“I figured I would find you here,” a rich tenor voice spoke from behind him and Rhyshladlyn startled slightly, turning to look behind him at the figure standing in the doorway to the tallest tower of the Palace before huffing in annoyance and moving back to leaning forward over the railing of the balcony that ran the circumference of the tower, forearms braced on the wide stone of the railing, orange-amber eyes glowing against the backdrop of the night that had settled over the City and the desert that lay beyond its walls.
“Of course it is you that is sent to fetch me back to playing the dutiful part of the disappointment child, Azriel,” Rhyshladlyn muttered, aiming for sounding petulant but instead sounding tired and embittered.
“Not so much fetch you, but to make sure you were well. After all, most of the City is packed in the main Hall waiting for the Taking Ritual to begin. Your father expects you to be there as this is your 88th nameday, Rhys-prec’cin,” Azriel said kindly as he stepped up to lean a hip against the balcony railing, arms folded across his chest, right foot hooked over his left, one dark eyebrow raised as he stared at the second born to the throne.
With a vicious hiss, Rhyshladlyn whipped his head around to glare at the other male, orange-amber eyes narrowed and mouth curled into a snarl. But Azriel merely raised his other eyebrow, those mismatched eyes unwavering and Rhyshladlyn cursed before turning his gaze back out to the City where it was glowing and draped in the colored lanterns of the Festival of Flesh, music wafting up from the streets several hundred feet below, laughter and singing mingling in with the music. Letting out a deep sigh, Rhyshladlyn glanced sideways at Azriel, taking in the silver-sheen-covered gold eye with no discernible sclera or iris right eye and the red iris with its black, cross shaped pupil left eye; both marked him as a very powerful male among his race of Dhaoine, one touched by not just one but two of his gods, something nearly unheard of for his people. Everyone else was unnerved by those mismatched eyes but considering Rhyshladlyn himself often fought to keep his from reflecting himself and his would-be-twin-Other, he always found it comforting that he was not the only one whose eyes didn’t always match.
“I am to be disowned, Az, you do know that, correct? So calling me prec’cin is inaccurate and an insult to both myself and my fa–our Lord King,” Rhyshladlyn said, voice taking on that echo that happened as he spoke that said his Other, Nhulynolyn, was adding his voice to his Heart’s, his kè as the Heart was more often referred.
With a hum, Azriel turned his gaze from Rhyshladlyn, finally, and looked out over the sprawling City below them. “I care nothing for what is an insult to the Lord King of this City and the primary race of Dhaoine that abase themselves at his feet as though he were a god walking amongst them.” He let out a gusty breath, shoulders rolling and with a soft whoosh his wings stretched out behind him; the rich silver-tipped gold feathers of the top set rustling before settling, the crimson leather of the bottom set creaking as the skin stretched over fine yet nearly indestructible bones and across tendons and sinew before settling just as their fellows had.
“Careful, Az, those words could get you killed,” Rhyshladlyn murmured absently, the words long memorized as he’d spoken them thousands of times before as this conversation was an old one though the reason it had begun this time was different from those that came before it.
“I am an Anglëtinean Pryncef, Rhys-prec’cin, and I am bound by only the laws of the Race, the High Ones, and the Eighth Qishir, no others. So your father and his threats mean nothing to me and I have less care for them than I do whether what I call you is an insult to he who rules here or not,” Azriel replied, voice sharper with the words than the obsidian carved Sülknír blade strapped to Rhyshladlyn’s back. “What I do care for, however, is that you are up here, alone, while your siblings and your mother try to distract your should-be father so that he does not send a different guard after you, one that would drag you back down, literally if need be. You are wasted here in this place, Rhys, and it is a grave insult to the gods.”
Rhyshladlyn laughed, the sound at once a bark of surprised mirth and something far darker and more bitter as it danced across the currents between them as he shook his head, shoulder length wavy red-black hair swirling with the movement, the few blessed silver charms braided into the locks chiming softly as they fell over and against each other.
“Wasted here?” He asked, tone that of incredulity. “How am I wasted here, Az?”
“We both know how, Rhys, and we further know that to speak of those reasons before just the right moment where the knowledge can be best used to your advantage would be self-death,” Azriel replied easily.
“Fair enough on that,” Rhyshladlyn said before tilting his head back so he gazed up at the clear, moonless sky, drawing absent patterns in the stars, left hand reaching up to rub along the skin just below his collarbones where the runes that Marked him as a chosen Scion of the Nameless, the God of Death and Destruction, lay hidden beneath his shirt and vest. It still ached since it appeared two years ago, and he couldn’t help but worry about what it meant considering it showed up during a particularly nasty argument between his mother and father. He’d finally had enough watching that un-male disrespect his mother and had stood up and pushed his father back as he stepped between his parents, eyes blazing. When his father had raised his fist, gold eyes glowing with rage as his magick crackled around him, Rhyshladlyn had prayed to whatever god was listening that this would not result in his death as he blocked the blow and with a flat-handed push against his sternum knocked Anislanzir away from him. A god had indeed answered, just not in the way he had expected.
If you dare touch a hair on that female’s body in a way that is malicious, I shall personally come unto you with My Scythe raised and knock you down.
The words still rang around his head, spoken with his mouth as his Patron had used his body as a vessel for the amount of time needed to terrify his father. Since that day, the runes still ached from time to time, just as the Hourglass on his left wrist sent shiver-chills skittering up his arm at random intervals. Chosen by two Patrons, and Old Ones at that, one whose shrine was so deep in the Great Temple the offerings laid at its altar when Rhyshladlyn had finally found the door to its chamber were rotted and nearly dust, the clergy having clearly forgotten the Nameless was even a god to be nodded to in respect let alone make manners to. And may his gods help him, but that all encompassing fury and might that had swelled within him? His bones still ached and cried with just the memory of it alone.
“We should head down, Rhys, it is nearly time for the Ritual,” Azriel said, startling Rhyshladlyn out of his memories.
“Aye, we probably should,” he replied turning to give the Angëtinean a lopsided smile. “Thank you, Az, at least I know I have you at my back.”
The winged Dhaoine inclined his head, mismatched eyes twinkling as he swept his left arm out to the side indicating the door he’d come in through. “Shall we?”
Rhyshladlyn chuckled and gave a hum of affirmation before heading towards the door and the fate he had the distinct sense wasn’t the end of him but rather his beginning.
Now if only he could discern whether it was good beginning or a bad one and he’d be set.