She had no idea how she made it out of the City before everything went to shit.
Couldn’t say what had gone wrong besides that Azriel had jerked in her hold as they’d run down the hallway. That suddenly they were falling, his grip on her shoulders iron strong. That she barely avoided being impaled on the sword that stuck out of his chest when he landed on his back and dragged her down with him. That she had scrambled off him, finding him staring at her with eyes full of shock, blood spilling too fast for her to stop from the wound in his chest. That she knew that the black blade had pierced his heart just by how dark the blood that dripped down around it was. That she had screamed his name, had turned when Rhyshladlyn wailed.
She couldn’t say really what had happened after she realized that her Qishir’s Companion was dead and that said Qishir was the gods only knew how long from going nova, from killing them all, from dying himself. She vaguely remembered shaking him but wasn’t able to say if that had really happened or not. Because the next she knew, she was out of the Temple with no idea how she’d gotten there. Then she was halfway across the City, aiming for the main gate, hoping that she would make it. Thinking that if the blast of Rhyshladlyn’s out of control power struck out before she’d cleared the area, that she stood a better chance with even a sliver of distance between herself and the epicenter.
Never mind that she had to warn the City guard, had to get them to sound the alarms, to alert Shiran’s citizens of the danger. It likely wouldn’t work, but she still had to try.
The gates loomed ahead of her faster than she was expecting, the guards that stood at the parapets on either side calling down to her but she couldn’t hear them over the blood rushing in her ears, over the thundering of her heartbeat. She didn’t stop running because she was too afraid that if she did, she’d die just like Azriel had. Even if the fear was unfounded, irrational even, it didn’t stop it from effecting her.
Especially given that the blade that had killed Azriel had belonged to Rhyshladlyn.
“Open the gates! Sound the alarms!” she screamed up at the guards, throwing her power behind it so her voice carried easily across the distance. “Companion Azriel is dead. Qishir Rhyshladlyn is going nova! Get everyone out of the City now!”
To their credit, the guards didn’t question her, didn’t hesitate. One spun away to engage the mechanisms to open the five hundred foot tall, three hundred foot wide gates as the other rang the alarms.
Just as that bone-chilling sound pierced the air, Rhyshladlyn’s rage, loss, grief, and pain blew past and around her, leaving a hopelessness in its wake so profound that for a moment she found herself emphatically wishing she were dead. Following quickly on the heels of that power blast and the emotions it carried came a guilt that stole her breath and made her stumble to a stop, hands pressed to her chest as though that would ease the ache that had built there. As though that would stop the thoughts of this is my fault, if it weren’t for me, Azriel would still be alive. Thoughts she knew held no truth, knew were ridiculous. She had had no part in Azriel’s death besides acting as a witness.
So as those alarms continued to shriek all around her, as the sounds of the City’s residents gathering to escape the City at designated points rose to mix with them, she shook her head and took off for the gates again. The gates that were now open wide with Adïmshyl standing in their center, green eyes glowing brighter than the sun, power curling in wispy tendrils of green light around his legs and up his arms from his fists. His berserker was a looming, shadowy afterimage that stood behind him looking over his shoulder and she realized belatedly that he must think she was hurt because she had Azriel’s blood all over her.
And the thought that the last of the Anglëtinean’s life covered her made her sick but she brushed it aside. She’d deal with that later.
“It’s not mine! It’s Azriel’s!” she yelled over the alarms as she got closer. His expression went blank before he frowned and turned his attention behind her as though looking for the Anglëtinean, as though looking for Rhyshladlyn. When his attention fell back to her she shook her head slowly, letting the tears fall. She was nearly free. She was nearly safe.
Though if Rhyshladlyn was going to go nova, nowhere in Fènwa was safe. But some nagging sense brushed against her heart, told her that the only place that wouldn’t be safe was within Shiran’s walls. That anyone outside of those walls would be safe.
Did you know this would happen, too? Is this part of what you Knew when we made the plan for the final fight with Anislanzir? she wondered, recalling what Rhyshladlyn had yelled just before Azriel had been hit. Did you know the Weaving would reset itself, that what happened here was Fated? Is that how you Knew it would happen? A part of her felt lied to, betrayed almost; felt as though the Qishir should have been able to trust her with this. But she knew better, really. After what had happened six hundred years ago, after how her own mother had barely stepped in in time to save who she now knew was the Eighth Qishir, she knew that Fated events couldn’t be discussed with anyone. That often times, not even those involved knew what was going to happen. And that Rhyshladlyn had known about it to some degree? Meant that the gods had broken protocol in some form and that there had been severe restrictions placed on Them regarding what They had been able to tell the Qishir and what he was able to share with anyone else.
So while she wanted to blame him, she truly couldn’t. Not if she was being fair.
She was less than a block away from the gates when Adïmshyl turned and called to the army gathered behind him, gesturing with both hands. Whatever it was he said got them moving away from the City at double the speed they’d approached it with. As he turned back to face her, she reached him, throwing her body against his, feeling his arms encircle her firmly as she wrapped hers around his neck, feeling him bury his face against her shoulder.
“Azriel’s dead…” she sobbed against him, feeling her body shake as he stepped backwards and out of the way of the gates so that the first wave of Shiranites evacuating the City didn’t crush them. “He… one of Rhys’ blades killed him… b-but I don’t think that… that it was done on purpose.”
“Wait.. Veratone is what?” Adïmshyl pulled back from her, hands gripping her shoulders as he held her at arm’s length, eyes wide. “Is he truly…” His voice trailed off into silence, unable to ask the question for fear of jinxing it. Lupherinre were such incredibly suspicious things, not that she really blamed him for it this time.
But she had seen Azriel’s wound, had watched the light die from his eyes, had been right there as a god had knelt down and touched Azriel’s head, smoothed its hand down over his face to close his eyes before turning and walking towards Rhyshladlyn. So no matter how much she wished that there was hope that Azriel wasn’t dead, she knew better.
“He’s dead, ‘Dïm,” she confirmed, meeting her mate’s eyes steadily.
She felt her heart break even more as she watched grief twist across his face before he shut down, before a mask of stone slipped into place. She knew inside he was raging and breaking apart, but he wouldn’t cry until they were alone, until Azriel’s body had been put through the proper rituals and a burial had been arranged and performed.
Provided there was a body to find when Rhyshladlyn was calm again. Provided any of them were even still alive once the Qishir was calm again
“We need to get back to camp and to Ka’ahne’s twin and to Greymend,” Adïmshyl rubbed a hand over his face and let out a long, shaky breath. “They will likely be nearly as badly effected by the loss as Ka’ahne is and right now no one can get to the Qishir.”
“And if we can stabilize his Others and Steward, maybe we can also stabilize him,” she added, feeling a spark of hope return when he nodded.
Together they turned and followed along the City wall until they were more in line with the sand dune that Bayls, Shadiranamen, and the Healers had stood on before Rhyshladlyn had breached the City only a handful of hours before. When none of them could be seen on the dune, she shared a look with her mate who jerked his head towards the camp. As one, she and Adïmshyl broke due north aiming straight for the war camp instead.
They were two leagues away when there was a sound like mountains crumbling before screams erupted as the ground shook violently, bringing both her and Adïmshyl to their knees in the undulating sands. A fierce wind buffeted them, bringing with it the stench of rotting flesh, burning hair, and plumes of sand. Adïmshyl pressed himself against her back, using his larger build as a shield against that wind. When it settled, she pushed one of his arms up and off her, ignoring his protests as she did so.
She turned around just in time to watch as Shiran City sank beneath the sands.