He felt the rumbling before he heard it, felt the sand and the snow that dotted it slip and slide against his ankles, touching his feet through the openings of his sandals. Frowning he turned just as the Watchtowers of Shiran flared a brilliant gold and a sound like two ice shelves colliding made the air go still. He threw up a hand to block some of that humming light, tried to see around it because he had the sense that something was moving, something large, and it was making the ground rumble and shiver, was making the snow and sands dance and twitch against and over his feet. Could feel the sense of wrongness that polluted the air as that tension built and built and built.

“Sheieh?” Relyt’s voice made the tension shatter and he turned to find his charge standing on the porch of the cabin, hands gripping the railing tight enough that his knuckles were white.

He didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to because he watched those slate grey eyes lift to stare at where Shiran’s Towers were glowing a brilliant gold like the City that had been built around them once had. Watched the way the light of those Towers played across the snow and over Relyt’s face. Watched as those eyes went from foggy and still red-rimmed from the crying he’d done the night before to clear and hard within a matter of seconds. He watched as the broken, downtrodden, barely alive male he’d been told to Guard and keep alive at any cost shifted into the Grey Steward of old. Watched him change into General Relyt Greymend. It was a striking difference between the two, one that he didn’t know what to do with, didn’t know how to handle.

But as always when he surprised him, Relyt didn’t give him long enough to comprehend what had happened before he gave him directions.

“Sheieh, get inside. Now.”

He didn’t question it just closed the distance between himself and the cabin before leaping the stairs to land on the porch. He opened his mouth to tell the other Soul Healer he needed to get inside, too, when Relyt made a strangled noise low in his throat before whispering, “No, not again.”

Frowning harder, he turned and had to grab for the porch railing and one of the support poles that stood sentinel beside the stairs. Because in the glow of what he’d assumed were Shiran’s Watchtowers but was actually a Shield made of solid, pulsing golden light was a roiling black mass of shadow and bodies that moved like no Dhaoine could. And he knew before Relyt said anything else, knew before Fear, and Hopelessness, and the abject and total need to die washed over his skin like someone had submerged him in a cold bath, what was racing across the snow-dotted desert towards them. Knew suddenly why Shiran, although buried beneath leagues of desert sand as it was, had activated its natural Shields, knew suddenly why that wrongness and the tension it had brought along for the ride had made the air go still until Relyt’s voice had broken it asunder.

He gripped the wood of the support pole and the railing hard enough to hear it whine in protest and sent a breathless prayer to the Many before he moved. Grabbing Relyt by the arm thankful that his charge was wearing long sleeves today so that he didn’t touch Relyt’s gretluos directly, he jerked him towards the still open front door. He didn’t say a word just tossed the Gret’yinl towards one of the couches as he kicked the door closed before facing the wall of windows that spread to the side of it. Taking a deep breath in, he held it for the count of ten and let it out slow before he sank into himself, looked beneath and called to that part of him that made him a Silvermend, that made him the leader of the Ice Walkers Clan. As soon as he touched it he felt the wards and Shields and Barriers that Rhyshladlyn’s Others had left behind when things had gone so horribly wrong with the Worlds; felt them thrumming and strong and he sent a prayer of thanks for their existence. Because his own weren’t strong enough to hold off colonies of Hounds, Oiki, and Xhlëndïr, it was a matter of simple truth. But he had to keep Relyt alive, no matter the cost. That had been his Oath, his promise, and once a Guardian gave their word, it was Binding.

Opening eyes he didn’t remember closing he watched that undulating, deadly mass of creatures get closer and closer. Listened while Relyt yelled words he couldn’t hear over the roaring of the blood in his ears. The Hounds, Oiki, and Xhlëndïr had to get closer before he could activate any of the protections still laced around the cabin. Had to get close enough that when the Shields and Barriers and wards engaged, when his own magick thrust out and made corpses of every living thing within eyesight, as many of those things would be felled as possible.

When the first Hound crossed the outermost ward line, he smiled, kicked off the lid of the box his powers sat in and then triggered off those glimmering wards and the Shields and Barriers they were attached to. He watched as the World around their home turned into a white nightmarescape filled with the haunting wails and eerie laughter of Hounds, the whining steel of Oiki, and the click click chirrups of Xhlëndïr.

And as the bodies began to drop, he laughed and didn’t bother trying to stop.

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