He’d known something was wrong long before Alaïs’ shout rang out from the hospital tent.
Known something horrible had happened long before her wail, so similar to the one Rhyshladlyn had loosed only a couple months ago when Anis had died, had rung out and smacked against the Currents like ice breaking under fist.
Known before Rhyshladlyn’s own had followed on its heels and stole all the oxygen in the air around him.
Known that whatever it was was going to devastate him even before the loss and grief hit him full force, making him stumble sideways into a support pole at the entrance to the hospital tent with a choked cry as the coin his g’möhyt had given him grew uncomfortably warm in his pocket.
Known that his life had changed irrevocably even before he felt the cacophonous Silence slip into the place where Azriel’s qahllyn had been.
He had known as Jaro caught him when he fell towards the sands, had known as the tears had hit his cheeks, had known as the sobs fell from his mouth like they were ripped from him that Azriel was gone and that he would likely be losing Rhyshladlyn right along with him.
No one had had to tell him what had happened. He knew and he hated it.
But what he hadn’t known was that he would end up standing balanced precariously on top of the spire that extended up from the hospital tent while the Healer’s crest flag flapped erratically below him. Hadn’t known that he would watch as what he could only assume was a Weaving within the walls of Shiran City snapped with enough force that even from this distance he could see the walls bow outwards, threatening to break. Hadn’t known that he would watch as Shiranites and Thayne’s army scrambled to escape the City and the area respectively, running quite literally for their lives.
Alaïs screamed up at him to get down, to come with her to catch a Line and get out of Fènwa World before everything went to shit. But he ignored her. Ignored her and Jaro both. He had no desire to leave Fènwa, not if Azriel and Rhyshladlyn would be dying here. Not when he knew that even if they had left as soon as that first trickle of wrong had hit their awareness that they’d have never made it out of the fallout zone in time. Rhyshladlyn was at least twice as powerful as Amèl had been and that was as a half-Ancient and Amèl had easily leveled Majik World. There was no telling what Rhyshladlyn would do if he went nova.
The least he could do was stand and bear witness to it.
“Relyt!” Alaïs called up to him again, her voice taking on the tone of regency that usually would make him bend to her demands but he couldn’t this time. Her orders would go ignored, her pleas as well. He was too busy trying to reach out across his meager connection to his Qishir, to get him to not give up, to let him in. Felt Nhulynolyn and the rests’ consciousnesses crowding the space beneath, trying to do the very same thing he was. His hope died completely when Rhyshladlyn threw up Shields and blocked them out completely. But he also didn’t blame him.
He’d felt only an echo of Azriel’s death, but Rhyshladlyn had felt it firsthand. And the Qishir’s death? Relyt knew he would feel that with just as much vividness as Rhyshladlyn had felt Azriel’s. And Rhyshladlyn had to know it, too, so he’d thrown up Shields and blocked him out to spare him that trauma. And while he was grateful for it, he wished emphatically that the Qishir hadn’t because it meant he didn’t plan to live. It meant that Relyt wouldn’t see him again.
The coin in his pocket trembled and practically burned now. Absently, he reached his hand in after it, feeling it cool the second his fingers brushed it, bringing with it a memory that broke through the film of guilt that had settled over him in the aftermath of his Qishir blanketing the Worlds with his loss, pain, grief, and his anger.
“What is the one emotion that the Many does not have a face for?” Zelít quizzed as he ambled about the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner.
“There are several, Father,” he answered, frowning in confused thought. It had to be a trick question.
“Fair enough. I will ask it a different way,” the man turned soft grey eyes on him, a rare smile tilting the corners of his lips. “What is the one emotion the Many does not ask us to control?”
He continued frowning as he thought about it. The answer seemed obvious, but he had been told not to trust obvious answers when it came to his testing. But he remembered the way Father had looked at Mother, how neither controlled their expressions and emotions and tones when they expressed their love for each other and figured that just this once, the obvious answer couldn’t possibly be wrong.
“Love,” he answered and Zelít beamed at him.
“Yes!” Father confirmed and clapped his hands together once. “Now, why is love the only emotion the Many does not ask us to control?”
“Because…” he trailed off, lifting a hand to tap a finger to his lips, the fingers of his other hand brushing the coin Mother had given him where it rested heavily in his pocket and the answer came to him like a bolt of lightning brightening the night sky. “Because it is an emotion that is encompassed by emotions. Furthermore, it is an emotion not even the gods can control so asking us mortals to try is not only unjust but would be asking us to do the impossible.”
It felt so silly that his realization hit now of all times.
The lesson his parents had been trying to teach him all those years ago hadn’t been that love was not an emotion but rather a state of being; hadn’t been that objects did not bring one luck, merely convinced one to make one’s own.
It was that love was the one emotion that was the purest, most uncontrollable emotion born of pure chaos and soothing order and every shade in between. It was that the coin his mother had carried brought her luck because it reminded her of that fact, reminded her that in showing love, she showed strength.
With that realization came another, one that threatened to bring him crashing to the ground far below him were it not for his impeccable sense of balance:
The reason he had never been able to control his emotions as well around Azriel and Rhyshladlyn was because the foundation from whence those emotions stemmed was one that not even the gods could touch. It was especially cruel for him to realize it now when one of the people he was in love with was in the After and the other was more than likely going to join him with a swiftness. Pulling the coin out he pulled his eyes away from Shiran City and the mass exodus of Dhaoine fleeing from it, thumb brushing across the words engraved on one side.
“To yield is to show strength,” he whispered more to himself than to anything else. “I understand now, g’möhyt. I am sorry it took me so long.”
Fingers curling around it until the edges dug into his palm and his fingers, he brought his closed fist to his lips, eyes falling closed as he remembered all the moments he had shared with Azriel and Rhyshladlyn.
The way a blush would color Azriel’s cheeks when he’d laugh with genuine abandon. The clear, crisp way that Azriel would sing as he cooked, swaying his hips to a beat that Rhyshladlyn happily tapped out on the counters for him. The smile that made Relyt’s knees feel like they were made of jello they both would toss almost carelessly over their shoulders at him. The way their moans made his skin tingle and his blood heat as shivers crawled down his spine and settled low in his gut with a heat that had always threatened to burn him alive from the inside out. The way he had felt at home in their presence, accepted for the first time in his life for himself and not the political power his friendship, his acquaintance, could bring. The way Rhyshladlyn had grown so much in the short year he’d known the Qishir. The way Azriel no longer seemed so aloof and untouchable. The way how the mere thought of losing either of them had turned his lungs to stone and made his gretluos sing a soft note of profound displeasure.
Only now… now he wouldn’t get to see those smiles, hear that laughter, see them dancing together before pulling him from his chair to join them. Now he wouldn’t get to hear their moans, see their faces slack and peaceful in sleep. Now his gretluos writhed against his skin as his gretkewq shook as his power hit the surface. Now he swallowed back his own ghert’qik, reserving that sounds for when he knew both his males were lost to him forever.
As tears flowed more steadily than before, he sent up a prayer to the Many for the first time in far too long, lips pressed hard against his fist, the coin still held tight within it. He remembered almost belatedly being told not to interfere, remembered being told that whenever it happened, that no matter what he did, he couldn’t interfere. But he figured that this prayer, what he asked for, was not truly interfering and sent it anyway. Because even if it was interfering, Rhyshladlyn and Azriel both were worth the risk.
Please show him that he is not, has never been, and never will be alone. Show him he still has a reason to live.
His eyes flew open as the ground shook violently with a sound of mountains crumbling against each other.
He was barely aware of how when his hand fell down to his side and his fingers unclenched that the coin was no longer there. Was barely aware as he watched with absolute horror as the earth opened up and Shiran City sank beneath the sands of Shiraniqi Desert that his and several other voices rose to the skies and shook the air with a single name: