*Well if that didn’t get their attention, I don’t know what will,* Nhulynolyn muttered and Rhyshladlyn barely repressed the snort that threatened to escape in response but he managed, stoic mask still firmly in place even as the unnatural quiet that had settled around his shoulders following his statement began to feel like a living presence versus the absence of sound. Lifting his eyes from the pillow his mo–that Azhuri had vacated he found himself looking into the kaleidoscope eyes of the Nameless and he blinked, taken aback by the absolute fury those undulating, absolutely inhuman eyes held.
Why is it so angr–oh. There was very few taboos held by the Dhaoine and the gods to whom they knelt in supplication and manners-making. First and foremost was incest between a parent and a child. Incest between siblings was allowed so long as the siblings were of the same gender or one was sterile and unable to beget a child on the other. So to hear that Rhyshladlyn’s father had fucked him, and obviously against his will and thus without his consent, broke one taboo and spoke of the breaking of another, one that the Dhaoine were so disgusted by they made a Law of it. The only Law, in fact, that had no Etiquette that corresponded to it for the punishment that was normally detailed in the Etiquette to a Law was detailed within this particular Law itself; the Law of Rape and the Response of Slow Death.
“Do you speak Truthfully, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne?” the Nameless asked, its voice for the first time since it had spoken through him to Anislanzir the day he stood up to the Lord King during a particularly heated argument he was having with Azhuri when he was 86 namedays holding that all-encompassing fury that made his bones ache and cry.
Meeting that gaze unflinchingly, not even raising an eyebrow like he would have to anyone or anything else, Rhyshladlyn nodded. “Aye, Honored One, I speak Truthfully. You may look through my memories if You wish to be certain.”
It was not an insult he offered then, though it probably had sounded like it given the three sharp breaths that came from his left but he ignored them. Only the Ahlüt nes Nühnet was All Knowing, omniscient in a way that allowed it to know exactly what happened to all its children, be they of its own flesh and blood birthed through the Great Mother and Father or by proxy like the Original Seven Races and their descendants. The gods, its grandchildren, did not share that ability so for Rhyshladlyn to offer the Nameless the consent to rifle through his memories, to invade him in a way that was as private as it was sacred was a sign of explicit trust. For the one thing that would cripple a Dhaoine irreparably was to destroy their mind. Shattering a Dhaoine’s mind was a fate worse than death: they could not do magick, could not reach the shores of the After or even the cliffs of Oblivion, they could not function on their own and no amount of Healing, even at the hands of the gods Themselves, could repair a broken mind.
The offer made the Nameless blink slowly, once, the closest it had ever come to showing shock in the five years that Rhyshladlyn had been coming to its Shadow Chamber since the runes that made up its Marking on his chest first appeared. Once that blink was done, however, its face twisted and Rhyshladlyn was reminded that while the Nameless appeared Dhaoinic before them the form it wore was a glamour, was a falsity; the body before them held the god well enough but it was not its truest form for not many were able to look upon that and survive with their sanity intact except, perhaps, those Marked or Touched but Rhyshladlyn had never felt compelled to test that theory.
“That is not necessary, My Child, I believe you by virtue of your words alone. However, how long have you sat upon this knowledge before now?” It asked and Rhyshladlyn looked away because he knew the answer was not going to be received well.
*Either you tell it or it’ll start guessing. And I do not believe a god guessing an answer you are perfectly capable of providing will end well for anyone in this Chamber,* Shadiranamen said when Rhyshladlyn had remained quiet for longer than he probably should have.
With a heavy mental sigh, Rhyshladlyn admitted she was right.
“Do You wish for the age I was when he did it to me as a female bodied Dhaoine or as a male bodied one?” His voice sounded foreign even to his own ears as he continued staring at the pillow Azhuri had occupied, unable to look at the Nameless or his siblings or Ero in that moment. He had figured he would take the unfiltered knowledge of what Anislanzir had done to him to his grave if he didn’t return them to the Lord King when putting the bastard in his grave so he was incredibly ill-prepared to discuss it now. His statement before had merely been one last dig at Azhuri before she walked out of the Chamber and his denouncement of her as his mother solidified. It hadn’t been meant as a charge to blow open the doors to the part of his mind that held his torturous past.
“Wh-what…?” Anis stuttered out, a growl twisting the end of the word as the reality of what Rhyshladlyn had said caught up with him.
“He knew you were a neodrach this whole time?” Alaïs’ voice bit at the air around them like an animal snapping at a threat.
“Hush, young ones, let him speak,” the Nameless said, voice soft but still carrying an undercurrent of that fury that burned along his bones. Rhyshladlyn closed his eyes tightly, swallowing hard as he tried not to get sucked under the swell of memories he didn’t want, reminders of a past he wished belonged to anyone but him. Yet the thought of anyone else going through what his father had done to him in his stead made shame bloom in his stomach, threatening to make him vomit up everything he’d ever eaten in his life.
“Rhys-kyn?” Ero murmured inquisitively and Rhyshladlyn keened under his breath at the use of the honorific given only to Qishir, swaying slightly. The last person to speak his nickname and honorific together had been Azriel just before he stepped into the Line Carriage sent by the Eighth Qishir to take him back to the Eighth Palace, just before Rhyshladlyn had seen him for the last time before the tribunal had ordered him into solitude for 40 moon cycles.
“Worry not, Rhys-kyn,” those mismatched eyes regarded him steadily as one hand lifted to cup Rhyshladlyn’s cheek tenderly, “I will be fine and return to you posthaste, I swear it.”
“Az,” he whispered, eyes closing to prevent the tears that suddenly threatened to fall as the Anglëtinean warrior leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips that spoke a thousand and one things that neither could say aloud.
“Etiaw m’rof, y’Rihsiq-m,” Azriel murmured against his mouth in the language of his people and Rhyshladlyn shuddered at hearing the words. Anglë’lylel, the language of the Anglë race, was only to be spoken to those of the race or their significant others. Outsiders were forbidden to be taught the language or to hear it spoken in their presence. And for Azriel to do so now, to have taught Rhyshladlyn how to speak enough of it over the almost year since his 88 nameday, was as good as a proposal as actually speaking the question out loud.
“U’i or’lliw yo’syawla f’tiaw, y’Fecnyrp-m,” he replied, slowly and carefully so as not to mess up the pronunciation that had to be perfect otherwise the meaning would be changed completely.
Azriel nodded, pressed his forehead to Rhyshladlyn’s with a shaky sigh, before he turned and got into the Line Carriage without another word or backwards glance. Rhyshladlyn stood there and watched as the Carriage driver caught a Line and disappeared from sight. He stood there until the sun had set and the moons had risen and begun a downward trek.
Because Azriel had asked him to wait for him. Because he had promised he always would.
“Rhyshladlyn?” That was Anis’ voice right in front of him instead of to his left where the first born heir had been sitting. That was the only warning he had before he felt his brother’s hands cup his face and his thumbs brush across his cheekbones. I must be crying, he thought. Fuck. “Please, brother, you are safe here.”
Oh dearest gods, he thinks I’m crying because I’m remembering what Anislanzir did? Not hardly, older brother.
“I know this, Anis,” he replied, eyes still closed, unmoving in his brother’s grasp. Realizing his tone must have been a bit harsher than he intended he added softly, “Please, return to your seat, I am fine. I… I am upset for a reason that has nothing to do with our father and his perversions.”
“As you wish, bròtr,” Anis said and Rhyshladlyn heard him shuffling back towards his pillow before silence fell again. He took a deep breath, held in for the count of forty, and released it slowly before he spoke.
“It has been 77 and 73 years, respectively, that I have sat upon this knowledge, Honored One.”
“Respectively meaning since he forced you as a female bodied Dhaoine and a male bodied one?” the Nameless queried.
“Yes,” Rhyshladlyn answered, eyes still closed.
“Did he know you were a neodrach and force you to change body shape?” Alaïs asked and Rhyshladlyn had to give her credit for how steady her voice sounded but he knew her too well and could detect the faintest tremor on certain syllables, the vowels in particular. But whether that tremor was born of anger, sympathy, disgust or any other myriad number of emotions, Rhyshladlyn wasn’t sure and couldn’t be unless he saw her face. But that would mean opening his eyes and right now he couldn’t stand to look at any of them, not even his Patron.
“No, he used a spell to change my genitals only. However, knowing now that I am a neodrach the spell probably only succeeded because my body naturally has the ability to change itself in such a manner. Otherwise, I assume it would have failed,” he said, voice still so foreign to his ears; flat and devoid of the normal nuances of inflection and tone and emotion it normally carried.
A hiss sounded and as the cool touch of Soulless power danced around him, crackling like lightning in the air of the Chamber, Rhyshladlyn opened his eyes and chanced glancing over at where Ero sat with his hands clenched into fists and pressed against the stone floor to either side of the pillow he knelt on, the muscles in his biceps and forearms trembling with the effort it took to remain where he was, to contain the rage that made his power undulate and twirl around them all.
“How could he… you were but a child,” Ero ground out, chartreuse eyes flicking up to meet Rhyshladlyn’s orange-amber ones and the Qishir couldn’t help feel some of the tension bleed out of his own muscles. Because in those eyes was not sympathy or contempt or disgust or shock. No, what lay there was the frigid demand for retribution, for a mind shattering under the forceful intrusion of another, for a curse that denied the receiver of such a punishment from ever finding peace after the Nameless’ ferriers collected the Self for the final journey across the River. It made Rhyshladlyn’s heart swell to see it.
“I know, Ero, but there is nothing to be done of it now so many years later,” Rhyshladlyn replied, lips tilting in a smile that was halting and filled with a sadness that dimmed the brilliancy of his eyes.
“You told no one?” the Nameless’ voice held a multiplicity to it, as though many voices spoke through it rather than just the god itself.
Looking away from Ero, careful not to meet the eyes of his brother or sister, Rhyshladlyn met the Nameless’ gaze briefly and shook his head in the negative before he looked back at Azhuri’s vacated pillow. *Why do you keep staring at it anyway?* Shadiranamen asked.
It is the safest thing to look at.
*That’s a valid point,* Nhulynolyn said and Rhyshladlyn chuckled mirthlessly in response.
“So what happens now?” Alaïs spoke up, voice far steadier than it was before and Rhyshladlyn was impressed by how quickly she recovered.
“How do you mean?” Rhyshladlyn asked by way of a reply without looking up.
“Well, obviously that fucking xhvetlarq deserves to have his mind raped as he raped your body and left to wither and die slowly as he wanders the dunes of the Desert,” Alaïs bit out, tone full of a wrathful promise that made Rhyshladlyn shiver and send a prayer of thanks that he was not on the receiving end of that promise and that he would do his damnedest to stay that way. “So how will we go about getting the retribution you deserve?”
“I will make no move against him, Alaïs,” Rhyshladlyn said slowly, carefully, knowing that the reaction was likely to be unpleasant.
His sister’s snarled what went unspoken but he could feel it in the way the skin on the side of his face prickled under the force of the glare she lobbed in his direction.
“You and Anis have remained untouched since I was born solely because I continue to allow Father to enact his perversions upon me. He has voiced many times how he would… he would…” Rhyshladlyn trailed off, falling silent as he swallowed convulsively around the sudden lump in his throat, hands curling around his calves until his nails dug into his skin, the sting of the action enough to ground him so he could continue. “If I did not make myself available to him, he would turn to one or both of you. If I fought him when he sought me out, I would be punished; the more I fought, the worse the damage of my punishment would be. So until you both are safe and away from here, until I can be absolutely certain you will not be used as blackmail against me any more than you already have been, I will do nothing that I have not done until now. It is a risk I cannot take.”
“So each scar you have… every time you were found beaten and broken and bleeding… those were-were punishments?” Anis spluttered, unable to properly understand what he was feeling in the wake of this new information.
For long minutes there was silence, just the soft sound of their breathing. Rhyshladlyn closed his eyes and sank into a light meditative trance, letting the Nameless’ Presence next to him soothe the aches brought on by revisiting so much of his past in such a short span of time.
“My Child,” the Nameless began after the sharpness of his aches had dulled significantly, “what did you do that warranted your wings being removed?”
Rhyshladlyn flinched violently away from the god beside him. It was the one question no one had ever asked him. Probably because they hadn’t dared to question the absolute authority of the Lord King lest they face being subjected to the same fate as him and Rhyshladlyn faulted no one for that. After all, he’d barely survived their initial removal let alone the time the Lord King had purposefully dug his fingers into the twisted, pitted, knotted flesh decades later and tore it open just as he had the day he’d ripped Rhyshladlyn’s wings from him and he was a Qishir and a damned powerful one at that.
“Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne, you may speak freely and safely here, you know this,” the Nameless pressed and Rhyshladlyn shook his head, throat closing up around the words. It was a memory he could not revisit. Not today, not right now, perhaps not ever, but for a surety not right now, please do not make me speak of that right now, Honored One.
A hand touched his shoulder and squeezed gently and Rhyshladlyn knew without opening his eyes that his Patron had accepted his inability to answer and he nodded by way of thanks, not trusting his voice.
“So,” Anis began haltingly, only continuing when Rhyshladlyn tilted his head towards his older brother to signal he was listening but otherwise didn’t speak or open his eyes. “You’re supposed to speak with Father over dinner in his private chambers in, what, two days now? You cannot still mean to attend that, surely?”
Rhyshladlyn barked a laugh that made even the god beside him jump at the suddenness of it.
“And what? You expect me to stand him up?” he asked, incredulous as he finally opened his eyes and looked at his older brother, one eyebrow raised almost derisively. “Honestly, Anis, have you not been listening? I cannot refuse him when he sends for me, when he seeks me out. To do so puts you or Alaïs in my place and I will not let that happen. I am strong enough to withstand what he has done, what he will no doubt continue to do, to me. And that is something neither of you are; a fact none of us can change. So, please, let the matter drop.”
Anis breathed out sharply through his nose before holding up his hands and looking away from the intensity of the other male’s gaze. “Fine, I’ll drop it.”
*Well, subject change time!* Nhulynolyn said, clapping his hands as he did so. *Didn’t you want to ask if there had been other Greywalkers before you?*
Yes, thank you.
“Honored One?” Rhyshladlyn looked to the god who tilted its head to signal its attention. “Were there other Greywalkers that came before me that met Fate’s criteria? And if so…did none of them accept the responsibility You mentioned falls to me should I chose to accept it to bring balance back to the Worlds?”
“That is an excellent question, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne,” the Nameless replied, smiling with only one corner of its mouth as it continued, “and the answer is yes, there were others before you that met the criteria and answered positively to Fate’s calls.”
“What happened to them?” Ero asked, leaning forward with an eagerness that made Alaïs smile fondly at him and Anis shake his head with a roll of his eyes.
“None of them survived their Awakenings.”
Their reactions were simultaneous: Anis’ jaw dropped open, Alaïs grimaced, Ero’s eyes squeezed shut as a hand came to cover his mouth, and the color drained from Rhyshladlyn’s face.
“Unless a Greywalker survives their Awakening, they do not come into their powers fully and thus cannot restore balance. So even though there were others that came before you, My Child, it mattered not for they were unable to follow through on what Fate had woven for them,” the Nameless continued, unfazed by their reactions.
Well fuck. Survived everything up until now, born of great strife and torment blah blah blah, but of course, coming into his powers as the descendant of this great, supposedly wiped out race of World balancers could kill him.
Rhyshladlyn dropped his face into his hands with a groan. Fucking double fuck.
“Fate needs to get its shit together,” he mumbled petulantly and heard the Nameless snort and his siblings and Ero try to stifle their own sounds of amusement.
“I cannot say I disagree with you, Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne,” the Nameless said, mirth making its words tremble around the edges.
“Is there a way to guarantee he survives his Awakening?” Anis asked.
“And is there a specific time that his Awakening will happen whether he’s prepared for it or not?” Alaïs added.
*This is why we need them. They ask the questions we forget to,* Nhulynolyn said with a hint of admiration.
“For pureblood Greywalkers the Awakening happens when they reach the age of maturity, which for them was on their 300th nameday, however, I am uncertain how that will translate to Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne as he is not pureblood. So perhaps it will occur at the age of maturity for the races of his mother and father? But that is merely a speculation,” the Nameless paused and repositioned its Scythe where it leaned against its shoulder. “As for a way to guarantee he survives… no. Not even Greywalkers that had been trained and prepared their entire lives since birth for their Awakenings survived. It was merely a matter of… well, of Fate.”
Rhyshladlyn lifted his head from his hands and shot flat look at his Patron.
“I am aware of how ridiculous that is, believe Me,” the god said in response to Rhyshladlyn’s look, those kaleidoscope eyes rolling in exasperation of Fate and its mantles of responsibility and shit.
Is it wrong that I kind of want to say “no” just out of spite now?
*Not even a little bit,* Nhulynolyn responded, ice blue eyes narrowed as he looked at the god.
*I for one advocate that you say ‘maybe’ and string Fate along,* Shadiranamen added.
After everything, Rhyshladlyn was hard pressed not to do exactly that.