It hadn’t been as well thought out of a plan as it should have been. He honestly probably shouldn’t have done it regardless of if it had been or not. But when he’d rounded a corner in time to watch slave yshlad — no, his proper name is Rhyshladlyn — get flung into a wall to the sound of snapping bone by a Hound, he hadn’t thought. Hadn’t bothered to even take stock of the rest of the hallway and its inhabitants. Just called in fire and filled the hallway with it to cover himself as he made for Rhyshladlyn. Burned every Oiki and Hound in sight as he scattered himself into darkness, swallowed Rhyshladlyn and pulled him down through the floor into a thankfully empty room one storey down.
It hadn’t been a well thought out plan but that didn’t matter. Not when he saw the state the Qishir was in. Not when he saw the too dark blood that spread in an ever widening pool beneath him. He didn’t need to be a Healer to know a death bleed when he saw one. Didn’t need to see how Rhyshladlyn’s legs lay at an unnatural angle with a stillness that shouldn’t be there to know the injury to his back had paralyzed him. Didn’t need to see the way the magick of the collar began to sputter, showing Rhyshladlyn’s scars and god-Marks in fits and starts, to know that he was dying. Didn’t need his knowledge of magickal theory and practice to know that when that failing magick stayed gone that the Grey Qishir was well and truly dead for the collar he wore only kept him contained and therefore hidden while he lived and breathed.
After all, there wasn’t a point to hiding a dead man.
Part of him knew that it was a lost cause trying to Heal this much damage by himself. Knew that even if he had a team of Healers he didn’t have more than a sliver of a chance at saving Rhyshladlyn. But he had to try. Even if he risked outing himself, even if he risked failure, he had to try.
His native language sounded harsh and unsettling in the too quiet room, the consonants harsh and jagged edged, the vowels a screaming undermelody as he cursed long and colorfully. But he didn’t care. Didn’t stop mumbling under his breath in it as he shook out his hands, threw up a Barrier and a Shield around the room, grounded himself and sent a prayer up to whatever gods were listening that this didn’t fail. It can’t fail. With a deep breath he called up his power and got to work.
Rhyshladlyn might hate him for not letting him die so he could be freed and reborn but it didn’t matter. Because the only chance the Worlds stood of surviving the reality brought upon them by Rhyshladlyn’s collaring lay on the shoulders of the very Dhaoine himself bleeding out on the floor. And the lives of all those in the Worlds mattered more than the freedom of a single Dhaoine.
Now to just convince myself of that before he wakes up. He rolled Rhyshladlyn onto his stomach, swallowing against the need to vomit at the limp and loose way the Qishir’s body flopped against the floor. Them he saw the damage to his back. Recoiling hard enough he displaced air, he swallowed hard and regretted the action immediately because the scent of so much meat and rotting things suddenly filled his olfactory system. He barely made it a handful of feet away before he vomited so hard his eyes felt like they were going to squeeze out of his face. He vomited until only bile remained, vomited until he dry heaved, and still he vomited. Kept going until blood droplets dotted the pile of what had been the contents of his stomach. Wiping the back of a shaking hand across his mouth, he sat back on his legs and breathed as deeply as he dared, careful to keep from doing it too deep because he didn’t fancy another vomiting fit. When his stomach had settled he slowly turned and looked over his shoulder at where Rhyshladlyn lay half on his stomach. Thankfully he was prepared this time for what he saw. But even then, it was enough that he had to dig his nails into his thighs until he felt blood well up around his fingers to keep from having another fit.
Four hundred years with Xitlali, three hundred of that knowing of slave yshlad, two hundred and a half centuries of being the Grey Qishir’s confidante and friend seeing the aftermath of clients and fights and nightmares and nothing in all those years had prepared him for this. None of the stories of what Rhyshladlyn had survived, had endured, had been enough to give him any hope that this damage was survivable, even if he hadn’t been rendered Imènian.
Rhyshladlyn’s spine was bared to the open air from just beneath his shoulderblades to just above the upper curve of his buttocks, the back of his ribcage cracked and shattered in places to show his bare and struggling lungs beneath. His intestines spilled out over his ruined skin and curled around his wet, glistening spine. Dark and goopy things had splattered amongst the blood and bits of torn flesh and brought with them the scent of rotted meet and feces, meaning the Qishir’s stomach and intestines had been perforated. The worst was that he could see Rhyshladlyn’s wingbuds. Could see where those eight beautiful appendages lay hidden and safe fluttering and struggling against the magick that kept them contained, kept them hidden, somehow still strongly attached to that all too visible spine despite the damage that surrounded them. It was worse because the sight of them proved that beneath the magick of his collar, Rhyshladlyn still existed in all his glory. The truth of him was there still, just locked and hidden away.
He didn’t know how long he sat there staring, too shocked and disgusted to move. But when the building shook and his Shield and Barrier whined with it, he hissed and shoved the fucked that was this entire situation into a box and moved back to the Qishir’s side. As he brought his power back to the surface and laid hands on Rhyshladlyn he did something he hadn’t in nearly five hundred years. He called to his Others.
*One of you find your fellows who have a kè strong enough to send you energy and feed it to me. Otherwise Rhyshladlyn is going to die.*
Because there was just no other option. And above all else, the Grey Qishir could not die.
Hythin appeared on Rhyshladlyn’s other side, black eyes glittering in the light of his magick. “What reason shall we give for such a request?”
Xefras thought about it for a moment as he worked on reknitting bowels and other injured organs. What was the best option? Should they tell the truth, that the Grey Qishir yet lived? That he’d been kidnapped by the Mad Qishir and tortured into pleasure slavery for the last three hundred years? Staring at the blessed silver bells woven into his blood soaked auburn hair, trailing his eyes down a body corded with muscle despite his years in captivity, Xefras knew that telling the truth was required of many Dhaoine, knew it would see Rhyshladlyn safe faster but…
Rhyshladlyn was strong enough even with his magick taken from him to hold his own against Hounds. If he wanted to escape, if he was ready to escape, he would. So as much as he didn’t want to leave the Qishir with the Mad Qishir, he didn’t have any other choice. Not one that saved them both.
“Fuck,” he sighed and looked back up at Hythin. “Anything but the truth. And don’t share what knowledge you have gained from me, any of you, even by accident.”
“As you command,” the Other bowed his head and was gone.
And as he worked, as chaos and death reigned outside the room, he prayed he had done the right thing. Because a small yet loud part of him didn’t think he had.