His war howl shook the air, his magick crackling around him as he let go of the Line and free fell through the air, arms tucked to his sides as he rocketed towards the City. He was only vaguely aware as the wind roared by his ears of the snaps and pops of Dhaoine arriving by the dozens from various other Lines and looked down and behind him to see the Grey Army taking shape across the rolling sand-plains. The grin that spread across his face was vicious and made his cheek muscles burn.
For their arrival heralded the beginning of the end of the Eighth Army’s control over Ryphqi City. And with it’s fall the push to take Fènwa World from the Eighth Army would be that much closer to success.
“If Relyt is ever gravely injured, the Steward Corps will know immediately and mobilize to his last known location en masse and wage an assault in retaliation the likes of which the Worlds have never seen.” It wasn’t arrogance that colored the other Qishir’s voice but pride. And the mischievous glint to those crimson eyes made it impossible not to smile at her.
“How would they know?” he asked, genuinely curious. Half the reason he visited her like this every so many years was to get valuable information he couldn’t gather anywhere else. If she told anyone of their meetings, he didn’t know, but then again neither did he ask.
“They came up with a spell of sorts, one that works roughly the same as the spells that operate two way communication mirrors,” Thayne answered, coming over to sit across from him at the table in her tent. “It’s what allows them to know where he’s located and vice versa. It sends a pulse of magick to every lieutenant in the Corps and Grey Army, along with coordinates.”
He focused his attention back to the City in front of him and his grin took on a twisted edge, his wings itching to be loosed to control his descent, but he wouldn’t free them yet. Instead, he waited.
Waited until he had taken stock of the area he was about to drop into.
Waited until he saw Relyt laying on the ground in the same pool of blood, exactly like he’d been when Nhulynolyn had made contact.
Waited until he saw Nhulynolyn stiffen and raise his gaze to the skies, spot him and send a matching smile though his twin’s held more relief than knife-edge sadistic glee.
Waited until he saw Adïmshyl struggling to to keep a desperate Alphenian in his weakening hold as attend after attend slammed against the slave.
Waited until he saw Xitlali standing several feet away from Relyt and Nhulynolyn and Thae’a, eyes glowing with power as her orders snapped out in rapid succession towards her unwilling slave.
He let out a barking whoop of anticipation. It was the only warning anyone had that he was even near the City again, let alone in it. But by the time his target noticed him it was too late, he was already on her.
His fingers sank into pitch black feathers that glinted crimson, nails that had extended into talons pierced the leathery flesh beneath those thick feathers, making his grip unshakable. He flipped his legs up over his head, body curving into a mid-air somersault, arms extending behind him as his feet touched stone, power flinging down to wrap around Ryphqi’s that rose to meet him, rooting him to the street. With all the momentum gathered on his descent he jerked his arms up over his head, pulling the un-female along by her wings. Her scream was short lived, cut off as he slammed her face first into the street with enough force to crack and bend the stone, a ripple traveling outward from the point of impact. But he didn’t stop moving.
He swung her bodily to the right in a wide arc, letting go just as he came full circle, sending her tumbling ass over wing towards a nearby building. No sooner had he let go was he planting his left foot, pivoting on his right, and then running after her. Her back hit the brick of the building’s side with a concussive boom, feet swinging several feet off the ground. He didn’t give her time to fully begin to fall before he was on her again, right hand wrapped around her throat, pulling her within inches of his face as he roared a war cry that made the skin on her face shake under the power of it. With another war howl that was just as loud he punched her body back against the wall, denting the brick beneath her as his wings snapped out, bristling and flung to their full span, scattering golden dust and white-blue sparks all around them as the air shrieked around them at gale speeds, set in motion by their emergence. With each twist and shift of his back muscles as they worked to rapidly to adjust to so much sudden weight pulling at them again, purple lightning arced around him in lazy bursts and the shadows that fell around his shoulders seemed to be almost alive danced in the golden dust and flirted with the white-blue sparks that showered over both Qishir.
Distantly he was aware of the gasps of shock and fear that fought to be heard over the gale he had created in the street. But he ignored everything but what was right in front of him. He only had eyes for the maeshir that had indirectly caused one of his males to receive a blow that could very well kill him. And it was his Steward no less.
“Your greatest strength is your absolute control and that control must never waver, Rhyshladlyn. For if it does, you cannot bring Balance.” His Maestrx’s voice rose from the depths of his memory, but the wisdom ey could bring was not what he needed right now. What he needed was to feel skin tear under his nails, to feel the warm gush of blood as it soaked through his clothes to stain the skin beneath them, to feel the screams of his victim rattle his bones as he taught them what true terror and hopelessness felt like.
Yeah, fuck bringing Balance, he thought with no small amount of petulance and fury, hearing Nhulynolyn snicker across their connection but he ignored it.
Ignored the way Relyt’s heartbeat grew steadily quieter and quieter along their link.
Ignored the way his fury simultaneously made his skin cold and his blood boil in his veins.
Ignored the way the Alphenian’s magick called to him to sooth it like a burn wound needing salve.
He ignored everything but the female trembling in his hold. Ignored the way his instincts demanded he restore Balance to the Worlds, to the City he was tethered to and standing in, by killing her. Ignored those instincts solely because he knew doing so would solve nothing.
So instead, he spoke two words, his attend slipping out with enough strength that it sliced a single line across both her cheeks, dancing along old scars, “Release. Him.”
The absence of the other Qishir’s power was sudden and absolute as she released her attend on the Alphenian. He smiled at her, showing all of his teeth, knowing that she saw his true face peaking out from behind the cracks in his glamour as he did so. But he didn’t give a fuck. Not anymore.
“Now both of you leave my City,” his voice carried that attend still and he watched her face twitch, clearly determined to fight his order. Oh this is outta be good.
*Please let her say somethin’ stupid. I’ve been dying to beat her to death with her own tongue,* Nhulynolyn agreed.
“This isn’t your City,” Xitlali ground out, voice strained as she fought to speak around the attend that was thundering across her mind, compelling her to do exactly what it ordered. “It’s mine.”
“You are no Greywalker, Xitlali Sha’i’akkensahn,” his voice rippled and danced with the shadows that were cast by his wings, “I am. And this City is mine. So says the fact I am its tethered Qishir and the Grey Army currently camped out along its borders, waiting for the signal to take it.”
“You may claim this City,” the maeshir replied with a roll of her eyes I am going to pop those one of these days “but it will never be wholly yours. It’s too tainted for even one such as you to bring it back to Balanced.”
With a sneering growl he pulled her away from the building and slammed her back against it just for the pleasure of hearing her punched out scream and the way her bones creaked in protest. “You remember naught of what I am capable of do you, Xitlali? Have you so easily forgotten what I did to your mother? To mine? To my father?” He laughed when the scent of urine drifted across the air, mingling with the candied scent of her terror. “There we go. Now I’ll say this one more time, with all greatest respect, get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. My. City.”
He threw her away from him like one would toss a piece of soiled clothing, eyes tracking her as she flicked her fingers at her slave, calling him to her with the same energy rope as before. He watched her reach a shaking hand towards a Line before his eyes settled on the Alphenian who was staring at him with no small amount of terror and pleas he wouldn’t — couldn’t — voice aloud.
“Oh and one more thing, Xitlali,” he called out, eyes never leaving the Alphenian even though he spoke to the male’s slaver. “Know that if Grey Steward Relyt Greymend dies, that I will be visiting you for more than just to get that Alphenian slave away from you.”
Xitlali didn’t say anything, wasn’t capable of it with his attend still active, so she just sneered at him and dragged both of them up and onto the Line. Before they were totally gone from sight, Rhyshladlyn caught the Alphenian’s grateful smile and he returned it with one he hoped conveyed he intended to keep his promise of getting him free from the un-female. I just don’t know when that’ll be be.
When he was sure they were both gone, he rolled his shoulders, stowed his wings, and turned to face where his Steward lay dying.
Acting as though he hadn’t just beaten the shit out of another Qishir, displayed his wings, and overrode her attend with one of his own, he walked through the thick, sticky puddle of blood and knelt at Relyt’s side opposite Thae’a. Reaching out he brushed his left hand over the gretluos inked down the Soul Healer’s right bicep, absently traced the intricate knotwork that glowed a soft white under his fingertips, seeing the twisting, dancing qahllyn’qir beneath those markings and felt a pang of guilt strike hard at his chest. I’m sorry I haven’t been the best Qishir to you, Rel.
“We’re going to have to remove his wings all together,” his voice was far steadier than he thought it had any right to be.
“How?” Thae’a asked as she waved a blood-stained hand in a gesture that indicated all of the unconscious, dying Soul Healer. “If he loses any more blood he won’t make it. Never mind that his mind is already dangerously close to shattering, a full surgical removal of his wings may succeed in doing both.”
*Remember what you did to Lulphé’s Companion?* Nhulynolyn said across their connection as his hand dropped onto his left shoulder. With a frown, Rhyshladlyn looked up at his twin who snorted and supplied the memory of the day in question.
Oh. That could work.
*No shit.* The reply was only half-snarked, a sure sign that Nhulynolyn was just as afraid as he was for Relyt, and it did nothing to curb his growing anxiety.
“I’m not going to cut them out. I’ve got a better way to do it,” he answered the Dreamweaver who just blinked in confusion back at him. “Step back, all of you. I don’t know what’ll happen when I do this.”
Thae’a rose without questioning him further and moved to stand beside Adïmshyl who wrapped a thick arm around her waist and tucked her against his side, green eyes hard and unwavering as they watched Rhyshladlyn. Nhulynolyn squeezed his shoulder once before going to join them.
Taking a deep breath and sending one last prayer to his Patrons for strength, he leaned down and whispered an attend that even on the brink of death as he was, Relyt wouldn’t be able to ignore, “Stow your wings and don’t you dare fucking die on me.“