Home > House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(7)

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(7)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Her mother peered at the half-faded etching. “In what language?”

Bryce tried to keep her posture relaxed. “The Old Language of the Fae.”

“Ah.” Ember pursed her lips, and Randall wisely drifted off through the crowd to study a towering statue of Luna aiming her bow toward the heavens, two hunting dogs at her feet and a stag nuzzling her hip. “You stayed fluent in it?”

“Yep,” Bryce said. Then added, “It’s come in handy.”

“I’d imagine so.” Ember tucked back a strand of her black hair.

Bryce moved to the next frieze dangling from the distant ceiling on near-invisible wires. “This one’s of the First Wars.” She scanned the relief carved into the ten-foot expanse of marble. “It’s about …” She schooled her expression into neutrality.

“What?” Ember stepped closer to the depiction of an army of winged demons swooping down from the skies upon a terrestrial army gathered on the plain below.

“This one’s about Hel’s armies arriving to conquer Midgard during the First Wars,” Bryce finished, trying to keep her voice bland. To block out the flash of talons and fangs and leathery wings—the boom of her rifle resounding through her bones, the rivers of blood in the streets, the screaming and screaming and—

“You’d think this one would be a popular piece these days,” Randall observed, returning to their sides to study the frieze.

Bryce didn’t reply. She didn’t particularly enjoy discussing the events of the past spring with her parents. Especially not in the middle of a packed theater lobby.

Randall jerked his chin to the inscription. “What’s this one say?”

Keenly aware of her mother marking her every blink, Bryce kept her stance unaffected as she skimmed the text in the Old Language of the Fae.

It wasn’t that she was trying to hide what she’d endured. She had talked to her mom and dad about it a few times. But it always resulted in Ember crying, or ranting about the Vanir who’d locked out so many innocents, and the weight of all her mother’s emotions on top of all of hers …

It was easier, Bryce had realized, to not bring it up. To let herself talk it out with Hunt, or sweat it out in Madame Kyrah’s dance classes twice a week. Baby steps toward being ready for actual talk therapy, as Juniper kept suggesting, but both had helped immensely.

Bryce silently translated the text. “This is a piece from a larger collection—likely one that would have wrapped around the entire exterior of a building, each slab telling a different part of the story. This one says: Thus the seven Princes of Hel looked in envy upon Midgard and unleashed their unholy hordes upon our united armies.”

“Apparently nothing’s changed in fifteen thousand years,” Ember said, shadows darkening her eyes.

Bryce kept her mouth shut. She’d never told her mom about Prince Aidas—how he’d helped her twice now, and had seemed unaware of his brothers’ dark plans. If her mom knew she’d consorted with the fifth Prince of Hel, they’d have to redefine the concept of going berserk.

But then Ember said, “Couldn’t you get a job here?” She gestured with a tan hand to the CCB’s grand entrance, its ever-changing art exhibits in the lobby and on a few of the other levels. “You’re qualified. This would have been perfect.”

“There were no openings.” True. And she didn’t want to use her princess status to get one. She wanted to work at a place like the CCB’s art department on her own merit.

Her job at the Fae Archives … Well, she definitely got that because they saw her as a Fae Princess. But it wasn’t the same, somehow. Because she hadn’t wanted to work there as badly.

“Did you even try?”

“Mom,” Bryce said, voice sharpening.


“Ladies,” Randall said, a teasing remark designed to fracture the growing tension.

Bryce smiled gratefully at him but found her mother frowning. She sighed up at the starburst chandeliers above the glittering throng. “All right, Mom. Out with it.”

“Out with what?” Ember asked innocently.

“Your opinion about my job.” Bryce gritted her teeth. “For years, you ragged on me for being an assistant, but now that I’m doing something better, it’s not good enough?”

This was so not the place, not with tons of people milling about within earshot, but she’d had it.

Ember didn’t seem to care as she said, “It’s not that it’s not good enough. It’s about where that job is.”

“The Fae Archives operate independently of him.”

“Oh? Because I remember him bragging that it was pretty much his personal library.”

Bryce said tightly, “Mom. The gallery is gone. I need a job. Forgive me if the usual corporate nine-to-five isn’t available to me right now. Or if CCB’s art department isn’t hiring.”

“I just don’t get why you couldn’t work something out with Jesiba. She’s still got that warehouse—surely she needs help with whatever she does there.”

Bryce refrained from rolling her eyes. Within a day of the attack on the city this spring, Jesiba had cleared out the gallery—and the precious volumes that made up all that remained of the ancient Great Library of Parthos. Most of Jesiba’s other pieces were now in a warehouse, many in crates, but Bryce had no idea where the sorceress had spirited off the Parthos books—one of the few remnants of the human world before the Asteri’s arrival. Bryce hadn’t dared question Jesiba about their current whereabouts. It was a miracle that the Asteri hadn’t been tipped off about the contraband books’ existence. “There are only so many times I can ask for a job without looking like I’m begging.”

“And we can’t have a princess do that.”

She’d lost count of how often she’d told her mom she wasn’t a princess. Didn’t want to be, and the Autumn King sure as shit didn’t want her to be, either. She hadn’t spoken to the asshole since that last time he’d come to see her at the gallery, right before her confrontation with Micah. When she’d revealed what power coursed through her veins.

It was an effort not to glance down at her chest, to where the front of her gauzy, pale blue dress plunged to just below her breasts, displaying the star-shaped mark between them. Thankfully, the back was high enough to hide the Horn tattooed there. Like an old scar, the white mark stood out starkly against her freckled, golden-tan skin. It hadn’t faded in the three months since the city had been attacked.

She’d already lost count of how many times she’d caught her mom staring at her star since arriving last night.

A cluster of gorgeous females—woodland nymphs, from their cedar-and-moss scents—meandered past, champagne in hand, and Bryce lowered her voice. “What do you want me to say? That I’ll move back home to Nidaros and pretend to be normal?”

“What’s so bad about normal?” Her mother’s beautiful face blazed with an inner fire that never banked—never, ever died out. “I think Hunt would like living there.”

“Hunt still works for the 33rd, Mom,” Bryce said. “He’s second in command, for fuck’s sake. And while he might appease you by saying he’d love to live in Nidaros, don’t think for one minute he means it.”

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