She stood on the balcony of the tallest tower of the Palace in much the same place Rhyshladlyn had that fateful night when his Qishir side came hollering up from the depths, facing the north where a column of white-blue flame that could only be coldfire shot skyward for a brief flicker before disappearing behind the rolling sand dunes. Hands clenched hard around the stone railing, the stone itself whining faintly under the strain, she closed her eyes and bowed her head, wishing more than anything that she could escape the City and follow the echo of the magickal signature that had created that particular flame. Because she knew who it belonged to even before the wave of grief blasted across the Worlds as the ground shook and a gut-wrenching howl tore across the Currents, sending them wheeling and screaming under the force of it.
She wanted nothing more than to escape and get to the brother she could feel grieving even before he sent that concussive wave of emotions out to the Seven Worlds. She didn’t want to leave him alone with his guilt, the guilt she knew all-too-personally. She didn’t want him to feel responsible for their brother’s death — and she didn’t doubt he felt that way for a second — because aside from the Ancient who had gone nova the only person to blame for it was her. She’d been the one to convince her twin to leave Shiran City with her, following a trail that was barely even that, all for the singular reason of, We have to find him and show him we weren’t on Azhuri’s side or Father’s, Anny! And if she hadn’t? He would still be alive.
No, I cannot think of that right now.
But she couldn’t leave because since the loss of her twin Anislanzir had confined her to the Palace and the Great Temple. Though if she went to the Temple she had to have an escort of the Lord King’s choosing under the guise of protecting his only remaining heir to the throne with the loss of his firstborn, the repudiation of his second, and the murder of his wife. He had no heir, no back up, and no Queen to birth him a replacement, so she was his only chance left.
It took more willpower than she believed she had left to keep from pressing her hands to her lower abdomen, to press against the only thing keeping her alive while she lived as a prisoner in what had once been her home.
So she had to remain locked away while the only kin she had left mourned so close but still so far away. For they were all that remained of their blood family: their mother was dead, they had denounced their father, and there wasn’t a single hint of a body remaining to confirm the death of their brother but she knew he was gone. She had felt the loss of him as though half of her body had been ripped away from her and all that remained was a phantom pain that throbbed along shredded, oversensitive nerves. And when it had happened she had dropped to her knees in the middle of the Great Hall, vocal chords shredding under the strain of her screaming, her hands clawing long rivets in the stone floor, wings exploding from her back for the first time in over a century. It had taken what felt like years before she could speak and when she could, all she could say was one word: Anisfajir!
It was a blessing and a half by far that her little brother hadn’t perished alongside her twin. Because then all hope for the Worlds as a whole would have been lost.
But the Fates had smiled on them and given him just enough of a warning to get himself and his males out alive. And in doing so gave the Worlds a semblance of a chance of surviving what was coming. Not that she knew what that was, just the vibration of calamity that rumbled along her bones in tandem with the knowledge that whatever it was would be cataclysmic and would make what happened in Majik a day prior look like a Midsummer festival by comparison.
And by the Sands and Sky did that terrify her.
“Rhyshladlyn….” she whispered, lifting her head to look out across Shiraniqi Desert, across the land she knew so well, the land she had freely traveled in her younger years while her youngest brother had remained locked away within the walls of the City. Her heart ached on a separate level just for him, side-by-side with the grief and ache held for her twin who was lost far too soon. She knew now too keenly just how diligently he had worked to keep her safe for now she had no one to protect get from their Father because the atrocities her little brother had suffered were visited upon her now that she had no one to act as a buffer. “I See you, my brother, my blood.”
He couldn’t hear her, he was too far away, but she didn’t worry about that. Her Intent would travel the distance well enough that perhaps it would ease his guilt some. The guilt she knew he felt because it had tainted the City in his wake, had dimmed the light of the Great Temple once he had left it. Even several hours later, it still remained; a twisted, angry thing that tried to suck in any passerby too magick-blind to sense it. And no amount of cleansing seemed to clear it away. So it clung like a fungus to the walls of the Temple, to the cobblestones of the street just outside the door, made the air inside musty and dirty. It was wrong but not and it had made her skin prickle because she couldn’t figure out the why only that it was. So she had returned to the Palace as swiftly as possible and gone to the tallest tower where Rhyshladlyn had often spent hours despite having an absolute phobia of heights all in an effort to escape that pressing wrongness.
“If it scares you so badly why do you come up here?” She asked, raising an eyebrow down at him, still amused at how much shorter he was than her. Though at the rate he was growing that wouldn’t be the case for much longer.
He grinned sidelong at her. “Because it’s irrational and I’ve gotta face it somehow. May as well be on my own terms.” His wisdom belied the ten namedays he held. His rationale sound in ways that most adults’ wouldn’t have been.
After all, how many Dhaoine would look at a phobia that was an inconvenience to one who had wings and go, “well time to get over that, I haven’t the time for it”?
How he had gotten into the City, however, was still debated since the Wards had been altered to bar him access, and if they failed somehow, they were supposed to set off alarms but they hadn’t. And none of the main gate guards had sent up a signal that he had strolled in that way and there were no signs of him dropping in from the Lines. It was as though he had simply appeared right out of the air half a block from the Great Temple. And to hear the witnesses tell it, that’s exactly what happened. Yet none of them had alerted Anislanzir or any other Palace guards. No, they had simply watched as Rhyshladlyn had spoken to Bayls Qaeniri, the guard on the Great Temple door, sent em off and then strolled in unhindered. Anislanzir was livid. The Wards should have gone off, the guard should have rushed him and the resulting blow off from the use of magick would have alerted the Lord King to the arrival of his second born. But none of that had happened. Never mind that the un-male refused to believe that Rhyshladlyn was able to just materialize out of thin air inside a City Warded specifically to keep him out.
Though had Anislanzir bothered to pay any attention to the bond forged between two sets of twins born to an Ancient he would have simply used her as an alert system. Because she had sensed his arrival hours before a runner had even made it to the Palace. She had also known the moment Rhyshladlyn had left even though no one had seen him leave the Temple, because the City had seemed to shrink in on itself, its golden glow dimmed for the loss of the Qishir. Never mind that she knew Rhyshladlyn had escaped from Majik World just seconds before every living soul was burned out of existence, but Anislanzir didn’t believe that either. But given who his Patrons were, given how powerful he was? She wasn’t entirely surprised that he had left without being seen walking out of the Temple, that the City had reacted to his leaving the way it had. Neither was she surprised that her Father was so willfully blind to the truth of how strong his second born actually was.
What had surprised her was the fact that her little brother had been so close, had had ample opportunity to lay siege to the Palace, but had only visited the Temple and then left. He hadn’t even responded to Anislanzir’s proposition — something she not-so-secretly reveled in because it had pissed the bastard off to no end — and still hadn’t. She prayed hard that Rhyshladlyn wouldn’t fall for the un-male’s bullshit. Had Mother still lived even she would have seen through the poor attempt to conceal his trap to get Rhyshladlyn into the Palace and before the Lord King, preferably with the Qishir’s males in tow. And she only hoped that Rhyshladlyn did as well; that he was not so blinded by grief and guilt that he lost his wits and risked them all.
“Please, don’t give up, not yet,” she pushed off from the railing and walked back to the door of the tower, stopping at the threshold to cast one last look over her shoulder at where her brother roughly was to the north across the leagues of sand and quicktraps and ruins and roving bandit armies. “You have so much left to do. I will see you soon and grant you what you seek from me. But in the interim, I will not abandon you, lil’it ahshan-bròtr. Even when it may seem like I have. Don’t give up, don’t lose faith.”
With that message dancing along the Currents she walked inside, closed the door behind her, and descended down into the Palace proper.
She would mourn later. For now, the fact that Rhyshladlyn was mourning as deeply as he was would have to cover her portion. Once Anislanzir lay dead at her feet, once she had taken over the throne as the first Lord Queen to rule the Sinner Demons in its history, razed the system to the ground, and rebuilt it from scratch better than it ever was then and only then would she mourn.
Until that day, however, she had a war to prepare for and a revolution to plot.
May the gods grant mercy upon any who get in my way for I have no inclination whatsoever to show any.