, “Hybern was looking for the Cauldron back then—for the pieces of its feet. One was hidden at the temple in Sangravah, its power used to fuel its priestesses’ gifts for millennia. Hybern found out, and sent a unit of their deadliest and cruelest warriors to retrieve it.” Cold rage filled his face. “They slaughtered most of the priestesses for sport. And raped any they found to their liking.”

Horror, icy and deep, sluiced through her. Gwyn had— “You met one of them,” he asked, “in the library?”

She nodded, unable to find the words.

He closed his eyes, as if reeling his rage back into himself. “I heard that Mor had brought one in. Azriel was the one who made it out there first, and he killed any of the Hybern soldiers left, but by that point …” He shuddered. “I don’t know what became of the other survivors. But I’m glad one wound up here. Safe, I mean. With people who understand, and wish to help.”

“So am I,” Nesta said quietly.

She rose on surprisingly loose legs and blinked down at them. “They don’t hurt as much.”

“Stretching,” Cassian said, as if that were answer enough. “Never forget the stretching.”



The Spring Court made Cassian itch. It had little to do with the bastard who ruled it, he’d realized, but rather the fact that the lands lay in perpetual spring. Which meant plumes of pollen drifting by, setting his nose to running and skin to itching, until he was certain that at least a dozen insects were slithering all over him.

“Stop scratching,” Rhys said without looking at him as they strode through a blooming apple orchard. No wings to be seen today.

Cassian lowered his hand from his chest. “I can’t help it if this place makes my skin crawl.”

Rhys snorted, gesturing to one of the blossoming trees above them, petals falling thick as snow. “The feared general, felled by seasonal allergies.”

Cassian gave an unnecessarily loud sniffle, earning a full chuckle from Rhys. Good. When he’d met his brother half an hour ago, Rhys’s eyes had been distant, his face solemn.

Rhys halted in the middle of the orchard, located to the north of Tamlin’s once-lovely estate.

The afternoon sun warmed Cassian’s head, and if his entire body weren’t itching so damned much, he might have lain on the velvety grass

and sunned his wings. “I’d peel my skin off right now, if it’d stop the itching.”

“There’s a sight I’d like to see,” a voice said behind them, and Cassian didn’t bother to look pleasant as they found Eris standing at the base of a tree five feet away. Amid the pink and white blossoms, the cold-faced Autumn Court heir looked truly faerie—as if he’d stepped out of the tree, and his one and only master was the earth itself.

“Eris,” Rhys purred, sliding his hands into his pockets. “A pleasure.”

Eris nodded at Rhys, red hair dappled in the sunlight leaking through the blossom-heavy branches. “I only have a few minutes.”

“You asked for this meeting,” Cassian said, crossing his arms. “So out with it.”

Eris shot him a look laced with distaste. “I’m sure you’ve reported my offer to Rhysand.”

“He did,” Rhys said, dark hair ruffled by a soft, sighing breeze. As if even the wind itself loved to touch him. “I didn’t appreciate the threats.”

Eris shrugged. “I merely wanted to make myself clear.”

“Spit it out, Eris,” Cassian said. One more minute here, and the itching would drive him mad.

He wished anyone else could have come in his stead. But he’d been appointed by Rhys to deal with the bastard. General to general. Eris had asked for the meeting this morning, naming this location as neutral ground. Thankfully, its lord had no interest in patrolling who entered these lands.

Eris kept his eyes on Rhys. “I assume your shadowsinger is off doing what he does best.”

Rhys said nothing, revealed nothing. Cassian followed his lead.

Eris went on with a shrug, “We are wasting our time, gathering information rather than acting.” His amber eyes gleamed in the shade of the apple tree. “Regardless of the death-lord pulling their strings, if the human queens intend to be a thorn in our sides, we could simply deal with them now. All of them. My father would be forced to abandon his plans. And I’m sure you could invent some reason that has nothing to do with me or what I’ve told you to excuse their … removal.”

Cassian blurted, “You want us to take out the queens?”

It was Eris’s turn to say nothing. Rhys, too, remained silent.

Cassian threw them an incredulous look. “We kill those queens and we’ll be in a greater mess than ever. Wars have been started for less. Killing even one queen, let alone four, would be a catastrophe. Everyone would know who’d done it, regardless of the reasons we’d invent to justify it.”

Rhys angled his head. “Only if we’re sloppy.” “You’re kidding,” Cassian said to his brother.

“Half-kidding,” Rhys said, throwing him a dry smile. It didn’t quite meet his eyes, though. A grave distance lurked there. But Rhys turned to Eris. “Tempting as it may be to take the easy way out, I agree with my brother. It’s a simple solution to our current problems, and to thwarting your father, but it would create a conflict far greater than any we’re anticipating.” Rhys surveyed Eris. “You know that already.”

Eris still said nothing.

Cassian glanced between them, watching Rhys piece it together.

Rhys asked solemnly, “Why does your father want to start a war so badly?”

“Why does anyone go to war?” Eris reached out a long, slender hand, letting the falling petals gather there. “Why does Vallahan not sign the treaty? The borders of this new world have not yet been set.”

“Beron doesn’t have the military strength to control the Autumn Court and a territory on the continent,” Cassian countered.

Eris’s fingers closed around the petals. “Who says he wants land on the continent?” He surveyed the orchard—as if to make a point.

Silence fell.

Rhys murmured, “Beron knows another war that pits Fae against Fae would be catastrophic. Many of us would be wiped out entirely. Especially

…” Rhys tilted his head back to take in the apple blossoms. “Especially those of us who are weakened. And when the dust settles, there would be at least one court left vacant, its lands bare for the taking.”

Eris looked toward the hills beyond the orchard, green and gold and glowing in the sunlight. “They say a beast prowls these lands now. A beast with keen green eyes and golden fur. Some people think the beast has

forgotten his other shape, so long has he spent in his monstrous form. And though he roams these lands, he does not see or care for the neglect he passes, the lawlessness, the vulnerability. Even his manor has fallen into disrepair, half-eaten by thorns, though rumors fly that he himself destroyed it.”

“Enough with the double-talk,” Cassian said. “Tamlin’s staying in his beast form and is finally getting the punishment he deserves. So what?”

Eris and Rhys held each other’s gaze. Eris said, “You’ve been trying to bring Tamlin back for a while. But he isn’t getting better, is he?”

Rhys’s jaw tightened, his only sign of displeasure.

Eris nodded knowingly. “I can delay my father from allying with Briallyn and starting this war for a little while. But not forever. A few months, perhaps. So I’d suggest your shadowsinger hurry. Find a way to deal with Briallyn, find out what she wants and why. Discover whether Koschei is indeed involved. At best, we’ll stop them all. At worst, we’ll have proof to justify any conflict and hopefully win allies to our side, avoiding the bloodshed that would carve up these lands once more. My father would think twice before standing against an army of superior strength and size.”

“You’ve turned into quite the little traitor,” Rhys said, stars winking out in his eyes.

“I told you years ago what I wanted, High Lord,” Eris said. To seize his father’s throne. “Why?” Cassian asked.

Eris grasped what he meant, apparently, because flame sizzled in his eyes. “For the same reason I left Morrigan untouched at the border.”

“You left her there to suffer and die,” Cassian spat. His Siphons flickered, and all he could see was the male’s pretty face, all he could feel was his own fist, aching to make contact.

Eris sneered. “Did I? Perhaps you should ask Morrigan whether that is true. I think she finally knows the answer.” Cassian’s head spun, and the relentless itching resumed, like fingers trailing along his spine, his legs, his scalp. Eris added before winnowing away, “Tell me when the shadowsinger returns.”

Petals streamed past, thick as a mountain blizzard, and Cassian turned to Rhys.

But Rhys’s gaze had gone distant—once again distracted. He stared toward the faraway hills, as if he could see the beast that roamed there.

Cassian had witnessed Rhys going deep into his own head often enough. Knew his brother was prone to withdrawing while appearing perfectly fine. But this level of distraction …

“What’s the matter with you?” Cassian scratched his scalp. This fucking place.

Rhys blinked, as if he’d forgotten Cassian stood beside him. “Nothing.” He flicked a petal off the gauntlet of his leathers. “Nothing.”

“Liar.” Cassian tucked in his wings.

But Rhys wasn’t listening again. He didn’t say a word before he winnowed them home.



Nesta stared into the reddish gloom of the staircase.

She’d been just as sore as yesterday while working in the library, but thankfully Merrill hadn’t come to rip into her about the swapped book. She spoke to no one but Clotho, who had given her only perfunctory greetings. So Nesta had shelved in the dimness, surrounded by whispers of rustling paper, only pausing to wipe the dust from her hands. Priestesses drifted by like ghosts, but Nesta had no glimpse of coppery-brown hair and large teal eyes.

She honestly didn’t know why she wished to see Gwyn. What Cassian had told her about the attack on the temple wasn’t the sort of thing she had any right to bring up.

But Gwyn didn’t seek her out, and Nesta didn’t dare go up to the second level to knock on Merrill’s door to see if Gwyn was there.

So it was silence and soreness, and the roaring in her head. Maybe it was the roaring that had brought her to the stairwell, instead of to her bedroom to wash up. The gloom beckoned, challenging her like the open maw of some great beast. A wyrm, poised to devour her whole.

Her legs moved of their own accord, and her foot landed upon the first step.

Down and down, around and around. Nesta ignored the step with the five holes embedded in it. Made a point not to look down as she carefully stepped over it.

Silence and roaring and nothing nothing nothing—

Nesta made it to step one hundred fifty before her legs nearly gave out again. Sparing herself another tumble, she panted on the steps, leaning her head against the stone.

In that roaring silence, she waited for the stairs to stop twisting around her. And when the world was again still, she made the long, horrible climb back up.

The House had dinner waiting on her desk, along with a book. Apparently, it had noted her request for a book the other day and deemed The Great War too dull. The title of this one was suitably smutty. “I didn’t know you had dirty taste,” Nesta said wryly.

The House only responded by running a bath.

“Dinner, bath, and a book,” Nesta said aloud, shaking her head in something close to awe. “It’s perfect. Thank you.”

The House said nothing, but when she stepped into her bathroom, she found that it wasn’t an ordinary bath. The House had added an assortment of oils that smelled of rosemary and lavender. She breathed in the heady, beautiful scent, and sighed.

“I think you might be my only friend,” Nesta said, then groaned her way into the tub’s welcoming warmth.

The House was apparently so pleased by her words that as soon as she lay back, a tray appeared across the width of the tub. Laden with a massive piece of chocolate cake.

You'll Also Like