“We need to move him.”

She looked at Lílrt and couldn’t keep her face from showing the astonishment she felt. Couldn’t swallow down her derisive snort in time. But he didn’t seem to care. Like them, he was afraid, afraid that the collar was failing if Rhyshladlyn had been able to Balance a room that no one let alone him should be able to perform magick in. Yet he had. And the fact that the Anointed One didn’t reprimand her for being disrespectful spoke volumes more towards how dire things were than the way he’d looked down at Rhyshladlyn lying unconscious on the floor.

Though that wasn’t entirely accurate. His lack of reprimand and the way he’d looked at the Grey Qishir spoke volumes on their own but for vastly different reasons. The first told her that the Soul Healer was just as afraid as she was, as Iköl was, as Hujiel was, as the five guards permanently assigned to Rhyshladlyn were. The second told her that the sickness, as he’d called it, that had infected his little brother where the Grey Qishir was concerned had begun to infect Lílrt as well, if it hadn’t already consumed him. He looked at the Grey Qishir with a softness around his eyes that she’d only seen on Relyt’s face, had only caught glimpses of on Azriel’s the few times they’d met on the Fields before the war had been declared officially ended. It was that softness on Lílrt’s face, the one that matched Rhyshladlyn’s own Triad, that made her the most nervous.

Because if it came down to keeping Rhyshladlyn alive and collared versus the safety of her Court, herself, and their over all mission, she didn’t think Lílrt could kill Rhyshladlyn outright like he would have to. And of them all, he was the only one powerful enough to give more than a weak-efforted attempt.

“We’ve already moved him five times in as many decades,” she argued, waving a hand at where the Qishir hung shackled to the wall of the workshop that wasn’t unlike the one he’d been collared in. Lílrt just hummed under his breath, clearly not paying full attention to her as he continued to lean over the table and scan through one of the tomes Hujiel and a few of eir personal guards had brought back with em from the palace library. “He’s been the most settled here of all the places we’ve moved him over the centuries. We risk upsetting that and having to deal with the same things we did at the start if we move him now.”

Still the Anointed One just skimmed through the tome as though she hadn’t said anything. The quiet of the workshop pressed against her skin in the way the water of pool did when one slipped into it and sank to the bottom. It was like that quietness was a living thing that was aware of her and the fear she felt, the fear she didn’t want to feel but couldn’t hide, couldn’t push down. She glanced side long at Rhyshladlyn who hadn’t moved since Lílrt had carried him in and put him in those magicked shackles but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching her, something she couldn’t see. When she looked away from the Qishir and back at Lílrt she jumped at the sight of him looking up at her from behind the trailing fringe of his hair, black eyes so light they were nearly grey drowning deep, the surfaces shimmering with his power like the water that filled a cave and hid the dangers that lurked beneath its surface.

“I am well aware of how he has settled in here, Xitlali,” Lílrt’s voice held an edge of condescension that made her lip curl off her teeth. “But I cannot test whether what allowed him to Balance his room and drain the magick of as well as shatter a Dhaoine’s mind was a fluke failure on the collar’s part or something here, in this place, unless he is no longer here.” She watched as the Soul Healer planted his hands on the table to either side of the large tome that was easily thicker than the length of his face and sigh, those shimmering, drowning deep black eyes never looking away from her. “So if you cannot contribute anything helpful to this situation, shut up and get out.”

She growled low, an instinctual response of a Qishir being spoken down to, one that she couldn’t swallow even if she’d wanted to. The smile that Lílrt gave her then made her skin crawl but she squared her shoulders and took a slow, deliberate step forward. She’d had enough of him speaking to her as though she was lesser, as though she was not a Qishir, as though he was above consequence solely because he was technically more powerful than she was and had a link to the Grey Soul Healers’ Gret’yinl by blood ties alone.

“If you move me,” a voice that was all thunderous rumbles over gravel and ice pulled their attention from each other, “bring slave xefras with us.”

Rhyshladlyn slowly lifted his head, those orange-amber eyes clear and filled with a challenge she hadn’t seen in centuries, and if she didn’t know it wasn’t possible, she’d have sworn she felt his magick slide through the room and thicken the air around them. In that moment she didn’t see slave yshlad, she saw Grey Qishir Rhyshladlyn, she saw the male who had dropped from a Line, flung his wings wide, and then beaten the literal piss out of her in Ryphqi City. And it was the first time she’d seen that clarity, that truth, that understanding, in his eyes since the first failed attempt he’d made to kill himself and be rid of the collar around his throat.

Seeing it now, after what he’d just done, made the fear she felt increase tenfold and soak her spine from root to tip. Now I know why they were so feared. 

“And if we don’t?” Hujiel was the one who asked and she glanced at em but didn’t take her eyes off Rhyshladlyn completely because she knew better by now. For even though he didn’t have access to his magick, he was still a warrior who had spent nearly a thousand years training for battle, living in battle, and winning those battles. He still had a strength that could break bones with even a glancing swing of his fist. It didn’t matter how weakened by his lack of magick he was, he could still kill them all without trying.

It had taken her only one cracked jaw to learn that mistake and never make it again.

Those unnervingly clear eyes moved with an intensity that touched places beneath her skin that she didn’t think were possible to reach even with magick until he was no longer looking at her. Hujiel to eir credit didn’t back down or look away, but ey did flinch. Some shadowed thing darted behind those bright eyes, bringing with it a sense that she needed to be anywhere else but here and that was seeing it in profile. She didn’t blame Hujiel for flinching because she couldn’t imagine how much worse it must look straight on.

“I will get out of this collar, Hujiel, it’s only a matter of when not if,” that voice sank deep inside her chest, burrowing until she felt it brush her Self and jolted in surprise. Because that shouldn’t be possible, not for someone who had no access to their magick. “And when I do? I will make your worst nightmares become reality.”

“Enough,” Lílrt’s voice snapped out as he clicked his fingers and Rhyshladlyn threw his head back with enough force that it smacked against the wall behind him as a scream tore from his throat, his body seizing and spasming in the shackles that held him fast to the wall. Xitlali watched as the collar around his neck glowed bright enough to chase the shadows from the room, bright enough that she almost couldn’t make out the orange shine of the runes carved into its surface. That light hummed loud enough to make her ears ring but not loud enough to drown out Rhyshladlyn’s screams as pure agony ripped across his nerves.

As the glow subsided the Grey Qishir hung limp and breathing raggedly, head bowed so his hair fell forward in a curtain around his face. He didn’t look up again, just hung there motionless, breathing slowly evening back out.

“Get the slave he mentioned and get his guards prepped to move out within the hour,” Lílrt was already looking back at the tome on the table when she managed to look over at him. “And stop looking at me like that, Xitlali. Just get it done before he wakes back up again.”

She didn’t answer, didn’t even salute him like she was supposed to, she just hissed at him, turned on her heel and left the workshop. And tried not to think how her mother’s warning to never underestimate Rhyshladlyn made so much more sense.

6 thoughts on “21

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