The worst part of failure was remembering exactly why one couldn’t afford to fail. Why one’s plans had to be perfect, why the backups in case those plans failed, were solid. Because when things fell apart, not if but rather when, the sting of those failures rang deeper than bone. And every single moment of doubt one had leading up to the very moment everything fell apart suddenly made so much sense; were all the more keenly seen for the hindsight that spot lit them.

The Many only knew he never expected to fail. Though given who he was up against, he should have known better. Nothing ever went to plan where Rhyshladlyn was concerned. Not even when one thought they were five steps ahead of that damned Qishir.


With a groan he slumped against a wall, feeling like his skin was sliding off his bones, like he was way too dry and soaking wet simultaneously. But as Eshere gained on him, tone growing more concerned with each step, he pushed off the wall and kept walking. Willed himself to move because he had to get the fuck out of here. Had to leave before Rhyshladlyn got up out of the bed he’d been confined to for the last five days while all of Lílrt’s careful work crumbled apart around him. He had to get out of the Palace, to get out of Txiwteb World, to try and find Ahdyfe, to get to one of the safe houses. But most importantly he had to get the fuck away from Eshere first.

Because ey would recognize him immediately and Lílrt couldn’t remember if the Soul Healer had been on his side or Relyt’s. And even if ey had been on his side, Lílrt wouldn’t chance that that had changed right before everything had gone totally to shit and he’d enacted his spell. Which would mean getting rid of the possible threat and that would mean dropping a body. And by the Many’s ten cocks, he did not want to drop bodies. Not in the Eighth Palace, not with Rhyshladlyn so close he could feel the Qishir’s power lapping at his over sensitive skin, not with the entire Grey Court packed within the Palace walls.

Not until he knew the extent of the damage to his spell and what he would need to do to reactivate it enough to make all his hard work salvageable. Or if he would have to scrap the entire thing and find a different way out of this mess. Gods, I should have killed you when I had the chance, Rhyshladlyn.

G’agsha, what is wrong?”

I’m not your g’agsha, Eshere. Not even fucking close.

He didn’t have any other choice. He needed to take a Line out of the Palace now. Fuck getting to the front doors or a private space where he could take a few moments to collect himself. To shake off the last of the mind spell before he threw himself into a World he didn’t know and hadn’t really seen in… decades? Centuries? How long has it been?

Rubbing a trembling hand over his face as Eshere called him by the incorrect title yet again, he reached up with his other hand for a Line. Just as he felt the tug of his magick touching that highway made of pure power, he felt a hand land on his shoulder. Jerked around to find Eshere much closer than he’d expected the neodrach to be.

“Please, g’agsha, speak to me. What ails you?” The sincerity that wrapped around those words stunned him into stupidity for a moment if only because it was more emotion than he could remember Eshere ever showing anyone. The neodrach was like Sheieh in that; too high bred and devout to risk showing so much as a blip of emotional response even in private, even to a beloved or a lover. And seeing it now was the only reason he gave Eshere one last chance, though the neodrach didn’t know it, to move on, to let him go so he could leave without any bloodshed.

At least that’s what he told himself as a smile that he knew was all Rhyshladlyn and none of himself pulled at his lips and he quipped, “You really need to learn the proper title for people, Eshere.” Berated himself immediately after the words had left his mouth. He had been so close to getting out without killing anyone. So close. But those words made it fucking impossible now.

And sure enough, it didn’t take long for em to understand what he meant and when ey did, eir face went slack with shock so strong Lílrt felt it shake the hand ey still had on his shoulder.

“Lílrt…” the breathless way Eshere spoke his name with the proper Gretlök pronunciation almost made it worth it. Almost.

Dropping his hand from his face, Lílrt watched as the neodrach who had been his g’agshaïrt faithfully and without question slowly realized the danger ey was in. Watched as the knowledge settled completely and the mask of stoicism that all Grey Soul Healer’s were taught to prefect from a young age slipped, not a lot but enough to let the stronger emotions leak out. Disgust and fear rolled off em in waves, darkened grey eyes that had been so light they were nearly white, a shade that reminded him eerily of Sheieh. Stood still until the exact moment Eshere realized he was going to die before he spoke.

“Aye,” he answered, drew his favorite blade from his belt, and sliced Eshere’s throat open in a spray of blood before the neodrach could react. The splash of the too hot liquid hitting his and neck made him twitch but otherwise he remained still.

Eshere let go of his shoulder and clamped both hands to eir throat, eyes wide with fear more than anything else now, power desperately trying to seal the wound, to Heal emself. But it wouldn’t work. The blade Lílrt had used created wounds that forced those who suffered them to heal Imènian slow. So what wouldn’t normally have been a fatal wound for a Dhaoine was. He crouched down as Eshere slipped slowly to eir knees, body jerking with the impact, face slowly losing color as eir blood soaked over eir hands and made eir tunic cling to eir chest. Wiped the blade clean on Eshere’s leggings before sheathing it. He waited two heartbeats more before he stood up and turned away, reaching once more for the Line.

He was lifting onto the Line as a shout of alarm filled the hallway. Was gone before the guards and whoever else had happened upon the sight of Eshere dying on the floor could reach the neodrach. Whispered a breathless prayer for forgiveness because he hadn’t wanted to kill one of his own people, hadn’t wanted to repay Eshere’s loyalty, however misplaced it had been, with something so dishonorable as a slit throat, but he hadn’t had a choice. He vowed that he’d find out who Eshere’s clan was, if ey’d had a partner, a family, and would compensate them accordingly. He just had to fix things first. Somehow.

“Brother…” Relyt’s voice was lost to the cacophony around them, a breathless gasp of a sound that was vaguely a word. “What are you…” Lílrt didn’t give him the time or the chance to finish the question.

Desperately whispered, “I’m sorry. I don’t have any other choice,” and snapped his neck with a quick jerk. The feeling of the bone breaking and severing the spinal cord, the way the life snuffed out in slate grey eyes only he could see the truth of the way the body that had housed his little brother’s Self went limp with emptiness made bile fill his mouth, clog his throat.

Which was just as well because he’d have screamed a pitiful sound if it hadn’t. He let Relyt’s body hit the floor and turned to Rhyshladlyn. Watched as the Qishir realized exactly what had happened. Watched the horror and the fury coalesce into something beautiful in its horror right before he moved with a speed Lílrt had only heard stories of.

But Rhyshladlyn never made it to him before the Balance of Things drowned the Worlds just as his mind spell took root, spread, and then bloomed.

The worst part of failure was remembering exactly why one couldn’t afford to fail.

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