It took them two days longer than the four Rhyshladlyn had initially said he wanted to have the cabin moved by. Though that was only because they couldn’t transport everything by Line for fear of being see and recognized. So they had to cross the 60 leagues on foot while using what pack animals survived the burning of the town, their own vanish stores, and physical capabilities. Laying the land plot had been easy, it was building everything back after getting it to the new location that had been the hard part.
Well that and having to pretend that each time he had to lay a Shield into the new layer of log and mortar as it was put up that he wasn’t struggling desperately to remain upright, let alone conscious. He played his exhaustion and weakness off on them working day and night for days to get the cabin moved and rebuilt. Azriel and Relyt gave him dubious looks, obviously buying none of his shit, but they didn’t question him. Only Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen knew the truth because his weariness impacted them and there was no hiding that he was the source of their enervation. He was sure if they had been afforded the time, his Others would have ripped into him before tattling to Azriel and Relyt, but as it was they were all too busy.
Rhyshladlyn kept telling himself he would sleep and replenish his reserves once the Shields and wards and Barriers were in place. Once he was sure they had a safe place to sleep, to recover, to train, to prepare, he would lay down and hibernate if need be until he was settled.
But he knew that was a lie. The prickling feeling between his shoulder blades told him that he was dangerously close to his true limit, the one that would drop him and see him probably unable to get back up at all, least of all without aid. If he weren’t already so accustomed to ignoring pain, he would have fallen out two days in.
Just get finished with the build. Finish the build, give them your Answer, tell them your plan, then pass out. It had become a mantra, one that the longer it took for them to finish the more diminished its impact became.
But by mid-morning of day seven, the last glass panel for the window in the front door was laid and with it the wards shimmered to life, the Shields thrumming softly, and the Barriers clicked into place.
“Thank the gods,” Azriel groaned as he sank to the thick grass of the field they’d chosen for the new location.
Relyt made a vague sound of agreement as he, too, sank down into the grass only to flop onto his back once there, arms splayed out to his sides, eyes closed.
Rhyshladlyn smiled at the two of them as he snipped the last Thread of the Workings he’d woven into their cabin and locked it into place before releasing his own satisfied hum. As he took a step forward, bare toes curling into the cool grass, the World around him pulsed once and he frowned, wondering at the sensation of falling that had overtaken him before pain bloomed along the left side of his face and from the joint of his left shoulder. He blinked slowly in confusion wondering when, and more particularly why, his vision was green and he couldn’t see Azriel and Relyt any longer.
He opened his mouth to ask as much only for the World to pulse again and then all awareness left him.
“I love him but he is so damn stupid sometimes,” Azriel was saying and he groaned, lifting a hand to press the heel of his palm against his forehead which throbbed like he had gotten punched in the face. “And naturally that’s when he decides to finally wake up,” the Anglëtinean observed with an air of petulance and worry, having no doubt seen Rhyshladlyn move.
He tried to sit up only for pain to blossom everywhere and he let out a grunt, flopping back onto what felt like his bed. Which couldn’t be right. They had been outside in front of the cabin when he’d… when whatever had happened happened. Speaking of which… “The fuck happened?”
“Well, we finished building and then you collapsed,” Azriel answered and he sounded more upset than he had before. Which was odd– “When in the fuck were you going to tell me you hadn’t been sleeping? That you were so strung out you couldn’t use magick without relying on your backup stores?” Rhyshladlyn groaned loud and deep, pressing both hands to his forehead. Now it made sense why Azriel sounded more upset now that the Qishir was awake.
“Is there any point to trying to come up with a reason or excuse?” He questioned, wondering at the raspy sound of his voice, like it was raw from days without use.
“Not really,” Relyt piped up from Rhyshladlyn’s other side.
“Well then what was the point of asking me?”
“It was rhetorical,” Azriel quipped at him and Rhyshladlyn couldn’t help the flinch that those words brought on and he heard the Anglëtinean sigh heavily. “I’m sorry for snapping, but godsdamn it, Rhys, you scared the fuck out of me.”
He huffed. “I gathered that. Can someone explain what happened, in detail, and then play a game of 20 questions with me?”
“You let out a sound that…,” Relyt trailed off and even though he couldn’t see him, Rhyshladlyn didn’t doubt that he was frowning in thought, “…my people call it ghert’qik, there isn’t really a translatable word for it in Common or Tengú that I am aware of, but it is a heart stopping sound to hear. By the time Azriel and myself had even reacted, you were already on the ground, convulsing in the grass, continuing to make the ghert’qik before you went still and silent,” Relyt recounted, voice subdued, distress written loudly around every word even though his tone didn’t change and his volume was even and low. “That was two weeks ago,” he added in a whisper that Rhyshladlyn almost didn’t catch.
Nameless prevail me.
“It was almost like you were dead. You were barely breathing, wouldn’t wake up, you nearly took off our hands when we initially tried to move you,” Azriel recounted. “Not even Nully or Shadi could take over and use your body. By the third day when we couldn’t wake you, even to get you to relieve yourself or eat and drink, we tried to have Shadi and Nully take over again; and as before it failed.”
“Thankfully though, they were somehow able to take on your bodily function needs themselves and we were able to take care of you that way. Whenever they would eat they would then rejoin your body and push the energy gained from the food and drink directly into you,” Relyt tacked on, voice still subdued but the distress it had held was quieter.
Without opening his eyes, Rhyshladlyn held out his right hand and hissed softly between his teeth when he felt Relyt wrap both of his larger ones around it. With a shaky breath, he turned his head towards where Azriel was sitting on his other side and slowly opened his eyes, blinking against the dim light of the candles spaced around the room on every available surface before he could handle the brightness and met Azriel’s mismatched gaze with an apologetic smile.
“My apologies for worrying you both. I thought I had more time before I reached my limit. I intended to replenish and charge up once we had completed the move,” he chuckled lowly, the sound strained, and attempted to clear his throat. Relyt pressed a cool glass into the hand he was holding and Rhyshladlyn jumped, not having realized the Soul Healer had moved. He tipped his head and took a sip before releasing the glass back to Relyt who set it on the small table next to him. “I didn’t know until the night of the raid that I was so exhausted, Azriel. Otherwise I would have said something sooner, if for no other reason than to have a sleeping aid given to me solely so I would be in peak shape.”
Azriel scrubbed his hands over his face and let out a sound that was a mix of a groan and a growl and Rhyshladlyn just snorted at him, unable to help it. Those intense eyes stared at him from between his flared fingers.
“Do I amuse you?” He asked, voice a low rumble.
Rhyshladlyn felt Relyt tremble through where their hands were still connected and briefly cut his gaze at the Soul Healer before looking back at Azriel.
“Always, but you knew that,” he returned with a slow grin.
Azriel rolled his eyes hard enough that Rhyshladlyn’s own eyes ached in sympathy before dropping his hands to rest on the bed, his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward.
The silence between the three of them grew and with it Rhyshladlyn became keenly aware of the connection between them; of the trembling heat that shimmered just along the surface of Azriel and Relyt’s skin, of the soft melodious coo that drew Rhyshladlyn towards them every time they were even just a few feet away from him. It beckoned him to touch them always, to be near enough that he could feel the way their magick danced and mingled with his own, to Answer them now and forever I grant you Acceptance.
He could clearly see their qahllyn now that he had stopped fighting against the existence of it. The interlocking web strands held the same shifting white and silver quality of his god-Marks, only whereas his god-Marks were visible their qahllyn’qir were lain just beneath the visible spectrum, able to be seen only by himself until they were Blood Oathed. Once Oathed, that bond could be seen not only carved into their altered magickal signatures but also on their skin whenever they willed the strands to the surface; the patterns unique solely to themselves and to him as their Qishir, a clearly denoted claim of who they belonged to.
That cooing call was nearly deafening now that Rhyshladlyn was not only looking at by acknowledging the qahllyn’qir and he found that he was done ignoring it so he reached out and traced one particularly intricate pattern on the back of Azriel’s left hand, the strands pulled into the visible spectrum by his touch, by his unspoken Acceptance. At the gasp that tore from the Anglëtinean’s mouth, Rhyshladlyn knew he could see them, knew he could feel Rhyshladlyn’s Answer. The index finger of his right hand, still held between Relyt’s, traced a set of strands on the inside of the Soul Healer’s right wrist and he smiled, the action barely moving his lips, at the broken sound of elation the action elicited. Closing his eyes, Rhyshladlyn relaxed into the bed and let out a deep breath, simply letting the feeling of their qahllyn sink deep into him, touch the bruised, broken, charred Self that lay buried beneath scars and fears and sleepless nights and a million moments of abuse and terror. He let out a rumbling, subvocal hum when the jagged pieces were smoothed out and everything shifted in that delicious way that leaves one feeling sated and content.
He didn’t need to vocalize his Answer, they had it in the way their web strands joined with his, the way their signatures began to alter in places, remain the same in others. They knew it in the way they could feel him with the same keen awareness he always had for them just refused to accept.
“Fucking finally,” Relyt gasped into the silence, effectively shattering it, and Rhyshladlyn snorted while Azriel barked out a rough laugh.
Even though it shocked him to hear the Soul Healer curse like that, Rhyshladlyn found he didn’t disagree because if he knew what it felt like to have a home, he imagined this is what it would feel like.
He only prayed he would be able to keep them safe.