- A Court of Frost and Starlight
“Vassa and Jurian are still with Graysen. Do we loop them in?”
A strange gathering, down in the human lands. With no queen ever having been appointed to the slice of territory at the base of Prythian, only a council of wealthy lords and merchants, Jurian had somehow stepped in to lead. Using Graysen’s family estate as his seat of command.
And Vassa … She had stayed. Her keeper had granted her a reprieve from her curse—the enchantment that turned her into a firebird by day, woman again by night. And bound her to his lake deep in the continent.
I’d never seen such spell work. I’d sent my power over her, Helion too, hunting for any possible threads to unbind it. I found none. It was as if the curse was woven into her very blood.
But Vassa’s freedom would end. Lucien had said as much months ago, and still visited her often enough that I knew nothing in that regard had improved. She would have to return to the lake, to the sorcerer-lord who kept her prisoner, sold to him by the very queens who had again gathered in their joint castle. Formerly Vassa’s castle, too.
“Vassa knows that the Queens of the Realm will be a threat until they are dealt with,” I said at last. Another tidbit that Lucien had told us. Well, Az and me at least. “But unless the queens step out of line, it’s not for us to face. If we sweep in, even to stop them from triggering another war, we’ll be seen as conquerors, not heroes. We need the humans in other territories to trust us, if we can ever hope to achieve lasting peace.”
“Then perhaps Jurian and Vassa should deal with them. While Vassa is free to do so.”
I’d contemplated it. Feyre and I had discussed it long into the night. Several times. “The humans must be given a chance to rule themselves. Decide for themselves. Even our allies.”
“Send Lucien, then. As our human emissary.”
I studied the tenseness in Azriel’s shoulders, the shadows veiling half of him from the sunlight. “Lucien is away right now.”
Az’s brows rose. “Where?”
I winked at him. “You’re my spymaster. Shouldn’t you know?”
Az crossed his arms, face as elegant and cold as the legendary dagger at his side. “I don’t make a point of looking after his movements.”
Not a flicker of emotion. “He is Elain’s mate.”
“It would be an invasion of her privacy to track him.”
To know when and if Lucien sought her out. What they did together.
“You sure about that?” I asked quietly.
Azriel’s Siphons guttered, the stones turning as dark and foreboding as the deepest sea. “Where did Lucien go.”
I straightened at the pure order in the words. But I said, voice slipping into a drawl, “He went to the Spring Court. He’ll be there for Solstice.”
“Tamlin kicked him out the last time.”
“He did. But he invited him for the holiday.” Likely because Tamlin realized he’d be spending it alone in that manor. Or whatever was left of it.
I had no pity where that was concerned.
Not when I could still feel Feyre’s undiluted terror as Tamlin tore through the study. As he locked her in that house.
Lucien had let him do it, too. But I’d made my peace with him. Or tried to.
With Tamlin, it was more complicated than that. More complicated than I let myself usually dwell on.
He was still in love with Feyre. I couldn’t blame him for it. Even if it made me want to rip out his throat.
I shoved the thought away. “I’ll discuss Vassa and Jurian with Lucien when he returns. See if he’s up for another visit.” I angled my head. “Do you think he can handle being around Graysen?”
Az’s expressionless face was precisely the reason he’d never lost to us at cards. “Why should I be the judge of that?”
“You mean to tell me that you weren’t bluffing when you said you didn’t track Lucien’s every movement?”
Nothing. Absolutely nothing on that face, on his scent. The shadows, whatever the hell they were, hid too well. Too much. Azriel only said coldly, “If Lucien kills Graysen, then good riddance.”
I was inclined to agree. So was Feyre—and Nesta.
“I’m half tempted to give Nesta hunting rights for Solstice.”
“You’re getting her a gift?”
No. Sort of. “I’d think bankrolling her apartment and drinking was gift enough.”
Az ran a hand through his dark hair. “Are we …” Unusual for him to stumble with words. “Are we supposed to get the sisters presents?”
“No,” I said, and meant it. Az seemed to loose a sigh of relief. Seemed to, since all but a breath of air passed from his lips. “I don’t think Nesta gives a shit, and I don’t think Elain expects to receive anything from us. I’d leave the sisters to exchange presents amongst themselves.”
Az nodded distantly.
I drummed my fingers on the map, right over the Spring Court. “I can tell Lucien myself in a day or two. About going to Graysen’s manor.”
Azriel arched a brow. “You mean to visit the Spring Court?”
I wished I could say otherwise. But I instead told him what Eris had implied: that Tamlin either might not care to enforce his borders with the human realm or might be open to letting anyone through them. I doubted I’d get a decent night’s rest until I found out for myself.
When I finished, Az picked at an invisible speck of dust on the leather scales of his gauntlet. The only sign of his annoyance. “I can go with you.”
I shook my head. “It’s better to do this on my own.”
“Are you talking about seeing Lucien or Tamlin?”
Lucien, I could stomach. Tamlin … Perhaps I didn’t want any witnesses for what might be said. Or done.
“Will you ask Feyre to join you?” One look in Azriel’s hazel eyes and I knew he was well aware of my reasons for going alone.
“I’ll ask her in a few hours,” I said, “but I doubt she will want to come. And I doubt I will try my best to convince her to change her mind.”
Peace. We had peace within our grasp. And yet there were debts left unpaid that I was not above righting.
Az nodded knowingly. He’d always understood me best—more than the others. Save my mate. Whether it was his gifts that allowed him to do so, or merely the fact that he and I were more similar than most realized, I’d never learned.
But Azriel knew a thing or two about old scores to settle. Imbalances to be righted.
So did most of my inner circle, I supposed.
“No word on Bryaxis, I take it.” I peered toward the marble beneath my boots, as if I could see all the way to the library beneath this mountain and the now-empty lower levels that had once been occupied.
Az studied the floor as well. “Not a whisper. Or a scream, for that matter.”
I chuckled. My brother had a sly, wicked sense of humor. I’d planned to hunt Bryaxis down for months now—to take Feyre and let her track down the entity that, for lack of a better explanation, seemed to be fear itself. But, as with so many of my plans for my mate, running this court and figuring out the world beyond it had gotten in the way.
“Do you want me to hunt it down?” An easy, unruffled question.
I waved a hand, my mating band catching in the morning light. That I hadn’t heard from Feyre yet told me enough: still asleep. And as tempting as it was to wake her just to hear the sound of her voice, I had little desire to have my balls nailed to the wall for disrupting her sleep. “Let Bryaxis enjoy the Solstice as well,” I said.