24

It was so cold. Cold and burning. Weightless and yet moving was impossible.

There was so much noise. Yelling and screaming. Hiccuping sobs and gurgled pleas. The wet slap of bodies and soundless ripping as flesh split.

Nausea rolled and instincts thrashed but it didn’t help. Only made it worse.

Something is here. Something that doesn’t belong. 

The darkness writhed with things unseen, danger at every turn. Those sounds, so much noise, grew louder and louder, as tension built and vertigo shook the air.

Something is here. 

Movement drawing loser, breaths coming short. White-hot agony burrowed down to the bone. Denial flared, defiance on its heels as that movement was a touchable thing against over sensitive skin.

Light pierced the darkness, scattering things that had no form but existed despite that. Humming and pure white, it reached deep and spread like the petals of a flower searching for the sun. Curiosity drove back the cold, leaving only the burning but that didn’t matter. Wet slaps fell silent, flesh left un-torn, as awareness coalesced, shifted, and focused. For surrounded by darkness and nightmares and things that cared not for the atrocities they inflicted, only the pleasure such acts begot them, this power had hope. It was a salvation so long in coming. One prayed for but never received.

Until now.

It touched places that hadn’t been acknowledged in so long. Places that ached for the solitude they experienced, the emptiness that surrounded them. It filled those places with acceptance, with something that felt like the gentle magick of Temples. Wherever it went it chased that darkness away. The cold disappeared and the burning lessened more and more until it was a pleasant warmth that matched what that light, that power, gave off. Silence that wasn’t loud for once chittered instead around a sigh of relief. Tension eased and muscles loosened.

But as soon as it came, it was gone with a harsh sound.

Fury flashed. And with that flash came a target. Doesn’t belong. Wrong. Destroy it. Intent formed, grew, but it never moved. Because everything that warm, that hope, had held at bay rushed back to fill the spaces it left in the wake of its loss. And on its heels came that agony that burned along nerves and sent the Silence to screaming as the World trembled and shook and moved. That weightlessness grew heavier until breaths came in rattled gasps. Calls for a help that wouldn’t come because it never did and wasn’t going to now grew all the stronger. Fear replaced the flash of fury, mingled with the agony until they became one.

r-hY’Sh-läd’lYn

Everything froze at the sound of that voice and the power that wrapped around it, the name it spoke in the beneath. A breath taken and held. Waiting. Could it be? When that light and warmth returned, riding on the echoes of that name, elation bloomed.

Clawing for the surface, reaching for that light, kicking through the darkness and the agony it carried like swimming towards flickering daylight in murky waters, hands breached the surface and touched soft skin. Used that touch as an anchor point and pulled, recognizing that power now for what it was, as eyes flew open. Spoke the Truth of it in a voice that made ears whine and throat tear as the Worlds chittered with congratulations, “Healer.”

A smile that was nearly as blinding as her power greeted him when his vision cleared. Her melodious soprano replied with a finality that tasted like coming home, “My Qishir.”

His laughter rang out, startling her but he didn’t apologize. Just pulled her down so he could press their foreheads together, vaguely aware of her hand moving off his face and into his hair so he could. “I’m glad you finally found me,” his voice broke around the words, shaking with an emotion he couldn’t focus on too closely or it would destroy him.

“I…” she swallowed hard and a soft plop of wetness hit his cheek. Then another and another, her tears hot and smelling of summer rain. He purred softly to soothe her. “I didn’t… gods. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

A confession, one that had so many secrets swallowed. But it didn’t matter now. Whatever they were, whatever they had been, he forgave her. Because she had saved him, because she was his Healer and from now on she could not harm him anymore. To even try would kill her.

“It never is, Healer,” he replied and let her go, relaxing back on the floor, eyes staring up at the ceiling. “I’m going back under. When I resurface…” he sighed softly, “I will not be me.” He glanced at her when she hissed softly, watched regretful recognition flash across her diamond white eyes with their slit-thin pupils. Knew instinctively that they would need to discuss that later. Knew, too, that he likely wasn’t going to remember to do so. “Do not let me or anyone else drown.”

“I won’t, my Qishir. You have my word.”

He nodded and let his eyes fall closed, let the exhaustion paw at his body like the hands of a jealous lover. Let it drag him back down to that darkness and the agony and confusion and cold and the burning heat. But he wasn’t afraid now. Because he knew this female, this Snake Shiftkin, remembered her from the times before, memories hazy and half formed before the pain swallowed them and he couldn’t remember anymore. He knew her in the way a Qishir always knows their qahllyn.

And it was enough to give him the strength he needed to let go and fall. To dive back into that too dark water. Because he knew that even if Relyt and Azriel and Jerald failed to save him, she wouldn’t fail. Not again.

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