Chapter 10 – A Court of Thorns and Roses

Chapter 10

My blood froze as a creeping, leeching cold lurched by. I couldn’t see anything, just a vague shimmering in the corner of my vision, but my horse stiffened beneath me. I willed my face into blankness. Even the balmy spring woods seemed to recoil, to wither and freeze.

The cold thing whispered past, circling. I could see nothing, but I could feel it. And in the back of my mind, an ancient, hollow voice whispered:

I will grind your bones between my claws; I will drink your marrow; I will feast on your flesh. I am what you fear; I am what you dread … Look at me. Look at me.

I tried to swallow, but my throat had closed up. I kept my eyes on the trees, on the canopy, on anything but the cold mass circling us again and again.

Look at me.

I wanted to look—I needed to see what it was.

Look at me.

I stared at the coarse trunk of a distant elm, thinking of pleasant things. Like hot bread and full bellies—

I will fill my belly with you. I will devour you. Look at me.

A starry, unclouded night sky, peaceful and glittering and endless. Summer sunrise. A refreshing bath in a forest pool. Meetings with Isaac, losing myself for an hour or two in his body, in our shared breaths.

It was all around us, so cold that my teeth chattered. Look at me.

I stared and stared at that ever-nearing tree trunk, not daring to blink. My eyes strained, filling with tears, and I let them fall, refusing to acknowledge the thing that lurked around us.

Look at me.

And just as I thought I would give in, when my eyes hurt so much from not looking, the cold disappeared into the brush, leaving a trail of still, recoiling plants behind it. Only after Lucien exhaled and our horses shook their heads did I dare sag in my seat. Even the crocuses seemed to straighten again.

“What was that?” I asked, brushing the tears from my face. Lucien’s face was still pale. “You don’t want to know.” “Please. Was it that … Suriel you mentioned?”

Lucien’s russet eye was dark as he answered hoarsely. “No. It was a creature that should not be in these lands. We call it the Bogge. You cannot hunt it, and you cannot kill it. Even with your beloved ash arrows.”

“Why can’t I look at it?”

“Because when you look at it—when you acknowledge it—that’s when it becomes real.

That’s when it can kill you.”

A shiver spider-walked down my spine. This was the Prythian I’d expected—the creatures that made humans speak of them in hushed tones even now. The reason I hadn’t hesitated, not for a heartbeat, when I’d considered the possibility of that wolf being a faerie. “I heard its voice in my head. It told me to look.”

Lucien rolled his shoulders. “Well, thank the Cauldron that you didn’t. Cleaning up that mess would have ruined the rest of my day.” He gave me a wan smile. I didn’t return it.

I still heard the Bogge’s voice whispering between the leaves, calling to me.

After an hour of meandering through the trees, hardly speaking to each other, I’d stopped trembling enough to turn to him.

“So you’re old,” I said. “And you carry around a sword, and go on border patrol. Did you fight in the War?” Fine—perhaps I hadn’t quite let go of my curiosity about his eye.

He winced. “Shit, Feyre—I’m not that old.”

“Are you a warrior, though?” Would you be able to kill me if it ever came to that?

Lucien huffed a laugh. “Not as good as Tam, but I know how to handle my weapons.” He patted the hilt of his sword. “Would you like me to teach you how to wield a blade, or do you already know how, oh mighty mortal huntress? If you took down Andras, you probably don’t need to learn anything. Only where to aim, right?” He tapped on his chest.

“I don’t know how to use a sword. I only know how to hunt.” “Same thing, isn’t it?”

“For me it’s different.”

Lucien fell silent, considering. “I suppose you humans are such hateful cowards that you would have wet yourself, curled up, and waited to die if you’d known beyond a doubt what Andras truly was.” Insufferable. Lucien sighed as he looked me over. “Do you ever stop being so serious and dull?”

“Do you ever stop being such a prick?” I snapped back. Dead—really, truly, I should have been dead for that.

But Lucien grinned at me. “Much better.” Alis, it seemed, had not been wrong.

Whatever tentative truce we built that afternoon vanished at the dinner table.

Tamlin was lounging in his usual seat, a long claw out and circling his goblet. It paused

on the lip as soon as I entered, Lucien on my heels. His green eyes pinned me to the spot.

Right. I’d brushed him off that morning, claiming I wanted to be alone.

Tamlin slowly looked at Lucien, whose face had turned grave. “We went on a hunt,” Lucien said.

“I heard,” Tamlin said roughly, glancing between us as we took our seats. “And did you have fun?” Slowly, his claw sank back into his flesh.

Lucien didn’t answer, leaving it to me. Coward. I cleared my throat. “Sort of,” I said. “Did you catch anything?” Every word was clipped out.

“No.” Lucien gave me a pointed cough, as if urging me to say more.

But I had nothing to say. Tamlin stared at me for a long moment, then dug into his food, not all that interested in talking to me, either.

Then Lucien quietly said, “Tam.”

Tamlin looked up, more animal than fae in those green eyes. A demand for whatever it was Lucien had to say.

Lucien’s throat bobbed. “The Bogge was in the forest today.”

The fork in Tamlin’s hand folded in on itself. He said with lethal calm, “You ran into it?”

Lucien nodded. “It moved past but came close. It must have snuck through the border.”

Metal groaned as Tamlin’s claws punched out, obliterating the fork. He rose to his feet with a powerful, brutal movement. I tried not to tremble at the contained fury, at how his canines seemed to lengthen as he said, “Where in the forest?”

Lucien told him. Tamlin threw a glance in my direction before stalking out of the room and shutting the door behind him with unnerving gentleness.

Lucien loosed a breath, pushing away his half-eaten food and rubbing at his temples. “Where is he going?” I asked, staring toward the door.

“To hunt the Bogge.”

“You said it couldn’t be killed—that you can’t face it.” “Tam can.”

My breath caught a bit. The gruff High Fae halfheartedly flattering me was capable of killing a thing like the Bogge. And yet he’d served me himself that first night, offered me life rather than death. I’d known he was lethal, that he was a warrior of sorts, but …

“So he went to hunt the Bogge where we were earlier today?” Lucien shrugged. “If he’s going to pick up a trail, it would be there.”

I had no idea how anyone could face that immortal horror, but … it wasn’t my problem.

And just because Lucien wasn’t going to eat anymore didn’t mean I wouldn’t. Lucien, lost in thought, didn’t even notice the feast I downed.

I returned to my room, and—awake and with nothing else to do—began monitoring the garden beyond for any signs of Tamlin’s return. He didn’t come back.

I sharpened the knife I’d hidden away on a bit of stone I’d taken from the garden. An hour passed—and still Tamlin didn’t return.

The moon showed her face, casting the garden below in silver and shadow.

Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous to watch for his return, to see if he could indeed survive against the Bogge. I turned from the window, about to drag myself into bed.

But something moved out in the garden.

I lunged for the curtains beside the window, not wanting to be caught waiting for him, and peered out.

Not Tamlin—but someone lurked by the hedges, facing the house. Looking toward me. Male, hunched, and—

The breath went out of me as the faerie hobbled closer—just two steps into the light leaking from the house.

Not a faerie, but a man. My father.

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