Rhyshladlyn sat at the island counter, back to the front door of the cabin, chin resting in his right hand and the fingers of his left tapping out an annoyed beat on the countertop while he watched Azriel gesture angrily at Nhulynolyn who just stared back with a blank nonchalance that was impressive despite the fact that it only incensed the Anglëtinean in front of him all the further. Not that he could blame Azriel, after his twin had told him that he and Shadiranamen had burned the town to the ground Rhyshladlyn was hard pressed not strike the Other and only barely refrained.
“What thought process even led you to thinking burning everything was a good idea?” Azriel ground out past clenched teeth, voice wavering on just this side of yelling.
“We had no other choice. The bitch said ey had told eir fuck buddy about this place and that he had probably told his brother because they couldn’t not share everything,” Nhulynolyn replied with the air of someone profoundly bored with what was going on around them. “When we questioned the fuck buddy and his bro, we found that the tavern bitch was right and had to dispatch them, but of course they had a housemate who walked in as they were dying and she had to die. After that it became a matter of, ‘well may as well burn everything, it’s faster.'” Nhulynolyn executed a shrug as he finished and Rhyshladlyn narrowed his eyes at his twin.
“That cannot be all there is to it,” he told his Other who turned electric blue eyes to him, that nonchalance cracking ever-so-slightly. “There has to be more. One of them said something that made you okay with murdering children. Nully, we do not murder children. They are innocent of the wrongs of their parents.”
The Other nodded slowly, expression shifting with what may have been guilt had he allowed it to form fully before shutting it down. “One of the people we questioned at the tavern asked if we were with the ‘guy with weird eyes’ and if he was who ‘all this hubbub with a traitor of the Lord King of the Sinner Demons’ was all about. I asked what he meant with that eyes comment and when he described Azriel’s eyes to a T I told Shadi everyone had to die because there was no telling who else that old fart had told about the ‘dark skinned man with the gold and red eyes who looked like sex walking.’ It was simpler to raze the town to the ground to cover our tracks and also show what would happen to anyone who aids the Lord King.” The Other shrugged as though it shouldn’t matter that he killed innocents, as though it were the most logical choice and he failed to understand why they were upset about it.
Azriel went unnaturally still in that way that only the truly long lived of the races could when they got old enough and Rhyshladlyn glanced at him for a heartbeat’s time before returning his attention to Nhulynolyn.
“So you murdered innocents to protect Azriel, Relyt, and myself?” he inquired, voice flat even as it rippled around the edges as his power shifted against his skin, head tilted to the side.
“Aye,” Nhulynolyn replied without a hint of hesitation.
“Fine. Return to Shadi and when you get back we will begin dismantling this cabin and moving it elsewhere. There’s another intersection of Lines not far from here. If we work swiftly and without stopping we should have it moved in full in four days, probably less,” Rhyshladlyn dismissed him.
With a bow that was only slightly sarcastic, Nhulynolyn disappeared from sight and his magickal signature left the cabin seconds later. Rhyshladlyn let out a deep breath and rose from his stool to grab up the bottle of ale that sat next to the pots Azriel had used to brew their coffee and Relyt’s tea no more than an hour before. Bottle in hand he trudged into the sitting area where he dropped heavily onto one of the plush couches. Reaching out he hooked his foot on the low table in front of him and pulled it closer so he could prop his feet up, undid the top of the bottle, tossed it to the table, and tipped back a generous gulp of the ale.
He could feel Relyt and Azriel staring at him hard but didn’t acknowledge them. He was exhausted, hadn’t truly slept in months and no longer remembered what it felt like to not be tired all the way down to his bones. The battle last night had taken a lot more out of him than he had initially realized. His lack of sleep had required him to rely on the stores of energy he got from his feedings to power his attacks because he just didn’t have any to call on in the immediate moment when it was needed. And until he got adequate sleep and no longer was tensed from being on constant alert, he would have to rely on his back up stores and pray that he could either feed to replace them at the rate he would need to or that he wouldn’t run out if he couldn’t feed to replenish them at a quick enough pace. Leaning his head against the back of the couch with a huffed breath he threw one arm over his eyes to block out the mid-morning sunlight that filled the room and took three long, successive pulls from the bottle in his other hand.
“You should slow down on the imbibing, Rhyshladlyn-kyn,” Relyt admonished as he plucked the bottle from the Qishir’s hand, “especially if you intend to move this cabin of ours over the course of four days or less.”
If he watched the Soul Healer move away from him with a petulant look because Relyt still had the ale bottle, no one commented on it. But judging by the way Relyt raised an eyebrow at him and Azriel lobbed an amused, albeit worried, smirk at him, neither male had missed it, they just knew not to say anything.
“I don’t know that moving the cabin is a good idea,” Azriel stated as he curled into the large reading chair to Rhyshladlyn’s right, looking for all the World like a large cat. “Especially not if what Nully said was true. There’s no telling if travelers from out of World came through that tavern and encountered the one who told Nully about me. My eyes aren’t exactly inconspicuous.”
Relyt took a sip of the ale and flinched, still not used to the burn of it on the back of his tongue before he leaned over from his seat on the smaller couch across from Rhyshladlyn to hand Azriel the bottle. Apparently they were going to pass it around. Rhyshladlyn was entirely okay with this; at least he could still access it this way, even if he wouldn’t have the entire bottle like he’d planned when he grabbed it from the counter.
“I’m sure you are not the only one with eyes that do not match,” Relyt commented.
“Actually, it’s exceptionally rare,” Azriel countered, taking a swig of the ale before handing it off to Rhyshladlyn. “Even among my own people it’s rare. I’m the first to be born with mismatched eyes since the Greywalker Genocide.”
He paused with the bottle halfway to his mouth, blinking slowly before he lowered the bottle to his lap without taking a sip and looked at Azriel. “Why did you call it that?”
“What do you mean?” the Anglëtinean replied with a tilt of his head.
Rhyshladlyn rolled his wrist impatiently. “Why did you call the murdering of my people that?”
“The Greywalker Genocide?” Azriel questioned and the Qishir nodded. “Because that’s what it was…?” He answered, voice sounding hesitant and lilting up at the end so that it sounded like a question versus the statement it was supposed to be.
“That’s not what we were taught. Genocide implies that they did nothing to warrant their systematic exile from their Cities and executions,” Rhyshladlyn said, taking a long pull from the bottle before tossing it to Relyt who caught it easily without spilling a drop.
“What?” Azriel spluttered. “You’re surely not serious?”
“I concur with Azriel,” Relyt spoke up as he passed along the bottle to the floored Anglëtinean who accepted it with a dazed expression. “Surely you were not taught that the Greywalkers deserved to be run out of the Cities they created and built with their bare hands and then murdered regardless of whether they complied with the exile order or not?”
Rhyshladlyn’s laugh was harsh and jagged as it danced around the room, rattling the glass in the windows before it settled. “Yes, we were taught that. After all, my father and his people couldn’t very well live in the same City, in the houses and Palace, worship in the Temple, where thousands were murdered and not be haunted if they knew the truth of what happened. Or acknowledged it, for that matter.”
“By the High Ones, if I had thought your father’s people were fucked up before,” Azriel muttered and took several pulls from the bottle before handing it off to Rhyshladlyn who mock saluted with it before taking his own sip.
“Circling back to the moving bit,” Rhyshladlyn said as he tossed the bottle to Relyt again. “I honestly think our best option is to uproot to a location similar to this one but that no one directs us to, set up roots, fortify, and prepare. If we try and relocate elsewhere we run into the same issue we already have with the townspeople: Azriel’s eyes are too distinctive. We can hide our wings and our Marks and tattoos and scars with glamour but his eyes we can’t. Those are a type of god-Mark woven into the very genetic makeup of him, there’s no covering them.”
“So if we’re moving the cabin, where are we moving it?” Azriel shifted so his toes were curled into the thick rug that covered the floor under the low table between them, elbows resting on his knees as he leaned forward. “Are we staying in this Province, in this World?” He gave a nod of thanks to Relyt when he held out the ale bottle to him, taking a quick swig before holding it out for Rhyshladlyn who likewise sat forward to take it from him.
“If we look at it strategically, we should jump Worlds and Provinces both, but Anislanzir will anticipate that because it’s what he would do and he still thinks I operate battle-wise as he “taught” me rather than using my intelligence.” He waved his hand, calling in a map of Shaozae Province and the sprawling forest in which their cabin sat. Spreading it out on the low table between them, Rhyshladlyn pointed to a section some sixty leagues northwest of them at the very edge of Shaozae Province where it met Bizamd’lae Province. “There’s actually six Lines that sit over top each other,” he showed the six pointed star they made on the map. “So that means we’d be in a double blind location, undetectable even without throwing up anything else. If we wove the Shields and wards and Barriers we have here into the very foundation of the cabin when we reassemble it, there is a significantly lower chance we’d be accidentally discovered by scouts because the signatures of the wood and other appliances would overshadow our own.”
Azriel turned the map so he could see where he had indicated and hummed thoughtfully before turning it again so Relyt could see. The Soul Healer took two long pulls from the bottle before blindly handing it over to Azriel, grey eyes intent on the map before him, lips moving silently as he surveyed the Lines and the location. After a few minutes where Rhyshladlyn and Azriel just sat and watched him, passing the bottle idly back and forth, Relyt looked up at them and grinned.
“If we scrapped the appliances here and crafted new ones out of what we can get locally, as well as replace some of the logs of this current cabin with new ones from the surrounding trees just over the Shaozae-Bizamd’lae border, we could honestly be truly undetectable,” he said with a grin, easily taking the bottle when Rhyshladlyn offered it to him with a fond smile.
“Okay, but how are we going to get the new supplies?” Rhyshladlyn argued with a wave at them all. “None of us can just waltz into any town and not be recognized. Surely Anislanzir by now has figured he would get further by mentioning me traveling with a mismatched-eyed Anglëtinean and one of the only Grey Soul Healers to be seen walking the Worlds in generations,” Rhyshladlyn observed, once more reclining back on the couch, one arm stretched out along the back of it looking far more relaxed than he had at the start of their conversation.
“He knows you have Others but not what they look like. We could send Shadi and Nully in, have them pose as a couple looking to build a cabin away from the bustle of the cities and towns and get back to living like the First Children. Just a mention of those fundamentalist bastards will make people look the other way and get them what they need as fast as possible so they get away from the town or city as fast as possible. Plus no one will think twice if they happen upon us in the woods and have heard there’s a First Children family living in a cabin out there,” Azriel proposed.
Rhyshladlyn frowned thoughtfully before he nodded. “Sounds doable. Relyt, what do you think?”
“I’m inclined to agree with Azriel’s assessment,” the Soul Healer replied, handing the bottle to the Anglëtinean.
“Glad to be of service,” he said cheekily before knocking back the last bit of ale. “Want me to fetch another one?” He asked Rhyshladlyn.
“No,” he denied with a shake of his head, “we need to get packing and prepare for moving this cabin soon as Nully and Shadi return which….” he trailed off, head tilted back and his eyes fluttered closed as he called out to his Others, “…should be soon,” he finished as his eyes opened again and he rose to his feet.
Azriel rose as well, and Rhyshladlyn smiled as the Anglëtinean made a grand sweeping gesture with his hand towards the hallway, Relyt laughing at them from his perch on the smaller couch. As Rhyshladlyn headed towards the bedroom to begin packing and Azriel veered off to dispose of the empty ale bottle, the Qishir couldn’t help but remember what Relyt had told him a couple weeks ago, brought up in the aftermath of a battle they very well could have lost, recalled in the soft quiet that always settled after satisfying strategy meetings.
“Quit making excuses and admit you’re as scared as we are and then accept that it doesn’t matter that you’re afraid. What matters is us being as strong as we can be when it comes time to face whatever Anislanzir has planned, whatever the Ancients have decided is a fitting response to the death of their Queen-Heir.”
He sighed heavily, pushing his hair back from where the fringe had fallen across his eyes and shouldered open the door to his and Azriel’s bedroom. Once they had the cabin relocated and everything set up and settled, he would make preparations to give them his Answer, to acknowledge that he was Relyt’s Key, and Blood Oath them both before the Harvest. Because the pain of ignoring their qahllyn was keeping him up more often than his nightmares were and while last night went far better than it could have, it was still a close call and was one that he didn’t wish to repeat.
I’m done letting my fear dictate my choices, he thought turning with a smile he didn’t think quite reached his eyes when Azriel walked in behind him, laying a soft kiss to his shoulder before he moved away to pull his clothes out of the wardrobe and began folding them on the bed with a swift precision.
Azriel and Relyt deserved better than what he’d been giving them, not that either would admit as much, but they didn’t have to. Rhyshladlyn knew they did and while they couldn’t choose who they were qahllynshæ to, he could sure as fuck make himself deserving of their qahllyn and show them that they were his equals.
And he would start by making sure they had a safe place to stay, to train, to live, and to love before he Oathed them and dragged them onto the Fields of Battle and prayed with each movement that they would all walk off them alive.