He had no idea how or when he’d made it out of the Keep, how he’d gotten passed the Hounds and Xhlëndïr and Oiki, but somehow he had. Somehow he’d made it almost back to the camp when he felt it like a fire wind.
When the Wrongness hit the Worlds with earth quaking strength and knocked him to his knees.
When the first howl of pure agony roared across his mind and made his ears bleed.
When he felt the burning of his betrayal sear its way across his nerves.
He hadn’t meant for this to happen, for things to go this way. He’d only wanted Rhyshladlyn to See him and Hear him. All he had ever wanted was acknowledgement from the one person he loved above all others, even the females and neodrachs that had birthed his children, even his blooded and adopted children.
But what he had wanted and what Lílrt had wanted were two different things and Relyt hadn’t known that until it was too late. Hadn’t known until he was face to face with a terrified Rhyshladlyn, eyes wide and childlike in a face that was too old for the look that contorted his features. Hadn’t known until the cold metal that had been in his hands when Rhyshladlyn had come crashing through the front door of the Keep was no longer burning through his skin.
“Relyt! Help me! Please, get this off me! Please, Relyt! Relyt! R e l y t!“
Cursing softly, he pushed himself back to his knees, when did I fall forward?, willing his shaking and fuzzy vision to settle out, to clear, as his stomach roiled and his skin crawled. But it didn’t. And as the same desperation and horror that had driven him to punch through a Shield to get to his Qishir when he’d Spoken an Oathing Sacrifice burned across his qahllyn’qir he knew what Lílrt’s ultimate goal had been. Knew because he could feel Rhyshladlyn’s magick being torn apart, could feel him dying, and it was all his fault.
But it was too late to try to make it back to him in time to stop it, he’d never make it in time.
Tears burned hot with shame and guilt down his cheeks as his qahllyn’qir glowed white-hot, pulled into the visible spectrum by the loss of the Qishir they were tied to.
“And in giving you my Self, I take the magick from yours so that its burden is not one you must bear alone,” his voice shook as he spoke the final words of the Oath he had hoped to one day Speak to Rhyshladlyn properly. Finally understanding why Lílrt had chuckled when he’d told the older male.
Rhys, please forgive m–
Azriel screamed until his throat tore, until he coughed up blood, until his body heaved and spasmed an attempt to keep him from choking on his own blood. And still he screamed.
Screamed and flailed and punched and clawed, feeling skin tear under his nails and bones break and muscles rip, hearing hisses and yowls of pain, smelling blood and fear and worry on the rotted breeze. But he didn’t stop. He had to get to Rhyshladlyn. Had to remove the band of icy fire that encircled his neck, that was ripping him apart at the molecular level, before it killed him. But he couldn’t move except to fight against whatever held him still.
So he screamed. Screamed and threw his power to the fourteen winds as a Wrongness thundered across the Worlds aiming for the Forest he could just make out in the long distance, where his Qishir, his mate, was being torn apart, cries for help and mercy and please gods make it stop please someone help me help me help me help me h e l p m e! an incessant assault on one’s ears. Azriel didn’t feel the full force of the agony the Qishir was suffering, Rhyshladlyn was Shielding him too well for that, but he felt enough. Knew that it was worse because Rhyshladlyn wasn’t Shielding well enough to keep him from seeing the blood splattered across the tile floor, shiny and brilliant under the unnatural swirling light that surrounded them, from hearing the joyous laughter that filled the empty spaces Rhyshladlyn’s screams and pleas left behind.
As their Bond began to shake violently, he held his breath, falling quiet for the first time in what felt like days. The Worlds held their breath right along with him as everything paused with the absolute stillness only the dead had. Then it snapped and he felt like he was trying to breathe through fire, his vision whiting out as an agony the likes of which he had no words for dug in, shifted, and–
Nhulynolyn felt it the second the metal had settled around his twin’s neck. Heard the screaming pleas to help him spoken to the one person he had never expected that kind of betrayal from. Rushed to stop Azriel from hauling ass to get to Rhyshladlyn because he knew it was too late for the Anglëtinean, for anyone really, to do shit all to help the Qishir.
Felt it the second the spell took hold, the second the Wrongness blew outward and came rushing back in, destroying everything in its path as it aimed for the Forest of Dreams and Darkness with all the fury and elation only freely escaped victims had.
Felt it the second Xheshmaryú let out a short cry, hands clutching at the sides of his head before Nhulynolyn couldn’t feel him anymore.
Felt it the second Shadiranamen turned to Thayne, breathless and terrified, getting out only, “it’s happen–” before Nhulynolyn couldn’t feel her anymore either.
Fear slipped cold and wet down his back as he turned to Bayls, as he tried to tell her something was wrong, as he gave up and started to say he loved her when Azriel’s qahllyn’qir ignited with a blinding light before they disappeared with a high pitched whining snap.
But he never got the chance to do more than draw a single breath bef–
It was finally time.
The Question had been asked and Answered.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
And with it, the walls cracked and splintered, warmth and life spilling in and chasing away the cold and stagnate air. Millions of voices rose in one cry that shook the Worlds:
F R E E D O M.
As they, the Lost and the Broken and the Forgotten, hit the Worlds, as they thundered towards their goal, the Balance of All Things wobbled dangerously.
As they reached their goal, the Balance of All Things shook.
As they enveloped their goal, the Balance of All Things seized.
As they consumed their goal, as they ate at the ties that connected the Grey One to the very essence of what he was, the Balance of All Things failed.
As they severed the last tie with a high pitched whining snap, the Balance of All Things died.
And with it, their joy spread Ordered Chaos across the Seven Worlds with a sweet, rotten whisper of finally we know peace.
END BOOK TWO