Chapter 7 – A Court of Thorns and Roses

Chapter 7

The golden-haired High Fae and Lucien were lounging at the table when Alis returned me to the dining room. They no longer had plates before them, but still sipped from golden goblets. Real gold—not paint or foil. Our mismatched cutlery flashed through my mind as I paused in the middle of the room. Such wealth—such staggering wealth, when we had nothing.

A half-wild beast, Nesta had called me. But compared to him, compared to this place, compared to the elegant, easy way they held their goblets, the way the golden-haired one had called me human … we were all half-wild beasts to the High Fae. Even if they were the ones who could don fur and claws.

Food still remained on the table, the array of spices lingering in the air, beckoning. I was starving, my head unnervingly light.

The golden-haired High Fae’s mask gleamed with the last rays of the afternoon sunshine. “Before you ask again: the food is safe for you to eat.” He pointed to the chair at the other end of the table. No sign of his claws. When I didn’t move, he sighed sharply. “What do you want, then?”

I said nothing. To eat, flee, save my family …

Lucien drawled from his seat along the length of the table, “I told you so, Tamlin.” He flicked a glance toward his friend. “Your skills with females have definitely become rusty in recent decades.”

Tamlin. He glowered at Lucien, shifting in his seat. I tried not to stiffen at the other bit of information Lucien had given away. Decades.

Tamlin didn’t look much older than me, but his kind was immortal. He could be hundreds of years old. Thousands. My mouth dried up as I carefully studied their strange, masked faces—unearthly, primal, and imperious. Like immovable gods or feral courtiers.

“Well,” Lucien said, his remaining russet eye fixed on me, “you don’t look half as bad now. A relief, I suppose, since you’re to live with us. Though the tunic isn’t as pretty as a dress.”

Wolves ready to pounce—that’s what they were, just like their friend. I was all too aware of my diction, of the very breath I took as I said, “I’d prefer not to wear that dress.”

“And why not?” Lucien crooned.

It was Tamlin who answered for me. “Because killing us is easier in pants.”

I kept my face blank, willed my heart to calm as I said, “Now that I’m here, what … what do you plan to do with me?”

Lucien snorted, but Tamlin said with a snarl of annoyance, “Just sit down.”

An empty seat had been pulled out at the end of the table. So many foods, piping hot and wafting those enticing spices. The servants had probably brought out new food while I’d washed. So much wasted. I clenched my hands into fists.

“We’re not going to bite.” Lucien’s white teeth gleamed in a way that suggested otherwise. I avoided his gaze, avoided that strange, animated metal eye that focused on me as I inched to my seat and sat down.

Tamlin rose, stalking around the table—closer and closer, each movement smooth and lethal, a predator blooded with power. It was an effort to keep still—especially as he picked up a dish, brought it over to me, and piled some meat and sauce on my plate.

I said quietly, “I can serve myself.” Anything, anything to keep him well away from me.

Tamlin paused, so close that one swipe of those claws lurking under his skin could rip my throat out. That was why the leather baldric bore no weapons: why use them when you were a weapon yourself? “It’s an honor for a human to be served by a High Fae,” he said roughly.

I swallowed hard. He continued piling various foods on my plate, stopping only when it was heaping with meat and sauce and bread, and then filled my glass with pale sparkling wine. I loosed a breath as he prowled back to his seat, though he could probably hear it.

I wanted nothing more than to bury my face in the plate and then eat my way down the table, but I pinned my hands beneath my thighs and stared at the two faeries.

They watched me, too closely to be casual. Tamlin straightened a bit and said, “You look … better than before.”

Was that a compliment? I could have sworn Lucien gave Tamlin an encouraging nod. “And your hair is … clean.”

Perhaps it was my raging hunger making me hallucinate the piss-poor attempt at flattery. Still, I leaned back and kept my words calm and quiet, the way I might speak to any other predator. “You’re High Fae—faerie nobility?”

Lucien coughed and looked to Tamlin. “You can take that question.”

“Yes,” Tamlin said, frowning—as if searching for anything to say to me. He settled on merely: “We are.”

Fine. A man—faerie—of few words. I had killed his friend, was an unwanted guest. I wouldn’t want to talk to me, either.

“What do you plan to do with me now that I’m here?”

Tamlin’s eyes didn’t leave my face. “Nothing. Do whatever you want.” “So I’m not to be your slave?” I dared ask.

Lucien choked on his wine. But Tamlin didn’t smile. “I don’t keep slaves.”

I ignored the release of tightness in my chest at that. “But what am I to do with my life

here?” I pressed. “Do you—do you wish me to earn my keep? To work?” A stupid question, if he hadn’t considered it, but … but I had to know.

Tamlin stiffened. “What you do with your life isn’t my problem.”

Lucien pointedly cleared his throat, and Tamlin flashed him a glare. After an exchanged look I couldn’t read, Tamlin sighed and said, “Don’t you have any … interests?”

“No.” Not entirely true, but I wasn’t about to explain the painting to him. Not when he was apparently having a great deal of trouble just talking to me civilly.

Lucien muttered, “So typically human.”

Tamlin’s mouth quirked to the side. “Do whatever you want with your time. Just stay out of trouble.”

“So you truly mean for me to stay here forever.” What I meant was: So I’m to stay in this luxury while my family starves to death?

“I didn’t make the rules,” Tamlin said tersely.

“My family is starving,” I said. I didn’t mind begging—not for this. I’d given my word, and held to that word for so long that I was nothing and no one without it. “Please let me go. There must be—must be some other loophole out of the Treaty’s rules—some other way to atone.”

“Atone?” Lucien said. “Have you even apologized yet?”

Apparently, all attempts to flatter me were dead and gone. So I looked Lucien right in his remaining russet eye and said, “I’m sorry.”

Lucien leaned back in his chair. “How did you kill him? Was it a bloody fight, or just cold-blooded murder?”

My spine stiffened. “I shot him with an ash arrow. And then an ordinary arrow through the eye. He didn’t put up a fight. After the first shot, he just stared at me.”

“Yet you killed him anyway—though he made no move to attack you. And then you skinned him,” Lucien hissed.

Enough, Lucien,” Tamlin said to his courtier with a snarl. “I don’t want to hear details.” He turned to me, ancient and brutal and unyielding.

I spoke before he could say anything. “My family won’t last a month without me.” Lucien chuckled, and I gritted my teeth. “Do you know what it’s like to be hungry?” I demanded, anger rising to devour any common sense. “Do you know what it’s like to not know when your next meal will be?”

Tamlin’s jaw tightened. “Your family is alive and well-cared for. You think so low of faeries that you believe I’d take their only source of income and nourishment and not replace it?”

I straightened. “You swear it?” Even if faeries couldn’t lie, I had to hear it. A low, incredulous laugh. “On everything that I am and possess.”

“Why not tell me that when we left the cottage?”

“Would you have believed me? Do you even believe me now?” Tamlin’s claws embedded in the arms of his chair.

“Why should I trust a word you say? You’re all masters of spinning your truths to your own advantage.”

“Some would say it’s unwise to insult a Fae in his home,” Tamlin ground out. “Some would say you should be grateful for me finding you before another one of my kind came to claim the debt, for sparing your life and then offering you the chance to live in comfort.”

I shot to my feet, wisdom be damned, and was about to kick back my chair when invisible hands clapped on my arms and shoved me back into the seat.

“Do not do whatever it was you were contemplating,” Tamlin said.

I went still as the tang of magic seared my nose. I tried to twist in the chair, testing the invisible bonds. But my arms were secured, and my back was pressed into the wood so hard that it ached. I glanced at the knife beside my plate. I should have gone for it first— futile effort or no.

“I’m going to warn you once,” Tamlin said too softly. “Only once, and then it’s on you, human. I don’t care if you go live somewhere else in Prythian. But if you cross the wall, if you flee, your family will no longer be cared for.”

His words were like a stone to the head. If I escaped, if I even tried to run, I might very well doom my family. And even if I dared risk it … even if I succeeded in reaching them, where would I take them? I couldn’t stow my sisters away on a ship—and once we arrived somewhere else, somewhere safe, we’d have nowhere to live. But for him to hold my family’s well-being against me, to throw away their survival if I stepped out of line …

I opened my mouth, but his snarl rattled the glasses. “Is that not a fair bargain? And if you flee, then you might not be so lucky with whoever comes to retrieve you next.” His claws slipped back under his knuckles. “The food is not enchanted, or drugged, and it will be your own damn fault if you faint. So you’re going to sit at this table and eat, Feyre. And Lucien will do his best to be polite.” He threw a pointed look in his direction. Lucien shrugged.

The invisible bonds loosened, and I winced as I whacked my hands on the underside of the table. The bonds on my legs and middle remained intact. One glance at Tamlin’s smoldering green eyes told me what I wanted to know: his guest or not, I wasn’t going to get up from this table until I’d eaten something. I’d think about the sudden change in my plans to escape later. Now … for now I eyed the silver fork and carefully picked it up.

They still watched me—watched my every move, the flare of my nostrils as I sniffed the food on my plate. No metallic stench of magic. And faeries couldn’t lie. So he had to be right about the food, then. Stabbing a piece of chicken, I took a bite.

It was an effort to keep from grunting. I hadn’t had food this good in years. Even the meals we’d had before our downfall were little more than ashes compared to this. I ate my entire plate in silence, too aware of the High Fae observing every bite, but as I reached for

a second helping of chocolate torte, the food vanished. Just—vanished, as if it had never existed, not a crumb left behind.

Swallowing hard, I set my fork down so they wouldn’t see my hand start to shake. “One more bite and you’ll hurl your guts up,” Tamlin said, drinking deeply from his goblet.

The bonds holding me loosened. Silent permission to leave. “Thank you for the meal,” I said. It was all I could think of.

“Won’t you stay for wine?” Lucien said with sweet venom from where he lounged in his seat.

I braced my hands on my chair to rise. “I’m tired. I’d like to sleep.”

“It’s been a few decades since I last saw one of you,” Lucien drawled, “but you humans never change, so I don’t think I’m wrong in asking why you find our company to be so unpleasant, when surely the men back home aren’t much to look at.”

At the other end of the table, Tamlin gave his emissary a long, warning look. Lucien ignored it.

“You’re High Fae,” I said tightly. “I’d ask why you’d even bother inviting me here at all—or dining with me.” Fool—I really should have been killed ten times over already.

Lucien said, “True. But indulge me: you’re a human woman, and yet you’d rather eat hot coals than sit here longer than necessary. Ignoring this”—he waved a hand at the metal eye and brutal scar on his face—“surely we’re not so miserable to look at.” Typical faerie vanity and arrogance. That, at least, the legends had been right about. I tucked the knowledge away. “Unless you have someone back home. Unless there’s a line of suitors out the door of your hovel that makes us seem like worms in comparison.”

There was enough dismissal there that I took a little bit of satisfaction in saying, “I was close with a man back in my village.” Before that Treaty ripped me away—before it became clear that you are allowed to do as you please to us, but we can hardly strike back against you.

Tamlin and Lucien exchanged glances, but it was Tamlin who said, “Are you in love with this man?”

“No,” I said as casually as I could. It wasn’t a lie—but even if I’d felt anything like that for Isaac, my answer would have been the same. It was bad enough that High Fae now knew my family existed. I didn’t need to add Isaac to that list.

Again, that shared look between the two males. “And do you … love anyone else?” Tamlin said through clenched teeth.

A laugh burst out of me, tinged with hysteria. “No.” I looked between them. Nonsense. These lethal, immortal beings really had nothing better to do than this? “Is this really what you care to know about me? If I find you more handsome than human men, and if I have a man back home? Why bother to ask at all, when I’ll be stuck here for the rest of my life?” A hot line of anger sliced through my senses.

“We wanted to learn more about you, since you’ll be here for a good while,” Tamlin said, his lips a thin line. “But Lucien’s pride tends to get in the way of his manners.” He sighed, as if ready to be done with me, and said, “Go rest. We’re both busy most days, so if you need anything, ask the staff. They’ll help you.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why be so generous?” Lucien gave me a look that suggested he had no idea, either, given that I’d murdered their companion, but Tamlin stared at me for a long moment.

“I kill too often as it is,” Tamlin said finally, shrugging his broad shoulders. “And you’re insignificant enough to not ruffle this estate. Unless you decide to start killing us.”

A faint warmth bloomed in my cheeks, my neck. Insignificant—yes, I was insignificant to their lives, their power. As insignificant as the fading, chipped designs I’d painted around the cottage. “Well …,” I said, not quite feeling grateful at all, “thank you.”

He gave a distant nod and motioned for me to leave. Dismissed. Like the lowly human I was. Lucien propped his chin on a fist and gave me a lazy half smile.

Enough. I got to my feet and backed toward the door. Putting my back to them would have been like walking away from a wolf, sparing my life or no. They said nothing when I slipped out the door.

A moment later, Lucien’s barking laugh echoed into the halls, followed by a sharp, vicious growl that shut him up.

I slept fitfully that night, and the lock on my bedroom door felt more like a joke than anything.

I was wide awake before dawn, but I remained staring at the filigreed ceiling, watching the growing light creep between the drapes, savoring the softness of the down mattress. I was usually out of the cottage by first light—though my sisters hissed at me every morning for waking them so early. If I were home, I’d already be entering the woods, not wasting a moment of precious sunlight, listening to the drowsy chatter of the few winter birds. Instead, this bedroom and the house beyond were silent, the enormous bed foreign and empty. A small part of me missed the warmth of my sisters’ bodies overlapping with mine.

Nesta must be stretching her legs and smiling at the extra room. She was probably content imagining me in the belly of a faerie—probably using the news as a chance to be fussed over by the villagers. Maybe my fate would prompt them to give my family some handouts. Or maybe Tamlin had given them enough money—or food, or whatever he thought “taking care” of them consisted of—to last through the winter. Or maybe the villagers would turn on my family, not wanting to be associated with people tied with Prythian, and run them out of town.

I buried my face in the pillow, pulling the blankets higher. If Tamlin had indeed provided for them, if those benefits would cease the moment I crossed the wall, then they’d likely resent my return more than celebrate it.

Your hair is … clean.

A pathetic compliment. I supposed that if he’d invited me to live here, to spare my life,

he couldn’t be completely … wicked. Perhaps he’d just been trying to smooth over our very, very rough beginning. Maybe there would be some way to persuade him to find some loophole, to get whatever magic that bound the Treaty to spare me. And if not some way, then someone

I was drifting from one thought to another, trying to sort through the jumble, when the lock on the door clicked, and—

There was a screech and a thud, and I bolted upright to find Alis in a heap on the floor. The length of rope I’d made from the curtain trimmings now hung loosely from where I’d rigged it to snap into anyone’s face. It had been the best I could do with what I had.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I blurted, leaping from the bed, but Alis was already up, hissing at me as she brushed off her apron. She frowned at the rope dangling from the light fixture.

“What in the bottomless depths of the Cauldron is—”

“I didn’t think anyone would be in here so early, and I meant to take it down, and—”

Alis looked me over from head to toe. “You think a bit of rope snapping in my face will keep me from breaking your bones?” My blood went cold. “You think that will do anything against one of us?”

I might have kept apologizing were it not for the sneer she gave me. I crossed my arms. “It was a warning bell to give me time to run. Not a trap.”

She seemed poised to spit on me, but then her sharp brown eyes narrowed. “You can’t outrun us, either, girl.”

“I know,” I said, my heart calming at last. “But at least I wouldn’t face my death unaware.”

Alis barked out a laugh. “My master gave his word that you could live here—live, not die. We will obey.” She studied the hanging bit of rope. “But did you have to wreck those lovely curtains?”

I didn’t want to—tried not to, but a hint of a smile tugged on my lips. Alis strode over to the remnants of the curtains and threw them open, revealing a sky that was still a deep periwinkle, splashed with hues of pumpkin and magenta from the rising dawn. “I am sorry,” I said again.

Alis clicked her tongue. “At least you’re willing to put up a fight, girl. I’ll give you that.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but another female servant with a bird mask entered, a breakfast tray in hand. She bid me a curt good morning, set the tray on a small table by the window, and disappeared into the attached bathing chamber. The sound of running water filled the room.

I sat at the table and studied the porridge and eggs and bacon—bacon. Again, such similar food to what we ate across the wall. I don’t know why I’d expected otherwise. Alis poured me a cup of what looked and smelled like tea: full-bodied, aromatic tea, no doubt imported at great expense. Prythian and my adjoining homeland weren’t exactly easy to

reach. “What is this place?” I asked her quietly. “Where is this place?”

“It’s safe, and that’s all you need to know,” Alis said, setting down the teapot. “At least the house is. If you go poking about the grounds, keep your wits about you.”

Fine—if she wouldn’t answer that … I tried again. “What sort of—faeries should I look out for?”

“All of them,” Alis said. “My master’s protection only goes so far. They’ll want to hunt and kill you just for being a human—regardless of what you did to Andras.”

Another useless answer. I dug into my breakfast, savoring each rich sip of tea, and she slipped into the bathing chamber. When I was done eating and bathing, I refused Alis’s offer and dressed myself in another exquisite tunic—this one of purple so deep it could have been black. I wished I knew the name for the color, but cataloged it anyway. I pulled on the brown boots I’d worn the night before, and as I sat before a marble vanity letting Alis braid my wet hair, I cringed at my reflection.

It wasn’t pleasing—though not for its actual appearance. While my nose was relatively straight, it was the other feature I’d inherited from my mother. I could still remember how her nose would crinkle with feigned amusement when one of her fabulously wealthy friends made some unfunny joke.

At least I had my father’s soft mouth, though it made a mockery of my too-sharp cheekbones and hollow cheeks. I couldn’t bring myself to look at my slightly uptilted eyes. I knew I’d see Nesta or my mother looking back at me. I’d sometimes wondered if that was why my sister had insulted me about my looks. I was a far cry from ugly, but … I bore too much of the people we’d hated and loved for Nesta to stand it. For me to stand it, too.

Though I supposed that for Tamlin—for High Fae used to ethereal, flawless beauty—it had been a struggle to find a compliment. Faerie bastard.

Alis finished my plait, and I jumped from the bench before she could weave in little flowers from the basket she’d brought. I would have lived up to my namesake were it not for the effects of poverty, but I’d never particularly cared. Beauty didn’t mean anything in the forest.

When I asked Alis what I was to do now—what I was to do with the entirety of my mortal life—she shrugged and suggested a walk in the gardens. I almost laughed, but I kept my tongue still. I’d be foolish to push aside potential allies. I doubted she had Tamlin’s ear, and I couldn’t press her about it yet, but … At least a walk provided a chance to glean some sense of my surroundings—and whether there was anyone else who might plead my case to Tamlin.

The halls were silent and empty—strange for such a large estate. They’d mentioned others the night before, but I saw and heard no sign of them. A balmy breeze scented with

… hyacinth, I realized—if only from Elain’s small garden—floated down the halls, carrying with it the pleasant chirping of a bunting, a bird I wouldn’t hear back home for months—if I ever heard them at all.

I was almost to the grand staircase when I noticed the paintings.

I hadn’t let myself really look yesterday, but now, in the empty hall with no one to see me … a flash of color amid a shadowy, gloomy background made me stop, a riot of color and texture that compelled me to face the gilded frame.

I’d never—never—seen anything like it.

It’s just a still life, a part of me said. And it was: a green glass vase with an assortment of flowers drooping over its narrow top, blossoms and leaves of every shape and size and color—roses, tulips, morning glory, goldenrod, maiden’s lace, peonies …

The skill it must have taken to make them look so lifelike, to make them more than lifelike … Just a vase of flowers against a dark background—but more than that; the flowers seemed to be vibrant with their own light, as if in defiance of the shadows gathered around them. The mastery needed to make the glass vase hold that light, to bend the light with the water within, as if the vase did indeed have weight to it atop its stone pedestal … Remarkable.

I could have stared at it for hours—and the countless paintings along this hall alone could have occupied my entire day—but … garden. Plans.

Still, as I moved on, I couldn’t deny that this place was far more … civilized than I’d thought. Peaceful, even, if I was willing to admit it.

And if the High Fae were indeed gentler than human legend and rumor had led me to believe, then maybe convincing Alis of my misery might not be too hard. If I could win over Alis, convince her that the Treaty had been wrong to demand such payment from me, she might indeed see if there was anything to get me out of this debt and—

“You,” someone said, and I jumped back a step. In the light of the open glass doors to the garden, a towering male figure stood silhouetted before me.

Tamlin. He wore those warrior’s clothes, cut close to show off his toned body, and three simple knives were now sheathed along his baldric—each long enough to look like it could gut me as easily as his beast’s claws. His blond hair had been tied back from his face, revealing those pointed ears and that strange, beautiful mask. “Where are you going?” he said, gruffly enough that it almost sounded like a demand. You—I wondered if he even remembered my name.

It took a moment to will enough strength into my legs to rise from my half crouch. “Good morning,” I said flatly. At least it was a better greeting than You. “You said my time was to be spent however I wanted. I didn’t realize I was under house arrest.”

His jaw tightened. “Of course you’re not under house arrest.” Even as he bit out the words, I couldn’t ignore the sheer male beauty of that strong jaw, the richness of his golden-tan skin. He was probably handsome—if he ever took off that mask.

When he realized that I wasn’t going to respond, he bared his teeth in what I supposed was an attempt at a smile and said, “Do you want a tour?”

“No, thank you,” I managed to get out, conscious of every awkward motion of my body as I edged around him.

He stepped into my path—close enough that he conceded a step back. “I’ve been sitting

inside all morning. I need some fresh air.” And you’re insignificant enough that you wouldn’t be a bother.

“I’m fine,” I said, casually dodging him. “You’ve … been generous enough.” I tried to sound like I meant it.

A half smile, not so pleasant, no doubt unused to being denied. “Do you have some sort of problem with me?”

“No,” I said quietly, and walked through the doors.

He let out a low snarl. “I’m not going to kill you, Feyre. I don’t break my promises.”

I almost stumbled down the garden steps as I glanced over my shoulder. He stood atop the stairs, as solid and ancient as the pale stones of the manor. “Kill—but not harm? Is that another loophole? One that Lucien might use against me—or anyone else here?”

“They’re under orders not to even touch you.”

“Yet I’m still trapped in your realm, for breaking a rule I didn’t know existed. Why was your friend even in the woods that day? I thought the Treaty banned your kind from entering our lands.”

He just stared at me. Perhaps I’d gone too far, questioned him too much. Perhaps he could tell why I’d really asked.

“That Treaty,” he said quietly, “doesn’t ban us from doing anything, except for enslaving you. The wall is an inconvenience. If we cared to, we could shatter it and march through to kill you all.”

I might be forced to live in Prythian forever, but my family … I dared ask, “And do you care to destroy the wall?”

He looked me up and down, as if deciding whether I was worth the effort of explaining. “I have no interest in the mortal lands, though I can’t speak for my kind.”

But he still hadn’t answered my question. “Then what was your friend doing there?”

Tamlin stilled. Such unearthly, primal grace, even to his breathing. “There is … a sickness in these lands. Across Prythian. There has been for almost fifty years now. It is why this house and these lands are so empty: most have left. The blight spreads slowly, but it has made magic act … strangely. My own powers are diminished due to it. These masks”—he tapped on his—“are the result of a surge of it that occurred during a masquerade forty-nine years ago. Even now, we can’t remove them.”

Stuck in masks—for nearly fifty years. I would have gone mad, would have peeled my skin off my face. “You didn’t have a mask as a beast—and neither did your friend.”

“The blight is cruel like that.”

Either live as a beast, or live with the mask. “What—what sort of sickness is it?”

“It’s not a disease—not a plague or illness. It’s focused solely on magic, on those dwelling in Prythian. Andras was across the wall that day because I sent him to search for a cure.”

“Can it hurt humans?” My stomach twisted. “Will it spread over the wall?”

“Yes,” he said. “There is … a chance of it affecting mortals, and your territory. More than that, I don’t know. It’s slow-moving, and your kind is safe for now. We haven’t had any progression in decades—magic seems to have stabilized, even though it’s been weakened.” That he’d even admitted so much spoke volumes about how he imagined my future: I was never going home, never going to encounter another human to whom I might spill this secret vulnerability.

“A mercenary told me she believed faeries might be thinking of attacking. Is it related?”

A hint of a smile, perhaps a bit surprised. “I don’t know. Do you talk to mercenaries often?”

“I talk to whoever bothers to tell me anything useful.”

He straightened, and it was only his promise not to kill me that kept me from cringing. Then he rolled his shoulders, as if shaking off his annoyance. “Was the trip wire you rigged in your room for me?”

I sucked on my teeth. “Can you blame me if it was?”

“I might take an animal form, but I am civilized, Feyre.”

So he did remember my name, at least. But I looked pointedly at his hands, at the razor- sharp tips of those long, curved claws poking through his tanned skin.

Noticing my stare, he tucked his hands behind his back. He said sharply, “I’ll see you at dinner.”

It wasn’t a request, but I still gave him a nod as I strode off between the hedges, not caring where I was going—only that he stayed far behind.

A sickness in their lands, affecting their magic, draining it from them … A magical blight that might one day spread to the human world. After so many centuries without magic, we’d be defenseless against it—against whatever it could do to humans.

I wondered if any of the High Fae would bother warning my kind. It didn’t take me long to know the answer.

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