She prayed in her native tongue for the first time since the day she’d killed Azriel’s wife and son.
She prayed as she watched Rhyshladlyn’s blood arc through the air and flow in a river down the front of his body to soak the sands at his feet.
She prayed as she watched Relyt wail and slam his fists against the Shield, as she watched as what she could only assume were Rhyshladlyn’s Others do the same.
She prayed harder when Thayne made a choked sound that she had never heard any Dhaoine make before, one that struck right to her heart and made her breath hitch, made her stutter around the words of her prayer, before the mirror went tumbling and the view somersaulted.
She prayed when the mirror stopped moving and the view settled and she watched as pain took the look of serene acceptance from his face and carved lines that screamed it to the Worlds in every inch of his body language.
She prayed even harder when she listened to Thayne scream and tear at the Shield, as she watched a Sinner female across the way physically punch her way through the Shield over and over, heedless of the way it cut her arms up to the elbow.
Her prayer shuddered to a halt when Thayne’s attend to “not die” cascaded down the connection, spoken as a last ditch effort even though she knew as well as her daughter that it wouldn’t work; the power of it whispering along her nerves, compelling her to listen to it even though it wasn’t meant for her.
She started praying again when she watched Rhyshladlyn’s eyes drain of color, watched as he sank to the sands, hand holding the side of his neck, wings trailing in the sand, those unnatural grey flames put out by the wash of blood flowing from the wound in his neck.
She begged the High Ones to Hear her, to grant her brother mercy and keep his Qishir alive.
She pleaded with whatever god was listening that Rhyshladlyn lived, that his Court made it in time to keep him alive even though she knew that wouldn’t happen. The sacrifice would kill him if the blood loss didn’t. No Dhaoinic power in the Worlds could stop an Oathing Sacrifice once it was begun.
As the Shield gave way and she watched Thayne and the rest of Rhyshladlyn’s Court race against time to get to the Qishir, she felt hope sprout like a determined weed in her chest. Shock followed that hope, making it stronger somehow, when she saw Relyt extend his right hand, the markings on his arm blindingly bright, tendrils of power from the Shield above his head flowing to him as he ran. She watched wide-eyed as the male that was Rhyshladlyn’s mirror image did the same as Relyt, lightning arcing from him to the two that ran a mere half step behind him.
She gasped, prayer stuttering to a verbal halt, when Kírtlaq’s hand slipped against hers, fingers lacing between hers. She swallowed hard around a lump she didn’t understand the existence of when Yuran took her other hand and Uveis slipped between her and the table to wrap his arms around her waist and drop his chin to her shoulder. She pulled comfort from them, from the links they shared, from the feeling of their Oaths thrumming with life and vitality. She didn’t stop praying even if her voice was silent. And as Ishely, Alycun, and Dekaloc came around and mimicked their counterparts until they were basically huddled in a circle around her, each one touching her, she closed her eyes and let the first sob escape.
Because she knew the true breadth of an Oathing Sacrifice. She knew that Rhyshladlyn hadn’t just given his life, he’d given his magick, he’d given his only chance at ever having a life with Azriel. For when a Qishir gave their life as an Oathing Sacrifice they were forever pulled from the Worlds. Sure they lived for eternity in exaltation in the After, but it meant nothing in the face of what they gave up, what they lost.
And just imagining losing her Companion, losing her Steward, her Warrior, Scribe, Clergy, and Healer? She had been with them all for nearly a millennia, some for longer, and the thought of never having Oathed them, of never having spent more than a year and some months with them? It was too much. The hypothetical alone made her cry all the harder. Her heart ached for the pain Rhyshladlyn must be feeling, not just on the physical level but on the emotional one as well. It ached all the more for the pain her brother and Rhyshladlyn’s Court must be feeling.
And with that ache came regret and guilt so strong she choked on it.
She had brought this on the Qishir. She had done this to one of her caste-mates and the knowledge was… she didn’t have words for what it did to her. If she had just listened to the pleas of those who had managed to escape Shiran before she’d sent Azriel — by the Cliffs, if she had listened to Azriel — then none of this would have happened. Sure, Anislanzir was to blame for being a despicable un-male, worthy of nothing short of disgust and disrespect, but she was the one who had allowed him to go on unchecked. She was the one who gave excuse after excuse to keep from moving against him. She was the one who looked proof in the face and pretended it didn’t exist.
Now her brother and the innocent members of the Grey Court were paying for her inaction.
“You need to see this. This is the price of your inaction.”
Thayne had been right to call her, to show her this. Even if she had her face buried in the crook of Ishely’s neck, unable to watch as those on the other end of the call failed to reach Rhyshladlyn in time. She had needed to see the result of her ineptitude, of her refusal to act on the injustices done within the Worlds while she sat back and did nothing to stop them.
She just wished her realization hadn’t come too late.
“I’m sorry…” Rhyshladlyn’s voice drifted across the connection and she tossed back her head and sang.
It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough and never would be.
But if a Qishir who had denounced her own kind, who had refused to speak her native language after the horrible things her race had made her do and had done on its own, could sing in said tongue of the praises of the Qishir whom she’d abandoned?
Then maybe, just maybe, the gods would liste–