You weren’t supposed to die!
Relyt clenched his jaw against the onslaught of grief and rage and guilt that pulsed out from the Qishir before him, his hands twitching against Rhyshladlyn’s cheeks with the effort it took for him to keep from pressing too hard, his heart thumping hard against his breastbone, shaking his ribcage like the bars of a prison cell rattled by its inhabitant demanding freedom.
If he hadn’t known what it felt like to hold onto Rhyshladlyn while his life flame flickered, puttered, and snuffed out before reigniting with an intensity that should not have been possible for a mortal, Relyt would have worried that he was dying now, screaming and sobbing as he was. The pain that the Qishir gave off in waves that buffeted against him and Azriel as they tried to soothe him, keep him on just this side of the precipice of going nova, was incredible, indescribable in the intensity it held. And he felt himself crying unbidden, the tears pulled from deep within, beyond where he’d laid them to rest when he had sat down to receive his gretluos. They burned the skin of his cheeks as he continued to hum his power out in a calm counterpoint melody to Azriel’s singing.
How could one even possibly hope to console someone so distraught? How could anyone, even one as powerful as himself among his people, hope to Heal and Mend the tears and rifts in a soul like Rhyshladlyn’s after so much heartbreak and loss and trauma? A soul that had been mistreated since its conception to such a degree that there was no unblemished piece left. A soul that had no original, unblemished pieces from which he could draw upon as a map of sorts to do any worthwhile Healing. It was as though whatever Rhyshladlyn was supposed to be like had he been born to any other sire and mother was lost forever, only to be known by the gods because there wasn’t even a hint of it on his Self. What he was now, how he was, was all that had ever been for him and ever would be, for that matter. There was simply no Healing and Mending a soul, a Self, that had never been whole to start with.
And as the realization that that meant that Rhyshladlyn’s mistreatment had begun early enough that his Self had known nothing besides that, that it had not been given the time to build even so much as an untarnished foundation, threatened to boil Relyt’s blood at the same time that it made it run colder than the ice shelfs where his people harvested their gretkewq.
He wanted to say so much, I’m sorry. I’m here for you. Please, let us in, let us help you. I can ease your pain somewhat if only you would let me. It’s going to be okay, but none of that was good enough. He knew this because it hadn’t been good enough when his own brother had died. It hadn’t been good enough when he’s tried to talk his partner out jumping from the ice because ey just couldn’t handle being bullied anymore about being just weak enough that a gretkewqi wouldn’t bond with em. It hadn’t been enough when his adoptive son’s parents cast him out upon learning their child was an Imèn and magickless. It hadn’t been enough when Jiklyt’s parents had petitioned for him back, won, and killed him after months of trying to pull his nonexistence magick to the surface. So he didn’t waste his time now, didn’t waste Rhyshladlyn’s time. Instead he just kicked open the door to their link and funneled as much of his power down that hallway between them as he could, as Rhyshladlyn would allow.
And he prayed.
Prayed that this was the last loss that Rhyshladlyn would suffer, that this was the last time he would find himself on his knees before his Qishir, hands pressed to his cheeks to guide his forehead down against his own so that his gretkewq was in direct contact to Rhyshladlyn’s skin. Prayed that this was the last time for a long time that Relyt would find himself at a loss of what to do, what to say, all while finding that he warred against his race’s very nature as conscientious objectors as the need to march into Shiran City and raze it to the very foundations upon which it sat roared along his nerves and sent his instincts to chittering with enthusiastic approval. Prayed that whatever was coming would not be more than the Qishir could handle, that whatever it was that Nhulynolyn had said he wasn’t ready for yet all those months ago wasn’t going to be the death of them all.
You shouldn’t have died! You should have just stayed home! Why didn’t you stay home, Anny? Why didn’t you stay home?
Relyt’s stomach flipped as he tried to close his eyes tighter against the flow of tears, all too aware of how spectacularly he was failing in the endeavor. But judging by the way Azriel’s voice faltered around certain syllables the Soul Healer was fairly certain he wasn’t the only one crying just then. He couldn’t see or sense Rhyshladlyn’s Others but as they were tied more directly to him Relyt couldn’t even imagine that they were unaffected in any way. Because if this was what he was getting with Rhyshladlyn’s door at the end of their link being firmly closed while he slipped his power into all the cracks and crevices around it? He’d likely not be breathing if it were open like it undoubtedly was between the Qishir and his Others.
And that thought should scare him but it didn’t. If anything it just impressed him further at the amount of control Rhyshladlyn had over himself and his powers. For even in the midst of life-altering grief, even as incoherent and stricken as he was, he was still in enough control to keep his power from wiping out every living thing around him. And he very well could do that; Relyt could tell as much just by the way the Qishir’s magick held a stinging bite to it where it slipped and slid along his skin, almost like a caress but carrying a dark intent, a potential that while not given a proper description was no less known for the lack.
“My Qishir,” he whispered, voice shattering around the words as his brain short circuited around the ability to speak Common and he broke off into his native tongue. “Gy sgei agh’gyel, gy jiuhalel agh’gyel. Gy ëtunz’tog.” He knew Rhyshladlyn wouldn’t have understood all of it, but the point was well defined regardless of that. I See you, I Hear you. I will not abandon you.
On the Qishir’s other side, Relyt could hear Azriel offer up the same in his own native tongue just as a brush of Intent danced across the sands and around them followed by a whisper that was far more heartfelt than Relyt knew was possible to put into the spoken word.
Please, don’t give up, not yet. 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.
Relyt pulled back the second he felt Rhyshladlyn go still, locking eyes with Azriel over the Qishir’s bowed head, wondering how someone could go so still and quiet while grieving so powerfully that he felt himself shaken to the core under the force of it. Azriel mouthed a single name in an unspoken question and Relyt nodded.
Because he knew that voice despite having only heard it the once when he stood in the Great Hall of the Palace and bent knee to petition of Anislanzir for a Healer’s Contract for Rhyshladlyn. Relyt wouldn’t blame Rhyshladlyn for the apprehension that was swirling in with the guilt and grief and rage, for to hear the voice of the sister the Qishir no doubt feared had forsaken him so soon after the loss of their mutual brother? It would rattle him, too.
Wait… Healer’s Contract!
Relyt, against his better judgment — for moving oneself or attempting to move the Qishir when he went still like that was courting disaster –, cupped Rhyshladlyn’s jaw more firmly and lifted the male’s head until orange-amber eyes fever bright with tears and pain met his own and he found he was grinning stupidly but he couldn’t help it.
“I still have an active Healer’s Contract for the second born of the Sinner Demon race’s royal line,” Relyt explained when Rhyshladlyn’s face contorted in a frown at his expression. He waited for a moment and when that confused frown remained, Relyt elaborated further, “With you disowned and the heir dead, the technical second born is now Alaïs, and the Healer’s Contract is binding, only broken when the Healer who holds it is dead.”
“Wait…” Azriel croaked, cleared his throat and tried again, “are you saying that you can…” he trailed off and Relyt turned that grin to the Anglëtinean and nodded as Rhyshladlyn’s confusion began to disappear quickly as what Relyt had said sunk in.
“Did the wording specifically say second born of the Sinner Demon race’s royal bloodline?” Rhyshladlyn asked, his own hands coming up to wrap around Relyt’s wrists and the Soul Healer paused, struck dumb for a brief moment by the sudden sense of foreboding that rocketed through him at the touch. But now wasn’t the time to investigate that. He would look on it later.
Instead he nodded again, this time at Rhyshladlyn, “Aye, your Majesty. It did. I made sure of it. I felt at the time that having it state second born rather than your name would allow for more protection in some fashion in the future. Granted, I did not foresee this being the reason, but I will not discard the gift of it.”
“Awesome, can we please explain this new bit to the still confused one?” Azriel quipped.
“It means that Rel here has guaranteed safe passage into the City, into the Palace, and a reason to be at Alaïs’ side, acting as a go between for us. Anislanzir cannot keep him out, harm him or my sister. Not without having the gods Themselves forsake him,” Rhyshladlyn answered at length, eyes falling shut as he took a deep breath and let it out as a sigh of relief.
“So… this means, what exactly?” Azriel inquired and when Rhyshladlyn frowned and tipped his head back to glance at him the Anglëtinean huffed in embarrassed affront that Relyt couldn’t help but find endearing. “Forgive me if my normal intelligence is not operating at full potential right now. Not all of us can recover from something like that as quickly as you can.” He didn’t have to elaborate, they all knew he meant Rhyshladlyn’s power blast, his near loss of control that wasn’t really loss of control.
Rhyshladlyn smiled then, fond and soft before relaxing back against Azriel and turning those intense eyes to Relyt as he answered, “It means that Relyt cannot be harmed by Anislanzir, that even if I accept the Lord King’s gracious offer,” he rolled his eyes, “if he tries to cut Relyt down, the gods Themselves will strike him. But regardless, due to the wording of his Contract, Relyt is required to be at the side of the second born. And right now, per the laws of the Sinner Demon race, per the wording of that very Contract, the second born is Alaïs. So Relyt can stay at her side and she won’t be alone…” He trailed off into silence, his smile fading. She will be protected again, went unsaid in the silence that stretched among them.
The sense of foreboding that had hit him before struck again and Relyt swallowed the gasp that threatened to escape in response. But, again, he pushed it aside; now was not the time to focus on such things. He would have the chance later.
“Will you be alright in my absence, your Majesty?” Relyt asked. “I do not want to leave you if you will have need of me.”
Rhyshladlyn smiled at him but it was tired and shaky and didn’t touch his eyes.
“Go to my sister, Rel. She needs you more than I do right now.”
Relyt inclined his head. “As you wish. I shall gather my things and leave in the morning.”
As the last of Rhyshladlyn’s grief subsided, at least what was pushed out into the Worlds around them, and both he and Azriel helped him to his feet to get him back to the cabin, Relyt prayed once more than this was the last time, at least for awhile, that he would see his Qishir brought to his knees in such a manner. Prayed that the losses were over. That they could rest for a while before the War kicked off and swallowed what little light remained in the Worlds.
But as he prayed, that sense of foreboding would no longer be silenced as it frayed every nerve he had and on its heels Relyt found himself wondering if the losses were only just beginning.
And of all the things to happen in the last two days, that was by far the one that scared him the most.