About the only good thing about being in Sanctuary was that Xitlali was too busy with Hujiel and their super secret jars of whatever the fuck to focus on Eiod’s comings and goings. Well that and Jerald got a well deserved reprieve.

He checked in on the Alphenian as often as he could when he wasn’t mapping out the Keep, when he wasn’t trying to see if the Xhlëndïr and Hounds and Oiki that had taken up post at the clearing’s boundary would let him pass unhindered. More often than not, Jerald would stand on the porch of the Keep and watch him. He said it was make sure that if the Fear was ever too powerful for Eiod to get himself to safety, there was someone nearby who could.

Of all his attempts so far, he’d only gotten within seventy-five feet of where the wards crackled and kept those in the Sanctuary safe before the Fear had been too strong that his body literally dropped him to the grass until he could convince it that he planned to take himself back to safety.

Though with that waiting for a weakness to present itself in the wards? He didn’t think anywhere was safe.

Wiping the drool from the corners of his mouth and taking a deep breath, he pulled himself to his feet and headed back towards the Keep. It took more effort than he’d likely ever admit to turn his back on what waited for him on the other side of those wards and walk away.

“How close did you get today?” Jerald asked when Eiod was close enough. The Alphenian stood in his usual spot leaning against one of the support pillars that flanked Sanctuary’s front door, arms crossed over his chest, dressed in a simple set of black breeches and matching tunic.

It was the first time Eiod had seen the other male in something that was clean and well fitted that showed off the muscles of his arms and chest and torso, the thickly muscled thighs. The Alphenian was strong and that he’d missed it before made him wonder if he was slipping in his skills. But when Jerald’s eyes slipped from where he’d been looking at the Hound that had chased Eiod away from the boundary and to him, Eiod realized that it wasn’t that he’d missed it but more than Jerald had hid it. And gods, no wonder he was Rhyshladlyn’s Warrior. No one would ever see him coming until it was too late.

Oh, very clever. I’m impressed.

“Seventy-five feet or so,” he answered with a shrug. He pushed a hand through his hair and sighed, glancing over his shoulder in time to see an orange and yellow Oiki slink along the boundary, its iridescence sending glints of light across the clearing. Even at the height of midday, those reflections were still bright enough to be tracked as they danced across the grass. “I just wish I knew why they were guarding us like this. Why we’re being kept here.”

Jerald chuckled, the sound rich and deep. If Eiod hadn’t already checked his magickal signature to make sure he was the same person, he wouldn’t believe that this Alphenian was the same one he’d carried out of the Hall after Xitlali had lost what little control of her sanity she’d had left on him. Wouldn’t believe that this was the same one who’d survived the explosions in Ryphqi City, that had survived the burning of Ahkshen. It was like he was a different Dhaoine entirely now even though Eiod knew that wasn’t true let alone possible.

But he also knew first hand how being qahllyn changed a Dhaoine.

“I think they’re making sure that neither of us goes anywhere that could endanger us,” Jerald replied. “After all, I am very much needed by–” he glanced around, pausing as his magick slipped out to test for anyone listening, before he continued, “–the Grey Qishir. And while you are not qahllyn to him, you are also needed.”

Eiod frowned at the shorter male. “Still doesn’t explain why they,” he waved an impatient hand towards the creatures pacing on the other side of the wards, sensed but not visible, “are keeping us here. They could escort us to keep us safe. There’s no reason to keep us trapped here with her.

If the Alphenian rolled his eyes any harder, Eiod worried they’d get stuck like that. His head hurt just watching it.

“They answer to Rhyshladlyn, my Lord,” Jerald answered. “This entire Forest does. That’s why Xitlali picking this place is so ironic because she doesn’t know. She has absolutely no idea that the home she took over had passed from Maestrelan Azhuriel to Rhyshladlyn centuries ago.”

Well that explains that, since Xitlali has never quite been the smartest Dhaoine in a room. 

“And how do you know?” he asked, unable to swallow the question down even though he knew he wasn’t going to like the answer.

Jerald didn’t have to answer, just looked at him, and Eiod felt a shiver dance down his spine; not quite fear but close enough that it made ever instinct in him wake up and chitter.

“I know because they’ve spoken to me.” The Truth in those words made his bones thrum.

High and Old Ones prevailing, he was so tired of being told things that threatened to shake his Worlds view. Was it so hard to ask for normal things? Like not talking to three of the deadliest magickal creatures in the Worlds and being nonchalant about it?

But he had the feeling that the longer he spent involved with Rhyshladlyn, the less normalcy he’d see.

“Something is coming, Lord Eiod,” Jerald’s voice was soft but it carried a weight to it that Eiod had heard before, would recognize anywhere, as the Alphenian looked back at the wards. “Something disastrous for the Worlds is going to happen and we are going to be front and center for it.” He sighed and pushed off the pillar, turning to head back inside and go about his afternoon duties, the glamours that hid his true magickal and physical strength settling over him. “And I fear that there is nothing we’ll be able to do to stop it.”

And with that the Alphenian slave left him standing alone, staring open mouthed after him because the last time he’d heard that kind of weight in a Dhaoine’s voice was when Rhyshladlyn had killed Lulphé.

Looking over his shoulder at the wards when movement caught his eye, he watched a Xhlën that was easily a foot taller than himself with a dark grey face head? Are they heads? Or faces? Faces… I’m going to go with faces, one shadow-born hand lifting to press against the wards. It tilted that featureless head to one side and Eiod felt the pulse of its awareness against the natural Shields around his mind. Frowning, thinking on what Jerald had said and how he hated feeling like he’d missed something major, he dropped those Shields just enough.

He expected the creature’s voice to be like thunder or waves crashing against a rocky shore or carry the type of resonance gods-ridden clergy had sometimes. But it was none of those. It was monotonous and soothing, an easy gliding lilt that carried the echo of eons in each rolled consonant and twanging vowel.

*What the Grey Warrior speaks of is Truth, Eiod nóh Akkensahn.* 

And even more odd was that he was not afraid.

“I gathered that, but what does he mean? What is coming?” It occurred to him after he spoke the words that being demanding of a being older than dirt and that could easily kill him without a passing thought probably wasn’t a wise idea. But it was too late not to take it back.

*That is information not even my kind has, Eiod nóh Akkensahn. But I can tell you this: the disaster you and the Grey Warrior shall witness will be something you will not remember until the very second it is necessary. There is naught you can do to stop it. Merely bear witness and remember when the time is right. And pray that the Worlds are still alive by the time that Freedom has been returned.*

Before he could do more than frown and take an aborted step forward, the Xhlën was gone, the pulse of it pressing on his Shields a quickly fading memory.

Scratch my earlier thought. There has never been such thing as normalcy where Rhyshladlyn is concerned. 

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