Chapter no 48

A Court of Wings and Ruin

Helion slipped from Mor’s room before we were awake—though I certainly heard them throughout the night. Enough so that Rhys put a shield around our room. Azriel and Cassian didn’t return at all.

Mor didn’t look like a female who had been tumbling with a gorgeous High Lord, however, as she picked at her breakfast. There was something vacant in her brown eyes, a paleness to her ordinarily golden skin.

Cassian strutted in at last, greeting Mor with a chipper, “You look terrible

—Helion keep you up all night?”

She threw her spoon at him. Then her porridge.

Cassian caught the first and shielded against the other, his Siphon blazing like an awakening ember. Porridge slid to the floor.

“Helion wanted you to join,” she mildly replied, refilling her tea. “Quite badly.”

“Maybe next time,” Cassian said, dropping into the seat beside me. “How’s your sister?”

“She seemed fine—still worried.” I didn’t ask where he and Azriel had been all night. If only because I wasn’t sure Mor wanted to hear the answer.

Cassian served himself from the platters of fruits and pastries, frowning at the lack of meat. “Ready for another day full of arguing and plotting?”

Mor and I grumbled. Rhys strode in, hair still damp from his bath, and grinned. “That’s the spirit.”

Despite the fraught day ahead, I smiled at my mate.

He’d held me all night, tucked against his chest, his wing draped over me. A different sort of intimacy than the sex—deeper. Our souls entwined, holding tight.

I’d awoken to his wing still over me, his breath tickling my ear. My throat

had closed up as I’d studied his sleeping face, my chest tightening to the point of pain. I was well aware how wildly I loved him, but looking at him then … I felt it in every pore of my body, felt it as if it might crush me, consume me. And the next time someone insulted him …

The thought was still prowling through my mind as we finished breakfast, dressed, and returned to that chamber atop the palace. To begin forming the backbone of this alliance.

I kept the crown from yesterday, but swapped my Starfall gown for one of glittering black, the dress made up of solid ebony silk overlaid with shimmering obsidian gossamer. Its skirts flowed behind me, the tight sleeves tapered to points that brushed the center of my hand, looped into place around my middle finger with an attached onyx ring. If I was a fallen star yesterday, today Rhys’s mysterious clothier had made me into the Queen of the Night.

The rest of my companions had dressed accordingly.

Yesterday, we had been ourselves—open and friendly and caring. Today we showed the other courts what we’d unleash upon our enemies. What we were capable of if provoked.

Helion was back to his edged, swaggering aloofness, lounging in his chair as we entered that lovely chamber atop one of the palace’s many gilded towers. He gave Mor an extra glance, lips curving in sensual amusement. He was resplendent today in robes of cobalt edged in gold that offset his gleaming brown skin, golden sandals upon his feet. Azriel, shadows wafting from his shoulders and trailing at his feet, ignored him as he passed. The shadowsinger hadn’t shown a flicker of emotion, however, to Mor when he’d met us in the foyer.

She hadn’t asked where he’d been all night and morning, and Azriel had volunteered nothing. But he didn’t seem inclined to ignore her, at least. No, he’d just settled back into his usual watchful quiet, and Mor had been content to let him, slumping a bit in relief as soon as he’d turned to lead us to the meeting, likely having already scouted the walk minutes ago.

Thesan was the only person who bothered to greet us when we passed through that wisteria-draped archway, but he took one look at our attire, our faces, and muttered a prayer to the Cauldron. His lover, clad in his captain’s armor once more, sized us up, his wings flaring slightly, but kept seated with the other Peregryns.

Tamlin arrived last, raking his gaze over all of us as he sat. I didn’t bother to acknowledge him.

And Helion didn’t wait for Thesan to beckon to begin. He merely crossed an ankle over a knee and said, “I thoroughly reviewed the charts and figures you’ve compiled, Tamlin.”

“And?” Tamlin bit out. Today would go incredibly well, then.

“And,” Helion said simply, no trace of the laughing, easy male of the night before, “if you can rally your forces quickly, you and Tarquin might be able to hold the front line long enough for those of us above the Middle to bring the larger hosts.”

“It’s not that easy,” Tamlin said through his teeth. “I have a third of them left.” A seething look toward me. “After Feyre destroyed their faith in me.”

I had done that—in my rage, my need for vengeance … I had not thought long-term. Had not considered that perhaps we would need that army. But—

Nesta let out a breathy, sharp noise and surged from her chair.

I lunged for her, nearly tripping over the skirts of my dress as she staggered back, a hand clutching at her chest.

Another step would have taken her stumbling into the reflection pool, but Mor sprang forward, gripping her. “What’s wrong?” Mor demanded, holding my sister upright as her face contorted in what looked to be—pain. Confusion and pain.

Sweat beaded on Nesta’s brow, though her face went deathly pale. “Something …” The word was cut off by a low groan. She sagged, and Mor caught her fully, scanning Nesta’s face. Cassian was instantly there, his hand at her back, teeth bared at the invisible threat.

“Nesta,” I said, reaching for her.

Nesta seized—then twisted past Cassian to empty her stomach into the reflection pool.

“Poison?” Kallias asked, pushing Viviane behind him. She merely stepped around his arm. Tamlin remained seated, his jaw a hard line, monitoring us all.

But Helion and Thesan strode forward, grim and focused. Helion’s power flickered around him like blindingly bright fireflies, darting to my sister, landing on her gently.

Thesan, glowing gold and rosy, laid a hand on Nesta’s arm. Healing. “Nothing,” they said together.

Nesta rested her head against Mor’s shoulder, her breathing ragged. “Something is wrong,” she managed to say. “Not with me. Not me.”

But with the Cauldron.

Rhys was having some sort of silent conversation with Azriel and Cassian, the latter monitoring every breath my sister took. But the two Illyrians nodded to Rhys, and began stalking for the open windows—to fly out.

Nesta moaned, body tensing as if she’d vomit again. But then we felt it.

A shuddering through the earth. Through air and stone and green, growing things.

As if some great god blew a breath across the land. Then the impact came.

Rhys threw himself over me so fast I didn’t register wholly that the mountain itself shook, that the building swayed. We hit the stones as debris rained, and I felt him readying to winnow—

Then it stopped.

Screaming rose up from the valley below. But silence reigned in the palace. Amongst us.

Nesta vomited again, and Mor let her sag to the floor this time. “What in hell—” Helion began.

But Rhys hauled his body off mine, his tan face draining of color. His lips going bloodless as he stared southward. Far, far southward.

I felt his magic spear from him, a shooting star across the land.

And when he looked back at us, his eyes went right to me. It was the fear in them—the sorrow and fear—that made my mouth go wholly dry. That made my blood run cold.

Rhys swallowed. Once. Twice. Then he declared hoarsely, “The King of Hybern just used the Cauldron to attack the wall.”

Murmuring—some gasps.

Rhys swallowed a third time, and the ground slid out from under me as he clarified, “The wall is gone. Shattered. Across Prythian, and on the continent.” He said again, as if convincing himself, “We were too late—too slow. Hybern just destroyed the wall.”

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