A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses 1) - Page 81

“I think my nose is broken. But nothing else.” As I said it, I looked around him for any signs of water or bandages—and found none. It would be magic, then.

Lucien glanced over his shoulder, checking the door. “The guards are drunk, but their replacements will be here soon,” he said, and then studied my nose. I braced myself as I allowed him to gently touch it. Even the graze of his fingertips sent flashes of burning pain through me. “I’m going to have to set it before I can heal it.”

I clamped down on my blind panic. “Do it. Right now.” Before I could wallow in my cowardice and tell him to forget about it. He hesitated. “Now,” I panted.

Too swift for me to follow, his fingers latched onto my nose. Pain lanced through me, and a crack burst through my ears, my head, before I fainted.

When I came to, I could open both eyes fully, and my nose—my nose was clear, and didn’t throb or send agony splintering through my face. Lucien was crouched over me, frowning. “I couldn’t heal you completely—they would know someone helped you. The bruises are there, along with a hideous black eye, but … all the swelling’s gone.”

“And my nose?” I said, feeling it before he answered.

“Fixed—as pert and pretty as before.” He smirked at me. The familiar gesture made my chest tighten to the point of pain.

“I thought she’d taken most of your power,” I managed to say. I’d barely seen him handle magic at all while at the estate.

He nodded to the little light bobbing over his shoulder. “She gave me back a fraction—to entice Tamlin to accept her offer. But he still refuses her.” He jerked his chin to my healed face. “I knew some good would come of being down here.”

“So you’re trapped Under the Mountain, too?”

A grim nod. “She’s summoned all the High Lords to her now—and even those who swore obedience are now forbidden to leave until … until your trials are over.”

Until I was dead was probably what he truly meant. “That ring,” I said. “Is it—is it actually Jurian’s eye?”

Lucien cringed. “Indeed. So you really know everything, then?”

“Alis didn’t say what happened after Jurian and Amarantha faced each other.”

“They wrecked an entire battlefield, using their soldiers as shields, until their forces were nearly all dead. Jurian had been gifted some protection against her, but once they entered into single combat … It didn’t take her long to render him prone. Then she dragged him back to her camp and took weeks—weeks—to torture and kill him. She refused orders to march to the King of Hybern’s aid—cost him armies and the War; she refused to do anything until she’d finished Jurian’s demise. All that she kept was his finger bone and his eye. Clythia promised him that he would never die—and so long as Amarantha keeps that eye of his preserved through her magic, keeps his soul and consciousness bound to it, he’ll remain trapped, watching through it. A fitting punishment for what he did, but”—Lucien tapped his own missing eye—“I’m glad she didn’t do the same to me. She seems to have an obsession with that sort of thing.”

I shuddered. A huntress—she was little more than an immortal, cruel huntress, collecting trophies from her kills and conquests to gloat over through the ages. The rage and despair and horror Jurian must endure every day, for eternity … Deserved, perhaps, but worse than anything I could imagine. I shook the thought from me. “Is Tamlin—”

“He’s—” But Lucien shot to his feet at a sound my human ears couldn’t hear. “The guards are about to change rotations and are headed this way. Try not to die, will you? I already have a long list of faeries to kill—I don’t need to add more to it, if only for Tamlin’s sake.”

Which was no doubt why he’d even come down here.

Lucien vanished—just vanished into the dim light. A moment later, a yellowish eye tinged with red appeared at the peephole in the door, glared at me, and continued onward.

I dozed on and off for what could have been hours or days. They gave me three miserable meals of stale bread and water at no regular interval that I could detect. All I knew when the door to my cell swung open was that my relentless hunger no longer mattered, and it would be wise not to struggle when the two squat, red-skinned faeries half dragged me to the throne room. I marked the path, picking out details in the hall—interesting cracks in the walls, features in the tapestries, an odd bend—anything to remind me of the way out of the dungeons.

I observed more of Amarantha’s throne room this time, too, noting the exits. No windows, as we were underground. And the mountain I’d seen depicted on that map at the manor was in the heart of the land—far from the Spring Court, even farther from the wall. If I were to escape with Tamlin, my best chance would be to run for that cave in the belly of the mountain.

A crowd of faeries stood along a far wall. Over their heads, I could make out the arch of a doorway. I tried not to look up at Clare’s rotting body as we passed, and instead focused on the assembled court. Everyone was clad in rich, colorful clothing—all of them seeming clean and fed. Dispersed among them were faeries with masks. The Spring Court. If I had any chance of finding allies, it would be with them.

I scanned the crowd for Lucien but didn’t find him before I was thrown at the foot of the dais. Amarantha wore a gown of rubies, drawing attention to her red-gold hair and to her lips, which spread in a serpentine smile as I looked up at her.

The Faerie Queen clicked her tongue. “You look positively dreadful.” She turned to Tamlin, still at her side. His expression remained distant. “Wouldn’t you say she’s taken a turn for the worse?”

He didn’t reply; he didn’t even meet my gaze.

“You know,” Amarantha mused, leaning against an arm of her throne, “I couldn’t sleep last night, and I realized why this morning.” She ran an eye over me. “I don’t know your name. If you and I are going to be such close friends for the next three months, I should know your name, shouldn’t I?”

I prevented myself from nodding. There was something charming and inviting about her—a part of me began to understand why the High Lords had fallen under her thrall, believed in her lies. I hated her for it.

When I didn’t reply, Amarantha frowned. “Come, now, pet. You know my name—isn’t it fair that I know yours?” There was movement to my right, and I tensed as the Attor appeared through the parted crowd, grinning at me with row after row of teeth. “After all”—Amarantha waved an elegant hand to the space behind me, the crystal casing around Jurian’s eye catching the light—“you’ve already learned the consequences of giving false names.” A black cloud wrapped around me as I sensed Clare’s nailed form on the wall behind me. Still, I kept my mouth shut.

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