2

Shiran City was silent, nearly unearthly so, despite its glowing walls being draped in glowing lanterns and streamers in every shade of red, orange, amber, blue, green, and purple connecting houses and market stalls.

It was the Festival of Flesh but that day, the Queen of the Sinner Demons, the heir-apparent to the throne of the Ancients, was due to give birth to a miracle set of twins and just after dawn broke over the Shiraniqi Desert’s sand dunes in the east, the bells rang out, blanketing the City in a hush that would remain until the announcement was made by the Lord King himself at the foot of the stairs to the Palace as to the outcome of the birth.

Deep in the Palace Azhuri reclined in the birthing pool, head thrown back, body swollen and flushed with effort and stress and pain, orange-amber eyes wide and darkened with pain as her magick swirled around her in a maelstrom that made it nearly impossible for the mid-wife Healers to get close enough to help her through the birthing of the twins she spent the last 13 months carrying, praying fervently the entire time that nothing would go wrong, that the curse placed upon her people would not follow her here to this distant land.

The midday bells rang out the time just as the first small cry pierced the maelstrom of power and agonized screaming of the Queen, and the entire room fell silent as Azhuri looked down to watch with glazed yet sharp eyes as a Healer picked her son out of the water and gently cleaned him off.

Only as Azhuri watched, the distinctly male body of her son shifted to a female body and then mixed before shift back to the male and Azhuri wailed, the sound unnerving and bloodcurdling as it cascaded out of the Palace, an unending sound, and ricocheted across the City, bringing every Dhaoine to a stop, heads swiveling to look at the Palace, fearing the worst. For no mother made that sound if the child she birthed lived.

“My Lady,” a Healer said softly, kneeling beside the wailing Queen, hand reaching out to gently smooth a few wayward locks from Azhuri’s face, the Healer’s skin glowing a faint white-blue as soothing Healing energy pulsed through the connection, “it is alright. The Lord King needn’t know that one twin is a neodrach. We may keep this from him. It will be fine, we shall protect you and the babe.”

Azhuri turned to look at the Healer then, realizing it was Illyan, the feline Healer that first announced she was pregnant with twins.

“The child will not have control over eir changing nature until ey is of age or near enough to it, how will we hide this?” Azhuri asked, eyes distant and darkening.

“Uhm…..Healer Illyan, you may wish to look at this?” A mid-wife called, beckoning the Healer over to the end of the birthing pool where the water was staining red as the placenta that held the twins had been pushed out. “Where is the other babe?” the mid-wife whisper-hissed.

What?” Azhuri snapped, trying to sit up only to cry out as pain lanced up her spine. As other Healers moved forward to heal the damage to her body caused by the birth, Illyan looked at the child that had been born and watched as orange-amber eyes turned to crystal blue and back again; raised her eyebrows as the body distinctly stayed male when those crystal blue eyes regarded the World around the neodrach; came to the realization that while the neodrach had been born, the male twin was also born just not with a living body of his own.

“The other babe was born,” Healer Illyan murmured, voice reverent as she slowly touched her heart, then lips, then forehead with her index and middle fingers of her left hand. “He was born as an Other.”

For a moment, no one said anything. While it was not unheard of for a child to be born with an Other, it was extremely rare for that to happen let alone for the twin that child grew with in the womb to be born as the flesh-gifted child’s Other. All eyes turned to Azhuri who was shocked, mouth half-hanging open, orange-amber eyes clear of the glazed look they’d held moments before, darkly tanned skin pale still in places from the hours she’d spent in the birthing pool.

“A neodrach child born to an Ancient as a second child who’s twin is eir Other,” Azhuri murmured, eyes falling closed, mouth silently moving in a prayer to the Nameless, the Patron who had watched over her bloodline for centuries uncountable. “Blessed be this child. But Anislanzir mustn’t know ey is not a son. We will work together to make sure he never learns this child was a neodrach,” Azhuri looked at each mid-wife Healer and Healer within the birthing chamber, eyes hard and unforgiving. “Am I clear in this?”

Murmurs of ascent rumbled around the room.

“Good. Illyan, go inform the Lord King that we lost the second son, but the first was born and in homage to his lost twin we have named the survivor Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn GreySong Ka’ahne,” Azhuri ordered, hands reaching out for her child.

Illyan bowed low and ran out to do as instructed.

“You will be my darling child, Rhys,” Azhuri murmured, leaning down to lay a kiss to the neodrach’s forehead. “You and your brother. If the gods have mercy upon us, perhaps you will survive this World you were born into a far sight better than I or your older siblings have.”

Orange-amber eyes exactly like her own looked up at her with an intelligence that should not be present in a newborn babe, one eye shifting to the crystal blue hue of eir brother so that both could regard their mother equally. If she wasn’t so terrified for the safety of her newborn and herself, she would have been unnerved by the display of raw power and immediate symbiotic Heart-and-Other relationship from the child.

But as it were, Azhuri merely smiled down at Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn as she felt the Nameless lay His hands upon her shoulders and an echo-thought of knowledge slither across her consciousness, You did beautifully, My Child. Little Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn and his Others are destined for great things. Let not them go for I and My fellows have plans for them all. 

And across the City the bells rang in joyous announcement of the second heir to the Sinner Demon throne being born as Lord King Anislanzir shouted the name of his second born child to the entirety of the City, voice echoing off the building and rooftops and the retaining wall all while Azhuri cared for the neodrach she would purport to be a son until the moment said child could escape to a freedom eir mother and older siblings could only dream of.

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