Rhyshladlyn pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, elbows resting on his knees as he leaned forward, wings stowed but the air behind his back still shimmered as though they were continuing to bristle and disrupt the energy that surrounded him even while stowed away. This cannot be fuckin’ happening.
“We were not seen, thankfully, but they were asking questions, obviously searching for you,” Shadiranamen spoke up from where she sat next to Nhulynolyn on the larger couch across from Rhyshladlyn, sapphire eyes hooded as she leaned casually against the back, one arm slung across it as though what they were discussing wasn’t any heavier than what to have for dinner.
“But you do not know if they were there acting on Anislanzir’s behalf or mine,” it was spoken like a statement but the female Other answered it as though it were a question.
“No, kè,” Shadiranamen denied, voice resigned, “I do not.”
Rhyshladlyn hissed under his breath before he dropped hands and stared at the table littered with discarded plates and glasses of tea and coffee. He wanted to break it just for the pleasure of feeling the destruction of something under his hands but it would be a waste of his energy and then they would be out of a table. So he refrained, if only barely.
“Peace,” Azriel spoke up from his left, one hand coming to rest on his shoulder, fingers squeezing once in a silent sign of comfort, “we are undetectable here and have gone to great lengths to keep ourselves from being seen and noticed.”
“Aye,” Relyt agreed from where he sat to Rhyshladlyn’s right on one of the large reading chairs, sprawled like he was a king upon a throne, his normally slate grey eyes a misty grey. “Azriel is right. We are safe here.”
The Qishir shook his head before standing abruptly and pacing over to the wall of windows behind Relyt, standing with his hands clasped behind his back, staring out at the river and the skies that had begun to darken in the distance with an approaching storm.
“What you both are forgetting is that Shadi and Nully have not kept themselves hidden from view. My siblings are nothing if not extremely intelligent. They will know I have used my Others as advantageously as I possibly could; that includes sending them into town for whatever supplies we would need. Nully is known to them, they have seen his face, spoken to him, perhaps not at great length for either, but long enough. His description alone will get them what they need.”
Azriel and Relyt cursed in unison in their respective native languages and Rhyshladlyn snickered, unable to help it. It would never not be amusing to hear such polarly different languages spoken in tandem, no matter the situation.
“I’ve been using a glamour,” Nhulynolyn told them then as he looked over at his twin who had jerked around to face him. “I apologize for siftin’ through your mind, twin a’mine, but I didn’t wanna chance that somethin’ like this would happen. Granted, those siblin’s’a yours will likely outsmart me on that somehow, but I took the precaution anyways,” he reclined back like Shadiranamen only with his arms crossed over his chest. “It’s why I was so interested in Rel’s ability to mimic facial expressions and shit–well one of the reasons–it was so my glamour wasn’t just in physical appearance but my expressions and my vocal tones and inflections as well. So that way it was more believable and I passed as someone else rather than as myself with a different face.”
Rhyshladlyn just stared at his twin undoubtedly with a slack jawed expression but he couldn’t care less; he sometimes forgot what a brilliant strategist his would-be-twin was only to be found caught out in it at the oddest of times. Sure Nhulynolyn had invaded his privacy but he had done it with their safety in mind, he had done it because he needed the knowledge of the spell and it was faster and easier to learn it from Rhyshladlyn’s memory than to have the Qishir teach him like he would with any other living Dhaoine. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything though, much as he wanted to, so he just opened the connection between them and let his twin feel his gratitude as well as his clear don’t fuckin’ do that again without asking me first. Nhulynolyn grinned crookedly at him and nodded.
“Now that we have solved that problem,” Relyt spoke up and Rhyshladlyn pulled his attention from his twin to the Soul Healer. “What are we going to do regarding the Harvest?”
“You mean are we still going to go through with the Oathing Ceremony,” Rhyshladlyn observed.
Relyt nodded. “Yes, my Qishir, that is what I am asking.”
“We would still be going through it,” Azriel turned from where he had been looking at Relyt to raise an eyebrow at Rhyshladlyn. “With Nully having used a glamour and your siblings not knowing what Shadi looks like there is no need to worry about being found here.”
He shook his head, running a hand over his face before turning to look back out the windows at the river. He didn’t want to tell them, but he had to. There was no way around it now. It was only through some kind of sick sideways luck that they hadn’t found out that he was getting up hours earlier than them each morning to work on it. Letting out a slow, deep breath, he prayed for strength and spoke:
“Remember when I mentioned that Oathing you both would change your magickal signatures irreversibly?”
“Yes,” Relyt affirmed.
“Obviously,” Azriel snarked.
Rhyshladlyn stiffened at the snark but otherwise didn’t acknowledge it, electing to continue speaking instead, “It will also send out a beacon of look, here’s some interesting shit going on. I had planned to set a trap for anyone working for my father that was waiting for any sign of my location, springing it the second we had completed the Ceremony and his agents descended upon us.” His voice dropped several octaves, the dissonance echoing below the words he spoke next making the glass in the windows ring in warning and displeasure. “I had planned to leave a blight in place of where our cabin is and the surrounding area once I sprung my trap. And from there I would take this fight to Anislanzir’s doorstep and reclaim the City that rightfully belongs to my people and not his,” that dissonance fell away but his voice remained low, “and with that reclaiming I would introduce myself as a Qishir as well as our Court.”
The silence that followed his statement was thunderous. Rhyshladlyn didn’t turn from the windows to look at his Others and his males, he didn’t need to. He knew their reactions without even looking at them. Azriel’s eyes would be faintly glowing, the red of his left iris undulating, lips twisted in a battle-smile that always made the Qishir hard as steel; he would be approving of Rhyshladlyn’s “go hard and fast and leave no survivors and take no prisoners” mentality, after all he had been a warrior trained and revered among his people for over a thousand years, it was in his very genetic code. Relyt was no doubt blinking owlishly with his lips slightly parted and face curiously slack, not quite used to when the Qishir would display his power in such a way let alone his willingness to absolutely destroy anything and everything in his path; but that was mainly because where Azriel had spent decades at his side in the thick of the lifelong battle he’d been engaged in with his father, Relyt had only come in at the tail end of it. Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen would have identical expressions of acceptance and approval with a dash of peevishness, no doubt, because Rhyshladlyn had kept his plan from everyone, including them.
“When were you going to tell us?” Relyt asked, not accusing but there was still a hint of hurt there which sent the silence shattering around them like broken glass and Rhyshladlyn clenched his jaw against the guilt that punched through his chest at the sound.
He had counted on their physical reactions but not the emotional ones.
“Both,” Azriel clarified, voice holding the same hurt that Relyt’s did.
Rhyshladlyn’s shoulders curved forward and he closed his eyes, lifting a hand to rub absently at his sternum as though that would alleviate the pain from the guilt that was burrowing its barbed way deeper and deeper into his chest. If anything the action only made it worse.
“To be honest, I didn’t,” he admitted, sucking air hard through his clenched teeth as the guilt all but exploded in his chest and it became a bit harder to breathe. “Not because I didn’t trust either of you or because of any other excuse or reason I could potentially concoct…” he trailed off, trying to draw enough air into his lungs to be able to speak but found it wasn’t quite as easy to accomplish as he anticipated.
“Then why?” Azriel demanded, voice stiff around the edges, that hurt now stronger, filling out his voice enough that his accent leaked out on certain syllables.
Fuck, why does this hurt so much?
“Did you perhaps think we would not understand?” Relyt inquired, voice gone flat and Rhyshladlyn almost punched his hand through the window in front of him just to distract himself from the pain in his chest. The Soul Healer’s voice only ever did that when he was truly, deeply upset.
“No, I’m not… fuck,” he pressed one hand flat against the glass and covered his face with the other. “I didn’t want either of you to talk me out of it. I didn’t want either of you to fight me when I blinked you out of this Province before I razed it to the ground. Because if you had known of the trap I had set, if you knew of my intentions, you would try and talk me out of it, you would try to fight to remain at my side. I didn’t… I didn’t want that. How could I hope to face an army while worrying about either of you falling so soon after becoming Oathed? How could I hope to kill hundreds of thousands of Dhaoine if I was worried that when you both saw how much I enjoyed it, how little it bothered me, that you would regret ever seeking me out,” he snapped his mouth shut then, having said more than he meant to, and clenched his jaw hard to keep from saying more. How could I go nova like I need to in order to accomplish my goal if you’re standing right beside me, distracting me from keeping it contained just enough that I am the only Dhaoine left alive? How could I possibly risk losing control and taking either of you with me should I fail?
“You need to have more faith in us,” Azriel said after a few tense minutes of silence.
Rhyshladlyn listened as he stood from the couch and all but stomped down the hall to the bedroom where he slammed the door with enough force that the cabin trembled.
He flinched at the sound. I wish it were that simple, Az.
“I agree with Azriel that you need to have more faith in us,” Relyt told him in that same flat, toneless voice. “However, I understand why you didn’t say anything before even if I think it’s still bullshit,” he added before he, too, stood and walked off towards his bedroom. He didn’t slam the door but he shut it behind him firmly enough that Rhyshladlyn knew he was upset and pissed with it.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
*We’re gonna be going back into town to try and do recon and to give you all some space,* Nhulynolyn said across their shared consciousness and Rhyshladlyn nodded without turning around. *One holler and we’ll be right back here.*
And then he was alone in the room, staring out the window while his chest was torn apart with guilt and his lungs felt constricted and his eyes burned. Bowing his head he closed his eyes tightly against the urge to cry and let his wings out so he could wrap them around himself. Outside the pitterpatter of rain sounded, the distant rumble of thunder booming as the sun slowly disappeared behind the approaching storm. It was fitting that it would storm while he stood here wondering when he started caring so damn much how someone felt about his actions.
Sure, he had grown up responsible for the safety of his siblings and his mo–the female that birthed him. He had been responsible for making sure the Lord King was kept off of them, that his City was protected from raiders and anyone stupid enough to think that challenging the Lord King’s right to rule was a gold idea from even making it to the City’s walls. But that was wholly different from this.
If he failed in any of those tasks? Sure he felt guilty, sure someone would get hurt, but those were all things he shouldn‘t have been held responsible for. They were all things he shouldn’t have been concerned with, regardless of his power and his abilities and his age. But this… being the Qishir to two qahllyn males? This was something he could not fail at.
And even when they were still alive, even when all they were feeling was an emotional pain, Rhyshladlyn felt like he had just crawled out of his father’s “fun room”, bleeding and broken all over again, only there wasn’t a single mark on him. He almost wished for that kind of pain again. At least with that pain, he knew he would heal eventually; at least he knew that the aches and bruises would fade. With this pain though? Gods, this pain he didn’t know what to do with and how could an apology even be good enough?
How in the innumerable names of the Nameless did Fate ever think I was fit to rule? He thought darkly before pushing off the glass and squaring his shoulders, roughly rubbing at his eyes to remove the evidence of the few tears that had escaped his tightly closed eyes, before he turned and moved back to his previous seat, calling in the map of Shaozae Province he’d been using to plan out his trap as he sat down in the chair Relyt had vacated.
He would get back to planning but with the key difference being that when he had finished the draw ups he would call Azriel and Relyt to look them over and offer their input. He was by no means going to scrap the entire operation, but they were right: he did need to put more faith in them, but it wasn’t as simple of a thing for him as they apparently thought it was. He’d spent nearly his entire life on his own, trying to fight what amounted to a monster of the Old Tales. And even though he now had more than just his Others in his corner, it was going to take him time to not immediately plan responses as though he were the only one whose power and knowledge he could rely on. Especially now that he had learned that his birth-giver had been nearly as bad of an enemy as his father was and that there was a potential that his siblings had betrayed him just as egregiously and it was a lot to take in.
But he would try. And for now that would have to be enough.