He watched as Rhyshladlyn bobbed and weaved among the trees, amazed at how he could stand this close to the Qishir and go undetected when normally his presence was noticed immediately once he was within a certain range. But he didn’t blame Rhyshladlyn for missing him. After all he was distracted and rightly so given that his dead brother followed dutifully after him, chattering with enough consistency to be just this side of annoying.
In truth, he hadn’t expected this particular plan of his would work out the way it did. Sure he’d hoped it would do something, but by the Great One, Anis was doing a spectacular job of keeping Rhyshladlyn on his toes, disoriented, and exhausted. But it wasn’t going as quickly as he needed it to which was why he was here. He had to be within literal feet of Anis to get the spell perfect, to ensure it didn’t miss the mark and hit someone else. It was the only reason he was willing to risk being so close to Rhyshladlyn. If he had any other fool proof plan to weaken the Grey Qishir, he’d happily do that.
But there wasn’t any other plan and he was out of time and patience.
Anis stopped walking suddenly and looked around, the magick keeping him alive sensing that its creator was nearby. The fear that slackened the Sinner Demon’s face should have made him feel something other than guilt. Should have made him feel something that didn’t twist his stomach into knots and make his throat tight. He hadn’t known Anis that well, but he’d known him well enough to make what he had done, what he was going to do next, haunt him.
“No…” Anis shook his head, taking a step back and another.
He smirked, playing the part if only for the sake of keeping up the habit. If only to make this go by quicker.
Rhyshladlyn turned and raised an eyebrow at Anis, thankfully too focused on his brother to notice anyone else nearby. Great One be praised for small mercies. And his breath caught at the sight of him because the Grey Qishir looked worse than he had ever seen him. More so than Rhyshladlyn had been after Azriel’s death. And oddly, he knew what he did here, what his long term goal was, had purpose, that it was necessary. But in the face of the exhaustion that shadowed Rhyshladlyn’s face, dulled his eyes, and bruised the skin below his eyes and under his jaw? In the face of the dejection and hopelessness that rolled off the other male in palpable waves? Well, he suddenly wasn’t so sure.
But there was no backing out, not now that he was this far along. No amount of sympathy for the Qishir could change that.
“No. You promised. You promised,” Anis just kept shaking his head, ignoring the way Rhyshladlyn snorted.
“Going nuts yourself now, huh?” The Grey Qishir asked, voice biting and filled with a disdain that made it very hard not to flinch even if he knew it wasn’t directed at him, even if he knew it was more than a little bit faked. “Typical.”
He thanked every god plus his own when Rhyshladlyn rolled his eyes at Anis’ lack of response and turned around to continue his walk, tossing the Sinxhët hand sign for good riddance over his shoulder as he went. But he knew it was more than that. Could read in the tense line of the Qishir’s shoulders that he didn’t trust that this wasn’t some new ruse to drive him closer to insanity. Could read in the way Rhyshladlyn’s hand trembled before he dropped it back to his side that it was all false bravado. Because he knew one of Rhyshladlyn’s greatest regrets besides Azriel’s death was what had happened to Anis. A regret born of the choice the Qishir had made to save himself, his Companion, and his Steward instead of Anis and the whole of Majik World.
A World he had spent a century and a half rebuilding and adding Balance to the way only a Greywalker could as a way of atoning for what he viewed was a sin, a failure. It hadn’t assuaged his guilt but it had put him in a more favorable light on the Worlds stage.
When he could no longer see Rhyshladlyn among the trees, he pushed off from the one he’d been leaning against and approached Anis slowly, carefully.
“You promised me everything would be okay,” Anis accused, looking once again like the scared, disgusted Dhaoine he’d pulled out of the After a few weeks ago. “You promised that all I’d have to do was follow him, making him question things. That that was all.”
“I’ve made a lot of promises,” he replied with a shrug. “And unfortunately I have broken a fair number of them.”
“I’m not doing it,” Anis growled, shaking his head, and he could see where Rhyshladlyn had gotten his refusal to show fear from. The resemblance was almost uncanny. “I refuse.”
“Oh but, Anis,” the smile he gave the Sinner Demon was filled with a gentle understanding, one that he only showed because the Sinner Demon wouldn’t remember it, “you already have.”
Before any further protest could be given, he snapped his fingers and watched as Anis sank to his knees with an aborted scream, every muscle tensed, eyes wide with an agony that made no sound. Anis’ hands clawed at the dirt and grass, as though searching for purchase to keep from falling, body beginning to tremble faintly. The Sinner Demon struggled to keep track of him as he closed the distance between them, reaching out to cup Anis’ cheek, his fingers brushing across his temple. The trembling, pain-wracked male hissed out a curse, one hand flailing up in an attempt to fight him off but it was pointless. He wasn’t strong enough even if he wasn’t being incapacitated.
“Everything will be alright,” he said soothingly as he lifted his other hand so he held Anis’ face cradled in his palms, staring down into clear blue eyes that were identical to Alaïs’. It was clear the Sinner Demon didn’t believe him.
“It will all work out,” he whispered as he blew apart Anis’ mental Barriers and Shields and flooded the fragile mind beneath them with his magick. “That is one promise I intend to keep.”
After several minutes he let go and stepped back, letting Anis collapse forward with a muted thud, eyes wide and unseeing, mind struggling to recover. With a sigh he turned on his heel and walked away, intending to catch a Line when he had more distance between him and Rhyshladlyn.
He didn’t need to stay and make sure that he’d been successful because whether he had been or not it wouldn’t matter because dead or alive, Anis was no longer a threat to his plans.