“How long has he been like this?”
The trees were so beautiful this time of year as the snow fell in slow tumbles between them to the grass below. He caught glimpses of the iridescent flickers of Oiki in the far distance but he wasn’t concerned with them. They weren’t trying to lure him to his death any more than the Hounds or Xhlëndïr were. Nothing here could or would hurt him. They were made to protect him. To them, he wasn’t food and he would never be food, at least not to the Hounds, Xhlëndïr, and Oiki that lived beneath the canopy far above his head. The other creatures that lurked in the too thicker shadows and even thicker darkness, on the other hand, were a mystery.
But no one, Dhaoine, creature, or otherwise was stupid enough to attack him. Not if they wanted to live. It should have a been a more comforting thought than it was.
He followed a soft golden glow, humming along to the melody that slithered out among the trees, haunting and ethereal. He knew that golden glow was equal parts dangerous and not but he couldn’t ignore it any longer. More importantly he didn’t want to. It felt like safety and home and freedom and he was so tired of not having those things. Perhaps his desperation for them made him reckless but if Death awaited him at the end of this path, well it was a welcomed end to the horror he lived every day and he wouldn’t fight it.
But something told him that that was not what awaited him. That Death, while its song was eerie and beautiful and intoxicating, the melody that guided him among the trees like the teasing here and there hands of a lover wasn’t Death’s own.
“Unknown, my Qishir. He was discovered like this not that long ago. Ten minutes tops to account for the time it took me to be reached and then for me to reach you.”
“Please tell me he wasn’t found like this by a client.”
“I’m afraid so, my Qishir.”
“I want the guards who are supposed to check on him in my chambers immediately.”
“Aye, my Qishir. I will send them right away.”
His body was swaying to the beat of that melody. He knew the Song it sang by heart but he didn’t recognize it right away, not enough to sing the words. Only enough to know he knew it. Only enough to not be surprised by the chiming of bells that rose in counter to that melodic beat that thrummed like the wings of a captured bird. Only enough to suck in a breath as he felt an awareness that was young in the way the newer gods were dance elation across his skin. And with it, that glow brightened and he smiled as a laugh bubbled in his throat.
But he didn’t loose it. Not yet. The timing wasn’t right.
“Has anyone tried to pull him out of this… whatever this is?”
The Hounds and Xhlëndïr and Oiki that shadowed him on either side of the path rose their voices to join the melody, to sing in the only way they could. Their magick pushed at him and he whimpered because it hurt. But they didn’t stop and he didn’t dare try and tell them to. Not when he was so close to the source of that glow that he could feel it knocking against his legs like ocean waves on a beach, but it was more than that and somehow less simultaneously.
“The client tried. It didn’t… it was…”
“Spit it out, Iköl. I haven’t got all night.”
“The client’s magick was drained and his mind is in pieces with no chance of recovery. He breathes but it is a formality at this point.”
“The guards who came in to the sound of a scuffle and screaming, this client isn’t that one, said the client’s fingers had barely made contact with his shoulder. That that was clearly enough to well, break his mind and drain his magick completely.”
“Drained as in his stores are gone and he has no energy for magick?”
“No, my Qishir. He has no magick at all. No magickal signature. For all intents and purposes, he is now an Imènian with a shattered mind.”
“By all the gods… How could he have done that? The collar should have stopped him from being able to perform anything magickal.”
“According to the Healers, he didn’t perform any magick. There’s no trace of a spell or a curse or any act of magick on his part. Just what you see him doing here and if anyone touches him, there’s a chance they can end up like his client did.”
Before him a clearing stretched for acres, a perfect circle. The canopy-free grass was thicker here, darker, more of a pure emerald than the nearly black green the canopy-shrouded grass was. The snow fell just as slow here but it had accumulated in a thick layer the further away from the treeline he got. It crunched underfoot, loose enough to risk his footing but not enough to make him rethink walking on it. That golden glow was blinding now as he stood in the center of the clearing and looked up at the sky, tracking the droplets of stars that were brushed across it, brighter in the absence of the moon.
The deadly creatures that were descendants of his people, that were the embodiments of Greywalkers who had lost control, whose Balance had been forsaken, gathered on the fringes of the clearing. Gathered close enough that the golden glow illuminated them but not enough that they were exposed to the open sky. There would be time for that. For now, they could stay shadowed and half-hidden from the Worlds who had forgotten them, who had forsaken them. For now he would keep them company, he would hear their stories and sing their songs and walk with them.
Because, like them, he knew what it was like to be forgotten, to be forsaken, to be betrayed.
“Is he saying something?”
“I believe so, my Qishir.”
“Can you make out the words?”
“Not enough to be certain.”
The laugh that had bubbled up in his throat earlier cascaded outward with all the force of a hurricane making abrupt landfall. It danced along the note lines made by the Hounds, Xhlëndïr, and Oiki. Twirled in circles with the melody-beat and the humming of that glow.
A sharp, burning pain brought his attention away from the sky and to the skin of his inner wrists where silvery-white lines flickered in and out of visibility. It took him a moment to notice that they were so noticeable against his paler than normal skin because said skin was glowing. It took him a moment longer than that to realize that the golden glow he had been following through the trees was his own. And when that knowledge sank in and spread, those silvery-white lines formed into two separate marks: an hourglass and a set of scales draped from the hilt of a sword with a feather shaped blade.
And suddenly he knew the words to the Song. Knew them with a certainty that shook his very Self. So he threw back his head and tossed the words out mid-verse:
“It started off so innocently,
But grew to something we couldn’t foresee.
And soon we were left with only,
Sharp and twisted memories.”
“Get me Anointed One Lílrt now.”