A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)(17)

by Sarah J. Maas

A night breeze floated through the open windows, ruffling my hair, drying the cold sweat on me. The dark sky beckoned, the stars so dim and small, like speckles of frost.

Bron had sounded as if watching my encounter with the Middengard Wyrm was a sporting match. As if I hadn’t been one mistake away from being devoured whole and my bones spat out.

Savior and jester, apparently.

I stumbled to the open window, and pushed it wider, clearing my view of the star-flecked darkness.

I rested my head against the wall, savoring the cool stones.

In a few hours, I’d be married. I’d have my happy ending, whether I deserved it or not. But this land, these people—they would have their happy ending, too. The first few steps toward healing. Toward peace. And then things would be fine.

Then I’d be fine.

I really, truly hated my wedding gown.

It was a monstrosity of tulle and chiffon and gossamer, so unlike the loose gowns I usually wore: the bodice fitted, the neckline curved to plump my breasts, and the skirts … The skirts were a sparkling tent, practically floating in the balmy spring air.

No wonder Tamlin had laughed. Even Alis, as she’d dressed me, had hummed to herself, but said nothing. Most likely because Ianthe had personally selected the gown to complement whatever tale she’d weave today—the legend she’d proclaim to the world.

I might have dealt with it all if it weren’t for the puffy capped sleeves, so big I could almost see them glinting from the periphery of my vision. My hair had been curled, half up, half down, entwined with pearls and jewels and the Cauldron knew what, and it had taken all my self-control to keep from cringing at the mirror before descending the sweeping stairs into the main hall. My dress hissed and swished with each step.

Beyond the shut patio doors where I paused, the garden had been bedecked in ribbons and lanterns in shades of cream, blush, and sky blue. Three hundred chairs were assembled in the largest courtyard, each seat occupied by Tamlin’s court. I’d make my way down the main aisle, enduring their stares, before I reached the dais at the other end—where Tamlin would be waiting.

Then Ianthe would sanction and bless our union right before sundown, as a representative of all twelve High Priestesses. She’d hinted that they’d pushed to be present—but through whatever cunning, she’d managed to keep the other eleven away. Either to claim the attention for herself, or to spare me from being hounded by the pack of them. I couldn’t tell. Perhaps both.

My mouth went paper-dry as Alis fluffed out the sparkling train of my gown in the shadow of the garden doors. Silk and gossamer rustled and sighed, and I gripped the pale bouquet in my gloved hands, nearly snapping the stems.

Elbow-length silk gloves—to hide the markings. Ianthe had delivered them herself this morning in a velvet-lined box.

“Don’t be nervous,” Alis clucked, her tree-bark skin rich and flushed in the honey-gold evening light.

“I’m not,” I rasped.

“You’re fidgeting like my youngest nephew during a haircut.” She finished fussing over my dress, shooing away some servants who’d come to spy on me before the ceremony. I pretended I didn’t see them, or the glittering, sunset-gilded crowd seated in the courtyard ahead, and toyed with some invisible fleck of dust on my skirts.

“You look beautiful,” Alis said quietly. I was fairly certain her thoughts on the dress were the same as my own, but I believed her.

“Thank you.”

“And you sound like you’re going to your funeral.”

I plastered a grin on my face. Alis rolled her eyes. But she nudged me toward the doors as they opened on some immortal wind, lilting music streaming in. “It’ll be over faster than you can blink,” she promised, and gently pushed me into the last of the sunlight.