Relyt glanced up at the Soulless who was now only half holding Anis up where he’d pushed him up against a wall some feet away in an attempt to keep him from going nova as his power winged out of control as his emotional state rapidly deteriorated once Rhyshladlyn fell unconscious. The two murmured to each other, Anis’ hands gripping Ero’s hips, head resting on the taller male’s shoulder while the Soulless rhythmically spread and closed his fingers across Anis’ collarbones, lost in each other and the comfort they found there. Relyt felt a pang of sympathy for the two of them; he could only imagine how Anis must be feeling right now, let alone how the warrior tasked with guarding him felt. It was one thing to watch a family member or friend succumb in any form to such injuries, it was quite another to watch the person you had sworn an oath to protect at all costs fall apart in the face of that. Relyt repressed a shudder, thankful he had yet to experience something like this on a more personal level.
“There’s something wrong,” one of the Healers that had arrived on the heals of Anis and his guard said and Relyt rolled his eyes, barely holding back a derisive snort as he returned his attention to the prone, unconscious body beside him and the Healers he was supposed to be working alongside to keep the operator of that body alive.
“I had gathered that much, Healer Jylen,” Relyt replied dryly, shifting so he was facing the green-eyed Shiftkin Healer who knelt on Rhyshladlyn’s other side, his hands tracing patterns above Rhyshladlyn’s body, eyes intent on the movements of his fingers as he worked to discern the exact extent of the damage that needed correcting. “The cry of alarm when your colleague was knocked upon eir ass was indication enough of something being wrong.” He was being rude, especially for one of his standing among his people, and given that he was the first Grey to act as envoy to the Worlds in ten generations he should be a bit more apologetic of his rudeness, but the elder sibling of his Majesty and his guard had brought Relyt what had to be two of the most incompetent Healers he had ever had the displeasure of encountering. And on that basis alone he felt entitled to be a tad bit impolite. Especially considering that he could more than likely Heal Rhyshladlyn on his own without any aid but he was trying to keep a low profile given the rumors he’d heard, and now had confirmation clear before his eyes that they weren’t just rumors, of the Lord King and how he responded to powerful Dhaoine in his City. So he bit his tongue to keep from continuing and worsening his image with further rudeness. He succeeded, but only just.
The Shiftkin narrowed his eyes at Relyt but the Soul Healer chose to outright ignore the challenge inherent in the action, only half paying attention as the other Healer, a neodrach by the name of Chebnir, sat back up and shook eir head, blinking almost owlishly, a shaking hand reaching up to touch the side of eir head. When ey had laid eir hands directly on Rhyshladlyn’s skinned right leg with the full intention of regenerating the skin that was no longer there, magick had shuddered up through eir hands and knocked eir back, breaking the connection. Ey wasn’t hurt in any way, merely stunned. But whatever it was that had triggered that magickal reaction had zapped what little energy Rhyshladlyn had had left to keep himself alert and conscious.
“Well, forgive me for speaking,” Jylen muttered, sounding almost petulant and Relyt raised an eyebrow, shifting his slate grey gaze to the Healer for half a heartbeat before his fingers sketched a particularly intricate knot work pattern that ended at the base of Rhyshladlyn’s throat and the same magickal zap that knocked Chebnir back moments before smacked against his hands but didn’t do anything more than make his wings snap out to their full span to keep him balanced before they settled into their previous position curled against his back.
“I already had,” he muttered distractedly, eyes narrowed as he sketched the knot work again and jerked back from the body below him as he felt the tattoos on his right bicep burn coldly against his skin as the protections woven into the very ink itself engaged. The intricate, slanting knots inked into his tanned skin in various shades of grey and black with hints of white in spots that began just above the curve of his shoulder and ended just below the bend of his elbow marked him as a Thirteenth Tier Healer, one capable of snapping his fingers and healing any ailment save death itself, and a Thrice Touched, which meant he was one of the more powerful of his people, known as a Gret’yinl. If he had wished it, he could have ruled his entire race, but he chose not to; instead he had elected to allow someone else to rule in his place, to guide his people while he wandered, offering services where needed. He chose instead to be an envoy to the Worlds. And thankfully he was a Gret’yinl because had anyone else been the one to touch the curse he just found woven into the very fabric of Rhyshladlyn’s skin, rooted in his power from which it fed to sustain itself, they likely would not have survived the encounter.
“What is it?” Chebnir asked having clearly interpreted his reaction correctly, leaning forward to try and see what he had but of course ey wasn’t able to. His knot work patterns were visible only to those who shared his heritage or knew exactly what to look for when his fingers started drawing.
“Stay back,” he cautioned, holding up a hand towards em, eyes never leaving Rhyshladlyn’s body, tracing every single weave of the curse, trying to find a way to dismantle it. As it was, if they tried to Heal any major damage such as the slice across his abdomen, his right leg, or the bone fragments that had torn into one of his lungs, the curse would turn on them and use their own power to become stronger and quicken the death it was designed to bring upon Rhyshladlyn. However, he had ignored its warning and poked it again so now it was fully active and pulsing with a hatred that Relyt begrudgingly admitted he was rather impressed by. “There is a healing curse placed upon his Majesty,” he explained when he realized he had been silent for too long and Jylen had impatiently snapped a question at him.
“What?” Both Healers barked in unison and Relyt let out a breath, asking any god listening for patience.
“There is a healing curse placed upon his Majesty,” he enunciated slowly as though speaking to small children, “it is woven into the very fabric of his skin, rooted in his power. When Chebnir here attempted to fix up his right leg, the curse was activated and knocked em back in a warning to leave Rhyshladlyn and the healing of him alone. If the connection ey had made by direct contact with his body not been severed when ey was knocked back, ey likely would have been drained of eir magick at best, killed almost instantly at worst.”
There was a beat of silence and he looked up to see Jylen and Chebnir looking at him with wide eyes before the male spoke up.
“Can we undo it?” he asked and Relyt had to give him back some of the intelligence points he had lost before.
“Yes, but I cannot say how well it will work nor how long it would take,” Relyt responded, blowing out a breath through his nose as he frowned down at the twisted work of the curse that was glowing a faint, angry red and looked like a gossamer film laid over the gore and mess of Rhyshladlyn’s body. “Nor can I say whether we will survive any attempts made to undo it. But if we do not try…” He trailed off, not entirely willing to finish the statement.
“…Rhyshladlyn will definitely die,” a subdued voice said to his left and Relyt looked up, startled, at Anis who was standing staring down at Rhyshladlyn with a haunted look in his eyes that made Relyt want to know the names of anyone who had had a hand in putting that look there and brutally dispatch them from existence.
“Yes, my Lord.” he responded even though it had not been a question. Anis looked at him then and Relyt raised an eyebrow at the determination that turned clear blue eyes that had been so haunted and so full of unbridled fear not all that long ago dark and full of promises Relyt didn’t think anyone but Anis would enjoy the fulfilling of.
“How can I help?”
“Are you any good with curses?” Jylen asked and this time Relyt did snort derisively, the sound turning into a snicker when he heard Chebnir snort right along with him. Sinner Demons had invented that kind of curse; it was one of the sources behind why their race bore the name it did, never mind why they were the ones to rule the other demon races. So it stood to reason based on that fact alone that every Sinner Demon, especially one of the royal line, would know enough about curses of this ilk to unravel and create them with some semblance of ease. “Could you for once just not be rude?” Jylen bit out at him and Relyt laughed, low, short, and harsh.
“I will when you stop being so incredibly stupid,” he retorted before turning to Anis and gesturing for the heir to the throne to kneel on Rhyshladlyn’s right side, hand making a sweeping motion over his Majesty’s torso which lay between them, bringing the curse into the visible spectrum as they both ignored Jylen’s indignant spluttering.
It took but a moment for recognition to twist Anis’ face into a mask of rage as a snarl tore from his throat and made the very air vibrate with the force of it.
“He put a fucking healing curse on him?” Anis growled and Relyt wondered briefly if he was who Relyt suspected it to be but now was not the time to ask and confirm his assumption.
“Do you know where to begin with regards to unraveling it?” Relyt asked, too keenly aware of the way Rhyshladlyn’s breathing was growing fainter and fainter the longer they took to get this problem solved.
“I have enough of an idea. We have to find the fail safe,” Anis said, eyes becoming unfocused as he searched for whatever that was. Sensing their confusion, the prince added, “There is always one in case the curse latches on to the creator and begins to drain them before it can be fully locked onto just the victim. Like the button to a hidden escape hatch in a wall: press it and,” he snapped his fingers, “you have freedom.”
“What does it look like?” Relyt asked and once Anis described the general idea of what most healing curse fail safes were appearance-wise, the two set out in search, distantly aware of Jylen grumbling under his breath like a pouting child — I am going to smack him when this is done, I swear upon my Initiations — and Chebnir mumbling what Relyt realized was prayers of strength and patience as she worked. Ero stood a few feet away clearly aware that this was an area he had no expertise in and thus endeavored to remain out of the way.
“Found it!” Jylen crowed triumphantly, startling them all.
“Wait don’t set it off! We don’t know the reaction Rhyshla–” Anis began but Jylen had already sent a jolt of his own power at the intricate knot that made up the curse’s fail safe and with an audible pop that echoed off the walls on either side of the alley, the curse pulled taught, pulsed once, then snapped out of existence.
There was a heartbeat of silence where the entire World seemed to hold its breath before Rhyshladlyn’s eyes flew open, his back bowed up off the ground, and his mouth fell open as an unearthly sound tore itself from his throat at a volume that threatened to shatter eardrums. Around them glass shattered from the few windows in the walls of the buildings that made up the alley sending the pieces raining down upon them, the ground rumbled ominously below them as it undulated like a boat on choppy waters, and the walls around them shuddered at their bases. Rhyshladlyn’s power whipped out from him in a gust of wind that none of them were any more ready for than they were for the way he came back to consciousness.
Ero shouted indignantly as he was blasted off his feet and into one of the shuddering walls.
Jylen screamed, short and sudden, as he was sent rolling into a stack of crates nearby.
Chebnir and Anis made twin sounds of shock and pain as the former was sent tumbling into the latter.
Relyt extended his wings in an effort to keep himself from being likewise tossed about like a discarded rag doll, trying desperately to send his power out as he had before to sooth Rhyshladlyn’s, to calm it down and convince it none of them were the threats it believed they were.
And it must have worked because as quickly as everything started, it was over. In the ensuing silence Relyt, who was the only one to remain within arm’s reach of his Majesty, looked down at the Qishir who was staring unseeing at the sky above, blood staining his chin and lips, body a mess of wounds and gore, orange-amber eyes wide. He watched as the Qishir’s bowed back slowly relaxed and he was once more laying flat on the cobblestones, watched as his mouth closed with an audible click of his teeth, watched as those glowing, molten eyes calmed ever-so-slightly. Relyt let out a shaky breath, bowing his head as Anis reached his brother’s side again.
“Rhys?” he heard Anis whisper and looked up to see the prince’s hand lifting to gently touch his knuckles to his brother’s left jaw. “Are you with me? Rhys?”
Rhyshladlyn’s eyes blinked slowly and his head moved as though the effort it took to do that much was almost too much for him. When orange-amber eyes were looking at him again, Anis tried to smile but Relyt was more than certain he failed. Rhyshladlyn didn’t seem to notice or care.
“Hey, brother, welcome back,” Anis murmured. “Where did you go?”
Rhyshladlyn let out a shaky, shallow breath, eyes closing again and it was obvious that Anis fought the urge to shake him until they opened again.
“I… was…” Rhyshladlyn coughed and his face twisted with the pain the action caused, swallowing thickly before he tried again, right hand lifting blindly and Anis caught it and brought it to his neck like how it had been what felt like hours ago. “…was in a… a forest. Fuck, Anny… he knows…” Rhyshladlyn sobbed, chest heaving with it as he stiffened and the hand on Anis’ neck twitched.
“My Lord,” Relyt urged as gently as he could, “I need you to move so that I can clear whatever is making his breathing so painful.”
“Oh shit, of course,” Anis replied, moving out of the way. Relyt didn’t respond, choosing instead to focus on Healing Rhyshladlyn. As he worked, he paid only a small fraction of attention to Jylen and Chebnir who had managed to rejoin him and were talking softly to each other while they worked. What he was truly interested in was the hushed conversation between the Lord King’s sons. “What do you mean ‘he knows’?” Anis was asking when Relyt focused back in on their conversation, doing his best to appear as though he wasn’t eavesdropping while he worked.
“He… he,” Rhyshladlyn clenched his jaw on a moan as Relyt set a particularly nasty break in one of his ribs, having pulled several bone fragments out of his struggling lung in the process. “He tortured me for hours… it… fuck. He said Azhuri told him… secrets, too. That he just needed…. needed to fuck,” he broke off mid-sentence to let out a keening groan as Jylen set the bones in his mangled left foot, head thrown back, his left hand clawing at the cobblestones, his right gripping tightly enough where it rested against Anis’ neck that the knuckles were white. If the action hurt the older male, he made no outward sign of it. “Said he just needed to find the right button to push.”
Anis frowned then. “He’s been torturing Mother as well? Was she with you?”
Rhyshladlyn gave a nearly imperceptible shake of his head. “Not while I was there. Gods, Anny, he was… he was at me for hours.”
Relyt couldn’t say what made him stop mid-Healing and look up at Anis then but when he did the look of shocked horror on the male’s face sent a chill down his spine and made him tuck his wings closer to his back in an effort to warm himself up in its wake.
Rhyshladlyn must have sensed that look as well and made an effort to focus in on his brother’s face, his own going pale at the look he saw there.
“Anis? What’s… what’s wrong?” Rhyshladlyn asked.
“Rhys… you… you weren’t gone for hours,” Anis started, faltering as his voice cracked around the last few words and he swallowed audibly, looking away. Anis’ eyes closed tightly and he let out a shuddering breath when Ero knelt down behind him and put a comforting hand on each shoulder.
It took more than Relyt was willing to admit out loud to look away from the three of them and go back to continuing his Healing efforts because the look on their faces was heart-wrenching. He had heard the same rumors that everyone around the Worlds had about Lord King Anislanzir of the Sinner Demons and the hellish things he was doing to his family and his people. But seeing the proof of it in front of his face, feeling the bones he was re-knitting and the skin he was closing up and the muscles he was stitching with magick and will and intent under his hands, was not something he had been prepared for.
He was even less prepared for the way Rhyshladlyn’s voice broke when he asked, “How long? Anis, tell me — how long did he… how long was I–was I gone for?”
But what made the World tilt dangerously as though he were suddenly falling was what Anis said in response, eyes dark and brimming with tears as he looked back at Rhyshladlyn:
“Weeks… you were gone for weeks.”