106

Thae’a watched as Adïmshyl and Bayls ran for the City wall, watched as Nhulynolyn bounced against Adïmshyl’s back as her mate ran.

She watched and she waited until they were out of sight. Waited until she couldn’t sense Adïmshyl anymore. Waited until the scent of Nhulynolyn’s blood wasn’t as noticeable. Waited until she couldn’t feel Bayls’ worry and fear like a wet towel draped around her shoulders.

She waited until Shiran thrummed against the Weave that had settled over it, telling her they were out, telling her that they were safe. She closed her eyes as guilt rose into her throat, as it formed a lump that she swallowed convulsively around but couldn’t dislodge, before she turned and took off in the direction Bayls had flown from. Feeling like she was betraying them as she ran towards the danger, towards the Hounds and Rhyshladlyn, towards the Temple because she knew what they didn’t and she had said nothing.

She hadn’t lied when she’d said she didn’t know what went wrong, didn’t understand why the City had mixed with the forest that Rhyshladlyn had shown her, had described to her, as what he’d wanted her to do for the Weaving. But she had left some pieces out and she felt horrible for it. It wasn’t an outright lie, but it was still a lie by omission. Though she told herself it was okay because Bayls and Nhulynolyn hadn’t asked the right questions. Told herself it was okay because their Qishir had all but Oathed her to secrecy. Told herself it was okay that she knew what they didn’t because Rhyshladlyn took a gamble that Dreamweavers existed outside of Fate’s awareness and thus her knowing anything wouldn’t negatively impact what was supposed to happen.

Regardless of what she told herself, though, it still felt wrong — it was wrong — and like she had betrayed her friends, the people that she had come to view as family. And the guilt of that was something she didn’t doubt she’d carry to her grave.

But what got her the most was that she had played ignorant to Nhulynolyn about the Hounds. Because that had been something Rhyshladlyn had warned her about; he had told her that his father had bred the bastard things but he wasn’t sure if the Lord King had kept them or not. So when she’d seen Nhulynolyn’s reactions, when she’d heard the terror and shock in his voice, had seen mirrored on his face, she had kept her mouth shut. She’d judged by their reactions that Rhyshladlyn hadn’t told anyone else besides her and so she had acted as though she was just as confused and ignorant as they were.

“So what is your main plan with this, Rhys?” she asked, leaning against the edge of the island counter, watching as the Qishir moved around the kitchen gathering stuff for tea and coffee, looking nothing like the battle-hardened, gore-covered warrior she was used to seeing. It was strangely domestic, comforting even, to see him dressed in a loose cotton shirt and pants, shuffling barefoot around the kitchen of his cabin. 

“Well, I’m going to be scaling the wall close to the back door I showed Thayne months ago, but that will probably change because knowing my father, he will try and kill Azriel,” Rhyshladlyn shrugged and turned with a mug of tea for her and a mug of coffee for him. Setting both on the island he left the kitchen and disappeared down the hallway, calling out to her as he did. “If Anislanzir does go that route rather than use Azriel as bait, then he’ll go to the Temple, so my course will be altered to head there instead of the Palace.” 

She hummed and took a sip of tea before a thought occurred to her and she frowned. “How do you know Anislanzir will get his hands on Azriel?” 

Rhyshladlyn walked back into the kitchen carrying a rolled up piece of leather, eyes nearly as dark as the shadows that swirled in the hallway behind him. 

Seeing the look on his face, the way the hope that had shown on it when she’d arrived earlier slowly died, she gave him an apologetic half smile and ducked her head as she lifted her mug to her lips again. 

“I just know,” he said at length as he set that rolled up leather down on the island, spreading it out to reveal a map of Shiran City painted on it, “I can’t tell you how or even why, but trust me when I say that I do.” 

As she followed the pulsing of the magickal marker she had placed on Rhyshladlyn, as the noises of fighting became louder, she dispelled the Weaving for her eyes only so it was easier to follow the memory of that map in her mind’s eye. If she was remembering the layout of the City correctly, the Qishir had very nearly made it to the Great Temple when the Hounds had attacked him. It was impressive how quickly he covered ground. 

With each block she put behind her, the more intense the fear that urged her to run became, the louder her instincts railed against her refusal to turn around. She ignored that urging because she had a job to do and she would see it through to the end. Rhyshladlyn was counting on her and there was no one else who could do it. There was no other chance for things to end well for any of them should she give up now.

Rounding a corner she found herself looking at a bridge that crossed a large moat, the rushing of what had to be the Sparkling River nearly drowned out by the sounds of fighting interspersed with the yipped laughter of children and the mournful cries of childless parents. I must have gotten a street of two ahead of them. Turning to the southwest she went three blocks over and found Rhyshladlyn surrounded by what had to be the Hounds that Nhulynolyn had mentioned.

And for a few moments she was struck numb by the fearsome creatures, by the elongated fingers and finger-toes that swiped at the Qishir, by the too many teeth that shouldn’t have fit in mouths that were far more humanoid than the rest of their bodies; was left paralyzed by the way tongues black with rot sliced open Rhyshladlyn’s unprotected skin wherever they made contact, sending the Qishir to hissing as his skin bubbled and smoked before his magick burned through the acidic saliva. Knew that she would have nightmares of bodies that were like overly large, walking corpses that moved on all fours, sleek smooth skin grey and white in places, torn to show snow-white bones and muscles that had atrophied long ago but somehow still worked. Knew that their long necks and upside-down, nose-less faces would haunt her just as much as their sounds did.

But while the Hounds terrified her and left her unable to move, what left her speechless was the beauty that Rhyshladlyn possessed as he wielded his swords, wings, magick, and body with deadly precision. Even when one of his swords was knocked from his hand he simply grabbed the Hound that had knocked it aside and used the great beast as a club to attack its fellows. The expressions the Hounds bore at the sight of one of their own being wielded against them would have been comical if the situation weren’t so dire. Even when another bone snapped as it broke under a blow, even when another gash spread red and angry along bare skin, he didn’t falter. Even dealing with wounds that bled more than they should, as though his blood wasn’t clotting, even with his broken right ankle slowly him down ever so slightly, even with the long tears in his left wings, he kept fighting. Even faced with certain death, even faced off against a creature designed to kill simply by instilling abject terror in its intended victims, Rhyshladlyn didn’t give up, didn’t falter. It was never more clear to her than in that moment that he would fight until every last enemy was felled or he himself was unable to get back up.

“One day you will find someone who will be worth following, my little Thae’a. When that day comes, it will feel like you haven’t seen beauty quite like that before, like you didn’t know what hope was like until you heard them laugh, like you hadn’t heard a melody quite so soothing until they spoke. With them, you will find peace.” 

“Am I destined to be qahllyn to a Qishir like you are, Mama?” 

Chestnut brown eyes were kind, not a trace of condescension in them when they glanced at her. “Destined?” she parroted and chuckled when Thae’a nodded. “I wouldn’t say destined. Fated would be more accurate. But we will talk on that more when you are older.” 

Her mother had been right in a sense. Seeing Rhyshladlyn fight the Hounds? That made her realize that perhaps what her Mama had said all those years ago had been more Truth than the half- Truth one often told wild-eyed, too curious for their own good little girls. That it hadn’t just been meant to instill a sense of adventure and hope where it otherwise wouldn’t have been, but to give her a heads up to something more.

Taking a deep breath, eyes falling closed on the scene that was straight out of an Old Story, she let out that breath slowly and carefully, flicking her fingers to alter the Weave in that section of street around the Hounds.

“If my father kept the Hounds, you’ll need to get everyone else besides you and I out of the City. I don’t care how you do it, but do it regardless. I’ll hold the Hounds off long enough for you to get to me and lock them in a secondary Weave and distract them so we can get away.”

When Rhyshladlyn’s huffing breath was the only noise in the thick quiet, she opened her eyes and found orange-amber ones staring at her. She raised an eyebrow and he stepped away from the frozen lot of Hounds, kicking the gutted corpse of one that had been curled near his feet out of his way. Once he was clear she snapped her fingers on one hand and a mimicry of the Qishir stood where the real one had. Once she was sure it matched every wound and bruise and movement of the real one, Thae’a released her hold on it and the Hounds. The false-Rhyshladlyn ran down the street in the opposite direction of the Temple and the Hounds gave chase after it. Dropping her hands she looked at the real Rhyshladlyn who pulled his impressed gaze from the secondary Weaving and looked back at her.

His crooked grin was all false bravado but she didn’t call him on it. She had no right to judge how he acted in the wake of dealing with things that shouldn’t exist in the Worlds. Things that even nightmares had nightmares of.

“I was wondering what held you up,” Rhyshladlyn commented as he slipped his toes beneath Beannacht where it had been tossed earlier and kicked. She watched with awe as the blade flipped into the air, blood and other bits flying off it as the Qishir casually stepped beneath it, positioned perfectly so it slid into its sheath smoothly. The crooked smug grin he shot her proved that he knew he was showing off and didn’t care.

Again she let him do it, even gave him a bemused smirk in return though she knew it didn’t reach her eyes. Because where his twin was known to joke and make sexual innuendos that were more guarantees than hinted at promises, Rhyshladlyn was known to smugly show off with a bravado that fooled no one. It was just how they handled recovering from something that threatened to break them beyond repair. It grounded them and she didn’t begrudge them it one bit.

“Well, we ran into Bayls and Nully and that delayed me quite a bit,” she replied with a shrug as Rhyshladlyn sheathed Mallacht and checked to make sure he didn’t have any speck of Hound blood or saliva on him. “I was rather shocked to see Bayls. I thought she was to stay outside the City?”

Rhyshladlyn hummed and brushed his hands on his pants before he toed at the dead Hound that he’d kicked before when its weight settled, making it look like it had taken a breath. When it didn’t move, the Qishir relaxed marginally.

“Yeah, she was supposed to. Gods only know why she didn’t, but whatever. It worked out better than I’d hoped,” the Qishir replied. “Nully would have likely died if she hadn’t shown up, so for once I’m glad someone didn’t listen to my orders.”

“Nully just about punched me, he thought had made the Hounds as part of the Weaving. I’m not sure if he believed me when I said I didn’t; though that was the only thing I hadn’t lied about,” she glanced past him down the street to make sure the Hounds hadn’t returned. “I also cannot speak to whether ‘Dïm or Bay believed me either.”

“Are they at least out of the City?” Rhyshladlyn asked as he absently worked on setting the bones in his ankle, the crunching of the action making her wince in sympathy even if the Qishir didn’t even flinch. “And of course my twin thought you’d made the Hounds; I was the only one besides my father who knew the sick fuck was even breeding them.”

“Yes, they are free and clear.” Oh well that answers one of my numerous questions. 

“Good,” he rolled his shoulders before glancing over them at the tears in his left wings. Huffing in annoyance, he curled them around his shoulder so he could use what minimal Healing abilities he possessed to at the very least close the tears. “What did you tell them to get them to leave you behind?”

“I didn’t have to come up with anything. Nully passed out and Bay wasn’t able to hold his weight. So my mate picked your twin up and decided on his own to carry Nully out and escort him back to camp after making sure Bay returned to her position with Shadi and the Healers.”

Rhyshladlyn snorted, shaking his head as he flapped those wings to test his Healing. With a satisfied nod he turned his attention to the still bleeding cuts on his chest and sides, asking with the absentminded tone of one who is distracted by more pressing things than the conversation, “So they left you behind to join me and figure out what went fucked with the Weaving?”

“Basically,” she rubbed at her lips with the pads of her fingers, a nervous gesture and habit, desperately wanting to bite her nails but knowing better than to do so. “I told Nully I couldn’t end the Weaving. Told them all that if it was creating things that I didn’t Sing into the foundation, that it had broken from my control. But that it would end at the designed stop point I placed in; that it would dissolve on its own once you had Azriel safely out of the City.”

“And they bought that?” Rhyshladlyn asked, both eyebrows raised. “I’d think they’d have made you go with them.”

“I think they didn’t make me leave as well because I made it seem like I could try and get the Hounds off you somehow, though I didn’t give specifics except to Bay. Her I told I could try and make a secondary Weaving to save you from the Hounds,” she shrugged with faked nonchalance, that lump of guilt in her throat expanding and making it impossible to speak any further. Seeing her reaction Rhyshladlyn frowned, a look of remorse passing across his face as he walked over to her, one hand coming up to touch her shoulder.

“I know you don’t like it, Tee, and I’m sorry.”

“No, you don’t need to be sorry, Rhys,” she shook her head, one hand coming up to pat his where it still curled around her shoulder, the weight grounding in a way she hadn’t expected it to be. “You gave me a way out, you told me what this would entail, what I would have to do. You gave me every chance to say no and I didn’t. If I’m feeling guilty or upset? That’s on me, not you. I had a choice and I made it.”

He frowned but didn’t argue with her any further for which she was grateful. It was bad enough that she had the sinking feeling that no matter how well planned out this was, no matter how much was working in their favor, she felt like they were going to fail. That no matter what they tried, they wouldn’t succeed. It was made all the worse by the fact that she was nearly certain that Rhyshladlyn not only felt it, too, but that whatever else was going on, whatever was setting off that feeling of foreboding in her chest, he wasn’t doing anything to counter it. And his lack of action was disturbing on a level she didn’t know how to handle.

But she didn’t say any that. Didn’t dare speak it aloud and give it more strength than whatever it already had. She just prayed to any and all gods that were listening as she followed alongside Rhyshladlyn as he took off at a brisk jog for the Temple that rose from the open square just on the other side of that rushing river that just this once her instincts were wrong.

Prayed that the ache in her chest wasn’t a warning all on its own.

Prayed as they crossed that bridge and swiftly approached the main doors of the Temple that all their planning would keep them safe, that they would all get back out of this City alive.

Prayed as Rhyshladlyn flicked the fingers of his right hand at the Temple doors, making them fly open ahead of his arrival, that they would make it in ti–

snap

He frowned but didn’t argue with her any further for which she was grateful. It was bad enough that she had the sinking feeling that no matter how well planned out this was, no matter how much was working in their favor, she felt like they were going to fail. That no matter what they tried, they wouldn’t succeed. It was made all the worse by the fact that she was nearly certain that Rhyshladlyn not only felt it, too, but that whatever else was going on, whatever was setting off that feeling of foreboding in her chest, he wasn’t doing anything to counter it. And his lack of action was disturbing on a level she didn’t know how to handle.

But she didn’t say any that. Didn’t dare speak it aloud and give it more strength than whatever it already had. She just prayed to any and all gods that were listening as she followed alongside Rhyshladlyn as he took off at a brisk jog for the Temple that rose from the open square just on the other side of that rushing river that just this once her instincts were wrong.

Prayed that the ache in her chest wasn’t a warning all on its own.

Prayed as they crossed that bridge and swiftly approached the main doors of the Temple that all their planning would keep them safe, that they would all get back out of this City alive.

Prayed as Rhyshladlyn flicked the fingers of his right hand at the Temple doors, making them fly open ahead of his arrival, that they would make it in time.

She followed him blindly through the Temple, trusting that he would know the way, trusting that if there was any danger ahead of them that he would cut it down before it even got close enough to be an issue. Her only job now was to get Azriel out of here, to get him out of the City, to get him to safety.

When they rounded a corner and she saw the bloodied, destroyed form of the Anglëtinean held up by two warriors, she felt bile rise hard and swift in her throat. Felt that ache in her chest grow until it was nearly a blind pain that stole her breath. But she didn’t stop running towards her Qishir’s Companion. Didn’t miss a step when Rhyshladlyn snapped his fingers and both warriors crumbled to the stone floor, Azriel falling to his knees between their now lifeless bodies. She only slowed when Rhyshladlyn stopped long enough to touch Azriel and pulse power through the direct touch to him.

“He’ll be able to move on his own so long as you help him,” Rhyshladlyn tossed over his shoulder at her.

If she had anything to say in response to that, it didn’t matter because Rhyshladlyn was already at Anislanzir who stood in front of an open doorway, gold eyes full of a fearsome fury that made her instincts scream all the louder. The Qishir and Lord King collided with a sound like mountains crumbling. But she ignored them, ignored the bile that made her throat burn, ignored the way her lungs felt too small, ignored the way her instincts were yelling all the louder wrong, run, just run.

She ignored all of that and instead focused on closing the distance between her and Azriel. Focused on swinging around him and dropping to her knees in the sticky, steaming blood that had pooled around him. Focused on her mission of getting him the fuck out of there. But as she lifted her hands to touch his face, her hands stopped halfway through the motion as a broken sob fell past her lips before she could stop it. Because there wasn’t a single inch of his face that seemed safe to touch, that wasn’t a wound half healed, brand new, or freshly scabbed.

Shaking herself, she did the only thing she could do if she couldn’t touch him: she called up her power, reached out and smacked at the shadows that had begun to circle his mind, blew away the spicy smell of desert wildflowers, and all but yelled, “Azriel, wake up. I need you to wake up! We have to go.”

His eyelids fluttered but didn’t open right away so she repeated her words again, louder, with greater force, and this time his eyes did open.

And she almost wished they hadn’t because when his gaze cleared and settled on her, a hopelessness far stronger than anything she had ever felt settled against her like a second skin.

“Promise me that no matter what happens, no matter what you feel, you will do everything you can to try and get him out of there, Tee,” Rhyshladlyn begged and that was what caught her attention the most. The Qishir didn’t beg. 

She nodded, “You have my solemn word, my Qishir.” 

The relief that spread on his face shouldn’t have made her feel so sick to her stomach. 

 

9 thoughts on “106

  1. Holy fucking shit!

    I’m just… holy fucking shit! When they finally get to Azriel and the unmale, the scene takes your breath away. I screamed; it woke up the dog again. Holy fucking shit. I need Anislanzir to die quickly AND painfully.

    I thought I was ready for this entry, but I was so not ready. Well done, my friend. Well done. But again holy fucking shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man. You’re always waking your dog. The poor thing…

      And now I feel bad that 108 won’t be posted for a few days. Cuz if this one got that reaction 107 will have you tossing your phone at my face.

      I can’t wait.

      Like

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