Chapter no 43

A Court of Silver Flames

Breathing in the heady, sweet scent of the purple lilac bush blooming behind them, Nesta glanced sidelong at Cassian. She could have sworn he was subtly scratching himself whenever she turned away to admire the sheer beauty and peace of the Spring Court forest.

Rhys had winnowed them here, silent and stone-faced, then vanished. Cassian hadn’t seemed disturbed by it, though, so Nesta hadn’t asked. Especially not as they waited for Eris to appear at any moment.

Nesta feigned gazing toward a bramble of roses, then whipped her head back to Cassian to find him indeed scratching at his arms. “What is wrong with you?”

“I hate this place,” he muttered, flushing. “Allergies.”

Nesta swallowed a laugh. “You don’t need to hide it from me. In the human realm, I used to get so itchy I had to take two baths a day to get rid of all the pollen.” Well, before they’d gone to the cottage. After that, Nesta had been lucky to bathe once a week, thanks to the hassle of heating and hauling so much water to the lone tub in a corner of their bedroom. Sometimes, she and Elain had even shared the same bathwater, drawing straws for who went in second.

Nesta’s throat constricted, and she surveyed the swaying cherry blossoms overhead. Elain would love this place. So many flowers, all in bloom, so much green—the light, vibrant green of new grass—so many

birds singing and such warm, buttery sunshine. Nesta felt like a storm cloud standing amid it all. But Elain … The Spring Court had been made for someone like her.

Too bad her sister refused to see her. Nesta would have told Elain to visit this place.

And too bad the lord who ruled these lands was a piece of shit.

“Eris is late,” Nesta said to Cassian. They’d been waiting ten minutes. “Do you think he’s coming?”

“He’s likely sipping some tea, enjoying the fact that we’re here, waiting for him.” Cassian considered. “Well, he only knows I’m coming. But he’ll enjoy the thought of making me wait.”

“He’s a bastard.” The few times she’d met the High Lord of Autumn’s son, Nesta had detested the preening, cold-faced male. Exactly the sort of person who would abandon an injured Morrigan in the woods.

“Are you talking about me, or the brute beside you?” a deep, smooth voice said from the shadows of a budding dogwood.

And there he was, as if her thoughts had conjured him. Eris dressed as immaculately as Rhysand, not a strand of his long red hair out of place. But though Eris’s angular features were handsome, no light shone in his eyes. No joy.

Those eyes landed on Nesta, raking from her braided hair to her leathers to her boots. “Hello, Nesta Archeron.”

Nesta met the male’s stare. She said nothing, letting cool contempt freeze over her gaze.

Eris’s mouth quirked upward. But the expression vanished as he turned to Cassian. “I hear you have something to tell me regarding my soldiers.”

Cassian crossed his arms. “Good news and bad news, Eris. Take your pick.”

“Bad. Always the bad first.” Eris’s smile was full of poison. “Most of your soldiers are dead.”

Eris only blinked. “And the good news?” “Two of them survived.”

Nesta studied every minute shift on Eris’s face: rage glimmering in his eyes, displeasure in his pursed lips, annoyance in the fluttering of a muscle

in his jaw. As if countless questions were racing through his mind. Eris’s voice remained flat, though. “And who did this?”

Cassian grimaced. “Technically, Azriel and I did. Your soldiers were enchanted by Queen Briallyn and Koschei to be mindless killers. They attacked us in the Bog of Oorid, and we were left with no choice but to kill them.”

“And yet two survived. How convenient. I assume they received Azriel’s particular brand of interrogation?” Eris’s voice dripped disdain.

“We could only manage to contain two,” Cassian said tightly. “Under Briallyn’s influence, they were practically rabid.”

“Let’s not lie to ourselves. You only bothered to contain two, by the time your brute bloodlust ebbed away.”

Nesta saw red at the words, and Cassian sucked in a breath. “We did what we could. There were two dozen of them.”

Eris snorted. “There were certainly more than that, and you could have easily spared more than two. But I don’t know why I’d expect someone like you to have done any better.”

“Do you want me to apologize?” Cassian snarled. Nesta’s heart began to pound wildly at the anger darkening his voice, the pain brightening his eyes. He regretted it—he hadn’t liked killing those soldiers.

“Did you even try to spare the others, or did you just launch right into a massacre?” Eris seethed.

Cassian hesitated. Nesta could have sworn she saw the words land their blow. No, Cassian had not hesitated. Nesta knew he hadn’t. He would never hesitate to save someone he loved from an enemy. No matter what it cost him.

Nesta took one step closer to Eris. “Your soldiers shot an ash arrow through one of Azriel’s wings.”

Eris’s teeth flashed. “And did you join in this massacre, too?”

“No,” she said frankly. “But I wonder: Did Briallyn arm the soldiers with those ash arrows, or did they come from your private armory?”

Eris blinked, the only confirmation required. “Such weapons are banned, aren’t they?” she asked Cassian, whose features remained taut. The conflagration within her burned hotter, higher. She returned her attention to

Eris. If he could toy with Cassian, then she’d return the favor. “Who were you storing those arrows for?” she mused. “Enemies abroad?” She smiled slightly. “Or an enemy at home?”

Eris held her stare. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Nesta’s smile didn’t waver. “Would an ash arrow through the heart kill a High Lord?”

Eris’s face paled. “You’re wasting my time.”

Nesta shrugged. “And you’re wasting ours. For all we know, you bespelled your soldiers to kill us. Claimed your hounds found scents at the site of their disappearance that linked it to Briallyn, and then lied about Beron’s alliance. Perhaps you even got Morrigan’s father to delay his visit to Velaris as a piece in a grand scheme to gain our trust. All part of your game.”

Cassian’s gaze was a physical touch on her face, but she kept her attention on the stiff-backed Eris. “If you want to play warmonger, go right ahead, Eris.” Her smile widened. “I like an interesting opponent.”

“I am not your enemy,” Eris spat, and Nesta knew she’d won. From the brush of Cassian’s fingers at the small of her back, he knew, too.

Cassian said, “I regret that I couldn’t save more of your soldiers, Eris. I really do. The remaining two will be sent back to you today, though they remain in the Crown’s thrall. But I’m not your enemy, either. Briallyn and Koschei are our enemies—both of ours. If the families of those soldiers need anything, I will gladly give what I can to help them.”

Something like pride bloomed in her at Cassian’s earnest words. He’d give all he had to those families, if it would right this wrong.

Eris glanced between them. Noted the hand on her back. What Cassian had left exposed.

Eris said to Nesta with a smirk, “You’re a pretty little treat. I’d be happy to play any manner of game with you, Nesta Archeron.”

Cassian’s fingers tightened on her back. Eris seemed to sense that, too. Did Cassian have any idea of the things he left vulnerable for people like Eris to strike at? He lived too honestly, too boldly, to notice or care. She couldn’t help but admire it.

“When you get tired of the animal,” Eris said to her, jerking his chin toward Cassian, “come find me. I’ll show you how a future High Lord plays.”

Cassian growled, opening his mouth, but halted. Eris went still as well.

Nesta felt it a heartbeat later. The presence creeping toward them on soft paws.

Cassian shoved her behind him just as a golden-furred beast with curling horns leaped from behind the brambles, landing in the forest clearing.

She’d never forget that beast. How it had broken down the door of their cottage and terrified her to her bones. How all she’d been able to think of was shielding Elain while Feyre had grabbed that knife to face it. Face him.


Green eyes assessed them. Marked Eris. Then Cassian. Then her.

Tamlin snarled, low and deep, and Cassian’s Siphons flared. “We were just leaving,” Cassian said with steady calm, hand reaching for Nesta’s. He’d launch them into the air. But would he be fast enough to avoid Tamlin’s claws? Or power?

Tamlin’s gaze remained on her. Raging and hateful.

This was the male, the beast, her sister had once loved. Had given up everything, including her mortal life, to save. Who had then taken her love and twisted it, nearly breaking Feyre in the process. Until Rhys. Until Cassian and the others had helped bring her back. Helped her learn to love herself once more.

Nesta didn’t care if he’d come to help during the final battle with Hybern. Tamlin had hurt Feyre. Unforgivably.

It had never concerned her before. Irked her, yes, but … Nesta found her fingers curling. Found her lips peeling back from her teeth as she snarled.

Her youngest sister had been taken by this male because Nesta herself hadn’t been able to face him. Tamlin had even looked at her and asked if she’d go in Feyre’s place. And she had said no, because she was a hateful, horrible coward.

She would not be a coward now.

Nesta let an ember of her power glow in her eyes. Let Tamlin see it as she said, “You will not touch us.”

“I have every right to kill trespassers on my lands.” The words were guttural, nearly impossible to understand. As if Tamlin had not spoken in a long while.

“Are these still your lands?” Nesta asked coolly, stepping out from behind Cassian. “Last I heard, you don’t bother to rule them anymore.”

Eris remained utterly still. He’d been caught meeting with them, she realized. If Tamlin told anyone—

Nesta said, “I suggest you keep your maw shut about this.”

Tamlin bristled, hackles rising. “You’re exactly as nasty as your sister said you were.”

Nesta laughed. “I’d hate to disappoint.”

She held his emerald stare, knowing silver flames flickered in her own. “I went into the Cauldron because of you,” she said softly, and could have sworn thunder grumbled in the distance. Cassian and Eris faded away into nothing. There was only Tamlin, only this beast, and what he had done to her and her family.

“Elain went into the Cauldron because of you,” Nesta went on. Her fingertips heated, and she knew if she looked down, she’d find silver embers flaring there. “I don’t care how much you apologize or try to atone for it or claim you didn’t know the King of Hybern would do such a thing or that you begged him not to do it. You colluded with him. Because you thought Feyre was your property.”

Nesta pointed at Tamlin. The ground shook. Cassian swore behind her.

Tamlin shrank from her outstretched finger, claws digging into the earth. “Put that finger down, you witch.”

Nesta smiled. “I’m glad you remember what happened to the last person I pointed at.” She lowered her arm. “We’re going now.”

She stepped back to where Cassian was already waiting, arms open. He wrapped them around her waist. Nesta glanced to Eris, who gave her a shallow, approving nod, then vanished.

Nesta said to Tamlin before they shot into the skies, “Tell anyone you saw us, High Lord, and I’ll rip your head from your body, too.”



Nesta stared into the pit of darkness at the bottom of the library.

She’d been unable to sleep, barely able to keep from returning to the encounter with Tamlin all day. Cassian had flown to the river house, and had not returned. Perhaps Rhys had gone to ensure Tamlin’s silence about their scheming with Eris. Maybe Rhys would do them all a favor and turn Tamlin’s mind into jelly.

Nesta rested her arms on the railing of Level Five, letting her head hang. This late, no one was up, and she didn’t know where the dormitories were, so she couldn’t seek out Gwyn. Not that she’d want to wake her friend. She doubted Gwyn would want to hear her problems anyway.

A glass of warm milk appeared on the railing beside her.

Nesta peered at the dim library. “Thank you,” she said to the House.

The Spring Court had felt stagnant. Hollow. Empty despite its growing life. But this House was alive. It welcomed her, wanted her to grow and thrive. It was a place where she might rest or explore, where she could be whoever and whatever she wished.

Was that what home was? She had never learned. But this place … Yes, home might be a good name for it. Perhaps that was what Feyre had felt, too, when she’d left the Spring Court and come to these lands. Perhaps Feyre had fallen in love with this court as much as she had its ruler.

Something stirred in the darkness below. Nesta straightened, milk forgotten.

There. In the heart of the black pit, like a tendril of smoke … something moved.

It seemed to expand and contract, throbbing a wild beat—

“I thought I’d find you here. Well, either here or the stairs to the city.” Cassian’s voice sounded behind her, and Nesta whirled.

He went on alert, but Nesta glanced over a shoulder toward the darkness. Nothing.

It was gone. Or she’d imagined it.

“It’s nothing,” she said as he peered over the railing. “Just shadows.” Cassian blew out a breath, leaning against the railing. “Can’t sleep?” “I keep thinking about Tamlin.”

“You did well with him. And you did well against Eris, too. I don’t think he’ll forget that anytime soon.”

“He’s a snake.”

“Glad we agree on something.”

Nesta huffed a laugh. “I didn’t appreciate him speaking to you like that.”

“It’s how a lot of people speak to me.”

“That doesn’t make it right.” She had spoken to him like that. She had said far worse things to Cassian than Eris had. Her throat tightened.

But she said, “I can’t believe Feyre ever loved Tamlin.”

“Tamlin never deserved her.” Cassian rested a hand on her back. “No.” Nesta again peered into the darkness below. “He didn’t.”

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