Azriel jumped when a wail shattered the early morning air, sent the Currents skittering in all directions, and made him trip mid-fighting dance. Catching himself before he fell into the dirt, he whipped around to face the porch where Relyt stood in front of his rocking chair, his teacup shattered at his feet, grey eyes wide and face pale. Nhulynolyn and Shadiranamen appeared in the space between Azriel and the porch just as another wail echoed from the confines of the cabin, both out of breath and wild-eyed.
“There was an Ancient in the town square speaking to Anis,” Shadiranamen gasped out, head tossed back as her eyes stared unseeing at the sky.
“She spoke the Chosen’s Blessing,” Nhulynolyn continued, bent forward with his hands on his knees.
Azriel cursed in Anglë’lylel and took off at a run towards the cabin, ducking through the front door seconds after Relyt who had gotten there first and made for the bedroom on the other male’s heels. The wailing was now almost nonstop, interspersed with sobs and that coupled with the information Rhyshladlyn’s Others had provided, Azriel didn’t have to ask what had happened because he knew. He knew just by the sounds coming from their bedroom that Anis had Rejected the Ancient and that the Sinner Demon heir hadn’t survived the encounter. What made it worse was that Anis probably hadn’t even realized what he had done until it was too late; he had most likely said he was betrothed and unable to break that commitment to his future partner or their respective people, not knowing that doing so equated to the Rejection that would see him and those around him killed. For an Ancient given Rejection to the Chosen’s Blessing was a World killer, literally, and they were too close to the epicenter to survive.
He made it to the open bedroom door just as the Wards started to hum and the Shields began to sing–if the Barriers begin to shriek we’re already dead–and nearly knocked into Relyt who was frozen in the doorway. “Rhyshladlyn! We need to get out of here!” Azriel barked before he caught sight of his Qishir and when he did he froze much like Relyt had.
Rhyshladlyn was sat upright on the bed, four wing-like scorch marks splashed across the wall behind him, orange-amber eyes gone grey with flickers of white, his normally dark brown skin pale and ghostly throwing his scars and Marks into stark relief, mouth slack as his throat worked around the wailing sobs that bubbled out, tears staining his too-pale face. His hands gripped the sheets that barely hid his nakedness from view tight enough that had any color remained in his skin his knuckles would have been white, long tears in the fabric giving evidence to the fact that he had struggled to get the handfuls he had. As they stood and watched, Rhyshladlyn began rocking back and forth, head bowing slightly as every muscle in his body tensed as though ready to spring into movement at any second, the low rumble of his power gathering about him mingling with his wailing sobs and the hum of the Wards and the singing twangs of the Shields.
“My Qishir,” Relyt called softly, taking a cautious, slow step into the room. “We need to get out of here. It is not safe.”
Azriel swallowed thickly as Rhyshladlyn’s head lifted and those greyed out eyes landed on them, the wailing that had been nearly constant since they’d made it inside the cabin trailing off before he went quiet completely. The resulting silence was absolute and unnerving,
“Rhys?” Azriel called, voice ricocheting off the walls with all the power of a shout despite the fact that he had spoken no louder than a whisper, moving to step around Relyt only to freeze again as the Qishir began to speak.
“My blood is dead,” the voice that said those words was not Rhyshladlyn’s but yet it was. There was something ever-so-slightly off about it, just enough to catch one’s attention but not enough to make it evident what that wrongness actually was. “My blood is dead and with it the Worlds shall go to war.”
And then he was just gone, leaving only the scent of his grief, his tears, the shredded bedsheets, and the scorched wingmarks on the wall as evidence he had even been there at all.
“Rhyshladlyn!” Azriel hollered, blood gone cold and his heart stuttering in his chest as Relyt backed up into the hallway and called out for Nhulynolyn, Shadiranamen, and Xheshmaryú. Only the latter showed.
“What the fuck us going on?” Relyt demanded, eyes the grey of the open ocean in a storm, glancing at Azriel as the Anglëtinean stepped out into the hall beside him before looking back at the Other.
Xheshmaryú looked rattled and it didn’t make Azriel feel any better.
“Anis is dead,” the Other spoke in a measured voice, his usual drawl subdued as though in his shock he couldn’t remember to hold it.
“Then how are we alive?” Relyt countered.
The Other frowned his unspoken question at the Soul Healer.
“How are we alive if Anis is dead?” Relyt repeated, elaborating just in case it helped get him an answer.
“Because you ain’t in the same World as him anymore,” Nhulynolyn spoke up from the end of the hall, startling them all.
“Wh…what? How is that even possible?” Azriel stuttered out, bracing a hand against the wall because it felt like the floor was undulating beneath him.
“My twin is powerful as fuck all, Azzy,” he shrugged as though it wasn’t as big of a deal as it was. “Is it truly too much for either-a you to handle that he mighta been able to move this entire cabin two Worlds over?”
Relyt spluttered and had it been at any other time, Azriel would have laughed at his fellow qahllynshæ. But as it was, he couldn’t find it in himself to even be terrified despite knowing he should be.
When no one else said anything, Azriel spoke, having to question, needing to know for certain. “We’re two Worlds over from where we were? But that would mean we’re–”
“–back in Fènwa World, exactly,” Nhulynolyn finished for him.
“Impossible,” Xheshmaryú said and Nhulynolyn just turned a raised eyebrow and smirking mouth on his fellow Other.
“Take a gander outside if ya don’t believe me,” the auburn-haired Other replied with a gesture to the side and behind him at the front of the cabin where the windows were.
Slowly, the three of them moved to the end of the hall and stepped out into the main area, eyes cast towards the front wall of windows that faced the front porch and Azriel felt his knees go numb and his face drain of color as he tipped sideways and barely caught himself on the kitchen counter to his right.
“High Ones See us,” he breathed out, throat suddenly too dry.
“May the Many guide us always,” Relyt echoed.
For spread as far as the eye could see outside the cabin was no longer the forest they had come to know for the last half of a year of being on the run but rather a rolling desert, large dunes at least three hundred feet high visible in the distance. It seemed they were in a small bowl valley between dune ranges, and a small oasis at that, if the small lake that met the patch of thick, lush green grass that grew from under the porch outward was any indication. It was one of the rare moments where Azriel was starkly reminded just how powerful of a Qishir he was qahllyn to, despite the age gap, despite not possessing as much maturity both in age and personality as many other Qishir. It was one of those moments where the Anglëtinean warrior was reminded to be afraid, even if only slightly, of the Qishir he shared a bed with at night, to look upon Rhyshladlyn with awe, utterly unprepared for the powerhouse that the Dhaoine was, having never seen anything or anyone like him in the thousand plus years Azriel had walked the Worlds. It was one of those moments that made Azriel wonder how he could have ever forgotten those things in the first place.
He closed his eyes and sent a prayer to the High Ones for strength and guidance and protection before tacking on a prayer of thanksgiving as well. Because this was Rhyshladlyn’s abilities as a Qishir only since his abilities as a Greywalker had yet to be awoken–and gods prevail them all when they did–and Azriel was damned fortunate to be on Rhyshladlyn’s good side. For only the gods knew exactly what the Qishir was capable of doing to those who weren’t.
“I knew he was powerful, especially seeing how many of us Others he has, but gods above and below, this is a whole other level,” Xheshmaryú said breathlessly as he walked with hesitating steps towards the door that was still open from when Relyt and Azriel had slammed through it not even twenty minutes prior.
Azriel wanted to ask if there were any more Others besides those they’d met already but didn’t think he’d get an actual answer and elected to keep the question silenced for the moment. Rubbing a hand over his face, he sighed. It was almost too much to comprehend.
“Wait…if we’re here, where in the fuck is Rhys? Surely not back in Majik World?” he asked, turning so he could take in both Nhulynolyn and Xheshmaryú.
“There is no living soul left within the boundaries of Majik World,” Nhulynolyn answered. “He’s with the Nameless.”
“Surely he’s not at the River crossing, is he?” Relyt gasped out, face showing a rare expression: one of fear, pure and absolute.
“What?” Nhulynolyn rounded on the Soul Healer, ice blue eyes wide. “Fuck no he’s not! He’s speaking with the Nameless in its Shadow Chamber. Holy shit, he sure as fuck didn’t get us all to safety only to end up dead himself. That would be stupid. Never mind that me and Xhesh wouldn’t be here talking to you if my twin had bit it.”
Azriel felt his stomach drop out to play with his knees while relief warmed his frozen blood and he groaned at the disconcerting feeling, doubling over slightly with it as his free hand pressed against his lower abdomen.
“He’s back in Shiran City? How did he even get there without alerting the entire garrison? Surely the Wards wouldn’t let him in,” Azriel observed as he tried to calmly remember how to breathe while convincing his stomach to return to its natural place.
“He moved this entire cabin and the two of you with it two Worlds over while the World it was initially in was ripped apart by an out of control Ancient,” Nhulynolyn countered, squinting at him, “but getting past the Warding on a City built by the blood of his own ancestors is where his abilities get challenged.” Azriel didn’t have to be looking at the Other to know he had rolled his eyes.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he just form shifted and walked right past the front gates of the City, to be perfectly honest,” Xheshmaryú added. “But I’m pretty certain the Nameless itself Called him home personally and thus ensured his safety.”
“Oh, well that’s delightful,” Azriel muttered testily as he stumbled over to the larger couch that the Qishir had fixed in the middle of the night when sleep evaded him and dropped onto it.
“What now?” Relyt asked, still staring at the desert with a look of deep unsettlement.
“Now… Now we wait,” Nhulynolyn and Xheshmaryú spoke in unison.
Azriel shared a look with Relyt and the Anglëtinean found comfort in the expression of confusion and fear that twisted the Soul Healer’s features for a heartbeat before it was hidden away by his customary stoic mask. At least he wasn’t alone in feeling confused, adrift, and afraid.
“Wait…today is the Harvest,” Relyt spoke up into the silence and returned everyone’s confused looks with one of barely restrained terror. “The Harvest is one of the High Holy days for the Sinner race and their heir was just murdered on that day. Anislanzir will not let this go as a simple mistake on his son’s part…”
“…he’ll see it as an act of war,” Azriel finished for him when the Soul Healer trailed off.
“Which is what Rhyshladlyn meant by my blood is dead and with it the Worlds will go to war,” Shadiranamen said as she appeared in the kitchen, leaning forward with her hands braced on the island counter. “And it’s already started,” she added, looking up at them with sapphire blue eyes so dark they were nearly black, far too shook up to keep her teeth hidden to make them more comfortable.
“How do you know?” Nhulynolyn asked.
“Because Anislanzir has sent out a message to all powerful enough to hear it never mind how to find it,” Shadiranamen replied.
“Well don’t leave us in suspense, shër,” Xheshmaryú quipped with a raised eyebrow.
Shadiranamen grinned mirthlessly at them showing all of her pointed razor-sharp teeth and waved her hand and the cabin filled with the sound of Lord King Anislanzir’s voice.
“Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn Ka’ahne, my first born is dead at the hands of an Ancient. All that is left to me in blood is my first born’s twin and you. I need you to lead my armies against the Ancients whilst I seek retribution for this loss on such a Holy day. If you willingly come home and kneel in agreement to lead my armies to victory, I will forgive you your transgressions and remove the bounty from your head and those of the ones in your company. You have three days to answer.”
As the message faded off Azriel dropped his head into his hands and Relyt stumbled back against the stools in front of the island counter.
“Azriel…” Relyt murmured and the Anglëtinean shook his head.
“He’s going to answer yes, Rel,” he spoke into his hands, dropping them to tip his head back against the couch behind him. “He’s going say ‘yes’ and he won’t have us Oathed to add to his power base. He’s going to say ‘yes’ even though that bastard sire of his is lying.”
The Soul Healer pushed off the stools and walked over to the couch where he sank to his knees in front of Azriel. He reached out to wrap his long fingers around Azriel’s trembling hands, grey eyes soft and open when Azriel looked at him, his own fingers curling around Relyt’s and holding on tight.
“I know, my brother,” Relyt began slowly, calmly, his power rippling out around the cabin, “but regardless we will be by his side and he by ours and that alone will ensure we make it through anything the Lord King throws our way.”
Azriel didn’t say anything, only nodded, and prayed.
High Ones, please keep Rhyshladlyn safe. We all need him.