The two-way mirror buzzed on his cot, making him jump at the unexpected noise.
He looked out the doorway to see Rhyshladlyn was still moving through his warm-ups before he started sparring, Nhulynolyn moving through his own warm ups beside him, while Bayls sat on a rock beside the morning cook-fire watching them both. The three of them were so focused on what they were doing they didn’t even notice he was looking at them, that he still hadn’t come out of the tent, or even the obnoxiously loud vibrations shaking his bed.
With a relieved sigh he didn’t understand the reason for as he pushed his still damp hair out of his face, he looked back at the mirror that bounced and buzzed on his cot. He knew the person calling just didn’t know why. Or rather, didn’t know why receiving a call this way made the skin between his shoulderblades crawl.
Because the only person who had a mirror that shared a line with his was Thayne, exchanged while they’d been at the cabin still, before the attack on Ryphqi City and the burning of Ahkshen city-village.
*The last time a two-way mirror in your possession went off it was Lulphé calling you, Master,* Malkuth said, heading lifting from where he was curled on Azriel’s pillow, tongue flicking out at him.
Azriel stared down at the small mirror in his hand as it vibrated strongly enough that the sound could almost be heard over the conversation in the kitchen where Relyt was instructing Nhulynolyn how to make gheczyk, a traditional meal of meat and vegetables cooked at times of mourning loved ones who had crossed through the veil. Fear knotted hard and thick in his stomach as he continued to stare down at that mirror. It hadn’t gone off in decades, not since the night Rhyshladlyn’s right arm had been burned. He didn’t want to answer it, wondered how he had even managed to hold on to it, why he had. Ever since–
He shook his head to clear away the memory and nodded at Malkuth who flicked his tongue out again before laying back down.
He knew this wasn’t like that moment. Knew his sister wasn’t able to call him, never mind that she was wiped from the face of Existence, but also because he’d destroyed that mirror soon as he’d ended that particular call. So this wouldn’t end up like that night had. It couldn’t.
At least he hoped it couldn’t.
Grabbing up the mirror he plopped down on the cot in its place and clicked it open, engaging the call with a swipe of his thumb across the reflective surface. Soon as Thayne’s face swam into clarity he frowned at the expression on her face. He would call it fear-born anger if he didn’t doubt that there was anything still living capable of creating such feelings in his niece.
“Thayne? What’s wrong?”
“Uncle, we have a problem,” the General looked over her shoulder, face a wash of bruising and blood and other things, crimson eyes wide and filled with some emotion he couldn’t place as her expression changed as she looked back at him. “Where is Rhys?”
“Outside,” he glanced at the tent entrance briefly before looking back at Thayne. “Should I go get him? Where are you? Are you safe?”
“Yes, get him now. I’m on a Field somewhere near Atlanshïr in Ansyen Lontän World,” Thayne shook her head, rubbing a hand over her face. She hissed in disgust when she realized she’d smeared all the nastiness that covered her in the process, shoulder twitching as she no doubt shook her hand out of sight. “I’m safe enough but given the news I just got, I can’t speak for how long that safety will last or even if it qualifies as safety.”
“Is that Azriel?” Thae’a’s voice sounded distant, shouted over the din of fighting in the background as the magick of the connection widened to catch her voice as it registered that Thae’a was talking to the initiator of the call.
“Aye!” Thayne called back.
Thae’a called something else, but it was too garbled for him to make out.
“I’m working on it!” Thayne snapped in response before looking back at him with a roll of her eyes that made his own twinge in sympathy.
He stared at his niece blankly. “Are you still on the fucking Field?”
Thayne just raised an eyebrow at him in response before snarling, her end going fuzzy as she moved, the sounds of fighting loud and far too close for his comfort. After a minute it stabilized and a now bloodier Thayne was once again looking at him.
“Thayne,” he admonished, pushing up from the cot and heading towards the tent’s entrance, waving a hand at Bayls to get her attention. Sketching a quick Sinxhët hand sign, he focused back on the General who looked just as he remembered from when she was but a fledgling still coming to grips with who her mother was and what being named Lulphé’s only heir meant for her future. “What is so important that you didn’t even leave the Field to call me?”
“Just get Rhyshladlyn, Uncle. Please.”
Even if he hadn’t already done so, that please would have done him in. He could count on one hand the amount of times Thayne had spoken a plea with that tone to him. And each time it had never ended well.
He looked up in time to see his Qishir walking towards him, eyes narrowed, gait loose and flowing. There was meanness in his eyes that made his instincts chitter with worry. The Dhaoine that crossed the distance between them was the master strategist, this was the Grey Qishir on full alert. This was the warrior willing and capable of doing anything in order to ensure the safety of those he cared and was responsible for.
And seeing it now, walking towards him, when the last time had been face to face on a Field with their swords pitted against each other? Well, he was having mixed feelings and not all of them were appropriate for the present situation.
“I am here, General, what is going on?” Rhyshladlyn asked when he was within ear shot, and Azriel tilted the mirror and widened its view so Thayne was able to see them both.
“Relyt Greymend has been lying to us for centuries.”
Azriel nearly dropped the damn mirror in his shock, Bayls and Nhulynolyn making identical hisses of surprise that at any other time he would have ribbed them endlessly for. But this wasn’t the time because that was a heavy thing for Thayne to say, especially with that much unmitigated Truth to her words. And if it was provable?
Gods help us all.
“Do you have proof?” Rhyshladlyn’s voice was low and full of danger, the air thrumming with it. “For such an accusation against the Grey Steward is a heavy thing to speak into being, General Firesbane.” The Qishir’s voice was like glass shattering when the pressure exerted upon it became too much. Azriel swallowed thickly at the sound, feeling better when he saw Nhulynolyn and Bayls do the same.
It was one thing to know one’s Qishir was raw, terrifying power packed into a body that was equally as resilient as the Self and magick that powered it. It was another thing entirely to see it.
“Aye, my Qishir. I would not speak such if I didn’t.”
Rhyshladlyn nodded, eyes meeting Azriel’s before he spoke again. He didn’t need to have the door to their link open to know what Rhyshladlyn was thinking. He’d spent enough time around him to know the next words before they were even spoken.
“Is that proof still breathing?”
“Aye, my Qishir.”
“Good. Keep it that way. I shall be there within an hour.”
“As you will,” Thayne answered before cutting the connection.
“Forgive me,” Azriel murmured, ducking his head once before meeting Rhyshladlyn’s gaze unflinchingly as he closed the mirror and pocketed it, “but we are only one World over, why would it take you an hour to get there?”
Rhyshladlyn’s smile made even Bayls and Nhulynolyn who couldn’t see it flinch. It was made of sharp edges, shadows, and promises of pain. And High Ones Hear him always, he was grateful it wasn’t directed at him.
“The anticipation of my arrival is the best part,” the Qishir answered with a wink that made Azriel feel like he needed another wash. “And if this Dhaoine Thayne is holding for me has proof my Steward has spoken untruths to me? I want to get a proper Feeding off them. And that takes building their anticipation and fear of my imminent arrival.”
“And after you have?” Bayls asked, her voice quivering only slightly. “Fed, that is, I m-mean.”
Rhyshladlyn chuckled, the sound sickly sweet and full of the shards his broken-glass tone had created as he turned and looked at the Sinner female.
“I’m going to go Hunting.”