Chapter no 52

A Court of Wings and Ruin

We waited outside the gates while a guard mounted a horse and galloped down the long, dusty road to the fortress itself. A second curtain wall lay around the bulky building. With our Fae sight, we could see as those gates opened, then another pair.

“How did you even meet him,” I murmured to Elain as we lingered beneath the shade of the looming oaks outside the gate, “if he’s locked up in here?”

Elain stared and stared at the distant fortress. “At a ball—his father’s ball.” “I’ve been to funerals that were merrier,” Nesta muttered.

Elain cut her a look. “This house has needed a woman’s touch for years.” Neither of us said that it didn’t seem likely she would be the one.

Azriel kept a few steps away, little more than the shade of one of the oaks behind us. But Mor and Rhys … they monitored everything. The guards whose fear … the salty, sweaty tang of it grated on every nerve.

But they held firm. Held those ash-tipped arrows at us.

Long minutes passed. Then finally a yellow flag was raised at the distant fortress gates. We braced ourselves.

But one of the guards before us grunted, “He’ll come out to see you.”



We were not to be allowed within the keep. To see their defenses, their resources.

The guardhouse was as far as they’d allow us.

They led us inside, and though we tried to keep our otherness to a minimum … The hounds leashed to the walls within snarled. Viciously enough that the guards led them out.

The main room of the guardhouse was stuffy and cramped, more so with all of us in there, and though I offered Elain a seat by the sealed window, she remained standing—at the front of our company. Staring at the shut iron door. I knew Rhys was listening to every word the guards uttered outside, his tendrils of power waiting to sense any turn in their intentions. I doubted the stone and iron of the building could hold any of us, certainly not together, but

… Letting them shut us in here to wait … It rubbed against some nerve. Made my body restless, a cold sweat breaking out. Too small, not enough air—

It’s all right, Rhys soothed. This place cannot hold you.

I nodded, though he hadn’t spoken, trying to swallow the feeling of the walls and ceiling pushing on me.

Nesta was watching me carefully. I admitted to her, “Sometimes … I have problems with small spaces.”

Nesta studied me for a long moment. And then she said with equal quiet, though we could all hear, “I can’t get into a bathtub anymore. I have to use buckets.”

I hadn’t known—hadn’t even thought that bathing, submerging in water … I knew better than to touch her hand. But I said, “When we get home, we’ll

install something else for you.”

I could have sworn there was gratitude in her eyes—that she might have said something else when horses approached.

“Two dozen guards,” Azriel murmured to Rhys. A glance at Elain. “And Lord Graysen and his father, Lord Nolan.”

Elain went still as a doe as footsteps crunched outside. I caught Nesta’s eye, read the understanding there, and nodded.

Any attempt to hurt Elain … I did not care what I had promised my sister. I’d leave Nesta to shred him. Indeed, my eldest sister’s fingers had curled—as if invisible talons crowned them.

But the door banged open, and—

The panting young man was so … human-looking.

Handsome, brown-haired, blue-eyed, but … human. Solidly built beneath his light armor, tall—perhaps a mortal ideal of a knight who would swoop a beautiful maiden onto his horse and ride off into the sunset.

So at odds from the savage strength of the Illyrians, the cultivated lethalness of Mor and Amren. From my own clawing and shredding—and Nesta’s.

But a small sound came out of Elain as she beheld Graysen. As he gasped

for breath, scanning her from head to toe. He staggered toward her a step—

A broad, scar-flecked hand gripped the back of Graysen’s armor, hauling him to a stop.

The man who held the young lord fully entered the cramped room.

Tall and thin, hawk-nosed and gray-eyed … “What is the meaning of this.” We all stared at him beneath lowered brows.

Elain was shaking. “Sir—Lord Nolan …” Words failed her as she again looked at her betrothed, who had not taken his earnest blue eyes from her, not for a heartbeat.

“The wall has come down,” Nesta said, stepping to Elain’s side.

Graysen looked to Nesta at that. Shock flared at what he beheld: the ears, the beauty, the … otherworldly power that thrummed around her. “How,” he said, his voice low and raspy.

“I was kidnapped,” Nesta answered coolly, not one flicker of fear in her eyes. “I was taken by the army invading these lands and turned against my will.”

“How,” Nolan echoed.

“There is a Cauldron—a weapon. It grants its owner power to … do such things. I was a test.” Nesta then launched into a sharp, short explanation of the queens, of Hybern, of why the wall had fallen.

When she finished Lord Nolan only demanded, “And who are your companions?”

It was a gamble—we knew it was. To say who we were, when we knew full well the terror of any Fae, let alone High Lords …

But I stepped forward. “My name is Feyre Archeron. I am High Lady of the Night Court. This is Rhysand, my—husband.” I doubted mate would go over well as a term.

Rhys came to my side. Some of the guards shifted and murmured with terror. Some flinched at the hand Rhys lifted—to gesture behind him. “Our third in command, Morrigan. And our spymaster, Azriel.”

Lord Nolan, to his credit, did not blanch. Graysen did, but remained steady. “Elain,” Graysen breathed. “Elain—why are you with them?”

“Because she is our sister,” Nesta answered, her fingers still curled with those invisible talons. “And there is no safer place for her during this war than with us.”

Elain whispered, “Graysen—we’ve come to beg you …” A pleading glance at his father. “Both of you … Open your gates to any humans who can

get here. To families. With the wall down … We—they believe … There is not enough time for an evacuation. The queens will not send aid from the continent. But here—they might stand a chance.”

Neither man responded, though Graysen now looked at Elain’s engagement ring. His blue eyes rippled with pain. “I would be inclined to believe you,” he said quietly, “if you were not lying to me with your every breath.”

Elain blinked. “I—I am not, I—”

“Did you think,” Lord Nolan said, and Nesta and I closed ranks around Elain as he took a step toward us, “that you could come to my house and deceive me with your faerie magic?”

Rhys said, “We don’t care what you believe. We only come to ask you to help those who cannot defend themselves.”

“At what gain? What risk of your own?”

“You have an arsenal of ash weapons,” I said. “I’d think the risk to us is apparent.”

“And to your sister as well,” Nolan spat toward Elain. “Don’t forget to include her.”

“Any weapon can hurt a mortal,” Mor said blandly.

“But she isn’t a mortal, is she?” Nolan sneered. “No, I have it on good authority that it was Elain Archeron who was turned Fae first. And who now has a High Lord’s son as a mate.”

“And who, exactly, told you this?” Rhys said with a lift of the brow, not showing one ounce of ire, of surprise.

Steps sounded.

But we all went for our weapons as Jurian strolled into the guardhouse and said, “I did.”

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