They traded blows back and forth as he gave chase and Relyt retreated around the whole of the main part of Thae’a’s house. Fought with each other, tried to get the upper hand over and over to the sound of Azriel snarling when they sidestepped around the Anglëtinean yet again. It was a nonstop blur of motion, a release that Nhulynolyn hadn’t realized he craved until the moment the fight began. Thae’a tried to step between them, banking on neither of them being willing to risk landing a blow meant for each other on her and incurring not just her wrath but that of her mate’s.

But where Nhulynolyn had seen her in time and pulled his punch, Relyt hadn’t. So he knocked the Dreamweaver away and took the blow that would have broken something in her face. Took it and growled as his restraint snapped. Because it was one thing for Relyt to do this shit with him or Feather Duster, but Thae’a was innocent. Not that Relyt cared; after all that was why they were even having this physical discussion. Collateral damage had never mattered to the Soul Healer.

As he pushed the Soul Healer back, firmly placing himself between Relyt and Thae’a who looked shell-shocked, like she couldn’t believe Relyt had almost punched her, he heard Shadiranamen’s voice rise above the noise of everyone else. Heard her yelling at him to stay his hand, that his twin ordered him to let Relyt live. Maybe if she had shown up before Thae’a had made herself into a target he would have listened. But his fellow hadn’t shown up until it was too late. So he didn’t listen. No, he refused to listen. He was just too furious at the lying, two faced piece of un-male filth that called himself Rhyshladlyn’s Steward. Was fueled by anger at the emotions that leaked through the cracks in the Shields and Barriers Rhyshladlyn had thrown up the second the second power rush had started. Emotions that his twin wouldn’t have felt if Relyt had just done what he was supposed to as Steward from the very beginning.

Whatever showed on his face made the Soul Healer blanch, made him pause, slate grey eyes wide as the glow of the gretkewq on his forehead faded slightly. He just smiled and moved forward, crossed the space with a sound that made fear cascade off Relyt. It wasn’t enough but godsdamn it was a start.

He landed a roundhouse kick to Relyt’s jaw that produced the distinct wet snapping sound of a joint dislocating. The Soul Healer’s scream abruptly cut off as the force of the kick radiated down his jaw and compound fractured the bone near his chin. He planted his kicking foot, pivoted, and followed after Relyt who had been flung into and over the formal dining room table. Howled his rage, his intentions, as he grabbed fistfuls of Relyt’s tunic and bodily dragged him out of the debris of the destroyed table and dented wall. Screamed the betrayal and heartache his twin thundered down their link into Relyt’s bleeding, broken face. He shook Relyt hard enough the Soul Healer’s teeth clacked together, the bone of his broken jaw breaking through more of the skin of his face with a squelching sound not unlike someone tearing wet paper.

“You are beyond being worthless,” his voice was nothing but a thousand tiny blades made sharp by the broken pieces of Rhyshladlyn’s heart. And he flung every last one of them at the un-male who was responsible. “You are beyond being a disappointment.” He grunted when Relyt drove a knee into his abdomen, feet shuffling to keep both his own weight and the Soul Healer’s upright. But it didn’t stop him from saying the next words, from driving them home with all the power he could, intending to do a type of damage only words could cause. “You are dishonorable, undeserving of the qahllyn’qir that connects you to my twin. Oathbreaker. He should have left you to rot in Shiran City.”

He growled when Relyt’s other leg blurred out and hooked behind his left knee, pulled, and brought them tumbling to the floor. He didn’t let go as they flipped, tucked, and rolled. Didn’t let go when Relyt unleashed a blast wave of his power, a warning shot that preceded his Soul Wave. Didn’t back down when the un-male smashed their faces together and broke his nose. He just held on, coughed up and spat out blood and cartilage into the Soul Healer’s face and cursed at him in the tongue of the Otherborn at full power. Laughed when Relyt keened, when blood poured from his ears.

“Nully! Enough!”

He almost looked behind him at the sound of his mate’s voice but that would have been a fatal mistake. This was a fight to the death, one that Relyt had nearly won three hundred years ago when he’d played a part in the creation of the collar that Rhyshladlyn had been controlled by. Had nearly won when that collar and the magick that activated it had cut Nhulynolyn, Shadiranamen, and Xheshmaryú off from the who gave them life. And he refused to give the slimy, lying fuck another chance. But Bayls would know that and wouldn’t have told him to stop the fight without damned good reas–

“Nhulynolyn, let him go.”

It was suddenly raining inside his skull. Thunderous and fury-filled. Hot enough to scald where it leaked out of his eyes onto his face. He could ignore every voice but that one. Knew in that moment why Bayls had spoken, knew that she hadn’t been telling him to do something. No, she’d been warning him.

Letting go of Relyt, he leaned back slowly. Rose to his feet and shuffled quickly out of range of the Soul Healer’s legs and arms. Didn’t look behind him to match a face to the voice he would know anywhere, no matter how much power filled it, no matter how many unnameable emotions distorted it. And judging by the way Relyt turned the green of sea algae, the way his eyes widened and his fear coated the air like someone had dropped a sopping wet blanket over them all, he was really glad he had known better than to look. Was even happier that he’d had his back turned and didn’t have to look unless he wanted to. Especially when the first tidal wave of Rhyshladlyn’s magick crested and fell over the room.

“Stand.” The rainstorm in his skull abated but only in intensity. And he really wished it hadn’t because now he could hear as well as feel Rhyshladlyn’s pain and betrayal and the hatred that was nearly as strong as what he held for their long dead sire and the birth giver who had aided used him as a living shield. And all of it was directed at the Soul Healer who stared up at him like Rhyshladlyn was his god walking the earth, like he was equal parts horrified and elated.

But Relyt didn’t move. Nhulynolyn couldn’t tell if it was by choice or not. Couldn’t tell if it was from fear so great it made him glad the rules of the living didn’t affect him because otherwise he’d have died from the self-same fear or just shock that Rhyshladlyn was stood among them all again. The growl that ricocheted off the walls dispersed the left overs of the magick he and Relyt had cast during their fight. Removed it so completely that if there hadn’t been physical evidence that couldn’t be so easily removed, Nhulynolyn never would have believed they’d come to physical blows. And in that moment he knew that this was not just his twin… this was something, someone, more. This was Death and Justice and Judgment rolled into one. The spliced together pieces held together by something he didn’t have a name for but made him whisper a prayer to whatever gods were listening that Rhyshladlyn remembered that he didn’t have just enemies.

“Fine,” so much emotion in that single word. So much pain and self-deprecation and hatred that had nothing to do with circumstance and everything to do with the mantle of Fate that rested on his shoulders. “Remain there then.”

Old Ones but that is a trap. That is such a fuckin’ trap. Oh gods, Relyt stand the fuck up before you get the entire lot of us killed, you stupid motherfucker. 

A finger-snap followed by a sharp cry brought Nhulynolyn’s attention swinging round before he could remind himself not to. But instead of looking at the abject horror his twin had become, he instead looked at the Soul Healer who bore an uncanny resemblance to Relyt who was standing in front of him. Took in the way the Soul Healer listed from side to side, eyes only half focused, as though he were barely holding onto life but there was no sign of mistreatment or wounds anywhere on him. And considering the only thing covering the male’s body was the loincloth that hid his genitals from sight, there wasn’t anywhere for wounds or bruising to be hidden.

Nhulynolyn watched as Rhyshladlyn tapped a finger against the male’s bare shoulder, making the gretluos that curled there flash with light for a split second. Whether it was Rhyshladlyn’s touch or the flash of the Soul Healer’s natural magick that made those black eyes that were so light they looked grey focus, Nhulynolyn wasn’t certain. But awareness of his surrounding suddenly filled that face and every muscle tensed and relaxed in stages. He still listed gently from side to side as though he stood on the deck of a ship in semi-choppy waters but it was more controlled now.

“Heya, little brother,” the voice was rough, deeper than Nhulynolyn expected, but it held a regret that made him flinch back, made him wish he was anywhere else. Because that kind of regret usually came when Dhaoine had died because of one’s choices and he really didn’t want to be around for that.

Relyt made a choked sound and scrambled onto his hands and knees like he’d rush forward to the newcomer’s side. But he aborted the motion when Rhyshladlyn shifted minutely, reminding them all of the very real danger that stood among them. Nhulynolyn fought to remain exactly where he was, to not move a single inch. Not that he thought his twin would come after him but in the state he was in it was just safer all around not to risk it.

“Lílrt,” Relyt spoke the name carefully, mindful of the fact that his jaw was still compound fractured, that one joint was broken. “What… wh–” he didn’t finish the question but the older Greymend didn’t need him to.

“I’m sorry, Relly. I failed.” Lílrt swallowed and glanced sidelong at Rhyshladlyn who was watching him with a focus that belonged to a predator in the wild, belonged to a deadly magickal creature that hadn’t seen daylight in generations and brought Dhaoine to their knees when it finally did. “He knows everything… Xitlali is–Hujiel is…” he trailed off and let out a shaky breath. The they’re both dead and it was messy went unspoken but everyone present knew Rhyshladlyn well enough that he never gave neat lessons.


“It’s okay, Lí…” Relyt’s voice shook and his eyes glimmered with tears. Nhulynolyn made a gagging noise, unable to resist the urge, baring his teeth in a sharp smile when the un-male glared at him before looking back at the other Soul Healer. “I never should have–”

“As touching as this reunion is,” Rhyshladlyn interrupted and waggled his fingers. Relyt jerked to his feet before sliding across the floor until he was a foot away from where Rhyshladlyn stood holding a now pathetically struggling Lílrt. “I brought this trash here for one reason only and it wasn’t for the two of you to catch up.”

Nhulynolyn glanced around at everyone else and saw the same apprehension and banked terror that filled his own chest at the derision that dripped from those words. Saw how everyone else was grappling with the knowledge that their Qishir was a lot more powerful than any of them had believed let alone expected. When it had just been him trading blows with Relyt sure it was dangerous, sure he’d meant to kill the motherfucker, but with Rhyshladlyn’s arrival things had escalated. Now there was a lot more at stake than there had been. Even if the possible outcome was still the same.

“For the crime of forced enslavement,” Rhyshladlyn’s voice boomed out with a finality that vibrated Nhulynolyn’s bones, “for the crimes of rape, gross misuse of magick for sexual misconduct, and forced breeding,” his voice dropped three octaves, rumbling a mere hairsbreadth above the subvocal range line, “With the power given to me as Qishir, I hereby sentence you to–”

“Killing me won’t erase any of the damage I’ve done to the minds of everyone in the Worlds,” Lílrt interjected. “It will only strengthen what’s been done. No one will remember any more than they do now.”

Rhyshladlyn laughed, it was an unpleasant sound; like steel slowly dragged across stone only worse. “You still have no idea what you’re up against even now, do you, Lílrt?” He sounded way too conversational. “No idea what is going to happen to you, what has to happen to you?”

“You’re the Grey Qishir and I’m going to die,” the Soul Healer shrugged. “And then you’re probably going to kill Relyt because he was too gullible and stupid with it to realize I was playing him the whole time. It doesn’t matter what I’m up against or how powerful you are. The outcome is still the same.”

Nhulynolyn watched as Rhyshladlyn took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he did so. Watched as he pulled the monstrosity of his true form back beneath the Dhaoinic façade. Watched him turn into the twin he remembered. Watched him let out that breath, expression smoothing out into something that didn’t just look calm but was calm. When he opened his eyes again, they were their normal orange-amber, just as calm as the rest of him was. It was as though between one breath and the next all that betrayal, all that rage, all that heartbreak and pain was just… gone.

He shared a pointed look with Shadiranamen who gave a small shake of her head from where she stood behind their . There was no way for them to get anyone else to safety without risking becoming targets themselves. Because a calmly furious Rhyshladlyn was far more dangerous than an unstably furious Rhyshladlyn. Fuck.

“No,” Rhyshladlyn replied, “no it won’t. I am done playing nice for the sake of appeasing the Worlds over, for the sake of allowing them to sleep more peacefully. I am done pretending to be anything but exactly what I am.”

“And what the fuck would that be exactly?” Lílrt snarked with a bravado that fooled none of them.

His twin leaned forward until his chin hovered about Lílrt’s shoulder, turned so that his mouth was right next to the Soul Healer’s ear. Took a breath and let it ghost over Lílrt’s face, making the male twitch in what was probably an aborted attempt to jump away. Nhulynolyn felt like the ground had dropped away from his feet, taking his stomach along with it, when Rhyshladlyn smiled slowly until every single one of his teeth showed. Smiled wide enough to prove that while the outside looked normal, not everything had shifted back. He didn’t have to answer, that smile, the way he looked at Lílrt, was answer enough.

Between one breath and the next, Rhyshladlyn’s power flooded the room, filled every single nook and cranny, touched places no power should ever touch. And on the waves of it came a simple order that carried a weight to it that made Nhulynolyn wish dearly that he could rewrite history.

Sacrifice yourself.

Because some things should never be seen. And what Lílrt did to himself following that attend while his little brother watched, while they all watched, was one of them.

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