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A Court of Thorns and Roses (Page 24)

A Court of Thorns and Roses(24)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

A shudder went down my spine, violent enough that I didn’t acknowledge the red-hot glare Lucien lobbed my way. I didn’t have the nerve to ask if Tamlin could change me into another shape.

“Anyway,” Lucien went on, “the High Fae don’t have specific powers the way the lesser faeries do. I don’t have a natural-born affinity, if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t clean everything in sight or lure mortals to a watery death or grant you answers to whatever questions you might have if you trap me. We just exist—to rule.”

I turned in the other direction so he couldn’t see as I rolled my eyes. “I suppose if I were one of you, I’d be one of the faeries, not High Fae? A lesser faerie like Alis, waiting on you hand and foot?” He didn’t reply, which amounted to a yes. With that arrogance, no wonder Lucien found my presence as a replacement for his friend to be abhorrent. And since he would probably loathe me forever, since he’d ended my scheming before it had even begun, I asked, “How’d you get that scar?”

“I didn’t keep my mouth shut when I should have, and was punished for it.”

“Tamlin did that to you?”

“Cauldron, no. He wasn’t there. But he got me the replacement afterward.”

More answers-that-weren’t-answers. “So there are faeries who will actually answer any question if you trap them?” Maybe they’d know how to free me from the Treaty’s terms.

“Yes,” he said tightly. “The Suriel. But they’re old and wicked, and not worth the danger of going out to find them. And if you’re stupid enough to keep looking so intrigued, I’m going to become rather suspicious and tell Tam to put you under house arrest. Though I suppose you would deserve it if you were indeed stupid enough to seek one out.”

They had to lurk nearby, then, if he was this concerned. Lucien whipped his head to the right, listening, his eye whirring softly. The hair on my neck stood, and I had my bow drawn in a heartbeat, pointing in the direction Lucien stared.

“Put your bow down,” he whispered, his voice low and rough. “Put your damned bow down, human, and look straight ahead.”

I did as he said, the hair on my arms rising as something rustled in the brush.

“Don’t react,” Lucien said, forcing his gaze ahead, too, the metal eye going still and silent. “No matter what you feel or see, don’t react. Don’t look. Just stare ahead.”

I started trembling, gripping the reins in my sweaty hands. I might have wondered if this was some kind of horrible joke, but Lucien’s face had gone so very, very pale. Our horses’ ears flattened against their heads, but they continued walking, as if they’d also understood Lucien’s command.

And then I felt it.

Chapter 10

My blood froze as a creeping, leeching cold lurched by. I couldn’t see anything, just a vague shimmering in the corner of my vision, but my horse stiffened beneath me. I willed my face into blankness. Even the balmy spring woods seemed to recoil, to wither and freeze.

The cold thing whispered past, circling. I could see nothing, but I could feel it. And in the back of my mind, an ancient, hollow voice whispered:

I will grind your bones between my claws; I will drink your marrow; I will feast on your flesh. I am what you fear; I am what you dread … Look at me. Look at me.

I tried to swallow, but my throat had closed up. I kept my eyes on the trees, on the canopy, on anything but the cold mass circling us again and again.

Look at me.

I wanted to look—I needed to see what it was.

Look at me.

I stared at the coarse trunk of a distant elm, thinking of pleasant things. Like hot bread and full bellies—

I will fill my belly with you. I will devour you. Look at me.

A starry, unclouded night sky, peaceful and glittering and endless. Summer sunrise. A refreshing bath in a forest pool. Meetings with Isaac, losing myself for an hour or two in his body, in our shared breaths.

It was all around us, so cold that my teeth chattered. Look at me.

I stared and stared at that ever-nearing tree trunk, not daring to blink. My eyes strained, filling with tears, and I let them fall, refusing to acknowledge the thing that lurked around us.

Look at me.

And just as I thought I would give in, when my eyes hurt so much from not looking, the cold disappeared into the brush, leaving a trail of still, recoiling plants behind it. Only after Lucien exhaled and our horses shook their heads did I dare sag in my seat. Even the crocuses seemed to straighten again.

“What was that?” I asked, brushing the tears from my face.

Lucien’s face was still pale. “You don’t want to know.”

“Please. Was it that … Suriel you mentioned?”

Lucien’s russet eye was dark as he answered hoarsely. “No. It was a creature that should not be in these lands. We call it the Bogge. You cannot hunt it, and you cannot kill it. Even with your beloved ash arrows.”

“Why can’t I look at it?”

“Because when you look at it—when you acknowledge it—that’s when it becomes real. That’s when it can kill you.”

A shiver spider-walked down my spine. This was the Prythian I’d expected—the creatures that made humans speak of them in hushed tones even now. The reason I hadn’t hesitated, not for a heartbeat, when I’d considered the possibility of that wolf being a faerie. “I heard its voice in my head. It told me to look.”

Lucien rolled his shoulders. “Well, thank the Cauldron that you didn’t. Cleaning up that mess would have ruined the rest of my day.” He gave me a wan smile. I didn’t return it.

I still heard the Bogge’s voice whispering between the leaves, calling to me.

After an hour of meandering through the trees, hardly speaking to each other, I’d stopped trembling enough to turn to him.

“So you’re old,” I said. “And you carry around a sword, and go on border patrol. Did you fight in the War?” Fine—perhaps I hadn’t quite let go of my curiosity about his eye.

He winced. “S**t, Feyre—I’m not that old.”

“Are you a warrior, though?” Would you be able to kill me if it ever came to that?

Lucien huffed a laugh. “Not as good as Tam, but I know how to handle my weapons.” He patted the hilt of his sword. “Would you like me to teach you how to wield a blade, or do you already know how, oh mighty mortal huntress? If you took down Andras, you probably don’t need to learn anything. Only where to aim, right?” He tapped on his chest.

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