70

The second he felt Thae’a’s wards relax enough to let them in, felt the soft give of the carpet of the Dreamweaver’s living room, he let Bayls go, set his feet, turned and swung. Spread his wings to protect his firecracker female from the blood spray as he jerked his hand out of the Hound’s chest and loosed a war howl as he pivoted and kicked with his left leg another Hound that dropped down half a heartbeat later.

All around him chaos erupted but he didn’t spend long enough to do more than register it. Didn’t stop moving any longer than it took to snap, “Get Bay to safety, she has what we need,” and send what he’d found in Relyt’s room to the pack his mate had at her hip. He didn’t bother to see if anyone obeyed him, just knew that someone would and that was enough.

Because there was more important shit to deal with, like the fact that more Hounds were arriving, many of them missing pieces. He had no idea how they’d tagged along when he’d blinked away from the cabin, had no idea how Thae’a’s wards hadn’t fried them for lunch but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he fell into the ebb and flow of battle, setting himself up to take on all of the fuckers at once because he was the better target, he was the most powerful in the area save probably Azriel if the fucker let even a single crack form in his Shields. But Ole Red Eye wasn’t going to make a target of himself when he had that job in hand. Of the two of them, Azriel’s death would cripple Rhyshladlyn more than his own would.

And when faced with the Worlds’ deadliest magickal creatures, especially when they were borderline un-fucking-dead, keeping the most important Court members alive was the priority. There was just no way to avoid collateral damage in this kind of situation. I wish I had steel. 

“No! I’m not leaving him to fight them alone! Three nearly killed Rhys and you think I’ma let him fight ten? Fuck you.”

He smiled at the sound of his mate cursing whoever was trying to drag her away from the battle he was dealing with. Distantly the fact that she’d said he was facing ten Hounds registered but he let the knowledge go in one ear and out the other because if he let it sink in, he’d stumble. So he let it go and just grinned as he dropped one in pieces to the carpet, its acidic blood making the fabric sizzle as it ate through it. Make that nine. Before the pieces had stopped twitching he was turning to face the next, tensing his thigh muscles as he grabbed the beast with both hands and threw it up towards the ceiling as he dropped into a low squat with his back parallel to the floor. He sliced it down the middle from head to groin with one of his wings as he straightened back up, the two halves thudding against the floor to either side of him in a spray of blood and gore but he was already moving on to the next target.

Time blurred as he moved from Hound to Hound, as he ripped out throats, kicked in skulls, used one lanky, half destroyed body as a bat to send another flying across the room to dent a wall. And the entire time he heard the screams and war cries of his family. Heard them and thought that there was simply too fucking many Hounds, so many that he wasn’t their sole target anymore because if he had been, he’d have been overrun and killed by them hours ago.

really wish I had fucking steel. 

Azriel’s voice rang over the din of battle, “Nully!” followed by the distinct sound of two swords being pulled from sheaths. Guess I said that shit out loud. Neat. 

His body turned, hands coming up to catch the blades that whistled through the air towards him before his eyes caught sight of which ones Azriel had tossed his way. The pulse of power that sang up his arms when his palms connected with the leather-wrapped hilts made his breath catch, made him stumble for an eye blink but it didn’t matter that the Hounds swarmed him in that split second. Because the power that made every hair on his body stand on end was his twin’s. Because in that moment he felt their link flicker into being, felt the touch of that collar around his neck, and then like an echo of a sound in a dream, it was gone. But the power that Rhyshladlyn had poured into his swords for centuries was still there. And Nhulynolyn knew just what to do with it.

“Everyone get down!” The air rang with his warning, with his order, as he brought Mallacht and Beannacht up in front of him as he pulled their collected power to the surface, mixed in his own, and then flung it out in all directions the second he brought their blades together with a clang.

For a moment nothing moved, nothing happened, and then some tension he hadn’t felt before snapped and the Hounds disintegrated before his eyes. As the last one fell, as the silence of their absence and the shimmering after image of his magick settled around him he felt a whisper against the back of his mind, a caress that shivered up his spine. Hands convulsing around his twin’s swords until they fell and thunked into the blood-soaked carpet, he cried out and sank to his knees, heedless of the danger in doing so without seeing what lay beneath him.

But it didn’t matter because–

*Nully? Is that really you?* 

Bayls was touching his face, thumbs moving across his cheekbones and it took him way too long to realize she was wiping at tears. Took him even longer to notice that her lips were moving, face animated in a way it only got when he wasn’t responding and she was yelling at him. But everything sounded muffled. Everything felt like it was too much and not enough. The wind was hot on his skin, the sun too bright, the sound of his breathing far too harsh, his heartbeat thundering against his breastbone.

*Nully? Am I really back?* 

He laughed abruptly but it came out as more of a sob that shook his body and nearly dislodged Bayls but his mate didn’t go down that easy. She just relocated her hands to the front of his tunic and shook him hard enough that his head bobbed forward and back, but it only made him laugh more, only made his elation bubble out on that same sob like noise that he couldn’t stop even if he tried, even if he wanted to try. Because it felt so godsdamned good to no be alone in his own head again.

*Yes, Xhesh, yes you really fuckin’ are.*

“Did you just say Xhesh?” Azriel’s voice cut through the numb bubble, popping it with a sound like glass breaking.

He closed his eyes and sank forward against Bayls, tucking his forehead against her shoulder, his arms coming up around her to hold her close. He needed her to ground on to, needed something solid and real. Needed something to keep him from getting lost in that hallway that connected them all because he didn’t have Rhyshladlyn to use as a beacon to guide him back to his physical body. He needed to stay physical, needed to stay exactly where he was, because if Xheshmaryú was back?

Then there was true hope that his twin was savable. Old Ones be fuckin’ praised. 

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