“He isn’t ready,” Nhulynolyn stated as he sank down onto the rocking chair next to Relyt, the Other’s unnerving white blue eyes riveted upon Rhyshladlyn where he slowly moved alongside Azriel, mimicking the Anglëtinean’s fighting dances with a careful precision and perfection that was impressive given he’d never done them before a few hours ago.
Relyt didn’t spare him more than a peripheral look, taking a sip of his black tea as he slowly rocked his chair. When it became clear the Other wasn’t going to offer up anything else he swallowed back the annoyance-born sigh that bubbled up in his throat and asked, “Who isn’t and for what are they not ready?”
“My twin,” Nhulynolyn replied with a tone that clearly said obviously without the Other actually speaking the word. “And he is not ready for what is coming.”
Again silence followed that statement and Relyt wondered if Rhyshladlyn had to deal with this fits and starts conversation nonsense when getting information from his Others or if it was just the rest of them.
It was probably just the rest of them.
He let the sigh out this time, not caring that the Other looked at him with his eyebrows pulled down, an expression almost like he was offended by the sound the Soul Healer had made. But Relyt didn’t care anymore about treading lightly around the Others. He was qahllyn to their kè and while he didn’t know Rhyshladlyn’s Others hardly any better than he knew the Qishir himself, surely the fact that he was granted Acceptance was enough to prove he wasn’t going to suddenly turn on the male and carve his heart out and eat it in front of all and sundry. But as that thought came and went he remembered the way Azhuri looked as the orange-amber of her eyes blew outward and turned grey then white, as her life was burned from her by the very Qishir he was to be Oathed to in less than two weeks. And suddenly Nhulynolyn’s offense of his sigh and his cold demeanor made much more sense; something he really shouldn’t have taken that long to grasp.
If Rhyshladlyn’s own mother could betray him so completely and have hidden it from him for over nine decades, it was no wonder really that his Others were skeptical of anyone and everyone. By the Many, I wouldn’t even be surprised if they were wary of Anis and Alaïs at this point, too.
“I apologize for the offense of my sighing,” Relyt began carefully, taking a sip of his tea while he mulled over his next words, “I understand why you and Shadi are so cryptic when speaking with Azriel and I, but you have to understand our frustration when faced with constantly needing to pepper question after question to get information from either of you. Believe me, Azhuri’s betrayal shook me and I didn’t know Rhyshladlyn all that long before it happened. But Azriel and I will not willingly hurt him. Trust has to start somewhere and none of us can afford to wait the amount of time it may take you and Shadi to trust us,” Relyt paused and turned his gaze to Nhulynolyn who was regarding him steadily with those ancient eyes and the Soul Healer felt a wash of pride that he didn’t flinch under them. “Rhyshladlyn’s life depends upon us being able to work flawlessly together.”
The last bit seemed to snap the Other out of whatever trance he’d fallen into while staring at him, which Relyt was grateful for. Rhyshladlyn had the ability to look at you, deep down past your walls and your protections and your magick and what made you you to something that was on a level that Relyt believed only the gods were able to see and to touch. And he did it so effortlessly, as though he weren’t even aware he was doing it. Nhulynolyn had somewhat of that same ability, only his stare made one fight not to squirm as they suddenly were overcome with the feeling that they had done something horribly wrong and just hadn’t figured out what it was yet.
Nhulynolyn spoke as he pulled his eyes from Relyt and turned them back to his kè, “You’re right.” He sighed and suddenly went boneless in the chair as though he were a taut bowstring that had been cut, one hand coming up to run over his shortly cropped hair and down over his face. “You’re fuckin’ right as shit and fuck me if I’m just not so tired of tryin’ to be aloof and shit. It just isn’t me. Shadi can pull that but not me,” he rolled out a laugh that made the wood around them creak in a way that made Relyt think it was whining in a pain-induced way.
“So, why were you acting a way that isn’t you?” Relyt pressed, genuinely curious.
He rather liked Nhulynolyn, mainly because he could see so much of Rhyshladlyn in him and vice versa. The Soul Healer didn’t doubt that they could be identical twins if their eyes weren’t different colors and Nhulynolyn didn’t go to great lengths to make sure his face was always clean shaven and his hair cropped short. He had the same way of expressing himself as his living twin, they almost walked the same way, but where Rhyshladlyn was that cold heat that snuck up on one in a way that one didn’t know they were burning alive until it was too late, Nhulynolyn was the lightning strike that was followed by thunder strong enough to knock one off their feet. He was brasher and far more vulgar than his kè and it was refreshing that what he thought he said whereas Rhyshladlyn would often take a breath before speaking, just to consider if what he was going to say would be worth it or not.
“I guess because this is the first time I’ve been out so much around other people. Sure, Anis and Alaïs knew about me, as did Az, and all of ’em met me at some point but we didn’t really have the time to chitchat and get to know one another. Not with the threat of Anislanzir’s stupid ass dropping in like a bat that can’t hang right into the party and scattering the lot’a us,” was his reply, the hand that had been on his face dropping to his thigh, fingers idly tapping out a beat that Relyt recognized as one that Rhyshladlyn had tapped out before.
As he listened it shifted from something rhythmic to something a bit more unstructured and Relyt realized that Nhulynolyn was counting his kè‘s steps between one dance and the next. He was memorizing the moves in numbers before his body ever sketched it out physically.
Well that’s certainly interesting, he thought.
“That makes sense, but you needn’t pretend around us. If you don’t trust us, say as much. We are not so difficult to approach let alone inform of how one feels,” Relyt kept his voice steady and even, conscious of how the slightest inflection in his tone could make those words hold a stinging, accusatory air that he did not intend.
“Oh, I know that, don’t mistake me,” Nhulynolyn said with a grin as Rhyshladlyn got a particularly difficult move down without a single error and Azriel nearly fumbled his own in surprise. “Good job, twin! Show ol’ Red Eye how quick’a learner you are!” Nhulynolyn bellowed suddenly, making both Azriel and Rhyshladlyn jump and whirl to face where the Other and Relyt sat on the porch. Nhulynolyn shot them two thumbs up and laughed uproariously when Azriel made a rude gesture in response. “Anyways, like I was sayin’,” he turned eyes that were softer than the ones that had stared at him earlier, face that was a near perfect mirror of Rhyshladlyn’s spotted with color from his mirth, throwing the freckles that spread across the bridge of his nose and his cheekbones into stark relief, “I know I can just come out and be like, ‘I don’t trust you fucks, you hurt him I’ll kill you in ways that’ll make the gods puke’ but I was informed that’s mean and was frowned loudly at when I argued. So it was just easier to be good by actin’ aloof.”
Relyt blinked once before he barked a laugh, nearly spilling his still hot tea all over his lap as his body jerked with the suddenness of the sound escaping his throat. Between Nhulynolyn’s words and his nickname for Azriel, Relyt didn’t even know where to start first. Never mind the fact that his stomach fluttered oddly when Nhulynolyn had looked at him with a face so much like Rhyshladlyn’s, filled with mirth and glowing with it, and eyes that were no less striking for the fact that the color was so different.
“Fair enough,” he gasped out, still laughing but not as breathlessly as he had been. “But I now have so many questions.”
“Okay, shoot ’em,” Nhulynolyn offered, hands swinging up behind his head, fingers locked as he propped the ankle of one leg over the knee of the other and rocked his chair with a bit more force than Relyt was sure it was meant to handle.
“Well, for one, why did you call Azriel ‘ol’ Red Eye’? Also, how exactly does one ‘frown loudly’?”
Nhulynolyn laughed. “I call him that cuz when he first met my quiet and deadly twin over there he decided that challengin’ him to combat was the greatest idea he’d ever had since he discovered strokin’ his cock felt good. He tried to fluff up and show off and Rhyshladlyn just snarked at him that he’d hit him so hard he’d turn his gold eye red and when Azriel’s red eye twitched I piped up with, unknown to him at the time, ‘Oh no, you’ve angered ol’ Red Eye, better watch out’ and Rhys almost lost it laughin’ right on the training fields,” he snickered, shaking his head as he watched the Anglëtinean and Qishir in question begin the dances where two people were needed to complete the moves correctly. “Naturally, when Rhys told Az about it eventually, the old feather duster got prickly and his red eye twitched again which naturally made me assign him the nickname permanently. I use it most often when I’m being a twit.”
Relyt had had to set his tea mug on the floor next to his chair before Nhulynolyn had even gotten a quarter of the way into his story because he had started laughing hard enough that his sides ached and his lungs burned with the need for air that he just couldn’t provide them. Beside him Nhulynolyn’s dark, rumbling chuckle made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end and he shivered, laughter easing off enough that he was able to draw enough breath to stop the protesting of his lungs.
“And frowning loudly?” he inquired, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“It’s what I call this look Rhys gets when he’s frowning at you but his face is blank. Like he’s throwing sarcasm at you but with his face only he doesn’t say shit or move. It’s hard to explain,” Nhulynolyn replied, lips twitching around a smile that wouldn’t fully form even though his laughter still danced around his words.
The Soul Healer thought about it while he regained his ability to breath properly before he nodded. “I believe I know the one you refer to,” he paused and tried to mimic what he saw in his mind’s eye. He blanked his expression out, narrowed his eyes almost imperceptibly, lips becoming a thin line and the muscles of his face tightening like he was clenching his jaw even if he wasn’t. “This one, yes?” he asked, looking at Nhulynolyn who was staring at him with the oddest look that was a mixture of wonder and like he was nauseous.
“I… wow. That’s spot the fuck on, man. That’s kind of freaky how well you did that,” the Other noted, ice blue eyes blinking slowly at him. Relyt dropped the expression and Nhulynolyn blanched. “That was even weirder. Gods, can you do that with just about anyone? Or only those you’re around a lot?” the Other added with a head tilt as he regarded Relyt with a keener eye than he had before.
The Soul Healer shrugged, “To a degree, I can mimic just about anyone so long as I’ve seen the expression for longer than a few minutes, but the best ones are those I’ve spent a decent amount of time around.”
“That could possibly come in handy at some point,” Nhulynolyn commented, sounding like he was lost in thought before he was just suddenly gone between one eyeblink and the next.
Relyt startled hard, his chair rocking to the side dangerously before thumping back down onto the porch loudly enough that he heard Rhyshladlyn call out, “Relyt? Everything okay?”
He blinked owlishly and turned to face his Qishir, one hand gesturing shakily at the now empty chair beside him. “He just suddenly… disappeared? I don’t… why? What?” He stuttered out.
The Qishir just snickered, “Yeah, he does that a lot.” Rhyshladlyn got a far away look on his face that he only had whenever conversing with his Others across their shared consciousness. “He said he had an idea he had to run with,” he paused while he listened before he smiled crookedly, “and he apologizes for suddenly dropping out on you like that.”
“Oh, well since he apologized,” Relyt huffed, unable to hold back the smile when Rhyshladlyn and Azriel both laughed.
As they resumed their fighting dances, Relyt picked his mug back up off the porch and went back to work on finishing it before he began his own training for the day.
It had felt nice to sit and chat with Nhulynolyn like that, even if his random disappearance was a bit unnerving. Relyt had always liked getting to know new people, learning their mannerisms, their thought processes, what they felt and why, how they expressed themselves for each specific emotion, the way they walked, the way they talked. And until meeting Rhyshladlyn he had only ever heard of a Dhaoine having an Other or Others, never actually met one let alone gotten the opportunity to directly meet the Other/Others themselves. So this experience was wholly new and more exciting than he was readily willing to admit.
But despite the warmth spreading through him from the progress he felt was made between him and Nhulynolyn as well as from his tea, Relyt couldn’t help but reflect on the way the Other had responded to his ability to mimic facial expressions so well. It felt foreboding in a way that was almost like the tickle of a Vision but not substantial enough to fully form into one. He didn’t think it was a warning that Nhulynolyn meant any of them harm, but that harm would center around Relyt’s ability.
And that, more than anything else at that moment, worried him immensely.
Many, please keep us safe. Please, please, let my sense of foreboding be wrong for once.
On the tail end of his prayer he remembered something else. What in the names of the Unmentionables is coming that Rhyshladlyn isn’t ready for?