A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)(12)

by Sarah J. Maas

I said to him at last, “I don’t want your damn pity.”

“It’s not pity. Tamlin said I shouldn’t tell you—” He winced a bit.

“I’m not made of glass. If the naga attacked you, I deserve to know—”

“Tamlin is my High Lord. He gives an order, I follow it.”

“You didn’t have that mentality when you worked around his commands to send me to see the Suriel.” And I’d nearly died.

“I was desperate then. We all were. But now—now we need order, Feyre. We need rules, and rankings, and order, if we’re going to stand a chance of rebuilding. So what he says goes. I am the first one the others look to—I set the example. Don’t ask me to risk the stability of this court by pushing back. Not right now. He’s giving you as much free rein as he can.”

I forced a steady breath to fill my too-tight lungs. “For all that you refuse to interact with Ianthe, you certainly sound a great deal like her.”

He hissed, “You have no idea how hard it is for him to even let you off the estate grounds. He’s under more pressure than you realize.”

“I know exactly how much pressure he endures. And I didn’t realize I’d become a prisoner.”

“You’re not—” He clenched his jaw. “That’s not how it is and you know it.”

“He didn’t have any trouble letting me hunt and wander on my own when I was a mere human. When the borders were far less safe.”

“He didn’t care for you the way he does now. And after what happened Under the Mountain … ” The words clanged in my head, along my too-tense muscles. “He’s terrified. Terrified of seeing you in his enemies’ hands. And they know it, too—they know all they have to do to own him would be to get ahold of you.”

“You think I don’t know that? But does he honestly expect me to spend the rest of my life in that manor, overseeing servants and wearing pretty clothes?”

Lucien watched the ever-young forest. “Isn’t that what all human women wish for? A handsome faerie lord to wed and shower them with riches for the rest of their lives?”

I gripped the reins of my horse hard enough that she tossed her head. “Good to know you’re still a prick, Lucien.”

His metal eye narrowed. “Tamlin is a High Lord. You will be his wife. There are traditions and expectations you must uphold. We must uphold, in order to present a solid front that is healed from Amarantha and willing to destroy any foes who try to take what is ours again.” Ianthe had given me almost the same speech yesterday. “The Tithe is happening soon,” he continued, shaking his head, “the first he’s called in since … her curse.” His cringe was barely perceptible. “He gave our people three months to get their affairs in order, and he wanted to wait until the new year had started, but next month, he will demand the Tithe. Ianthe told him it’s time—that the people are ready.”

He waited, and I wanted to spit at him, because he knew—he knew that I didn’t know what it was, and wanted me to admit to it. “Tell me,” I said flatly.

“Twice a year, usually around the Summer and Winter Solstices, each member of the Spring Court, whether they’re High Fae or lesser faerie, must pay a Tithe, dependent on their income and status. It’s how we keep the estate running, how we pay for things like sentries and food and servants. In exchange, Tamlin protects them, rules them, helps them when he can. It’s a give or take. This year, he pushed the Tithe back by a month—just to grant them that extra time to gather funds, to celebrate. But soon, emissaries from every group, village, or clan will be arriving to pay their Tithes. As Tamlin’s wife, you will be expected to sit with him. And if they can’t pay … You will be expected to sit there while he metes out judgment. It can get ugly. I’ll be keeping track of who does and doesn’t show up, who doesn’t pay. And afterward, if they fail to pay their Tithe within the three days’ grace he will officially offer them, he’ll be expected to hunt them down. The High Priestesses themselves—Ianthe—grant him sacred hunting rights for this.”