104

The second the bells rang out the hour of midnight he rolled to his feet, shaking his body from head to toe like a wolf would shake water off its fur. Head tilting to the side he tasted the air, felt the Danger, the way the air inside the compound was stagnant in comparison. Heard the Quiet that settled over the Worlds with the totality of a mountain avalanche. Felt the sense of waiting that had followed in the wake of that Quiet.

It was finally time.

Reaching out his right hand, he shifted to his feminine form and felt the collar’s power rise then pause. In that pause he turned, reached through the Veil, and pulled. Shadiranamen struggled to keep on her feet as he tugged her through into the living realm. Struggled to make sense of where she was, that she was standing in front of him, as she fought not to respond violently to the sudden movement. That for the first time in centuries they could almost hear each other across a link that for all that he didn’t have magick to feed it hadn’t been lost.

But neither of them could spare the time it would take her to settle.

“Take them to Ryphqi. Stop Nully before he kills Relyt. That right falls to me and me alone,” he instructed then tossed her outside the City to where he could just feel Xheshmaryú, could just make out from his Nochresi Other that he, Xefras, and Bayls were struggling to dismantle their camp and run as far from the City and the Working lines they’d drawn for him.

He tossed her to them and prayed that it would be enough to get them to safety. Prayed that that was one thing he wouldn’t have to worry about.

That handled as much as it could be, he sank into himself, dove to the point where his Self was supposed to be. Sank until he stood in the labyrinths his mind had made to defend it ages ago and stared at the millions of Selves, some Dhaoinic, some Otherborn, some creature that kept him contained and Imènian-blind, and smiled. Kept smiling as the air whooshed out and the Quiet snapped. When the first of them touched the line work, he rose to his full height. When more touched those lines and dots and swirls, he spread his wings with a relief he had no words to describe. He sent the rest of them scattering to the winds with a flick of his fingers before curling that same hand around the collar.

When the last of them touched the lines, he let out a shivering sigh, activated the Working with a sound that brought tears to his eyes, and felt the collar shatter in his hand, the pieces raining to the floor around his feet. As power rushed back in, as the truth of him filled every inch of him, as his magick hit the surface and burst past the boundaries of his flesh, he threw back his head and roared his triumph. Felt the wind whip around the room, tending his hair-bells to chiming as his wings physically spread out behind him with a violent snap of feathers, tearing through his back and sending flesh and blood flying in an arc to splatter the wall, floor, chaise lounge, and his desk. But he didn’t care. Didn’t mind the pain of it or the mess it made. Cared only for the relief of it. Cared only for how, one by one, he felt his links with his Others solidify and fill with power and energy.

How one by one he saw through their eyes, brief glimpses but it was enough.

Xheshmaryú was blinking himself and Bayls as quickly as he could across the distance between the N’pier City and Ryphqi City, the Sinner yelling something that sounded like she was cursing Rhyshladlyn’s inability to communicate completely. Shadiranamen was only half a step behind him carrying Xefras who seemed mildly insulted but otherwise content to let the Phuri manhandle him about as though he weren’t strong enough and fast enough to get there without her. Nhulynolyn was snarling at Relyt, trading blows with the Soul Healer while avoiding Azriel who was trying to pull them apart, Thae’a who was waiting for the perfect opportunity to physically put herself between them, and–

He cut the connection with a shake of his head. It wasn’t his problem right now. Not yet. He had some shit to deal with before he showed his face in front of his Court.

Holding his hands at his sides, palms towards the floor he took a deep breath, let it out slow, and touched first Imèn World then N’pier City. The former shook awake like the cautious rumble of a snakat trying to decide whether it wanted to purr or growl. The latter brushed against his awareness with a sigh like that of a lover in the throes of passion. He laughed, unable to help it. Laughed because it felt so good to be able to feel again. Felt so good to touch what belonged to him.

Imèn, I need the power that was gifted to you across the eons by my kind, my ancestors, by me. N’pier, I need you to Awaken.

There was no reason why either would really oblige him, not without many questions and hours spent trying to convince them. But not this time. Maybe they sensed the reasons, maybe they knew. Maybe they didn’t give a shit either way. Regardless of the why, Imèn gifted him the power he’d asked for, nearly drowning him in it just as N’pier Awoke and brought with it all the power owed him as a Greywalker.

He laughed as the last of the containment spell layers from the collar burned away under the onslaught of power, as his second Awakening came and went, bringing with it a power so old it felt primordial, like it would consume him if he wasn’t careful. But by the Hourglass, Scythe, and Scales, he didn’t want to be careful. No, he wanted to be fucking reckless. 

Looking at the door to his prison, seeing the magick that coated it, that spread across the walls and floor and ceiling, his smile shifted into something that hurt his face to make but it didn’t stop him from doing it. He took a step towards the door, breaking the spell woven into the very foundations of the room as he walked. With each footstep more power flooded him. With each breath more of his magick and the truth it held rose to the surface. With each second that ticked by he could feel more of the Worlds around him.

And when he finally reached that door his laughter was something touchable as it danced around him. He heard the guards on the other side startle, heard steel leave scabbards, heard wings spread, heard running footsteps as at least one left to tell Lílrt or Xitlali or Hujiel what had happened. But no matter who they got to help them, none of them stood a chance against him.

At the sound of more running footsteps, shouting, and then the alarm sirens going off, he laughed again, reached out and disintegrated the door with a touch before stepping through to the chaos beyond.

Time to be fucking reckless. 

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