Everything hurt. Every inch of his skin, the air that rattled in his lungs and shook his throat until it sounded like he was growling, his already frayed and not-numb-enough-yet nerves, every single follicle of hair on his body. Being alive hurt but by the Nameless the pain was necessary. He needed it in order to keep grounded in the living realm, in order to be able to reach one hand through the Veil and into the in between to touch the only Dhaoine that he would trust to send in Answer to Azriel’s Call. To Answer that desperation and that grief in the way he wanted to but couldn’t.
So instead he ate the pain of Azriel dropping every Shield and Barrier and ward. Ate the pain of Jerald’s injuries, one of which was so terrifyingly close to his Self where it shown brightly just beneath his heart. Ate the hopelessness that plagued Relyt like some specter set to haunt him to death. In that one moment when Azriel touched his equivalent Watchtower in Ryphqi and threw out that Call, when the Anglëtinean blew open the link that locked them all together as Qishir to Triad and Triad to Qishir, he Fed. He did what shouldn’t have been possible with the collar around his neck, with Azriel’s Blood Oath only halfway finished.
He could have used it to free himself, he saw the choice of saving them by sending his twin back, by giving all that power to the Other who’d been with him for his entire life or keeping it and gaining his freedom. But while it was phrased like a choice, presented like one, he knew better. It wasn’t one, not really. Because if he got free now? He’d never make it out of the room alive. Xefras’ pain-inducing language whispering soothingly in his ears over the sounds of screaming and magick hiss crackling around them told him that much. He could feel something invading his skin, trying to Heal the wounds his body couldn’t fix on its own with the collar still around his neck. As soon as it touched that link things went haywire.
His back bowed off the floor, arms flailing as his nails clawed at whatever was in reach as he howled. It wasn’t the first time he’d been a conduit for a Working, the catalyst that enabled the one performing it to actually achieve its completion, but this was the first time he wasn’t Fed, was bereft of his Others and the direct feedback loop to at least Azriel. So he howled and he flailed and he fought and in the middle of it all he found Nhulynolyn running down a hallway of the Eighth Palace, searching desperately for Bayls, passing carnage and disaster and destruction as he ran. He didn’t try to touch his twin’s mind, didn’t let the elation of finding him still alive in any form to take root. He just tossed that power at him, took hold of one of the flailing edges of the Other’s Self and yanked him back through the Veil.
Soon as he felt Nhulynolyn land in the living realm he took a breath and relaxed but not enough. Not nearly enough because there wasn’t time. He couldn’t rejoin them. He couldn’t get that fucking collar off his neck. But he could throw the Other to Ryphqi City where they were both needed but where only one of them could go.
He tried to tell himself that the greater good was the reason why he didn’t take the time to let Nhulynolyn do more than turn to Bayls and apologize before Rhyshladlyn was bending reality and dropping his twin in the only Sanctuary City he and his Triad were tethered to. Tried to tell himself it wasn’t because he didn’t want to witness the reunion he feared he’d never get with Azriel.
I’m sorry, Nully. I wish there was time. I wish I could have used this power the way I wanted to. The way we should have been able to.
The pain intensified then and he lost time until he felt every door in the hallway in his mind that he hadn’t seen in centuries, that he had believed wholeheartedly he’d have to die to be able to see ever again, blow open and then Nhulynolyn’s mind touched his and for several seconds time slowed down, he couldn’t breathe, it was all so much, too much too much not enough please don’t please why why why why and then he slammed those doors closed. But before he closed them all he gave Nhulynolyn something he’d heard was possible but had never seen done, had never thought could be done.
He gave him a way to exist in the living realm without direct access to the kè that gave him life in the first place as he used the Other’s throat and voice to give the verbal Answer he couldn’t be there physically in person to do:
I Hear your Call and in Answer I say, yes!
It would have to be enough.
Gods did he pray it would be enough.