40

Ahdyfe ran through the Palace, chased by the wails that had replaced the very air, painting the walls with grief. Ran from those horrible sounds that told anyone who hadn’t seen Thayne, Alaïs, Xheshmaryú, and Relyt walking the corridors dressed in the deepest blacks, in a block formation, that someone important to the Grey and Honorable Courts had died. Told anyone who wasn’t blind and stupid that a traditional Sinner Demon honor guard had been formed.

She ran from the sight of her qahllyn’qir hitting the surface in the brief moment when Rhyshladlyn’s heart stilled before Nhulynolyn’s sacrifice took hold. Ran from the sight of Azriel’s doing the same, beneath the tattoos that still marked his skin, tattoos he’d carry to the After, tattoos that no one else but herself could see. Ran from the moment she had watched Relyt collapse against the table much like she and Azriel had, responding to their Qishir’s brief loss. But the Soul Healer’s qahllyn’qir hadn’t burned into the visible spectrum like hers and Azriel’s had. There was no light, there was nothing. Sure he cried out, played the part, but that important piece was missing.

If anyone else had noticed, she hadn’t stayed to find out. Instead she had turned for the doors the second her legs would support her and she knew Rhyshladlyn was stable enough to not drag them all to the After with him. Utilized the opening of the Gateway and the relief that whispered through the room from Relyt and Azriel to duck out without anyone noticing. And as soon as she had been clear, she ran for the tunnels beneath the Palace, intending to get the fuck out.

After all, there were only two possible reasons why Relyt didn’t have qahllyn’qir anymore. But only one she gave any credit to because she highly doubted that Rhyshladlyn had denounced him. Or that Relyt had handled it with grace if the Qishir had denounced him as the Grey Steward. Which meant that the Dhaoine everyone thought was Relyt Greymend actually wasn’t.

Ahdyfe shouldered her way through a door to the lower servants quarters, taking the stairs down two at a time, uncaring of the Dhaoine she knocked into and startled on her way. Swung around a corner and aimed for the stairs that would take her to the cellars and the tunnels that branched off them. Driven by the need to get the fuck out of the Palace and away from those awful wails that reminded her too much of the same sounds she’d made when she’d thought Lílrt lost to her, she took these stairs three at a time, mindful only to keep herself from slipping on the damp stone. Didn’t even bother to hide her face behind a glamour. She’d be long gone before the Court heard word of how she tore through the Palace and into the tunnels.

The foremost thought in her head was that everything the Anointed One had worked for was crumbling down around them. That she had to make sure the mind magick Lílrt had enacted at the last possible second before he’d disappeared from the face the of the Worlds wasn’t wavering. That it hadn’t failed entirely. Had to find out who was wearing Relyt Greymend’s face and why. Had to check that the pillars of control for the spell weren’t rooted in Nhulynolyn, that if the real Relyt was dead that another pillar didn’t exist in his continued lack of rebirth. Needed to get to her safe house and the notes Lílrt had meticulously dictated to her.

She couldn’t let the spell fail, no matter the cost, because the second it did and the Grey Qishir remembered everything? What happened to N’phier City would pale in comparison.

As soon as she was deep enough into the tunnels that the air no longer rang with Bayls’ grief, Ahdyfe collapsed against one of the rough walls and sucked in deep breaths of air. Tried to slow her heart rate so that she could reach for a Line and escape. But it didn’t work. The only thing she could think of was that she had thought she knew what Lílrt’s back up plan had been. That she’d thought she’d known what her role was if everything had gotten fucked to the Cliffs. That in all reality, she had been wrong; Lílrt hadn’t told her everything. And now she was flying blind, hoping that she didn’t fuck up. Especially now that she was bound to the one Dhaoine who wouldn’t let anyone involved with the Anointed One live. The one Dhaoine she would give her own life to protect and think nothing of it until it was too late to take it back.

Oh, Lílrt, how did we get here? With a groan she wiped her hands over her face, pushed off the wall and kept running. If she couldn’t calm down enough to reach through the Palace’s protections to catch a Line, she’d just run until she got out. After all, running had always been the one thing she never failed at.

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