Ryphqi City hummed softly, all contentment and calm ease. And he resented it that peace, that satiated calm. Which was unfair and ridiculous, it was a City by the Many’s ten cocks, not a Dhaoine capable of stealing affection from another. But for all that it made no sense, he was still jealous of the connections the City had, of the reasons behind its humming contentment. Because he was without those connections. Had been for forty years.
Was jealous of it, resented it, despite how he had made it his home. Despite how he knew its streets, back alleys, tunnels, and neighborhoods by rote and heart. Knew them well enough that he could wander the streets aimlessly and not once worry for his safety. Even as he got lost thinking on how he had come so close to failure two days ago when he’d gone to see the fights at the Riverbank Arena, he still felt safe. Even as the glow of the City grew more and more muted, enough to bring his steps to a falter, then to a halt as he frowned and looked around, he still felt safe.
It wasn’t a surprise that he had found himself in that part of town with where his mind was at the moment. No one came here for there was an entire block where the buildings were dark grey stone, like someone had covered them in several thick layers of soot. Buildings that stood staring at passersby with empty windows that reflected the sky. Buildings that held a decaying sense of wrong the further down the street one walked. Even though the neighborhood as a whole was still safe, not a single living thing resided here.
This section of town, the farthest edge of which was a mere block away from Ryphqi’s Heart Tower, had been abandoned wholly and without question forty years ago. In the space of a few hours, it had gone from teaming with life, vibrant as any other neighborhood was, to this. And while neither Ryphqi’s citizens nor the Records knew why, no one pressed the issue. None came down here save clergy on the occasion seeking to purify the air to no avail. Well… and him. He came here but only because he knew the real reason no Dhaoine had stepped foot in any of the houses, played in any of the yards, trimmed the trees and bushes and gardens, or cleaned the streets of dirt and debris.
That and his dead was buried here. Though buried was a loose term.
Letting out a shaky breath, he came to a stop in front of what had once been a beautiful house: all wrap-around porch, upstairs master suite loft, large backyard, and so many windows, several of which made the entire back wall in the kitchen look out at the Heart Tower where it pulsed and glowed and hummed softly but persistently.
Walking up the front path, he leapt the stairs to the porch and gently pushed the door open. He didn’t bother to make sure he hadn’t been followed, that he wasn’t seen. He knew he hadn’t been. That and as a Soul Healer his presence in such a place like this didn’t raise eyebrows. After all a Self had died here. Not just a Dhaoine. Stepping into the front room, he took a deep breath and regretted it because the stench of stale magick, of fresh and violent death, and the desert wildflower spice of betrayal-born fury still lingered as powerfully as it had the day things had gone absolutely wrong.
For a long while he just walked the house aimlessly. Went through the rooms. Opened the closets and cupboards. Looked in the oven and the coldbox. Checked the backyard. Did everything but see the pile of scorched carpet in the main room. Or the dented dining room wall where pieces of a formal table had been. Or the blood stains that littered the tiles and walls and carpet, that were smeared across the counter and cabinets.
He hadn’t witnessed the fight firsthand but he’d arrived at its tail end. Had witnessed instead the aftermath and that had been enough. Had been just early enough to scream as the Worlds drowned everything, living, dead and otherwise, in the Balance that hadn’t existed for three hundred years. But too late to stop what came after. Had been just far enough away that he could remember everything the Worlds over had now forgotten. But too close for the memories he wished he didn’t have to naturally fade over time.
Groaning, he rubbed at his eyes and then his entire face as exhaustion tugged at his edges. Demanded he sleep or eat or hydrate himself but he wanted to do none of those things. No… he wanted to atone, to go back and do things over, do them right this time. But that wouldn’t happen. Couldn’t happen. Not yet, one day soon though or so he hoped, but not yet.
Walking back to the main room where the largest stain was, he slowly sank to his knees and twitched a hand over it. As his magick shimmered and the glamour dissipated revealing a body half decayed but mostly bones, he sighed and murmured a quick, fervent prayer to the Many for all the good it did. This Dhaoine had died horribly and pointlessly; a sacrifice so that a farce could be maintained, so an act of narcissistic, jealous revenge could be achieved. Had the Many, or any god for that matter, cared enough to here his prayers, They would have saved the poor male.
But They hadn’t. No one had.
“The wrong brother died,” his voice was hoarse, shattered with his grief, grief that forty years had not eased. He spoke the words every time he came here or knelt in a Temple before the Many’s ten-headed effigy. Because while he wanted desperately to forget some things, this was one he didn’t. One he couldn’t. “You allowed a travesty to be committed and none but me to be the wiser. The wrong brother died. Your most beloved devotee, bearing Your stamp upon his Self, and here he fell never to rise again.”
Only silence greeted his prayer, his heartbroken words. It was all he ever heard so he wasn’t surprised. He had expected nothing less than that.
“And for all that I still worship You, I loathe You for the failure inherent in the Silence You gave when we begged for mercy, for help.” He stood up and reengaged the glamour. Walked to the door without looking back even though every step dragged, ever breath hurt. “And for that failure I will never forgive You.”
As if a god gave a shit whether its followers loved or forgave it or not. But he said the words regardless. Used them to remind himself of his losses, of his goals, of his hopes. He said them to atone for not burying his dead properly, for not seeing the male those bones and decayed flesh and such had once been laid to rest. It went against every teaching he’d ever had growing up, against every tradition of his race never mind the Laws of the Worlds, but he couldn’t bury what was not meant to be dead, what wasn’t going to stay dead.
And for the first time in forty years as he left the house where his life’s course had taken an abrupt, sharp turn, he said those words again only added more as the door clicked shut behind him, “The wrong brother died. But this time… this time the right one will perish. And with his death, all will be righted.”