With an oomph he landed in the thick grass of the Palace’s gardens, back sore around where his newly matured second set of wings protruded. Pushing up so he was sitting with his legs tucked beneath him, he moved one of his secondary wings forward to smooth down the feathers that had become displaced when he landed so gracelessly.
“Still can’t stick the landing?” Anis spoke up as he crouched down next to him, blue eyes kind even if his lips quirked with mirth at his expense.
He huffed. “More like I can’t even get the takeoff down. Why did I have to be born with eight wings, Anny, and when will they finish growing so I can use them already?” He griped, fingers gentle on the twilight colored feathers even if his voice rang with petulance and irritation.
Anis laughed and ruffled his auburn hair. “Don’t worry too much on it, lil’it bròtr, you’ll get it soon enough. And you were born with four sets of wings because you’re powerful and strong and, unlike most Sinners, you can handle it. Just don’t lose faith or that stubbornness of yours. After all, Father is expecting you to fail. Can’t let him be right, can we?”
“No, we can’t,” he replied with a grin before standing, trying not to overbalance as his wings moved independently of each other, still not quite in sync yet. “Thanks, Anny. You always know just what to say.”
“Damn right, I do,” Anis chuckled. “And don’t you ever forget it.”
Rhyshladlyn woke with a start to find himself laying on his stomach in his and Azriel’s bed, disoriented for a brief second before the dream cleared away completely and he remembered that that had been when he was six namedays old and learning to use both his wing sets in tandem while the other two sets of the four were still maturing, back when things were simpler. Back when his older brother still smiled and Rhyshladlyn hadn’t yet fully learned just how horrible their Father really was, before that fateful day two years later when six of his eight wings were viciously stolen from him.
“Fuck,” he hissed out and shifted with the intention of rolling over so he could climb out of bed only for his back to pull oddly and for his body to feel like it weighed far more than it should and he frowned. When had he even come to bed? Last thing he could remember was working on the foundation for the trap spell and then…. nothing. There was nothing but a blank space where whatever had happened between that moment when he tried the spell for what had to have been nearly the tenth time and now when he woke up in his bed. “I really need to stop letting this shit happen,” he mumbled to himself, turning his head on the pillow so that he could brush the sleep from his eyes before he tried yet again to roll over and that was when he caught sight of it.
A wing and not one of the ones he was used to seeing. Not the eight foot thing with its red-black feathers tipped in steel-grey, though that wing was surely there. No this was a wing nearly as long as that one, only its feathers were colored like the shifting shadows of twilight; just like his original second set had been, just as sleek, just as deadly.
Nameless have mercy, is this a dream? Cautiously he held out his right hand and tried to move that wing towards it. When it obeyed and he felt the cold-heat of the feathers brush his skin he choked back a sob of shocked joy. He had thought he would never see them again, that they were forever lost to him especially when Anislanzir had been so certain to rip out the buds and the joints when he removed them. Yet here he was, laying in bed touching them once again as though they’d never been taken from him. It shouldn’t be possible, there was no way that a winged Dhaoine could regrow wings that had been taken from them so wholly as Rhyshladlyn’s had been. Yet he couldn’t readily deny that this was real, that his second set of wings were back, that they still felt like coldfire forged into sinew and muscle and bone and the soft downy feel that his feathers always had.
Tears streaking down his cheeks, he slowly moved to sit up, this time understanding where the extra weight was coming from and adjusting his movements accordingly. Once he had his feet on the hardwood floor, sitting hunched over his knees on the edge of the bed, he took a deep steadying breath, simultaneously wanting to sob with joy and break apart with panic. He knew just how impossible this was, he knew that it could not possibly have come without a price and the idea of what that price might be scared him but he couldn’t bring himself to think on it. All he could think about was that he wanted to fly. That he wanted to spread his wings and take to the air, feel the Currents shift along his feathers, to watch the World fade away beneath him as he climbed up into the skies toward the clouds. But he knew he was weak from whatever had brought his wings back, he could feel the soreness of the reformed joints and the strain on the muscles from holding an extra hundred pounds that they weren’t previously accustomed to, and knew instinctively that if he tried to do more than walk he’d more than likely severely injure himself.
With great care he stood up and wobbled forward, catching himself on the dresser before he hit the floor. Grunting in frustration at yet again having another learning curve, at once more being weakened by something when he couldn’t afford to be that way, Rhyshladlyn pushed off the dresser and aimed for the door. He made it there and paused to catch his breath, feeling like he’d been running nonstop for hours versus trying to walk not even ten feet, fingers gripping the frame tight enough for his knuckles to begin to whiten. While he stood there, he finally heard the rumble of voices from the main area of the cabin and frowned. There was a voice he didn’t recognize.
Calling in Mallacht, he unsheathed it slowly and blinked to the turn in the hallway before he blinked again to the end of the hallway that opened to the main area and stopped, Mallacht hidden from sight behind the corner of the wall and half behind his left thigh, his eyes narrowed on the unfamiliar Dhaoine standing nearly as tall as Azriel, who was over halfway to seven feet tall, violet eyes flashing with challenge, hands moving in complicated gestures that, coupled with his accent and his appearance, spoke to him being a Nochresi and Rhyshladlyn’s frown deepened. They weren’t native to this World, he’d been certain of that, especially given that they tended to side with the Lord King in any skirmishes or issues that arose in areas where the two races coexisted.
He groaned as he shifted fully out of the hallway, back protesting the movement loudly, but he ignored it.
“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded, voice a harsh rumble as it danced across the room, interrupting Azriel who had been mid-sentence. He was secretly rather pleased with the way everyone jumped, having not even heard or sensed him leave the bedroom.
The Nochresi turned to face him, violet eyes wide before he smiled and Rhyshladlyn felt his World shift under his feet, memories that were his and yet weren’t rising to the surface and he raised his free hand to press it to his forehead as the male spoke, voice a drawling baritone that made him shiver.
“I am Xheshmaryú, like Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen, I am an Other to you.”
Rhyshladlyn shook his head. “No, that is not the name I know you by.”
“That is the only name by which I have ever been known,” the confusion was clear even though he couldn’t see Xheshmaryú’s face in order to read it there.
“Thilael,” he whispered the name and felt the air of the main area shift and dropped his hand to look at Xheshmaryú who stared at him with the obvious confusion that had colored his words. “I know you in my Reflections as Thilael.”
“My apologies, dearie, but I do not know that name,” the Nochresi replied with a slow shake of his head. “And neither has it ever been associated with me or my bloodline. It is not a Nochresi name.”
Rhyshladlyn rolled his eyes, “I’m aware it is not. But you are a spitting image for the male I have in my Reflections who was known to me as Thilael. It’s honestly kind of disconcerting.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Also, don’t fuckin’ call me dearie,” Rhyshladlyn said as he sheathed Mallacht and looked around at the room finally, eyes widening the longer he looked, body slowly moving until it leaned fully against the wall to his left. “What happened here? Did something explode?” he asked just as Xheshmaryú had opened his mouth to comment on the ‘don’t call me dearie‘ bit.
“Yes,” Azriel spoke up and Rhyshladlyn looked over at him, “you did.”
“Well, more accurately your new wings exploded out your back and everything went to shit,” Nhulynolyn piped up from where he was whisking something in a bowl in the kitchen near the stove that sported a couple pots, spices and other cooking ingredients littering the counters. “They’re fuckin’ gorgeous, by the way,” he added with a wink and Rhyshladlyn ducked his head to hide the blush the words elicited.
“How are you feeling?” Azriel asked as he helped Rhyshladlyn walk over to one of the stools in front of the island counter, the only choice for seating in the destroyed main area of the cabin.
“Besides off kilter because of the added hundred pounds extending from my back, not as bad as I probably should given the state of this room,” he turned so his right side was pressed against the counter, wings carefully tucked against his back, jostling a bit until they sat comfortably overlapping each other. Looking around he blinked slowly, trying in vain to recall what had happened to cause the destroyed table, the is that blood? soaked chair, the shredded chair, the dented walls, and thrown couches. “I don’t even remember this happening.”
“What is the last thing you do remember?” Shadiranamen called from where she was sweeping up glass shards near the front door into a dustpan.
Rhyshladlyn hummed, eyes drifting towards the ceiling. It was a bit of a blur. He remembered clearly the argument about setting the trap and not telling either his Others or his males. He could still clearly see Relyt and Azriel walking away, could still feel the guilt that scraped him raw as he decided to finish working on the trap and then call on them to include them and get their opinions on his starting point and where he should go from there. He remembered what felt like a few hours passing while he made notes and tried to sketch out preliminary motions and spells without actually beginning the Working itself. Then there was nothing. Just… nothing. No pain, no fear, no confusion, not a single emotion or reaction he would expect to have a memory of from suddenly having a second set of wings that he hadn’t had for over eighty years return to him violently enough to blow apart their sitting area. Shaking his head he sighed, pressing both hands to his face for several heartbeats before dropping them with a groaning huff.
“Honestly, not much. Last truly clear thing I have is deciding to make notes and try and at least get some of the foundation of the Working done before calling Rel and Az out to get their opinions on it and then there’s just nothing until I woke up and came out here.”
“That’s some scary shit that,” Nhulynolyn offered up helpfully.
“No, really, Nul’?” Rhyshladlyn snapped back at him and his would-be-twin only laughed in response. “But it wouldn’t be the first time something like memory loss has happened to me,” he added, looking back at Azriel who shrugged one shoulder.
“True enough, but regardless it’s rather worrisome especially since there is no evidence of the set you were born with, let alone any scarring where they were removed,” the Anglëtinean looked past him at the twilight-colored wings that arched over his shoulders, one corner of his lips twisted down in a thoughtful frown.
Rhyshladlyn’s wings flared of their own accord under Azriel’s scrutiny but given that his second set hadn’t quite gotten with the program of working with his primary set, he ended up hitting the floor when the lot got tangled together. The sound of laughter from Nhulynolyn and chuckling from Shadiranamen rang out and he growled at them. Azriel had the sense to keep his mirth silenced but couldn’t keep the smirk off his face. Xheshmaryú just raised an eyebrow at him as though he were judging his landing and not the fact that his mature secondary wing set was acting as though they were still fresh from the bud.
“How is that even possible?” He asked as he pushed himself up off the floor with as much dignity as he could muster, which admittedly wasn’t much but at that point he didn’t quite give a shit anymore, and elected to just lean against the counter. It seemed like the safer option. He asked as though he were as clueless as the rest of them but part of him honestly already knew the answer, he just hoped he was wrong.
Azriel shrugged but it was Nhulynolyn who answered.
“Relyt checked you out pretty thoroughly. Said the only buds that exist in your back are those that are part of the wings you’ve got hangin’ out back there. No scarring from the secondary set nor old buds. It’s legit like those you’ve got now were always there. It’s some weird shit, my twin.”
“Speaking of Relyt where is he?” Rhyshladlyn wondered in an attempt to keep from having to voice his theory, especially if what Nhulynolyn had said was accurate and Relyt really had found no evidence that his secondary set of wings had ever been removed.
There was a string of cursing that issued from the porch followed by a puff of smoke before Relyt stepped into view of the glassless windows. “I am out here, my Qishir. Was attempting to reconstruct your notes,” he held up a pile of singed and blackened papers. “I fear I have been woefully unsuccessful.”
Rhyshladlyn snickered. “No worries, Relyt. I’ve got them all up here,” he tapped a finger to his temple.
“Oh, well, if that’s the case,” the Soul Healer threw the papers over his shoulder and stepped into the cabin via the windows ignoring the raised eyebrow Shadiranamen threw his way as though to say, there is a door, you know.
“So… are we going to discuss the fact that it is impossible for a winged Dhaoine to regrow wings that were ripped out buds and all?” Xheshmaryú spoke up, tone making it clear he had been trying to bring the topic up for a good while. “Because I think that’s pretty damn important.”
He wasn’t wrong. Though gods help him, Rhyshladlyn didn’t really want to discuss anything to do with them. He wanted to just have them and let that be that. But he knew better. They were a gift, one that most certainly came with a price, and gods willing it was one he could handle paying. And until he figured out how and why he had gotten them back, well, he wouldn’t know what kind of price was attached to them and that was not something he was keen on.
“It’s because I didn’t regrow them and neither are these new wings,” he replied, wrapping his twilight wings around his middle and under his arms, fingers sifting through the feathers like he had done when he was fledgling, eyes clouded with memories as happy and carefree as they were sharp and painful. He could feel Nhulynolyn watching him with rapt attention, lightning blue eyes sharp. His twin may not have been able to easily communicate with him until much later in the Qishir’s life but Nhulynolyn still shared his memories. The Other still knew just how ecstatic Rhyshladlyn was to have his wings back, to feel the cold-heat of them under his fingertips, to feel the added weight of two mature wing sets that held a combined span of fifteen feet. But Nhulynolyn didn’t comment, just let Rhyshladlyn feel a brush of understanding across their connection which drew the attention of Shadiranamen and Xheshmaryú but neither said anything. The twins had long since developed their own language of sorts that was a mix of emotions, pictures, half-formed thoughts, and words, so while the other two felt what Nhulynolyn had sent to Rhyshladlyn they couldn’t understand it but they did get the gist that it was an act of comfort and so they didn’t question it for which Rhyshladlyn was grateful; he doubted highly that he would be able to explain his apprehensive elation at having his wings back.
“What do you mean? How can they be anything but either of those?” Relyt asked, head tilted to the side.
Rhyshladlyn laughed, the sound devoid of mirth as he raised his eyes and met the mismatched ones of Azriel whose face was slowly going pale as the realization struck him first. The Qishir just smiled crookedly, the action not one of mirth or happiness, but rather one of sadness and resignation. He didn’t answer for several minutes, just stood there, fingers buried among his feathers, waiting until the moment he felt that every last one of them had caught on like Azriel had before he finally answered, feeling like he was crossing a line there was no coming back from as he did so.
“I mean that these are the exact same wings I had when I was a fledgling. These are my wings, my original secondary set. So I didn’t regrow anything,” he trailed off and sighed, closing his eyes. When he spoke again his voice rang like a shout in the thick silence that filled the cabin even though he spoke barely above a whisper, “It is like they were never cut out of me.”
There was a heartbeat of silence before five voices rang out with various curses and while Rhyshladlyn snorted in response, he couldn’t help but agree with them even as he spoke a prayer for the first time in what felt like years.
Nameless hear me, please, whatever may lay ahead, see my males, my Others, my Court, my Family, through it safely. I care not for whatever happens to me, but do not leave them unprotected. I beg of You. Just please keep them safe.