If anyone were to ask him what he was doing here, he’d reply simply, “I am doing what I am asked to do.” Not that anyone would ask, but if they did then that would be his response. And it would be the entire truth.
At least for this job. Maybe not for the others, but this one he had been given a choice and he had chosen to do it regardless of the perils inherent in it. Regardless of the knowledge that should he misstep, should he fail, the consequences couldn’t be so easily swept away. The blame would fall on his shoulders and his alone and no one would be coming to aid him.
While he was just as much a warrior as the rest, he was picked for this work above them all because no one in the Worlds expected him to be part of the Grey Court. No one saw the danger that he embodied coming until it was too late and he was already moving past their dead body, leaving it where it fell. And while that knowledge made doing his assignments easier, it didn’t make doing jobs like this easier. Not when he had to walk away without the victim being freed, not when he had to turn his back on blatant abuses and violations of the Laws and Etiquette. Not when every instinct he had screamed that he was dishonorable for doing nothing when he very obviously could do something. But those instincts didn’t understand that doing something without careful planning and preparation on these jobs would create ripples that could spell death with a capital “D” and damn them all.
Plus who was honestly going to prosecute those who disobeyed the Laws? There was no Eighth Qishir sitting on the Throne of the Seven Worlds. Sure, Firesbane was acting Qishir Regent, but she didn’t have the official title and the rights it granted. So, he didn’t hesitate to walk away, didn’t even blink when walking away meant only a handful suffered versus hundreds of thousands.
But he wasn’t always alone doing this, his beloved was usually within easy reach. But while Thae’a was just as capable of playing the spy, even more so than him not that she’d ever admit it out loud, her face was too well known for this assignment. And since everyone read the magickal signatures of individuals now, there was no hiding her race as easily as before. No glamour was capable of altering one’s magickal signature; by the Matron Below, even a Blood Oath to a Qishir couldn’t alter one so completely that the Dhaoine it belonged to was unrecognizable at such a base level.
The Worlds knew she was the last of the Dreamweavers and that she was part of Ka’ahne’s Court. But what they didn’t know was that Ka’ahne also had a Lupherinre in his Court. So for the more major missions? He went in solo with Thae’a on the fringes. And for those that weren’t as major, they tag teamed. And on the ones where if shit went sideways while on fire it didn’t do any overarching damage? Thae’a would take it on by herself with him circling the edges in case she needed the backup.
But they only did these operations so long as it didn’t interfere with their primary duties going from Field hospital to Field hospital. Using his Ferryman abilities to aid the dead in crossing the River had become a way for him to repent for being part of the reason so many of them remained trapped without any way to cross. It wasn’t something he had to repent for, he knew that, this was a war after all and he had merely been doing what he could to survive. But that did nothing to lessen his sense of guilt.
So he waded into areas that the Court at large couldn’t infiltrate. He took off his armor and removed all proof he was part of the Grey Court and a warrior in the Grey Army, let alone a Grey Army sympathizer, and did the things his fellows couldn’t. Stared into the faces of those caught in the middle of the opposing armies, those who had been living in seclusion when the war hit and were now dragged forcibly out of it. Looked at them and felt a heady mixture of sympathy and guilt because he understood their fear, their sense of half hope and half hopelessness because he had been like them once. Had been like them until Qaeniri had walked onto the property and spoke with Thae’a and changed everything. Not that he regretted that, just sometimes wondered if he and Thae’a would be like those they encountered on their missions if Qaeniri hadn’t found their farmland that day. Though he was almost certain that the answer was yes and that near-certainty only made being that bridge easier to bear.
Though sometimes he wondered if he was only making things worse or if he was actually doing good like Thae’a and the rest all told him he was. Sometimes he worried that being that bridge wasn’t enough, that it would never be enough. But he didn’t dare stop. Not when there was the chance that doing so definitely made things worse.
And so he found himself alone, trying to look inconspicuous as he ambled his large body down hallway after hallway alone given that Thae’a and the Twins had left for Greymend’s camp. Found himself trying to ignore the sense of foreboding that had settled deep in his gut at how quiet everything was, at how easy it was to get this deep into the compound.
“This one won’t be easy, Adïm,” Firesbane sounded apologetic and it made his skin prickle, made him itch for the battleaxes he had hung up when Ka’ahne had disappeared from the Fields entirely a century and some change into the war. Made him crave the jobs that came with bloodshed and screams and death, jobs he had given up in lieu of doing something that saw less death and more life. He had had enough death.
“I’m listening,” there was nothing else for him to say in response. Not really. He’d never deny a job, even when he probably should, because they had no one else who could do them besides him and Thae’a.
He peaked around a corner to yet another empty hallway and frowned before stepping fully into it and making his way down it towards the next one. Even though he knew there was a big meeting going on, which was the only reason he was even doing this now rather than waiting a few more days for that rhetjivik to actually leave the area, the compound was still too empty. This entire thing was far easier than he’d been warned it would be and it made him anxious. But that foreboding that twisted his stomach only worsened the longer he stood there debating whether to round the corner, so he took a deep breath, let it out slow and decided.
With quick, anxious steps, he approached the door he needed and flicked his fingers at the doorknob as he cast one last look around him. At the click of the lock, he slipped through the door, making sure to turn the bolts back as he closed it behind him. It was always the sneaking around part that he hated, he felt like he had never gotten the hang of it even after all these years. After all, he was just so large, there was no way for him to blend into a crowd or even pass by unnoticed, not really.
Shaking his head, he looked around the room and his breath caught at what he saw.
“By Blood and Fire,” he breathed, hands going to his hips in an act of reflexive instinct he hadn’t had in centuries, looking for the battleaxes he didn’t have with him. Their absence only made the situation he’d found himself in all the worse.
Because Firesbane’s informants had said that that worthless cunt of a Qishir and the pompous General that followed her around like a lost pup had been cooking up something nasty, but this?
This was on a level he doubted even Anislanzir was capable of entertaining the hypothetical of let alone trying to achieve it.
And that thought by itself made his stomach attempt to expel everything he’d ever eaten in his life all at once.
By the Blood Mother’s Great Fire, we are in so much trouble.