Torshael and Tayne's Story: The First Mission

Chapter Three


The priest-guards at the doors to the High One's throne room, Favored supernals both, with intricate white and gold armor, bid the brothers wait in the antechamber-- no surprise, given they were a few minutes early. Torshael paced nervously, glowing faintly in both an attempt at looking his best and out of sheer nerves. Going before the High One, in person, always made him a little jumpy. Never mind that the High One could contact them whenever he wanted to, wherever they were, and could supposedly see them whenever or wherever, as well; now that he was purposefully coming before him, he wanted to look his best. He wanted to look adult. He wanted to look capable. Like a fully Favored. Not like an untried adolescent, which was how he felt.

Tayne, of course, looked as calm and unruffled as ever. Even if he actually was tense, he didn't usually look it. He'd shifted back into his birth shape for the occasion, though he'd walked the City's streets as a winged lion, his favorite shape to wear. It made his brown coloring look natural rather than drab, and suited him best with its compact power, but most chose to wear their true forms when going before the High One, and Tayne was no exception. His blue eyes were still remarkably cool, watching Torshael pace, like nothing ever bothered him. He'd said before that going to Court, to see the High One and not for social reasons, didn't bother him. Torshael wished, in moments like those, that he was more like his brother.

A herald-- not a Favored, but one with a white body and a mane that faded through the colors of the rainbow, "prism" colored-- stepped out, bowing, and Torshael drew himself to a stop, head held high and proud. "The High One will see you now," the herald announced with an officious-looking smile, and retreated again, leaving the doors open for the brothers to follow him through. Torshael led the way, and Tayne fell in at his side, a little behind. Such was the usual way to walk, for them, when in formal situations. There weren't many others in the Court: a few more priest-guards standing discretely along the walls, a few of the highest clerks and richest family heads closer to the door, there to mingle rather than actually see the High One, and a pair of Favored mage-priests, elders, one to either side of the throne. 

The throne room itself was longer than it was wide, a true hall rather than a simple room. It was walled in the same white alabaster as the rest of the High One's palace, with gold trim, but floored in solid white marble veined, impossibly, with the whole spectrum of colors, flowing fluidly from one to the next, not just blocks of each color. That was probably the High One's doing: not even the most powerful Earth-Prism supernals would have the ability to change the color of marble veining, not that perfectly. The walls were lined with pillars that went from floor to ceiling, and were not of alabaster, but of clear crystal, and the work of a stone-mage, of a half-dozen stone-mages, had definitely been in the making of them: the insides had been hollowed and etched upon, creating realistic scenes and three-dimensional patterns within each standing stone. Though he'd never tried it himself, Torshael had heard that one could stare for hours into one of those pillars, and still see something new in each glance.

Then there was the dais: four massive steps up, in black marble, again veined in the full spectrum of colors, back-hung with colorful banners. And, of course, there was the throne itself: a couch large enough for even an infernal to lounge upon-- though none had ever or would ever set foot in such a sacred place-- ancient stone molded with silver and gold, coiling around each other on the base in a myriad of shapes. The single strip of carpeting in the whole room ran straight from the door, up those four steps, right to the foot of the throne, and the curled, thickly plumed tail of the one who lounged on that throne.

Once a petitioner's eyes found the High One, they rarely strayed again. They said he appeared different to everyone who saw him, but he was riveting no matter what form he took. Torshael usually saw a pure white supernal, with golden horns and claws, eyes black and starry as the night sky, and feathers all but dripping with more colors than one had even imagined could exist. He was massive, easily twice as long as Torshael himself, with a mane more full and thickly curled than any other's and a tail plumed with fur rather than bare. The High One was, to Torshael, beauty incarnate.

Tayne had told him before that he saw the High One rather as a supernal-sized white lion, with pale silver eyes and fur that shimmered with other, hidden colors, like an opal in the light, or rainbows through rain. Whether he found that more impressive, or more comforting, or simply more familiar, Torshael didn't know. He didn't see much that was "comforting" in the High One he saw, nothing except the gentle smile. Everything else was utter perfection, untouchable and imperturbable.

The smile grew deeper as the brothers approached and his starry eyes fixed on them. They dropped into a deep bow, one beside the other, at the foot of the dais.

"Welcome home, Torshael. Welcome home, Tayne."

His voice was perfect, as well: deep, warm, rich, like a symphony or a thunderstorm, a banquet for the ear. When he spoke, even when he spoke to a crowd, it sounded like he spoke personally to each listener, and him alone. That, at least, Tayne heard the same way he did, though often they heard different words, as he spoke to each of them what he needed them to hear, and that was not always the same. 

This was going to be one of those times.

As Torshael and Tayne padded quietly from the Court and back out onto the crystal-paved streets of the City, there was still a sense of awe clinging to each of them. It took half of the walk home for Torshael to find the power of speech again.

"We're leaving the realm," was the first thing that fell from his mouth, tone full of amazement.

"Once we finish learning about the places we're supposed to go," Tayne agreed slowly, head bobbing with each step. He hadn't even shrunk down to lion form yet, apparently either deep in thought or still feeling dazed from the confrontation with the High One. Torshael had often thought that it tended to affect those who weren't among the Favored more powerfully, speaking in person with the High One. 

"Well, you were right," Torshael chuckled. "It's definitely not a punishment."

"Sounds like quite an honor," Tayne agreed absently.

"Did he tell you the same things he told me? About why we're going, what we'll be doing there?"

"And where we're starting out," Tayne nodded, looking up briefly, at last. His eyes were as calm as ever, if a little unfocused with thought. "Among other things."

"Other things?" Torshael asked curiously.

"Nothing important, not about the task," Tayne assured him.

With that tone, and those eyes turned innocently on the ground, Torshael knew he wasn't going to hear any more about whatever else the High One had said. Though curious, he let the matter rest. "Well, back into school again tomorrow, brother!" he said cheerfully, instead.

"Sounds like it," Tayne chuckled, and they continued down the street, Torshael wondering aloud what these new worlds they might be seeing, what strange creatures they might battle or rescue or negotiate with, while Tayne listened patiently and kept his own counsel.


Chapter Four

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