10

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” Anis thundered as he swung into Rhyshladlyn’s rooms, clear blue eyes the color of a winter sky with the worry-born anger that made the male’s skin glow faintly. Azriel huffed a soft warning growl out making Anis come to a sudden stop not too far into the room, eyes narrowing at the Anglëtinean warrior where he stood with his wings casually folded against his back, swords still strapped to his hips, mismatched eyes filled with a lazy sort of amusement that only the older warriors developed after watching one too many wars get started because one male couldn’t keep his phallus where it belonged.

Rhyshladlyn didn’t even halt in his movements of divesting himself of his Festival clothing, standing shirtless, belt discarded haphazardly over one of the plush chairs facing the hearth, vest laying on top of it, shirt left where it hit the floor after Rhyshladlyn had all but ripped it off over his head soon as the vest was off so he could do so.

“Are you even listening, Rhys?” Anis growled, narrowing his eyes at his brother as he just lifted his booted foot onto the edge of the bed, deft fingers swiftly undoing the laces so he could slip it off, repeating the process with his other boot with a calm, eerily quiet sort of detachment, orange-amber eyes glazed with thoughts that, while rooted in the present, were not wholly focused there. “Rhyshladlyn!” Anis’ voice roared around the room, making the air shudder with the force of it, like a sudden crack of thunder.

With a snarl, wings exploding out from his back in a shower of golden dust, orange-amber eyes shattering past the iris and bleeding into the sclera, left hand flying up to grip his Sülknír blade, Rhyshladlyn rounded on his brother and bared his teeth in a subvocal growl that made one’s bones shake with the force of it.

“I am not trying to get anyone killed aside from that ungrateful pissant of an un-male who dares call himself my sire as though it is an honor done unto me that he participated in the rape of my esteemed mother which led to my creation,” Rhyshladlyn spat, voice barely above a whisper but that did not take away from the ferocity of the words as he advanced on Anis by several steps, left hand falling from the hilt of his blade where it showed over his shoulder but the appendage shook as though his instincts fought what his brain was telling it to do. “And how dare you come in here snarling at me as though I am a child that needs scolding for standing up for myself against a tyrant.”

Anis just stood there, slack jawed, staring in muted shock at his younger brother as he finished speaking, noting that Azriel had a similar expression — though the Anglëtinean didn’t lose enough of himself to let his mouth gape open like a dying fish freshly plucked from the water in which it lived. Anis remained like that, arms hanging limply at his sides as Rhyshladlyn turned his back to him and continued to remove his clothes, breaches coming to the same fateful end on the floor much like his shirt had, leaving him starkly naked, body seeming to shimmer with his power in the light the walls threw off and the flickering light caused by the fire in the hearth. As Anis watched his brother’s back muscles shift and tense and relax while the newly awakened Qishir attempted to get control over his anger, the glamor his brother normally put over the scars on his back fell away and Anis saw the old wing scars that followed the length of his spine, just under where his only remaining set protruded from his skin just between the tops of his shoulder blades. Anis sighed softly, running a hand down over his face as he paced towards the door and back again, shaking his head before finally speaking into the too thick silence that made the air feel like it were molasses.

“Brother mine, I am sorry for my anger towards you… it was born of my worry for you. You’ve never spoken to Father like that, and never in such a public domain and you have to know that he is making plans to punish you… I just…” his voice trailed off as he swallowed thickly around the sudden lump that had lodged itself in his throat, clear blue eyes that had darkened to the color of deep water from their usual winter sky shade tracing the lines of the scars where Rhyshladlyn’s other sets of wings had been and remembering the day Anislanzir had ripped them out. Rhyshladlyn’s screams had echoed for leagues across the Shiraniqi Desert; the room Anislanzir had performed the punishment in remained sealed all these decades later because no one was able cleanse the room of the dark emotions that coated its walls in a darkness that threatened to eat anything and anyone who so much as even looked at it. “I just don’t want him to hurt you again,” Anis finished, voice soft.

Rhyshladlyn stopped midstride to the wardrobe, hand frozen mid-air reaching for the handle on the double doors. Hurt me again… oh dearest brother, I don’t think anyone wishes for that bastard to try to take my last set of wings. It was bad enough he took the others. Rhyshladlyn thought darkly with a sigh before opening the wardrobe and pulling out a pair of soft, black cotton pants and stepping into them, absently closing the door of the wardrobe with his foot as he turned to face his older brother, head tilting to the side, wings shifting against his back as they settled, feathers fluffing slightly with the movement.

“Aye, Anis-bròtr, I don’t wish for him to hurt me again either. But he can’t touch me anymore because the second he does, I will enact the rights given me under the Law I brandished in his face back in the Hall and take his wings from him only I will make certain that he will never move again for as long as he lives for I will not allow any Healer near him. If he lives it will not be with aid,” Rhyshladlyn replied smoothly, voice containing a hint of sadism that Anis had only heard on the rare occasions when his brother got truly furious and violent with it which was rare enough and only ever done when the situation absolutely warranted it.

“However did you come by that anyway?” Anis asked, pulling out a chair from the four that circled the table just inside the door, raising an eyebrow at the parchments that littered the surface of it and the desk pressed against the wall just to the left of the floor to ceiling window on the far wall before returning his gaze to Rhyshladlyn who was busy picking up his discarded clothing as he moved about the room.

“It was something Azriel said after our coupling following my unfortunate ailment earlier,” Rhyshladlyn said at length having deposited his clothes in a basket at the foot of his bed marked for cleaning, turning finally to look at his brother, waving a hand to Conjure a jug of wine and glasses for the three of them. With another wave of his hand he sent the parchments sailing over to his desk where they, their fellows, the tomes and books stacked and neatened themselves. “He saw my wing scars because I dropped my glamor without realizing it and he mentioned that all wing-removals were documented on the Scrolls, that it is a punishment that must fit the crime and thus is required by Law to be reported to the Eighth Qishir….” Rhyshladlyn trailed off as he poured a glass of wine for himself and took a deep drag of it before filling a second glass and sending it floating over to Azriel who caught it with a nod of thanks. With a heavy sigh, Rhyshladlyn sat in one of the chairs opposite Anis and continued:

“Only, and here’s the greatest thing about this, Anislanzir never reported my supposed crimes or the punishment of removing my wings. Azriel worked at the Eighth Palace under Qishir Lulphé Akkensahn before taking up assignment here and he spoke Truth when he told me my name was nowhere on the Scrolls as having been convicted of a crime worthy of the death that can come from having my wings removed.”

Anis blinked slowly at Rhyshladlyn before turning his gaze to Azriel who still stood to the right of the window near the nightstand beside Rhyshladlyn’s bed, nonchalantly sipping on the wine he was given. “Truthfully? It was never reported?” Anis asked, needing to hear it for himself.

Azriel nodded, expression grave, eyes flashing with fury on Rhyshladlyn’s behalf.

“Aye, truthfully, Anis-prec’cin,” Azriel replied, voice once again as hard as it was earlier when he had first seen Rhyshladlyn’s wing scars. “It was never reported. I’ve only known of three incidents in the nearly four hundred years I’ve spent employed to the Eighth Qishir and I can guarantee that none of those were your brother not in name or race.”

“But… how could it have never been reported?” Anis stammered out. “The room it was done in is sealed because no one can get near it to even attempt to cleanse it. Rhys’ screams were heard for leagues across the Desert! And you are sitting here telling me that no one reported that something horrendous enough to require a room to be magickally sealed so no one entered it or got near it was not reported to the Eighth Qishir or any Qishir for that matter?”

Azriel shook his head, eyes beginning to glow as the fury built in him at this new information. “No, prec’cin, nothing of the sort made it to Qishir Lulphé’s ears or knowledge. And as far as I am aware, no other Qishir heard of anything like it either.”

With a sound of distress, Anis grabbed up the jug itself and took a long pull from it before setting it back down on the table with shaking hands, blue eyes dark.

“Gods, how can no one know?” Anis asked, eyes unfocused as he stared without seeing at the table.

“Everyone fears him, brother,” Rhyshladlyn murmured as he refilled his glass with careful, measured movements. “They fear what he is capable of and if they didn’t before he took my wings from me they certainly did after. Everyone knew what he did, the servants were not sworn to secrecy, he didn’t tell them not to tell anyone, hells… it was a servant who found me because he left me alone on the floor of that fucking room bleeding to death. He didn’t care. I was the heir-apparent he wanted if for any reason you ever died and yet he did not care whether I lived through the ordeal of losing my wings. That alone spoke volumes of the evil and darkness he is capable of. And the servants talk, they always have and always will. There are no secrets in Shiran City; once it is spoken aloud, all know of it within hours.”

“So, wait… you were locked in a room with him, alone, when he removed your wings?” Azriel asked, pushing off from the wall and walking over to the table where he took the seat between the two brothers. “He didn’t have even an advisor or your mother… anyone… in the room to witness it?”

Rhyshladlyn didn’t answer, instead mimicking his brother and grabbing up the jug to take a long gulp before setting it down with a soft thunk. Anis spoke up while his brother struggled to keep from being pulled under by the memories of that day.

“No one knew what he was going to do but we knew it was going to be bad. Father forbid us from following him. Rhys was struggling as he held fast to his arm and dragged him from the dining Hall. Mother tried to stop him but he slapped her across the face and knocked her to the ground. Alaïs and I were still young enough that we didn’t have enough power between the two of us to defend ourselves let alone anyone else so we didn’t say anything, it wouldn’t have mattered even if we had tried. It wasn’t long after Father disappeared with Rhys that we heard the begging echo across the Palace… and then came the cries… and then the screaming. Fuck, the screaming,” Anis shuddered violently, eyes clouding over completely as he waved a hand to refill the jug and took another hard, long pull from it. “Rhys was only eight namedays… eight… he hadn’t even reached maturity for our race let alone Mother’s and yet… he threw his magick to the twenty-three winds and screamed, we had envoys from the villages on the far side of the Desert arrive the next day begging an audience for they thought something disastrous had happened….”

Azriel frowned as Anis trailed off. “Why?” He pressed, leaning his forearms on the table. “Because they heard the screams?”

“No,” Rhyshladlyn spoke up, voice haunted and filled with dancing shadows of a memory of the worst pain he had ever felt in his life as he spoke. “No, they came because the crops suddenly became withered and black and dead; they came because those weakened by disease or age suddenly turned to dust between one eye blink and the next. They came because for the twelve hours that worthless piece of filth spent removing my wings, the Sun did not shine and twilight fell across the lands as a cold that put a throbbing ache in one’s bones spread across the Desert and turned the sands into ice in its wake.” Orange-amber eyes met Azriel’s mismatched ones, the white sclera no longer visible, ice blue lightning striking across those eyes as though a thunderstorm had been captured in them, small starbursts of jade, sapphire, amethyst, and garnet dancing across them at random intervals. “They came because one room in each Great Temple across the Ilzhudae Province had to be sealed because it was uninhabitable; anything and anyone that attempted to enter it even to cleanse it died magickless and screaming.”

The Anglëtinean just started at Rhyshladlyn, beyond the point of being shocked. It was unheard of for anyone, even a Qishir, to be powerful enough to bring Death to a room they stood in at one point let alone rooms across a Province or a World that they had never so much as seen a rendering of let alone stood in. That kind of power hadn’t been spoken of, let alone seen or known of, for at last a millennia if not longer, and it made Azriel view his charge with a mixed sense of awe, respect, fear, and intrigue.

“Tell me, Rhyshladlyn-kyn, did you muffle your words to Anislanzir when you spoke to him before the feast began?” Azriel asked, topic jumping slightly but Rhyshladlyn didn’t seemed phased as he smiled slow and sweet but with an edge as he calmly took a sip of the wine in his glass.

“No, I didn’t.”

Azriel and Anis both frowned at the other male.

“Then how did no one react to it because you did not bother to keep your voice down?” Anis asked.

Rhyshladlyn laughed low in his throat, the sound dancing about the room in a way that made one’s skin crawl at the sound, the shadows seeming to grow deeper.

“One cannot react to that which one does not remember occurring,” Rhyshladlyn replied once his laughter had died down.

“You… you wiped their memories… as you were speaking?” Azriel spluttered as Anis choked on the sip of wine he had just taken.

Rhyshladlyn shrugged one shoulder up and down, fingers undoing the strap of the holster that held his blade and removing it, eyes unwavering as they took in first Anis as he struggled to recover the ability to breathe without wine in his lungs and Azriel as he stared at the Qishir with open disbelief. With careful movements, Rhyshladlyn set the still sheathed blade and holster down on the table, that smile still in place.

“Not quite that, I do not possess that much power,” Rhyshladlyn replied.

“High Ones prevail me,” Azriel whispered before draining the remainder of his wine in one gulp.

“May They answer your call, Azriel,” Rhyshladlyn said, voice soft, eyes softer but still holding an edge much like his smile of moments before had.

“Why do you say that?” Anis inquired having regained the ability to breathe.

“Because if I know our father half as well as I think I do, Anis-bròtr, then he is planning something and whatever it is we are going to need the aid of the gods in order to survive it,” Rhyshladlyn said, voice ringing with a Truth and a finality that had both Azriel and Anis shuddering in their seats.

Because anyone with even a sliver of magickal ability could sense the charge in the air of the Palace; something was going to happen and it wasn’t going to be pleasant and neither was it going to be something that the fear Anislanzir had instilled in his people would keep from reaching outside the borders of the Fènwa World. This time whatever punishment the Lord King of the Sinner Demons deemed fit to inflict upon his second born would be known by all.

And this time Rhyshladlyn was determined to ensure that Anislanzir did not survive the encounter.

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