He groaned as awareness rushed back in. He didn’t know where he was, only that the ambient magick felt similar to what surrounded Rhyshladlyn but he knew that couldn’t be right. He hadn’t been near his little brother in a week at the least.

“You’re awake.” It wasn’t a question but rather a mere statement of fact.

He groaned again, louder this time and fought the urge to hiss. He knew that voice. It was the one that had spoken the words that forced him to torment his little brother for months. It had appeared in his dreams, if one could call them that, whenever he’d managed to sleep and made him do despicable things when he was awake. It had forced him to become the psychological equivalent of his sire and may the gods forgive him, but he hadn’t been strong enough to break free from the spells’ hold.

But that wasn’t the only place he knew that voice from or the owner of it.

He had never seen Rhyshladlyn look like that, all torn apart and lifeless, body just this side of absolutely destroyed. But even with Ero pressing him against a wall nearby, even with the Soulless murmuring soothingly to him, trying to keep him from going nova, it didn’t drown out the clipped, dry way that the Soul Healer responded to the other Healers that worked to keep Rhyshladlyn alive. It didn’t distract him from the way this unknown male’s power felt like a gentle spring breeze, the way it gave him hope and an indescribable feeling that so long as this Soul Healer didn’t abandon them, that Rhyshladlyn stood a chance of living through this, of living through anything.  

“Oh goody, you’re here. Just the Dhaoine I wanted to wake up to,” he grumbled as he blinked open his eyes, hissing against the light that shone from thousands of jars that lined the room from floor to ceiling. not caring at all that he sounded petulant.

He was too tired to give a shit anymore. Existing hurt and he had been brought back to life before he should have been, before it was his time and it had thrown off everything. The Natural Order had been skewed, not in a way that was obvious, but he didn’t doubt that Rhyshladlyn, whose main purpose for existing was to keep the Worlds Balanced, was feeling the strain of it. Didn’t doubt that it was just strong enough to keep him off kilter. Which put them all in danger of something far greater than Anis believed this traitorous fuck knew or cared about.

Anis knew there was no way the Anointed Ones understood just how fucked they all were now. Because they hadn’t been to the After, they didn’t know why Rhyshladlyn was as powerful as he was, what Fate’s mantel really meant when supported by the Qishir’s shoulders. But he knew, he and all the Dhaoine who had crossed the River.

And the Selves locked in the jars that surrounded him in this room knew. He could feel it pressing against his skin like thousands of tiny, insistent hands; a hot wind of hate and fury. 

“Your purpose for being brought back will finally come to fruition, dear Anis, you should be happy,” the Anointed One, well one of them, replied conversationally. This one was a Soul Healer, too, but unlike the true Anointed One, the brains behind the entire thing, he wasn’t a pureblood.

“I’m not happy, happy isn’t even in the same World as what I am. The Worlds are fucked all because that traitor couldn’t get over himself,” he spat, staring hard at the Anointed One who reeked of Rhyshladlyn but not in the way he had when they’d first met; not in the way he should. He bore the scent of violence backed by emotion so raw it created ambient magick rather than tainted it. “I spent months torturing my brother, having my mind raped by the both of you, and yet I’m supposed to happy that you’re both going to use me again to hurt my brother? I’ll pass.”

“Your brother is being fetched as we speak,” the Anointed One continued as though Anis hadn’t spoken at all, walking over to a table on the the other side of the room and picking up an empty jar. He moved with an easy nonchalance that reminded Anis of Father and it made his skin crawl. Or maybe that’s the way that jar is Calling to me. “And when he arrives? The real fun will begin.”

All his indignation, all his anger, all his disgust leached out of him at those words, at the realization what that jar was meant to hold. He wanted to fight, wanted to try and break free of the magick that held him on his knees on the uneven stone floor, wanted to scream and curse, but there was no point. He was just too tired.

So long as I get to sleep, I don’t care what the fuck happens.

And perhaps it was wrong of him to think that and mean it, but his Self was exhausted. He wasn’t supposed to be here and yet he had been called back to the living realm before his proper time. And then before his Self had even gotten the chance to acclimate to the way the Worlds felt again, mind magick had bombarded him at every minuscule sign of resistance; broke him down until he wanted nothing more than to beg to be wiped out of the Cycle of Life all together because if he couldn’t be brought back either by nature rebirth or by force, this absolute bullshit couldn’t be repeated.

But as the black eyed Anointed One turned and smiled at him, hefting that jar with its glowing sigils high so he could see it, Anis knew that his wish wasn’t going to be granted before he’d even felt the intrusive press of the other male’s magick against the Shields around his mind.

Knew he’d never know true peace when the grey eyed Anointed One, the Soul Healer that had saved his little brother all those centuries ago, that had stood up to Anislanzir and negotiated a Healer’s Contract without missing a beat or showing a single hint of fear looked away, shame rolling off him in waves.

“Why me? Of all the Dhaoine you could have used to hurt Rhys, why chose me?”

“Because out of you, Azriel, and Relly, you were the only one whose Harvesting wouldn’t kill the Grey Qishir before we could make use of him.”

“He’s going to kill you both,” he growled on one last burst of righteous anger as he watched the half-breed Anointed One unscrew the jar’s top while the other one began to speak softly in a language that felt ancient as it hung in the air.

He didn’t get a verbal reply before the last thought that was solely his own, I’m so sorry, Rhys, I wasn’t strong enough, danced into being and then… nothing.

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