Chapter no 18

A Court of Silver Flames

There was only the red stone of the stairwell, and her jagged breathing, and the knives that had turned inward and sliced and sliced, the walls pushing in, her legs burning with each step downward.

She didn’t want to be in her head, didn’t want to be in her body. Wanted the beating of drums and the riotous song of a fiddle to fill her with sound, to silence any thought. Wanted to find a bottle of wine and drink deep, let the wine pull her out of herself, set her mind drifting and numb.

Down and down and down.

Around and around and around.

Nesta passed the step with her burning handprint. Passed step two hundred fifty. Three hundred. Five hundred. Eight hundred.

It was on step eight hundred and three that her legs began to wobble. The roaring in her head dulled as she focused upon keeping upright. By step one thousand, she had stopped entirely.

There was only the spinning silence.

Nesta closed her eyes and leaned her brow into the cool stone to her right, bringing up an arm to rest against it, as if she were clinging tight to a lover. She could have sworn a heartbeat thumped within the stone, as surely as if it beat within a chest beneath her ear.

It was her own pounding blood, she told herself. Even as she clung to the wall, that heartbeat.

She let her breathing saw in and out of her. Let the trembling of her body ease.

The heartbeat in the stone faded. The wall turned icy beneath her flushed cheek. Rough against her fingertips.

She began the walk upward. One step after another after another.

Thighs straining, knees groaning, chest on fire.

Her head had emptied by the time she half-crawled up the last twenty steps. She’d had to stop five times to rest. Five times, only for as long as it took to catch her breath and steady herself—just until the roaring threatened to press in again.

She was wrung out, utterly empty, by the time she arrived back at the landing. Cassian leaned against the opposite wall, his face grave.

“I don’t feel like sparring with you,” she said flatly, too drained to be angry. She knew she could call in their bargain to order him to fly her down to the city, but she didn’t possess the energy to even bother. “Good night.”

He moved into her path, wings blocking her. “What step did you reach this time?”

As if it mattered. “One thousand.” Her legs throbbed and throbbed. “Impressive.”

Nesta lifted her stare to his face, and found him earnest. She didn’t bother to hide the weariness weighing on every part of her.

She made to walk past him, but he didn’t lower his wings. Short of punching her way through, she wasn’t getting by. “What?”

“What set you off today?”

“Everything.” She didn’t want to say more. “What did Elain say to you?”

She couldn’t revisit that conversation, couldn’t talk about her father or his death or any of it. So she shut her heavy eyes. “Why don’t they sign up for training?”

He knew who she meant. “Maybe they’re not ready.” “I thought they’d sign up.”

“Is that what you’re upset about?” His question was so gentle, so sad.

Nesta opened her eyes. “Some of them have been here for hundreds of years and still haven’t been able to come back from what they endured. So

what hope do I have?”

He rubbed at his shoulder, as if it were sore. “We’ve been working for barely two weeks, Nesta. Physically, you might be seeing changes, but what’s happening in your mind, your heart, will take far longer than that. Fuck, it took Feyre months—”

“I don’t want to hear about Feyre and her special journey. I don’t want to hear about Rhys’s journey, or Morrigan’s, or anyone’s.”


The words, the rage, built again. She refused to speak, instead focusing on tamping down that power inside her until it didn’t so much as murmur.

“Why?” he pushed.

“Because I don’t,” she snapped. “Put those bat wings away.”

Cassian obeyed, but stepped closer, towering over her. “Then I’ll tell you about my special journey, Nes.” His tone was icy in a way she’d never heard.


“I slaughtered every person who hurt my mother.”

She blinked up at him, the weight in her vanishing at the vicious words.

Cassian’s face held only ancient rage. “When I was old and strong enough, I went back to the village where I was born, where I’d been ripped from her arms, and I learned that she was dead. And there was no one I could fight to change that. They refused to tell me where they’d buried her. One of the females hinted that they’d dumped her off the cliff.”

Horror and something like pain went through her.

His eyes flared with cold light. “So I destroyed them. Anyone who wasn’t responsible—children and some females and the elderly—I let them leave. But anyone who had played a role in her suffering … I made them suffer in return. Rhys and Azriel helped me. Found the piece of shit who’d sired me. I let my brothers tear him apart before I finished him.”

The words hung between them.

He said with soft fury, “It took me ten years before I was able to face it. What I’d done to those people, and what I’d lost. Ten years.” He was trembling, but not with fear. “So if you want to take ten years to face

whatever is eating you alive from the inside out, go ahead. You want to take twenty years, go ahead.”

Silence fell, interrupted only by their uneven panting. Nesta breathed, “Do you regret what you did?”

“No.” Such unflinching honesty. The same honesty that now assessed her, marking every roaring, sharp piece of her.

Nesta dipped her head, as if it’d stop him from seeing everything.

Warm, strong fingers cupped her chin, calluses scraping against her skin.

She let him lift her head. She hadn’t realized he’d come closer. That only inches separated them. Unless she’d been the one to drift toward him, drawn by each brutal word.

Cassian kept his light grip on her chin. “Whatever you need to throw at me, I can take it. I won’t break.” No challenge laced the words. Only a plea. “You don’t understand,” she said, voice rasping. “I am not like you and

the others.”

“That’s never bothered me one bit.” He lowered his hand from her chin. She straightened. “It should.”

“You say that like you want it to bother me.”

“It bothers everyone. Even oh-so-special Rhysand.”

His teeth flashed, any semblance of softness gone. “I told you once, and I’ll say it again: don’t take that snide fucking tone when you speak about him.”

“He’s not my High Lord. I may speak of him as I wish.” She made to step away, but he gripped her wrist, holding her in place. “Let go.”

“Make me. Use that training and make me.”

Hot temper poured in. “You’re an arrogant bastard.”

“And you’re a haughty witch. We’re evenly matched.” She snarled. “Let go.”

Cassian snorted, but obeyed, turning his face as he backed a step away. And it was the light of victory in his eyes, the clear sense that he believed he’d somehow unnerved her and won this fight that had her grabbing the front of his leather jacket.

Nesta told herself it was to knock that smirk off his face that she curled her fingers in the leather and hauled her mouth to his.

You'll Also Like