Chapter no 34

A Court of Silver Flames

Nesta stumbled away so fast she landed on her backside, the mossy ground cushioning the impact. A face broke through the black water where her reflection had been.

It was whiter than bone and humanoid. Male. Bit by bit, inch by inch, the head rose above the black water, obsidian hair drifting in the water around the creature, so silken it might as well have been the surface.

His black eyes were enormous—no whites to be seen—his cheekbones so sharp they could have sliced the air. His nose was narrow and long, like a blade, and water dripped from its tip over a mouth … a mouth …

It was too large, that mouth. Sensuous lips, but too wide. Then his arms slid from the water.

In stiff, jolting movements they jerked onto the moss, white and thin, ending in fingers as long as her forearm. Fingers that dug into the grass, revealing four joints and dagger-sharp nails. They cracked and popped as he stretched and dug them into the grass, grappling for purchase.

Nesta’s breath sawed out of her, terror a roaring in her mind as she crawled backward.

He heaved himself out of the water, revealing a bony torso, his black hair dragging behind him like a net.

She lurched back again as he slowly lifted his head.

That too-wide mouth parted. Twin rows of rotted teeth, jagged as shards of glass, filled his mouth as he smiled.

Her bladder loosened, her lap becoming wet and warm.

He scented it, saw it, and that mouth widened further, fingers twitching as they hauled more and more of him from the water. His narrow, bare hips

He pushed himself onto his arms as he slid a long, white leg from the blackness. Another. And then he knelt on all fours, smiling at her.

She couldn’t move. Couldn’t do anything but stare into that white face, the black eyes as dark as the bog, the twitching, too-long fingers and that mouth, those eel’s teeth—

He spoke then, and it was not a language she recognized. His voice rasped, deep and hoarse, full of terrible hunger and cruel amusement.

The gentle female voice in her head pleaded, Run, run, run.

His head cocked, sodden black hair sloshing with the movement, full of what seemed to be bog weeds. As if he’d heard that female voice, too. He spoke again, and it was like rock grating on rock—his tone more demanding.

Kelpie. This was a kelpie, and he would kill her.

Run, the voice shouted. Run!

Nesta’s legs had become distant, numb. She couldn’t remember how to use them.

The kelpie’s head twitched, fingers convulsing in the grass. His smile grew again. So wide she spied the long, black tongue writhing in his mouth, as if he could already taste her flesh.

Nesta couldn’t recall how to scream as he lunged for her.

Couldn’t do anything at all as those long fingers wrapped around her legs, claws ripping through her skin, and yanked her toward him.

Pain ripped Nesta from her stupor, and she fought, fingers grabbing at the grass. It came free in clumps, as if it had no roots at all. As if the bog would do nothing to help her.

The kelpie towed her along as he slithered back into the frigid water. And dragged her under the surface.



The two soldiers were on their knees.

Their light leather armor bore Eris’s insignia of two baying hounds on the breast. It didn’t confirm anything. They might have been ordered here by Eris, or Beron, or both of them. Until Azriel or Rhys could get answers out of them, Cassian wouldn’t waste time theorizing. Not that the soldiers offered any explanations.

Their faces were vacant. Not a trace of fear in them, or in their scents.

Azriel panted, wing bleeding freely from where he’d ripped away the ash arrow. Cassian, covered in blood that was not his own, assessed the two surviving soldiers, their fallen companions around them. Many in pieces.

“Bind them,” Cassian said to Azriel, who had already healed enough to summon his Siphons’ power. Blue light speared from his brother, wrapping around the two males’ wrists, their ankles, their mouths—and then chained them together.

Cassian had dealt with enough assassins and prisoners to know keeping two prisoners alive would allow him to confirm information, to play them off each other.

The soldiers had fought viciously with sword and flame, yet they hadn’t spoken to their opponents or to one another. These two seemed as unfocused and blank as their comrades.

“Something is wrong with them,” Azriel murmured as the two soldiers simply stared up at them with violence in their eyes. Violence, but no recognition or awareness that they were now at the mercy of the Night Court, and would soon learn how that court got answers out of their enemies.

Cassian sniffed. “They smell like they haven’t had a bath in weeks.”

Az sniffed as well, grimacing. “Do you think these are Eris’s missing soldiers? He said they’d been acting strange before they vanished. I’d certainly consider this strange behavior.”

“I don’t know.” Cassian wiped the blood from his face with the back of his hand. “I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.” He surveyed his brother from head to toe. “You all right?”

“Fine.” But Az’s voice was tight enough to indicate that his wing hurt like hell. “We need to get out of here. There might be more.”

Cassian stiffened. He’d left Nesta in a tree. A high tree, granted, but—

He launched skyward, not waiting to see if Az could follow before he was flapping toward that sprawl of land. Better than an island, he’d decided. On an island she’d have been trapped. But the swath of grass he’d left her in had looked as if it had once been a meadow, and the tree was so tall it would have taken a giant to reach. Or something else with wings.

The air parted, and Azriel appeared at his heels, unsteady and bobbing, but flying. Darkness rose behind them, confirmation that Az wielded his shadows to hide their captives.

Cassian tracked Nesta by scent back to that tree, the mist lightening only as its uppermost branches appeared. But Nesta wasn’t in it.

He hovered in place as he scanned the tree, the ground. “Nesta!” She wasn’t in the grass, or in the next tree. He dropped to the earth, tracking her scent all around the area, but it went no farther. Went right up to the water and vanished.

Azriel landed, whirling in place. “I don’t see her.”

The water remained still as black glass. Not a ripple. The island fifteen feet across the water—had she gone that way?

Cassian couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t think right—


Oorid devoured his roar before it could echo across the black water.

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