The Many See me but I need to get out of here. Sheieh rubbed his hands on his leggings in a miserable attempt to clean them of the blood that had gotten well under his fingernails and caked into the lines of his palms. Nothing short of a long shower would get them clean but it didn’t stop him from trying to wipe it off. He could feel it peeling in flakes along his arms and where it had splashed his neck and face and it made him want to scream. But he swallowed the urge and just kept rubbing his hands periodically along his leggings and the bottom hem of his tunic. Fought not to see the way Eshere had lifted a hand up towards him when he’d come skidding to his knees in the pool of blood that had surrounded the g’agshaïrt. Fought against the attempts that fresh horror made to show him similarities between Eshere’s death and the moment Sheieh had watched his g’agsha killed.
Blood and gore had never sat as well with him as it had Relyt, partly because of his race’s teachings and natural instincts and partly because the sticky feel of blood made him want to vomit. That and Relyt had spent years prior to the war’s beginning around Rhyshladlyn, mired deep in the gore and bloodshed that moved constantly around the Qishir. By the time Sheieh had gotten even close to used to the sight and smell and horror of it, it didn’t matter, the war had been all but brought to a jarring halt the moment Rhyshladlyn had been collared.
But for all that he’d balked at the mere thought of getting his hands covered in blood again so soon after literally holding Rhyshladlyn’s heart in his hands, he had moved down the corridor with alacrity. Because he had been the strongest Healer nearby at the time and Eshere was already halfway across the River when he and Thae’a had arrived. So for all that the sight of too white bone peeking through the dark red blood that oozed from torn flesh made him want to vomit, he’d swallowed down the bile, squared his shoulders, and dropped to his knees at the puddle’s edge.
And while it hadn’t mattered ultimately given the cause of that wound, Sheieh still found himself wishing that he hadn’t even bothered. Because by the Many’s ten faces, he hated the feeling of blood on his skin. At least getting Eshere’s off would be far easier than when he’d had to wash off Rhyshladlyn’s.
“Who died?” the Grey Qishir’s voice reached through the haze of get it off me get it off me get it off me before his magick did, scattering the memories like one waved at smoke. Which was a barbed mercy because Rhyshladlyn’s magick was full of twists and turns and a darkness that went all the way down to his Self where it lay curled almost demurely. As though it waited for something.
Sheieh absently wondered if this was the Rhyshladlyn who had terrified the Anointed One so entirely that Lílrt had sought not to kill him but to contain him. If it was that darkness, that twisting power, that quietly waiting Self that watched from the maelstrom of it all with a demureness that was as much a mask as the face Rhyshladlyn wore, that had caught the Anointed One’s attention and terrified him? Well, Sheieh couldn’t blame him. Focus, Sheieh, honestly.
“Murdered,” Thae’a corrected looking just as haggard and strained as Sheieh felt. Her dark brown eyes tracked the Qishir as he crossed the hall with an easy stride, looking for all the Worlds like he wasn’t one wrong move away from unimaginable destruction. As though he hadn’t just spent five days in a coma, barely holding on to life, before springing awake with a scream of his twin’s name right before news reached them that Shiran City had risen along with Nhulynolyn. “And it was Eshere. His throat was cut by something that made any attempts to Heal him with magick fail.”
“What.” Sheieh flinched at the danger that wrapped around that single syllable. Noticed that Thayne and Alaïs also tensed. Saw the way Jerald glared at the floor while Eiod paced in a tight circle behind the Alphenian. Alaïs was the only one who met Rhyshladlyn’s narrowed eyes. Was the only one who faced the building fury the Grey Qishir was formed of head on without flinching as Rhyshladlyn came to a stop not too far from the center of the hall. “Why the fuck would someone murder the g’agshaïrt of the Soul Healers?”
Eiod shrugged expressively, gold eyes careful. “Perhaps he saw something he shouldn’t have. A sliced throat is a powerful message.”
Rhyshladlyn raised an eyebrow. “Did it severe his voice box?”
“Yes,” Eiod nodded and wiped a hand across his mouth. “In one clean sweep it severed his main arteries and cut fully through his larynx.” The Anglëtinean-Sinner met Rhyshladlyn’s unblinking gaze squarely, not an ounce of fear or worry in his body language. “Whoever did it, knew that even if he had been able to Heal himself enough to survive, he’d never be able to speak again.”
“What happened exactly?” Rhyshladlyn quipped, all business, the nonchalance Sheieh had seen early gone as though it had never been there in the first place.
“Thae’a, Sheieh, and Eiod were on their way to get fresh linens for the infirmary when they turned a corner and found Eshere on the ground, blood splattered everywhere, magick winging out in a desperate bid to save himself,” Alaïs answered, voice calm, face serene almost but Sheieh knew it was a mask. Knew that it was the Lord Queen’s attempt to keep the tension that had been building since before Rhyshladlyn had left to go speak with Bayls hardly half an hour ago from shattering. “They were unable to save him.”
Rhyshladlyn scrutinized his sister with eyes that held a weight that Sheieh had never seen or experienced with any other Dhaoine in his very long life. It was as though one weren’t just being seen by the Qishir himself but by hundreds of other Dhaoine all at once. And realistically, that were likely true given he was a kè to at least three named Others. Two now… May the Many See and Keep him always. But this wasn’t a kè‘s Others looking through their eyes so one experienced the collective versus the singular. No. This was something more, something different.
And to say it unnerved him and put every instinct Sheieh had on edge was an understatement.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Rhyshladlyn asked at length, taking a single step forward, the push of his power as it reached out ahead of him too hot and too frigid all at once.
“There wasn’t a single defensive wound on Eshere,” Eiod said softly but clearly. “There also wasn’t any hesitation marks. The wound was made perfectly in one move and was done by someone Eshere either trusted or didn’t see as much of a threat until it was too late.”
Sheieh resumed rubbing his hands on his leggings and wished he had been able to shower before he and Thae’a had come here to tell Thayne. Wished that he wasn’t here for this conversation at all if he was being honest with himself. It was only by some stroke of luck that Azriel had all but run Rhyshladlyn out of the hall before they’d had to explain their appearance. Fielding the fury of the former Grey Companion and the Grey Qishir would have been impossible. As it was, at least they’d had time to prepare before a runner had been dispatched to fetch Rhyshladlyn back.
“The Dhaoine responsible for this atrocity is one of your Court,” Thayne replied just as serenely as her Companion.
Rhyshladlyn’s focus was a burning thing as it drifted from his sister to the Eighth Qishir. The question of who remained unspoken but it was heard clearly regardless.
“Your Steward,” Eiod said. “He was witnessed catching a Line out of the Palace just as Eshere’s body was falling to the ground.”
If fury had a humanoid form it would have been Rhyshladlyn in that moment as everything went absolutely still. Nothing moved, no one breathed, as the Grey Qishir’s power settled and then began to gather around him in an tornado of movement that pulled his hair from the braid it was in and tore rapid disjointed chimes from the bells woven into the auburn strands. Sheieh took a slow, careful step back, wanting to put as much distance between that maelstrom of rage and power as possible before it went looking for a target. Or worse, found one.
“Why the fuck did no one go after him?” Rhyshladlyn’s voice was a blade edge wrapped in words. “And are you certain it was Relyt you saw?”
“I saw him myself, Qishir Rhyshladlyn,” Sheieh answered, hating that he did so the second those eyes landed on him. “I read his magickal signature before he was pulled to the Line.”
“We were more focused on taking care of Eshere,” Thae’a retorted, pulling the Qishir’s gaze away. “So catching your murderous Steward wasn’t as important as trying to save the life he took,” she added, defiant in the face of Rhyshladlyn’s criticism, ever the scolding mother figure despite the danger being such presented. Sheieh would be in awe of her fearlessness if he didn’t think her a might bit stupid for it.
“Plus,” Alaïs added with a grin that made Sheieh think twice about ever crossing her, “Azriel already left to go hunt him down. There is nowhere in the Worlds Relyt Greymend will be able to hide.”
Rhyshladlyn laughed, the sound dark and ominous, the swirling maelstrom of his power abating as that laughter bounced off the walls.
“At least in that I know I can trust him to fulfill his promise.” He pushed his hair out of his face with hands that shook ever so slightly as his power settled the rest of the way out, grounding faster than Sheieh thought was possible. Then again this is the fabled Grey Qishir. I really shouldn’t be surprised by anything he does anymore.
“Is there anything else you need from us right now?” Thae’a asked.
“Nah. You lot go and get cleaned up,” Rhyshladlyn grinned but it was cold and sharp. “Azriel is a fast hunter, but I’m guessing my Steward had nearly an hour’s head start so there’s no point to standing around waiting.”
“Thank fuck,” Eiod breathed, bringing snickers from Thayne and Alaïs. “I hate the feel of dried blood on my skin.”
Rhyshladlyn’s laughter was gentler. “Likewise, Eiod. So go on, get cleaned up.”
Were you always able to read Dhaoine so perfectly or was it a skill learned in the heat of battle? Sheieh bowed low, arms spread to mimic his wings, hoping the discomfort he felt at Rhyshladlyn nailing how he felt so perfectly was kept off his face. “My innumerable thanks, Qishir Rhyshladlyn.”
Thae’a and Eiod muttered similar things though he didn’t quite catch them as he straightened and made for the doors. Felt Rhyshladlyn’s eyes on him the entire way until he drew alongside the Qishir. Waited for the tension behind that gaze to snap out and swallow him, for a fist to strike him, for Rhyshladlyn to do anything but stare at him like Sheieh was a puzzle he couldn’t quite solve but was almost certain he needed only a handful more pieces to complete. It was like he was nothing more than an object, something that was fascinating in a way that was neither good nor bad, merely neutral. Sheieh knew that that fascination could tip at a moment’s notice and the odds that it wasn’t bad weren’t remotely in his favor. But he merely glanced at the Qishir and those burning orange-amber eyes before inclining his head in respect as he walked by. Kept the apprehension off his face by strength of willpower alone until his back was facing the hall and his hands were pushing at the doors.
He made out of the hall without being stopped or questioned. Without Rhyshladlyn acting on whatever had had the Qishir staring at him with that much scrutiny. Though that gaze was a physical touch on his back as he stepped through the doors, followed him as they swung closed with a soft thud and he headed for the room Jaro had been given. But that was all that happened and he didn’t know whether to be relieved or terrified. Because the only time he had had known the Grey Qishir to level that look on another Dhaoine and not follow through on what lay behind it was when he was biding his time, waiting for the perfect time to strike.