Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission

Chapter One

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


The teleport was an easy one, and took the trio to the air above a great, ordered, sprawling city on the coast of some pristine, blue, unnamed ocean. They circled above it for a moment while they got their bearings and Haiiro, who was their guide now, decided where to land. Lion-formed Tayne let the wind carry him, following in the wake of his much larger brother and his bond, and peered below him. He had to admit to being mildly impressed.

Wherever this was, it truly was a large city, every bit as large as the High One's City, though perhaps not quite so big as Star City. From above, the plan of the streets was obvious, the buildings regular and organized. Though he couldn't be sure from above, it looked like the same sort of design had even gone into the bulk of them. It was, he guessed from their size, a primarily human or humanoid city; he could even see, as they circled lower, tiny people walking the streets. They'd have to go shifted, and Haiiro would just have to walk carefully. A stone, whitewashed wall bounded it all from end to end, coming nearly right up to the shore, where the buildings turned into docks and forests of furled sails. Unlike many cities, the population did not spill out around the walls, and, other than the roads leading away from it, its surrounds seemed untouched. Or, at the very least, were cultivated to seem that way.

Most interesting of all, however, were several artificial spires that soared well above the rest of the buildings, near the center of the city. One of them supported the coiled form of a great, golden dragon, scaled and serpentine, and nearly the size of an infernal, though it was obviously not such a creature. It watched them circling for a moment, then returned it attention to the streets below as it discerned no danger from them, as if it were some sort of massive sentry. Tayne was just glad that it didn't take offense at their unannounced presence.

::Put your eyes back into your head, brother,:: Torshael sent at him, amused. ::We're landing.::

Tayne didn't bother with a response, he merely followed Haiiro and his brother as they angled for the distance outer wall, opposite the shores. They landed before a huge gate-- quite tall enough to admit even Torshael, though he'd have to duck his head-- and for a moment just stood, arranging feathers and settling fur while they looked through the open doors into the bustling city within.

The gate itself was manned by a small compliment of human males, in armor that looked as much decorative as functional, all of whom were staring openly at them all. Haiiro approached them a little tentatively, hooves ringing distinctly on the cobbled road. A few of them looked awed, and a couple bowed; Tayne was amused to note that the copious respect flustered Haiiro, just a little. "Your pardon," he began diffidently in the most common Nexiian tongue, horned head lowered closer to the humans' level, "but might I inquire where we are?"

"Why, Shu-Riin, Exalted," the boldest of the lot answered politely. "City of the Sun, largest city of Kynn."

"May we have entry?" Haiiro continued, voice a little excited now.

::I think it's where he thinks we're supposed to be,:: Torshael explained when Tayne cast him a glance.

"Of course, Exalted," the talkative gate guard said. "Though I fear the city was not built with someone of you masters' noble stature in mind. The streets should give you room to walk, but few buildings will do so."

"Of course," Haiiro nodded understandingly. "We will be careful where we go."

::And perhaps you ought to change forms,:: Tayne suggested delicately to his brother. ::Things are going to be crowded enough with just Haiiro, and standing out isn't exactly necessary.::

Torshael heaved a reluctant sigh but took the advice, anyway, just as Tayne did-- he didn't want to frighten the populace with a hunting cat roaming the streets, winged or not. As Haiiro glanced over his shoulder at the two of them, ears perked expectantly, he saw Torshael's human form brushing off his pristine white robes and Tayne's standing, hipshot, looking-- and feeling-- just a little uncomfortable in his own silk tunic and long vest. As usual. "Go on in whenever you're ready," Tayne told him, grinning as best he could while he tried to get himself settled in the human shape. "We're right behind you."

"Or better yet," Torshael smiled, then vanished. "Right with you."

Tayne snorted at his show-off brother, who had reappeared just above Haiiro's bewinged shoulders and landed lightly astride him, like he was riding a particularly large horse. Since Haiiro didn't seem to mind-- actually, when he'd been "ridden" by his bond in the past, he'd seemed to like the situation-- he didn't make any snide comments. But he certainly could think them.

The gate guardians parted respectfully as Haiiro stepped through the gates, Torshael conspicuously white up on his back and Tayne trailing much less conspicuously behind him, and they entered the city. It was, as it had looked from above and outside, quite busy, whether perpetually or just at this time of day or year. However, from his low and slightly hung-back position, he could easily see how the crowd parted for Haiiro, how many faces turned up to watch him-- not Torshael, but quite obviously Haiiro himself; the only looks Torshael got were curious, brow-raised looks, as if natives were surprised to see someone where he sat-- as they passed. He saw how the people focused on the hooves and horn and silky mane and tail, saw the expressions on their faces as they watched and deferred to the gray-scaled youth. On this world, Tayne guessed, it was Haiiro's Kynnese guardian blood which was important, and nothing else about the party would really stick aside from the young kirin-dragon.

"Do we know where we're going?" he asked after they'd traversed a few streets, seemingly aimlessly. Rather than projecting his voice loud enough and far enough to be heard, he merely reinforced it telepathically.

"Not... really," Haiiro admitted. "I suppose I'm sort of aiming for those towers. But...."

"You feel like something is supposed to happen," Torshael finished. "I feel it, too."

"But what?"

"I have no idea," Torshael frowned.

"But I think we're going the right way," Haiiro added hopefully.

There seemed little choice but to keep going as they had been, then, so they did, crossing into a crowded city square, with people coming and going on whatever their business was that morning. A graceful fountain acted as a central hub for small shops and cafes along three of the four square sides, all of which bustling with people, some admiring merchandise and others seated in open-air collections of tables, quite likely eating breakfast. This was not a residential district, then, but a commercial one.

Without warning, Haiiro stopped short in the middle of the square. Tayne stopped beside him, looking up at him curiously, as his ears twitched this way and that. ::What is it?:: he sent up.

::Infernal,:: Torshael's mind hissed, and Tayne immediately straightened, looking around warily. Obviously there couldn't be an infernal out in the open, people would be running screaming by now, and no infernal could fit inside the buildings if even Haiiro wouldn't. Which left an infernal in disguise: one of the many humans around milling around them. But there were too many of them to look for tell-tale signs of infernal nature in each one....


It was less a word and more of a wash of sharpened attention, coming from Haiiro, and hard on its heels came the mental relay of a conversation the sharp-eared kirin-dragon had obviously overheard. "I must take my leave, lady, though it was a pleasure speaking with you."

A mental vision swarmed up into place along with the voice, also courtesy of Haiiro's extended senses, and briefly supplanted natural vision in Tayne's perception. At one of the cafes across the square, a human male of midling height and build was just rising from a table, dropping his napkin to the tabletop. He had blonde hair cropped just past his shoulders in a somewhat ragged-looking style, with unusual streaks of blue in it, and a table-companion in the form of a woman with contrasting long, black hair. His clothing was of fine cut, but not fine fabric: middle class, gauging from the styles and qualities surrounding them, and possibly a merchant, giving similarities to that of the vendors at various shops in the square. Haiiro's wordless assessment agreed with him.

The cultured voice again: "I do, however, have... business... to take care of this morn."

::It's him,:: Torshael interrupted as the man offered the lady a courteous bow and turned on his heel, starting away. ::Either he's an infernal himself, or he's under the power of one.::

::I don't like this "business" he mentioned,:: Tayne commented darkly.

::I don't, either. Perhaps the High One had more than one purpose in sending us here. Haiiro... do you mind?::

"I... think we can make a detour," Haiiro murmured, almost inaudible over the sound of the throng, but he didn't so much as glance away from his intense attention on the retreating quarry.

Torshael slid off his bond's shoulder, landing on the ground with a light thump. "Let us see what his business is, then," he suggested grimly, and the trio started to follow him.


Chapter Two

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