It was hard not to feel afraid.
Especially as she parried blow after blow, cut open throats and abdomens and chests, severed heads and arms and hands and legs from bodies.
It was hard not to tunnel vision.
Especially as she threw her sword at the face of one assailant and tore out the intestines of another with her bare hands only to turn and use those same intestines to strangle another warrior.
It was hard not to hear anything but her own tagged breathing and thunderous heartbeat.
Especially as she ran up to the warrior who took her sword to the face and pulled it free, flinging her magick out in a wide arc behind her as her wings burst forth and knocked away what enemies didn’t fall to her magickal attack.
It was hard not to lose all control and start screaming in a pain she didn’t feel, just to release what energy she couldn’t by killing everything that didn’t wear the Eighth Qishir’s colors or a stripe of grey dye across their cheekbones to denote they served the Grey Qishir.
Especially as death kept pace with her, sliding along her muscles and felling her enemies with each magickal attack and bite of her blade.
It was hard to keep going and not feel like each running footstep she took, each enemy she dropped, each breath she took was futile and attempting to win this war was a hopeless endeavor.
Because the real war was almost identical to her Dream with the only difference being that she knew Rhyshladlyn was well ahead of her, was aiming for the City with Azriel hot on his heels. She knew that Relyt wasn’t anywhere near the Field she cut across while giving chase to her Qishir and his Companion. But it didn’t stop a pit forming in her stomach, didn’t stop the cold sweat that slipped down her spine, didn’t stop her teeth from grinding. It didn’t stop her from cursing under her breath as she blocked a kick with her forearm and stabbed the asshole who struck her in the chest with her sword before kicking him away and off the blade before she resumed running.
Everywhere she turned, was mayhem and death and nightmares. Is this how Rhyshladlyn grew up? Is this what it was like for him to live at the Palace, to grow up in the ever-present shadow of Anislanzir?
“Die!” A Sinner Demon snarled as ey came barreling at her and Bayls rolled her eyes before flaring her wings and flipping up and over the warrior before running her sword through the center of eir back, severing her spine, as she landed on her feet.
“Yeah, I will get right on that,” she snarked before pulling her sword free and turning in a circle to face south and took off again.
Because if it is, by the Great Father’s glorious cock, I have a whole newfound respect for him turning out as close to sane as he did.
Rhyshladlyn had designated a spot for them all to meet up should they get separated. And from there he would get them into the City, shattering a hole in the Wards if the City didn’t open for them. Though she doubted highly that Shiran City wasn’t already quivering with anticipation of its favorite Dhaoine returning to it. They were all supposed to run into the melee together, begin this war as one Court, albeit “unofficial” but still. Only she had been delayed getting to the edge of the camp to meet up with everyone else before Rhyshladlyn had drawn first blood. And while she had taken off as soon as she’d heard that voice echo across the camp, wishing she hadn’t taken those precious minutes to have a conversation she knew could have waited until everything was over and done with, she didn’t regret it. Even though a guilty, small voice in her head told her she should be regretting it, even if only a little bit, but she had had to know. Going into this entire shitstorm without knowing would have only served to distract her more.
“Nully, what is this between us?” she asked, wanting desperately to reach a hand up and cup the clean shaven face that looked so much like her Qishir’s, unable to look away from those piercing blue eyes, but she didn’t. Instead she clenched her hands into fists at her sides to try and stave off the urge.
“Bayls… I,” the Other paused and ran a hand over his short hair and hissed air through his clenched teeth. “I dunno, I really don’t. I like ya, don’t get me wrong. But we’re at war, y’know? An’ I can’t readily afford to spare the concentration to figure what y’are to me. I just can’t take the chance that doin’ so means I put Rhys in danger.”
Even though her heart had clenched hard at hearing those words she understood. It hurt but she understood. And it hadn’t been an outright, ‘you were simple a fuck-her-and-leave-her type deal’ so she would take it.
“Why do I always fall for the wrong ones?” she muttered to herself as she dodged, parried, and punched her way through the sea of bodies as she ran full speed for the City, aiming for a section of the north wall by the back of the Palace.
As she ran, she surveyed the carnage that was swirling around her. It was almost like watching a play or dance, it didn’t seem real, seemed almost choreographed.
The clink and shink of steel on steel and metal on armor, the shuh shuh of defensive magick, the hiss-crackle of offensive magick, the swsh swsh of magick colliding against magick, the screams of the wounded, the war cries of the still able-bodied, the rumbling of nearly a million feet hitting the earth, the hwah-twang of arrows being loosed, the thud of bodies being hit over and over was combined into a symphony that seemed to harmonize with the echoes of the bells that had rung out from Shiran City that remained stuck in the Currents that surrounded them. As though the War Song shaped literally the entire pace and beat of the war itself. As though it infused its message into the hearts and Selves and muscles and minds of every single warrior on the Field and so they all moved unconsciously to that beat, each move they made repeating the words of that Song over and over. It was unnerving but breathtaking and she found herself understanding finally the joy Rhyshladlyn got out of being on the fields, of being engaged in battle. It was so simple here; no politics, no machinations, no underhanded comments, no worry of betrayal, no worry that one misstep would end the lives of hundreds or thousands. Here on the battlefield? It was one’s life or the life of the enemy. It was simple and even if she found herself still struggling not to let her fear consume her, she reveled in that simplicity.
An explosion shook the earth then and she stumbled, keeping her footing only because her wings flared and tilted to keep her upright as a blast of fire-heat laden air swept across the battlefield. A lull fell in the wake of that explosion and she blinked dust and sweat from her eyes, looking around to try and find the source of the explosion just as a second and a third hit in rapid succession and shouting of Shiran City burns! and They’re attacking the City! rang out from all around her and her gaze shifted to where the City’s tallest structures could just barely be seen over the rise of the sand dunes that surrounded it. Giant plumes of black smoke rose up in swirling tendrils from behind the pulsing, glowing golden walls and Bayls felt her stomach drop. Because that wasn‘t supposed to happen. The City was supposed to be prepared before they began attacking it, there were far too many innocents still within the City. They had coordinated with Thayne’s infiltration unit so that only those who sided fully with Anislanzir unwaveringly made it to the battlefield, so that those who remained behind were neutral or sided with Rhyshladlyn and thus could be evacuated while Rhyshladlyn and the rest of them stormed into the Palace and Hunted the Lord King and his loyalists down.
This attack? It was not part of their plan.
What in the farmer’s illicit children is going on?
She shrieked and jumped, whirling round with her sword at throat height at that voice only to have the blade parried away and a strong arm wrap itself around her waist to keep her from tumbling backwards into the dirtied sand as the scent of sandalwood filled her nose.
“Nully! What the fuck! You cannot scare me like that!” She snarled, slapping a hand against his chest.
“We need to go, Bayls,” he said, speaking much like he had the day they had stood in Thayne’s tent and she told them about her Dream. His accent was gone, face a hard mask of banked fury and barely restrained violence, his free hand clutched around his glaive, the blade reaching up past his head. He was all but drenched in blood and gore. And from what she could tell, none of it belonged to him. “Bayls, focus. We need to get to the rendezvous point.”
“How?” She asked, shaking her head to clear it of the fog that had settled seeing him battle-touched. No one should look that sexy covered in gore. It’s unnatural. “We’re at least a league from the City walls still.”
“Easy,” the Other retorted, lips twisting in a smirk that was as frightening as it was playful, teeth flashing white and pointed in a face darkened by dirt and blood. “What Rhys can do, us Others can also do.”
“What d’you mea–” the World tilted on its axis and she forced her eyes to close, recognizing that he was blinking her across the battlefield, taking advantage of the lull caused by the unexpected direct attack on the City to travel unscathed and unnoticed.
As they landed she hit her knees, stomach heaving. “Fuck, will you, like, warn me next time?” She griped as she closed her eyes and willed the World to stop shaking violently around her.
“I did warn you,” came the retort and she wanted to punch him in his stupid face.
“Yes, but not with enough time for her to prepare her stomach, obviously,” Thae’a quipped and Bayls looked up to find the Dreamweaver holding out a hand to help her up. Taking it with a shaky smile she looked around.
Nhulynolyn didn’t even look apologetic the bastard, he looks almost smug, how is that I even like him?. Azriel was busy cleaning his sword, face looking wrong in a way that she couldn’t quite put her finger on but made fear tease at the base of her skull all the same. Adïmshyl was cutting notches into the handle of a battleaxe that was easily twice the size of her head, its twin hanging from his hip. Thyl was taking inventory of his various knives and his armor. All of them were covered in blood and gore and dirt, eyes battle-bright, smiles — where they showed — sharp and dangerous, filled with promises she didn’t ever want to be on the wrong side of.
But Thayne was missing as was Rhyshladlyn.
“Aren’t we missing two?”
“Thayne elected to stay with the army. Said it wouldn’t do for the General to not be with her people,” Adïmshyl looked up and smiled at her, quick as lightning, before it was gone and he went right back to adding his kill notches to his battleaxe.
“And Rhys is–” Thae’a began.
“Here,” Rhyshladlyn interrupted as he landed several feet away, displacing plumes of sand as he did so, his massive, gorgeous wings battering the air before they stilled and folded against his back. If the rest of them were drenched in the after effects of the battle he was birthed from it. Not a single inch of him was devoid of blood, strips of skin that weren’t his own, internal organ pieces, bone fragments, and other squishy things that she couldn’t immediately name just looking at them.
He was Death and Fear made flesh and topped with a smile that made one simultaneously want to wantonly beg to be under his hands and mouth and run screaming as they begged for their life.
Fuck, how can one person be so unnerving and desirable all at once? Between him and Nully I’ma develop whiplash before too long.
“Shall we?” he asked conversationally, as though they had all gathered for a normal dinner rather than to invade a sovereign race’s City, as he strode through them and touched his hand to the glowing wall before them. Bayls felt the resounding hum the City made in response rattle across her bones as it woke up and cooed.
“Hello, Shiran,” Rhyshladlyn murmured, sounding much like one would when speaking to a beloved pet. “I know, I know. Get me to your Heart and I will ensure that none land again.” He laughed, a rumbling baritone sound that made her entire body tingle in ways most inappropriate for a battlefield. And judging by the way everyone squirmed, she wasn’t the only one effected. “Yes, yes, the innocents shall be gotten to safety and that shit eater will die. I shall feed him to you personally.”
Oh boy…that sounds as disgusting as it does interesting. How does a City eat, exactly? I have so many questions.
The City purred and then a door was opening in the wall, a door that hadn’t been there seconds before. Rhyshladlyn looked at them over his shoulder, violence personified, death made humanoid, and Bayls found herself afraid for the first time of the Qishir even though she knew without a doubt that he meant her no harm.
“Time to commit patricide,” Rhyshladlyn singsonged before he strode through the doorway and into the City.
Azriel didn’t say anything but the wrongness of his face became more prominent as he ducked through the door after his Qishir.
“That’s one hell of a battle cry,” Adïmshyl commented as he shouldered his battleaxes, shared a look with Thae’a, and strode in after Rhyshladlyn and Azriel.
“Understatement, babe,” Thae’a replied with a giggle that was equal parts barely restrained hysterics and mirth as she practically skipped after her mate.
Thyl remained silent but his queasiness at the Qishir’s statement was clearly written across his face as he strode into the City.
“Am I the only fuckin’ sane one of the lot of us?” Bayls asked no one in particular.
But that didn’t stop Nhulynolyn from clapping a hand on her shoulder and beaming at her, “Prob’ly, but fuck it. You’ll come ’round eventu’ly,” he chortled before he, too, walked into the City.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slow, she looked skyward and wondered not for the first, or even the last, time what the fuck her life had become and where exactly shit had gone absolutely insane.
The only answer she was given, if one could even call it that, was the almost ominous thud that magicked door made as it closed behind her and the wall became smooth bricks once again.
Why do I feel like we’re all fucked and not in the good way?