A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)(4)


by Sarah J. Maas

It was bad enough that I’d been required to stand before the gathered courtiers and lesser faeries while Tamlin made his many toasts and salutes. Mentioning that my birthday had also fallen on that longest night of the year was a fact I’d conveniently forgotten to tell anyone. I’d received enough presents, anyway—and would no doubt receive many, many more on my wedding day. I had little use for so many things.

Now, only two weeks stood between me and the ceremony. If I didn’t get out of the manor, if I didn’t have a day to do something other than spend Tamlin’s money and be groveled to—

“Please. The recovery efforts are so slow. I could hunt for the villagers, get them food—”

“It’s not safe,” Tamlin said, again nudging his stallion into a walk. The horse’s coat shone like a dark mirror, even in the shade of the stables. “Especially not for you.”

He’d said that every time we had this argument; every time I begged him to let me go to the nearby village of High Fae to help rebuild what Amarantha had burned years ago.

I followed him into the bright, cloudless day beyond the stables, the grasses coating the nearby foothills undulating in the soft breeze. “People want to come back, they want a place to live—”

“Those same people see you as a blessing—a marker of stability. If something happened to you … ” He cut himself off as he halted his horse at the edge of the dirt path that would take him toward the eastern woods, Lucien now waiting a few yards down it. “There’s no point in rebuilding anything if Amarantha’s creatures tear through the lands and destroy it again.”

“The wards are up—”

“Some slipped in before the wards were repaired. Lucien hunted down five naga yesterday.”

I whipped my head toward Lucien, who winced. He hadn’t told me that at dinner last night. He’d lied when I’d asked him why he was limping. My stomach turned over—not just at the lie, but … naga. Sometimes I dreamed of their blood showering me as I killed them, of their leering serpentine faces while they tried to fillet me in the woods.

Tamlin said softly, “I can’t do what I need to if I’m worrying about whether you’re safe.”

“Of course I’ll be safe.” As a High Fae, with my strength and speed, I’d stand a good chance of getting away if something happened.

“Please—please just do this for me,” Tamlin said, stroking his stallion’s thick neck as the beast nickered with impatience. The others had already moved their horses into easy canters, the first of them nearly within the shade of the woods. Tamlin jerked his chin toward the alabaster estate looming behind me. “I’m sure there are things to help with around the house. Or you could paint. Try out that new set I gave for you for Winter Solstice.”

There was nothing but wedding planning waiting for me in the house, since Alis refused to let me lift a finger to do anything. Not because of who I was to Tamlin, what I was about to become to Tamlin, but … because of what I’d done for her, for her boys, for Prythian. All the servants were the same; some still cried with gratitude when they passed me in the halls. And as for painting …

“Fine,” I breathed. I made myself look him in the eye, made myself smile. “Be careful,” I said, and meant it. The thought of him going out there, hunting the monsters that had once served Amarantha …

“I love you,” Tamlin said quietly.

I nodded, murmuring it back as he trotted to where Lucien still waited, the emissary now frowning slightly. I didn’t watch them go.

I took my time retreating through the hedges of the gardens, the spring birds chirping merrily, gravel crunching under my flimsy shoes.