Tamlin had been unhinged at best ever since Under the Mountain. Now though, with Feyre gone, he was an uncontrollable mess.
Only Lucien remained to try and restrain him. Tamlin’s so-called ‘friends’ at court merely laughed off the glimpses of the madman their High Lord was becoming, or worse, encouraged him in hope of gaining favour. None of them endured the long, long nights of watching Tamlin pour over maps and treaties and letters; Letters from certain correspondences that kept Lucien awake till dawn.
Tamlin did not sleep any better. In the hushed hours of the early morning, Lucien could hear him pacing on all fours up and down the halls of the castle, lingering outside Feyre’s now unoccupied room. More often than not, the soft padding of Tamlin’s beast paws would be interrupted by feral snarls, and the thunderous destruction of furniture and walls would follow, shaking the walls of the palace. Once, Lucien had visited her old painting room. The carnage he’d been met with – canvases torn to shreds, frames left cracked and broken – still chilled his blood if he ever thought on it too long.
Things were rapidly becoming even worse than how his life at the Autumn Court had been, but this time he could not rebel, could not leave. After all, if he were to abandon this turbulent, enraged High Lord to his obsessions and hatred, there would be no one left to temper him, to try and guide him back to some semblance of sanity. Rhysand might be the most powerful High Lord of the Night Court since the dawn of time and so forth, but Tamlin was not to be underestimated, his temper alone a force to be reckoned with. Lucien could not keep a clear conscience if he knowingly allowed that foul temper to fester unchecked. Who knew what damage Tamlin would bring upon their world if left to his own devices.
And so Lucien stayed; stayed and tried to turn the tide, so that maybe in a world turning to shit the friend he had been through so much with wouldn’t drown, and drag them all down with him in the process. However, despite his resignation to his fate, Lucien still had days when he doubted the point of his efforts. As of late, Tamlin brushed his comments aside with increasing ease, his ear feasting instead on the sweet, honeyed words of another.
Lucien had never despised a woman more. Even Amarantha had been bearable compared to the priestess who now walked the hallways of the Spring Court. She had a nasty habit of lurking around corners in the garden maze, and of surprising him in the stables when he thought he’d gleaned a rare moment of peace and quiet. She had an even nastier habit of touching. Touching things that weren’t hers.
“I am simply asking that you request she refrains from being quite so… familiar,” Lucien said through gritted teeth. Tamlin, sprawled on his throne at the end of a long day of passing judgement, laughed.
“Oh Lucien. You’re reading too much into it. That’s just her way. She’s a priestess after all, being loving and attentive is in her nature.” Tamlin looked up at Lucien, his amusement at his advisor’s silliness sobering into a frown. “Not to mention she is our strongest ally at the moment. I need her, and her connections. They’re essential for getting Feyre back home, where she belongs. Surely you see that?”
“If you’re referring to your dealings with Hybern’s King,” Lucien said, careful with choosing his words and tone, “I believe I’ve already made my feelings on the matter known.”
“Yes, yes, you’ve whined quite enough about that. It’s not up for debate so you’re wasting your time.” Tamlin waved a hand in dismissal. “Ianthe has proven far wiser in that matter, not to mention a brilliant diplomat. After all, it was her, not you, who managed to get Hybern to agree to our proposal. It’s thanks to her that we’ll be bringing Feyre home.”
Standing, Tamlin stretched from a long day of sitting still, and made his way towards the doors of the throne room. “You’re to do as Ianthe wishes, Lucien. Humour her, laugh at her jokes, make her feel wanted, whatever pleases her. Because she is wanted, Lucien.” The High Lord looked back over his shoulder, and for a moment, Lucien did not recognise his friend in the cold green eyes regarding him. “Remember that, Lucien. She is vital. I want her here with me, above all others, until Feyre is returned to me. Do whatever you have to do to make her stay, or I’ll have to see to that task myself. Even if it means removing those whose company proves displeasing to her.”
Without so much as a smile or a nod, Tamlin left Lucien staring after him, alone. The raised hairs on his forearm and neck had nothing to do with the draft. Ianthe terrified him, true, but what scared him even more was the realisation that he might have lost the only friend he had left in this world. Feyre had left more than just a lover behind.
It was a struggle to remain composed throughout the dinner that followed. He, Tamlin, and Ianthe dined alone, most of the court dismissed these days as Tamlin’s obsession with the priestess grew. Too many courtiers dared speak out against her, or were foolish enough to question her good name with rumours of her behaviour in other Courts. One such noble had even ingested enough wine to gossip about the lady’s scandalous reputation regarding her relations with The High Lord of the Night Court, of all people. Few nobles came to visit of their own free will after Tamlin had chucked the fool out onto the palace steps, his clothing ripped to shreds, his limbs scratched and bleeding.
Tamlin and Ianthe chatted amongst themselves at one end of the table whilst Lucien cut his food into miniscule pieces in silence, not hungry. It became harder and harder to ignore the words he tried to block out. Tales of Hybern, of alliance, of all the good that could come of allowing The Wall to fall. Soon Feyre would see the benefits, see how it could serve to unite her with her human family, once no magical barrier stood between them. Ianthe promised; and what Ianthe promised, Tamlin believed.
“Good night, Priestess,” he said, kissing her hand in farewell once the dinner was over. He retired for the night to his study, as was his habit, for yet more plotting and planning. Pushing in his chair, Lucien made to follow after him, hoping to get a chance to reason with him once more, but before he could pursue, cold, delicate fingers caught his wrist.
“You were awfully quiet tonight,” Ianthe said, keeping him close with a smile and a titling of her head. “I missed you, all the way over there at the end of the table.” She leaned in, close enough that her sweet breath brushed warm against his neck. “Tomorrow, you’ll sit next to me, at my right hand side. To show Tamlin how you’re over this nonsense of avoiding me.”
With a dimpled smile, she parted from him, sweeping from the throne room. Lucien was left so nauseated by the affair that it took him a moment to register the cool, crisp fold of paper slipped beside his palm. His name was scribed upon the surface, penned in her familiar cursive.
Why… Why would Ianthe need to be so secretive? She’d never before been coy about her interest in him. He saw no reason for her to start now.
Could this possibly mean-? Lucien allowed himself a brief moment of hope to entertain the notion that perhaps this meant she had realised the error of her ways. Perhaps this was her reaching out to him in private to help carry out some damage control for this crisis situation. Perhaps this meant he stood a chance of saving his best friend from himself.
Holding his breath, Lucien thumbed the note open.
Tonight. Meet me in my chambers.
Tell Tamlin you have a headache, whatever you need to excuse yourself from his company for the night. Come alone. Come at midnight.
Tell no one.