“Rhysand,” Amarantha said—not needing to raise her voice to summon him. My heart became a leaden weight as those casual, strolling steps sounded from behind. They stopped when they were beside me—far too close for my liking.
From the corner of my eye, I studied the High Lord of the Night Court as he bowed at the waist. Night still seemed to ripple off him, like some near-invisible cloak.
Amarantha lifted her brows. “Is this the girl you saw at Tamlin’s estate?”
He brushed some invisible fleck of dust off his black tunic before he surveyed me. His violet eyes held boredom—and disdain. “I suppose.”
“But did you or did you not tell me that girl,” Amarantha said, her tone sharpening as she pointed to Clare, “was the one you saw?”
He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Humans all look alike to me.”
Amarantha gave him a saccharine smile. “And what about faeries?”
Rhysand bowed again—so smooth it looked like a dance. “Among a sea of mundane faces, yours is a work of art.”
Had I not been straddling the line between life and death, I might have snorted.
Humans all look alike … I didn’t believe him for a second. Rhysand knew exactly how I looked—he’d recognized me that day at the manor. I willed my features into neutrality as Amarantha’s attention again returned to me.
“What’s her name?” she demanded of Rhysand.
“How would I know? She lied to me.” Either toying with Amarantha was a joke to him—as much of a joke as impaling a head in Tamlin’s garden—or … it was just more court scheming.
I braced myself for the scrape of those talons against my mind, braced myself for the order I was sure she was to give next.
Still, I kept my lips sealed. I prayed Nesta had hired those scouts and guards—prayed she’d persuaded my father to take the precautions.
“If you’re inclined to play games, girl, then I suppose we can do this the fun way,” Amarantha said. She snapped her fingers at the Attor, who reached into the crowd and grabbed someone. Red hair glinted, and I jolted a step as the Attor yanked Lucien forward by the collar of his green tunic. No. No.
Lucien thrashed against the Attor but could do nothing against those needlelike nails as it forced him to his knees. The Attor smiled, releasing his tunic, but kept close.
Amarantha flicked a finger in Rhysand’s direction. The High Lord of the Night Court lifted a groomed brow. “Hold his mind,” she commanded.
My heart dropped to the floor. Lucien went utterly still, sweat gleaming on his neck as Rhysand bowed his head to the queen and faced him.
Behind them, pressing to the front of the crowd, came four tall, red-haired High Fae. Toned and muscled, some of them looking like warriors about to set foot on a battlefield, some like pretty courtiers, they all stared at Lucien—and grinned. The four remaining sons of the High Lord of the Autumn Court.
“Her name, Emissary?” Amarantha asked of Lucien. But Lucien only glanced at Tamlin before closing his eyes and squaring his shoulders. Rhysand began smiling faintly, and I shuddered at the memory of what those invisible claws had felt like as they gripped my mind. How easy it would have been for him to crush it.
Lucien’s brothers lurked on the edges of the crowd—no remorse, no fear on their handsome faces.
Amarantha sighed. “I thought you would have learned your lesson, Lucien. Though this time your silence will damn you as much as your tongue.” Lucien kept his eyes shut. Ready—he was ready for Rhysand to wipe out everything he was, to turn his mind, his self, into dust.
“Her name?” she asked Tamlin, who didn’t reply. His eyes were fixed on Lucien’s brothers, as if marking who was smiling the broadest.
Amarantha ran a nail down the arm of her throne. “I don’t suppose your handsome brothers know, Lucien,” she purred.
“If we did, Lady, we would be the first to tell you,” said the tallest. He was lean, well dressed, every inch of him a court-trained b*****d. Probably the eldest, given the way even the ones who looked like born warriors stared at him with deference and calculation—and fear.
Amarantha gave him a considering smile and lifted her hand. Rhysand cocked his head, his eyes narrowing slightly on Lucien.
Lucien stiffened. A groan slipped out of him, and—
“Feyre!” I shouted. “My name is Feyre.”
It was all I could do to keep from sinking to my knees as Amarantha nodded and Rhysand stepped back. He hadn’t even removed his hands from his pockets.
She must have allowed him more power than the others, then, if he could still inflict such harm while leashed to her. Or else his power before she’d stolen it had been … extraordinary, for this to be considered the basest remnants.
Lucien sagged on the ground, trembling. His brothers frowned—the eldest going so far as to bare his teeth at me in a silent snarl. I ignored him.
“Feyre,” Amarantha said, testing my name, the taste of the two syllables on her tongue. “An old name—from our earlier dialects. Well, Feyre,” she said. I could have wept with relief when she didn’t ask for my family name. “I promised you a riddle.”
Everything became thick and murky. Why did Tamlin do nothing, say nothing? What had Lucien been about to say before he’d fled my cell?
“Solve this, Feyre, and you and your High Lord, and all his court, may immediately leave with my blessing. Let’s see if you are indeed clever enough to deserve one of our kind.” Her dark eyes shone, and I cleared my mind as best I could as she spoke.
There are those who seek me a lifetime but never we meet,
And those I kiss but who trample me beneath ungrateful feet.
At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair,
But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.
By large, my ministrations are soft-handed and sweet,
But scorned, I become a difficult beast to defeat.
For though each of my strikes lands a powerful blow,
When I kill, I do it slow …
I blinked, and she repeated herself, smiling when she finished, smug as a cat. My mind was void, a blank mass of uselessness. Could it be some sort of disease? My mother had died of typhus, and her cousin had died of malaria after going to Bharat … But none of those symptoms seemed to match the riddle. Maybe it was a person?
A ripple of laughter spread across those assembled behind us, the loudest from Lucien’s brothers. Rhysand was watching me, wreathed in night and smiling faintly.