It was pointless and he knew better but it didn’t stop him from darting at the bars. Didn’t stop him from gripping them tight enough to whiten his knuckles before he shook them, hollering for the guard who not moments before had stepped out of sight for a shift change.

He risked so much breaking the clear rules of the prison but he could feel his qahllyn’qir writhing, could feel Rhyshladlyn’s imminent death the same way he had centuries ago in Shiran City. And if he was ever to be believed it would be now in the moment before death claimed them all. For he knew those telltale markings would hit the visible spectrum the second the Grey Qishir died.

And he was right.

As soon as the guard and eir shift change ran down the hall and got within sight of him, he felt Rhyshladlyn’s heart stop. His cellar was thrown into sudden and sharp relief as his qahllyn’qir burned into visibility on his skin. He screamed the loss of the one Dhaoine he had never meant to hurt but had regardless. Sobbed a choked sound that wasn’t remotely Dhaoinic or even humanoid as his knees gave out, as the pull of the After that had taken his Qishir clawed at him, too. The bars to his prison cell rattled ominously where his hands still curled tightly around them, the metal whining from the strain.

The guards cursed and yelled for back up, for Healers, as one scrambled to unlock his cell as the other pried his fingers off the bars. Hands touched his shoulders and head, moved him to lay on his back as the silvery-white glow of his qahllyn’qir made it midday bright in his cell, chasing away the shadows. He didn’t see who touched him, didn’t hear what they said. And moreover he didn’t care. Because his Qishir was dead and it was his fault, indirectly sure, but his actions had lead them here, to this moment. If he hadn’t believed his brother, if he hadn’t allowed his jealousy and his love to turn toxic, Rhyshladlyn would still be alive.

So even as the guards did their best to keep him alive while his qahllyn’qir blinded them all, he just screamed, lay there and made that gut wrenching sound. Wished that the spelled shackles he wore had tampered him enough that he couldn’t feel this. That he wasn’t experiencing Rhyshladlyn’s death, that he hadn’t felt the Qishir’s last moments. Wished even more that he was able to do something to help. But he felt everything while being powerless to change any of it.

His tears burned his cheeks as more hands and more voices joined the guards as that glow disappeared. And in the pause that followed his magick slammed against the shackles holding it in, made them flash fire-hot and steam against the cooler air all around him, air that still vibrated with his loss.

The yelling was different now. Not worried for him but for themselves and those unknown hands left him as his magick hit the shackles again. And again. And again.

In the slowly fading glow of the marks that tied him to his Qishir, that named him for all to see as what and who he was, as unique as his magickal signature, he sank deep into himself. Swam beneath the churning waves of guilt and loss and self-hatred. Dodged memories and the shadowed nightmares they birthed. Reached for the thread that connected him to Rhyshladlyn not as qahllyn to Qishir but as Key to Gret’yinl. His hand curled around it and tugged just as that heartbeat gave a mighty thump-thump and his skin itched with the demand of his qahllyn’qir to help him godsdamn you help him.

Taking a deep breath, he rose out of himself, pulling that thread up as he went. Breached the surface and shattered the shackles around his wrists and ankles, the sound of the metal tearing bringing more tears to his eyes. That connection, older than the qahllyn that had been answered lifetimes ago, smacked into the surface seconds later and a different light filled the cell. Instead of silvery-white this was orange-amber streaked with slate grey. And if he had the time he would be awed that the stories of a Lock finding their Key and Accepting it were right. Would marvel at how none of the stories, none of the teachings, did justice to what it felt like to be whole. But that would have to wait.

Over the shouts of surprise of the guards and Healers, over the sound of shuffling feet and bodies hitting walls, he threw back his head and Spoke with a finality that made his bones shake. That reminded him of the day Rhyshladlyn had replied to Azriel’s desperately spoken Blood Oath with an Oathing Sacrifice. He understood finally why Rhyshladlyn had done it. Understood the desperate need to save the Dhaoine one loved above all else. How no cost was too high if it meant keeping them safe, keeping them healthy, keeping them happy.

“I am Relyt Greymend, Gret’yinl of the Grey Soul Healer race. For the Key given to me by the Many, I offer the Lock only it is meant to open.”

There was a pause, the World taking a deep breath and holding it for a heartbeat, two, three, before it stuttered back out and brought with it a single demand, two words breathed out on an attend that dripped with power he hadn’t felt directly in decades and it brought a laughing sob out of him.

“Let go.”

He did so without a moment’s hesitation.

4 thoughts on “44

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