“Are we going to talk about it?”
He felt bad making the Qishir jump, felt worse when he jumped off the stone he’d been sitting on and whirled to face him, coldfire flaring up around his fists, eyes pinpoints of concentrated battle rage. It took a moment for that battle rage to dissipate and the fact it didn’t happen immediately spoke volumes regarding the things Rhyshladlyn hadn’t talked about and no one pressed on.
The things that haunted Relyt’s thoughts on a near constant basis since Rhyshladlyn had shown up in his tent what felt like months ago but was merely a handful and some days.
“Talk about what exactly?” His tone was sharper than the steel he carried as he relaxed in increments, turning back to look at the lake that rippled in the night breeze that chilled the air around them.
But he didn’t get back on the stone, just stood beside it, body looking relaxed but Relyt knew better. He could feel Rhyshladlyn’s stress, even if he couldn’t read it in the lines of his shoulders and the position of his feet in the sandy grass, it was obvious that his Qishir felt uncomfortable. It was clear in his body language and his tone. The sharpness of which was a dismissal, one that was clear enough not to miss, but Relyt elected to ignore it. Because it had been days since the Oiki had attacked the camp, since he’d put his hands on the one person he never meant to hurt and in those days Rhyshladlyn had avoided him unless it was absolutely necessary they speak. And even then what the Qishir said to him was short, to the point, and he did his best to disengage from the conversation as swiftly as possible.
Short of cornering the male, Relyt had no way to address the bad blood between them or the yawning chasm that only grew larger the longer they did nothing to bridge it. And if Rhyshladlyn didn’t want to break the silence? So be it. But Relyt had had it. Four hundred and a fifty years was long enough. He wasn’t going to stomach waiting any longer, even if Azriel and Bayls and Thayne and the rest told him that giving Rhyshladlyn space was for the best and safety of them all.
After all, he never had been known to listen where his Qishir was concerned.
“About what happened to you while you were gone. About what I did back at the camp after the Oiki attacked. About what has you waking up screaming behind privacy wards every night like none of us know what’s happening,” he shrugged when Rhyshladlyn hissed and shot a level look that would have terrified him had he not been too tired to care about self preservation. “There are a number of things we can talk about, your Majesty. Pick one.”
For long moments Rhyshladlyn just stared at him, expression blank but not blank in a way that made his wings shift restlessly where he had them carefully tucked away. He fought the urge to release them because although Rhyshladlyn’s face was bereft of expression, there was a shadow to it, an undercurrent almost, that wasn’t blank. And that shadow awoke instincts that were left overs from when the gods walked among Their First Children. Instincts that told him if he released his wings? It would be the last thing he did as a freely breathing Dhaoine, let alone as a living one.
But that was all he could read from it and that unnerved him. He’d always been able to read Rhyshladlyn, he was a Grey Soul Healer after all and a Gret’yinl, never mind that he was the Grey Steward. Yet somehow he couldn’t read the Qishir he was qahllyn to. Not anymore.
And that only served to make the whispers he had been fighting for centuries turn into shouts.
“There is nothing to talk about,” Rhyshladlyn said finally, looking away from him and Relyt fought against letting out the relieved sigh that made his throat feel like it was filled with stone.
“But there is,” he pressed, pushing aside the anxiety that sent his heart rate to speeding out of control and the nausea roiling around in his gut like a pair of rutting bears that made him regret eating every meal he’d ever had. “I at the very least need to formally apologize for my actions against you.”
Rhyshladlyn scoffed and the sound hurt far more than he thought a scoff had any right to.
“Why?” Those mercurial eyes glanced side long at him and he fought not to flinch under the resignation they held. “You aren’t remorseful. So speaking words you don’t mean is a lie and therefore pointless.”
He blanched then. “How could you possibly know what I’m feeling?” There was more bite to his tone than he had intended but he was caught off guard. Caught off guard and hurt. He started to say more but wisely snapped his mouth closed before he could.
The face Rhyshladlyn turned to him then was something he had never seen before and had no words to properly describe. All he knew was it froze him where he stood while his bladder demanded to be emptied and his warrior instinct fled and flared simultaneously. Then that blank-but-not-blank expression shifted and no longer was his Qishir’s expression non-existent. No, instead it was replaced by one he’d seen before. It was the same one he’d seen when they’d escaped Shiran City the first time and he had stopped the male from trying to get back through the doorway to get to Azriel. It was a look of pure fury, of a predator having locked eyes on its prey; but where it had been out of control and chaotic that first time, this time it was cold and precise and ordered.
And it was made all the worse because this time Rhyshladlyn’s Others weren’t attuned to him and wouldn’t make it in time to stop the death Relyt saw building behind those eyes.
“Because I can see you, Relyt Luapiér Greymend,” that voice was as terrifying as the face that it came from and he shuddered hard enough to clack his teeth together. “And I know what you’re doing, what you’ve done.”
“What?” He felt the blood drain from his face when that face smiled at him and the air moved around them, thickening until he couldn’t breathe.
Rhyshladlyn didn’t answer vocally but the sound he emitted from behind that smile made Relyt’s bones vibrate and his roiling stomach jump and wage war with his heart over which one got to clog his throat first. As he watched, the Qishir’s smile spread until it went from ear to ear, until his jaw dropped down, unhinging as it went, and his tongue lolled out, blacker than the night around them. As he watched, Rhyshladlyn’s head tilted around until his chin was pointed skyward, eyes all the brighter when his blackened tongue shifted to dangle between them. And slowly, as though each movement hurt him though his expression never reflected it, Rhyshladlyn lowered himself until both his hands and feet were on the ground, body shifting, bones cracking and snapping as those eyes stared unblinkingly at him.
If Relyt’s fear was bad before, it was nothing compared to now.
“Y-your Majesty?” he croaked when Rhyshladlyn finally fell still. That sound came again and as it did, he remembered where he’d heard it before just as the thing Rhyshladlyn had become lunged for him.
He let out a shout, hands flying up in front of him in a defensive stance but no impact came. There was no sound of rippling water, no wind on his skin, and he frowned. Slowly, heart hammering away in his chest, terrified of what he’d see when he did, he opened his eyes and lowered his arms to find himself in his bedroom in the cabin. The blanket he’d covered up with was in pieces and the sheets beneath him sported long gashes in them like some great beast had sunk in its talons and tore to either side of his trembling legs. Like whatever it was had left a warning, one Relyt didn’t know the specifics of but heard loud and clear regardless of that.
As he realized there was no threat, that he was awake and safe, he lowered his hands and laughed softly. If it sounded a bit on the hysterical side, no one would know.
“What the fuck,” he whispered, looking carefully around his room for any sign that there had been a threat that had destroyed his bedding in such a manner but left him without a scratch.
Only the oppressive silence answered him.
Until that sound rent the air around him and he jumped just as the Shields shrieked and the Barriers rumbled like an avalanche cascading down a mountainside.