Chapter no 3

A Court of Silver Flames

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.

So the Illyrians were at peace—or as peaceful as a warrior society could be, with their constant training. Which was what Rhys wanted. Not just because a rebellion would be a disaster, but because of this. What he knew Rhys was about to say.

“I think it’s time for you to take on bigger responsibilities.” Cassian grimaced. There it was.

Rhys chuckled. “You can’t honestly mean to tell me you didn’t know the Illyrian situation was a test?”

“I’d hoped not,” he grumbled, tucking in his wings.

Rhys smirked, though he quickly sobered. “Nesta is not a test, though.

She’s … different.”

“I know.” Even before she’d been Made, he’d seen it. And after that terrible day in Hybern … He’d never forgotten the Bone Carver’s whispered words in the Prison.

What if I tell you what the rock and darkness and sea beyond whispered to me, Lord of Bloodshed? How they shuddered in fear, on that island across the sea. How they trembled when she emerged. She took something— something precious. She ripped it out with her teeth.

What did you wake that day in Hybern, Prince of Bastards?

That final question had chased him from slumber more nights than he cared to admit.

Cassian made himself say, “We haven’t seen a hint of her power since the war. For all we know, it vanished with the Cauldron’s breaking.”

“Or maybe it’s dormant, as the Cauldron is now asleep and safely hidden in Cretea with Drakon and Miryam. Her power could rise at any moment.”

A chill skittered down Cassian’s spine. He trusted the Seraphim prince and the half-human woman to keep the Cauldron concealed, but there would be nothing they or anyone could do to control its power if awoken.

Rhys said, “Be on your guard.”

“You sound like you’re afraid of her.” “I am.”

Cassian blinked.

Rhys lifted a brow. “Why do you think I sent you to get her this morning?”

Cassian shook his head, unable to help his laugh. Rhys smiled, lacing his fingers behind his head and leaning back in his seat.

“You need to get out in the practice ring more, brother,” Cassian told him, surveying his friend’s powerful body. “Don’t want that mate of yours to find any soft bits.”

“She never finds any soft bits when I’m around her,” Rhys said, and Cassian laughed again.

“Is Feyre going to kick your ass for what you said earlier?”

“I already told the servants to clear out for the rest of the day as soon as you take Nesta up to the House.”

“I think the servants hear you fighting plenty.” Indeed, Feyre had no hesitation when it came to telling Rhys that he’d stepped out of line.

Rhys threw him a wicked smile. “It’s not the fighting I don’t want them hearing.”

Cassian grinned right back, even as something like jealousy tugged on his gut. He didn’t begrudge them their happiness—not at all. There were plenty of times when he’d see the joy on Rhys’s face and have to walk away to keep from weeping, because his brother had waited for that love, earned it. Rhys had gone to the mat again and again to fight for that future with Feyre. For this.

But sometimes, Cassian saw that mating ring, and the portrait behind the desk, and this house, and just … wanted.

The clock chimed ten thirty, and Cassian rose. “Enjoy your not-fighting.”


The tone stopped him.

Rhys’s face was carefully calm. “You didn’t ask what bigger responsibilities I have in mind for you.”

“I assumed Nesta was big enough,” he hedged.

Rhys gave him a knowing look. “You could be more.” “I’m your general. Isn’t that enough?”

“Is it enough for you?”

Yes, he almost said. But found himself hesitating.

“Oh, you’re certainly hesitating,” Rhys said. Cassian tried to snap up his mental shields, but found they were intact. Rhys was smiling like a cat. “You still reveal everything on that face of yours, brother,” Rhys crooned. But his amusement swiftly faded. “Az and I have good reason to believe that the human queens are scheming again. I need you to look into it. Deal with it.”

“What, we’re doing some role reversal? Az gets to lead the Illyrians now?”

“Don’t play stupid,” Rhys said coolly.

Cassian rolled his eyes. But they both knew Azriel would sooner disband and destroy Illyria than help it. Convincing their brother that the Illyrians were a people worth saving was still a battle amongst the three of them.

Rhys went on, “Azriel is juggling more than he’ll admit right now. I’m not dumping another responsibility on him. This task of yours will help him.” Rhys flashed a challenging smile. “And let us all see what you’re really made of.”

“You want me to play spy?”

“There are other ways to glean information, Cass, besides peeking through keyholes. Az isn’t a courtier. He works from the shadows. But I need someone—I need you—standing in the open. Mor can fill you in on the details. She’ll be back from Vallahan at some point today.”

“I’m no courtier, either. You know that.” The thought made his stomach churn.


Cassian let the Siphons atop the backs of his hands shimmer with inner fire. “So I’m to deal with these queens as well as train Nesta?”

Rhys leaned back, his silence confirmation.

Cassian strode toward the shut double doors, reining in a string of curses. “We’re in for a long few months, then.”

He was almost to the door when Rhys said quietly, “You certainly are.”



“Did you keep those fighting leathers from the war?” Cassian said to Nesta by way of greeting as he stalked into the entry hall. “You’ll need them tomorrow.”

“I made sure Elain packed them for her,” Feyre replied from her perch on the stairs, not looking at her stiff-backed sister standing at their base. He wondered if his High Lady had noticed the disappearing servants yet.

The secret smile in Feyre’s eyes told him she knew plenty about it. And what was coming for her in a few minutes.

Thank the gods he was getting out of here. He’d probably have to fly to the sea itself not to hear Rhys. Or feel his power when he … Cassian

stopped himself before he could finish the thought. He and his brothers had put a good deal of distance between the stupid youths they’d been—fucking any female who showed interest, often in the same room as each other—and the males they were now. He wanted to keep it that way.

Nesta just crossed her arms.

“Are you winnowing us up to the House?” he asked Feyre.

As if in answer, Mor said from behind him, “I am.” She winked at Feyre. “She’s got a special meeting with Rhysie.”

Cassian grinned as Mor strode in from the residential wing. “I thought you wouldn’t be back until later today.” He threw open his arms, folding her against his chest and squeezing tight. Mor’s waist-length golden hair smelled of cold seas.

She squeezed him back. “I didn’t feel like waiting until the afternoon.

Vallahan is already knee-deep in snow. I needed some sunshine.”

Cassian pulled away to scan her beautiful face, as familiar to him as his own. Her brown eyes were shadowed despite her words. “What’s wrong?”

Feyre rose from her seat, noting the strain as well. “Nothing,” Mor said, flipping her hair over a shoulder.


“I’ll tell you all later,” Mor conceded, and looked toward Nesta. “You should wear the leathers tomorrow. When you train up at Windhaven, you’ll want them against the cold.”

Nesta leveled a bored, icy look at Mor. Mor just beamed at her in return.

Feyre took that as a good moment to casually step between them, Rhys’s shield still hard as steel around her. Never mind that they’d all be real damn close in about a minute. “Today we’ll let you get settled at the House—you can unpack your things. Get some rest, if you want.”

Nesta said nothing.

Cassian dragged a hand through his hair. Cauldron spare them. Rhys expected him to play politics when he couldn’t even navigate this?

Mor smirked, as if reading the thought on his face. “Congratulations on your promotion.” She shook her head. “Cassian the courtier. I never thought I’d see the day.”

Feyre snickered. But Nesta’s eyes slid to him, surprised and wary. He said to her, if only to beat her to it, “Still a bastard-born nobody, don’t worry.”

Nesta’s lips thinned.

Feyre said carefully to Nesta, “We’ll talk soon.” Nesta again didn’t reply.

It seemed she had stopped speaking to Feyre at all. But at least she was going willingly.


“Shall we?” Mor said, offering up either elbow.

Nesta gazed at the floor, her face pale and gaunt, eyes blazing.

Feyre met his stare. The look alone conveyed everything she was begging of him.

Nesta stepped past her, grabbed Mor’s forearm, and watched a spot on the wall.

Mor cringed at him, but Cassian didn’t dare share the look. Nesta might not be gazing at them, but he knew she saw and heard and assessed everything.

So he merely took Mor’s other arm and winked at Feyre before they all vanished into wind and darkness.



Mor winnowed them into the sky right above the House of Wind.

Before the stomach-dropping plunge could register, Nesta was in Cassian’s arms, his wings spread, as he flew toward the stone veranda. It had been a long while since she’d been held by him, since she’d seen the city so small below.

He could have flown them both up here, Nesta realized as he alighted and Morrigan vanished from her deadly plummet with a wave. The rules of the House were simple: no one could winnow directly inside thanks to its heavy wards, so it was a choice to either walk up the ten thousand steps, winnow and drop a terrifying distance to the veranda—likely breaking bones—or winnow to the edge of the wards with someone who had wings to fly the rest of the way in. But being in Cassian’s arms … She’d rather

have risked breaking every bone in her body from the plunge to the veranda. Thankfully, the flight was over in a matter of seconds.

Nesta shoved out of his grip the moment her feet hit the worn stones. Cassian let her, folding his wings and lingering by the rail, all of Velaris glittering below and beyond him.

She’d spent weeks here last year—during that terrible period after being turned Fae, begging Elain to demonstrate any sign of wanting to live. She’d barely slept for fear of Elain walking off this veranda, or leaning too far out of one of the countless windows, or simply throwing herself down those ten thousand stairs.

Her throat closed at the surge of memories and at the sprawling view— the glimmering ribbon of the Sidra far below, the red-stoned palace built into the side of the flat-topped mountain itself.

Nesta dug her hands into her pockets, wishing she’d opted for the warm gloves Feyre had coaxed her to take. She’d refused. Or silently refused, since she had not uttered a word to her sister after they’d left the study.

Partially because she was afraid of what would come out. For a long moment, Nesta and Cassian watched each other.

The wind ripped at his shoulder-length dark hair, but he might have been standing in a summer field for all the reaction he yielded to the cold— so much sharper up here, high above the city. It was all she could do to keep her teeth from clattering their way out of her skull.

Cassian finally said, “You’ll be staying in your old room.”

As if she had any sort of claim on this place. On anywhere at all. He went on, “My room’s a level above that.”

“Why would I need to know that?” The words snapped out of her.

He began walking toward the glass doors that led into the mountain’s interior. “In case you have a bad dream and need someone to read you a story,” he drawled, a half smile dancing on his face. “Maybe one of those smutty books you like so much.”

Her nostrils flared. But she walked through the door he held open for her, nearly sighing at the cozy warmth filling the red stone halls. Her new residence. Sleeping site.

It wasn’t a home, this place. Just as her apartment hadn’t been a home.

Neither had her father’s fancy new house, before Hybern had half-destroyed it. And neither had the cottage, or the glorious manor before that. Home was a foreign word.

But she knew this level of the House of Wind well: the dining room to the left, and the stairway to her right that would take her down two levels to her floor, and the kitchens a level below that. The library far, far beneath it.

She wouldn’t have cared where she stayed, except for the convenience of the small, private library also on her level. Which had been the place where she’d discovered those smutty books, as Cassian called them. She’d devoured a few dozen of them during those weeks she’d first been here, desperate for any lifeline to keep her from falling apart, from bellowing at what had been done to her body, her life—to Elain. Elain, who would not eat, or speak, or do anything at all.

Elain, who had somehow become the adjusted one.

In the months leading to and during the war, Nesta had managed. Had stepped into this world, with these people, and started to see it—a future.

Until she’d been hunted by the King of Hybern and the Cauldron. Until she’d realized that everyone she cared for would be used to hurt her, break her, trap her. Until that last battle when she couldn’t stop one thousand Illyrians from dying, and had instead been able to save only one.

Him. She would do it again, if forced to. And knowing that … She couldn’t bear that truth, either.

Cassian aimed for the downward stairs, his every movement brimming with unfaltering arrogance.

“I don’t need an escort to my room.” No matter that his rooms were that way, too. “I know how to get there.”

He threw a smirk over a muscled shoulder and strode down the stairs anyway. “I just want to make sure you arrive in one piece before I settle in.” He nodded to the landing they passed, the open archway that led into the hall with his bedroom. She knew it only because she’d had little more to do during those initial weeks as High Fae than wander this palace like a ghost.

Cassian added, “Az is in the room two doors down from mine.” They reached the level of her bedroom and he swaggered along the hall. “You probably won’t see him, though.”

“He’s here to spy on me?” Her words bounced off the red stone.

Cassian said tightly, “He says he’d rather stay up here than at the river house.”

That made two of them. “Why?”

“I don’t know. He’s Az. He likes his space.” He shrugged, the faelight filtering through the golden sconces gilding the taloned apex of his wings. “He’ll keep to himself, so most of the time it’ll be only you and me.”

She didn’t dare reply. Not to all that statement implied. Alone—with Cassian. Here.

Cassian stopped in front of a familiar, arched wood door. He leaned against the jamb, hazel eyes monitoring her every step.

She knew the House belonged to Rhys. Knew Cassian’s entire existence was paid for by Rhys, just as the High Lord bankrolled all of his Inner Circle. Knew that the fastest and deepest way to annoy Cassian, hurt him right now would be to strike for that, to make him doubt the work he did and whether he deserved to be here. The instinct crept up, a rising wave, each word selected to slice and wound. She’d always had the gift, if it could be called that. Yet it wasn’t a curse, not entirely. It had served her well.

He scanned her face as she stopped in front of the bedroom door. “Let’s hear it, Nes.”

“Don’t call me that.” She dangled the words like bait. Let him think her vulnerable.

But he pushed off the door, wings tucking in. “You need a hot meal.” “I don’t want one.”


“Because I’m not hungry.”

It was true. Her appetite had been the first thing to go after that battle. Only instinct and the occasional social requirement to appear like she gave a shit about anything kept her eating.

“You won’t last through an hour of training tomorrow without food in your belly.”

“I’m not training at that horrible place.” She’d hated Windhaven from the first time she’d seen it, cold and bleak and full of humorless, harsh-faced people.

The Siphon strapped atop Cassian’s left hand gleamed, a red band of light twining from the stone to wrap around the door handle. It yanked the iron downward, the door swinging open with a creak, then vanished like smoke. “You were given an order, as well as the alternative to following it. You want to go back to the human lands, be my guest.”

Then go somewhere else.

He’d likely have that preening Morrigan dump her over the border like so much baggage.

And Nesta would have called the bluff, except … she knew what she’d face down south. The war had done little to warm human sentiments toward the Fae.

She had nowhere to go. Elain, mourn as she might for the life she would have had with Graysen, had found a place, a role here. Tending to the gardens of Feyre’s veritable palace on the river, helping other residents of Velaris restore their own destroyed gardens—she had purpose, and joy, and friends: those two half-wraiths who worked in Rhysand’s household. But those things had always come easily to her sister. Had always made Elain special.

Had made Nesta fight like hell to keep Elain safe at all costs.

The Cauldron had learned that. The King of Hybern had learned it, too.

An old, heavy weight tugged her down, oblivion beckoning. “I’m tired.” Her words came out mercifully flat.

“Take the day to rest, then,” Cassian said, his voice a shade quiet. “Mor or Rhys will winnow us up to Windhaven after breakfast tomorrow.”

She said nothing. He went on, “We’ll start easy: two hours of training, then lunch, then you’ll be brought back here to meet with Clotho.”

She didn’t have the energy to ask further about the training, or the work in the library with its high priestess. She didn’t really care. Let Rhysand and Feyre and Amren and Cassian make her do this bullshit. Let them think it could somehow make a lick of difference.

Nesta didn’t bother to reply before she strode through the archway and into her bedroom. But she felt his stare on her, assessing every step over the threshold, the way her hand gripped the side of the door, the way she flexed her fingers before she slammed it shut.

Nesta waited mere feet inside the bedroom, blinking at the glaring light through the wall of windows at its other end. A scuff of boots on stone informed her that he’d left.

It wasn’t until the sound faded completely that she took in the room before her, unchanged since she’d last been in it, the connecting door to Elain’s old suite now sealed shut.

The wide space easily accommodated a mammoth four-poster bed against the wall to her left, as well as a small sitting area to her right, complete with a sofa and two chairs. A carved marble fireplace occupied the wall before the sitting area, mercifully dark, and multiple rugs lay scattered throughout, offering reprieve from the chilly stone floors.

But that wasn’t what she’d liked about this room. No, it was what she now faced: the wall of windows that overlooked the city, the river, the flatlands and distant sparkle of sea beyond. All that land, all those people, so far away. As if this palace floated in the clouds. There had been some days up here when the mist had been thick enough to block the view below, swirling so close to the window that she’d been able to trail her fingers through it.

No tendrils of mist drifted by now, though. The windows revealed nothing but a clear early-autumn day, the sunlight near-blinding.

Seconds ticked by. Minutes.

A familiar roaring built in her ears. That heavy hollowness tugged her down, as surely as some faerie creature wrapping its bony hands around her ankle and yanking her beneath a dark surface. As surely as she had been shoved under that eternal, icy water in the Cauldron.

Nesta’s body became distant, foreign, as she shut the heavy gray velvet curtains against the light. Shrouding the room in darkness bit by bit. She ignored the three bags and two trunks set beside the dresser as she approached the bed.

She barely managed to toe off her shoes before she slid beneath the layers of white down blankets and quilts, closed her eyes, and breathed.

And breathed. And breathed.

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