“You have some mighty big balls, I will give you that.”
She glanced at Xheshmaryú and snickered. “So I’ve been told.”
“Your mate must be one lucky, happy male,” the Other added with a cheeky grin as he slipped his hands nonchalantly into the pockets of his pants and leaned sideways at her, wiggling his eyebrows when she look at him again. She shook her head with a chuckle before looking away again.
“That is true but I would be mindful of what you say within earshot of him,” she replied, eyes tracking the movements of the army as it separated as Rhyshladlyn’s progress towards the City took him right through it. She was almost able to hear their yelps of surprise as they scattered out of his way. “He tends to get territorial. It’s a Lupherinre thing.”
“You both know that I am standing right here,” Adïmshyl grumbled but she could hear the smile in his voice.
She shared a look with Xheshmaryú and they both barked out a laugh, the Other doubling over with it, her shoulders shaking violently enough that she almost fell. Looking at her mate, she found him fighting against his own laughter, rolling his eyes at her when he saw her looking. But she wasn’t worried he was upset. He knew they were merely joking as a means to relieve the tension that had built up, knew they meant nothing by it.
Usually Nhulynolyn was the one that cracked a joke but he was with his kè so it had fallen to them to do it in his stead. And it felt so weird to do what the Other was so well known for. Her heart clenched when she realized that her Qishir’s twin hadn’t so much as cracked a smile, a real smile, in what seemed like weeks. It spoke to how much the war was already affecting them if the jokester among them was robbed of his ability to smile.
It was unnerving and worrisome in a way she had been prepared for. Watching Adïmshyl’s smile flicker at the edges as he detected her change in mood, she reached out her right hand to him and felt his fingers slide against hers, palm resting warm and large against her own as their fingers entwined. As soon as he was touching her she felt like the pressure on her chest released and her mood lifted again, but not nearly as much as it had been.
“Yes, I am aware,” she answered with a wink and Xheshmaryú’s throaty chuckle echoed around them.
“That’s half the fun of it, my good lad,” the Other added, grinning at Adïmshyl when the male turned a twitching frown on him.
“So long as you keep your hands to yourself, you can say whatever you like.”
“Oh no worries there,” was the easy response, violet eyes twinkling with a mischievousness that reminded her so much of Nhulynolyn. “Your mate there isn’t my type.”
She blinked at him, momentarily dumbfounded by the statement.
“Is it cuz I’m plump?” she asked after a moment and both Xheshmaryú and Adïmshyl laughed loudly.
“No, dearest Lady,” the Nochresi answered, laughter threaded around his words. “It is because your southern ways aren’t what I tend to enjoy.”
Well that is certainly the most socially polite way of saying he’s gay I’ve ever heard. She merely nodded in acknowledgement, not pressing the issue.
The race he had originally hailed from viewed homosexuality as sinful, often attacking those that were found to be that way severely, marking them as undesirable. I wonder if that’s how he got those scars. Though the practice was supposed to have been ceased when Qishir Lulphé had outlawed it across all races. But just because something is outlawed didn’t mean it wasn’t still done. All it meant was that it was done with greater care to keep it hidden.
“Are you certain you want to do this, Tee?” Adïmshyl asked in the lull that had fallen in the wake of their laughter as he bumped his shoulder against hers.
The phrasing of his question made a cage containing a particular memory rattle violently and she sucked in a sharp breath before she could stop herself. Adïmshyl’s only response was to squeeze her hand. He wasn’t the type to ask personal questions, or make personal statements, outside of the privacy of their home (or tent as it were now) so him physically squeezing her hand was a surprise. But she hadn’t expected for that memory to try and rise from the depths where she’d buried it long ago. She gave her mate a shaky smile that the Lupherinre narrowed his eyes at but he didn’t press it and for that she was grateful.
Trying to quiet that rattling cage enough to safely think about her answer, she looked at Xheshmaryú who was studiously not looking at either of them now, violet eyes trained instead on where Rhyshladlyn was standing surrounded by a thick cloud of kicked up sand. A tightness had formed around his mouth ever since Shadiranamen had left to join Bayls and the Healers so Nhulynolyn could follow his twin into the City when Rhyshladlyn had reached out saying Azriel was being moved to the Watchtower at its heart.
Are you as worried as we are about your kè, about your fellows? She wondered not for the first time since meeting Rhyshladlyn and the three Others that shared a body and a consciousness with him. But she didn’t ask it out loud. Just like she didn’t ask how he had gotten the scars that marred his face but didn’t take away from the handsomeness of it. Just like she didn’t ask why Shadiranamen was the only one of them that she couldn’t get a read on as far as race went.
“What does that mean?” Adïmshyl asked.
“It means that Anislanzir has gotten desperate,” was all the reply the female Other gave before she was gone from sight.
“He means to test the lore that if one takes out the Heart Watchtower in a City that the City, and the Qishir tethered to it, will fall. Permanently,” Xheshmaryú elaborated and his words stole the breath in her lungs and made Adïmshyl growl.
The shake up of who the Others were with wasn’t the original plan, sure, but they hadn’t counted on Anislanzir knowing any of the lore behind the obelisk that was still visible in Shiran City. Hadn’t counted on him not killing Azriel outright but rather making a display of it, a game almost. So their plan was still roughly the same, at least as far as what she was tasked to do was concerned, but the locations of everyone was different. But it shouldn’t matter. Not really. Not so long as Azriel and Rhyshladlyn made it out alive. So long as Rhyshladlyn, herself, Adïmshyl, and Nhulynolyn were the only ones to enter the City once she started. Because any more than that and she risked failure before she even started.
“Yes, I’m certain,” she answered finally just as Adïmshyl had begun to fidget. “Rhys needs any advantage he can get and I can provide that.”
She was his wild card. No one outside of his Triad and First Circle knew what she was. None knew she was a Dreamweaver and he had kept her race hidden from as many people as possible for just this kind of thing. Though she knew the primary reason was her own safety because of the laws that were still in effect regarding her kind, but that wasn’t the only reason. He had done it also because if she was ever needed as a last ditch effort, the surprise of her would be enough to cripple any enemy. She didn’t blame him for it, wasn’t upset at all. In fact she had agreed with his reasoning because to the Worlds the only known living Dreamweavers were the one employed at Riverbank and the child of that Dreamweaver. No one would ever see her coming.
“I will never make you do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing, Tee,” he said, hands cupped around the mug of hot coffee resting on the table in front of him, orange-amber eyes pensive as he stared into the swirling light brown liquid. “You do know that right?”
“Yes, Rhys, I know that.” There wasn’t any other reply she could give really besides that.
“So what I’m going to ask you to do when it comes time for me to kill my father… it’s… it’s not going to be easy. And you have every right to say ‘no’, but I still need to ask.”
She didn’t even hesitate. “Ask me.”
Adïmshyl made a soft sound as he ducked his head and nuzzled his nose against her cheek. Such a clear show of public affection was something he only did when he needed it to ground him or when those that were nearby to see it happen were those he trusted. She didn’t miss the swallowed sound of surprise that Xheshmaryú made no doubt recognizing what Adïmshyl was doing and what it meant. But neither she nor the Other said anything. Best not to jinx it.
“I’m worried, Tee,” Adïmshyl murmured after a few moments of nuzzling her face and the side of her neck, scenting her and marking her with his own.
It was a trait that separated the Lupherinre race from their Demonic cousins, a trait that made the other Demon races view them as more Shiftkin than Demon and ostracize them for it. It was also something they did when their mates were due to join them in battle, when there was a chance of capture and forced change of matehood. She’d always hated that terminology. It’s really just a nicer way of saying that their captured mate could be raped as a way to torture them both. Supposedly, according to the Lupherinre race, no one with the ability to scent a mating bond would dare try to take someone who was freshly scent marked. She personally didn’t believe it would work but some things were ingrained so deeply that logic stood no chance of budging them.
He must think that if Anislanzir captures me that he’ll rape me, so he’s trying to prevent it. She thought and her heart broke a little as she turned wide eyes to him. When he didn’t meet her gaze, she bumped her shoulder against his to make him raise those green eyes she loved so much to look at her.
“Babe, I’ll be fine,” she squeezed his hand and her smile widened when his lips twitched. “I wouldn’t do this if I was truly going to be in any danger or if it wasn’t worth the risk.”
“I know,” he grumbled, still not sounding happy about it and she couldn’t really blame him. “But this is the first time you’ve done this since you were a kid… it’s the first time you’ve done this in front of so many people and not all of whom you can trust. You’re still a ‘Weaver, Tee. You’re still a race that is under orders from on high to be killed on sight,” he shook his head and looked away from her, his voice barely above a whisper, telling her that this concern was the main one that had him scenting her so publicly.
She shook her head, smile wavering at the edges slightly, and turned to face him fully, grabbing up his other hand as she did so, causing her mate to look back at her with wide eyes. She was keenly aware of the way Xheshmaryú watched them without being obvious about it but she didn’t care. She would have said this in front of Rhyshladlyn and what the Qishir knew, his Others also knew. So there was no point trying to hide something the male would know eventually anyway.
“Adïmshyl, I am doing this because our Qishir is out of options and if Azriel dies? We will all die. Because Rhys is not just a Qishir, he is a Greywalker with Ancient blood in him and that means that he risks going nova if his control is lost,” she paused with a sigh and looked back to where Rhyshladlyn stood facing off to the east, following his line of sight until she saw Shadiranamen standing with Bayls, Chebnir, Jylen, and Yrei. “And if my powers can be used to help save the love of his life? To save us all? Then, no matter the risk to my own life, I will use them…” she trailed off, eyes falling closed against the memory her words had brought to the forefront.
“Because the gods gave you a second chance with me,” Adïmshyl finished for her.
“Yes, and I swore I would earn that second chance,” she nodded, eyes opening to take in the tensed body of her Qishir, remembering against her will the last time she’d agreed to use her abilities in such a manner. Remembering the spectacular way the endeavor had failed.
Xheshmaryú cleared his throat just as a war howl thundered across the Desert and made her and Adïmshyl jump.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your moment,” the Nochresi muttered, turning an apologetic look towards them as he waved his hand towards the City, “but I believe that’s our cue.”
Thae’a nodded, hands coming up to cup her mate’s face. “I will be back, ‘Dïm, you know that, don’t you?”
“You aren’t going into the City?” he asked by way of answering.
She shook her head. “Not until you are at my side.”
“Okay.” The unspoken please don’t make me bury you was loud enough that even Xheshmaryú had heard it judging by the way he flinched. And the Other’s reaction coupled with Adïmshyl’s unspoken plea brought that memory surging to the surface before she could fight it back into its special box.
The Currents bellowed around her as she moved her hands in time to her Song, as she Called up her power and Weaved a Web of half lies and possible truths around a rail thin neodrach who knelt before her, head bowed, black hair falling forward to shadow the sharply angled face that even thin from weeks of starvation and haunted with several failed attempts at self-murder didn’t hide the regal bearing from whence ey hailed.
“Do you understand the risks this has? You could get caught in this reality. You could die. You could fail to come out in one piece,” she warned. But even if the neodrach revoked eir consent it was too late for her to undo the Weave. It was one breath away from completion. But she still had to ask, still had to give that warning one last time, even if it really didn’t matter. “Are you certain this is what you want to do?”
“Yes,” came the broken sob of a response and her heart broke all over again as that head tilted up and crimson eyes full of sorrow and regret bore into her own. “Please, I accept the risks. I accept the dangers and I absolve you of any blame should things go wrong. Just please…I need this moment, I need to do it differently. I need to make it right.”
“As you wish,” and with that she let the Weaving snap into place.
She watched as those crimson eyes went pale and wide before a scream ripped from eir throat. Watched as the Weaving took shape around em. Watched as the neodrach before her looked into the eyes of a fledgling who was screaming for his father, watched as ey laughed, and severed the child’s head from his shoulders with one swipe of eir hand, eir magick the unseen blade that cut through skin, muscle, ligaments, tendons, and bone. Watched as those crimson eyes flitted up to someone unseen in the distance as a wail shook the air.
She watched as the neodrach screamed and screamed, watched as the same scene flickered over and over, replaying with no change. And part of her realized belatedly that she should have gotten a name for the neodrach, should have checked the Webs to determine Fate’s plan for em, and let em know that some events can’t be changed. Even in the Woven World of a Dreamweaver’s own making. But it was too late now.
“Remember,” Xheshmaryú said as he walked up to them, pulling her from the memory with a start, “I’ll return within 10 minutes of her starting to collect you and bring you to the City. Once it’s done, I’ll get you both inside.”
“Got it,” Adïmshyl replied without taking his eyes off her, the look on his face telling her that he knew the memory she had fallen into. But he didn’t say anything, didn’t offer platitudes, didn’t ask her if she was okay. She wasn’t, he knew that as well as she did, and platitudes never worked. So instead, his hands came up and pressed over hers where they still cupped his face before he leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. “Be safe, my love.”
“Always,” she kissed him once more for luck before she let him go and his hands fell away from hers. Turning to face Xheshmaryú who held out a hand to her, she took a deep breath and let her control on her Dreamweaver side go. As it rose to the surface and the glamour on her mark fell away, she opened her eyes and took the Other’s hand. “Alright, let’s do this.”
“As the Lady wishes.”
And then the World tilted on its axis as Xheshmaryú blinked her to the wall Rhyshladlyn was aiming for, the Qishir still half a league behind them. As they landed she felt proud of herself for not having to fight back to the urge to vomit. Guess I’m getting used to that kind of traveling. The few soldiers and warriors that were in the area that caught sight of her face, of her marking, and knew what she was let out sounds of surprise and gave her a wide berth but none attacked her though that was probably more because everyone knew who and what Xheshmaryú was and he had engaged what had to be the best resting bitch face she’d ever seen.
She didn’t hate the fearful reactions, the way they ran from her, in fact she was grateful for them. Because this was the first time she would be Weaving to this degree in centuries and failure wasn’t an option. But she was rusty and Shiran City was enormous with several million residents, many of which were powerful enough that she may not be able to convince their minds that what they were seeing was real long enough for Rhyshladlyn to get to Azriel and get him out. She also didn’t know for certain that her Weaving wouldn’t lash out at anyone nearby and suck them into it against her will.
But regardless of all the ways this could go horribly, she would still try. Not just to keep the Weaving contained to anyone within the City walls but to keep everyone nearby safe from its effects.
“All he asks is that you try, Thae’a,” Shadiranamen conveyed for Rhyshladlyn who spoke over the distance that separated them through his link to his Others.
She couldn’t deny the apprehension that filled her, couldn’t deny the way she instinctively wanted to say “no” because the risk was too great. Sure, creating a Weave that made it difficult for anyone within it to trust that what they saw was real or not was one thing. But convincing an entire City that what they saw was real, that what they smelled, tasted, heard, and felt was real? That was something all together different. That was something far more complicated. It was risky on a level she wasn’t sure was worth it.
It was something she didn’t think she could do without having it go horribly, horribly wrong.
“How long does he need me to hold it for? And make sure he knows that I have not Weaved to that degree since I… since I was very young.”
Shadiranamen’s face went blank for but a moment as she listened to the Qishir’s response before she responded, voice taking on a hint of Rhyshladlyn’s inflection and intonation.
“I understand, Tee, but I still need you to try. If that bastard can’t figure out which obelisk is the one he needs, it will buy me precious time that right now I simply do not have. As for how long I’ll need you to hold it… I can’t say. But once it’s started, I will do my best to keep it to under an hour to find Azriel and get him out. Once I have him, you can release it.”
Thae’a looked at Adïmshyl who stared right back, face an unreadable mask to anyone who didn’t know what to look for, who didn’t know him. But to her? His expression spoke volumes. He was worried for her but he believed that it was a risk worth taking, that it was something she had to try to do, because the alternative wasn’t an option. But if she said no he would understand and he would support her, like he always had.
“I’ll do it. Just let me know when.”
Shadiranamen nodded, listened for a few more minutes, and her face cleared as she quieted the connection between herself and her kè.
“Nully is joining Rhys and I am taking his place with Bayls and the Healers. Xhesh will deliver you to the wall so that you can begin as Rhys breaches the City. Ten minutes into you Weaving, Xhesh come back to get Adïmshyl and then get you both into the City. Everything else will follow as planned.”
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, took a step forward and pressed her hands to the glowing walls, feeling them humming beneath her like a purring cat.
“Hello, Shiran,” she greeted, smiling despite her anxiety when the City cooed back at her. “I need to Weave within your walls, if I may?”
It seemed to take forever to get a response but just as Rhyshladlyn leapt into the air behind her, Shiran gave its consent. Once the Qishir was through the warding, the wall beneath her hands glowed blindingly bright as the City cried one short, deafening note of elation before the glow went back to its normal brightness and that cry faded on the winds.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, she prayed that the Weaving she had in mind wouldn’t meet the magick of the City and get altered, that it wouldn’t meet his magick and get altered. Because Weaving wasn’t an exact Working. The only real control a Dreamweaver had over the act was building the foundation of the reality they were creating. Once it encountered the Self and magick of the Dreamweaver’s intended target, or targets as it were? It altered to better fit that target. If the reality was an attempt to rewrite a memory, such as with the neodrach from her past, and the event of that memory was one stone-set by Fate? The Weaving would blow apart.
But this wasn’t an attempt to rewrite a memory, to Heal an old wound, or to change an event that hadn’t come to pass yet. No, this was an attempt to level the playing field in a way the Lord King of the Sinner Demons would never see coming.
Here we go, Rhys. Good luck and make that bastard suffer, you hear me?
With that thought and one last prayer, she lifted her hands off the wall and began to Weave for the firs time in six hundred years.