Rhyshladlyn hissed sharply through clenched teeth as he stumbled sideways, right shoulder smacking hard against the stone wall of the alleyway he had woken up in. It wasn’t new for him to be found like this: stumbling around broken and bleeding and covered in things he’d rather not dwell on for overlong, disoriented and not entirely certain of where he was until he got somewhere where recognized some part of his surroundings.
What was new was that he had not started the night off outside in the City’s streets. No, he distinctly remembered knocking on the door to the audience chamber of the Royal Suite in the Palace three days from when the City sang after he spoke Xhi Ahnkder’s Deathbed Prophecy aloud and things went absolutely batshit sideways. He knew that he had been instructed to enter, saw Azhuri sitting across the modest table from his father, heard Anislanzir dismiss his wife from the rooms, watched as she walked past him with a look that he imagined someone who had watched the love of their life perish before them would have. Things got blurry after that.
Fuck, everything hurts. With a groan that sounded punched out of him rather than let go willingly, Rhyshladlyn pushed off the wall and tried not to scream as he felt the bones of his right leg from the knee down grind against each other, sending white hot flashes of sheer agony dancing up and down his nerve-endings. With another hiss, he collapsed against the wall without ever having advanced a step, back protesting the action loudly and he closed his eyes tightly as he felt the unnatural pull against his wings that meant they were stuck half out and half in and he was not ready to figure out what state they were in. They still functioned, they still were there, no pieces were missing, he could feel and sense that much. He wouldn’t have been left to wander alone and unguarded if aught had been done to them; Anislanzir was many things, but stupid enough to let him be seen after damaging or removing or attempting to remove his remaining set of wings was not one of them.
Gods surrounding, what in the innumerable names of the Nameless did he do to me this time? With his right leg absolutely useless to him, Rhyshladlyn couldn’t remain upright and sank slowly and gracelessly to the cobblestones below his feet wondering absently how he had even come to be standing in the first place if his leg was so messed up. Speaking of which…
Opening his eyes slowly, he looked down where his legs were stretched out in front of him, hands resting limp and purposeless in his lap. For a few heartbeats, Rhyshladlyn had trouble comprehending what his eyes were seeing as his psyche fought against him processing anything in an attempt to protect him. But that was a wasted effort; after seeing the bloodied, shredded remains of his wings after they’d been ripped from him slowly over the course of twelve horrific hours nothing truly fazed him anymore when it came to the dilapidated state of his body in the wake of one of Anislanzir’s assignations. He was promptly proven wrong when it finally clicked what he was seeing.
It wasn’t anything new to see his breeches a mess of blood and gore, not given that he regularly dispatched traitors and deserters and enemies of the throne, and especially not given that Anislanzir had left him in worse states. But he’d never been able to see the muscles and ligaments and tendons of his right leg where they connected to the cracked and separated bones of his right leg from just below his knee to above his ankle before. For a moment he wondered how it was possible that his skin was torn and ragged-edged but everything that existed below it seemed untouched until he realized that wasn’t his skin, it was what was left of his breeches because he no longer had any fuckin’ skin, oh my gods he skinned my leg!
Taking a shuddering breath that was the precursor to him hyperventilating, Rhyshladlyn dropped his head back against the wall behind him hard enough to keep him from breaking down into hysterics, forcing himself to focus on taking slow and even breaths. Staring unseeingly up at the sky above, breath still shuddering on each inhale and exhale but with less power than before, he tried desperately to reach that detachment that allowed him to compartmentalize; allowed him to take stock of his injuries, get them stabilized and treated, and get himself to safety. Only then, when he was safe and not in any danger of dying or turning septic or some other such unpleasantness would he allow himself to fall apart.
Nully? Shadi? He called and heard only silence. Which was odd and did not help him stave off his rising panic and he shut his eyes tightly. Where were they? Surely he’d have come to to them screaming at him or bringing down a barrage of Healers or City-people to help him get back to the Palace? Taking a deep breath and telling himself, one step at a time, come on, he let the breath out and opened his eyes needing to see what other injuries he had. If his leg was that bad things were either just as bad or worse and he needed to know like forty minutes ago just how bad off he was. He knew enough basic Healing to keep himself from dying immediately but not enough to patch himself up alone, not with injuries that excessive.
His left leg had all its skin, gods be thanked, but he could tell something was wrong about his foot. Speaking of, when in the fuck did I lose my boots? It didn’t sit right, half of it listing to one side as though it were boneless and that was definitely not normal and beyond worrisome. He attempted to wiggle his toes and a shocked sob bubbled out of him before he could stop it. The attempt showed he could move his toes but his skin shivered in such an incredibly disturbing way and he knocked his head back against the wall again to use that pain, created only by him, to ground himself again. Looking up at the darkened sky, fingers curling into fists he took a deep, trembling breath and let it out as slow and as steady as he could manage, I can do this, I can do this, before he looked back down. His left knee was untouched from what he could see and feel, which was a mercy given that it barely healed the last time Anislanzir had taken an interest in it. He could tell by the way his left hip throbbed, however, that it was probably dislocated at worst, strained at best. His right leg from knee to hip only had lacerations but otherwise was left untouched.
Nully? Shadi? Where are you two? I need you! He called out again as he gingerly twitched his fingers. When no pain bloomed in response he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and just as gingerly palmed his groin through his breeches, checking to make sure nothing there was missing, painful to touch, or otherwise messed with. Blessedly everything seemed fine though he wouldn’t trust that entirely until he could see it for himself but as there wasn’t any visible blood and accompanying discomfort of any shade he moved on.
The old adage that wounds won’t truly start hurting until you see them bleeding proved true the moment Rhyshladlyn saw the mess of his abdomen.
“Oh gods…fuck,” he moaned, drawing out the curse as his hands shakily lifted to the hole where his intestines were ever-so-slightly spilling out and gently pushed against them as though all he needed to do to fix the problem of his insides being on the outside was to put them back inside and just hold something over the hole. The stench reached him then and he realized something had been ruptured that had no business being that way, and he wailed softly under his breath as it hit him just how likely he was to die in this filthy back alley somewhere in the City.
*No! You are not going to die!* Shadiranamen’s voice spluttered across their connection, weak and fuzzy around the edges which let him know she was at the very limit of their consciousness’ ability to allow them to mentally communicate. *We’re getting help. Just stay calm and stop the bleeding where you can!* And then her presence was gone like a gust of wind blowing out a candle-flame.
Well, at least help was coming, provided he lived long enough for its arrival to mean anything.
Exhaustion rolled over him then and his head lolled back against the wall, eyelids drooping, the pressure of his hands pressing his intestines back inside his abdomen letting up somewhat as his strength began to fail him. He needed to rest, just for a moment. Then he would do as Shadiranamen advised and stop the bleeding that he could and keep checking himself over for injuries, cataloging the worst so when the Healers and other help arrived he could tell them which to focus on first.
But until then, he just needed a single moment’s rest. That was all.
“Your Majesty, you mustn’t fall asleep,” a soft voice spoke directly in front of him and he jerked back to full alertness, eyes flying open to stare into the slate grey ones of the Soul Healer that was squatted down in front of him, the jewel on his forehead pulsing faintly as his power swirled up and down the alleyway around them. “Do you remember me?” He asked.
Rhyshladlyn nodded. “Yes… you are,” he coughed and swallowed a cry as the action made his chest feel like it was on fire. Taking a few gulps of air he tried again, blatantly ignoring how wet his voice sounded. “Relyt… Greymend, the Grey Soul Healer.”
“Yes, your Majesty. May I lay hands upon you to try and aid in keeping you alive?”
Again, Rhyshladlyn nodded and then realized he should probably tell the Soul Healer what his worst injuries were.
“Intestines are… falling out. I was…wasn’t,” he groaned, eyes falling closed as another wave of exhaustion, stronger than the first, fell over him.
“Stay awake, your Majesty,” Relyt Greymend said, voice a terse command but never losing the softness it held. Rhyshladlyn nodded, opening his eyes with a concerted effort and meeting the slate grey ones of the Soul Healer who smiled with a sort of bemusement that made Rhyshladlyn return the gesture without thinking about it only to blink in confusion when his mouth didn’t move the way he wanted it to. Seeing his reaction, Relyt Greymend held up his hands slowly and spoke with that same soft command that only Healers seemed able to pull off. “Do not be alarmed, your face is badly damaged, your cheek is split open from your ear to the corner of your mouth on your right side but it does not appear to have gone through the muscle. I need you to focus on breathing for me and staying awake.”
Rhyshladlyn did his best to comply with that directive.
“I am going to lay my hands upon you, your Majesty,” Relyt Greymend said nonchalantly as though he were discussing the weather and not what he was going to do to keep Rhyshladlyn alive. “Once more, may I do my best to aid you until more proper help may arrive?” he asked, eyes flicking up to look at Rhyshladlyn who nodded yet again.
“Yes… please,” he said. Healers required verbal consent to work on any individual; without it, they could not touch anyone, no matter how injured, no matter how easily saved the Dhaoine may be. Provided, that was, that the individual was capable of speech.
With a curt nod, Relyt Greymend bent his head, eyes intense as he took stock of Rhyshladlyn’s injuries from head to toe, a frown pulling at his brows as he finished. With a deep breath in and out to ground himself, the Soul Healer looked up at him once again and Rhyshladlyn mimicked him as best he could.
“It’s… b-bad,” he stammered out. His voice sounded wetter than before and he wondered if it had sounded that way when he’d cursed upon realizing his intestines were attempting to escape his body.
*Rhys! We’re coming!* Nhulynolyn’s voice thundered across their connection making him jump with the suddenness of it which led to his entire body coming to life with one drawn out, keening note of pain that had him throwing his head back and swallowing thickly around the sob that threatened to crawl out of his throat.
“Yes, your Majesty, and I cannot promise that even stopping the bleeding will not cause you more torment,” Relyt Greymend replied.
“F-fuck it,” Rhyshladlyn said, hearing the attempt of dry humor creep into his voice but it didn’t color it correctly. Nevertheless Relyt Greymend gave him a shaky smile in return. “Do what… what you must. Healers are… are n-not… too far… off,” he added.
“As you wish, your Majesty.”
That was the only warning he had before power that felt like a cool summer breeze crashed over him, entwining with his own power that bucked and shrieked now that he was paying attention to it, calling out in distress to anyone who was able to hear it. He hadn’t even been aware he was sending out an endless cry for help until the Soul Healer in front of him had reached out to sooth him in such a way, to calm him enough that his magick would not attack him thinking this Dhaoine who meant only to render aid was an enemy. Is that how he knew where to find me?
“Prepare yourself,” Relyt Greymend warned and then his power shifted and focused on every injury he had and Rhyshladlyn threw back his head and howled as his world shattered at the edges and became nothing but one single note of agony the likes of which he had not felt since his father had ripped his wings from his back when he was eight namedays old. As Relyt Greymend’s power surged over every inch of him, stopped major bleeding and Healing what damage he could, Rhyshladlyn heard shouting but was unable to focus on it.
Because as every nerve added its voice to that singular note until there was an orchestra of pain echoing from his every pore, he felt his entire World shift on its axis.
“I know you’re a neodrach, ‘Adlyn,” the Lord King crooned into his ear, arms reaching around from behind him, the Lord King’s favorite obsidian-bladed dagger held in his right hand. “And I also know that you have other secrets you and that bitch mother of yours are not sharing with me. But that’s alright,” Rhyshladlyn clenched his jaw as the tip of that blade sank into his abdomen just a few inches above his navel, his head falling back of its own accord onto his father’s shoulder as the Lord King pressed his chest to Rhyshladlyn’s back, “one of you will spill those secrets to me. You always do. It’s just a matter of finding out which button to push.” Rhyshladlyn screamed then as Anislanzir sank his favorite knife to the hilt and pulled it slowly across his torso.
Resurfacing from the memory with a wet coughing sob like a drowning man struggling to breathe as he breaks the surface of the waves endeavoring to drown him, Rhyshladlyn turned his head to find Anis kneeling beside him, clear blue eyes wide and dark with fear and something Rhyshladlyn couldn’t put a name to. Beyond him Relyt Greymend worked in tandem with two other Healers to correct as much of the damage as they could, enough at least to be able to safely move him to somewhere far more sanitary than the filthy alleyway he was currently sprawled in.
“Lil’it bròtr, what happened?” Anis said and Rhyshladlyn fought not to flinch at the sound of the him calling him ‘little brother’ in Tengú for the first time in over eight decades.
“Anny,” he gasped out, coughing and whimpering with the pain the action caused, licking the blood from his lips as he lifted a shaking hand to grip the side of his older brother’s neck. “He… he knows… neodrach… Azhuri is a… trai-traitor. She’s told… him…”
His voice failed him as a third wave of exhaustion hit him and he frowned, eyes fluttering as he fought to keep them open. A cry of alarm sounded from somewhere near his feet and Rhyshladlyn watched as his hand fell limply from Anis’ neck, the feeling of it smacking hard against the cobblestones beneath him muted. Above him Anis’s mouth fell open in a soundless scream that Rhyshladlyn felt reverberate along his bones and made him keen with the ache it caused.
Just as his consciousness gave into the mounting exhaustion lulling him to sleep, Rhyshladlyn felt more than heard a rich tenor voice roar his name and then there was only darkness and silence.