He leaned back to avoid a swipe meant for his face. Slipped in behind that arm as it bypassed him, right hand pressing into the armpit, left curling around the forearm just below the bend of the elbow. Locked the elbow joint with a wrist flick, side stepped to the right and behind the thing, bringing that arm with him, before he dropped to the ground limp as dead weight, dislocating the shoulder as he did so. As it screamed, that disgusting body tipping backwards after him, he tucked his knees to his chest, catching the broad back with his feet, and let its momentum help him throw it over and away from him. Rolled to his feet and took off down the street, not bothering to see if it was chasing after him. Not caring enough to even make sure he killed it.
All he cared about getting to the source of that taste of power that carried on the rancid wind. Knew that he was running out of time. Because there was only so much he could do when he wasn’t a body Healer, when he was surrounded by an enemy that even in the single digits was strong enough to out match him at his full strength and with no holds barred. So he ran. Had done what he could and chased the sense of Balance and safety that had flown over the City seconds before Ryphqi shivered with the wielder of that power’s arrival.
The Soulless’ survival depended on him finding it.
Rounding a corner, he whistled once, twice, a third time, and glanced back to make sure that the group that had come upon him and Jaro as they’d left Thae’a’s old house were still following him, that they hadn’t lost sight of him. When they came loping around the corner, he sucked in a breath as his body heaved with the need to vomit, to scream, to do anything to recognize the fear the sight of them induced.
He ran faster and faster, careful to make sure that that group, and any new ones he came upon along the way, followed him. Grappled where he needed to, shook himself loose when he couldn’t dodge the swipe of those claws and the too-fast movement of those flesh-less bodies. But he didn’t stop running. Focused on the singular knowledge that Ryphqi was Awake and speaking to the Qishir who powered it, who gave it life and who it kept safe and Balanced in return. Focused on getting to that Qishir at all costs and as swiftly as possible.
Knew that he’d told Jaro that they couldn’t confront Rhyshladlyn so soon, not until they knew exactly what magick they were dealing with, not until they knew that doing so wouldn’t break his mind and damn them all. But Jaro didn’t have much time and the only Dhaoine in the area strong enough to help was a Gret’yinl and Sheieh knew that where Rhyshladlyn went, his Triad was never far behind. And that was what he was counting on. Prayed fervently as he took turn after turn at a blur that he wasn’t wrong.
It wasn’t until he rounded the corner of one of the streets that connected directly to the Companion Tower’s square that he remembered why he’d personally avoided the Grey Court for the last forty years. The wrong brother died. But he didn’t have time to change plans. Didn’t have the option if he wanted Jaro to survive. So he didn’t stop. Just thundered down the street, jumped over debris piles and writhing bodies, smoldering fires, and dodged more of those creatures as they blew out of buildings and homes and came from side alleys. Cried out when one knocked into him and sent him flying the rest of the way into the Tower square, knocking into a small group facing off against what looked like a Dhaoine but felt nothing like that.
When he stopped rolling and managed to dislodge himself from the tangle of flesh-less limbs and talon-tipped hands and so many teeth and tongueless mouths, Sheieh laid eyes on Rhyshladlyn for the first time in four decades and felt his breath leave him in a rush.
Those orange-amber eyes scanned him, assessing him and the danger he presented in less than a second, and looked away without a single hint of recognition. Sheieh didn’t know if that made him feel worse or better about what he was going to do. But decided it didn’t matter as he watched that incredible body move, throwing a right hook strong enough to concave the face it connected with before he leaned back and brought his black-bladed sword up and around to sever that concaved head from the neck it hung from. The creature hadn’t even registered that it was dead before Rhyshladlyn was turning to the next one and the next and the next. Glittering blood flew in arcs and sprayed in waterfalls, splattered across that lithe, deadly form. The creatures landed a few blows but it didn’t slow the Qishir down; if anything is just made him faster as his anger kicked up into fury and circled him like a living, albeit invisible, thing.
He’d heard stories of Rhyshladlyn’s legendary fighting skills, of the Qishir’s prowess on the Fields of Battle, but Sheieh had never actually witnessed it first hand. Not fully. Sure he’d seen the male spar, had seen him teach new warriors. Had seen the aftermath of him walking a Field, hair-bells crying while he Sang. But Sheieh had never seen this. Had never seen Rhyshladlyn in full battle mode, gore-drenched, wound-riddled, and unstoppable, deftly wielding his signature swords like they were extensions of his hand and not tools.
There were no words to properly describe how he felt watching Rhyshladlyn fight.
The flesh-less creatures didn’t notice Sheieh, not even those he’d knocked into. They were too focused on the beacon that Rhyshladlyn had made of himself; a literal call for any enemy in the area to come and get him. That makes no sense. Looking around he found the reason: a badly injured Dragaen propped against the Companion Tower with Nhulynolyn struggling to close the worst of its wounds. A Dragaen Sheieh recognized instantly as the one that had escaped N’phier City, who had been a slave alongside Rhyshladlyn. Knew the Dragaen as the male who had exposed Lílrt and Relyt’s plan, what had really happened to the Grey Qishir, and the parts everyone had played in it.
And judging by the way those brown eyes were looking at Nhulynolyn, Xefras remembered everything like Sheieh and Jaro did. And that was bad. For a whole mess of reasons.
“Rhys!” the Otherborn called. Rhyshladlyn cocked his head but didn’t stop fighting, didn’t even slow down. “I need your sight real quick!”
“What happened to your eyes?” the Qishir called back as he kicked a creature in its torso and sent it cartwheeling away, hitting a group of its fellows hard enough that the impact rumbled across the ground.
“I need your Qishir sight!” The eye roll that accompanied those words was loud.
The hair all over his body stood on end as Rhyshladlyn sent that piece of himself down the link between kè and Other. He shuddered, rubbing at his arms as the lack of Balance that Rhyshladlyn was wielding around him like a third sword spread until it filled the square. Fought down the flash of fear the change induced because he remembered what the Worlds had been like for three hundred years without the Greywalker able to keep it Balanced. Remember the millions dead, the hundreds of thousands maimed, the fear of performing magick as simple as creating a ward or a Shield or a Barrier. Let alone reading another’s magickal signature had a coin toss’ chance of killing a Dhaoine. And to feel it here, now, after forty years of the Worlds being back to normal at least where the Balance of Things was concerned? It made his skin crawl for a reason that had nothing to do with the feel of Rhyshladlyn’s power in the air, unfiltered and unchained, and everything to do with remembering how close he himself had come to being one of the dead.
Nhulynolyn cursed, the language of the Otherborn making Sheieh’s ears ring and body shake all over with a peculiar type of pain he’d never felt before. Just as he was turning to see what had caused that response from the Other, a flash of light had him looking up at the Tower instead. His stomach dropped out just as his heart slammed into his throat because the Companion Tower was no longer glowing gold.
It was glowing orange-amber.