A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)(6)

by Sarah J. Maas

The day had turned warm, the room a bit stuffy even with the breeze through the open windows. And yet the heavy hooded robe remained on.

All the High Priestesses wore the billowing, artfully twisted and layered robes—though they certainly were far from matronly. Ianthe’s slim waist was on display with a fine belt of sky-blue, limpid stones, each perfectly oval and held in shining silver. And atop her hood sat a matching circlet—a delicate band of silver, with a large stone at its center. A panel of cloth had been folded up beneath the circlet, a built-in swath meant to be pulled over the brow and eyes when she needed to pray, beseech the Cauldron and Mother, or just think.

Ianthe had shown me once what the panel looked like when down: only her nose and full, sensuous mouth visible. The Voice of the Cauldron. I’d found the image unsettling—that merely covering the upper part of her face had somehow turned the bright, cunning female into an effigy, into something Other. Mercifully, she kept it folded back most of the time. Occasionally, she even took the hood off entirely to let the sun play in her long, gently curling golden hair.

Ianthe’s silver rings gleamed atop her manicured fingers as she wrote another name down. “It’s like a game,” she said, sighing through her pert nose. “All these pieces, vying for power or dominance, willing to shed blood, if need be. It must be a strange adjustment for you.”

Such elegance and wealth—yet the savagery remained. The High Fae weren’t the tittering nobility of the mortal world. No, if they feuded, it would end with someone being ripped to bloody ribbons. Literally.

Once, I’d trembled to share breathing space with them.

I flexed my fingers, stretching and contorting the tattoos etched into my skin.

Now I could fight alongside them, against them. Not that I’d tried.

I was too watched—too monitored and judged. Why should the bride of the High Lord learn to fight if peace had returned? That had been Ianthe’s reasoning when I’d made the mistake of mentioning it at dinner. Tamlin, to his credit, had seen both sides: I’d learn to protect myself … but the rumors would spread.

“Humans aren’t much better,” I told her at last. And because Ianthe was about the only one of my new companions who didn’t look particularly stunned or frightened by me, I tried to make conversation and said, “My sister Nesta would likely fit right in.”

Ianthe cocked her head, the sunlight setting the blue stone atop her hood glimmering. “Will your mortal kin be joining us?”

“No.” I hadn’t thought to invite them—hadn’t wanted to expose them to Prythian. Or to what I’d become.

She tapped a long, slender finger on the table. “But they live so close to the wall, don’t they? If it was important for you to have them here, Tamlin and I could ensure their safe journey.” In the hours we’d spent together, I’d told her about the village, and the house my sisters now lived in, about Isaac Hale and Tomas Mandray. I hadn’t been able to mention Clare Beddor—or what had happened to her family.

“For all that she’d hold her own,” I said, fighting past the memory of that human girl, and what had been done to her, “my sister Nesta detests your kind.”

“Our kind,” Ianthe corrected quietly. “We’ve discussed this.”

I just nodded.

But she went on, “We are old, and cunning, and enjoy using words like blades and claws. Every word from your mouth, every turn of phrase, will be judged—and possibly used against you.” As if to soften the warning, she added, “Be on your guard, Lady.”

Lady. A nonsense name. No one knew what to call me. I wasn’t born High Fae.