29

She ran through the streets, ran as fast as she could knowing that the things that chased her were too fast. Knew that even if she took flight they’d outpace her. She remembered watching Rhyshladlyn fight them back in Shiran City, remembered how her Qishir was almost too slow in the face of so many. Remembered the day the cabin had been attacked, how even then, when Rhyshladlyn was four hundred and a fifty years older and stronger than he had been in Shiran, he’d still struggled to destroy them all. And while she knew she’d gained more power, while she knew she’d grown both in magickal abilities and strength and physical prowess, there were some things she just couldn’t stand against.

Hounds were one of them. But this time it wasn’t just Hounds she ran from, that she had to contend with, it was the iridescent scaled beauties of Oiki, too.

So she ran. She dodged around buildings, Dhaoine milling in the streets trying to figure out what the commotion was ten blocks away at the city’s southern border near the Great Temple that rose nearly as tall as the Eighth Palace’s tallest tower. She should have screamed for them all to get inside, to throw up Shields, to run, but her throat wouldn’t work and her tongue felt too big for her mouth. The fear the Hounds caused was too great, too complete, and she knew that if she opened her mouth to scream she wouldn’t stop. And it would be the last thing she did as a living Dhaoine. So she ran and she prayed. It was all she could do.

Behind her the first set of screams of pure terror mixed with the wailing cries and eerie laughter that answered them rose up in a wave of sound that battered the air around her. But she didn’t look back, she didn’t slow down, she didn’t stop. Because she couldn’t. She had to get to the Palace. She had to tell Thayne. She had to tell Alaïs. She had to get them out. Because if this was a ploy by Xitlali to overrun all the places Rhyshladlyn’s supporters and Court resided? The Honorable Qishir could not die, they were the only Court powerful in the Worlds to stand against the never ending onslaught of Xitlali’s and those who supported the Anointed One. So until, if ever, Rhyshladlyn returned, Thayne and her Triad had to get out of the city.

Ahead of her the early morning shadows that spread between the tall buildings to either side of the roadway lengthened, shifted, and grew. But she couldn’t stop running, she was going to fast. But gods did she want to stop running, did she want to do anything but get closer to the faceless faced sentient shadow creatures that rose into existence from seemingly nowhere. Because she knew what they were just as much as she knew what Hounds were, as she knew what the Oiki were. She knew before the hopelessness cascaded all around her and froze the air in her lungs and stopped the breath she’d been in the middle of taking. Knew that with all three of the Worlds’ deadliest magickal creatures converged on Eyrdo that there was a very likely chance no one was making it out alive.

Fuck! 

Her wings snapped out with enough force that their emergence buffeted wind against the buildings to either side of her, shaking doors on their hinges, rattling windows, and knocking Dhaoine that were still outside off their feet. But she couldn’t afford to take the time to apologize, to care, to stop. She just threw her magick into reinforcing the strength of her feathers, wrapped her wings around her and leapt right for that roiling mass of Xhlëndïr and prayed as she made contact. Prayed harder when she felt the cold of them seep in, forming ice along her skin and in her hair as it clawed through her, trying to reach deeper. For one single, terrifying second that drug on into minutes, she thought she wouldn’t make it through them, thought they were truly solid, thought they’d consume her in that frigidity that she didn’t have words to describe.

But then time returned to normal and she hit the other side of that wall of Living Shadows and rolled back to her feet, stowing her wings before she’d even fully straightened up. She did the move Nhulynolyn had taught her when one had to tuck and roll mid-run: she planted her right foot as she came up from the ground and tossed her magick into it to all but physically throw herself forward onto her left and repeated the action with the left foot until she was once again at the same speed she’d been in before she’d rolled. It took her less than five steps to be going faster than she had been, five more before she’d put a block between her and the Xhlëndïr that she was marginally certain weren’t giving chase. But she didn’t look back to check.

She had one goal in mind: get to the Palace.

She’d feel guilty later for leaving everyone in the path of those things behind unprotected. She’d think later about how her heart had clenched with the knowledge that Nhulynolyn would never know that she’d finally gotten that move down perfectly. She’d cry later over the loss of hearing Rhyshladlyn’s war howl thunder across the city and shake the air before his presence blanketed everything. Because there was nothing she could do for them. Because Rhyshladlyn wasn’t here, neither was her mate, and she had to get to Thayne and everyone else in the Honorable and Grey Courts, had to get them out of here before those things covered the entire city. Everything else would have to wait.

So she loosed a war howl of her own, spurring her body to run faster as the sound bounced off the stones around her.

And for the briefest of moments she could have sworn she’d heard Nhulynolyn’s whooping laughter right before his own voice joined hers.

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