He watched as Rhyshladlyn coughed and spat blood onto the floor where it hit and splattered. Watched as the Qishir lifted his head and showed that some of it had dribbled down his chin and stained his teeth where they flashed as he breathed heavily between parted lips, his nose broken and rendered useless hours ago. Watched the bruising along the left side of his chest get darker and darker, watched it spread as though it had a mind of its own. And with each new bruise made, with each new spray of blood and sound of cracked bone, Xefras felt his heart clench, felt pain travel down his spine as he knelt on the ground and watched it all and did nothing.
But he couldn’t move because when he had tried, Rhyshladlyn had told him to stay and just enough of his power had leaked out passed the collar’s control to make that order an attend. So he knelt and watched and hated it as he did. Hated that he couldn’t do anything to stop it. Hated even more than even if he wasn’t held in place by Rhyshladlyn’s attend he still wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop the beating the Qishir was taking.
Perhaps if he was pitted against just Xitlali or Lílrt, yes. But not when they both were there. Not when the only Dhaoine in the room capable of taking them both out together was currently rendered an Imènian and powerless with it. The Soul Healer’s fist flew out in another blur of motion and Rhyshladlyn rocked in his chains as that punch landed with a sickeningly wet crack against his right check. Rhyshladlyn grunted, eye lids fluttering as he swallowed convulsively, no doubt trying to keep from making a sound and giving Lílrt any sort of satisfaction. But for Xefras it was one hit too many and for all that he couldn’t physically move to put himself between the two, to use his own body as a shield for the Qishir, he could still talk.
“Stop this, Anointed One! Please. I will tell you whatever you want to know should I possess the knowledge!” he begged not for the first time and he doubted for the last. But by the old gods he couldn’t keep quiet and watch any longer. There were some things that were never acceptable no matter the cost, no matter the risk, and this was one of them. “Please, let him be. He cannot answer questions about myself when he isn’t me!”
“Xeffy,” Rhyshladlyn coughed and spat more blood onto the floor, his voice rattling around the air in his lungs when he continued, “none of them care. Just hush. It’s all going to be just fine.”
He stared at the Qishir with wide eyes and didn’t believe a word of what he said. Realistically he knew Rhyshladlyn couldn’t lie, wouldn’t even if he could, but gods surrounding, how could this possibly be fine? He was being slowly, methodically beaten to death and yet everything was fine?
“Give it a rest, slave,” Lílrt commented from where he stood at a table full of torture supplies at the other end of the room. “Once he gets it in his head that he’s going to do something no one can talk him out of it. Just ask my brother.”
Rhyshladlyn growled and the air vibrated with the register of it. “Relyt is a fucking traitor. He’s lucky I didn’t fuckin’ kill him where he stood given that I was well within my rights to do so.”
“And see, isn’t that the point though?” the Anointed One barked, whirling around with a blade in one hand, the other gesturing widely and angrily as he talked. “Qishir are unquestionable. Those of us who aren’t part of that caste are just supposed to blindly follow the orders of those who are as though you pieces of shit can never be wrong. But you can be, can’t you?”
“I never said I was never wrong, Lílrt,” Rhyshladlyn answered. “And what happened that made you hate my caste so much, hmm? Did you get rejected?” he asked the last bit in a singsong voice that made the Soul Healer growl.
“Enough of this shit. Just answer my questions so I can get to more doing more important shit than playing with you,” Lílrt barked.
Xefras looked from one to the other, fighting back a smile when Rhyshladlyn rolled his eyes and scoffed. Hid it only because he could feel the way Lílrt’s attention sharpened to a sword’s edge and was all too keenly aware that the Anointed One was behind him with a blade in his hand and Xefras was bound by an attend to remain in place kneeling on the floor.
“Do you know what my father used to call males like you?” Rhyshladlyn asked.
It was a rhetorical question, one filled with so much danger that Xefras’ teeth hummed with the warning of it and judging by the way Xitlali blanched and put a few more step’s worth of distance between them at least the Mad Qishir heard it, too. He didn’t dare look behind him to see if Lílrt had as well but the Anointed One’s silence spoke for itself.
“He would call you uutshetarz,” the word was harsh and melodic, carrying a bite that he thought only magick laced words could but in that moment he realized he was very wrong. “It means oathbreaker, worthless, Patron-blind. The only insult a Sinner can give that is stronger is one of the fïtshä. And you, Lílrt? You are uutshetarz. And I don’t care what insults you throw at me for being a Qishir when you are not, I don’t care what you do to me physically or those I care about and have sworn to protect. It will not ever change what you are.”
“Am I supposed to be insulted?” Lílrt chuckled low in his throat, the sound ominous and not as mirthful as it should be. “Because I’m not. For we worthless oathbreakers all recognize each other, don’t we?”
Oh my gods, you did not just say that.
Xefras felt the blood drain from his face as Rhyshladlyn shuffled around until his feet were fully under him and he rose to his full height. Swallowed thickly when the Qishir walked forward until the chains around his wrists and ankles kept him from going any further. He swallowed as all expression left that strikingly beautiful face.
“You’re just jealous that I sucked your little brother’s cock and not yours.”
In a blur of movement Lílrt was just there, striking out with that blade opening Rhyshladlyn’s face from temple to jaw. Xefras swallowed hard against the bile that hit the back of his throat at the sight of exposed muscles, tendons, ligaments, gums, and teeth, swallowed all the harder when the blood began to flow in great gulps down the side of Rhyshladlyn’s face and onto his shoulder and down his chest. Xitlali swallowed a shriek behind a hand as she moved further away. But Rhyshladlyn didn’t even blink and in that moment Xefras knew that the stories of the Grey Qishir had barely scratched the surface of strong he really was, that they didn’t even begin to cover even a sliver of what Rhyshladlyn was. Because calling him a mere Greywalker or Qishir wasn’t accurate enough descriptors for the Dhaoine who stood before him.
“Now tell me how the fuck did that slave over there figure out who you really are because I know you sure as shit didn’t tell him.” Lílrt leaned in, his free hand coming up to clap against Rhyshladlyn’s ruined cheek but just as he hadn’t when the wound had been made, the Qishir didn’t make a single sound, didn’t even show a sign that it happened, that he was in pain. “And if you don’t?” The Soul Healer turned and looked at him and Xefras fought to keep his face blank of any expression that wasn’t appropriate in that moment though only the gods knew what look wouldn’t draw the Anointed One’s ire at this point; he doubted even Lílrt himself knew. “I will take my frustration out on him until you do.”
Lílrt’s first mistake had been to look away from the Qishir, the second had been to threaten him while the Soul Healer couldn’t see the very Dhaoine Lílrt had collared in an attempt to render him meek and powerless and only succeeded at the latter. But the Anointed One’s arrogance knew no bounds and he thought, truly believed, that Rhyshladlyn wasn’t a threat to him at that moment. That for all that the Qishir appeared strong and unaffected by anything that had happened to him, that had been said to him or about him, Rhyshladlyn was very much the maelstrom of violence and death and nightmares given a perfectly balanced home that his name denoted.
“You really shouldn’t take your eyes off your enemy, Lí,” Rhyshladlyn’s voice was soft, barely above a whisper but it danced around the room until it was like they had taken the place of all the very air.
A low, metallic whine filled the silence of the room, growing steadily louder until with a screech the rings bolted to the stonework came out of the wall and Rhyshladlyn stood inches away from Lílrt, arms and legs free but now with several feet of magicked, heavy chains available to use as weapons, not that the Qishir needed them. He was a weapon all on his own, even without access to his magick, he was more dangerous than anyone in the compound combined. And staring at him in all his blood soaked, gore-drenched glory, Xefras wondered how he had possibly missed that the slave yshlad he had met centuries ago was the Grey Qishir himself.
The Anointed One slowly turned and looked at Rhyshladlyn and flinched and that one movement was enough to spread a slow, wicked, dark smile across Rhyshladlyn’s mouth before he flicked his right wrist and sent the chain snaking through the air the ring at the end of it hitting Xitlali in the head and taking her bonelessly to the ground. Another flick and Rhyshladlyn brought that chain back through the air towards him where he caught it one-handed without ever breaking eye contact with Lílrt.
“I am about to lose consciousness, Lílrt Greymend, but remember this moment,” Rhyshladlyn took a half step closer and spoke his next words low and dangerous a hairsbreadth from Lílrt’s lips, “remember that even with my magick bound away, locked behind a collar you should really look into strengthening and soon, I was able to rip these chains from the wall. I was able to take down hundreds of Hounds and Oiki with nothing but my fists and stolen steel. It is not my magick and the Self it’s attached to that makes me powerful.”
The Qishir leaned in that last inch, lips brushing Lílrt’s as he spoke, making Xefras fight not to growl at the way the Soul Healer’s eyes fluttered and a flush started to crawl up his neck from beneath his tunic.
“It is my Will, what makes me me, coupled with hundreds of years of endless training.” He leaned back and looked the Anointed One up and down with a look of such disdain and disgust that it was palpable. “And there is nothing you or anyone else can do that will ever change that.”
And then he collapsed to the floor in a heap and with his loss of consciousness his attend order snapped though it shouldn’t have but Xefras didn’t question it. Just scrambled on hands and knees across the blood stained floor to put his hands on the Qishir, to check to see if he was still breathing. Because nothing else mattered in that moment except for the weak, but steady, heartbeat that fluttered against his hand. Not even Lílrt tossing the knife he held onto the table he’d picked it up from. Not even when the Anointed One opened the heavy, steel reinforced door and spoke into the thick quiet of the room that was only broken by Xefras’ nearly ragged breathing.
“I will send proper Healers to attend him and to collect Xitlali. Then you and I will have a chat, slave xefras.” The door closed with muted slam that sounded final in a way no door closing should.
And as it did, as he called his power to the surface and began trying to do what he could to Heal Rhyshladlyn’s wounds, he made a vow that if the Grey Qishir didn’t kill that bastard un-male, that he would.