“No!” The word was lost in the cacophony of screams and the roaring crackling of flames and the distinct sound of flesh burning as a wave of red fire and heat rolled down the walls.
He shouldered his way into a room nearby and shut the door behind him just in time to block the fire that filled the hallway as it hit the floor. Slammed his fists against it as the heat pressed against the other side as though searching for any and all life in the area so it could end it. He screamed his defiance again before pushing away from the door and turning to take in the room. It looked like a meeting room or maybe an extra dining hall, there was no real way to be sure. He needed something to combat that fire, to give him a hand up against the Hounds and Oiki that had invaded the compound but nothing in this room could help him. Unless Hounds and Oiki had suddenly decided to change the rules and could be felled by chairs, pillows, and tables. But as he had spoken at length to Iköl about their breeding and rearing, he doubted highly that that was a thing.
Lílrt reached back for the door without looking, pressing the palm of his left hand against the thick wood, waiting for the heat of that unnatural fire to fade away. Waiting for the chance to get back out into the hallway, into the ebb and flow of the battle that had consumed the compound before any of them had known what was happening. Waiting for the opportunity to see if he’d imagined seeing Rhyshladlyn taking on Hounds and Oiki by himself before that fire had swooped down the walls from thin air or if it had been real.
“Where the fuck is he?” he growled, grabbing the front of Xitlali’s dress in his hands and shaking her. She stared at him with wide eyes as her hands curled around his wrists, not in an attempt to fight him off but in that loose way one does when they needed something, someone, to hold on to when things had gone sideways and the shock hadn’t helped protect their mind but rather had made everything worse. That alone should have told him how bad the situation was; she never touched him voluntarily. In all the years he’d known her for, the Mad Qishir had gone to great lengths to avoid touching him, and being touched by him.
“We lost him when a Hound came around a corner. He just took a Guard’s sword and launched at the thing and we… we lost him after that.” Her fear was palpable, thick and sweet on his tongue. “He wasn’t even afraid. How could he not be afraid? It was like the creature didn’t even effect him.”
“What.” It wasn’t a question, just a clipped statement because if he put the effort necessary into making it a question he was going to dig through her chest for her heart and eat it while she watched. Because she had one job: keep Rhyshladlyn alive and clearly she couldn’t even do that much.
“Anointed One,” Hujiel said, voice careful in the way someone talking a Dhaoine down from a ledge would be. The Anglëtinean bowed low at the waist when he slid his gaze from Xitlali to em. “He waded into the battle before either of us could realize the danger he saved us from.”
With a huff, he tossed Xitlali away from him and wiped his hands on his pants, sneering at the feeling of grime from where he’d touched her. If he hadn’t been so damn furious he wouldn’t have done it. He loathed touching the Mad Qishir. But when she’d shown up at his rooms empty handed he had to physically shake her. Using his words hadn’t been good enough and if he’d tried to make them enough, he’d have just outright killed her because there wasn’t a reason good enough to keep her alive.
“Pray you find him before I do. And pray that he’s alive when you do because if he isn’t? I’ll take it out of your skin.”
He bowed his head and leaned back against the door with a sigh that was heavier than he wanted it to be. He closed his eyes as a weight settled in his stomach, a weight that pulled him in the opposite direction of the door and the nightmarescape that lay beyond it. A nightmarescape that he had followed the carnage that only the Grey Qishir could create to, a nightmarescape that had Rhyshladlyn’s name scrawled all over it, though he’d never actually gotten more than a passing glance of the male. As much as he wanted to do everything but go back out into that hallway with the destroyed bodies of Dhaoine and monsters alike strewn across its floor like so much confetti, he had to go back out. He had to know if all his hard work was charred to a crisp along with everything else.
The not knowing would drive him insane but the Many knew he didn’t want risk seeing Rhyshladlyn dead. Even if he knew that Rhyshladlyn wasn’t dead solely because the magick that made up his collar hadn’t returned to its maker, it didn’t make the decision to go check easier to make. That knowledge also didn’t mean the Qishir wasn’t gravely injured, that in the time it took for him to feel that it was safe to brave the hallway in the wake of that fire, any number of things could happen. Hounds were tenacious things that didn’t seem to follow the rules of existence that Dhaoine and other magickal creatures did and while he hadn’t spent as much time around them as Iköl or Relyt he knew that fire didn’t seem to bother them much. By the Cliffs, steel barely seemed to effect them and only if one took their heart or their head.
“Shit,” he muttered as the door went cool against his palm. He didn’t have a choice now. He couldn’t just hide in this damned room and ignore that Rhyshladlyn had been taking on Hounds and Oiki while Imènian-blind and wielding nothing more than a sword for protection and winning. He couldn’t hide in here when the compound was being overrun, when they needed to get the fuck out before things went from worse to catastrophic. After all, if Xitlali and Hujiel had been correct, Rhyshladlyn shouldn’t have been able to move unaided given the wounds his last client had given him and yet he had seen the danger, grabbed a sword, and ran at it rather than away. And if Rhyshladlyn could do that when he had no real chance against two of the deadliest magickal creatures in the Worlds when he was already gravely injured and without the ability to naturally Heal himself while he fought? Well Lílrt sure as fuck could go into a hallway.
Throwing open the door, he tucked his shoulder into the jamb and peered around the edge. Nothing moved save the curls of smoke rising off still smoldering bodies. Which means that the fire was magickally called but it wasn’t a magickal type. Stepping fully into the hallway he looked back the way he’d come and then left to where he’d caught a passing glance of Rhyshladlyn before he’d lost him to the churning bodies of Hounds, before that fire had swallowed the hallway and everything in it. He searched for the call of his own signature on the collar the Qishir wore and found nothing. Not a trace of it except where there was a smear on an empty space of floor in the center of a circle of what he could only assume had once been Hounds and maybe Dhaoine. There was really no telling through the burns.
He sifted through the bodies regardless because he didn’t trust Rhyshladlyn not to pretend to be one of the burned bodies to try and escape. Didn’t trust that the Qishir hadn’t somehow managed to call the sudden firestorm into existence despite the restrictions of his collar. But none of the dead and injured were him. There were traces of his work everywhere in the carnage of the deadly creatures that lay scattered the length of the hall like ghostly footprints of where Rhyshladlyn had been but that was it. No Rhyshladlyn himself. No other traces of the collar’s signature save that one section of floor where it was smeared. Frowning, he walked back to the spot and stared down at it before he sank into a squat and reached down to brush his fingertips across the soot and blood stained floor.
How did he get out of here without leaving a trace?
A tingle shot up his arm and into his chest and he jerked his fingers back from the floor with a hissed curse as the sound of running footsteps came to a sudden halt behind him.
“Holy shit!” He glanced over his shoulder to where the Cymerian stood at the far end of the hall, green eyes wide, face a little pale at the edges as though he was barely keeping the shock at bay as the adrenaline rush faded, chest heaving like he couldn’t get enough air. What horrors have you seen before this set that shook your warrior calm so thoroughly? “What the fuck happened here?”
“A mixture of Rhyshladlyn’s prowess with a sword and something else.”
“So he didn’t cause whatever burned everything?” Iköl asked.
It was a fair question after what Rhyshladlyn had done to the room they’d had him in before they’d gotten to this compound, so he didn’t reprimand the Cymerian for it but he wanted to if only because it would give him something to lash out at. To throw that weight in his stomach at, a weight he assumed now was fear though fear of or for what he wasn’t sure exactly. He didn’t want to feel these things, didn’t want to examine the why behind those feelings. Especially since a small part of him that was growing larger with each passing day, told him he already knew the answer, that he was infected just as his little brother was and that there was no cure for it. He looked back at where the signature of Rhyshladlyn’s collar was and frowned, at least no cure I’m willing to try.
Slowly rising from his squat he brushed his hand off on his pants and fought the urge to shiver as the action brought forth an echo of that tingle. As it reminded him of how he’d done the same thing after touching Xitlali not that long ago. But he shoved both away, focused solely on the here and now and what he could do about it. He had to find Rhyshladlyn, more over he had to find the Qishir alive. Anything else just wasn’t important.
“No, Rhyshladlyn didn’t do this. But something did and I think whatever it is did it to save him.”
“What could do this?” He didn’t have to be looking at him to know Iköl had gestured widely at the entire hallway. The Cymerian always talked with his hands when he was uncomfortable or upset, it was one of his greatest tells.
“I’m not sure,” he answered. It was only half-truth because while he didn’t know for certain he had his suspicions and he really hoped he was wrong. “But by the Many, I will find out.”
Because the last thing they needed was a Greywalker who was somehow overriding bits and pieces of the magick of the collar that was supposed to render him an Imènian and something capable of performing magick without leaving a trace of magickal signature behind.