“Who are you?”
No sooner had he asked the question did the Alphenian in front of him get yanked back across the street-stones, his scream short and dripping with a living terror that woke up something primal in him. He recognized that scream not from the Alphenian’s throat but from his own.
With a snarl he clenched his hands into fists and twisted them at his sides, feeling Ryphqi’s awareness brush around his legs. Felt the magick of the City shake itself awake and perk up, felt it listen to his want and respond. And as his vision rippled around the Alphenian, as Ryphqi showed him the magick that had slipped a noose around the male’s throat and was pulling him down the street, he growled low and dangerous, the sound making the Currents cartwheel away from him. Without sparing a single moment longer, he ran after the flailing Alphenian, closing the distance in rapid strides.
“Rhys!” Nhulynolyn called after him, voice filled with a type of concern he hadn’t heard from his would-be-twin in centuries, but he ignored it. Because every single instinct in him was alive and howling, demanding that he save the Alphenian that had looked at him like he was the sun and the moon, as though he was salvation.
Because in that brief moment when the Alphenian had first laid eyes on him, he had felt as though the World had tilted, felt the telltale tug of Fate meddling in his life. And even if the mere idea of that made him sick, he wouldn’t abandon a Dhaoine that showed that much absolute terror towards anything. Because that wasn’t fear one felt when touched by something unknown and potentially dangerous, no, that was fear one felt when touched by something that promised a painful death.
That was a fear far too similar to what he used to feel when Anislanzir had touched him for him to ignore.
Extending his left hand fingers spread wide, he reached for that rope of energy, curled his hand into a fist, gripped tight, and with a twist and flick of his wrist snapped the connection. The Alphenian came to a jarring stop, hands still scrambling at his throat, gasping desperately for air. Without breaking stride, Rhyshladlyn flicked the fingers of his left hand and burned away the noose of power there before moving around the male and coming to a skidding stop between the Alphenian and the direction that energy had come from. Another growl rumbled out of his throat as he felt Ryphqi shift restlessly against him, full of concern tinged with elation that he was protecting this unknown male that had just crashed into Nhulynolyn not even ten minutes ago. His hands clenched into fists, arms raised in front of him as he fell into an Anjiirt fighting stance, prepared to face whatever was at the other end of that severed connection.
He was only half aware of the sounds of Azriel and Relyt arriving at his back, of them talking to the Alphenian, trying to help him up, to get him back to the relative safety of the rest of the Court when the shadows at the end of the street moved.
“Don’t you have enough males in that stupid Court of yours, Rhyshladlyn?” A grating, high and clear voice called, silencing his males mid-sentence. His name sounded like a curse and it made what hackles on him that weren’t raised come to full alert. Because so very people in the Worlds actually spoke his name like that.
The Alphenian’s terror spiked, thickening the air until it would be easier to breathe underwater, his energy punching out in all directions, a single desperate call for help. It made his wings press against his back in a demand to spread wide and block him from view as Azriel and Relyt muttered in unison, “Move,” to the Alphenian followed by the sounds of them retreating.
But that fear didn’t abate with the distance put between that male and the Mad Qishir who strode out of the shadows as though she owned the very City that surrounded them, eyes filled with a wicked, insane glint that reminded him too much of his father.
He growled again, slowly unclenching his fists as Xitlali strutted towards him, one hand twitching at her side, fingers gripped around the other end of what he could now tell was a rope made of pure energy, the movements half aborted, like she wasn’t sure if she was going to try to catch the male again or not.
Rhyshladlyn bared his teeth, feeling that growl change, moving from the vocal range to the subvocal one. Felt it reverberate off the stone around him just like it bounced off his bones. Behind him Nhulynolyn stepped up to his back but didn’t touch, just gently brushed open the door on their link and lent his strength, sensing that the Alphenian was meaningful not just to Rhyshladlyn but to the entire Court even if Rhyshladlyn himself had no fucking clue why or how.
At least, not yet.
*Shadi, take Eiod before this bitch sees him and find Alaïs. I’ll meet up with you when I’m done here.*
Are you certain, kè? Perhaps we could be of assistance?
*Go, Shadi. Please.*
As you wish.
“I’m always up for adding another. Can’t have too many dicks waving about, after all,” he retorted, tone as biting as the coldfire that licked at his fingers and circled his ankles. “They’re my favorite, you know.” He winked at her for no other reason than to watch her nose wrinkle at him.
*Can I punch her in her twat?* Nhulynolyn asked, his own rumbling growl adding to the one Rhyshladlyn hadn’t stopped making. It took everything he had not to guffaw out loud at that question.
No, because touching her might poison you and I’m not dealing with Bayls’ anger at you contracting some nasty sex disease.
*Oh yeah, that’s valid. Never mind. I’ll punch her damned fuckin’ ugly ass nose through her teeth.*
I’m not even gonna ask how the fuck you’d manage that.
“Well that one belongs to me,” Xitlali snarled back, hand flicking that energy rope like one would wield a whip, the end snick-snapping through the air with a high pitched whistle that made his ears ring. “That is my property and you have no right to take it from me.”
*Property?* Nhulynolyn spat the word. *He’s a slave?*
“Aren’t slaves supposed to be willing?” he countered, smirking when those red-brown eyes widened and then narrowed, a seething hatred dancing behind them. “Cuz sure as fuck doesn’t look like he’s willing to me. If anything he looks terrified.” He crossed his arms over his chest as he rose slowly from his Anjiirt stance and raised an eyebrow, daring her to try and reach for the Alphenian again. Daring her to give him just cause to destroy her.
And he would be well within his rights as a Qishir to do so whether she made a move on him right then or not. If only because it was obvious to everyone around, not just his Court either but random Ryphqians and Royal Guards that were part of his search party, that the Alphenian male was absolutely terrified of Xitlali. That he was acting not as a true slave who had gone willingly to the side of their owner would, but rather as one who was forced and wanted nothing more than freedom. Even if it meant dying.
Xitlali pointed at him, lip curling up off her teeth in a sneer. “Watch your mouth, Rhyshladlyn Ka’ahne, before it gets you into a mess you can’t get yourself out of.”
He rolled his eyes and shook the tension out of his shoulders. Xitlali hadn’t posed a threat to him the day he’d killed the bitch’s mother and she sure as fuck didn’t pose a threat to him now. But by the Nameless’ Scythe, did he wish she would try him.
“You talk a mighty big game for someone so weak and outmatched,” he replied with a grin that was equal parts crooked and dark. Not that she got the warning it held, but all the better for him.
“Before you throw words at another, you should look closely at those who stand beside you.” Of all the things he had expected her to say that certainly hadn’t made the list.
What the fuck?
Before he could voice that question, a howl rent the air and every hair on his body stood on end as Ryphqi thundered at him Lady awake. Go now, alive but not. MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE just as Shadiranamen’s voice wove around the City’s, *Rhys! She’s alive! I’m nearly there.*
“Rhys, go,” Nhulynolyn urged, having heard Shadiranamen’s words through their connection. The connection he still hadn’t bothered to Shield again but he would examine that later. “I’ll handle bitchy titties. Take Rel and Az with you. The rest of us got this.”
Are you sure?
*Is that even really a question? Go. Take care of our little sister. I’ll take care of this cunt and see that the Alphenian is kept safe.*
He stared just long enough for that howl to ring out again, louder and sharper this time, before he nodded, signaled Relyt and Azriel to follow him, and took off in the direction that Ryphqi gave him. He loosed an answering yip yip that he hoped Alaïs was awake enough to recognize, to tell her that help was coming.
He didn’t want to leave that nameless Alphenian who had looked at him like he was salvation and home and safety all wrapped up in one fucked up, scarred package but Alaïs came first. She had to right now. If only because if she died Thayne could go nova and the last thing he needed was that.
It was the risk to the safety of Dhaoine on a Worlds scale that enabled him to keep running when every part of him screamed to turn around.
And if that potential risk also helped him pretend that he hadn’t seen markings that looked suspiciously like qahllyn’qir on the Alphenian’s skin? Well, no one had to know that but him.