47

Alaïs paced the length of the table, staring at the Gateway that still hummed pleasantly on each return. She moved like a caged animal seconds away from losing its control and mauling everything in its path. Which was understandable given the situation but it made Thayne nervous. Her Companion was nothing if not poised and calm, something she’d worked for over a thousand years to achieve. But even the strongest of Dhaoine lost their footing sometimes and fell into moods. And this particular kind, while rare, was one Thayne had seen before and nothing good ever came from it. Not when Alaïs couldn’t isolate herself.

Which wasn’t possible given that Nhulynolyn was dead, Bayls was sequestered with Xheshmaryú and the Palace’s best Healers, Azriel and Shadiranamen had yet to return from their mission to Ryphqi City. And over everything that had gone wrong in such a short time, there was an air of danger; a warning of worst things to come. That they had missed something crucial. Which only served to put the Lord Queen even more on edge than she already was. To say nothing of what it did to the rest of them.

“Where the fuck are they?” Alaïs growled on her hundredth pass down the length of the table. Not that Thayne was counting or anything.

“They probably just got laid up trying to get Ryphqi to let Rhys go,” Relyt commented where he sat at the other end of the table. The rustle of the parchment as he went through the notes he’d brought to the meeting what felt like days ago too loud in the empty hall. “You know how the City never liked to let anyone else take care of its Heart. Just be patient, Al, they’ll be back soon enough.”

She reached out and grabbed Alaïs’ arm as her Companion whipped around, lips curled off her teeth, to no doubt spark off a fight with the Soul Healer. When all that worry and frustration-born anger turned on her Thayne just raised an eyebrow. Held that clear blue stare without flinching or blinking and waited. But even when Alaïs let out a deep breath, Thayne didn’t let go. She knew better than that. After all the Ka’ahne siblings had the tendency to fight first, think later especially when they were impatient and worried with it. And the last thing she wanted to deal with was a pissy Relyt because her mate decked him in the face for being a flippant piece of shit.

Even if he deserved it in spades.

“It’s only been an hour, Al,” Ishmariel’s voice was gentle even if the words weren’t. “There’s no telling if the Gateway opened right into the Companion square or somewhere else in the City. Give them time.”

“My Otherborn brother is dead,” Alaïs hissed as she turned around and snarled at the Anglëtinean who bitch faced back at her. “And my flesh-bound brother is dying. An hour is too long for them to have taken to get back. Not when things were as dire as Eiod made it out to be.”

“Then go after them,” Thae’a commented with a glance up from where she sat sharpening her tridents. “If you are so worried, go through that Gateway and see what’s holding them up.”

Thayne tightened her hold on Alaïs’ arm when she felt the muscles there tense. “Al… don’t.”

“Let go of me, my Qishir.”

“That I will most certainly not do until this mood has passed,” she replied and shrugged when Alaïs glared at her. “You know as well as I that you are looking for a fight and care not where you find it or the consequences of following through on the urge.”

“I’ll fight her,” the Dreamweaver sheathed her tridents and vanished them out before rising to her feet. When Thayne blinked at her, Thae’a just shrugged. “If will help? So be it. I could do with the practice and the distraction would be a welcome one.”

“No,” Adïmshyl’s voice was the low rumble of thunder. “No one is fighting anyone.”

“Little presumptuous to assume you speak for all of us, Adïm,” Relyt commented with the same absentminded air he’d used when he spoke to Alaïs. She rolled her eyes as the Lupherinre turned on the Soul Healer and snarled out something she didn’t bother listening to. There wasn’t a point. That squabble was an old one.

Alaïs’ arm tensed under her fingers, bringing her attention back to her Companion who smiled at her but the expression left her eyes cold. “Thay, let go of me, please.”

“And let you have a go at that?” she jerked her chin at the increasing volume of Adïmshyl and Relyt’s angry words. “Hard pass.”

“Oh for the gods’ sakes, I’m not going to fuckin’ attack anyone. I just need to move. I’ll pace on the other side of the hall away from the boys and their dick measuring.”

She held Alaïs’ eyes for a few seconds more before she nodded and let go. Watched as the Sinner female stalked to the other side of the hall and resumed her pacing, her long black hair bouncing with each step she took, black skirts swishing loudly around her feet with each pivot she made. Thayne watched as every inch of that warrior’s body coiled and released, each movement fluid and controlled even as Alaïs paced out her pent up energy, her frustrations, her fear. A fear they all had even if some of them hid it better than others. Watched her wife and wished there was something she could do, could say, that would ease the burden Alaïs carried on her shoulders.

But some things couldn’t be eased and the death of a sibling was one of them. Second only to the death of one’s fledgling.

And then there was the shadow in the room that none of them spoke about, the knowledge that they were living on borrowed time. Because even if Rhyshladlyn survived, he would not let what happened go unpunished. Wouldn’t rest until someone had paid for the loss. Even if it wasn’t really anyone’s fault but the creatures who had come so dangerously close to dealing a death blow to Rhyshladlyn, it wouldn’t stop the Grey Qishir from leaving a path of destruction large enough to see from the Lines. To say nothing of what would happen if he died in full.

Shaking her head she sat heavily down in her chair and stared at the empty seats at the other end of the table. Thought back to how just a handful of hours ago they had all been in the hall. How the biggest issue they had to worry about was what was going on in the Worlds. Why a whole City had just disappeared off the face of the earth. Where her sister had gotten to. Why the Anointed One’s people were just gone as though they’d never existed in the first place. And now… now there was the very real possibility that Rhyshladlyn was going to die right alongside his twin. That in a matter of hours, the Worlds themselves would be forever altered as the Grey and Honorable Courts had to form a second honor guard, this time for the Lord Queen of the Sinner Demons. And forming one for Bayls had been bad the fuck enough, Thayne didn’t want to think about what forming one for Alaïs would be like.

Dropping her face into her hands she mouthed a prayer to the High Ones that Rhyshladlyn survived, that they were able to bring Nhulynolyn back. And tried her damnedest to ignore the sinking feeling that told her one of those things wasn’t going to happen.

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