77

He knocked Dhaoine out of his way, screamed for them to run, putting every ounce of spare energy he had into his speed. Knew even before the first flick of power made the air shimmer that he wouldn’t get far enough. He was only four Provinces away from the safe house and the monstrosity he’d birthed there, that he’d lost control of there, when the Line he was on heaved violently, reminding him of how dangerous life had been when he’d had Rhyshladlyn collared. As Dhaoine screamed, fell to their knees on the Line, scrambled to catch fledglings, he looked over his shoulder and immediately regretted the decision as that power flicked out again only stronger this time, the Line heaving with such force that it made him stumble and sent several Dhaoine who didn’t have sure feet flying off it and into a free fall towards the ground thousands of feet below.

Cursing in Gretlök, he turned around and ran faster. Tapped into the very depths of his magickal reserves, not caring that the risk of draining those could see him rendered an Imènian at worst, a Laeden at best, and jumped from the Line just as a shattering sound that was unlike anything he had ever heard before shook the air. Hit the next Line and skidded into a turn so he was facing the way he’d come. Watched in horror that made steam rise off his skin as his blood turned to ice in his veins and his heart skipped several beats as the Line he’d been on snapped, strands of the magick that made it up whip-cording in all directions.

Dhaoine were ripped to pieces while he watched, the parts that had once been humanoid falling through the air at terminal velocity, burning red hot as they fell passed him, far too close for comfort. All around him chaos was a Sound that battered at his ears in the forms of terrified screams and the pleas of the wingless for aid, of birth givers and sires helplessly clutching the pieces of their dead or dying children. Watched and Knew that this was what happened when one messed with Fate’s domain. When one stepped into shoes they didn’t belong in and sought to alter the course of the Worlds. He had messed with Balance not once, not twice, but several times and now the Seven Worlds would pay the price just as they had when the Greywalker race was run out of their cities and murdered by the hundreds of millions.

“By the Many, what the fuck have I done?” he whispered, one hand coming up to cover his mouth.

But it didn’t matter what he’d done. Not in that moment. Survival was all that mattered. Survival and mitigating the fallout of his choices, of his actions. He took one step back as one of those whip-cording strands swung violently towards the Line he was one as though it were searching for the real reason it was split, broken in a way he didn’t think a Line had ever been in all of known and recorded history. Took several more as that strand caught a Dhaoine twenty feet away and sent the two pieces of eir halved body careening through the air in opposite directions. Screamed as the air vibrated with fury just as a Melody he hadn’t heard in three hundred and forty years flooded his ears until he felt blood drip down his jaw. A Melody that wrapped around a single word: W H E R E.

He didn’t fight it. There wasn’t a point. He could feel the singer of that Melody hauling ass across the Worlds. Could feel the way the ambient magick around him, torn and bleeding and terrified, took a shuddering breath full of anticipation and hope, and knew what it meant. If he didn’t give the answer, that singer would know eventually. Just maybe not in time to save anyone.

So he gave it without hesitation. Used the last of their connection, the Blood Oath that tied him to the Qishir he’d sought for centuries, to open that door as far as it would go and whispered, southwest Ansyen Lontän.

Whatever he was expecting it wasn’t to feel that bond scatter like leaves in the wind just as a noise that was like bone breaking as the air displaced pierced through the cacophony of screams around him. It wasn’t to see Rhyshladlyn take form looking like something from an Old Story, all eight wings spread wide and vibrating with his fury-wrapped fear as he reached out and grabbed the ends of the largest strands of the snapped Line and pulled. Moved to try and reform them, to reconnect the Line into one solid piece.

Lílrt sank to his knees as Rhyshladlyn glanced over his shoulder, showing a face he’d only caught a glimpse of in N’phier City, the Else that was the reality behind the Dhaoinic mask the rest of the Worlds saw daily. Felt his fear turn to abject terror that fell down his spine with all the ferocity of a river as it broke free of the last of the winter ice as everything went unnaturally still as Time froze but not their awareness of it. Because he knew what that meant. Knew it because he’d spent hundreds of years studying the only non-divine things in Existence capable of doing it. He opened his mouth, flung out his hand towards the Qishir, took a breath to scream but nothing came out. There wasn’t enough time which was just grossly ironic.

The Line beneath the Qishir held halfway together rippled from the point where his hands were nearly meeting, shaking Rhyshladlyn like a fledgling shook a rag doll. As the Lines around and between them did the same the power from before sucked the air in, sped Time back to its proper place, and blew outward with a heat that burned the clothes from his body and the skin from his bones. The last thing he saw was a shadow three times Rhyshladlyn’s size appear behind the Qishir. Then nothing but glorious, cold, burning darkness and the singular thought, Many, please let him survive.

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