18

It was like the past had repeated itself almost perfectly and it unnerved him. As though he was once again standing in the Keep at the heart of the Forest of Dreams and Darkness looking at Rhyshladlyn’s prone, unconscious form. Only back then the Qishir had hung from magicked shackles in the workroom he’d been collared in. Only then Lílrt had believed he’d never have this opportunity again. That he’d never get the chance to see the Grey Qishir rendered limp in the way only unconsciousness and death could cause and take him in, truly take him in, unhindered and unhurried.

It was hard not to make comparisons between the Rhyshladlyn of his memory and the Rhyshladlyn of now. Because for all that three hundred years had passed between that day and this one, Rhyshladlyn didn’t seem all that different even though Lílrt knew he was.

He still had the hair-bells woven into his hair, despite how Xitlali had tried desperately to cut them out; suffice it to say, it hadn’t ended very well for the Mad Qishir but it had been funny as fuck to watch. He still had the war-honed muscles that his slave garb couldn’t hide but that definition was different, not as tight as it had been, as though the lack of true movement over the last three centuries had softened his edges. The regal slope of his forehead, his dainty nose, his kissable lips with their perfect bow, the sharp cut of his jaw and the line of his throat were all the same but they didn’t seem as intimidating now with his hair grown out long about his shoulders, falling in tumbling auburn waves that shined against his tanned skin and the two inch wide silver collar that sat low around his neck. He still had that sense of banked aggression and the soft, siren call of death, an air of violence given humanoid form but it didn’t seem real, not like it had before. As though the loss of his powers, of what made him a Dhaoine and a Greywalker, had taken that from him. His eyes were still the same startling, intense orange-amber that seemed to glow no matter what amount of light he stood in, no matter whether he had magick to fill the shadowed depths that yawned behind them or not. They pierced one all the way down until it was like he saw the Self that powered the body he stood before.

The Grey Qishir was just as breathtaking now has he’d ever been and of all the things Lílrt had prepared for, that hadn’t come near the list. Especially when he’d gotten word that something was wrong with the collar. Especially when he got here and had seen what the Qishir had done to a client, to the rug in his room, to the floor. He had expected a lot of things but walking into a room that reeked of magick had not been one of them.

But it wasn’t that it had reeked of magick in general but rather that unlike the rest of the Worlds outside this room with its magick tampering wards and spells and Shields designed to keep the Dhaoine currently passed out cold on its floor contained should the collar around his neck fail completely, the magick here wasn’t wild, it wasn’t untamed, it wasn’t chaotic with random blips of order. But that couldn’t, shouldn’t, be possible. He’d researched the spellwork on the collar himself. He had tested it, planned it, everything, himself because he hadn’t trusted anyone else to do it and get it right. After all they’d only had one chance to succeed.

Slowly he rose from his crouch but didn’t take his eyes from Rhyshladlyn. Because he knew the collar worked, he’d watched it do exactly what it was supposed to when the same magick that made the air in the room heavy had cascaded out again and sent the Qishir into a seizure as agony replaced his every single nerve. But somehow Rhyshladlyn had managed to perform magick despite the collar, despite the spells and wards and Shields, had managed to continue to leak that heavy-aired power up until the moment he couldn’t stay conscious anymore.

Fuck. What have I done? What did I miss

“I need every book you can find on magickal theory regarding Greywalkers and their abilities,” he didn’t look up from the prone, unconscious form of the Grey Qishir at his feet when he spoke.

“I don’t think any exist anymore,” Xitlali’s voice quivered with an edge of fear he didn’t blame her for, he wasn’t even disgusted by it.

Because if he was being honest with himself, he was afraid, too. So afraid it felt like his skin was too warm and his blood too cold. As though if he were cut right that moment, steam would rise from him when his blood hit his skin like cold water on a freshly used cooking pot. But for all that he was terrified, he didn’t let it show. He had a reputation to uphold. He’d admit willingly enough that something was wrong with the collar, that much was obvious to anyone who had stood in this damned room, to anyone who had seen or heard of what had happened to the client who had touched Rhyshladlyn’s shoulder. But he wouldn’t show he was afraid.

He was many things, but weak like his little brother was when it came to the Grey Qishir was not one of them. I’ll kill myself before the day that ever happens. 

“Ransack any and every City library you can get into and out of undetected. There’s got to be copies somewhere,” he answered. “Check the Worlds Library if you can, if you have to. But I need every single scroll, tome, and book you can find on the magickal theory regarding Greywalkers as the theorists and their abilities. And I need it now.”

“So what happened?” Iköl asked while Xitlali walked to the door and barked orders at the guards posted outside it.

He slowly, reluctantly looked up from Rhyshladlyn and met first the Cymerian and then the Mad Qishir’s eyes before he looked back down at the Grey Qishir. He didn’t want to answer, not out loud, he didn’t want to give any more power, any more strength, to what Rhyshladlyn had done than what already existed. But if the Qishir was able to this to a room he shouldn’t have been able to do any magick in at all? They were fucked. And that didn’t even begin to truly cover what they were. There weren’t words in any language he could think of that did.

And more than that, he didn’t want to speak the truth out loud because he hadn’t planned for this. He hadn’t planned for the eventuality that the need the Worlds had for what Rhyshladlyn could do naturally and as second nature as breathing outweighed the power he’d gathered into the collar that tampered what he was. He didn’t want to admit to that weakness. Didn’t want to admit that while he’d taken into some account that Rhyshladlyn was a Greywalker, he hadn’t considered that it would potentially fuck with the spellwork itself at any point, if ever, let alone at all. But it had. And that was the only reason he spoke even though he really didn’t want to.

“He Balanced the room.”

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