Even curses can be blessings.
Rhyshladlyn snorted at the thought, at the memory that came with it, as he stared down at the long feather that swung from Mallacht‘s hilt. Took in the shades of grey from the darkest slate to nearly white and sighed, trying not to remember what it felt like to plunge his hand into Relyt’s abdomen in search of his wing buds, the squelch of his hand coming back out with those buds held carefully in his fist. But those memories were too fresh and strong with it for him to ignore, not with such a physical reminder of what he had destroyed dancing almost tauntingly right in front of him.
He’d honestly forgotten about Relyt’s feather tied to his obsidian blade, so used to seeing it there over the centuries that it hadn’t occurred to him what it represented until he’d pulled Mallacht out to do upkeep on the blade. And as soon as it had tickled across his knee he’d been drawn to the way the sunlight fell across it. Had been drawn to the way it seemed to shimmer as it swung back and forth like a pendulum seeking to hypnotize him.
Curses can’t be blessings. I was just a fledgling when I thought that fuckin’ nonsense.
He caught the swinging feather and held it gingerly in his hand, marveling that after all these years, it was just as clean and pristine as it had been the day Relyt had handed it to him. It looked no worse for the wear despite over four centuries spent in blood-drenched battles, getting knocked this way and that. He was as brutal to his swords in combat as he was to his body, and the fact that this single feather that was nearly the length of his sword hilt had survived all of that unscathed was nothing short of miraculous.
But that didn’t make sense. He’d put protections on the chord strung through the quill so the fact that that hadn’t worn through and snapped didn’t surprise him. But there was just no reason for the feather to be just as well preserved.
Relyt smiled as he handed it out to him, a long primary feather that contained every shade of grey in his wings. His eyes were the brightest shade Rhyshladlyn had ever seen them get: so light and clear a grey they were nearly white.
“Rel…” his breath caught in his throat and stole his words, made them choppy. His voice trembled the air between them. He knew what giving a feather so pristine and perfect, plucked from one’s wing by choice and gifted to another meant. And Relyt couldn’t possibly mean to say he was worthy of such a thing.
Because he wasn’t.
“I…” he tried again, shook his head, cleared his throat and chewed at his bottom lip before trying again. “I cannot take this,” he held the feather back out to Relyt, not remembering when the Soul Healer had actually passed it into Rhyshladlyn’s own hand. By the Scythe, Hourglass, and Scales, I can feel his magick still thrumming through it.
“No, my Qishir, keep it. It is a gift and one I do not give lightly nor without knowing its significance and its meaning,” his voice was soft, barely above a whisper but Rhyshladlyn heard him regardless. Heard also the way the Soul Healer referenced him, one of the rare times he didn’t call him “your Majesty”.
Though considering this wasn’t an instance of a royal of lower class speaking to one above him, but rather from a qahllyn to the Qishir that held the Answer to that qahllyn, it didn’t surprise him.
“Where would I even put it?” he asked, more to himself than to Relyt, as his fingers traced over where each shade of grey bled into the next while he stared down at it with awe and shock, utterly lost on how to process this turn of events.
“That is something I cannot answer, Rhyshladlyn,” Relyt replied.
He dropped it to swing down against his knees, watching the ripples of sunlight off the water of the oasis dance across it while he got lost in the monotonous, easy motions of the grind stone. With each forward and back shushuh-shink of the stone, with each pit and groove smoothed out, he felt more at peace, settled by work he had done since he’d gotten Mallacht and Beannacht forged. He wasn’t grounded back to stable like he needed to be, only a Feeding would give him that in truth, but it was the closest he would get without one.
He didn’t have much work that needed done considering he kept his blades well maintained. Vanishing the grind stone out when he was finished, he swung Mallacht in a sharp arc to clean the stone and steel dust from it before sheathing it and vanishing it back out as well. With a heavy sigh he stared out at the gently rippling waters of the oasis, sent to shifting by the desert breeze, and curled his hands over the edge of the rock shelf he sat on, nails scraping the rough stone. He shifted so his weight settled better on the ledge, glancing over his shoulder at the cabin before sighing again. He knew he should head back inside, should check on Relyt, knew he should help prepare dinner and sit with Azriel and check on Thae’a but he couldn’t.
As much as he wanted to, and truly he wanted to, he couldn’t bring himself to get up, to sink his feet into the soft sand at the bottom of the oasis, to feel the waters reach up nearly to his knees, lapping gently like the current of the River. Couldn’t convince himself to do it if his destination was the cabin. Because try as he might, he couldn’t convince himself that he was worthy of being in their presence not after what he’d done. Even if that act had been to save his Steward, the only thing he could have done with wings that had been that damaged, even if he knew they didn’t hold it against him, it didn’t matter. He held it against himself and by virtue of that and that alone, he was unworthy. No better than his sire who’d done irreparable damage to Anis’ wings but left his heir with the appendages and forcibly removed Rhyshladlyn’s.
Relyt wouldn’t be wingless if it weren’t for me.
*You removed them,* Nhulynolyn’s voice was gentle, soft, filled with guilt that wasn’t entirely because he’d been snooping in Rhyshladlyn’s thoughts, *but were it not for the position I put myself in, were it not for me underestimatin’ Xitlali, Relyt wouldn’t have–*
Nully, please… just… just don’t. He heard his twin sigh, felt more than saw him nod.
*Be safe, twin o’mine. I’ll send ol’ Feather Duster to come get you when dinner is ready.*
He smiled, knowing better than to ask how Nhulynolyn knew he was going to go to Shiran, that he was going to run home. Though it really wasn’t that hard to figure out. After all, he had a pattern of going back home to punish himself, to repent for the sins he’d committed; sins that had begun in Shiran and would likely end there, gods willing they end there. So it wasn’t surprising that Nhulynolyn just knew, even if he didn’t read it in Rhyshladlyn’s thoughts.
So Rhyshladlyn just nodded himself, sent a wave of gratitude to the Other and blinked across the desert, focused solely on feeling the wind whip his skin dry. Focused on feeling it tug and pull at his loose tunic and the pants he’d cut off at the knees. Focused on the feeling of the magick of his homeland recognizing him, calling to him to Shiran City, or rather to its Watchtowers that stood as reminders and grave markers. Deep down he knew it was the Watchtowers that were calling him home, not the magick inherent in the dancing sands of Shiraniqi Desert or even in the whole of Fènwa World, but whatever it was tugging at his Self, singing sweet songs and plucking the melody out across his heartstrings, he followed it. Tried to memorize the pits and rises of that melody, tried to hum aloud to it, to place the words that would fit it in spoken song.
He was distracted enough that he missed the figure that stood with a hand pressed against the Shield he’d placed around the valley until he was nearly upon it. Didn’t place that it was a living Dhaoine stood amongst the pile dead until it was turning to face him with clear blue eyes that sparkled with an emotion that he couldn’t readily name, lips quirking with a smile that still haunted his dreams centuries after their owner’s death.
The World swayed as as every instinct came alive and the desert wind kicked up to a howl that sounded like screams as it threaded amongst the Watchtowers in the valley below them.
This isn’t… this isn’t possible.
“Hello, lil’it bròtr. It’s been awhile.”