He watched from atop the main wall as Veratone approached on hörphé-back with an Alphenian he assumed was Jerald Tar’rant and the Anglëtinean-Sinner, Eiod nóh Akkensahn. Watched the way the light of the setting sun glinted off the orange-amber tattoos that covered every inch of the Grey Companion and felt a thrill of something not unlike fear shimmy down his spine. But it wasn’t that he was afraid of Veratone but rather what his arrival at Ryphqi meant. He worried that his arrival was too perfectly timed given that Thae’a had refused to leave for Eyrdo saying that Thayne would send someone to them. Worried that Veratone had news that would shatter the carefully built escape he and his mate had here. Worried that whatever it was, Thae’a wouldn’t be able to survive another catastrophe with the Grey Triad at its center.
But he knew where he stood in the Court. Knew that despite Thae’a’s standing being nearly Sacred Three, he didn’t have an reason or ability even if he had one, to tell Veratone he wasn’t allowed inside the City limits. Didn’t have the right or ability, or want for that matter, to tell the Anglëtinean with his lost qahllyn’qir inked permanently beneath his skin for all to see, that Adïmshyl didn’t want whatever news he carried. And it wasn’t that he worried for his mate and the reaction she’d have to whatever news it was, it wasn’t even that he disliked any of the three Grey Court members trudging across the desert towards the City.
It was more that the male who rode towards the City he and Thae’a had called home for almost two hundred and seventy years wasn’t the Veratone who’d helped Thae’a pack and didn’t question her tears or her anger or her hissed curses. It was more that this Veratone wasn’t the one who had shrugged and said he understood why they were leaving, why they couldn’t stay with the Court anymore. It was more that he didn’t recognize this Veratone riding astride the hörphé as though he’d been born to it, but yet he did all at once.
Because it was hard not to Know the Veratone who rode with his head held high, hair pulled back from his face in a tight braid that started at his forehead and moved back along his skull’s center line leaving his face clearly visible, was Grey Companion Azriel Kasuske of House Veratone nóh Ka’ahne. This was the male the Worlds over had accepted as Rhyshladlyn’s stand in even though the Blood Oath between the Qishir and his Companion had only been finalized one way. And in the all the centuries he had known the Anglëtinean, he’d only ever heard of the version that approached Ryphqi City’s main gates. And seeing him now riding for the City, knowing the distance he’d had to travel to get here, knowing the dangers Veratone and Tar’rant and nóh Akkensahn had faced to get here, scared him.
Because it was clear in the way even the unstable magick of Ryphqi City settled around the Anglëtinean like the arms of a lover, it was clear in the way Tar’rant and nóh Akkensahn rode just behind him, deferring respect and first manners to him, that this wasn’t a pleasure visit. It was something much more unpleasant but necessary given that in the last five days the glow from Ryphqi’s Heart Watchtower had spread until nearly the entire City glowed gold like Shiran City once had. And it was that fact alone, along with the knowledge that two of the four Dhaoine tethered to the City were about to come up on the gates that kept him from telling the guards to keep them out.
Though he’d be lying if it wasn’t a tempting thought to give the order anyway. But he wouldn’t. Thae’a needed answers, the City’s residents needed answers, and the only one who could provide it was Veratone.
“This isn’t good,” he muttered mostly to himself but one of the guards beside him looked away from the group.
“Why d’you say that?” He looked at the guard, a blonde Neflim Demon whose silver eyes glinted in the setting sun. He didn’t remember this one’s name right off hand but he did recognize em.
“Because Companion Azriel has never walked into this City,” he answered as he looked back the three Dhaoine.
Veratone looked up and nodded when Adïmshyl raised his hand and gave it a small shake. He didn’t blame the Anglëtinean for now returning the wave, his hands were needed for keeping his hörphé under control as the six-legged creature clomped through the ever shifting sands of the desert wasteland that Fènwa had become in the aftermath of Rhyshladlyn’s loss.
Shiraniqi Desert didn’t reach this far northwest, not anymore, but it was as if when the Balance of All Things had died that Shiraniqi Desert had blown apart and covered all of Fènwa World. And it brought with it a drought that had kept the Storms that normally replenished the World’s water supply at bay for the last three centuries. It had brought dangers to the cities, Cities, villages, metropolises, and towns that littered Fènwa’s surface like a young’s discarded toys that no one had really expected. But somehow the desert-born or -bred races survived. And to see Veratone riding across that wasteland as though he belonged there just as much as he did in the lush green isles of his homeland made Adïmshyl’s throat tight in a way he couldn’t explain.
“What?” the Neflim asked, looking back at the Anglëtinean and his two fellows. “I thought he’d been here when the Grey Qishir woke the City from its long slumber?”
Adïmshyl chuckled at the naïveté of those words. Chuckled because the guard wasn’t technically wrong but ey also wasn’t right either. And frankly he didn’t have time or the energy or even the words to explain just how and why ey was wrong. So he didn’t. If there was a chance later, he would seek the Neflim out and do so. But not right now.
“It’s more complicated than that,” he shook his head and clapped the neodrach on the shoulder. “Open the gates. Pass word that I’ll meet Veratone and his party at the palace once I collect my mate.”
He took the stairs down to street level three at a time to the sound of the bells announcing the arrival of the Grey Companion, the Grey Warrior, and Eiod nóh Akkensahn and the boom of the gates opening to welcome them.