A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses 1) - Page 72

Elain, to my surprise, had a horse, a satchel of food, and supplies ready when I hurried down the stairs. My father was nowhere in sight. But Elain threw her arms around me, and, holding tightly, said, “I remember—I remember all of it now.”

I wrapped my arms around her. “Be on your guard. All of you.”

She nodded, tears in her eyes. “I would have liked to see the continent with you, Feyre.”

I smiled at my sister, memorizing her lovely face, and wiped her tears away. “Maybe someday,” I said. Another promise that I’d be lucky to keep.

Elain was still crying as I spurred my horse and galloped down the drive. I didn’t have it in me to say good-bye to my father once more.

I rode all day and stopped only when it was too dark for me to see. Due north—that’s where I would start and go until I hit the wall. I had to get back—had to see what had happened, had to tell Tamlin everything that was in my heart before it was too late.

I rode all of the second day, slept fitfully, and was off before first light.

On and on, through the summer forest, lush and dense and humming.

Until an absolute silence fell. I slowed my horse to a careful walk and scanned the brush and trees ahead for any sign, any ripple. There was nothing. Nothing, and then—

My horse bucked and shook her head, and it was all I could do to stay in the saddle as she refused to go forward. But still, there was nothing—no marker. Yet when I dismounted, hardly breathing as I put a hand out, I found that I could not pass.

There, cleaving through the forest, was an invisible wall.

But the faeries came and went through it—through holes, rumor claimed. So I led my horse down the line, tapping the wall every so often to make sure I hadn’t veered away.

It took me two days—and the night between them was more terrifying than any I’d experienced at the Spring Court. Two days, before I spied the mossy stones placed across from each other, a faint whorl carved into them both. A gate.

This time, when I mounted my horse and steered her between them, she obeyed.

Magic stung my nostrils, zapping until my horse bucked again, but we were through.

I knew these trees.

I rode in silence, an arrow nocked and ready, the threats lurking in the forest far greater than those in the woods I’d just left.

Tamlin might be furious—he might command me to turn around and go home. But I would tell him that I was going to help, tell him that I loved him and would fight for him however I could, even if I had to tie him down to make him listen.

I became so intent on contemplating how I might convince him not to start roaring that I didn’t immediately notice the quiet—how the birds didn’t sing, even as I drew closer to the manor itself, how the hedges of the estate looked in need of a trim.

By the time I reached the gates, my mouth had gone dry. The gates were open, but the iron had been bent out of shape, as if mighty hands had wrenched them apart.

Every step of the horse’s hooves was too loud on the gravel path, and my stomach dropped further when I beheld the wide-open front doors. One of them hung at an angle, ripped off its top hinge.

I dismounted, arrow still at the ready. But there was no need. Empty—it was utterly empty here. Like a tomb.

“Tam?” I called. I bounded up the front steps and into the house. I rushed inside, swearing as I slid on a piece of broken porcelain—the remnants of a vase. Slowly, I turned in the front hall.

It looked as if an army had marched through. Tapestries hung in shreds, the marble banister was fractured, and the chandeliers lay broken on the ground, reduced to mounds of shattered crystal.

“Tamlin?” I shouted. Nothing.

The windows had all been blown out. “Lucien?”

No one answered.

“Tam?” My voice echoed through the house, mocking me.

Alone in the wreckage of the manor, I sank to my knees.

He was gone.

Chapter 32

I gave myself a minute—just one minute—to kneel in the remnants of the entry hall.

Then I eased to my feet, careful not to disturb any of the shattered glass or wood or—blood. There were splatters of it everywhere, along with small puddles and smears down the gouged walls.

Another forest, I told myself. Another set of tracks.

Slowly, I moved across the floor, tracing the information left. It had been a vicious fight—and from the blood patterns, most of the damage to the house had been done during the fight, not afterward. The crushed glass and footprints came and went from the front and back of the house, as if the whole place had been surrounded. The intruders had needed to force their way in though the front door; they’d just completely shattered the doors to the garden.

No bodies, I kept repeating to myself. There were no bodies, and not much gore. They had to be alive. Tamlin had to be alive.

Because if he were dead …

I rubbed my face, taking a shuddering breath. I wouldn’t let myself get that far. My hands shook as I paused before the dining room doors, both barely hanging on their hinges.

I couldn’t tell if the damage was from his lashing out after Rhysand’s arrival the day before my departure or if someone else had caused it. The giant table was in pieces, the windows smashed, the curtains in shreds. But no blood—there was no blood here. And from the prints in the shards of glass …

I studied the trail across the floor. It had been disturbed, but I could make out two sets—large and side by side—leading from where the table had been. As if Tamlin and Lucien had been sitting in here as the attack happened, and walked out without a fight.

If I was right … then they were alive. I traced the steps to the doorway, squatting for a moment to work through the churned-up shards, dirt, and blood. They’d been met here—by multiple sets of prints. And headed toward the garden—

Debris crunched from down the hall. I drew my hunting knife and ducked farther into the dining room, scanning for a place to hide. But everything was in pieces. With no other option, I lunged behind the open door. I pressed a hand over my mouth to keep from breathing too loudly and peered through the crack between the door and the wall.

Something limped into the room and sniffed. I could only see its back—cloaked in a plain cape, medium height … All it had to do to find me was shut the door. Perhaps if it came far enough into the dining room, I could slip out—but that would require leaving my hiding spot. Perhaps it would just look around and then leave.

The figure sniffed again, and my stomach clenched. It could smell me. I dared a better glance at it, hoping to find a weakness, a spot for my knife, if things came down to it.

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