She stared at the hourglass that stood in two inch thick magicked glass on the other side of the room. Narrowed her eyes when she realized that what had drawn her attention to it was that it had fallen silent. Something it hadn’t been since she’d gotten to the apartment three days ago. Now she stared at it, wondering not for the first time what it was and where Lílrt had gotten it never mind when. Setting the wand she’d been using as a conduit on the table in front of her, Ahdyfe stared fully at the thing. Took a step back in surprise when it flipped with a soft, almost happy, chime so that the sand it contained began to drain from where it had settled in the bottom half.

What the fuck?

The sound of that sand falling was loud in the silent room, louder than the discontented humming it had been making before. But the fact that it moved of its own accord, acting almost sentient in that movement, without the barest trace of magick about it, told her that it was a magickal object. Which unnerved her because those tended to be less nice and more unpleasant. But if it was a magickal object, then no doubt Lílrt took meticulous notes on it just like the Anointed One had everything else.

Keeping it in sight out of the corner of her eye, she scrambled to the book shelf on the wall opposite the desk, picking her way along the spines and labels that dotted its shelves. Finally found a journal titled Magickal Objects and Their Assorted Uses and pulled it down with a triumphant sound she couldn’t quite swallow just as that eerie hourglass tipped over again with another almost sickly sweet chime, almost like it was berating her for interrupting its otherwise peaceful existence. Glaring at it, she flipped through the pages, scanning over entries detailing everything about the magickal items the Anointed One had collected, what plots he’d utilized them for, and what ones he’d intended to use them for. Glanced up at random with one hand clutching a page half-turned to find the sand had gone from the pitch black it had been to a softly glowing blue-gold.

Well that’s peculiar. The fuck is this thing?

Frowning, she kept flipping through the pages. Found what she was looking for just as the hourglass gave another sharper chime and flipped over to begin draining a third time. Eyeing it suspiciously she scanned the page quickly only to stop and grope for the chair she’d pushed across the room in frustration hours ago where it stood tucked against the bookshelf. Sat down heavily, utterly uncaring of keeping sight of that creepy hourglass as she read the neat scrawl on the page in front of her but slower this time. Read it a third time and a fourth. And a fifth. But no matter how many times she read it it didn’t get better, only worse. Made her question heavily and loudly, even if she didn’t open her mouth to vocalize it, just how much of Lílrt’s sanity was left towards the end.

This particular hourglass wasn’t one I made myself though only because it would have taken a sacrifice on par with the jarred Selves that Xitlali and Hujiel collected to make the collar we placed on Rhyshladlyn. But I did find a way to modify it. Sort of.

If everything falls apart and Rhyshladlyn manages to break the collar around his neck, which I fear he’s getting closer to with each passing week, if we’re not down to days at this point [illegible smears] I’ll use this magnificent piece of magickal craftsmanship to link a mind spell powerful enough to blanket the Worlds over. It will be tied to Relyt’s death and Nhulynolyn’s life force. This hourglass and its twin, placed separate from each other for safe keeping and to keep them from talking to each other, for they’re borderline sentient, is–

She snapped the journal closed and tossed it across the room onto the desk as every single inch of her skin burned and writhed. Looking down she gagged as bile slammed into her mouth at the sight of her skin visibly rippling with her qahllyn’qir‘s fury at her continual refusal to help her Qishir. Tore her eyes away from the disturbing sight and back to the hourglass, feeling it was the least dreadful thing to see out of the two. Watched as the last of its glowing blue-gold sand fell through to the bottom half. Suppressed a shudder when it flipped with the sharpest chime it had emitted yet, as though it were angry that she hadn’t accepted it. That she hadn’t responded like Lílrt had with adoration bordering on love. Who could love something as horrible as this thing?

It was a disparaging thought.

For long minutes she watched that hourglass, Lílrt’s words rolling over and over in her head as that magicked cursed object, for that’s what it really was, turned over again with a chime that made her ears ache, the tone that of a parent scolding a wayward child. Rubbed a hand across her mouth, picking at her chapped bottom lip with her fingernail as she debated what to do. Tried to ignore the press of her qahllyn’qir against her skin, hard enough now that she could feel her flesh move with those impatient flicks. Glanced sidelong at the journal where it lay unassuming on the desk among hundreds of loose parchment papers covered in drawings and half sketched plans, completed spells, directions for certain safe houses, and a hundred myriad other things, not all of which were useful to her current dilemma but overall to the greater issue at hand.

She debated for only a minute longer, just long enough for that damned hourglass to flip and chime before she made her decision with a hissed curse in her native tongue. As the silence shattered all around her, she got up from the chair, grabbed a satchel from the floor by the desk and began packing safe house notes, the journal, and whatever else she thought would be useful. Cursed under her breath the entire time: her luck, the Anointed One, her life in general, that weird ass hourglass and its twin wherever it was in the Worlds, and everything that had happened since she fallen for a pair of light black eyes and a crooked smile that had seemed endearing if only because she hadn’t known what maliciousness really looked like back then.

With another curse she left the room, firmly closing the door behind her and adding her own ward and Shield around the entire thing before she made for the front door. The last thing she wanted or needed was anyone stumbling upon that hourglass before she got the chance to bring it to the attention of the Grey and Honorable Courts.

Screw her vow, screw Lílrt. After what she’d read on those pages, after realizing the true depth of the Anointed One’s insanity? She couldn’t sit back and pretend that she owed him allegiance anymore, that she owed him the honor of keeping her vow. Not now. Honestly, not after she had looked at Rhyshladlyn without a collar rendering him Imènian-blind and felt the qahllyn that tied them. But she’d been so afraid of what Rhyshladlyn remembering the past would mean for her, for the qahllyn that tied them together.

But it didn’t matter now. If Rhyshladlyn deemed her worthy of dying for the crimes she’d committed before she’d known she was qahllyn to him, which she’d likely been all along and just hadn’t known because of that foul collar? Then so be it. But she wouldn’t let this go on any longer. She couldn’t in good conscience know that something like that hourglass was in play, that it was tied to the literal life force and death force of two people her Qishir depended on and was owed the death rights of respectively. Because Lílrt couldn’t possibly have known what he was actually fucking about with, not when he’d set this trap to spring for the eventuality that he’d face a freed and furious Rhyshladlyn.

Stopping just long enough to make sure the wards were at full power and engaged and to lock the physical lock, Ahdyfe took a deep breath, reached for a Line and made for the Eighth Palace without even leaving the building proper first. Prayed as she ran down the Lines that she wasn’t making a horrible mistake. But even if she was, at least her qahllyn’qir had finally calmed down. At least she was finally running for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones.

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