36

Sheieh turned wide winter-grey eyes to him, his braid whipping around until it settled over on shoulder as the Guardian’s body moved with a speed that he hadn’t known the other male was capable of. Though given what he’d just witnessed him do, he really shouldn’t be that surprised.

G’agsha, run! Now! Before the next wave hits!”

But he just stared at him because surely Sheieh didn’t think he was going to run like a coward. He may not have picked up a sword in a couple centuries, may not have seen the action of a Field in longer, but he still remembered how to hold his own. He still remembered what to do in this situation even if for the briefest of moments his heart had dropped to play with his knees. But he wouldn’t run, not when it meant leaving Sheieh behind. Not when doing so would mean proving Azriel and the rest of the Grey Court right about him. And the Many knew he wanted to do everything but that. He watched Sheieh’s face contort into a disapproval so strong it made his heart clench because it reminded him so very much of his Qishir’s own expression when he was being particularly stubborn.

“Why do you always have to argue with me?” Orange-amber eyes flashed as he stalked by towards the kitchen, his displeasure and anger leaving a spiced twinge to the air as he passed. “Just once, once, could you not be an insufferable twat?” 

“Don’t argue and don’t give me that look, g’agsha!” Sheieh’s voice was firm, not harsh, but it was close enough to make him frown as the past tried to shimmer across the present. “There are too many of them for me to protect you and take them out, so please, leave before I am forced to choose and get us both killed.”

He flinched and nodded, turning on his heel away from the wall of windows when an awareness touched him, when the link between him, Azriel, and Jerald suddenly flared to life like a white-hot flash of lightning and he whipped around and found himself standing not in their cabin but in Ryphqi City with Jerald staring at him with serene brown eyes as chaos reigned around him. Before he could do more than blink in shocked confusion, he was yanked away, the connection breaking with a snap, as pain lanced up his spine. Sheieh’s guttural cry of his name brought him fully back to reality second before the reason for the pain in his back registered.

Somehow they’d gotten flanked. Somehow a Hound had gotten inside and that was what had thrown him across the room. That was what had caused the connection to break before it pressed him against the wall next to the windows and snapped jaws that were riddled with far too many teeth in his face. With a cry of his own he roared in its face and threw it away from him and scrambled to his feet as he ripped the right sleeve off his shirt so that his gretluos filled the room with blinding light as his power thundered to the surface. He braced himself as the Hound got to its feet and launched at him. But even braced, having three hundred pounds of creature thrown at him was nearly enough to knock him down again. Somehow he managed to keep his feet. Somehow he managed to hold that mouth at bay before plunging his hand into its chest and dug for its heart. Somehow he ignored the way its corrosive blood ate through the fabric of his left shirt sleeve and burned the skin beneath. Somehow he managed to rip that heart out of its chest before he tossed the lifeless body away and into three more that spilled out of the hallway.

Distantly he was aware of Sheieh’s yelled, “They’re coming through the upstairs windows!” Distantly he heard the sound of more breaking glass which confirmed his Guardian’s words. But he didn’t focus on any of it. It didn’t matter that his home was filling rapidly with Hounds. Didn’t matter that he could see the iridescent flickers of Oiki as they circled the cabin, tall enough that the tops of their back fans were clearly visible despite how the cabin itself stood at least four feet off the ground. Didn’t even matter that he could feel the creeping cold of Xhlëndïr encircle his ankles and begin to crawl up his legs. They were going to die here. There was no chance of survival if they didn’t get out.

As he ripped the head off a Hound and tossed it at a third and the body at a fourth before he called in and then drew his sword, he felt a prickle of memory, something that was just a whispered echo of something that made his instincts chitter. Frowning he split a Hound in half with his sword before ducking the swipe of another and taking the head off third before whipping back around and severing the second one in half just below its ribs.

Relyt! Run! Run now before we’re both killed!” Sheieh’s desperation was what caught his attention. That and the use of his name. “G’agsha please leave! I cannot protect you and myself at once. I just cannot. Please run before you–

–endangered the lives of everyone in this Court, let alone the Qishir you are godsdamn qahllyn to, is because you didn’t want Rhyshladlyn to leave again? You were what, lonely? That’s why you nearly got us killed? Seriously?”

He screamed as the memory of Azriel’s scathing words, of the ache of his face as the bones and muscles reknit from where the Anglëtinean had punched him, broke from its confines and stole his breath. He screamed louder as a Hound sliced at his chest but he parried the blow so it instead tore open both thighs, blood flying in an misty arc. His head felt like it was being ripped apart, as though the pain from when he’d lost his wings had relocated to his forehead, making a seam in the skin and bone and muscle down the center of his forehead, stopping only when it hit his gretkewq. But he shook it away. Vowed he’d exam it later. Because right now it just wasn’t important. It couldn’t be because surviving this nightmare had to be his primary goal.

He cut the Hound that had ruined his legs across its face, half its head falling away to show the writhing, grey brain beneath, blood flowing in a waterfall over its ruined and dead face, those golden eyes rolling back into their sockets. He turned towards Sheieh, taking down another Hound as he did so, screaming his defiance and his indignation the entire time. He ran for his Guardian, knowing that his only option for getting them out alive could see them both killed but at least it was better than dying at the mercy of Hounds and Oiki and Xhlëndïr.

Kicking a Hound into an Oiki as the latter tossed itself through a window he didn’t remember breaking, he grabbed Sheieh’s hand and threw them both at the nearest Line. Threw them and prayed to the Many as he did so that they’d survive the trip, that there was somewhere in the Worlds that wasn’t overrun like the cabin was.

Even if he knew from when he’d felt Jerald touch his mind that the Seven Worlds were finding that there were worse things to contend with than the lack of Balance.

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