It was the Silent Time, the small hours of the morning when everything was still and nearly everything and everyone in the Worlds was asleep, when Azriel finally emerged from their shared bedroom. It had been several hours since he’d stormed from the main room and slammed the door to their bedroom behind him and Rhyshladlyn had still not come after him. In fact, the Qishir had done nothing but remain quietly in the main area, occasionally making sounds in the kitchen as he got something to drink or eat and then silence would reign again. For hours it went on until Azriel was no longer able to pace their room while he waited for his normally hotheaded Qishir to storm in after him and demand he see sense and make a case for his side of things and why what he did, or didn’t do as it were, wasn’t wrong and the like. Only it never happened and so he had found himself sitting at the end of the bed, eyes locked on the door, almost willing it to open while wondering on loop what in the names of the High Ones is going on anymore.
As quietly as he could, he rounded the corner towards the stretch of hallway that opened up to the main area of the cabin and stopped when he saw a familiar figure already standing at the end of the hall just shadowed enough to go unnoticed so long as he didn’t move too quickly. Apparently Relyt had the same idea Azriel did. Sending out a prickle of energy that said, I’m here, to his fellow qahllynshæ, the Anglëtinean stepped up beside the Soul Healer who slowly turned to face him, giving a nod before those dark, stormy grey eyes, a shade he had yet to see them be, turned away and looked back in the direction of the couches. Crossing the last bit of distance between him and the end of the hall, he pressed his left shoulder to the wall and looked around the corner.
He was expecting to see the room in shambles, or the furniture rearranged into some odd formation, or miscellaneous items thrown everywhere. Anything at all to indicate that Rhyshladlyn was upset with the way the two of them had stormed away from the conversation earlier. But that’s not what he saw.
No, what he saw was Rhyshladlyn leaning forward over the low table from where he sat on the smaller couch, face covered in random smears of ink, hair in absolute disarray like he’d spent the last several hours raking his hands forcibly through it over and over, smearing ink across the auburn locks as he did so. He was shirtless, no doubt having discarded it in favor of being unrestricted, his wings draped lazily over the back of the couch behind him, rustling occasionally, his Nameless god-Mark shimmering in the dim light, his scars a twisted road map of white against the dark brown of his skin. Papers littered every surface around him: the couch he sat on, the floor, the chairs, the larger couch, the table in front of him, even his lap. He had a charcoal pencil stuck between his teeth, tongue no doubt playing with the end in his mouth as the pencil would jump and jerk in an odd rhythm, the fingers of his left hand curled around an ink pen that was currently sketching out a pattern in the air before it dipped and scribbled something on a nearby paper.
There was a pause and then Rhyshladlyn was on his feet in a sudden rush of movement that nearly made Azriel jump as the Qishir stepped lithely up onto and then over to the other side of the table, sifting through the stacks of papers on the larger couch before he turned and spun something that looked like the map he’d first shown them back at the old location around on the table. A slow, triumphant grin spread across the male’s face before he dropped the paper he’d gotten from the larger couch and the ink pen to the table and sketched a quick pattern with both hands in the air. When nothing happened that smile faded at the edges and he made the pattern again, only again for nothing to happen. Smile now gone, he growled low and dark before moving around the table and looking over what Azriel could only assume were notes now. Though for what, he was still utterly clueless.
“He has been like this for the last four hours,” Relyt whispered, voice barely audible over the mumbling of their Qishir and the rustling sounds caused by the papers as he displaced them.
“You’ve been standing here for four hours?” Azriel returned, voice just as quiet as the Soul Healer’s even though he wanted to shout after so long inactive and waiting for a fight that never came. “What is he even doing?” He added, looking back at where Rhyshladlyn was once again moving his hands in that complicated pattern and moving his body into it now as well. He netted no more results than when he tried it the first two times and it was obvious that he was growing impatient. Not that Azriel could truly blame him, even if he felt it was deserved for making him sit and wait for hours.
Relyt shrugged one shoulder slowly, carefully, upwards then dropped it just as slowly.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” came the reply. “Though I suspect it may have something to do with that plan of his to annihilate anyone who shows up following the completion of the Oathing Ceremony.”
Azriel scrubbed a shaking hand over his face. “And so he’s just been working like this for the last what,” he paused and mentally counted how long it had been, “thirteen fucking hours?”
Again Relyt shrugged and Azriel just gave him a narrowed eyed stare before looking back at Rhyshladlyn, wondering now if there was something he had missed that had Relyt wound up so tightly that he was shrugging in lieu of giving a verbal response which was his typical wont. He only went quiet like this when he was greatly upset, it was the next step from his voice going flat like it had before they’d both walked out on Rhyshladlyn after finding out he had planned to set a trap after the Ceremony to leave a blight in place of what had become their home. So Azriel focused and looked beneath, opening up their link just enough to get a read on Rhyshladlyn without alerting the Qishir to his presence and immediately regretted it. Because the second there was even a sliver of a crack in the door the guilt hit him with all the force of a punch to the chest and he stumbled back further into the hallway, his back pressed to the wall as he sank down into a crouch and fought to draw breath into his lungs and to do it all silently as he slammed the door on their link.
He cursed low and harsh in Anglë’lylel, the sound barely in the vocal range as it rumbled around the hallway. He felt hands cup his face and jerked, barely keeping from slamming his head against the wall, eyes flying open — when did I close them? — to find Relyt kneeling before him, stormy grey eyes locked on his own, face blank but underneath that carefully constructed mask he could see the Soul Healer was struggling much like he was but given he’d been at it for four hours, he had a better handle on it than Azriel obviously did.
“I believe you are right,” Relyt murmured, dropping his hands once Azriel’s breathing had evened out, “But I believe it is more than that. Because what he’s been trying to sketch out with his hands in the air?” Relyt made the same movements and Azriel blinked when a small spark of light appeared between the Soul Healer’s palms before Relyt dropped his hands and dispersed the energy gathered. “It’s complicated knot-work taught to the few of my kind who are protectors first and Healers second. Though he couldn’t possibly know that as the teachings are highly guarded.”
Azriel took in a deep breath and let it out.
“Well, you did say your race was distant cousins of the Greywalkers right?” Relyt nodded. “Stands to reason that that fighting style was born from the Greywalkers’ warrior clergy, just modified for a different race. I can’t imagine the magick used by the ‘Walkers is accessible to anyone not of that race. Plus from what Rhys told us, before things went entirely sideways he had a Vision of one of the last pure blood Greywalkers to live in Shiran City, one who is probably the start of his line on his mother’s side.”
Relyt frowned in a considering way before he nodded. “Fair enough, especially if that Greywalker were a Maest. They could have easily passed along their knowledge to him through that Vision,” he replied before standing and holding a hand out to help Azriel do the same.
For a moment they stood in silence staring over each other’s shoulders before Relyt spoke, voice just as unobtrusive as it had been since the start of their conversation, “His guilt is incredibly strong.” It wasn’t a question, was barely even a statement.
“All because of our reactions?” Azriel wondered aloud and mostly rhetorically.
“The surface of it, yes, but the deeper levels… no, that is flavored differently,” Relyt told him, eyes not quite as stormy as they had been but still dark and swirling with multiple shades of grey.
“Flavored differently?” Azriel raised an eyebrow, blinking slowly at the Soul Healer who snorted under his breath.
“Yes, flavored differently. I forget that not everyone senses emotions like my kind does,” Relyt said, the barest hint of mirth wrapped around his words.
Azriel couldn’t help but smirk back at him. For all that he was highly intelligent but socially awkward, Relyt was eccentric in a way that caught Azriel’s attention and made him want to take the Soul Healer apart in one hundred different ways just to see what made him tick and then put him back together again and see if he could get it right on the first try. It was something he had felt towards Rhyshladlyn when he first met the Qishir all those decades ago only he had learned rather quickly that it wouldn’t be him doing the dismantling but Rhyshladlyn. Now, he had the chance to learn someone knew, someone almost equally as fascinating as the Qishir and he had to be exceptionally careful because he tended to fall for people in the oddest of ways. And while Rhyshladlyn never said they were exclusive, it was heavily implied, especially since his qahllyn was for that of the Companion.
“Explain it to me,” he offered, resting back against the wall, hands in the pockets of his pants as he tilted his head back, looking at the Soul Healer from under his lashes. It wasn’t meant as a flirtatious stance but given the way Relyt’s cheeks colored ever-so-slightly, it came off that way regardless of his intentions. Oh well, too late to take it back now.
Just as Relyt opened his mouth to respond there was a sudden absence of sound, the kind that sent one’s ears to ringing, before a concussive wave blew throughout the cabin followed by the sound of a scream cut short and a deafening boom as glass shattered and wood creaked, groaned, and splintered. The World held its breath in the silence that followed while Azriel and Relyt stared at each other from where the Anglëtinean had remained braced against the wall and the Soul Healer had toppled back against the opposite wall, somehow managing to remain on his feet.
“Fuck,” Azriel said finally, breaking the silence and that’s when he heard the sound of an eerie, keening sob, one that sent every hair on his body standing on end because he recognized it from when he’d found Rhyshladlyn with his right arm burned to the bone courteous of his adoring father.
“Rhyshladlyn,” both Azriel and Relyt nearly hollered as they sprung into movement at the same time, skidding around the corner at the end of the hall only to stop short. Azriel didn’t know what he expected to see but it certainly wasn’t what he found.
Ash fell like snow among the smoke that filled the sitting area like fog, the carpet singed and still smoldering, papers that were still smoking and licked by flames fluttered down in a slow spiral dance that was beautiful even though Azriel worried about being in a mostly wood building with things that were currently still on fire. The chair closest to the kitchen was torn apart as though some beast dug in its claws and ripped the thing into pieces in a fit of rage. The couches were knocked back to the farthest walls opposite each other as though something had thrown them, and upon closer inspection Azriel noticed that the walls had caved outward so the couches hit with enough force to dent the walls, oh by the High Ones. The wall of windows opposite the kitchen was just gone, as though the glass had been vaporized out of existence even though he knew it had shattered because he caught glints of the pieces on the floor. The chair that Relyt had been in hours before was shiny as though covered in fresh paint but as the smoke continued to clear and he was able to see better, Azriel realized that what he was seeing was blood. There was a heap of debris where the low table had once been, looking as though whatever had exploded had originated there.
“Rhys?” He called out, voice shaking as he took a step forward, eyes looking everywhere, trying to find the Qishir. Relyt reached out and gripped his upper arm, stopping him mid-step, and pointed with his free hand towards where the table had been.
“Look, there’s movement,” Relyt clarified before Azriel could voice the question that had been on the tip of his tongue.
Together they took a few cautious steps closer as the pile of debris shifted and groaned, that keening sob fading away as a whining hum replaced it. Azriel lifted a hand and with a pulse of energy dispersed the smoke from the room and felt his throat close up as Relyt choked out a gasping, barely restrained shriek of a sound.
Because the table no longer existed outside of shards of wood and shattered glass, what had been the “pile” was actually Rhyshladlyn on his hands and knees, his head bowed where the table had once stood. While Azriel wasn’t unaccustomed to seeing the Qishir covered in blood and gore, and frankly neither was Relyt by that point, what he was unaccustomed to was a set of wings colored like the shifting shadows of twilight that flared straight back towards the far wall from where they protruded lower than the red-black tipped with grey wings that were curled around Rhyshladlyn’s shoulders and resting limply along the floor to either side of him.
Relyt spoke with the reverence of a prayer, the Gretlök not nearly as harsh sounding as it normally was and even though Azriel only caught two words out of twenty, he found he couldn’t quite disagree with the male. And while every instinct in him screamed that this wasn’t possible, that he had felt the scar tissue himself, he knew the wingbuds themselves had been ripped out along with the joints, that there was no way Rhyshladlyn would ever have more than the one set of wings he’d ever known him to have, he found he couldn’t discount the beauty of those new wings or the blessing they had to be.
Shaking his head to clear the fog of shock, Azriel strode forward and carefully sank to his knees in front of Rhyshladlyn as Relyt moved behind him, hands already raised and glowing as he prepared to Heal whatever needed it. With great care, Azriel cupped Rhyshladlyn’s face and lifted it so that he could meet the glazed orange-amber eyes he loved so much.
“Rhys?” His voice wasn’t quite a whisper but he didn’t speak at normal volume either. “What happened?”
A decidedly not sober smile pulled up the corners of Rhyshladlyn’s lips before his voice, lazy in a way it usually only was when he was just waking up or about to fall asleep, rang out with, “I was testing the foundation for the trap before I came to get you both and suddenly everything went to shit and I’m pretty sure I’m heavier than I’m supposed to be.”
Azriel raised an eyebrow at that. “What do you mean by that?”
He rolled his eyes. “The heavier part.”
“Oh,” Rhyshladlyn blinked sluggishly before his arms started to shake and he stopped holding his head up on his own, instead just let Azriel’s hands do it for him. “I feel like I’ve got another set of wings again but that can’t be right. Father tore them out of me when I was still a fledgling.”
“But, Rhys, you do ha–”
“Careful there,” a drawling baritone interrupted and Azriel’s head whipped up and around to see a tall, slender male with straight, shoulder length white hair with a single violet streak extending from root to tip starting at his left temple and eyes the same vivid violet of that streak with skin so dark a brown it was nearly black standing two feet from where the smaller couch lay embedded in the wall. “Don’t want to shock him any further than he already has been. My kè isn’t exactly mentally stable right now.”
“Who in the fuck are you?” Relyt demanded, voice holding a bite that made what was obviously an Other raise both eyebrows and tilt his head to the side as though he just naturally knew that the Soul Healer didn’t curse often.
“I’m Xheshmaryú, you may call me Xhesh.”
“Why are you only now showing yourself?” Azriel asked as Rhyshladlyn groaned, eyes rolling back as consciousness left him.
“Because until now my kè did not need me to,” was the cryptic response as though that automatically answered everything.
“Oh, well, if it’s that simple,” Azriel muttered testily before turning to look at Relyt who was focused on the task of inspecting Rhyshladlyn’s new wings though the Anglëtinean knew he hadn’t taken his awareness off the Other across the room from them. “Is there any damage? How in the names of the High Ones is this even possible?” He inquired, shifting so that Rhyshladlyn’s chin hooked over his shoulder and he took more of the Qishir’s weight while straightening his back so Relyt didn’t have to lean forward so far.
“No damage that I can see besides perhaps the scar tissue from his old wings being ripped open which would explain the blood on the chair,” he waved a flippant hand behind him at the soaked chair. “It looks almost as though there isn’t any scar tissue or sign that his original second set of wings were ever ripped from him. There’s no echo of the previous scarring or buds, nothing. It is as though he has had these wings his entire life but I know for a fact he hasn’t. It is remarkable if not extremely bizarre and I admit that it vexes me.”
Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen appeared with a displacement of energy just inside the front door before Azriel could fully focus on just how frightened Relyt’s answer had made him feel for a brief moment.
“Holy fuckin’ god balls, what in the Cliffs happened here?” Nhulynolyn blurted before adding in unison with Shadiranamen, “Are those new wings?”
Azriel snorted while Relyt huffed a sound that was a mixture of annoyance and sheer exasperation.
“Pull up a chair,” Xheshmaryú told them with a wry grin, “and welcome to the shit show.”
Shadiranamen turned narrowed sapphire eyes to him. “Oh you’re here. That explains a lot,” she commented to which Azriel raised eyebrow because it didn’t explain anything at all. And judging by the look Relyt tossed his way, the Soul Healer felt the same way.
“Gods have fuckin’ mercy already, fuck,” Nhulynolyn hissed.
Azriel found he couldn’t possibly agree more if he tried.