Part of me searched for the words to wound him in his vulnerability, but the other half recalled all that he had said, all that he had done, how his head had snapped to the door before he’d kissed me. He’d known Amarantha was coming. Maybe he’d done it to make her jealous, but maybe …
If he hadn’t been kissing me, if he hadn’t shown up and interrupted us, I would have gone out into that throne room covered in smudged paint. And everyone - especially Amarantha - would have known what I’d been up to. It wouldn’t have taken much to figure out whom I’d been with, especially not once they saw the paint on Tamlin. I didn’t want to consider what the punishment might have been.
Regardless of his motives or his methods, Rhysand was keeping me alive. And had done so even before I set foot Under the Mountain.
On our shelves in the studios, in the middle of the books from our master painters, stand a few issues of Vogue and l’officiel magazines with all the fashion shows from previous years. That’s where the inspiration comes from when we tackle specific costumes. Delilah’s outfit was another interesting sartorial exercise for us. We incorporated flora into the costume design—half real, half embroidery.
A kiss for each day we’d spent apart, a kiss for every wound and terror, a kiss for the ink etched into my flesh, and for all the days we would be together after this. Days, perhaps, that I no longer deserved. But I gave myself again to that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.
There was beauty in this music - beauty and goodness. The music folded over itself like batter being poured from a bowl, one note atop another, melting together to form a whole, rising, filling me. It wasn’t wild music, but there was a violence of passion in it, a swelling kind of joy and sorrow. I pulled my knees to my chest, needing to feel the sturdiness of my skin, even with the slime of the oily paint upon it.
The music built a path, an ascent founded upon archways of color. I followed it, walking out of that cell, through layers of earth, up and up - into fields of cornflowers, past a canopy of trees, and into the open expanse of sky. The pulse of the music was like hands that gently pushed me onward, pulling me higher, guiding me through the clouds. I’d never seen clouds like these - in their puffy sides, I could discern faces fair and sorrowful. They faded before I could view them too clearly, and I looked into the distance to where the music summoned me.
It was either a sunset or sunrise. The sun filled the clouds with magenta and purple, and its orange-gold rays blended with my path to form a band of shimmering metal.
I wanted to fade into it, wanted the light of that sun to burn me away, to fill me with such joy that I would become a ray of sunshine myself. This wasn’t music to dance to - it was music to worship, music to fill in the gaps of my soul, to bring me to a place where there was no pain.
I didn’t realize I was weeping until the wet warmth of a tear splashed upon my arm. But even then I clung to the music, gripping it like a ledge that kept me from falling. I hadn’t realized how badly I didn’t want to tumble into that deep dark - how much I wanted to stay here among the clouds and color and light.
I let the sounds ravage me, let them lay me flat and run over my body with their drums. Up and up, building to a palace in the sky, a hall of alabaster and moonstone, where all that was lovely and kind and fantastic dwelled in peace. I wept - wept to be so close to that palace, wept from the need to be there. Everything I wanted was there - the one I loved was there -
The music was Tamlin’s fingers strumming my body; it was the gold in his eyes and the twist of his smile. It was that breathy chuckle, and the way he said those three words. It was this I was fighting for, this I had sworn to save.
The music rose - louder, grander, faster, from wherever it was played - a wave that peaked, shattering the gloom of my cell. A shuddering sob broke from me as the sound faded into silence. I sat there, trembling and weeping, too raw and exposed, left naked by the music and the color in my mind.