Nothing moved, nothing made a sound save him and the shuh-shuh of his boots on the floor as he walked the halls that held the Shadow Chambers of the Old Ones, all around him the concussive press of Their combined Presence thickening the silence that, were it the product of anything else, would have set his ears to ringing but as it were, he barely noticed it.
Normally the bricks, even this far from the obelisk that rose from the center of the Temple that powered the wards that protected it as well as the City itself as a whole, hummed and held some of the golden shimmer the rest of the Temple did even if it were muted. But now? Now everything was grey or shades of it. If he didn’t have a thousand and seven things thumping around like a loose shakxha in a pottery shop inside his head, he’d be more concerned by the silence and the stillness that surrounded him.
But as it was, he was otherwise mentally occupied, wandering aimlessly without a certain destination in mind. Not that he would probably be able to focus on finding one if he had one given what he’d just been told.
Fate itself had chosen him? Seriously? What kind of trollop was that? Fate cared nothing for the simple folk down on earth, it was more concerned with the workings of the gods that dicked with the simple folk. After all, it was Fate that was born first to the Ahlüt nes Nühnet if the stories were to believed; a birth that proved to be a thorn in the sides of every god that was birthed after it in the line. Yet despite that, the Dreamweavers, who warped reality at will, and the Storytellers, who recorded history and kept a record of all Knowledge within the Worlds, were said to be the children of Fate and thus the only Dhaoine in existence capable of reading the Fate webs, the woven stories that speak of prophecies and futures and pasts and how they affect the present. And it was often only the Dreamweavers and Storytellers that were messengers of Fate, were its weapons and guardians and the like.
Not supposed Greywalker, neodrach Qishirs who had two named Others and more that were unnamed as of yet that was begotten of a tyrant of a sire who had done unspeakable things to him.
No, definitely not Dhaoine like him.
The Marking on his right wrist began to burn and he lifted it, the sleeve of his tunic falling back to reveal the white shimmering scales hanging off the hilt of sword whose blade was shaped like a feather. That’s right, he thought with a slight twinge of guilt, in all the excitement I’ve failed to make manners to my newest Patron. And with that he suddenly had a destination in mind: find the Soullessly Heartfelt’s Shadow Chamber. With that intent in mind, he watched as the hall around him came alive with movement as the shadows that normally shifted and frolicked along the walls and floor and ceiling resumed their usual dance, motioning that he follow them but the concussive silence remained. It was a testament that the Old Ones who walked these halls, who populated these Shadow Chambers, knew he was mourning the loss of his freedom, a freedom he hadn’t really ever had apparently, solely because Fate decided to lay its hands upon him and make of him a Fate web of sorts as well as its weapon of choice to balance the Worlds it had watched since Existence came into being.
Following the moving shadows, he fumed silently at the unfairness of it all. Why did it have to be him? Why not any other Dhaoine? Surely there were other Greywalkers born before him. Why was it that this mantle fell upon him?
*Perhaps the ones born before you failed,* Nhulynolyn spoke up, voice hushed even across their shared consciousness, as though he did not wish to insult anyone or anything by speaking too loudly and disturbing the silence that surrounded him.
*Nully makes a fairly good point with that statement,* Shadiranamen said, voice likewise hushed.
Perhaps that is true, he thought back at them with a sigh. It is something I will bring up with the Nameless when we go back to its Chamber.
The three of them fell quiet then as he followed the shadows further into the depths of the Temple, to an area that was even older than where the Nameless’ Chamber lay and it was, allegedly, one of the oldest of the Old Ones. Taking the tunnel to the immediate right at an intersection where seven hallways met, he found himself not twenty feet from a set of doors as large as those to the Nameless’ Chamber. These were made of wood as black as night with an impressive set of Scales carved into the wood of the left door and filled with shimmering silver while a Sword and Feather were carved crossing each other in an ‘x’ into the wood of the right door and likewise filled with a shimmering silver. Looking down at his right wrist, he frowned slightly wondering why the Marking on his wrist looked nothing like the ones on the door to the Soullessly Heartfelt’s Chamber. Was that normal?
Approaching slowly, wondering if it were possible the shadows had led him into a trap or a lie, he watched as the Scales, Sword, and Feather began to shift the closer he got until on each door was a symbol just like that on his wrist. Huh, that’s interesting.
*The one you see now may be what those who are Marked see and what you saw before is what un-Marked manners-makers see,* Shadiranamen said.
Figures that they would change, he thought as he stopped before the doors just close enough to touch without straining to reach them but far enough away that if he needed to dart back should he be attacked he had enough time to get to a safer distance. He may be acting paranoid but fuck it. After the day he’d had, he figured he was entitled.
*Why?* Nhulynolyn asked.
Because justice is different for and to everyone. It is one of the few things within the Worlds that is unique unto every single Dhaoine. Now please remain quiet. I need to make manners and introduce myself properly.
Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply, scenting the air and was mildly surprised that he detected a faint trace of cinnamon and sandalwood, before he released the breath slowly to ground and center himself. As his mind cleared and the stillness of the halls settled into his bones, he sank deep into his Self, calling up a memory of how one would properly make manners to this particular Patron. Once he had it he felt a smile lift his lips unbidden as he spoke, voice as loud as a shout in the silence despite speaking barely above a whisper.
“Soullessly Heartfelt, He who is fair and yet condemning, She who is the wielder of the Feather and the Sword, Ey who is Justice and Judgment personified — the judge, the jury, and the executioner, ’tis I, Your chosen Scion, Marked by You, come to make manners at Your shrine and thank You for the gift and blessing You have bestowed upon me if it be allowed.” He reached out and pressed his right hand against the seam where the doors met, fingers splayed wide so he touched as much as possible of both doors.
For long moments that silence reigned, thickening until he could hear it ringing in his ears like bells chiming in time to the drumbeat of his heart and the swishing of the blood in his veins. It went on for long enough that he wondered if the Soullessly Heartfelt was rejecting his approach at the moment. Not that he would blame it, to be honest, given he was in no real condition to be making manners to anything let alone an Old One who had Marked him.But just as the thought crossed his mind a shuddering pulse ran up his arm from where his hand touched the doors before they swung inward. Beyond the threshold stood a tall, lithely muscled woman, body adored by loose linen pants and tunic of the same swirling mass of every known and unknown color much like the Nameless’ eyes, a thick grey cloth belt tied around her waist, a sheathed sword strapped to that belt at her right hip, right hand curled around a staff that was as tall as she was and made of silver, topped with Scales and a single large, tawny colored owl feather hanging from a leather string tied to the cross bar of the Scales. Her hair matched the color of her tunic and pants and fell down to her waist, curly and wavy and straight and every manner of hair type ever to exist all at once in a constant shift between one and the next. The toes of her bare feet curled and uncurled against the stone floor, head tilted to the side as a slow sweet smile lifted thick, kissable lips. He had no idea what color the god’s eyes were, or if she even had any for a strip of cloth colored the same hue as her belt was tied over the upper half of her face leaving only her dainty nose and cheekbones down visible.
Guess Justice really is blind.
It took a more than he was comfortable admitting to swallow down an entirely rude giggle at that thought.
Stepping across the threshold, he sank to his knees, palms pressed to his thighs just above his knees, head bowed, wings tilted so the vulnerable undersides were visible to the Soullessly Heartfelt’s gaze as the doors closed behind him of their own accord. He didn’t speak, instead waited for her to address him.
“Ahh, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne, I had wondered when it was you would be coming unto Me to make manners,” the voice that slipped out past those still smiling lips was what he imagined cool water would feel like against fevered skin.
“My sincerest apologies, Honored One,” he murmured, head still bowed. “It excuses it not, but I was engaged elsewhere and could not break away from those engagements until now. I beg for Your forgiveness for my disrespect of You.”
“Oh do rise, Child, the need exists not to be so dramatic,” she said, a chuckle coloring her words and he looked up at her, startled to find she was far closer than she had been when he had entered the Chamber, now within arm’s reach of him. “I am aware you were with My Beloved and so I fault you not for not coming unto Me until presently. Come, let Me gaze upon you and answer your questions before I send you back to the Nameless for you haven’t overmuch longer before you will be unable to reach Us thusly.”
Getting to his feet Rhyshladlyn frowned in confusion.
“What do you mean, Honored One, that I will not be able to reach You both as I have been?” he asked as he followed her across the Chamber to where her shrine rested. “Also, what pronouns do You wish to be referred by and is there a title You prefer as well?” He added, realizing he probably should have asked such before thinking of the god as “she” and “her” and calling her ‘Honored One’.
“Fret not, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne, I am not displeased. You may call Me by she and her pronouns as you have been doing so since seeing Me. ‘Honored One’ is well enough for title. Lu’kè-anh is also acceptable,” she replied, stopping before the Altar. Rhyshladlyn lit the candles that rested there, the incense, and then pricked the pad of his thumb so a drop of blood dripped into the left cup of Scales that sat centered on the Altar. The Soullessly Heartfelt detached the Feather hanging from her staff and placed it on the other cup and together they watched as the Scales tipped until the Feather-laden cup was closer to the Altar top than the cup with his blood. “Excellent! Now We may sit and speak plainly for a spell.”
Rhyshladlyn nodded, feeling relieved at having been found Worthy instead of Wanting and turned to follow the god to a table that sat pressed to the far left wall of the Chamber. Taking a seat he waited until she Called a jug of Ysborogh and a pair of mugs after leaning her staff against the side of the table. After filling each mug, she handed him one and picked up the other. At the same time, they took a sip and set their mugs upon the table before the god spoke again.
“Something is going to happen, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne, something terrible that will shake the Worlds as one and it will be soon but I cannot tell you specifically when for I do not know,” she said, idly tracing the lip of her mug, head tilted down as though she could see what she was doing despite the cloth covering where her eyes should be. “There is more afoot than Fate using you as it has been, My Child, and I want you to know as much as I am able to tell you.”
“What will this event be, Lu’kè-anh?” he asked, taking another sip of Ysborogh.
“I know not, Child. All I and My Kin knows is that whatever this event will be, it will be cataclysmic and it will happen right here in Shiran City. But that is all We were given. No amount of divining, speaking with Mother and Father or the Ahlüt nes Nühnet will give Us more information,” the Soullessly Heartfelt replied.
“Shit,” Rhyshladlyn muttered testily. The god across the table from him laughed, the sound slithering across his skin like satin; soft and slippery but with just enough catch that he knew there was bite to that mirth.
“I concur with your assessment, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne,” she said, laughter still coloring her words.
They finished their Ysborogh in companionable silence. Once they were finished, the Soullessly Heartfelt cleared away the jug and their mugs before standing gracefully, hand once more taking hold of her staff as she walked Rhyshladlyn to the door.
“You must take your leave of Me for now, Child, but We shall speak again soon. Go now to the Nameless and speak with it and your esteemed mother. Please do take ease on her of your ire; she was only doing what she thought was right.”
Letting out a long suffering sigh at the admonishment of his ire towards his mother, Rhyshladlyn shook his head. “I cannot follow such a direction, Lu’kè-anh, I am sorry. Some of the information she kept from me purposefully, her intentions be damned, allowed for several occasions of the agony and scars I suffered and consequently carry for the rest of my life to occur. And for that, for some of the atrocities my sire dealt upon me because my mother kept her ‘well intended silence’, I shall not gift her forgiveness. Some things… some things are unforgivable.”
The Soullessly Heartfelt regarded him quietly before she spoke, “You are wiser than many give you due credit for, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne. Go in balance, My Child.”
“In balance and peace, Honored One,” he replied before exiting the Chamber. Once back in the hallway he let the shadows guide him back to the hallways he was familiar with and from there he found his way back to the Nameless’ Chamber on his own, mulling over the newest information he had been given.
Would his life ever be simple?
He had a sneaking suspicion that the answer was a loud, emphatic ‘no’ and if he weren’t so damned tired and burnt out from everything that had happened in the last nearly forty-eight hours, Rhyshladlyn would probably be rather irate about that.
Oh well, one thing at a time. He thought as he pushed open the doors of the Nameless’ Chamber. Starting with Mother and this ‘Fate has chosen you’ bullshit.