The following afternoon, bleary-eyed and quiet, we all gathered at the lunch table. I thanked my sister and father for the party, and dodged my father’s inquiries regarding whether any of his friends’ sons had caught my eye.
The summer heat had arrived, and I propped my chin on a fist as I fanned myself. I’d slept fitfully in the heat last night. It was never too hot or too cold at Tamlin’s estate.
“I’m thinking of buying the Beddor land,” my father was saying to Elain, who was the only one of us listening to him. “I heard a rumor it’ll go up for sale soon, since none of the family survived, and it would be a good investment property. Perhaps one of you girls might build a house on it when you’re ready.”
Elain nodded interestedly, but I blinked. “What happened to the Beddors?”
“Oh, it was awful,” Elain said. “Their house burned down, and everyone died. Well, they couldn’t find Clare’s body, but …” She looked down at her plate. “It happened in the dead of night—the family, their servants, everyone. The day before you came home to us, actually.”
“Clare Beddor,” I said slowly.
“Our friend, remember?” Elain said.
I nodded, feeling Nesta’s eyes on me.
No—no, it couldn’t be possible. It had to be a coincidence—had to be a coincidence, because the alternative …
I had given that name to Rhysand.
And he had not forgotten it.
My stomach turned over, and I fought against the nausea that roiled within me.
“Feyre?” my father asked.
I put a shaking hand over my eyes, breathing in. What had happened? Not just at the Beddors’, but at home, in Prythian?
“Feyre,” my father said again, and Nesta hissed at him, “Quiet.”
I pushed back against the guilt, the disgust and terror. I had to get answers—had to know if it had been a coincidence, or if I might yet be able to save Clare. And if something had happened here, in the mortal realm, then the Spring Court … then those creatures Tamlin had been so frightened of … the blight that had infected magic, their lands …
Faeries. They had come over the wall and left no trace behind.
I lowered my hand and looked at Nesta. “You must listen very carefully,” I said to her, swallowing hard. “Everything I have told you must remain a secret. You do not come looking for me. You do not speak my name again to anyone.”
“What are you talking about, Feyre?” My father gaped at me from the end of the table. Elain glanced between us, shifting in her seat.
But Nesta held my gaze. Unflinching.
“I think something very bad might be happening in Prythian,” I said softly. I’d never learned what warning signs Tamlin had instilled in their glamours to prod my family to run, but I wasn’t going to risk relying solely on them. Not when Clare had been taken, her family murdered … because of me. Bile burned my throat.
“Prythian!” my father and Elain blurted. But Nesta held up a hand to silence them.
I went on, “If you won’t leave, then hire guards—hire scouts to watch the wall, the forest. The village, too.” I rose from my seat. “The first sign of danger, the first rumor you hear of the wall being breached or even something being strange, you get on a ship and go. You sail far away, as far south as you can get, to someplace the faeries would never desire.”
My father and Elain began blinking, as if clearing some fog from their minds—as if emerging from a deep sleep. But Nesta followed me into the hall, up the stairs.
“The Beddors,” she said. “That was meant to be us. But you gave them a fake name—those wicked faeries who threatened your High Lord.” I nodded. I could see the plans calculating in her eyes. “Is there going to be an invasion?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening. I was told that there was a kind of sickness that had made their powers weaken or go wild, a blight on the land that had damaged the safety of their borders and could kill people if it struck badly enough. They—they said it was surging again … on the move. The last I heard, it wasn’t near enough to harm our lands. But if the Spring Court is about to fall, then the blight has to be getting close, and Tamlin … Tamlin was one of the last bastions keeping the other courts in check—the deadly courts. And I think he’s in danger.”
I entered my room and began peeling off my gown. My sister helped me, then opened the wardrobe to pull out a heavy tunic and pants and boots. I slipped into them and was braiding back my hair when she said, “We don’t need you here, Feyre. Do not look back.”
I tugged on my boots and went for the hunting knives I’d discreetly acquired while here.
“Father once told you to never come back,” Nesta said, “and I’m telling you now. We can take care of ourselves.”
Once I might have thought it was an insult, but now I understood—understood what a gift she was offering me. I sheathed the knives at my side and slung a quiver of arrows across my back—none of them ash—before scooping up my bow. “They can lie,” I said, giving her information I hoped she would never need. “Faeries can lie, and iron doesn’t bother them one bit. But ash wood—that seems to work. Take my money and buy a damned grove of it for Elain to tend.”
Nesta shook her head, clutching her wrist, the bracelet of iron still there. “What do you think you can even do to help? He’s a High Lord—you’re just a human.” That wasn’t an insult, either. A question from a coolly calculating mind.
“I don’t care,” I admitted, at the door now, which I flung open. “But I’ve got to try.”
Nesta remained in my room. She would not say good-bye—she hated farewells as much as I did.
But I turned to my sister and said, “There is a better world, Nesta. There is a better world out there, waiting for you to find it. And if I ever get the chance, if things are ever better, safer … I will find you again.”
It was all I could offer her.
But Nesta squared her shoulders. “Don’t bother. I don’t think I’d be particularly fond of faeries.” I raised a brow. She went on with a slight shrug. “Try to send word once it’s safe. And if it ever is … Father and Elain can have this place. I think I’d like to see what else is out there, what a woman might do with a fortune and a good name.”
No limits, I thought. There were no limits to what Nesta might do, what she might make of herself once she found a place to call her own. I prayed I would be lucky enough to someday see it.