Chapter no 64

A Court of Silver Flames

Someone had poured sand into her mouth. And taken a hammer to her head.

Was still pounding on it, apparently.

Nesta pried her tongue from her teeth, swallowing a few times to work some moisture back into her mouth. Her aching head—

Scents hit her. Male, varied, and so many—

Hard, cold ground lay beneath her bare legs, pine needles poking through the thin material of her nightgown. Chill, blood-icing wind carried all those male scents above a tide of snow and pine and dirt—

Nesta’s eyes flew open. A broad male back filled her vision, most of it obscured by a pair of wings. Bound wings.

Images of last night pelted her: the males who’d grabbed her, how she’d fought until they’d pushed something against her face that had her blacking out, hearing Gwyn and Emerie screaming—

Nesta jolted upright.

The view was worse than she’d expected. Far, far worse.

Slowly, silently, she twisted in place. Unconscious Illyrian warriors were strewn around her. At her back, at her head. At her bare feet. More surrounded her, at least two hundred, stretching between the towering pines.

The Blood Rite.

She must have awoken before the others because she was Made.


Nesta reached inward, toward that place where the ancient, awful power rested, and found nothing. As if the well had been drained, as if the sea had receded.

The Blood Rite’s spells bound magic. Her powers had been rendered useless.

She knew her shaking wasn’t entirely from the cold. Whatever time she had wouldn’t last long. The others would soon stir.

And find her standing among them, in nothing but a nightgown.

Without weapons.

She had to move. Had to find Emerie and Gwyn in this endless sprawl of bodies. Unless they had been dumped elsewhere.

Cassian, Rhysand, and Azriel had all been left in different places, she remembered. They’d spent days killing their way to each other amid the bloodthirsty warriors and beasts who roamed these lands. But they had somehow found each other and scaled Ramiel, the sacred mountain, and won the Rite.

She’d be lucky to clear this general area.

Her breath catching, Nesta eased to her feet. Away from the shield of the warriors’ bodies, the cold slammed into her, nearly robbing her of breath. Her shaking deepened.

She needed something warmer. Needed shoes. Needed to make a weapon.

Nesta peered at the watery sun, as if it’d tell her what direction to go to find her friends. But the light seared her eyes, worsening the pounding in her head. Trees—she could find the mossy side of the trees, Cassian had said. North would lie that way.

The nearest tree rose about twenty feet and ten bodies away. From what she could see, no moss grew anywhere on it.

So she’d find higher ground and survey the land. See where Ramiel loomed and if she could spot the other dumping grounds.

But she needed clothes and weapons and food and to find Gwyn and Emerie, and oh, gods—

Nesta pressed a hand over her mouth to keep her trembling exhale to near-silence. Move. She had to move.

But someone already had.

The rustle of his wings gave him away. Nesta whirled.

A hundred feet off, separated from her by the sea of sleeping bodies, stood a beast of a male.

She didn’t know him, but she recognized that gleam in his eye. The predatory intent and cruel amusement. Knew what it meant when his stare dipped to her nightgown, her breasts peaked against the frigid cold, her bare legs.

Fear burned like acid through her entire body.

None of the others stirred. At least she had that. But this male …

He glanced to his left—just for a blink. Nesta followed his stare, and her breath caught. Embedded in the trunk of a tree, gleaming faintly, was a knife.

Impossible. Having weapons in the Blood Rite went against its rules. Had the male known it would be there, or had he just spied it before she had?

It didn’t matter. It only mattered that the knife existed. And it was the sole weapon in sight.

She could run. Let him lunge at the knife and flee in the opposite direction and pray he didn’t follow.

Or she could go for the blade. Beat him to it and then … she didn’t know what she’d do then. But she stood in a field of sleeping warriors who would all soon awaken, and if they found her weaponless, defenseless—

Nesta ran.



Cassian couldn’t breathe.

Hadn’t been able to breathe or speak for long minutes now. His family had arrived, and they all surrounded him in the wrecked bedroom of Emerie’s house. They were speaking, Azriel with some urgency, but Cassian didn’t hear him, heard nothing but the roaring in his head before he said to no one in particular, “I’m going after them.”

Silence fell, and he turned to find them all staring at him, pale and wide-eyed.

Cassian tapped the Siphons on the backs of his hands, and his remaining Siphons appeared at his shoulders, knees, and chest. He nodded to Rhys. “Winnow me to her. Az, you find Emerie and Gwyn.”

Rhys didn’t move an inch. “You know the laws, Cass.” “Fuck the laws.”

“What laws?” Feyre demanded.

“Tell her,” Rhys ordered him, night swirling around his wings. Cassian bristled. “Tell her, Cassian.

The asshole had used that inherent dominance on him. Cassian gritted out, “Anyone who pulls a warrior from the Blood Rite will be hunted down and executed. Along with the warrior who is dishonorably removed from the Rite.”

Feyre rubbed at her face. “So Nesta, Emerie, and Gwyn have to stay in the Rite.”

“Even I can’t break those rules,” Rhys said, a shade softer. “No matter how much I might want to,” he added, clasping Cassian’s shoulder.

Cassian’s stomach turned over. Nesta and her friends—his friends— were in the Rite. And he could do nothing to interfere, not without damning them all. His hands shook. “So, what—we just sit on our asses for a week and wait?” The idea was abhorrent.

Feyre gripped his trembling fingers, squeezing tight. “Did you— Cassian, weren’t you listening at all when we got here?”

No. He’d barely heard anything.

Azriel said tightly, “My spies got word that Eris has been captured by Briallyn. She sent his remaining soldiers after him while he was out hunting with his hounds. They grabbed him and somehow, they were all winnowed back to her palace. I’m guessing using Koschei’s power.”

“I don’t care.” Cassian aimed for the doorway. Even if … Fuck. Hadn’t he been the one to tell Rhys not to go after those soldiers? To leave them be? He was a fool. He’d left an armed enemy in his blind spot and forgotten about it. But Eris could rot for all he cared.

Az said, “We have to get him out.” Cassian drew up short. “We?

Rhys stepped up next to Azriel, Feyre beside him. A formidable wall. “We can’t go,” Feyre said, nodding to Rhys. It needed no explanation: with the babe less than two months away, Feyre wasn’t risking anything. But Rhys …

Cassian challenged his High Lord, “You can be in and out in an hour.” “I can’t go.” Midnight storms swirled in Rhys’s eyes.

“Yes, you fucking can,” Cassian said, rage rising like a tidal wave that would sweep away all in its path. “You—”

“I can’t.”

It was agony—pure, undiluted agony that filled Rhys’s face. And fear.

Feyre slipped her tattooed fingers through Rhys’s.

Amren asked sharply, “Why?”

Rhys stared at the tattoo on Feyre’s fingers, interlaced with his. His throat bobbed. Feyre answered for him. “We made a bargain. After the war. To … only leave this world together.”

Amren began massaging her temples, muttering a prayer for sanity. Azriel asked, “You made a bargain to die together?”

“Fools,” Amren hissed. “Romantic, idealistic fools.” Rhys turned bleak eyes to her.

Cassian couldn’t get a breath down. Az stood still as a statue.

“If Rhys dies,” Feyre said thickly, fear bright in her own eyes, “I die.” Her fingers grazed her swollen belly. The babe would die, too.

“And if you die, Feyre,” Azriel said softly, “then Rhys dies.”

The words rang hollow and cold like a death knell. If Feyre didn’t survive the labor …

Cassian’s knees threatened to buckle. Rhy’s face was tight with pleading and pain. “I never thought it’d turn out like this,” Rhys said quietly.

Amren massaged her temples again. “We can discuss the idiocy of this bargain later.” Feyre glared at her, and Amren glared right back before saying to Cassian, “You and Azriel need to retrieve Eris.”

“Why not you?”

Feyre pinched the bridge of her nose. “Because Amren is …” “Powerless,” Amren snarled. “You can say it, girl.”

Feyre winced. “Mor left for Vallahan this morning and is out of our daemati magic’s range. Az can’t go in alone. We need you, Cassian.”

Cassian stilled. They just waited.

For Nesta to participate in the Blood Rite, to risk every horror and misery while he went off to save fucking Eris … “Let him die.”

“As tempting as that is,” Feyre said, “he poses a great danger to us in Briallyn’s hands. If he’s under the Crown’s influence, he’ll reveal everything he knows.” She asked Cassian, “What does he know about us, exactly?”

“Too much.” Cassian cleared his throat. Through their own bickering, through his need to goad Eris, he’d revealed too much. “He was worried about what we’d do with Nesta as a Night Court power, and with all three objects of the Dread Trove at our disposal. He thought the Night Court might turn around and attempt some sort of power grab.”

Feyre said hopefully, “Maybe the Made dagger we gave him will grant him immunity from the Crown. If he’s carrying the dagger, if they haven’t unarmed him, it might shield him against another Made object.”

“But we don’t know that,” Rhys countered. “And he’ll still be in Briallyn’s clutches. She might be able to sense the dagger herself—and it might respond to her.”

Az added darkly, “And there are plenty of other methods to get him to talk.”

Amren cut in, “You need to go now.” She turned to Feyre and Rhys. “We will return to Velaris and have a nice, long talk about this bargain of yours.”

Cassian didn’t bother to read Feyre’s and Rhys’s expressions as he gazed toward the small window, the wilderness beyond. As if he could see Nesta there.

He summoned his armor, the intricate scales and plates clamping with reassuring familiarity over his body. “I trained Nesta well. Trained them all well,” he said, his throat working. He added into the silence as Az tapped his Siphons and his own armor appeared, “If anyone can survive the Blood Rite, it’s them.”

If they could find each other.



Nesta broke into a flat-out sprint toward the tree with the knife, the male launching into movement only a heartbeat afterward.

He tripped over the scattered bodies, but Nesta kept her knees up. A mirror of every footwork exercise they’d done with the ladder on the ground, as if those bodies were the rope rungs to avoid. Muscle memory kicked in; she barely glanced at the tangle of limbs as she aimed for the tree. But the male had found his footing and closed in fast.

Someone had to have planted the weapon, either under the cover of darkness last night or weeks ago. The Blood Rite was savage enough without true weapons—only the weapons they made—but with actual steel thrown in …

The male had a good six inches and a hundred pounds on her. In physical combat, he’d possess every advantage. But if she could get that knife—

Nesta broke free of the bodies, legs flying as she ran the last few feet to the tree trunk with her hand outstretched. She brushed the knife’s handle—

The male barreled into her with all the force of a full-grown Illyrian warrior.

The breath whooshed out of her at the impact as they went down—and over the hill’s edge on the other side of the tree.

They tumbled toward the streambed a hundred feet below, flipping as they careened down the side of the hill. Rocks and leaves cracked and scratched against her, wings snapped above and below her, her hair lashed her face as her hands grappled—

Nesta slammed into the streambed so hard her spine groaned, the male landing atop her, sending every remaining scrap of breath exploding from her lungs.

His wings twitched. But he did not move.

Nesta opened her eyes to find herself staring into his unseeing gaze. To find her hand clenching the dagger she’d buried in his throat soaked in warm blood.

Grunting, Nesta rolled him off. Left the dagger sticking out of his throat, blood still leaking from the wound. The knife had pierced all the way through to the nape of his neck.

Nesta spat a mouthful of blood onto the dry stones. Her nightgown was covered in blood and dirt, her skin raw and stinging. But she was alive. And the male was not.

Nesta allowed herself to inhale slowly through her nose for a count of six. She held the breath, then slowly loosed it. Did the breathing exercise twice more. Assessed the state of her body, from her pounding head to her torn feet. Breathed again.

When her mind had stilled, Nesta pulled the knife from the male’s throat. Then stripped off his clothes, item by item, including his boots. She dressed herself with cold efficiency, shucking off the bloody nightgown and dropping it onto the male’s face in a mockery of a funeral shroud, then tucked the knife into the belt she cinched as tight as it would go. The clothes hung off her, and the too-big boots might be a liability, but it was better than the nightgown.

And then she went to find her friends.

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