The humming didn’t sound any louder than it normally did, but the tone of it was off. All dips and rising pitches and a chirping birdsong-like melody that was just loud enough to be caught over the every day City noises. The closer he drew to that humming, glowing Tower, the slower he walked until he eventually was stopped right in front of it, head tilted back so he could look at its tip several hundred feet in the air. A perfect obelisk with not a single line out of place. Marveled for the hundredth time that the Greywalker race had been able to build such incredible things of pure magick, physical life tethers of a sentience that took the form of a City.

“They keep getting louder.”

“Aye, and dimmer for it which makes no sense.”

He looked over his shoulder at two Sinner Demons walking by, arms full of merchandise bound for the market several blocks over. They spoke while looking at the same Watchtower he was, seemingly indifferent to the weirdness related to it that had the skin along his spine twitching. As though after centuries spent in proximity to it and its brethren they were no longer surprised by anything that happened.

And if that didn’t speak volumes for how things had gone since Rhyshladlyn’s Awakening…

“Think there’s something going on with the Grey Qishir that’s making them act off like this?” the first one asked, eyes the color of gold full of a sharp-witted intelligence as she looked away from the Tower.

“Probably,” the second one, shorter than the female who walked with him, which was odd, with eyes the color of rubies, replied as he shifted his hold on the wood carvings he carried. “Especially since this is the only set he and his Court are tethered to.”

“Mmm. So whatever is going on with them, Ryphqi’s Towers are going reflect it…”

Sheieh looked back at the Tower before him as their voices faded into the distance. They had a good point. Whatever was happening to Rhyshladlyn or his Court would be reflected by the Towers they were connected to, would be felt across the one City every last one of them was linked to as surely as they were linked to each other. That twitching along his spine pooled at his wing joints, making them ache with the need to be released. But he didn’t dare. Not here, not in such a public space when he didn’t know who around him was friend and who was foe.

But what could possibly be happening that would make Ryphqi’s Towers dimmer and yet hum louder at the same time? It was almost like they were gossiping, talking in hushed excited tones that gradually grew louder the more excited they became. Like that brightness faded in an effort to draw less attention to themselves because they knew they were making a lot of noise. But what is the point of trying to be as unnoticeable as possible when no one in the City pays overmuch attention to them anymore?

Greywalker Cities were confusing.

Shaking his head, he turned to leave when there was a brilliant flash of golden light. Dhaoine all around him loosed shouts of surprise and something not unlike fear as they scrambled to put distance between themselves at that Tower. He was the only one who didn’t move. Just threw up a hand to shield his eyes against the glow, trying to see around it, trying to see if its brethren were also glowing so brightly he could feel it in his bones. But it was just this Tower. But that made no sense because this Tower was the–

Letting out a string of curses in Gretlök, he turned on his heel and ran, pulling out the emergency two-way mirror he kept on him at all times as he made for anywhere else that afforded him privacy. Engaged the call as he sprinted around a corner, barely missing a group of clergy who didn’t even register that he’d flown by them, too entranced with the glowing, pulsing Watchtower in the distance. Listened to the connection ring and ring, prayed that Jaro answered. Normally this wouldn’t be an emergency level issue. Normally it would be a reason to rejoice because it would mean Rhyshladlyn was even stronger than before. But when the reality the Grey Qishir lived in was not reality this kind of thing was not good. Not even close.

“Sheieh! What the fuck is going on?” Jaro answered, sounding flushed with sleep, the screen dark but with flickers of light, like the Soulless was moving around a room. The connection warbled as Ryphqi sent out a pulse of power. “Sheieh?”

“Jaro, we need to meet. Immediately.” His instincts didn’t like this. Not in the slightest. Especially because he needed to come clean about some things and that was likely to lose him the one ally he had right now, the only other Dhaoine who hadn’t forgotten. But if Rhyshladlyn had just gotten another–

He cut that train of thought off immediately. It was bad enough to see the proof of it before him, to feel it in the City’s cheering all around him. He would not lend it more power, more credence, by thinking it. It was bad enough he was going to have to speak it aloud when Jaro got to him.

“Talk to me,” the Soulless no longer sounded flushed with sleep. He sounded alert and wide awake and seconds later his end of the connection cleared as he flung open a set of curtains and flooded the room with light. “Where the fuck are you… is that–” Jaro swallowed so loudly Sheieh’s own throat hurt in sympathy, “Is that a glowing Watchtower behind you? Sheieh what the entire fuck is going on.”

As he rounded a corner into that neighborhood, where no Dhaoine lived, where Thae’a’s old house stood draped in shadows and resignation and the stink of betrayal and a sadness so absolute it terrified him, Sheieh stopped and looked up at where the Heart Watchtower loomed a block away. Turned until he could see the Tower he had just come from. Because he knew the dangers behind altering the mindset of a Dhaoine to the point that their mind was not in the correct timeline. But when it was a Qishir who didn’t have all their Court Oathed? It was worse. And he couldn’t help wondering if Fate had meant this all along. Wondered if Rhyshladlyn followed through on his Answer if this would become the Seven Worlds’ new, permanent reality with him and Jaro left as the only Dhaoine alive who remembered the truth.

Just the hypothetical chance of that made him feel violently ill.

“Yes,” he answered eventually, throat growing tight around the words he needed to say after that, stopping them before he could spit them out.

“What happened, Sheieh,” Jaro’s voice was sharp, focused, every bit of the warrior the male was trained and bred to be. It wasn’t a question but a demand, and in it Sheieh heard a bit of the Qishir they both were trying to save, albeit for very different reasons.

Taking a deep breath he looked down at the mirror in his hand, marveling that his grip was steady, that for all that he felt like he was shaking apart neither his body, his face, or his voice gave away how he really felt. Which was a small mercy. “One of the Sacred Three Watchtowers in Ryphqi City just blinded everyone around it.”

What?” Jaro blinked owlishly up at him. “As in it just woke up?”

Sheieh tilted his head side to side in a so-so gesture. “Yes and no. It… Look, just get here. Meet me at the house. I’ll be waiting for you and will explain everything then.”

The Soulless shook his head. “Which house? And, Sheieh, you didn’t answer my fucking question.”

“The one where things went wrong,” he growled. “As for your question… I’m not explaining that right now. Not like this.”

“So you’re sending me into Ryphqi City blind. Again. Because that’s a smart fucking plan,” the Soulless snapped, rolling his eyes as he started moving around the room he was in.

“Just follow the Lines straight to the house and drop down into the street in front of it. No one comes here but me anymore, so neither of us will be seen. Nothing bad is happening, just that one Tower has woken up and the City feels… happy. Like it’s celebrating,” he pinched the bridge of his nose with a huffed sigh, trying to stave off a building headache. They were wasting time. “Now will you stop stalling by arguing with me over pointless shit and just fucking get here already?”

He rarely cursed like that, at least where other Dhaoine could hear him, the teachings of his kind too ingrained in him to shake even after all these centuries spent living away from them. So when he did it now, especially so vehemently, it caught Jaro’s attention, sobered the male in a way Sheieh didn’t know he needed until the second the Soulless’ expression cleared.

“Fine,” Jaro sighed, sounding more tired than annoyed. “I’ll be there in an hour tops.”

Another pulse rippled across the City and Sheieh shuddered. “Make it less than that.” The Soulless just grunted and cut the connection. Pocketing the mirror Sheieh sent a prayer to a god he no longer believed in and for the second time in as many days walked down that empty street and back into the house where everything had changed.

8 thoughts on “22

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