He wished it didn’t hurt so much. That he didn’t feel so… so betrayed.
Because he hadn’t lied. Hadn’t hidden anything. He was just as he had ever been: open and honest and sincere. Sure those of his kind in the Grey Army had come to him after the Ildir had been killed, told him that they’d felt the same shift he had. But he had sent them away, told them he was not worthy of them bending a knee to, of swearing their fealty to. That their devotion and honor was better placed at Rhyshladlyn’s feet than his own.
But of course his Qishir didn’t know that. Though given how things had been going since he’d come back? He wouldn’t be surprised if Rhyshladlyn did know and just didn’t care.
Which was such bullshit because he was his Steward. By the Many, he should come before all others because at the end of the day the first line of defense to a Qishir is their Steward, the only one in their Triad and Sacred Three capable of filling two positions at once. The Steward was always qahllyn first and by rights and customs was Blood Oathed first. And yet here he was, sent away while Rhyshladlyn kept Azriel at his side, Azriel whose Oath had been Answered. Sure everyone else but Nhulynolyn and Bayls, who were to be handfasted, had been dismissed, too. But somehow that didn’t sting nearly as badly as being back-seated to Azriel again. Just like he always had been, just like he always was.
And what made it worse was that he knew he was being irrational about this, that logically it made no sense. He knew he hadn’t been as forthcoming with Rhyshladlyn as he probably should have been, though he hadn’t lied, and that required a response that was less than pleasant. He knew that, he accepted it. But still it stung that where Rhyshladlyn would have stopped and conversed with him before the war, now he talked at him. And then when he didn’t get what he wanted? He threw the subject of his ire away like trash. And it angered him. The Many grant him strength, did it anger him.
He wanted to go back to when things were simple. Back before the war had started, before Azriel had gotten captured. When the only worry was preparing for whatever response the Ancients would bring to bear as a response to Azhuri’s murder. When things were easy and if they fought, they still stumbled into bed together at the end of the night, he still woke up to smiles and cheek kisses or soft touches along his arm or back, fingers playing with his while they sat and had breakfast. He still knew they’d gather round the fire pit and dance and sing and make music.
Back then he knew that no matter what happened between him and Rhyshladlyn, he knew exactly where he stood come the morning. Knew without any shred of doubt that he was destined to stand by the Qishir’s side, that come whatever may, Rhyshladlyn would not forsake him.
With a growl he threw his tea mug across the tent, taking little pleasure in the way it hit a support pole and shattered, the liquid soaking the ground where it fell.
And that was just another thing to add to the list. He had forsaken his people’s teachings of total control of their emotions, of stoicness and pacifism. He’d learned to feel at the raw, Self-deep level because of Rhyshladlyn, had learned the true meaning of strength and devotion and love.
And at first he had been grateful.
But now? Now he was angry. Now he was resentful. Because he’d only ever done exactly what was asked of him, exactly what he was told was right, exactly what he should have done.
By the Many he wished it didn’t hurt so much. He wished he didn’t feel so hurt and lost and confused. Wished even more that his skin didn’t itch and his Self didn’t ache for a bond that had only been Accepted at the most, not Answered or Oathed. Four hundred and nearly fifty years was long enough to wait.
A peculiar wetness on his arms made him look down to find blood dropping onto his feet and the ground around him. As the pain registered in his forearms, he noticed the long tears in the skin along old scars, he swallowed back a sob.
He sank to his knees in the dirt and grass of his tent, and cried as his qahllyn’qir burned and itched, as he fought not to tear open any more of the old scars that he had learned to bear proudly and with some semblance of dignity. Bore as symbols of survival and strength in the face of debilitating loses.
But unlike the first time he’d done this, there was no one to hear his crying, no one that would come running and stop him. No one to listen to him cry, no one to clean the wounds and bandage them. No one to watch him and make sure he didn’t reopen them before they could heal.
This time, he was alone. Well and truly alone.