“Shit! He’s seizing!”
“What’s–shit someone hold his le–“
“We ne–ckin’ Healer!”
“Nully, why aren’t you–fuckin’ Great Mother’s tits hold his legs!”
“I dunno, B. I can feel our connection but… it’s… somethin’s weird.”
“In what way?”
“This is all good and shit, but can we please get a Healer in here before my bro–“
She didn’t catch whatever else the Lord Queen was saying. Not because the wards strengthened and shut her out. No, she’d fallen back from the wall in shock. Lost her footing and hit the floor with a thump probably loud enough for the Honorable and Grey Courts to hear despite the cacophony of voices tumbling over each other as they tried to understand why Rhyshladlyn had suddenly dropped to the floor with a scream that had made every hair on her body stand on end. But she didn’t care if they heard her fall. Didn’t care if they came searching out the sound.
Because she knew what had happened. Knew because she’d been there the last time Rhyshladlyn had made that sound and dropped seizing to the ground, body totally out of his control. Remembered the way that power had snuck out, slow and careless, easy and inconspicuous. Remembered how she hardly noticed it until the moment it struck. Remembered the way the collar around his neck had glowed so brightly it was like the sun had been tucked into a strip of metal.
But it wasn’t possible for her to have felt that magick here. The Anointed One hadn’t ever managed to infiltrate either the Eighth Court or the Grey Court. And even if he had there was no way that Rhyshladlyn and Relyt hadn’t recognized him; the former after having spent three centuries under his controlling thumb and the latter for being his blood brother. But that magick was unmistakable.
Another scream, louder and more intense than the first, rang out and once it started it didn’t stop; an incessant sound that rattled her bones and made her eyes prick with tears. All around her the light seemed to flicker and then dim, the shadows at the corners darkening, lengthening, like they were alive and gaining power with each passing moment. Her heart ached at that sound, hating that it was here in this place. Hating that for all that Rhyshladlyn had escaped that collar he was still ruled by it. She’d always agreed that the Qishir had needed to be taken down a few pegs, needed to be held accountable for the things he’d done that had hurt the Worlds over, but enslaving him had never sat well with her.
“Fuck! Rhys, breathe!” Nhulynolyn’s voice echoed through the wall with enough force that she watched the wards bow outward, wobble like they were going to break, and then snap back into place.
Before she could think better of it, she was on her feet and racing for the door. What she was about to do was stupid, so stupid, and not remotely in the realm of what her orders had been the last time she’d heard from the Anointed One forty years ago. But the opportunity was too perfect to pass up never mind that it wasn’t going to present itself again. That and if she was being honest with herself, her races nature wouldn’t allow her to sit back and listen to those screams, feel the Calls for help that rode that gut-wrenching sound, any more now than it had decades ago.
She closed the door behind her and had stepped into full view of the corridor when Ishmariel threw open the meeting hall’s doors and snapped at the guards, “Get a Healer. Now.” The Many has Seen me.
“I’m a Healer!” she called and brought three sets of eyes swinging over to her. But she didn’t flinch. Just did her best to affect the air of someone who had nothing to hide as she approached. “Where am I needed, Warrior Ishmariel?” she asked when none of them said anything.
A very flustered Nhulynolyn staggered into the doorway, ice blue eyes narrowing when he saw her. “You the one who just said they’re a Healer?” he asked, cutting Ishmariel off before the Honorable Warrior could finish his question. Which was just as well, she hadn’t thought of how to answer it.
She nodded, not trusting her voice in the face of that haggard battle calm that made features identical to Rhyshladlyn’s harsher, sharper, than she knew they were normally.
“Then stop fuckin’ about in the godsdamn hallway an’ get in here,” he barked, reaching out and grabbing her by the arm, hauling her passed Ishmariel who spluttered something like we don’t know who she is what the fuck and the guards who just blinked, not sure whether they were allowed, or whether it was safe even if they were, to challenge the Grey Qishir’s twin.
But the second her feet were on the other side of the threshold, the Otherborn stopped and snarled in her ear, “I know you’re a Healer because I can smell it on you but mark me careful like, female, if you do anythin’ but your absolute best to help my twin, I will show you exactly why he is the echo an’ I am the reality. You feelin’ me?”
“Aye, Nhulynolyn Otherborn,” she answered, shocked at how afraid she felt at hearing that threat because she didn’t scare easily. After surviving N’phier City and at the hands of the Anointed One’s less than honorable cohorts in the aftermath of Rhyshladlyn’s escape, nothing compared. But the flush of respect for the Other surprised her even more. To anyone who didn’t know better, it seemed he was taking a risk pulling an unknown Healer into Thayne’s inner sanctum. But in reality Nhulynolyn was five steps ahead, even more so than that threat would imply. Too bad the Anointed One never managed to get his hands on you. If he’d turned you instead of Relyt, we’d have won the war and achieved every goal without having to try. “Shall we continue onward?”
Those ice blue eyes just stared at her unblinkingly, missing nothing, no doubt memorizing what she looked like from her face down to her magickal signature and she just stood there and let him. Raised an eyebrow when he took longer than a minute. Raised the other eyebrow when that minute mark stretched into two. Huffed and rolled her eyes when two minutes stretched rapidly towards four. Before she followed through on the desire to just step the fuck around him, he moved aside and gestured to where Rhyshladlyn lay on the floor.
The Many prevailing, despite knowing what she was going to see, despite having seen it before, she still gasped, one hand flying to her mouth to try and stifle the sound. Still felt like she was going to be sick.
Rhyshladlyn’s back was arched until only his hands and head and feet were touching the floor. Almost like he’d have floated right off the floor if his legs and arms weren’t being held down by his Triad and sister, all of whom were now staring at her. That striking, regal face was a riot of pain that resonated so deep she could feel it as though it were her own, his magick winging that Call for aid out in rippling waves that smacked against her legs like the incoming tide. And she didn’t doubt for a second that if she hadn’t already been so close at hand when he’d dropped that that Call would blanket Eyrdo, demanding every Dhaoine within traveling range who could render aid find him no matter the cost. I wonder if that’s what happened the night his Steward saved him in Shiran? Her eyes darted to Relyt and away again as she shook herself and crossed the room.
“Alright, this is what I’m going to need,” as she listed off the items, she pulled her power to the surface and ran her hands through the air above the Qishir’s twitching, shaking, agony-riddled body, searching for the cause. Praying there was one. Not just because she needed to Heal him for the sake of keeping his twin’s hands off her, for earning a boon of the Grey Qishir and a foot in the door for getting close to him, but because she wanted to follow the tether of power that had dropped him to the floor. Needed to know what face her beloved Anointed One wore now. Needed to find the male she had dedicated her life and her magick, her everything, to. Needed to hug him tight and slap his teeth out of his mouth at the same time for disappearing off the face of the Worlds with nothing left behind but the too faint scent of his favorite cologne and the most cryptic message she’d ever read in her life.
Absently, she heard Y’adtrik and Ishmariel leave with Thae’a to go get the items she described. Heard Thayne order Adïmshyl and Bayls to go relieve the guards at the doors so they could instead block access to the corridor from anyone not part of the Courts. But aside from that cursory notice, she ignored anything else but her task. Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and looked beneath, sending up a silent, breathless prayer to the Many that this worked. Tried not to think about the consequences she faced if she failed. Hoped that the answers she sought lay outside the visible spectrum.
As Rhyshladlyn’s Self sprang up before her, all swirling oranges and golds and rich ocean blues, jade greens, sunset violets, winter blues, and the richest black she’d ever seen, she stared in wonder, her heart skipping several beats. As the first musical note of that signature’s legendary Song rang out, followed closely by the sandalwood and spicy desert wildflower scent that was uniquely him, she marveled at how she had living proof that a rarity of the Worlds existed. For seldom to few Dhaoine in all of history had magickal signatures that registered on more than one sensory level. Even less had ones that hit more than two. And yet here was Rhyshladlyn, with his scent and light show and music and the gentlest touch that dragged teasing fingertips down her spine. Here he was tasting like fine whiskey and the musky taste of well-cooked meat. She whispered a breathless prayer of thanks for the gift she had in that moment. Gave thanks for the trust of it because she knew if Rhyshladlyn didn’t trust her or those guarding her closely, that she wouldn’t be so deep in him, so cozied up to the core of his very being. Even unconscious and seizing, he was strong enough to deny her. To deny anyone. And she knew it, could feel the weight of his awareness like a physical touch on her skin. He was not a body that housed a Self, but rather a Self that had created the perfect humanoid, Dhaoinic form to allow it to walk the Worlds.
Rhyshladlyn was like nothing she had ever seen or touched before and in that moment she felt like she couldn’t breathe, felt like her entire Worlds view had been shaken and left to crumble, pieces falling where they may. How could the Anointed One have ever thought he could tame you? That he could contain you?
As she scanned through that intense sensory overload, she found a black mark with tendrils of sickness that undulated around it buried deep enough that if she hadn’t been searching for the cause of his seizing, his agony, she wouldn’t have found it. The closer she looked at it, the more she realized she was the only one who could see it. Realized that with each moment that passed with Rhyshladlyn struggling to fight off the attack against him, that spot grew. Pulsed with a vigor that made her desperately want to scrub her skin until it peeled off.
She needed her bag and she needed it now because whatever the fuck that thing was, she wasn’t going to be able to get it out with her bare hands and strength alone.
“Gods, anyone else seeing this?” someone whispered.
“Oh, we’re seein’ it, B.”
“It’s… High Ones prevailing,” Azriel’s voice was rough, choked, from where he knelt to her right, holding Rhyshladlyn’s left arm down.
“Breathtaking,” Thayne murmured, sounding gods-struck. “He’s absolutely… breathtaking.”
The sound of several sets of pounding footsteps then, “Here! We’ve got the items–whoa.”
“By the Deep!”
She didn’t break the connection, didn’t look away, didn’t resurface. Just held out her left hand for what she’d requested with a snap of her fingers. When the bag hit her hand she dropped it to the floor and rummaged blind and one handed through it. Looked for the one thing she needed. Grounding stone. Grounding stone where the fuck is it…
“Can I help?” A deep voice asked inches from her face. She flinched hard enough that the connection snapped. As a flex of power hit her and knocked her back, she realized Rhyshladlyn had frozen mid-scream, body tensed like he was ready to strike. Pure instinct waiting for a target. And her startlement, the curse she hadn’t been able to swallow, had given that instinct a direction, turned it to the owner of that deep voice. She felt his awareness gather itself, shift positions, and lock on.
“Damn it, Relyt! What the fuck did you do!” A high feminine voice growled out, sounding like she imagined a scolding mother would.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t know that she–”
“Fuck he’s going under again!”
Blinking to clear her vision of the after image of Rhyshladlyn’s Truth, she quickly upended the bag at her side, grabbed the stone she needed, a pure white shard of glass, and barked, “Everyone off him!”
No one argued, just let go at once and put a few feet of distance between them and the flailing, screaming Qishir whose magick had switched from defense to offense and was rapidly gaining strength. Cursing she straddled his waist, riding the rolling waves of his body, gripped the grounding stone in her right hand and hovered her left over his face. Counted the rolls, counted his screams, and waited for an opening. When that horrible sound paused, a split second of breath inhaled, she struck. Pierced his chest over his sternum with the tip of the stone and pressed her thumb between his eyebrows, the rest of her hand spread over his forehead and into his hair, slamming his head down. As she made like dead weight to hold his body down, she dove into her Self, threw open the doors to her sight and looked beneath. Called up every single ounce of her power, thrust it through her hand on his head, through his body, and up into the stone in his chest. Matched the offensive rush of Rhyshladlyn’s power with her own stubborn will, growling when his power flexed, smacked back, refusing flat the fuck out to be moved.
“Damn it, stop fighting me, you stubborn shit,” she snarled as another slap hit her face. But she wasn’t going to give up. Just knocked his hands to the floor with a thought, shifted so she could hook her feet over his knees and jerk his legs wide, throwing him off balance so he couldn’t plant them and buck her off. Pressed harder on his head, dug the grounding stone a smidgen deeper into his chest. Ducked and dodged and moved as his power and his body tried to fight her off, while he treated her like she was the enemy. Waited until he realized she was answering his Call.
And the second that connection was made she spoke Rhyshladlyn’s true name, pronounced it with power and intent all rolling syllables and steel-sharp vowels and shaky consonants. Spoke it like the Anointed One had the day Relyt had placed that collar around the Qishir’s neck. Only when she spoke it, it was to unlock that deep rooted Truth, that almost god-like, monstrous power, not bury it. Was to bring the absolute brunt of him to the fore, channel it through the grounding stone, let her own magick be the conduit, the road he followed, as she targeted that smear of darkness at the core of him, rooted deep in his mind.
But she never made it that far. The second she felt her power touch his, she felt a shiver of recognition that was written about, that was taught to every Dhaoine across the Worlds, especially those of her race. Felt his power open wide and encompass her very Self, as his eyes flew open and his voice spoke on a register one felt rather than heard, “Healer.”
The only response she had was, “My Qishir.”