Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Their quarry moved through the busy streets with enviable ease. Despite having grown up in the High One's City, the brothers were more used to having to move about in a crowd with much larger bodies. And, in fact, they were a little out of practice. None of their forays into other worlds had required them to enter a city in human form recently, especially since Haiiro's abilities made him far less noticeable than they were. Haiiro, at least, had no trouble: though he might have been causing everyone to overlook him, to ignore his presence, they still moved around him and automatically avoided his hooves and tail. He could offer the brothers that much, at least: if they kept under his belly, Tayne and Torshael could have an easier time of it.
::We're not being stared at anymore,:: Tayne's mindvoice commented.
::Haiiro is "hiding", as it were,:: Torshael answered; he didn't keep the conversation private, so Haiiro heard it, but only registered it absently. While his magic kept his path clear for him, he kept as many of his senses as he dared fixed on the infernal-- or magicked hireling, or whoever he was-- so he wouldn't lose him. The man didn't hurry, but neither did he dally: he kept glancing up to mark the position of the sun, quite likely checking the time. He moved just faster than the meandering pace of most of the others on the streets, cutting through them deftly with an obvious destination in mind. It was obvious, in fact, that he was headed for the towers.
The crowds began to thin as they approached the white spires, making movement easier and requiring less magical effort on Haiiro's part to keep from stepping on people. Either the towers weren't open to the public, or they were closed at the current hour, or only certain people were allowed in. Haiiro wasn't going to complain-- unless their mark went into them. He wasn't sure he could manage to slip inside someplace probably not meant for large creatures like himself, much less keep Torshael and Tayne with him.
The blonde man stopped near the foot of one, looking up at it. He was, apparently, fairly well practiced in the art of looking casual: the stop was merely a pause, the hand held to his chin and finger pressed to his mouth pensive. No one paid him any mind-- except Haiiro, and Haiiro spotted the small object in his hand. He couldn't tell what it was, but he could guess when the man spoke into it.
A single word, barely above a whisper. "Position?"
His guess was confirmed when a voice emitted from the object. "Upper tier. Visible mark. Awaiting signal."
Puzzled, and safe to do so now that he wasn't required to work as hard to make less people ignore his presence, Haiiro paused, as well, to peer at his thoughts. To his dismay, he found a mental shield in place. He could break through some shields, but usually that caught the attention of whoever was holding it in the process, and this one seemed strong. Given enough time, he could sometimes slip through shields, but time wasn't something he had right now. He needed to know what this infernal-aura'd creature was intending beyond the nebulous "ill intentions" his bond sensed, and he needed to know before this "signal" occurred.
A second glance, however, proved the shield to be, though strong, also a shoddy affair, with several points of leakage. The quarry started walking again, but not before Haiiro at least got a vague idea of what was going on: there was at least one more ally involved, besides the person on the other end of the communication device; and whoever the object of this plan was-- the only name he could catch was "the enemy"-- his or her life was likely to be in serious danger.
::We need to stop him,:: Torshael said firmly. He'd been listening in.
::What if this "enemy" is an enemy of the whole city?:: Tayne pointed out cautiously. ::Not every infernal is evil.::
Torshael flinched, immediately remembering the pair they'd met in the EverRealms, with Myrror. ::I don't want to take that chance. No one should die.::
What they needed, Haiiro tried to say without words, was more time. Time for him to weasel his way into that shield and get an image of the "enemy", or find more motivation behind this attack, if that's what it was.
::Torshael, get over there and talk to him,:: Tayne said immediately.
::Talk to him?? About what?::
::I don't know! Pretend you're a priest asking for charity for your church! You certainly look the part.::
Torshael gave him a skeptical look, but Haiiro nodded his head vigorously at his questioning glance. It was a good idea-- as long as Torshael kept his supernal's aura under control. But even than, it was possible an infernal might mistake it for the simple holiness of an ordinary priest.
::What about you, Tayne?::
::I am going to be watching for that accomplice on the "upper tier", or whatever that means, and staying ready to kill something if it tries to hurt you.::
Out of excuses, and running out of time, Torshael started off. He caught up with the mark quickly, making good use of his long legs, and wore a surprisingly believable, ingratiating smile. Haiiro was pleasantly surprised-- and a little bit proud!
"Excuse me, sir, but may I have a moment of your time?"
The blonde man paused mid-step, turning slightly. There was no recognition in his face, eyes, or voice, to Haiiro's intense relief. A mix of expressions crossed his face for an instant-- the beginnings of a frown twitching at the corner of his mouth, a faint look of appraisal in the eyes and quirk of brow-- before the mask of civility returned. "Of course... though I hope it will not be long. I have a meeting to attend in short order. What can I do for you, young sir?"
"Thank you, my lord, I will not keep you long. You see, I'm collecting donations for the renovation of my church." He donned a faintly indignant expression, the perfect picture of a young priest who couldn't quite believe what he said. "Only last month, some godless fiends decided to vandalize our holy place. They very nearly destroyed the whole exterior, and you wouldn't want to see what they did to the statues on the inside."
After that, Haiiro only paid the barest of attentions to the conversation, much more focused on trying to find a useful hole in the man's shields and collecting what surface thoughts he could in the meantime. He needed something, anything that would tell him if those "ill intentions" were actually evil, and he wasn't, oh, working for some branch of the government to get rid of an enemy of the people.
He got in, all right, more quickly than he'd expected, and got far more than he'd anticipated. He got a picture of the "enemy", certainly: a young woman currently up in the tower itself, of significant importance, presumably to the city, country, or even religion. She was not, he thought, evil. The infernal-- he could tell, now, that this was an infernal, not a hireling or thrall: blue with yellow, according to his self-image-- had "business" with her that amounted to, quite simply, her assassination. There were two accomplices, as well, one to distract the guards and the other to actually do the deed.
::Are you almost finished? I can't keep talking for much longer.::
In answer, Haiiro fed his bond the information. Somehow, Torshael kept talking, describing the imaginary atrocities which had been wreaked upon his imaginary temple. He didn't even give his captive audience a chance to interrupt. Haiiro had enough time to be briefly impressed all over again at how well his bond fit into his role.
But at the moment, there were other things to think on. ::Good. Or, rather, bad....::
::Can I flatten him yet?:: Tayne interrupted. ::I'm ready whenever you two are.::
Haiiro wasn't sure that was a good idea-- there were still the others inside to reckon with, and he didn't know where they were. Or what their "signal" was. The problem was, he had no way to actually express that, not in so many words. All he could do was project his dissatisfaction with the thought and hope they trusted him.
Torshael did. ::Well, I'll let him go and see where he goes. If he makes any moves like he's giving a signal to anyone, we'll stop him and see if he talks, how's that?::
Agreement, and relief.
"Can you find it in your heart to make a donation?" Torshael finally said. "For such a worthy cause as this?"
"Oh, of course, it would be my honor."
Torshael looked a little stunned to find a small bag of coins pushed into his hands, but he took it and let the infernal back a step away, say with only slightly false-seeming kindness, "Have a wonderful day," then hurriedly turn on his heel and stride away.
::You're good at that, brother,:: Tayne commented with more amusement than the situation ought to have warranted. ::You should go begging more often!::
::Oh, hush. He probably only donated to make me shut up.::
Since that was exactly the case-- Haiiro could tell, sensing impatient, hair-tearing frustration on the part of the infernal, not to mention the sizzling irritation at having lost some of his "payment" to a religious solicitor-- Haiiro decided not to enlighten anyone. Instead, he started after him, still invisible to the eyes of others, and let Torshael fall behind him. It wouldn't do to have the "religious solicitor" following the source of his unexpected windfall, after all, though Tayne kept at his heels just in case. Torshael could catch up later.
::Keep that in case we need it,:: Tayne sent back at his brother.
Ah, Tayne. Always practical.
But now Haiiro knew something else: the infernal was being paid for this assassination.
The infernal went right up to the base of the tower and offered to the guards there a scroll from the same pouch he'd given Torshael the "donation". "I have an appointment this afternoon," he told them.
"Name?" one guard asked, sounding almost bored.
"Tekas Valar," the infernal answered, handing over the scroll. Haiiro guessed this was routine for getting into the tower.
"You're a bit early," the guard said, glancing over the scroll itself and comparing it to another list he held, himself, "but at least you're not late. She dislikes being kept waiting."
The infernal chuckled slightly. "I would ima--"
Then the world, for a split second, seemed to tear apart. Haiiro reeled back, very nearly losing his magical perception-alteration-- he did lose it for a moment, but managed to regain it-- and certainly losing his mental and perceptual lock on the infernal. The sound was the worst. The sound was deafening: first the impact from some object crashing into the tower's lower wall, then the following roar of explosion and flames, rubble and debris flying everywhere. Haiiro crouched down instinctively, protecting Tayne with his currently much larger body, and Torshael wisely managed to get behind him. The magical extension of his senses had left his head ringing in the aftermath of that impact, that explosion.
But it didn't stop him from thinking. Not for long.
::It wasn't the infernal!:: Torshael told him. ::He's wounded, caught in the blast just like the guards.::
::The diversion?:: Tayne asked grimly.
Possibly. Maybe even likely. There were enough people swarming the newly-blown hole to keep people nicely distracted, indeed. Which meant they had to do something.
Haiiro purposefully dropped all his magics and cantered swiftly to the guards at the door. He'd seen how people looked at him: something about him, probably his kirin father, made him respected here. That, he hoped, could get him somewhere now.
Behind him, Torshael and Tayne hurried to shift, as well. The latter literally pounced on the infernal, holding him down with one massive paw and baring his teeth in a nasty grin at him. Wounded or not, Tekas Valar-- if that was his real name-- was going nowhere. Torshael merely came up behind his bond, faintly glowing support. ::No time for niceties, bond-mine,:: he heard.
"Sir," he said firmly to the less-injured of the guards, not bothering to disguise the urgency in his voice, "I need to know where this woman is." He could not project words, but at a time like this, he could at least send a picture. And he did. Forcefully. "Now. She is in grave danger."
It took a minute for anyone to respond, and Haiiro considered repeating his request. ::Give them a minute,:: Torshael said wryly. ::They're getting over their awe.:: Haiiro didn't have time to be embarrassed, but he couldn't help it. He put his ears back and flicked his tail awkwardly. People were staring.
"Uh, fifth tier," the guard finally said, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts. "Move through the glowing circle and it will take you there." The guard motioned inside, through the newly-blown hole in the tower wall, and towards-- as stated-- a glowing circle of runes etched onto the floor that he'd been too focused and distracted both to notice until now.
"Thank you, sir," Haiiro replied quickly, and leapt lightly over the rubble, hooves clicking sharply on the exquisitely decorated-- but currently dusty and debris-littered-- tile of the floor inside.
"What do you think you're doing to that man?" one of the many guards shouted at Tayne, and Haiiro paused to make sure no one was going to call him to task for doing his duty.
"Holding a probable traitor," Tayne answered calmly, focused down on his captive.
"He is with me," Haiiro added. "Let him be, please. Tayne--"
"I'll stay here and look after mister infernal, don't worry."
"I'm with you," Torshael said firmly, leaping through after his bond. "Now can we get moving?"
When no one stopped them, Haiiro flicked his tail and made another light leap into the center of the runic circle. The instant his tail and feathers cleared the ring, he was gone.