Torshael and Tayne's Story: The First Mission

Chapter One


"Okay, mister Newly Favored, what now?"

Tayne and Torshael stood, haunches to haunches and wings spread, slowly circling in an attempt to keep their small patch of scorched earth clear. Ringing them, perhaps fifty bodies deep, was a swarm of humans-- deceived, enslaved humans, humans who had been either specifically chosen or enhanced somehow because they could see supernals and infernals without any effort on Tayne or Torshael's part, but humans nonetheless. Beyond that was a single ring of infernals, flames licking up around their feet and fanged mouths hanging open. They looked pleased, probably because they and their human servants had managed to capture a pair of supernals, their hated enemies-- young supernals, at that. And one of them was white, and apparently too inexperienced to know what to do in a situation like this.

Because, after all, they were rather new to this sort of thing....

"I'm thinking," Torshael muttered back. "Give me a minute, here."

"Not sure we have a minute, brother," Tayne replied, as one of the humans made bold enough to step closer and swing his crude scythe at his paw. He yanked it back, and countered by swatting the man back into his fellows.

Neither of them wanted to kill the humans. It wasn't their fault they'd been tricked, pushed, and coerced into serving the infernals. They were all frightened, they were currently just more frightened of the infernals' fires than the reluctant supernals' lightning. Besides, it was a supernal's job to protect humans, not kill them. By all rights, they should have been trying to persuade them to trust in what they'd been taught, that the supernals and the High One behind them would protect them, not swatting them around and spouting warning bolts of lightning over their heads. But when you were surrounded, bleeding in a few places, outnumbered, and obviously not winning, it was hard to convince someone that they would be better off accepting your protections.

"Kill them!" the largest and fiercest-looking of the infernals roared from the back-- where she was, presumably, safest. "Before we kill you!"

The pack edged forward again, and Tayne said again, "Tor', now would be a good time to do something!"

Because Torshael was the leader of the pair, the newly graduated Newly Favored-- and Tayne was just his guardian, soldier, and aide-- it was supposed to be Torshael's job to come up with the strategy. His mind, however, was stuck-- there were too many choices, too many things he could do, too many things that could go wrong-- and he was frozen for a long moment, eyes darting from foe to foe.

"If you don't, brother, I'm going to have to," Tayne warned, pressing himself further back against Torshael's flank, muscles bunched and ready to leap out.

There was only one thing he could do, inexperienced though he was with it. Hopefully this time, it would work right. "Give me room, and a minute to work," he ordered, and as Tayne sprang into action, he leapt into the air. Tayne below lashed about him with paws-- claws carefully held away-- muzzle, and tail, sending humans tumbling away from him in droves. Few of them were actually injured; most got right back up again, with a little more trepidation. A few didn't get back up, stunned senseless or with a broken limb. A few got through Tayne's guard, and his thick fur, to leave a few more lines of red in his pale brown coat. So far, none of it was more than surface wounds: Tayne simply moved too quickly to let anyone under his guard for long. That would change as he grew more tired, but for now, he was still relatively fresh.

Above, Torshael wasn't really interested in Tayne and the humans, except that the former kept the latter from attacking him. Hovering, he took a second to send a silent prayer off to the High One in his distant City-- a prayer that this time, it would work right, and in a timely manner-- then began.

It started with the glow. In dim light, Torshael's pristine white coat always glowed, just a little. Tayne had more than once accused him of keeping his power gathered around him just for that purpose, to make him look more impressive, but Torshael really couldn't help it, most of the time. Compared to this glow, however, that was like the light of a single star to the light of the full moon. The infernals saw it, certainly. Most of them would know what it meant, as well, and until the simple light turned into its full and final form, Torshael would be vulnerable.

Infernals from the ring around the humans took to flight-- not all of them, just three; they couldn't afford, yet, to let their cadre of slaves escape. It was enough to allow some of the poor humans to slip through the lines, and those that could, made a run for it. A couple of them went up in the infernals' flames, but most of them made it.

"Take heart!" Tayne roared over the din of battle: yells of the men, the clang of metal on claws, the thud of bodies hitting earth. "You can still be free! See? Some of you escape now!"

The remaining infernals closed the gaps, forcing their servants forward and threatening them with flame. Tayne, controlling heat even more completely than an infernal, sucked the flames' power away, making it cold, and they died into smoke and then nothing. More of the humans escaped, but the infernals still had claws and teeth to command the rest. Their three companions in the air labored higher into the air, aiming first gouts of flame-- which could do nothing but, they could hope, distract-- and then themselves at Torshael. If he fought back, defended himself, he would lose how gathering power, and have to start all over. If they laid a claw on him, tore into him or knocked him from the sky, he would also lose the power. But-- he wouldn't have time to finish before they were upon him!

One infernal made a dive straight for him, and Torshael braced to release what little purifying magic he'd gathered right into its face, but it was slammed aside with a very un-ferocious squeal of pain. Tayne was in the air, now, already swelling in size to rival the infernals themselves: his head lowered and ram's horns jutted forward. It had been those which had saved Torshael from defending himself, hitting the infernal's ribcage with all the force of his leap, probably shattering every rib the thing had. Not even something the size of an infernal-- though these weren't the largest of them, by far-- could take a hit like that and come away unscathed. "Keep at it, brother, I'll keep them off you!" Tayne took the time to say, then was off again, mouth spewing lightning at the infernals in his path.

After that, Torshael ignored everything around him. He trusted his brother, and he would do what he said, to the best of his ability. All he needed was few breaths more, and he would be ready, and hopefully it would be all over. The light intensified, from a full moon to a hearth, from a hearth to a bonfire, from a bonfire to a sun. Humans below him shielded their eyes, infernals swooped around him but dared not touch him, and Tayne laughed.

"Tayne!" Torshael roared, "Get down!"

Immediately, Tayne dove, landing in the midst of the humans who remained, somehow managing not to land on any of them, and spread his wings over them protectively. Just in case. He ignored their sickles, scythes, daggers, and spears pricking at him in surprise, fear, and reluctant obedience to their masters. The last, however, was waning, because the infernals had finally realized that they were in trouble, and were starting to flee.

"I think not," Torshael thundered, and the light he'd been hoarding finally exploded. A sphere of holy light grew in seconds, in an instant, easily a quarter-mile in radius at its largest, engulfed supernals, infernals, and humans alike. Some of the humans screamed. Most of the infernals did not: they didn't have time, before the light they couldn't bear to feel touched them, wrapped around them, tested them and found them impossible to purify, and turned them into nothing but shadows. And then not even that.

Torshael landed heavily, shaking himself and glowing only very faintly now in aftermath. "Did I get them all?" he asked wearily.

Tayne picked himself up slowly, backing away from the now-quiet humans. "I don't know. I think one might have gotten away-- missing a tail, at least-- but if so, it was close. That was your best Purify yet."

"Thanks," Torshael said with a small smile, though he knew he hadn't even come close to what his parents were capable of, then shifted down into his more accessible and more easily visible human form and turned his attention on the humans, who were no longer attacking them-- thankfully. They were mostly farmers, stolen from their homes and jobs, enticed by the offer of food for their families, great riches, the power to make a rival suffer, whatever each man would have wanted most. The infernals, obviously, would not be fulfilling their promises now. If they ever had any intention of doing so, which was doubtful.

"Whoever of you are injured, let us tend you," Torshael said graciously. He was tired, and wounded himself, but this was duty, and duty came first. "Then we can return you from whence you came."

From the relief, awe, and even tears in the humans' eyes, Torshael knew, with some relief of his own, that their faith in the High One had at been reaffirmed. They would be less likely, now, to fall for more false promises, and more likely to lead a life they would be proud to speak of. That, more than anything else, was what Torshael lived for, and he drank it up like a sweet water as he and his brother healed their wounds.


Chapter Two

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