103

Racing heart.

Shuddering breathing.

Pain, so much pain.

The thumping patter of feet running on stone.

The scrape of rough stone on palms and fingertips.

Blurring speed, even blurrier faces, some twisted, others frozen.

Heart speed increases. Muscles burns. Pain, so much pain. Pain that turned into a searing agony oh gods it hurts make it stop.

Pause. Hold breath. Don’t breathe, can’t breathe. Dan–

–GER DANGER WAKE UP WAKE UP DANGER WAKE UP WAK–

With a shout he woke up just as the walls and ceiling turned into a pulsing, blinding gold that screamed. And then the first trickles of Fear hit and he was moving out of bed before he’d even registered the thought to do so. Was running down the hallway to the front of the house, chasing that golden glow as he ran, spurred to go faster as a Quiet settled over the Worlds with all the weight of an avalanche.

As he skidded around the corner into the front room and took stock of his surroundings he noticed that Nhulynolyn was standing near the kitchen island, eyes leaking blue sparks each time they moved or he blinked. Took in the way that the Other was shaking, the way his rage saturated the air as he screamed into a Quiet so heavy no sound actually happened. When he caught sight of the flickers of orange-amber dancing in the Other’s eyes he shifted his attention to the one Nhulynolyn was screaming at.

And felt the blood drain from his face fast enough that he stumbled as his vision wobbled.

“Do you have any idea what I’ve done?” the Soul Healer asked, sounding desperate in a way Azriel hadn’t heard since the day he’d first used the Soul Wave right after Rhyshladlyn had killed Azhuri. “Please, I keep… I keep remembering things in fits and starts, but I don’t know what is memory and what is nightmare.”

“You betrayed your Qishir, your Court, your family, you worthless piece of shitThat’s what you did.” Nhulynolyn’s voice whip corded out, slicing through the air like a knife through skin and in the rush of sound before the Quiet took control again he heard the cries of everyone else and noticed belatedly that he was the last one to the party. Noticed, too, that the Other didn’t seem injured anymore even thought a mere handful of hours ago he had still been unresponsive in the bed, had still been covered in bruising so dark they worried he had internal bleeding that they just couldn’t find the source of. Noticed that the Other had his hands fisted in the front of Relyt’s tunic.  “You’re the reason that collar is ’round his neck! You did that to him!” Nhulynolyn snarled. “He trusted you and you destroyed him. Why?”

Relyt limply rolled with Nhulynolyn’s violent shake, hands coming up slowly to curl around the Other’s arms as he whispered, “I did what I thought I had to, Nully. I didn’t know that this would happen. I swear I didn’t know.”

DANGER GREY COMPANION DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER STOP STOP STOP MUST STOP MUST STOP.

Ryphqi’s sudden yelling in his mind brought him to his knees with a cry that other voices echoed but he couldn’t focus on them. Could only focus on the agony that roared down his body, that collected at his left wrist along a scar that was still as noticeable now as the day it had been formed.

Then the air whooshed out, the Quiet snapped, and a sound that he’d only heard once before seared the air and forced a sob from his throat before he could stop it.

Before he could do anything more than push himself up from the carpet when did I fall? Ryphqi City began to Sing a single, pristine note that froze them all into a different kind of stillness:

H E  I S  F R E E.

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