Chapter no 17

A Court of Thorns and Roses

I jerked awake in the middle of the night, panting. My dreams had been filled with the clicking of the Suriel’s bone-fingers, the grinning naga, and a pale, faceless woman dragging her bloodred nails across my throat, splitting me open bit by bit. She kept asking for my name, but every time I tried to speak, my blood bubbled out of the shallow wounds on my neck, choking me.

I ran my hands through my sweat-damp hair. As my panting eased, a different sound filled the air, creeping in from the front hall through the crack beneath the door. Shouts, and someone’s screams.

I was out of my bed in a heartbeat. The shouts weren’t aggressive, but rather commanding— organizing. But the screaming …

Every hair on my body stood upright as I flung open the door. I might have stayed and cowered, but I’d heard screams like that before, in the forest at home, when I didn’t make a clean kill and the

animals suffered. I couldn’t stand it. And I had to know.

I reached the top of the grand staircase in time to see the front doors of the manor bang open and Tamlin rush in, a screaming faerie slung over his shoulder.

The faerie was almost as big as Tamlin, and yet the High Lord carried him as if he were no more than a sack of grain. Another species of the lesser faeries, with his blue skin, gangly limbs, pointed ears, and long onyx hair. But even from atop the stairs, I could see the blood gushing down the faerie’s back—blood from the black stumps protruding from his shoulder blades. Blood that now soaked into Tamlin’s green tunic in deep, shining splotches. One of the knives from his baldric was missing.

Lucien rushed into the foyer below just as Tamlin shouted, “The table—clear it off!” Lucien shoved the vase of flowers off the long table in the center of the hall. Either Tamlin wasn’t thinking straight, or he’d been afraid to waste the extra minutes bringing the faerie to the infirmary.

Shattering glass set my feet moving, and I was halfway down the stairs before Tamlin eased the shrieking faerie face-first onto the table. The faerie wasn’t wearing a mask; there was nothing to hide the agony contorting his long, unearthly features.

“Scouts found him dumped just over the borderline,” Tamlin explained to Lucien, but his eyes darted to me. They flashed with warning, but I took another step down. He said to Lucien, “He’s Summer Court.”

“By the Cauldron,” Lucien said, surveying the damage.

“My wings,” the faerie choked out, his glossy black eyes wide and staring at nothing. “She took my wings.”

Again, that nameless she who haunted their lives. If she wasn’t ruling the Spring Court, then perhaps she ruled another. Tamlin flicked a hand, and steaming water and bandages just appeared on the table. My mouth dried up, but I reached the bottom of the stairs and kept walking toward the table and the death that was surely hovering in this hall.

“She took my wings,” said the faerie. “She took my wings,” he repeated, clutching the edge of the table with spindly blue fingers.

Tamlin murmured a soft, wordless sound— gentle in a way I hadn’t heard before—and picked up a rag to dunk in the water. I took up a spot across the table from Tamlin, and the breath whooshed from my chest as I beheld the damage.

Whoever she was, she hadn’t just taken his wings. She’d ripped them off.

Blood oozed from the black velvety stumps on the faerie’s back. The wounds were jagged— cartilage and tissue severed in what looked like uneven cuts. As if she’d sawed off his wings bit by bit.

“She took my wings,” the faerie said again, his voice breaking. As he trembled, shock taking over, his skin shimmered with veins of pure gold— iridescent, like a blue butterfly.

“Keep still,” Tamlin ordered, wringing the rag. “You’ll bleed out faster.”

“N-n-no,” the faerie started, and began to twist onto his back, away from Tamlin, from the pain

that was surely coming when that rag touched those raw stumps.

It was instinct, or mercy, or desperation, perhaps, to grab the faerie’s upper arms and shove him down again, pinning him to the table as gently as I could. He thrashed, strong enough that I had to concentrate solely on holding him. His skin was velvet-smooth and slippery, a texture I would never be able to paint, not even if I had eternity to master it. But I pushed against him, gritting my teeth and willing him to stop. I looked to Lucien, but the color had blanched from his face, leaving a sickly white-green in its wake.

“Lucien,” Tamlin said—a quiet command. But Lucien kept gaping at the faerie’s ruined back, at the stumps, his metal eye narrowing and widening, narrowing and widening. He backed up a step. And another. And then vomited in a potted plant before sprinting from the room.

The faerie twisted again and I held tight, my arms shaking with the effort. His injuries must have weakened him greatly if I could keep him pinned. “Please,” I breathed. “Please hold still.”

“She took my wings,” the faerie sobbed. “She took them.”

“I know,” I murmured, my fingers aching. “I know.”

Tamlin touched the rag to one of the stumps, and the faerie screamed so loudly that my senses guttered, sending me staggering back. He tried to rise but his arms buckled, and he collapsed face-first onto the table again.

Blood gushed—so fast and bright that it took me a heartbeat to realize that a wound like this required a tourniquet—and that the faerie had lost far too much blood for it to even make a difference. It poured down his back and onto the table, where it ran to the edge and drip-drip-dripped to the floor near my feet.

I found Tamlin’s eyes on me. “The wounds aren’t clotting,” he said under his breath as the faerie panted.

“Can’t you use your magic?” I asked, wishing I could rip that mask off his face and see his full expression.

Tamlin swallowed hard. “No. Not for major

damage. Once, but not any longer.”

The faerie on the table whimpered, his panting slowing. “She took my wings,” he whispered. Tamlin’s green eyes flickered, and I knew, right then, that the faerie was going to die. Death wasn’t just hovering in this hall; it was counting down the faerie’s remaining heartbeats.

I took one of the faerie’s hands in mine. The skin there was almost leathery, and, perhaps more out of reflex than anything, his long fingers wrapped around mine, covering them completely. “She took my wings,” he said again, his shaking subsiding a bit.

I brushed the long, damp hair from the faerie’s half-turned face, revealing a pointed nose and a mouth full of sharp teeth. His dark eyes shifted to mine, beseeching, pleading.

“It will be all right,” I said, and hoped he couldn’t smell lies the way the Suriel was able to. I stroked his limp hair, its texture like liquid night

—another I would never be able to paint but would try to, perhaps forever. “It will be all right.” The faerie closed his eyes, and I tightened my grip on

his hand.

Something wet touched my feet, and I didn’t need to look down to see that his blood had pooled around me. “My wings,” the faerie whispered.

“You’ll get them back.”

The faerie struggled to open his eyes. “You swear?”

“Yes,” I breathed. The faerie managed a slight smile and closed his eyes again. My mouth trembled. I wished for something else to say, something more to offer him than my empty promises. The first false vow I’d ever sworn. But Tamlin began speaking, and I glanced up to see him take the faerie’s other hand.

“Cauldron save you,” he said, reciting the words of a prayer that was probably older than the mortal realm. “Mother hold you. Pass through the gates, and smell that immortal land of milk and honey. Fear no evil. Feel no pain.” Tamlin’s voice wavered, but he finished. “Go, and enter eternity.”

The faerie heaved one final sigh, and his hand went limp in mine. I didn’t let go, though, and kept stroking his hair, even when Tamlin released him

and took a few steps from the table.

I could feel Tamlin’s eyes on me, but I wouldn’t let go. I didn’t know how long it took for a soul to fade from the body. I stood in the puddle of blood until it grew cold, holding the faerie’s spindly hand and stroking his hair, wondering if he knew I’d lied when I’d sworn he would get his wings back, wondering if, wherever he had now gone, he had gotten them back.

A clock chimed somewhere in the house, and Tamlin gripped my shoulder. I hadn’t realized how cold I’d become until the heat of his hand warmed me through my nightgown. “He’s gone. Let him go.”

I studied the faerie’s face—so unearthly, so inhuman. Who could be so cruel to hurt him like that?

“Feyre,” Tamlin said, squeezing my shoulder. I brushed the faerie’s hair behind his long, pointed ear, wishing I’d known his name, and let go.

Tamlin led me up the stairs, neither of us caring about the bloody footprints I left behind or the freezing blood soaking the front of my nightgown. I

paused at the top of the steps, though, twisting out of his grip, and gazed at the table in the foyer below.

“We can’t leave him there,” I said, making to step down. Tamlin caught my elbow.

“I know,” he said, the words so drained and weary. “I was going to walk you upstairs first.”

Before he buried him. “I want to go with you.” “It’s too deadly at night for you to—”

“I can hold my—”

“No,” he said, his green eyes flashing. I straightened, but he sighed, his shoulders curving inward. “I must do this. Alone.”

His head was bowed. No claws, no fangs— there was nothing to be done against this enemy, this fate. No one for him to fight. So I nodded, because I would have wanted to do it alone, too, and turned toward my bedroom. Tamlin remained at the top of the stairs.

“Feyre,” he said—softly enough that I faced him again. “Why?” He tilted his head to the side. “You dislike our kind on a good day. And after Andras

…” Even in the darkened hallway, his usually

bright eyes were shadowed. “So why?”

I took a step closer to him, my blood-covered feet sticking to the rug. I glanced down the stairs to where I could still see the prone form of the faerie and the stumps of his wings.

“Because I wouldn’t want to die alone,” I said, and my voice wobbled as I looked at Tamlin again, forcing myself to meet his stare. “Because I’d want someone to hold my hand until the end, and awhile after that. That’s something everyone deserves, human or faerie.” I swallowed hard, my throat painfully tight. “I regret what I did to Andras,” I said, the words so strangled they were no more than a whisper. “I regret that there was … such hate in my heart. I wish I could undo it—and … I’m sorry. So very sorry.”

I couldn’t remember the last time—if ever—I’d spoken to anyone like that. But he just nodded and turned away, and I wondered if I should say more, if I should kneel and beg for his forgiveness. If he felt such grief, such guilt, over a stranger, then Andras … By the time I opened my mouth, he was already down the steps.

I watched him—watched every movement he made, the muscles of his body visible through that blood-soaked tunic, watched that invisible weight bearing down on his shoulders. He didn’t look at me as he scooped up the broken body and carried it to the garden doors beyond my line of sight. I went to the window at the top of the stairs, watching as Tamlin carried the faerie through the moonlit garden and into the rolling fields beyond. He never once glanced back.

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