The Forest is filled with a Silence that makes eir skin crawl. But ey doesn’t let the fear that presses gentle fingers against eir spine take root because ey knows that regardless of the dangers that lurk within the underbrush and hide in the dark green canopy, ey is safe because the Forest belongs to eir kind. Knows that it was birthed for the Greywalker clans and no others.
But this Silence is unlike any before it that has beaded on the leaves and dark lush grass like morning dew. Unlike the Silences that came before it, this one slips and slithers between the black barked trees like a stalking snakat. It whispers in the wind that caresses the bushes and jostles the branches that arc high overhead. Even the animals are quiet, but that isn’t what unnerves em the most. It’s that this Silence has quieted the Hôhyündír and ey has never not heard those monstrous things’ sounds echoing throughout the Forest.
Their songs have permeated the entirety of the Forest since the day ey arrived back here to the paths ey had come to know so well over the last eight thousand years.
Those haunting songs had gone on nonstop since the day ey had arrived two months ago after leaving Atlanshïr; after ey had pretended to go with a diplomatic envoy to the Sinner capital of Shiran only ey never made it there. Had never planned to make it to Shiran. For ey knows that when eir life partner finds the remains of eir camp and guards, no doubt T’yuré will make talks of war against the Lord King of the Sinner Demons in retaliation for ey “died” just within the borders of Shiraniqi Desert. Though if everything went as planned, T’yuré would eventually send their eldest daughter, Azhuri, as a sign of diplomatic good faith, a joining of the Houses of GreySong and Ka’ahne in order to prevent all out war. T’yuré is many things but war hungry is not one of them.
At least that was the hope for a continuation of the bloodlines of eir ancestors. It had been far too many generations since the last pure blood Greywalker had been born. But there was hope that if Azhuri married Anislanzir and produced offspring that the Greywalker lines those children descended from would meet and produce a proper Walker that would do the ancestors proud.
But even if ey understood the reason behind falsifying eir death, it is still one time too many and ey is very much tired of it.
Would that this one could cease staging my death so as to hide the longevity of my life. To be able to end these games of matchmaker to blend the most powerful blood lines with pure Greywalker blood.
“Oh but that would be too easy,” Xheshmaryú murmurs as he appears beside em, smiling crookedly when ey jumps. He knows how much ey hates when he does it so he is certain to do it as often as he can get away with. “Never mind that if you don’t sleep with all the lovely powerful Dhaoine, who ever is going to produce strong Greywalker tots to send into the Worlds?”
Ey shoots him a reproachful look that only serves to make his smile brighten into a grin and ey rolls eir eyes.
“I am not the only pure one left, Xhesh,” ey mutters, ignoring that eir cheeks are heating with a blush that ey hopes the permanent twilight of the Forest hides.
The Nochresi hums. “Yes, but you seem to be the most proactive as far as following the orders you were given, no?”
Ey shrugs one shoulder. “I am the only neodrach left alive now, so it falls to me to do the work of both a sire and a birth giver.”
“So like I’ve said before, twice the fun,” the Other winks lasciviously at em and ey swats at his arm, baring eir teeth when he merely laughs.
“Do you have any idea what has brought this Silence upon the Forest?” ey asks with a raised eyebrow, derailing the conversation from the topic of eir sexual exploits.
Xheshmaryú looks around with violet eyes that reminds em so much of Thilael, eir heart aching for eir beloved Maestrer, may the After treat him well. One wicked fang tugs at his bottom lip, one hand coming up to rake through his white hair, making the streak of violet strands scatter among their white brethren. He was still in that way that told em he was communicating with his fellow Otherborn in the area, if not asking the Hôhyündír directly if they knew what was going on. When his face pales, ey growls lowly, left hand reaching for the hilt of Kyurt iyi Macyr where it rests at eir right hip. But ey doesn’t draw it, not yet.
“Something is here…” Xheshmaryú murmurs, turning in a slow circle on the packed dirt path ey had been walking before the Silence hit. “Only thing I’m getting is that and that whatever it is that’s here is hella powerful and is at the Clearing.”
Exchanging a look with the Other that speaks volumes, Azhuriel draws eir sword, alters eir course for the Clearing and runs. Xheshmaryú keeps pace beside em, the shadows just off the path shifting and solidifying into Shadiranamen and Yamïrah, the two females dodging around trees four times as thick around as them, ducking under branches and jumping over roots and bushes. Azhuriel catches flashes of silver charms woven into midnight hair, braided crimson hair, sapphire and jade eyes in the twilight of the Forest as eir two female Others keep pace with em and Xheshmaryú.
The closer they draw to the Clearing, the more the Forest slowly comes alive around them with the chittering of birds, the cries of animals, the branches dancing as their leaves hum in the wind as that Silence slowly dissipates. But still the Hôhyündír do not speak, still they of all the things that live within the boundaries of the Forest remain absent. And it unnerves em because only something exceptionally powerful can quiet Hôhyündír.
When ey is within sight of the Clearing that holds the Heart Tree and the thrones carved into its enormous roots, ey signals with eir right hand for eir Others to surround the Clearing and flank in from all sides. A collective aye across their shared consciousness is all the acknowledgement ey is given before ey loses sight of them. And then ey crosses the line between the path and the thick grass of the Clearing, finally having a clear view of what has brought Silence to eir home. And what ey sees stop em in eir tracks.
“Ahh, Azhuriel Rin’zhur Yshlad GreySong,” the god says as it turns around, eyes filled with stars that come alive and die while ey watches. “Come, there is much you and I have to discuss.”
It might be the first time a god has walked the paths of the Forest of Dreams and Darkness, but Azhuriel has the distinct, terrifying feeling that it is not to be the last.