He watched her body slump to the floor, skin turning grey as it began to flake off and crumble into ash. She was dead before he even removed his hand from her chest, before his power had even finished making contact with her. With a thought he had killed her, this female who was supposed to be his mother, this female who he had denounced, this female who he had trusted even when he had learned she’d kept his gender and that he had a twin a secret from him. But the entire time, she had been betraying him; had groomed him to be the perfect pawn to throw in front of her to distract Anislanzir, to capture the Lord King’s attention and keep it off her.
He stared down at her unseeing eyes, ones that were identical to his own, now glazed over with the loss of the Self that had powered them and he felt nothing. Not a twinge, not a shiver of discomfort or upset. He was numb and part of him knew that was perhaps a bad sign, but he didn’t care. He had thought that getting retribution from her by removing her from the fabric of existence, by denying her entrance to the After because she had no Self with which to barter, by denying her the right to be reborn into another life and thus try again after the colossal failure that had been her current one, would fill the hole that yawned wide and ragged and aching in his chest. Only it didn’t. If anything, it had made it worse.
But he couldn’t feel the emotion that was making his body shake, that was causing tears to fall hot and thick down his cheeks, that had him making that horrible, whispered wailing sound on every trembling exhale past his lips. He was numb and yet everything still hurt despite that numbness. It would hit him eventually, no doubt, and probably when he was least expecting it, but right now wasn’t that time.
“Goodbye, Mother,” he said again, voice softer than before, sounding less like the righteous Qishir from moments before and more like the fledgling she had forsaken from the moment of his birth. “You deserved far more than this,” he added, turning his back on the body that was almost completely ash and slid his gaze to Azriel and Relyt who stood still as statues, faces frozen in shock and incredulity. He felt a smile tug at one corner of his mouth and tilted his head, eyes flickering between orange-amber and grey as he regarded them for a moment more before looking away to glance around the chamber. Absently he noted that the glow of the room was dimmer, as though the magick that powered it had been drained. Before he could comment on it or think on it more, his attention was called back to his two males.
“We need to leave the Palace immediately,” Relyt said making Azriel cut those mismatched eyes to the Soul Healer before they trained upon him again. Relyt nodded once to himself as though answering a question no one had asked. “I shall collect clothing for you both. Thankfully no guards saw myself and… her… walking together let alone coming here, so we should be afforded some time to gather supplies and leave.”
“No supplies,” he called out as Relyt turned to head towards the door.
The Soul Healed paused mid-stride and looked over his shoulder, brows furrowed. “Your Majesty?”
“Get us clothes, Relyt. We haven’t the time for supply gathering. We needs must leave as soon as twenty minutes hence,” he clarified.
Relyt nodded and was gone, leaving himself and Azriel in the cacophonous, thick silence and he sighed softly, looking away from those eyes he loved because they reminded him so much of his own, of how he struggled even now to keep his eyes as mirrors of each other, to not let Nhulynolyn, or Shadiranamen now for that matter, from peaking through one and changing the color of it in the process. He couldn’t bear the thought that those eyes no longer looked at him with the affection he had seen in them what felt like hours ago and so he regarded the dimmed glow of the walls and the Healing pools; he looked everywhere but at the Anglëtinean whose gaze was as heavy as stones as it bored into him. After all, matricide, while not entirely frowned upon, was a taboo that not many could overlook, not even when the performance of it was necessary.
The something that had shifted in him when she had started speaking moved and he keened softly under his breath, his hand coming up to rub at the runes Marked on his chest, smearing her blood across them as he did so, utterly heedless of the action.
“None of that,” a soft tenor that was closer to a baritone now said quietly and he jumped, gaze shifting to find Azriel standing close enough to touch and wondered when the Anglëtinean had even moved, let alone gotten so close. “I think no less of you, Rhyshladlyn,” Azriel said, voice calm and resolute as his hands rose slowly to cup his cheeks. “You were completely justified in your actions. She deserved far worse than what you dealt her.”
He nodded, feeling his gut twist with guilt because he couldn’t not ask.
“Did you know?” He didn’t elaborate, but he didn’t have to.
Hurt flashed hard and molten across that chiseled, striking face, those eyes glinting with it. For a moment he feared Azriel would pull away from him but with a deep, albeit shaky, breath the Anglëtinean’s features smoothed out and his eyes once more held that love that was unwavering “the consequences be damned.”
“No, Rhys-kyn, I had no idea what she was doing or her plans. I was already assigned to come here by Qishir Lulphé and join the Lord King’s garrison and keep and eye on things when your mo–when she came to me following training one eve. After being informed that I was perhaps the best swordsman she had seen in the pits short of you, I was instructed to show up for the morning practices and challenge you. That I was to prove I could hold my own against you long enough to be considered a possible equal. If I succeeded, she would officially make me your personal guard, tasked with protecting you and you alone; I would answer to only you,” Azriel said, thumbs rubbing across his cheekbones, catching at tears that had continued to fall. “And so my contract read that I only answered to you. She could not command me and neither could your father, only you.”
He nodded, filing away that Azriel had been under orders to come to Shiran City by the Eighth Qishir. He would wonder about, and worry over, that bit of information later.
“I had to ask.” He made it sound like a question, asking for forgiveness without actually speaking those words. He would ask the same question of Anis and Alaïs. His siblings had kept her secret of his gender and his twin from him at her behest, however misguided and inane it was, but it begged the question what else had they kept secret for her? Did Ero help at all? Did any of them know what she had done, how she had played him?
Who can I trust anymore?
*Trust the ones qahllynshæ to you, for they can not lie, and trust in myself and Nully. Beyond that, we will discover the truth as we can when we are more safely able to do so.*
“I know, tra’teeweh-sw,” Azriel replied, leaning forward to press his forehead against his.
His breath left him in a shuddering gust and he clenched his jaw in an attempt to keep from breaking apart as the numbness began to fade. He couldn’t break apart yet. They weren’t safe. He needed to get him, Azriel, and Relyt out of the Palace first. Find a place to sleep, find food, place Shields and wards as necessary, and then he could lose it. But not yet.
The doors opened and he lifted his head to look over Azriel’s tensed shoulder and past his wings to see Relyt slip in with two stacks of clothes and two satchels.
“I grabbed some items from your room, your Majesty, things that it seemed you would require, whatever Called to me, that I could fit in these bags. Beyond that we will have only the clothes upon our backs and whatever we have vanished off,” Relyt explained as he handed him a pair of soft, black leather boots, matching breeches and sleeveless tunic, leather wrist cuffs to hide his god-Marks, and his swords. Once dressed he looked over to see Azriel dressed in dark brown boots and breeches, with a white sleeveless tunic. With gritted teeth, he pulled his wings into his back and rolled his shoulders, closing his eyes tightly at the twinge of pain the action caused.
“How are we going to get out of here without the guards spotting us?” Azriel asked, rolling his own shoulders as he pulled his wings in, Relyt mimicking them both in doing the same.
“Perhaps a glamour or one of those secret passages you mentioned upon your arrival?” Relyt replied as he handed over one of the satchels to Azriel who slung the strap over his head so it settled across his chest.
“I can get us out on one of the Lines, but you have to be touching me for me to transport you both with me,” he said, by way of answer, ignoring the looks they shot his way.
Throwing his concentration out to feel the nearest Line, even with several hundred feet of Palace stone and warding to sift through. It had been easier catching a Line from just outside the Palace library as nearly every library in the Worlds was built where its entrance was next to a Line but from this deep into the Palace, it was harder to find one near by but not impossible. Once he had a lock on it he raised an eyebrow at Relyt and Azriel, holding out his right arm for them to both wrap a hand around. They hesitated for only a heartbeat before their fingers wrapped around his forearm, their touch cold enough it nearly burned against his hotter skin.
Thankfully, neither of them questioned where he was taking them or how he could transport them without driving a Line Carriage though he did not doubt that that silence would continue once they made it to their destination, but that was fine. Let them ask all the questions of him they wanted once they were as safe as he could get them. But before that he needed to get them out of there.
“Don’t let go,” he added and then tossed the three of them towards the Line, caught it, and left the Fènwa World behind with one last look at the pile of ashes that was all that remained of Azhuri Rinnae GreySong.
Goodbye, Mother. I deserved better than you.