17

She didn’t need Adïmshyl to come bursting through the front door of their house, his breath ragged and his magick winging out around him as his fear and his hope and his concern saturated the air, to tell her that something was wrong. She didn’t even need him to tell her to look out the back windows that faced their garden to know that something had changed about the City they had come to call home. She already knew because she’d been standing at the kitchen sink staring out those windows for nearly ten minutes before he’d gotten home. And she’d kept it together the whole time until he came to stand behind her. Until his arms wrapped around her waist, his chin hooking over her shoulder. But when his familiar scent settled around her? She let out a soft sob and sank back against the solid wall of him, feeling every ounce of the grief she’d thought she’d worked through come crashing down on her all at once, all over again.

She watched as first Xheshmaryú and then Shadiranamen disappeared. Watched as Nhulynolyn raced to get to Bayls in time, raced to take hold of her and say something before he, too, disappeared. At a flash of brilliant light, she turned and felt her fear morph into something worse, something far more vicious, as she realized what the marks on Azriel’s skin were and what their visibility meant. And when they snapped? 

That vicious fear-shifted emotion burrowed deep, took hold, and spread. And she threw back her head and made reality whine with her grief scream. 

Because they’d taken up a house that stood at the base of the Heart Watchtower of Ryphqi City, one of the seven total that Rhyshladlyn had raised before his disappearance. Had settled in and helped the City rebuild in the aftermath of the war and the attack that had leveled it because she’d sworn she could still feel Rhyshladlyn’s magick still thickening the air. Had sworn that even though he was clearly lost to them, it felt like he was still here when she walked the streets, when she touched her hands to the stone of the Watchtowers he’d tethered himself, Azriel, Relyt, and Jerald to. Had sworn that she would do what he would have had he been alive in his honor, in his stead. And staring at the Heart Watchtower, she felt hope swell in her chest. Even though she knew it was likely nothing more than her mind trying to make his loss easier on her heart, it didn’t stop her from feeling it.

In all the years that had passed from the day she and Adïmshyl had built their new home here, she had never once thought she’d be standing where she was right now. Never thought she’d feel hope so strong it stole her breath and made her heart feel five sizes too big for her chest. Never thought she’d cry with a relief she knew she shouldn’t sink into yet while Adïmshyl held her.

But that didn’t stop her hopes from raising, didn’t stop her from wrapping that relief around her grief-laden shoulders like a blanket to stave off the winter cold. Especially as she stood and watched the Heart Watchtower glow, as she watched it get brighter, humming like a heartbeat as its glow dimmed and brightened, dimmed and brightened at regular intervals, reminding her of how Shiran City had used to glow before Rhyshladlyn had pulled it beneath the roiling Shiraniqi Desert sands. As she watched that glow spread to the buildings that surrounded it, the same awareness she’d felt that night all those centuries ago when Rhyshladlyn had woken the City once again went slip sliding along her skin.

She shouldn’t get her hopes up because the odds were never in their favor, ever, but seeing that? She couldn’t help it. The Weaving One forgive her, she couldn’t help it.

“He’s alive, Dïm,” she whispered and her mate just held her tighter, turning to bury his nose where her shoulder and neck met. “He’s gotta be alive.”

“Come on, Tee, let’s pack some bags and head to Eyrdo,” he murmured against her neck, voice the rich, deep rumble of a healthy fire. “If Ryphqi’s Towers are awake, Shiran’s must be, too, since Ka’ahne tethered himself to both.”

She shook her head and wrapped her arms over his, hugging them to her as she did so.

“No, Dïm,” she answered, watching that glow get all the brighter, “Thayne will be sending someone here.”

He didn’t question her and for that she was thankful because she didn’t think she had it in her to argue the point. Not when the first real reason to hope was pulsing and glowing not even a block away.

Please, please let him be alive.

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