“Weeks… you were gone for weeks.”
“There’s just no way! I would… I wouldn’t be alive. How could I have been–“
“There is evidence, your Majesty,” Relyt interrupted softly, slate eyes apologetic for interrupting even if he didn’t meet Rhyshladlyn’s stare, “that you were brought back several times. Nearly all of your current wounds show signs of having been healed only to be reopened over and over again.”
Rhyshladlyn sat on the shelf that ran the circumference of the Healing pool, the water lapping gently around his waist as he leaned forward, hands gripping the edge of the ledge beneath him. Behind him, Relyt worked in tandem with a Sinner Healer to pull his wings fully out from his back so they could work on fixing them. Rhyshladlyn barely registered the pain of it, too caught up in going over everything that had been said and done since he had woken back up. Since he had heard that roar of his name as he fell unconscious, as he began to die, before he was yanked out of the forest he had found himself walking through when consciousness fell away.
Of the two, that roar and the forest, Rhyshladlyn was more unnerved by the forest. Trees hundreds of times his height, thick enough to drive a Line Carriage through, with bark blacker than night grew in random patterns that he couldn’t begin to comprehend the purpose of for leagues in every direction. It was neither day nor night under that thick canopy as he had wandered along a dirt path that was well worn and clearly marked despite the dense underbrush that grew on either side of it, things he couldn’t discern the nature of chittering in the shifting shadows of that underbrush. Just as he had laid eyes on a clearing a handful or so yards ahead of him, his World had become pain incarnate and he was suddenly staring at the night sky that stretched above Shiran City with the sound of his screams echoing among the howling of the wind of his power; the cries of the Healers, Anis, and Ero adding to the cacophony before everything quieted as Relyt’s cool rush of power had slipped over his, urging it to calm. Which it had, of all things, something no Healer before Relyt had managed to achieve; something Rhyshladlyn didn’t look too closely at.
“Majesty?” the Soul Healer queried and his tone made Rhyshladlyn’s back tense hard and his wings bristle involuntarily, the pain the movement caused making him cry out harshly under his breath, head loose on his shoulders as his spine curved inward, fingers gripping the ledge tightly enough that he felt the stone shift under his fingertips.
“Yes, Soul Healer,” he said, rather proud that his voice sounded far steadier than he felt at that moment as he dragged in deep lungfuls of air in an attempt to beat that throbbing ache back to the periphery of his awareness.
“We have visitors.” The way he emphasized the last word told him who it was that had come calling as that cool summer breeze that was his power slipped alongside Rhyshladlyn’s own just as it had back in that alleyway. Unashamedly he took a deep breath of it, letting it calm him and lend him strength because he desperately needed it. Rhyshladlyn wondered exactly when the doors had opened and how he had missed the herald announcing himself but didn’t dwell on it. The heralds that often ran ahead of his father were known for their stealth; it was almost as though they took a sick pride in scaring the fuck out of people by popping up at random to announce their Lord King’s imminent arrival.
“Who goes?” he called out, voice a rumble that made the water in the pool several degrees colder as ice crept across the stone floor making the shimmering water-glow from the other Healing pools that filled the room all the more ethereal.
“Lord King Anislanzir,” came the response from the herald standing just inside the entrance.
Nhulynolyn growled from where he sat on the opposite side of the pool from Rhyshladlyn, incorporeal and thus only visible to his kè. *Tell Relyt I said to tell the Lord King where he can put his cock instead of in you.* And Rhyshladlyn had to swallow thickly around the manic laughter that threatened to bubble out as the mental image of his father stuffing his cock in the mouth of a vase far too small to fit it suddenly filled his mind’s eye.
*We cannot do that, Nully,* Shadiranamen replied, sapphire eyes glittering with a mirth that didn’t light up her face like it should have while she paced slowly behind Nhulynolyn. *After all only the two Healers who oathed themselves into Silence, Ero, Anis, Alaïs, and this Relyt fellow know that Rhys was not kidnapped by someone meaning to do harm to the royal bloodline of the Sinner Demon race, but rather the Lord King himself.*
Rhyshladlyn sighed heavily, lifted a hand, and flicked his fingers in a ‘come here’ gesture before dropping his hand again.
“Are you sure you wish to do this, your Majesty?” Relyt asked, voice only loud enough for Rhyshladlyn and the other Healer to hear. He only nodded because he couldn’t say ‘no keep the fuck away from me’ if he had any hope whatsoever of keeping Anislanzir away from him long enough to allow him to recover properly.
“As you wish,” Relyt said by way of reply, those three words carrying with them an echo of the promise he had made while they were still in that dirty alleyway that he would do his level best to keep Rhyshladlyn from coming to harm in such a way ever again.
Distantly he heard the herald formally announce the Lord King’s arrival while Rhyshladlyn just stared hard at the shifting water that played over his naked thighs. Relyt’s cool hands gently continued to massage around the base of his left wing while the other Healer did the same to his other side, coaxing his wings to come out fully and as painlessly as possible, refusing to stop their work even if it may anger the Lord King; neither Healer gave a shit what Anislanzir wanted in that moment. Their silent rebellion made Rhyshladlyn feel grateful on a level he hadn’t in far too long; feeling for the first time since Azriel had been ordered back to the Eighth Palace and sent into solitude among his people for forty moon cycles that he wasn’t alone and invisible with it in this war with his father.
As the doors opened and shut on the arrival of the Lord King and the departure of the herald, Rhyshladlyn fought the urge to cower under the feeling of his father’s presence filling up the room until it was hard to draw a proper breath. He was suddenly all too aware that he was weaponless, weakened from the curse and from his injuries, bare of clothing and armor, and absolutely alone save for his Others as trusted back up. For while he knew the Soul Healer kneeling between him and his father had sworn to protect him from the very male striding towards them, as well as to keep Silence as Jylen and Chebnir had, Rhyshladlyn knew nothing about him beyond that let alone why he had decided to answer the distress calls that Rhyshladlyn had been throwing out across the Winds and Currentsl; that he had sent sizzling along the Lines, begging over and over please, please don’t let me die someone help me.
But, he supposed, steeling himself against his father’s approach, it is better than facing Father alone.
Anislanzir’s soft-soled boots sounded as loud as the whistling of a blade as he crossed the distance between the doors and the pool, coming to a stop when he was just in Rhyshladlyn’s line of sight on the his right side which was still weak as the Healing needed there was only halfway finished. Jylen, Chebnir, and Relyt had had to cease their work when Palace guards had arrived in the alleyway, directed by the screams and the glow of energy and magick that shone like a beacon over their location. But he had been patched up enough when they had arrived to escort him to the Palace to move safely without risking regression to his previous state. But despite that, Relyt had refused to leave him, saying that he could not in good conscience leave Rhyshladlyn’s side until he was certain that all wounds had been Healed and he had enough functionality to not need continued work past that. The guards didn’t argue, simply nodded and went off in search of a palanquin to carry him back to the Palace leaving Jylen and Chebnir with enough time to speak privately one last time with him.
“I never wanted to believe the Lo–he was capable of the things the rumors say he’s done… until tonight when Prince Anis called upon me to help you,” Jylen said, only just catching himself before he had said ‘Lord King’ out loud. “But if anyone is capable of doing this to his child, he will have no loyalty of me and mine.”
“The same is said for me,” Chebnir added. They both swore to keep the Truth to themselves and gave fealty to Rhyshladlyn, promising to find others to stand beside and behind him among their own kind before leaving when the Palace guards had returned with the palanquin.
“I am so glad to see you are alive, my beloved son,” Anislanzir said, crouching down on his haunches, forearms resting on his thighs as gold eyes regarded the side of Rhyshladlyn’s face, pupils dilating as the Lord King took in the jagged scabbed wound that ran the length of his cheekbone, connecting his ear to the corner of his mouth, before traveling over the rest of him to take stock of the other wounds the bastard had caused.
Sensing the sexual tension that crackled around his father Rhyshladlyn fought to swallow the bile that rose in his throat and to keep his face neutral. He didn’t dare look up from the water that hid his legs beneath its softly glowing, golden surface, too afraid that if he did Anislanzir would see his fear and disgust plainly written in his eyes no matter how neutral he managed to keep his expression. Judging by the subtle shift in the way the Healers’ hands massaged his back, Rhyshladlyn wasn’t the only one fighting to keep his disgust off his face.
“As am I, fahmen,” he replied, voice steady even as every instinct in him screamed to turn and plunge his hand into the Lord King’s chest and rip out his heart while it was still beating. Suddenly he wondered, belatedly, if his Marks were still hidden and panic twisted in his gut. A surreptitious glance at his wrists and chest told him that the glamour that hid his god-Marks from view was still engaged and his panic subsided. Behind him Relyt pressed the heel of his hand against the base of his left wing, an utterly unnecessary action, and Rhyshladlyn blinked when it clicked that Relyt was the reason that glamour still held up because Rhyshladlyn sure as fuck had no energy to do so himself right then. Why is he helping me? What does he hope to gain?
*Perhaps the same as you? The death of this tyrant,* Nhulynolyn responded, ice blue eyes flashing like the lightning that was part of his namesake as he glared openly and full of burning hatred at their sire who had no idea he was being watched.
*I could kill him before anyone even knew what happened,* Shadiranamen said as she paced like a caged animal behind the oblivious Anislanzir.
No, Shadi, leave him be. I cannot risk the witnesses.
“Do you remember who took you, my boy?” Anislanzir was asking, having clearly been talking the entire time and Rhyshladlyn fought to focus back in on him, wondering what all it was that he had missed while trying to keep himself from violence and panic. “How did you escape?”
“No,” he said slowly, carefully, playing it off that his hesitation was him fighting not to make a sound from the pain of the work being done to his wings which were now nearly fully out again. “I did not see who it was, fahmen, and I have no idea how I escaped with my life.”
Anislanzir hummed thoughtfully and stood up, reaching out and laying his hand on the top of his head with a gentleness he only reserved for when they were alone and he was feeling particularly sadistic. Rhyshladlyn weaved slightly where he sat, the bile he’d swallowed back earlier rising again with a vengeance but he managed to keep it down.
“I am truly glad you survived, ‘Adlyn,” his voice sounded like silk and caressed Rhyshladlyn in places no voice should be able to reach and he shuddered violently enough that the water threatened to splash over the edge of the pool and onto the floor.
Anislanzir, thankfully, thought he shuddered from happiness or something equally as incorrect and didn’t remark on it. With a flippant comment to take care of his son directed at Relyt and the Sinner Healer who replied respectfully as was expected of them, Anislanzir turned and left without another word. Once the door closed behind him, Rhyshladlyn let out a shaky breath that was more of a broken sob than he was expecting it to be, fine tremors running the length of his body as he fought to stay calm.
“Well, I certainly need a good scrubbing after that,” Relyt muttered darkly and Rhyshladlyn huffed out a breath that was the closest he could get to a laugh of any kind, Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen openly snorting their amusement.
“My Prince,” the Sinner Healer spoke up, emboldened to speak freely by Relyt’s remark and Rhyshladlyn’s lack of reprimand. Her voice was kind and Rhyshladlyn shook his head, trying to keep her from speaking. He didn’t want to know what she would say; he didn’t think he could handle any kind of sympathy from them or anyone for that matter. “My name is Yrei Zhayne, and on my blood, my honor, and my power I pledge fealty to you.”
*Well, certainly wasn’t expecting that,* Shadiranamen spluttered and Nhulynolyn made an inarticulate sound of agreement.
Rhyshladlyn blinked, head snapping up as he threw a bewildered look over his shoulder at her. “What?” He asked, voice a bit harsher than he intended but he was just so goddamn shocked. “I mean, thank you… but… why?” he added, tone less biting but not by much. He was too raw still to be more collected and polite. If she was offended he would endeavor to apologize properly later.
“I know what it is like to have a sire who thinks that he has the right to touch you in a way no parent should ever lay hands upon a child,” she said, voice flat, iridescent violet eyes steady as she looked back at him. She’s been through what I have. She knows because she recognized my reactions as mirrors of ones she herself has had. Dearest gods, what is wrong with this race?
“What happened to your sire, Yrei?” Relyt asked and violet eyes left Rhyshladlyn to look at the Soul Healer.
“He works for the Lord King as the head of the Palace guard,” she replied before her hands once more took up the paused task of coaxing his right wing out of his back so she could work at Healing the damage. It was a clear sign that the topic was dropped and Rhyshladlyn turned back to look down at the water, letting the silence in the room build until it filled every inch of space, air thicker for it. But it was not uncomfortable.
Eyes drifting closed, Rhyshladlyn allowed himself to relax marginally. Alaïs was safe, glued to Anis’ side and when she wasn’t she was closely followed by her personal guard, Helael, acting under the guise of a servant in order to keep his sister safe by not putting any larger of a target on her back than what was already there. Gods only knew where Azhuri was, and if he was being honest with himself, Rhyshladlyn didn’t give two fucks but knew that he had to find her before Anislanzir did; especially if what the Lord King had said about her spilling secrets under his ministrations just like Rhyshladlyn had was true. Rhyshladlyn himself was as safe as he was ever going to be though he knew he would need to look more closely at why Anislanzir simply breezed in and out earlier without so much as a veiled threat or allusion to whatever secrets Rhyshladlyn may or may not have spilled while under his hands. But right now that wasn’t important as until he was fully healed up and able to function at full capacity again he couldn’t do anything about whatever new bullshit Anislanzir had brewing. Rhyshladlyn was alive, he had survived. For whatever reason, his father had allowed him to live.
Though when Relyt and Yrei made apologetic noises, pressed their hands against his now fully extended wings, and pulled with their magick to set the hundreds of bones that had been broken all at the same time back into their proper alignments, he wondered if being alive was such a good thing after all as he screamed his pain out on a wet sob, tears streaking down his face as he fought to stay conscious.
Because if things did not get better, and soon, he doubted highly that he would be able to find the will necessary to keep surviving. Not even the thought of watching Anislanzir get everything he had coming to him was enough to sway Rhyshladlyn to chance being under his hands again for any reason, even if it meant getting irrefutable proof that the Lord King had broken several Laws and made it impossible for any Qishir to ignore what was going on within the walls of Shiran City any longer.
By Hourglass, Scythe, and Scales, he prayed breathlessly as Relyt and Yrei pretended not to hear him crying softly, pretended not to notice his shaking, the way he flinched away from their touch even as he leaned into it, please take mercy on me.
The only answer he received was the echoed memory of a soft tenor voice roaring his name and a feeling that things were finally sliding perfectly into place.