“Relyt says you should be all Healed up in a few more days,” Anis said as he sat at the edge of the Healing pool Rhyshladlyn still sat in, handing over a sandwich from the tray he’d brought in with him.
Rhyshladlyn sighed deeply, pushing his hands through his hair roughly, feeling locked in and stir crazy with it, before accepting the sandwich and taking a bite of it. Until the last of his wounds healed up properly he was required to stay in the Healing pool. Which was well and good because it sped up the process that Relyt, Yrei, Jylen, and Chebnir had started but it was still annoying. He missed his bed and being dry and having on clothes and having his blades. Never mind he wanted to not jump every time the damned doors opened and he was alone, terrified that Anislanzir had come back to finish what he started, terrified that his Father’s magnanimity and gentleness the only time he’d seen the bastard since returning to the Palace had evaporated like a desert mirage and Rhyshladlyn would find himself bleeding out in the water that surrounded him.
“I’ve already been here for five days, Anis,” he said around the mouthful of diced turkey and cheese on a butter-glazed bun. At his brother’s disapproving look he swallowed with a roll of his eyes before continuing, “Does Relyt honestly intend for me to stay here until the scars are faded? Because I simply do not have the time for that.”
Anis shrugged, taking a bite of his own sandwich, chewing at a moderate pace with a pointed look at the younger male, and swallowing even more pointedly — if that were even possible — before answering.
“I do not know the answer to that, brother,” he took another bite of his sandwich, a thoughtful expression on his face as he chewed. Rhyshladlyn narrowed his eyes at that look; it never boded well. “Though I did hear that he has been appointed your personal Healer by Father himself, written and signed contract and everything if you can believe it,” Anis added after a he finished his sandwich, utterly nonchalant as though he were merely discussing the weather or that the walls of the Palace had a golden glow to them, not that their father had done something so completely out of character.
So Rhyshladlyn naturally choked on the bite he had been working on while Anis spoke and only barely managed to get it down the proper pipe into his stomach.
“He’s what?” he spluttered as Anis pounded his back to dislodge the bits Rhyshladlyn hadn’t been able to cough out initially. “Father actually… what?” Clearing his throat he gratefully took a sip from the wine skin Anis held out to him before trying again. “How in the thirteen Cliffs of Oblivion did Relyt get Father to write him a Healer’s Contract for me?”
Anis, damn him, smiled at his spluttering. “I wasn’t in the Audience Hall when it happened but Alaïs was and said that Relyt bent knee and petitioned for it. She said that when Father had questioned that he was a stranger and of a race not many had interacted with in several generations so why did he give so much as a flying fuck about you–in so many words–Relyt just replied with, ‘My Lord King, your people value sons above all else, the more the better. Had I not been nearby when your second born sent out the desperate calls that he did and responded with alacrity? You would be bereft of your second heir; the miracle son if I am not mistaken.'”
Rhyshladlyn barked a laugh, head thrown back with the force of it. “By the Great Mother’s pert tits, that Soul Healer has some balls on him, I’ll grant him that much.”
“Oh, it gets better,” Anis replied, laughter tinging his own voice, and Rhyshladlyn raised his eyebrows at him in clear disbelief.
“Of course it does. I always miss the good shit.”
Anis snorted. “According to Alaïs, Father said the usual ‘that’s all well and good blah blah blah’ and asked why Relyt figured he would accept his petition to be your personal Healer. And this kiklaq just pops back with, ‘I am the strongest Healer in this Province and for at least three Provinces in either direction. There have been numerous assassination attempts on you, my Lord King, and each has failed. It seems to me that your enemies have figured out that getting to you is impossible and instead have elected to go after the one thing you value most besides your own life: your sons. As your true heir is well guarded and rarely left alone, getting to him was out of the question. However, your second born is lacking of a personal guard and is often seen wandering the streets of the City and the Palace alone, making him the more ideal target.’ And Father bought it, he didn’t even seem angry for it. Just accepted it as fact and granted him the contract!”
“Wow…” Rhyshladlyn muttered and Anis hummed his agreement before the two fell into companionable silence as they worked at finishing the sandwiches and the wine skin.
Eventually Rhyshladlyn stretched, arms extending above his head as he tested the pull of the muscles of his back near his wings before slipping off the shelf that ran around the edge of the pool and fully into the water. He paced to the middle and sank to his knees, allowing the waters to flow over him as he submerged entirely. Resurfacing, he turned to face Anis who was looking at him with a pained expression, watching as the water shifted and lapped at his waist, just above the thick, twisting scar that was all that remained of where Anislanzir had sliced him open and pulled his intestines out.
“You almost didn’t make it, Rhys,” Anis whispered and the Qishir felt his heart clench.
“I know, brother,” he said just as softly before wading over to the edge of the pool, leaning the palms of his hands on the shelf and bending forward slightly, wet hair falling forward in loose curls around his face. “I owe Relyt Greymend a life debt and I’m more than a little unnerved by that. Why did he answer the calls I sent out? Why did he risk being cut down by Anislanzir just to secure a Healer’s Contract of all things? He knows it was Father that did this to me,” he angrily waved a hand at his scared torso and his face, “yet he chanced it anyway. And fuck all if I cannot fathom why.”
A throat cleared and Rhyshladlyn’s head jerked up, wings flaring wide behind him as Anis jumped to his feet, sword out of its sheath before he’d even finished turning to face the entrance where a figure stood half in shadow.
“Peace, Lord Anis, I mean you nor your brother any harm,” Relyt spoke, stepping forward so he was better lit by the glow coming off the water of the various pools, hands raised to show he held no weapons, his wings folded neatly against his back.
Rhyshladlyn felt himself relax seeing it was just the Soul Healer and part of him bristled at that. He didn’t know this male well enough to become instantly relaxed in his presence, to have allowed him to use his power time and again to calm his own; he hadn’t even been comfortable enough with Azriel for that though it had happened just as easily with him, too, just not so often in so short of a time period. Perhaps it was because he was a Grey Soul Healer and nearly as neutral as Rhyshladlyn himself was? Regardless of the reason, the fact remained that Rhyshladlyn still knew nothing of this Dhaoine beyond the fact that he was a Grey Soul Healer, exceptionally powerful–apparently–, and he now owed him a life debt he would never be able to repay.
“Anis, sheath your sword already, you look ridiculous,” Rhyshladlyn said with a roll of his eyes and amused shake of his head, effectively banishing the tension. Anis grumbled and did as he was instructed. “I am getting you a bell if you insist on sneaking up on me so damned much, Relyt Greymend. This makes the tenth time in three days.”
The Soul Healer chuckled, slate grey eyes lightening with his mirth as he crossed the distance and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of him, casting a sidelong glance at Anis who was finding it hard to keep from glowering at the Soul Healer. He offered no apologies for startling them both, but Rhyshladlyn wasn’t surprised. The Soul Healer had a vastly different idea of what he considered inappropriate let alone what required an apology but that was mostly a racial trait of his people than a personal one.
“How are your injuries, your Majesty?” Relyt asked, eyes roving his body with a rapt attention that would be uncomfortable had Rhyshladlyn not known he did it in the aspect of a Healer looking after his charge.
“They are doing well. My wings still twinge a bit and I doubt they’d be able to bear much of my weight but as I’m confined to this damned pool for a few more days I don’t see that as being much of a problem,” he replied, giving the Soul Healer a pointed look which the fucker ignored, naturally.
He and Azriel would get along well.
“Excellent. May I take a look at your wings? Yrei and I were able to make sure that all the bones were set properly but I am concerned that the muscles and tendons may have sustained more damage than initially thought. There’s no way of knowing how long they were stuck in the limbo state they were in when I found you.”
Rhyshladlyn nodded, turning around before he lifted himself onto the shelf and shifted his wings so they extended out behind him to either side of Relyt and were out of the pool. Beside him Anis made a soft sound and Rhyshladlyn wondered if his brother had only just noticed the scarring on his back from where his other sets had been removed and the spiderweb-like new ones that extended out from bases of his remain set or if it was the sight of his wings themselves that did it. He’d been told throughout his life that he had some of the most beautiful wings any Sinner Demon had ever had which probably only served to enrage Anislanzir who had only been born with two sets: one the same gold as his eyes and the other a midnight black. Both were stunning in their own right but not eye-catching; they were single toned, which was rare in itself for a Sinner Demon, and because of that flat coloring they lacked the depth that Rhyshladlyn’s had. Even Anis’ and Alaïs’ wings had more than one tone to them.
“How long were you listening to us speak, Relyt?” Anis asked without preamble and Rhyshladlyn rolled his eyes at the way his brother’s voice undulated with his power, the threat inherent in the words even if he didn’t voice it explicitly. Because obviously Rhyshladlyn was incapable of defending himself or some shit.
“Anis, come on–” he started but Relyt interrupted him, unperturbed by Anis’ restrained hostility.
“I was here from the time you called me a kiklaq, which I must say I find highly amusing and consider high praise, I have not often been told that my genitals are comparative to that of the gods,” Relyt’s voice was even and he seemed utterly unruffled as though being accused of having an ulterior motive besides simply being a good Samaritan and doing what was expected of him as someone of one of the Healing races didn’t bother him in the slightest. “As for my reasons… well, I was one of the few let into the Great Hall of the Eighth Palace while a tribunal was held to determine the fate of an Anglëtinean warrior charged with the atrocious crime of forcing himself upon another during the Festival of the Flesh. And I heard him wax poetic Truth of the Qishir he had serviced, that he had protected, as he begged to be released to return to his side,” Relyt fell silent, fingers gently moving through Rhyshladlyn’s feathers, inspecting each one.
The air in the room was suddenly too thick and Rhyshladlyn was finding it difficult to breathe properly, fingers gripping the edge of the shelf below him hard enough that he felt it shift again, much like it had five days prior when his father had been within touching distance. There was no way that this Soul Healer had been at Azriel’s tribunal; absolutely no way that he had heard Azriel say those things, do those things. He wanted to ask for more information but his voice had abandoned him.
Thankfully Anis was able to speak for him.
“You were there? Truly?” Anis asked. Gods bless my brother.
“Yes, Azriel Kasuske of the House of Veratone,” Relyt replied, pressing gently at a particularly sore spot on Rhyshladlyn’s left wing making him hiss through his teeth. “Apologies, your Majesty,” he murmured, power soothing across the sore spot before he moved on. “He was questioned as to why the Lord King would make surch a heinous accusation of him and he held nothing back. Said you were a Qishir, a neodrach, and a Multitude, that you were in danger if your father ever found out about any of that. That he had done atrocious things to you, that you had the scars you prove it but hid them behind a powerful glamour. Before everyone he said he feared for your safety if you were left without anyone to guard you personally. That he had gotten too close to you and to being able to prove what was really going on here and so Anislanzir did the only thing he could to have him removed.
“Unfortunately, the elders of his race cared nothing for his words and Qishir Lulphé seemed utterly indifferent to the plights he spoke of. He was sentenced to 40 moon cycles in solitude among his people and was carried off screaming, power flinging about and taking chunks out of the floor and the walls. As he passed me I asked the guards to halt so I could have a word,” Relyt paused and the thickness of the air grew before it relaxed but Rhyshladlyn still found it hard to breathe. “I swore that I would come here and find you, that I would do my best to keep you safe. That I would do what those in the Eighth Palace refused to do insofar as I was able. He thanked me, asked my name so he may find me upon his release, and allowed them to take him away without much fuss.”
Rhyshladlyn just sat there in stunned silence. Even hundreds of leagues away facing possible death if convicted of the crime Anislanzir falsely accused him of, Azriel’s sole focus had been to make sure Rhyshladlyn was safe, to try his best to get the Eighth Qishir and the elders of his race to see what was truly going on in Shiran City and to stop it. But no one had listened. No one except one random Soul Healer, the first of the Greys to step foot out of their cities in generations.
Gods surrounding, Fate is determined to see me live to do its bidding.
*That or the gods are finally taking pity on you,* Nhulynolyn replied and Rhyshladlyn bit back a snort.
“So you’re here because you made a promise to Azriel?” Anis asked, sounding incredulous, not that Rhyshladlyn could blame him. If he had any air left in him and wasn’t so godsdamn shocked and something else he couldn’t entirely put a name to, he would be right there with him. “Also why even bother to make such a promise in the first place? I doubt highly you even knew of Azriel before that day.”
“I came to Shiran City to fulfill my word to him, yes. But it is not why I stayed,” Relyt answered, gently tapping his fingers between Rhyshladlyn’s shoulder blades, indicating he could hop off the ledge and turn to face the two of them.
Once he had, Rhyshladlyn met Relyt’s eyes head on, caught off guard by how open and sincere they were despite how serene and almost stoic his expression was. In the nearly seven days he had spent in close proximity to the Soul Healer, he had begun to realize that Relyt expressed his emotions through his eyes and his tone and subtle changes in his body language that, were one not looking for them, would be missed entirely.
“Alright, I’ll bite,” Rhyshladlyn said when the silence stretched on and it became clear Relyt was not going to offer up anything else on his own, “why did you stay?”
Relyt’s lips twisted into a soft, sad smile, one that made Rhyshladlyn frown in confusion as he tilted his head to the side and Anis narrow his eyes suspiciously.
“I stayed because it is rare for a my kind to find their Key, the one who is the final piece needed to unlock their full magickal potential, outside of the race, but it’s even rarer still for them to find it wrapped in a qahllyn that was felt the second they stepped into the World in which the Qishir from whom it sings resides, so strong and powerful it was,” his voice was kind but carried a weight to it that made every single part of Rhyshladlyn’s body ache and hum. “As for why I made the promise I did, Lord Anis, well,” Relyt’s smile shifted, not quite as sad but something near enough to it that Rhyshladlyn just knew what he was going to say next was going to break his heart, those slate grey eyes never looking away, “it isn’t every day one finds someone who feels a qahllyn towards the same Qishir.”
Oh dearest gods… no…
If it had been hard to breathe before, it had become absolutely impossible.