It was the kind of pain that whited out the mind, that stole the breath, and made every ounce of one’s very Self want to die. And it didn’t end. It just built and built and built, like the tension before a spell clicks into place, before the first lightning strike of a thunderstorm. It hit a peak and then slipped and slid downward, only to begin that slow build up from square one.
Over and over and over again.
He’d lost track of how long it had been going on, mainly because it didn’t matter. There wasn’t any way he could stop it. He wasn’t strong enough physically, not anymore, to fight off anyone let alone another Dhaoine. And without his magick, without what made him who and what he was, he was even weaker. So all he could do was go limp and let the client do what ey wanted. Even if what ey wanted was to trace over the scars his sire had made nearly nine hundred years ago, as though ey could see them despite the glamour that kept them hidden from view and from touch. Even if ey wanted to make new scars, worse scars, that let any client that came after em know just who he belonged to.
Even if ey sank into him with a body that felt like it was wrapped in molten steel, as though ey poured that liquid metal into the very depths of him, seeking to melt him from the inside out.
If only I were so lucky.
It was the kind of pain that ripped screams from his throat until his vocal chords tore. It was the kind of pain that whited out his mind and made static do elaborate footwork with the thrumming of the blood in his ears. It was the kind of pain that made his heart feel like it would burst through his chest bone if he weren’t able to calm it soon.
But he didn’t scream, he didn’t cough up blood, his vocal chords didn’t tear, and his heart stayed right where it was supposed to. Because he wouldn’t give this client the satisfaction of hearing his pain. It was bad enough he could no longer control his body’s physical reaction to it, giving em just enough incentive to try and get him to finally make the noises that accompanied that physical response. But he was still himself, he was still Grey Qishir Rhyshladlyn Nhulynolyn GreySong Ka’ahne, and it took a fuck ton more than this to break him.
So he swallowed his sounds, he swallowed his pain, and he sank as deeply into himself, into his mind, as possible. A mind gone quiet and lonely since the collar had settled like a ring of icy fire around his neck. He didn’t see the hallways he was used to, that he’d grown up with. He didn’t feel Nhulynolyn or Shadiranamen or Xheshmaryú. He didn’t sense the shadow, that darkness that had been with him since he’d escaped Iköl and his lot the first time. He didn’t feel his magick, his Self, his connection to the Cities throughout the Worlds. But most of all, he didn’t feel his Companion, or his Steward, or his Warrior. He felt… emptiness. Nothing but cold, depthless emptiness.
The pain was the kind that whited out the mind in way that reminded him of the Forest with its trees splattered with snow. And as soon as he thought that, he was looking around at those very trees with their black bark and the darkness that filled the empty spaces between them with its thousands of eyes that watched him. He felt a brush of millions of sentient beings touch his mind with a gentleness he hadn’t felt in centuries and when it registered who, or rather what, it belonged to, he threw back his head and screamed.
Because here he was safe.
Here he could release his pain and his frustration and his loneliness and his loss.
Here he could be free. Even if he knew he really wasn’t.