A Court of Darkness and Song

 

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Chapter 1

    Sanarie shuffled as quickly as she could to the throne room, it was a long way from the kitchens in the bowels of The Hewn City, to the throne room, a trip she tried to avoid at all costs, hunched over as she always was, disfigured from injuries she couldn't even remember attaining, she had never been able to walk upright, not from her memory, either too far back or blacked out in an effort to maintain mental and emotional equilibrium.
    A cold shiver went through her chest, at the words the messenger had said, she was to present her father with his favourite wine, a task he knew pained her and made her perform when he was low on subjects to torment or humiliate. The weight of the gilded decanter he demanded his wine be bought in was too much for her to manage, but she was forced into it, for his entertainment.
    The High Lord and Lady were not present, nor anyone who would advocate for any kindness on her behalf, High Lord Rhysand was formidable, there was a healthy fear of him, but it wasn't cruelty she feared from him, just his power and what he could do if he deigned to show them. When he and his court, his real court, were present, no cruelty would be shown to her, well at least nothing a kin to what she would experience today. She had sensed this from the miniscule amount of time, she'd been allowed in his presence over the 500+ years she'd been born, raised, and caged in the city; Lord Rhysand had a kind soul, then he had the mask he wore for his subjects of the Hewn City.
    It would be her father, steward of The Court of Nightmares she would be facing today and facing alone, Keir Darkbringer.
    As she drew near the last of the steps, the stairs of her ascent from the kitchens took their toll, heavy laden wine decanter or no, stairs were taxing on her back. As she stumbled on a stone step, an arm caught her elbow and righted her gently with a hand also on her lower back to support her.
    "It's me, I came as fast as I could, give me the jug, just until we get to the carved halls" whispered Korazsa’s voice in her ear.
    Sanarie was relieved it wasn't someone with ill intent, but wary nonetheless at the sound of her voice "you mustn't help me outside the kitchens, you know this, we'll both be punished if were caught"
    "I don't care, you'll break your back doing this" Korazsa said.
    Sanarie gave her a sideways look under her eyelashes which said 'you will care, when it comes to that'.
    Korazsa knew Sanarie was strong, but this torment she could take, what Keir would do if they were caught, would not be so tolerable, so reluctantly she let go.
    Sanarie breathed through the burning, cramping pain in her lower back, and soldiered through the last steps.
    Korazsa was still close to her, too close to be seen as just passing by, "back off, I must do this alone, you can help me later with some magic and one of your poultices for my back".
    She sighed wearily, and fell back.
    Sanarie turned to look back and said "return to the kitchens and stay there"
    Korazsa nodded and left, a tear escaping her eye.
    Life in The Court of Nightmares was an impossible existence, for those whom cruelty and treachery for your fellow fae, was not a natural state.
 
 
    Sanarie slowly made her way into the cavernous throne room, between the long tables, approaching her father's throne bent and hobbling, to the unaware they may have thought they were observing strict courtly respect, not the posture of a cripple.
    Unable to meet her fathers eye, she stared at the ground, feeling rather than seeing her fathers disdain for her.
    Keir tilted his head to observe her "Bow for your lord!' he laughed maniacally 'oh I'd almost forgot this is your natural state' the throne room around her rippled with laughter, as the Court of Nightmares laughed with their steward 'Crippled and useless, you couldn't have bought my wine any slower if you'd tried".
    His chief attendant approached his throne and whispered in his ear, cold dread expanded in her stomach as she glanced up and watched her father narrow his brows at her, turning his face savage, she looked down again and closed her eyes, and prayed to the mountain -the only thing she believed in- it wasn't what she feared.
    Keir flicked the index and middle finger on his left hand towards him, and the summoned subject was bought forward resisting the hands on their shoulders. Sanarie glanced to her left at the sound of the scuffle, as the subject was forced to the ground next to her, she knew as soon as she saw the beautiful twisted black locks and deep ebony skin, that they'd been seen on the stairs, as she caught Korazsa gaze, her closest friend, more akin to an elder sisters terrified, yet defiant royal blue eyes looked back at her. No matter the punishments they'd faced for aiding each other, they never left the other to suffer alone.
    Her father stood up from his throne and walked to her, reaching down to grab her by her dirty smock he hauled her up with his left hand, and struck her hard across her face with his right, then backhanding her on the other side, just to be thorough.
    She barely managed to grip the jug, half its contents had sloshed down her front and her grip was slipping, if she dropped it on him, she'd be whipped until she was bloody and screaming, the mountain only knew what he'd do to Korazsa, she secured her grip with both hands on the handle, transferred the weight of it to her right hand and fumbled it expertly to make it appear to fall accidentally to her right, away from Korazsa and her father.
    Fury flared in his eyes, as he held her level with him, "Half high fae and not one ounce of magic, if I hadn’t taken your mother as a spoil of war myself and had her locked away from the touch of any other man, I'd wonder if I'd fathered you at all. Incompetent, filthy, half-breed, I should have beaten you out of your mothers stomach!' He roared in her face, then he looked above her head and addressed his court, 'I don't need to remind you to keep your mouths shut about her parentage, shamed as I am to have this half-human cripple as a daughter, she's mine and I’ll not have her taken from my court".
    Her smock was gathered under her chin in his fist, her toes were not touching the ground and she was losing consciousness, she fought it, but as he threw her aside in disgust into the small puddle of wine, the world went black and she fell as a rag doll. Her head collided with the gilded jug, leaving her unconscious and prone on the cold stone ground.
    "Sanarie" Korazsa screamed, watching the sickening scene before her eyes and being helpless to stop it.
    She could speak up, yes; she could fight the steward like a Harpy, but what then? Sanarie would be punished, or she would be punished, and if the latter happened, she would probably be leaving Sanarie without a single friend in a court of living hell.
    Korazsa unsurprisingly shook consumed by anguish & fear, for herself yes, but more so for Sanarie, Keir was not going to be merciful, every ounce of pain and shame would be extracted from them, especially Sanarie, Keirs deepest shame.
    "And you. I hear you've been healing my bastard daughter again, with your magic and medicine, that, will stop. She will live with her disfigurements. She is of the Hewn City, she was born of stone and so she will live as stone". Keir spat out his punishment for Korazsa not taking his eyes from her "lock her in an Iron Womb".
    Korazsa screamed begging for anything else, so he continued "For a week, on meagre rations of bread and water. Should it be tainted on arrival, is not of my concern" he smirked sadistically.
    He turned to his daughter, and looking upon her in disgust said "put her alongside her accomplice, and see that they're suspended so no help can be given them" then as a last addition to Sanaries torment, he pulled a small dagger from a feasting table, grabbed Sanaries unconscious head from the ground by her hair, and added a half centimetre deep slit, to the top of her Fae ear, six rested there on her left ear already and nine on her right, all souvenirs of her father's hate and malice.
    "Bring seed oil and rags!" Keir demanded as he dropped Sanaries head, letting her fall to the stone with a thud. He took some spirits from the table and poured it on her bloody ear, which was making a puddle on the stone.
    An attendant arrived with a platter holding the irritant that would hinder the healing of her new ear slit, Keir grabbed a handful of the linen rags and threw them first into the alcohol, and then into the seed oil covering them in both "bandage her ear in those, see that it doesn't heal closed or you can answer for it. You may tend her ear once a day, when they lower them for food and drink, to ensure it does not close".
    The attendant bowed low, then knelt and quickly bandaged Sanarie's ear, making sure it was separated by the soaked rags, and tied some of the soaked rag around her head to secure his work.
   After watching the results of his enjoyment, he became bored, "Remove them" Keir waved from the throne, with bored nonchalance.
    Sanarie and Korazsa would be taken to an often busy avenue, placed into narrow, black, iron, coffins, and suspended above, to spend 7 days and nights, unable to sit or lie down, likely given soiled food and drink, whilst also soiling themselves. Their suffering and humiliation would be unrelenting.
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Chapter 2

    Sanarie woke up slumped against cold, hard, iron; it was pitch black "Korazsa?"
    "Thank the mother" Korazsa’s voice broke on the last word; living through the first hours of a head injury was always tenuous, especially when you're rendered unconscious from the blow.
    "It is night?" Sanarie asked.
    "No, they just put out the torches on the avenue, no doubt an order from Keir for my suffering. Are you dizzy, headache, nauseous?" She asked.
    "Headache and dizzy" Sanarie groaned quietly, noticing the pain in her skull, ear and aching tender face. Caldron only knew how she looked, or if her nose was broken, it didn't matter, she'd look a damn sight worse in a week, and the smell, she couldn't bear to think of it.
    "I can't assess you as I usually would, I need you to put your hands on the iron and do what I say" she said.
    Sanarie shifted in the small space to unpin her arms and place in front of her "Okay, I'm ready" Sanarie answered.
    "Make circles with your thumbs on the iron, good, stop, tap your middle fingers at the same time, now separately, something a little harder; tap all ten of your fingers, starting with one pinkie on your left hand and finishing with the one on your right, one right after the other" Korazsa listened to Sanarie’s fingers trying to assess her processing ability and reaction time, it was all she could do without being able to lay eyes on her.
    "That last one wasn't great was it?" Sanarie asked, starting to feel nausea creeping up.
    "It could be worse, I will wake you every hour though, and ask you questions, at least until you're rested and more responsive, then I'll get some sleep" Korazsa sounded worried, she couldn't check Sanarie’s eyes or strength, it wasn’t even a proper test for her reflexes, but it was something.
    "Are you okay? I know this is the worst kind of punishment for you" Sanarie said, dread turning in her stomach as the nausea kicked up a notch and made her throat bob.
    "I'm okay, I panicked when the punishment was spoken, made it worse because of my state. It's never as bad as I think it will be; it's never quite like the cage during the war. I have you to worry about, that's enough distraction for me and it's not permanent, we will be out in 7 days".
    "Wake me up if you start having fearful thoughts or anxious thoughts, I don't want you suffering like that alone' Sanarie said, and then realized the inevitable after a head trauma 'Old Gods above" she said right before she threw up all over herself.
    "Oh, Sanarie' Korazsa said sympathetically 'I'm so sorry"
    "It's okay, at least I feel better now, stink and all' she said trying not to let the smell get to her, she did not want to be sick again, which would only be bile at this point anyway 'just wake me up if you need me okay?"
    "I will, I promise, now get some rest, sleep or don't, but you need rest" said Korazsa.
    Sanarie sighed at the mess all over herself and the inside of the womb, trying not to breathe through her nose at the smell.     She wedged her knees, and lower back into the opposing sides of the iron womb, and listed to one side supported by her arms, it was about as comfortable as you could get in the thing.
 
    Hour after hour, Korazsa woke Sanarie, gave her random exercises and asked her questions, all in an effort to ascertain how her head trauma was healing. Each hour was marked by the guards, walking onto the pitch black cavernous avenue, to make sure they weren’t speaking. Light from their torches illuminated a faint glow, the light trickled in around the iron womb as a guard held up a torch, checking the locks and chains binding the womb and suspending it from the rock above. Every hour once the light was gone, Korazsa knew it would be safe to speak, all be it quietly.
    No one had ever escaped a womb, but the guards wouldn’t dare risk the wrath of Keir Darkbringer, so every hour they checked that their prisoners were still in their prisons, and made sure they were silent, lest they make plans for an escape come dinner time, which they had done in the past and learned the hard way never to attempt such a thing again; Sanarie’s first three ear slits were gained after the attempt, amongst other scars the two now bore. Never, since the day they tried to escape, had they tried such a thing again, the punishments were not worth it. Even if they could clear the inside halls of the mountain, they knew from experience that they’d never escape Keir’s Darkbringer Warriors, through the mountains surrounding the Hewn City, there was no path to freedom from The Court of Nightmares, save death.
    "Sanarie?" Korazsa called quietly after the darkness had been uninterrupted for a few minutes.
    "Mm mm" she acknowledged, still half asleep.
    "What's your name?" Korazsa asked in a low whisper.
    "Sanarie Asperia" she replied.
    "And why are you so named?" Korazsa asked again.
    Sanarie sighed sleepily "Sanator in the old language means Healer or Curer; my mother made it a feminine name by making it Sanarie, instead of Sanator".
    "Asperia?" Korazsa reminded her.
    "The name of my mother, bestowed upon me, by her, when she was dying, so that I would never forget, that I am her child, not his"
    “Okay now finger exercises; tap out Nightsong, and quietly, if they hear us speaking, let alone tapping an Illyrian lullaby, cauldron knows what they’ll do to us” Korazsa said.
    Sanarie tapped the first lilting verse of Nightsong, remembering Korazsa teaching her the song every night before bed. After her mother had died, Korazsa’s quiet singing, and gentle hands brushing her head, were the only things which could soothe her enough to sleep.
    “Good, try tapping your pinkie on your right hand and your middle finger on your left hand at the same time, now separately, now repeat both exercises I just gave you, good job sweetie. One last question” said Korazsa
    "Isn't that enough already?" Sanarie said.
    "One more” she promised.
    Sanarie’s exhausted huff was enough to tell Korazsa that, she was still exhausted, but compliant, a good sign, being belligerent with a head wound, would have been to the contrary.
    “How many times have I woken you up tonight?" Korazsa asked the final question, this one would be a real test, if she passed it, they could both sleep for a few hours straight.
    Sanarie had to think about it, she wanted to get it right for both their sakes 'seven times?"
    "Yes, thank the mother, now we can both sleep" Korazsa said getting as comfortable as possible in the tiny space.
    "Good night, sleep well sister" Sanarie said.
    "You too' she said quietly, ready to fall asleep 'Sanarie?" She said quickly.
    "Yes?" Sanarie said.
    "When they bring our food, I'll swap with you at some point, I'll put as much healing magic in it as I can, try and eat it, no matter what they've done to it" she said, dreading the state of the food her stomach was already calling for.
    "I'll be ready, thank you for risking yourself for me, yet again" Sanarie said.
    "That's what you do for family" replied Korazsa.
 
    Sanarie and Korazsa were woken by the shuddering of the wombs, as they were lowered by the chains to the ground, once the chains wrapped around them and the locks were removed, the iron wombs were opened to the fresh air of the mountain, it was so needed, especially in Sanarie’s case, who by this stage had not only vomited down her front, but wet herself, there were no toilet breaks for prisoners in the iron wombs.
    One blonde haired guard stepped forward and held his torch up, first to Sanarie, then Korazsa “HA, I told you, both pissed themselves and the cripple has emptied her stomach, pay up”
    The other guards stepped closer to see the females.
    A guard next to Korazsa who had pitch black hair snorted and said “Disgusting, I guess we won’t be having any fun with these ones, I’m not touching any female who’s soiled herself”.
    “You and me both’ said the leader looking on them in disdain. He had a shooting black star pinned to his left breast, a sign of his rank of lieutenant, holding his black cape around his shoulders ‘get up the two of you”
     “You’ll have to help her out, she can’t get out on her own” Korazsa informed them, she knew Sanarie couldn’t sit up on her own, not in a womb; she had to be able to roll to her side to kneel or stand.
    “I’m not touching either of you” spat the lieutenant.
    “She can’t eat or drink like that, unless you want her to choke and have to explain to Keir why his favourite pet died on your watch” Korazsa said, reading the guards and manipulating the situation expertly.
    “You help her up then” he replied.
    Korazsa got up and went to Sanarie, she’d been building her healing magic as soon as she’d woken up, and she was ready to push it into Sanarie, she grabbed her by the under arms and hoisted her up, she helped her over to a wall so she could brace herself against it while she ate and drank, all the while letting her healing magic wash over Sanarie.
    “Wait’ said the blonde haired guard ‘isn’t that one a healer?” he pointed at Korazsa.
    “Gods damn you’ the lieutenant said, and pushed her away from Sanarie ‘Ellias give them their food and water, so we can go back to our game”
    The guard with pitch black hair, called Ellias looked irritated, he stepped forward and said “next time either of you are put into a womb, you better hold it, or I’ll beat you, cut off all your hair and pull two fingernails from each hand’ he threw a piece of bread at each woman ‘I lost good money betting on you two, and now I’ll have to spend my evening finding another female to enjoy” his sickening grin darkened his face.
    Sanarie just looked at the stone, she felt numb to threats like this, she’d experienced everything awful a woman could in this world and survived it, so they wanted to make her experience it again, that didn’t mean they’d get the chance. She picked up her bread and ate it, trying not to think about what may be inside. When she was done with her bread she reached for the large jug, her only water for the day until evening, she tipped it down her front, it was cold, but it washed most of the sick from her front, and it was worth the cold and wrath of the guards, to not have to smell it for the next 7 days.
    The lieutenant took a sharp breath in and wound back his right hand, and hit her in the face “Aemon go and refill her jug”.
    The blonde haired guard nodded, took her jug and left.
    “Tend her ear while she waits” said the Lieutenant.
    The attendant stepped forward and unbound her ear wrappings, and turned to look at the guard horrified, “it has almost fully healed”
    “Then cut her again, and be sure that it looks identical to the cut her father made” the lieutenant said.
    “I do not have a knife” said the attendant.
    “Here” the lieutenant handed him his knife, and then turned to Korazsa, he walked to her and kicked her in her guts.
    “You healed her” he kicked her again.
    “Don’t you dare” he punched her in the side of the head.
    “Ever” he grabbed her by the jaw and pulled her up.
     “Try that again” he slapped her across the face leaving nail marks across her cheek.
    Korazsa to her credit, gave him a bored look between the winces of each blow.
    Sanarie whimpered as the attendant cut where her father had, she thought it was where she’d hit her head when she passed out, but no, her father had butchered her fae ears again.
    The attendant bound her ear as he had in the throne room, and stood back, waiting to make sure his work was undisturbed before he left, and he wouldn’t leave until they were hoisted into place.
    The lieutenant took the jug from Aemon, and placed it before Sanarie and said “drink it all and be quick about it, I have better things to do than smell you and your friend”.
    Sanarie took the second jug and poured it down her front again, making sure as much of the sick as possible was gone from her tunic, she wasn’t afraid of these males, they and everyone else under this mountain had nothing on her father, she’d save her fear for someone worth fearing.
    The lieutenant was angry, he sent his guards to fetch a blanket and another jug “if you weren’t Keir’s favourite pet, I’d let you go back up there thirsty and primed for hypothermia. But, as you are his favourite toy, it’s my duty to carry out your punishment AND see you alive at the end of the week, so you will be wrapped in a blanket after you’ve drank the whole pitcher”.
    As he finished, his men returned, the dark haired, cruel faced Ellias, put the jug in front of her, Sanarie braced herself on the wall, digging her fingers into a crack in the stone so she wouldn’t slip, and drained the pitcher. She was fairly certain there was urine in the jug, but thankfully, it seemed to be mostly water, so she only gagged a little and “accidentally” spilled the last little bit, which the lieutenant rolled his eyes at a little and waved the blonde guard Aemon forward to place the blanket around her.
    Aemon took care to wrap her evenly, and pin it to hold it in place, he went as far as to leave some bunched around her neck, that would be comfortable to sleep against Sanarie thought, she wondered if it was a kind mercy or just a fastidious guard doing his job.
    The lieutenant stood over Korazsa and said “help her back in, no magic this time or she’ll only have to be cut again”.
    Korazsa smiled up at him and said “what makes you think I was trying to heal her ear?”
    He scowled and dragged Korazsa to Sanarie by her hair “just put her in the damn womb and get in yours”.
    Korazsa was fighting a smile as she picked Sanarie up under the arms and helped her into her womb, making sure to fix the disturbed blanket from the move perfectly around her, so that she’d be as warm as possible.
    The guards wasted no time closing Sanarie’s womb, and then Korazsa's. They were locked, stood vertically, wrapped in chains, locked again, and then finally raised back up to the ceiling, with a system of coiled chain around, large, wooden, spools.
    Once the guards were gone for a few minutes, Sanarie whispered to Korazsa "Are you okay?"
    "I'm fine, had a little fun with him at the end. They're so easy to rile up" Korazsa said, amusement in her voice.
    "What were you trying to heal?" Sanarie asked.
    "Your concussion. In fact, I was trying to bend the magic anywhere but your ear, I knew they'd cut you again if it healed, the injurues were too close, I'm sorry I couldn't manage it" she said.
    "You risked a beating for me, which you got, don't be sorry, I'm grateful for your healing, your loyalty and just to have you" Sanarie said.
    "As I am, to have you, little sister" Korazsa replied.
    Life in The Court of Nightmares had taught Sanarie many things, aside from survival skills, she learned to live moment by moment, and to appreciate the people you love, while you have them.
 
 
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C. Maverick

Oh my goodness readers... next week we go and see what the Inner Circle are up to... suffice to say I AM TERRIFIED!!! I don't want to mess up these beloved characters <3

Chapter 3

    "Where's the oversized bat with bad sex jokes?" Feyre asked over her wine on the terrace, at the House of Wind. She sat on the balustrade overlooking the city of Velaris, one leg crossed over the other, bouncing her foot impatiently, appreciating the craftsmanship of the leather worker, who’d etched the leather sandals with intricate patterns.
    Rhysand laughed, as he often did at Feyre’s sense of humour. He put an arm around his mate, kissed her neck and said "He was presiding over the beginning of a Blood Rite today, he'll be here soon. He's here for his badass warrior bat skills, and we keep him for his lame sex jokes"
    Cassian waltzed from between gauze curtains and said "My sex jokes may be lame, but they are better than my sex life' at this point Cassian leaned over Nesta’s shoulder and continued 'wana help me do something about that Nesta?" giving her a wink for good measure.
    She glared at him as he pulled away, one eyebrow raised and said contemptuously "I know it's hard, but try to act your age"
    "It's always hard when you're around" Cassian said. He appreciated her cornflower blue linen dress, which bought out the blue in her blue-grey eyes. Her face went to stone as she turned away, the sequins on her dress sparkling as she did so. Nesta proceeded to treat him as if he did not exist.
    Mor shook her head at Cassian "Ask yourself; has that ever worked with Nesta?" she said untucking a lock of hair from her scant billowing dress.
    Cassian perked up with grin and a swaggering step towards Mor and said "Hasn't it? How do you know that wasn't foreplay?"
    Mor and Amren gave Cassian disgusted looks.
    “We did not need to know that, you filthy-minded bat pup” Amren said.
    Cassian laughed hard.
    Nesta walked behind Cassian as she passed him into the dining room, and, not touching his wings, dragged one finger nail down his spine over his black cotton shirt without a single word. Cassian arched his back, and shivered, as she did so.
    Then, Nesta just kept right-on walking.
    Cassian's jaw dropped, and he turned to watch Nesta walking away to take her seat, her long dress flowing behind her, the other females in her wake.
"She's found a new way to torment me" Cassian said, sounding frustrated and elated at the same time.
    Black moving shadows formed between the dining room where the females had moved into, and the terrace where the Illyrians stood.
    "what's that for?" Cassian asked, as soon as they’d appeared.
    "You forgot to change for dinner" Azriel said flatly, looking at his hands, which had dark wisps curling around them. His sapphire siphons flared, as he deepened the curtain shielding the females beyond.
    Rhysand also tried to find anything other than Cassian to look at. Deciding the night sky was always worthy of appreciation, he tilted his head back.
    "What is with you two? I'm fine, but Nesta needs to change for dessert" Cassian smirked, looking back over his shoulder.
    Rhysand choked on a laugh "you don't know how right you are".
    Cassian whipped his head to Rhysand and said "careful" a territorial note to his voice, to which Rhys held up his hands and chuckled.
 
    Feyre's apprehensive voice came down the mating bond, 'what is going on? Why has Azriel shielded the room?'
    Rhysand sent a laugh back down the bond and replied 'one of Cassian’s jokes about his family jewels, has turned out to be quite prophetic'
    Feyre's voice paused as she thought of what Cassian had joked. She realized and said 'Thank the Mother for Azriel, there are some things, I don't ever need to see'
    Rhysand sent laughter back down the bond again and said ‘you and me both. He still hasn't realized yet. We’ll join you when he's gone, or his situation has; gone down'
   'Oh, Mother help me. You're all the same. –disgusting fae males' Feyre said, levity in her voice.
    'I love you too, Feyre darling’ he said, chiding her with affectionate sarcasm ‘and you'll be glad of this disgusting male, when he has you alone later, taking off that lovely white blouse embroidered with silver constellations. If it weren’t for the delights beneath, it would almost be a shame to remove such a beautiful shirt’.
Incorrigible, horny, bat’.
Rhys laughed out loud at that.
 
    "I don't need to change for dinner" Cassian said incredulously.
    "You do" Azriel said.
    "Your shoes are muddy, you won't disrespect your high lord by wearing them to dinner, go change" Rhysand said, trying to coax Cassian to look at this shoes.
    Cassian snorted and said "yeah, right". Rhysand basically never gave orders.
    Azriel shook his head, playing the part as always, of the long suffering elder brother. It was a miracle he didn’t have any grey hairs after 500+ years of this.
    "For the Cauldrons sake, look at your damn shoes Cassian" Rhysand said. Rhys stared directly at him at eye level, waiting for Cassian's eyes to see his sarcastic ‘I told you so’ expression.
    Cassian looked down and then stiffened his posture, looking with wide eyes from his brothers to the wall of Azriel’s shadows, shielding the females.
    Cassian's face was flushed, as he spread his wings and rocketed skyward.
    Rhysand laughed heartily, as Azriel shook his head, lips slightly quirked to one side.
    "So who won that round?" Feyre asked the room, as Azriel and Rhysand came in from the terrace to take seats at the table.
    Nesta looked at Feyre hardly amused by the question.
    "Nes-ta" Amren slid her gaze to her, as she emphasized the syllables of her name approvingly.
    Mor chimed in "I don't know, humiliation aside’ she got the last words out through a laugh ‘apparently he enjoyed it". Clearly Feyre had enlightened the females, as to why the shadows had appeared.
    "Was only a matter of time before he ate his words" Rhysand said, watching the females with amusement in his eyes.
    "Where are Lucien and Elain?" Mor asked.
    "He's taken her for a date in the city" Azriel said.
    Nesta’s face held a disapproving expression.
    Feyre looked at her sister and said "they're happy Nesta and he never pushed her or forced her, and one day you'll understand how hard that was for him, when your mating bond snaps into place. You won't lose her just because she's found her mate"
    "I’m not afraid to lose her’ Nesta snapped ‘Let him court her, but if he ever harms her, I'll pull him apart, slowly, hair-by-hair" she said. Judging by the look in her eyes, plus her tone, she meant it and then some.
    "He wouldn't dare" Azriel said, an observation and also, a promise.
    "I mean we've come to like Lucien, but he wouldn't last a day if he hurt Elain" Rhysand said.
    "Yes, yes, we will all murder Lucien if he ever hurts that sweet female. Now let's eat, I'm starving, and I'm not waiting for that overwrought bat to sort himself out. Then decide if he can show his face again tonight" Mor said looking at the foodless table. Thinking if someone didn't summon the food from the kitchens within the next 2minutes, she'd do it herself.
    "He better be, we have things to discuss" Azriel said.
    "It's Cassian, he'll be back" Rhysand said, with a chuckle.
    "I'm sure he can catch us up, let's eat" Feyre said, waving her hand so that food appeared on the table’s surface, from the kitchens.
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Chapter 17

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Chapter 18

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Chapter 19 

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Chapter 20 

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Chapter 21 

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