75

“Who the fuck is this?”

The inflection was just different enough that he waited until the face that accompanied it swam into focus before he snapped the mirror shut, cutting the connection. As soon as it registered that the face he’d seen was nearly identical to Rhyshladlyn’s, with only the eyes being different, he threw the mirror at the wall hard enough to shatter it into hundreds of pieces because the Many See them all, somehow Nhulynolyn Otherborn had gotten Sheieh’s two-way mirror and answered it instead. Just as he was debating whether to burn the pieces, he was reminded that he wasn’t alone in the room.

“Was that Nhulynolyn?” Xitlali asked, eyes wide, her fear making them look more crimson than normal.

He would never admit it but he gave her points for managing to ask that question despite the way her fear filled the air with the barest hint of spices. Gave her points because she had immediately recognized the most immediate danger and stopped working on the logistics of moving Rhyshladlyn yet again to focus on said danger.

I do not need to be dealing with this right now, too. Trying to find a place to put Rhyshladlyn that makes the move worth the effort is difficult enough.

“I think so…” If ever there was an understatement, that would take the cake because they both knew it had been. Xitlali had only heard him speak but likely knew that by his reaction that he had confirmed who it was. After all, there was only one Dhaoine in all of the Seven Worlds that looked enough like Rhyshladlyn to pass for the Qishir.

“Who were you trying to call?”

He laughed but it was empty as he looked at the pieces scattered around the floor around them, wondering again if he should burn them and throw the ashes to the fourteen winds. Which seemed like a bit much but he didn’t know what Nhulynolyn was capable of and tracking someone down via the magickal link between two communication mirrors, even if one was destroyed so thoroughly, seemed plausible enough. Better safe than sorry. 

“Lílrt?” she prompted. “Who were you trying to call?”

“Sheieh, my brother’s Guardian,” he answered while staring at those pieces, still debating what to do with them.

What? How would Nhulynolyn be anywhere near Sheieh’s two-way mirror? I thought they were at the Gra–” she stopped mid-word and he felt her fear increase as she whispered, “They were at the cabin, weren’t they?”

There wasn’t a point in lying, not now. Not when there was a high chance that his brother and his Guardian had gotten caught out and that was why Nhulynolyn had Sheieh’s two-way mirror. Sure it could be any number of other reasons: Sheieh had dropped it when the cabin had blown apart, he had struggled to get Relyt moving and out of there before any of the Grey Court had arrived and it had fallen out into the yard. But he knew from experience that making plans based off the absolute worst case scenario was the best choice. It meant one was never caught wholly off guard.

He cursed harshly under his breath in Gretlök as he turned to meet her wide, fear-filled eyes and for the first time didn’t take perverse pleasure in her discomfort, in her terror, in her pain. And that more than anything else said just how fucked things were.

“Send a distraction to the cabin. I don’t care what, I don’t even care if any of them die or are seriously injured except for Azriel because he’s still Blood Oathed to Rhyshladlyn and I’m not chancing that the Grey Companion dying takes his Qishir down with him. Tell Hujiel and Iköl that the ultimate goal is to find Sheieh and Relyt and get them out of there. The Grey Court cannot be left to ask Relyt questions about why he was there, about what happened to the cabin.”

“Were you there too? I thought you hadn’t made it there in time,” she asked as they walked towards the door, one eyebrow raised as she spoke.

He sighed as he pushed his fringe away from his face only to shake his head when it just fell back into his eyes. I need a fucking haircut. “I got there before Sheieh did, just in time to confront Rel, to find out why he’d gone there and we argued. Bad enough we were coming to blows when suddenly shit just went…” he made a vague gesture with his hands and a noise like an explosion before shrugging.

As explanations went it was bad and not an explanation at all but it was the best he had. There was no real way to describe what had happened. Was no real way to convey the fight he and his little brother had had before the cabin had exploded as reality whined around them. And he did not want to tell Xitlali that Relyt had kept records of their meetings back when Rhyshladlyn had abandoned his Court during the war. That he had written Lílrt’s re-induction into the Greymend family, into the Twilight Walkers Clan, in the Grey Soul Healer’s history archives himself and kept fucking copies of it hidden away in his room at the cabin. Doubly didn’t want to tell her that Relyt had arrived to find that those archives, those recordings, were gone. Because he knew she’d tell him to cut the mitigate further risks and just cut his losses. But he couldn’t do that because for all that Relyt made him want to do violent, despicable things, he loved his little brother and he couldn’t kill him. Not when there was still a chance to salvage the situation.

Hopefully.

“Did you ever say I was the Anointed One?” he growled as he advanced on Relyt, fingers curling into fists as he fought to keep his anger in check and failed. For by the Many, his brother could be so incredibly stupid sometimes.

Relyt shook his head, eyes wide, as he backed away slowly, hands lifted with his palms visible but Lílrt knew the gesture wasn’t of good faith, wasn’t even a guarantee that his brother wouldn’t do anything. He knew that of everyone in the Grey Court the only Dhaoine who were faster at casting than Relyt were Rhyshladlyn and Azriel. So he didn’t let his guard down, not when he was so furious he wanted nothing more than to put his fist through Relyt’s throat. And especially because he didn’t trust the innocent, meek façade the other Soul Healer was putting on.

“Well?” he barked when Relyt stayed silent. “Did you ever say I was the Anointed One? Did you mention who I was to you and why?”

“I… I don’t think so,” Relyt stuttered out and what control he had snapped and with a howl of rage he flew at the other male fully intent on punching him until he stopped moving.

“I will get right on it,” Xitlali answered and he raised both eyebrows at her sudden willingness to take orders and not question him or give him grief or snark. She blushed and looked away. “I remember what Rhyshladlyn did in Ryphqi City. I remember what he said the day he tried to save Jerald from me. His power then was insane, it was like nothing I had ever heard of or felt before. And from the reports, his Otherborn twin managed to singlehandedly take back Ryphqi City which means Nhulynolyn is just as powerful as he always was even with Rhyshladlyn collared. And I do not want to see if the Other’s strength matches his ‘s.”

“So just this once you aren’t going to fight me at every step?” he asked because he couldn’t not poke at it. It was too good to be true.

“Anything specific you wish to use as a distraction?” she asked instead of answering, stopping with her hand on the doorknob, throwing him a smirk over her shoulder as though he hadn’t seen the way her fear had changed the color of her eyes, as though he hadn’t smelled it.

“Send a pack of Iköl’s latest pets,” he grinned back at her. “That should keep them thoroughly entertained.”

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