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

Chapter Seven

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


The trip through the city wasn't exactly a tour, what with the nervous guide and largely silent bodyguards, but it was a different part than Haiiro had seen on his way in. They seemed to be heading towards the northeastern part of the city, towards the ocean and, Haiiro remembered from soaring over it on their way in, the harbor. They moved through the streets quietly, avoiding main roads, and Torshael, taking the hint, kept to his human form to avoid as much notice. He was too pretty even then to avoid all notice, and he was too paranoid to completely release the faint aura of holy power about him, but he was obviously doing his best.

Haiiro just turned up his perception twisting a notch, making him less obvious despite his height and appearance but not actually making himself invisible or appear to be something else. After all his practicing over the past three years, it was easy enough to do, even in a crowd, and it didn't disrupt his interactions with the Sentinels or Lady Ashka. Torshael noticed, he thought, but it was difficult to hide even one's hiding from one's own soul-bond, no matter how thoroughly one tried to do so.

They did, indeed, wind up at the harbor. More specifically, they arrived in front of a fairly expensive-looking establishment marked with the sign: "The Red Ferret Inn & Pub". Just how "safe" an inn and pub would be, Haiiro didn't know, but since no one was protesting, and it did look like an upscale sort of place, he didn't make a comment. His only concern other than that was fitting inside. Neither of the other dragons-- small though they were-- even made an attempt at navigating that human-sized door, seemingly content to lounge outside on the docks, and Torshael was already in a body perfectly suited for human-sized doors. Still, Ashka seemed to expect him to enter with her, so he ducked his head and gamely made the attempt-- and found himself inside, his horns not even brushing the ceiling! He very nearly shied in surprise, finding himself nearly at eye level with his bond, but managed to hold himself perfectly still to keep the impulse contained. Torshael gave him a startled look, as well, but neither of them said anything; Ashka didn't seem terribly perplexed, so he realized belatedly that it must have been a property of the place itself.

Being only mid-day, the pub section was nearly empty. Haiiro spotted the familiar blue and blonde hair of the infernal Tekas Valar at the bar, rubbing at his eyes and already with a mug of ale in hand-- a half-drained mug, in fact. He felt sorry for the man, though Torshael made it clear wordlessly that he thought Valar was just feeling sorry for himself, since no real damage was even done. Not even the gold he'd refused to take back was that much of a loss, not for an even moderately prosperous merchant.

The only employee of the establishment visible from the entryway was a middle-aged human man, blonde and neatly bearded, at the bar, cleaning out an empty mug. Haiiro, not certain just who, what, and why Ashka had come here for, let her make arrangements for them all. Torshael just radiated discomfort, looking around with a somewhat lost expression. 

The fellow behind the bar looked up to offer a greeting when they came in, and the stare he offered after he got past the automatic welcome was fixed on Ashka. "Lady Ashka, you look like you've been to Greenwood and back already today. Why don't you head upstairs and clean up, eh?"

Ashka returned the thoughtfulness with a grateful smile. "Thank you kindly, Thaddius."

As she disappeared up the stairs, Nerith raises an eyebrow at the bartender named Thaddius. "You know," he said, "when I heard you owned an establishment in the city, I was expecting something different.... Don't you think it's a bit odd for an archmage of your caliber to be washing ale mugs?"

Both Haiiro and his bond relaxed immediately-- not entirely, but certainly considerably. No wonder Ashka had lead them here, if an archmage who obviously cared for her was the owner!

"Nothin' wrong with it," Thaddius grinned. "I like getting my hands dirty. And have a seat if you like, all of ya."

"Thank you, that sounds like a good idea," Torshael smiled back, looking a little less awkward as he took a seat at the bar. Haiiro didn't know if he'd ever been in a bar before, but from the look of him, he didn't quite know what to do inside one. There wasn't anywhere for someone like him to sit, however, so he merely draped his head over Torshael's shoulder and let his bond rub his nose fondly, amazed all over again at his reduced height: he didn't feel any larger than a particularly tall horse!

"You know you can take those out while you're here," Thaddius was saying to Valar, who was rubbing at his eyes again. "That's generally the point of coming here mid-day, especially if they're irritatin' you again."

"Mmnnf," the infernal mumbled. "F'got." He sounded drunk already, though he couldn't have been here that long yet. What in the world had he been drinking? Without even glancing up at the supernal and kirin-kin seated several stools away from him-- or at the Sentinels taking their own seats beyond them, for that matter-- he leaned over the bar, rubbing more, until he sat up again, something small and filmy on the tips of his fingers and his eyes the usual, bloody red glow of an infernal.

"Contact lenses?" Torshael guessed, sounding remarkably amiable for a Favored speaking to an infernal. "Clever. I thought you were just particularly good at shifting."

Valar just stared at him for a long moment, then said to Thaddius, "Do me a favor an' smash a glass over my head 'fore I do something stupid."

"You're not gonna do anything stupid," Thaddius chuckled, putting down the empty glass and starting on a pair of wildly different-looking drinks. "Not even somethin' you'll regret. Thought hasn't even crossed your mind."

The drinks slid down the bar to stop in front of Nerith and Djen, respectively. Nerith blinked in surprise down at his. " ... rumors said you were psychic," he said, sounding a little stunned, "but I didn't believe it."

"I'm not," Thaddius laughed lightly, already busy with another set of drinks. "I am, however, good at picking up what people're thinking in my bar. Fastest in the city." He gave Haiiro a jaunty wink, apparently noticing that his ears had gone back instinctively and, quite possibly, had caught that he'd just been considering dropping a veil around his own thoughts, nervous now about being read-- and fooled-- so easily. Though he really couldn't complain about the watermelon wine set before him in an ornate bowl, before he could even ask, he still didn't like the idea of being so... vulnerable, and couldn't help withdrawing his thoughts a little, even as he thanked the man.

"Please take no offense," Thaddius smiled at Haiiro, making him twitch nervously. "I can pick up on preferences and ill intent and that's about it. Stops barfights early. --And before you say anything about 'reading your thoughts' just now, it was just the look on your face."

"I'm sorry," Haiiro said, abashed. "I'm just a little on-edge today, I'm afraid."

Torshael, at least, didn't seem to mind the possible intrusion, especially when the bartender set his second-favorite mix of expensive but purely grape wine and rare fruit juice before him-- his first was only available on his home plane, but usually his second-favorite sufficed. "I'm amazed you have this," was all he said before cheerfully taking a sip. He did glance side-ways at the infernal, who had returned to his drink with a whine and a mutter. ::I was just trying to be friendly,:: Hairro heard. He cocked an ear at his bond wryly, feeling that any infernal might be confused and irritated if a Favored supernal were trying to be friendly with him, much less one who had made his morning miserable.

"You'd be surprised what's in my cellar, young sir," Thaddius chuckled. 

"I already am," Torshael grinned back.

The infernal grumbled again, earning a glance from Thaddius and the cheerfully amused comment, "If I give you too much more, you're going to knock yourself out, and you know it. Of course, then I can tell some of your stories to these fine folks and you won't even remember I mentioned it."

"You wouldn' dare--"

"'Course I would. Especially the one where ya first showed up, that one was a doozy."

"I am not inebr-- inebriated enough," he tried again, "to let you speak a word of that!"

"Do wait until he's passed out," Torshael suggested wickedly, with a sidelong glance and smile at the misplaced member of his rival species. "As much as I would love to hear it, I expect the shame of having me do so would make him really do something he'd regret."

Thaddius laughed as Valar shot him an extremely dirty look, then dropped his head onto the bar with a resigned growl: "If you're gonna do it you might's well get it over with, jus' so I can remember why I was pissed off."

"Well, all right, then," Thaddius smiled, finding another mug to wash clean while he spoke. "First thing you ought to know is that we knew he was comin'. In fact, we knew they were all coming, and when, and where they'd show up. The infernals, I mean. When things that mean decide to show up, well, that's what the oracles are for." Haiiro could sense Torshael perk up, at that, paying closer attention despite his outward enjoyment of his drink. ::I wonder if we could visit these oracles and get some more information,:: he mused, only half-sending the thought, but Haiiro picked it up anyway. He flicked his tail in cautious support of the idea, but it wasn't important right then. Their mission, whatever it was, didn't currently include indexing more infernals.

"First one to show up was him, solo, a good ten months or a year before the next ones were due," Thaddius continued. "Well, knowin' he was coming, and knowin' something about his species, the Order of the Dragon-- that's where the Sentinels come from-- was waitin' for him. Well, he showed up and didn't like the idea of a bunch of humans and elves and such tellin' him what to do, so they had themselves a little scrap. Well, rather," Thaddius grinned, "I oughta say he and one'a the knights had a scrap. Just one. Hurt his pride quite a bit when he lost, too." Valar just groaned and covered his head with his hands. "Well, after he came around again, the Order made him an offer. It was either kick him out and all his kin when they showed up, or he'd play by the rules. He picked the latter, obviously."

"Good for him," Torshael murmured, thinking. "Remind me not to pick any fights while we're here."

"Aah, we already figured out why it happened," Thaddius explained. "Woulda been a lot harder for that knight if Tekasynos was any good with magic, but he's right horrid at even the fire stuff infernals are supposed to be great with." Thaddius chuckled at Tekas Valar-- Tekasynos?-- as the infernal groaned in embarrassment again. "It gave the rest of them reason to listen to us, at least, once they started trickling in. Or the Order woulda had a lot more to deal with. So we count ourselves lucky. It could've been unpleasant."

"How long have you and your kin been on this world?" Torshael asked Tekasynos keenly. "You seem so... well-entrenched."

The infernal just grumbled unintelligibly again, but Thaddius stroked his beard thoughtfully and answered, for him. "I'd say at least two years, wouldn't you? Two and a half, maybe."

"An' all of it's down the drain now, thanks to them," Tekasynos growled without lifting his head again.

"We didn't do anything that bad," Torshael protested. "The Sentinels know you're innocent, I tried to give you your money back, the healers patched you up just fine-- not that the explosion was our fault-- and Lady Ashka is quite willing to meet you at a different time."

All his protestations earned him was another growl and another furious look. "You have no idea how fast rumors spread, especially around here. You think I go so far as to hide my eyes for my health? These people've had enough demons and monsters and the like for several lifetimes." He was rapidly loosing his drunken slur as he built up speed. "And then you show up, you and your brother, mark me as infernal and get me arguing against one of their precious Exalted-- in front of multiple civilians! What'd you think they were going to do with that?!" Torshael and Haiiro both winced when Tekasynos smacked both hands down on the bar. "You know what happens when people start to think you're something that crawled out of a burning pit? They stop doing business with you! My latest investment already got called off with some blatantly uncreative excuse for avoiding me. I'll be lucky if I can salvage even a third of my work, if anything at all!"

"We are sorry," Haiiro repeated, ears back unhappily. "It's not as if we meant for this to happen."

"And I did try to give you your money back. If you're going to be angry at anyone, be angry at whoever decided to-- to trick Haiiro," Torshael added firmly. "We would have done nothing, let you be, if we hadn't been tricked into thinking you were trying to assassinate someone. Not all supernals jump to attack an infernal for no reason at all, after all."

"Oh, I'd never have thought, considering how you've mastered the art of subtlety...."

"Now you're just being spiteful. I thought I did well enough detaining you," Torshael pointed out, just a trace of smugness in his voice. "Well, you can't say we didn't try to apologize." Torshael gave up at last, sighed, and let the issue go. Haiiro, however, still felt sorry, and couldn't help but ponder a few ways they could make it up to Tekasynos. Maybe the infernal might even accept one of them. 

"You ought to lighten up a bit," Thaddius told the sulking infernal lightly. "They're being quite nice to you, after all, and the damage isn't permanent if you take the time to work on fixing it." Then his curious gaze fell on Torshael. "You said something about someone tricking that lad there?" he asked. "No offense intended, but that's quite a feat to achieve. Any idea who it was?"

"Someone with psionics at least rivaling his," Torshael sighed. "And with command of necromancy, the ability to kill someone through their own spell, agents who can disappear without a trace in a billow of smoke, and a death-wish for the Lady Ashka. No, we don't know who, but my brother is working with the Sentinels to try and gather more information."

"The Sentinels said someone was bouncing full-sense images off of Tekasynos's mental shield," Haiiro explained glumly. "So real that I really did think he was part of the plot."

"A necro with assassins, hmm? Sounds like nasty business." Thaddius glanced at Tekasynos thoughtfully. "Would have been quite a feat to trick you with a method like that, considering necros and their ilk can't get close to the city.... Sentinels probably thought'a this, but for somethin' that complex, the necro would have had to have someone on their side tag or mark him for a target."

Tekasynos looked up from his sulk, looking offended. "Excuse me?"

Thaddius continued undaunted. "Which'd mean that the spells were set ahead'a time, or he was linked right to the necro with some sort of divination. Prolly wouldn'ta known it, either, since like I said, Tekasynos isn't any good with magic." Ignoring the infernal's scowl, Thaddius just kept going: "Now that tells me two things. First, that someone pegged him early today. Those kinds'a things don't last long. And second, that necro knew you were comin'."

"As far as we know, the only beings who knew we were coming were the High One himself-- that's the supernals' deity," Torshael explained for Thaddius's benefit. "And...."

Hairro finished at Torshael's glance. "And whoever was calling me here."

"Who was that woman you were having breakfast with, Tekasynos?" Torshael asked, frowning. "Before you left for the tower."

Apparently Tekasynos's continued irritation was more general, now, than concentrated on Torshael or Haiiro, for he actually answered. "It was...." He paused, rubbed at his forehead, and furrowed his brow, as if concentrating. " ... I thought I knew the answer to that, but... I don't remember at all."

"I think we have a lead," Torshael said, mildly amazed. "What can you remember, Tekasynos?"

Tekasynos, in a very human-like gesture of frustration, or maybe just to get himself focused again, ran his hand down his face again. "I remember her sitting down," he began, leaning on the bar, "I remember her face... but... her name, who she was, even what we talked about... it's not like it's been forgotten, I can remember the scene in my head... smells, background noise, what I was eating... the rest of it is just... missing."

"I wonder if it's erased, or just blocked," Torshael mused. "But it's obvious that, whoever she was, she was probably the one to put the spell on you. Do you think anyone else might recognize her? Haiiro got a good look at her, as well, though we're strangers here."

"It's possible...." Tekasynos sighed. "I'd never seen her before today, I doubt I'd be of any more help." He paused then, as if realizing who he just said that to, twitched. "Er, not that I care about helping you, I just don't like the idea of people messing with my head." Torshael chuckled, though not unkindly. 

Thaddius spoke up again, frowning with thought, and repeated Haiiro's comment: "Calling you here?"

Haiiro nodded. "I couldn't sleep for three nights, it was so strong. It took me that long to figure out that being restless was because someone wanted me to be going-- home. Torshael guessed it was here, and that it was my kin who was doing the calling. My father, I'd thought...." He shook his mane gently. "And since it isn't as strong anymore, I'm guessing we're where we're supposed to be."

"Aaah...." Thaddius stroked his beard again. "I don't see why it wouldn'ta been Yulaan that called you. I imagine your appearance would be a significant enough event that an oracle or two would have picked up on it, which could have alerted our mysterious necro. Future's never certain, but some things will always affect others. Was probably insurance of a sort, this whole mess-- or a right good cover for somethin' else."

"What else could it possibly be covering?" Haiiro frowned. Torshael thought he seemed a bit relieved to have some support that his guess at who was behind the summoning could be correct. The poor kirin-dragon really did seem to look forward to the idea of seeing Yulaan again.

"Could be anything, considering all the variables involved, unless we get more information or answers," Thaddius shrugged.

"Hopefully Tayne and the Sentinels get some," Haiiro sighed. "Though Tekasynos's breakfast partner sounds like it might be promising, too."

Thaddius turned as Tekasynos shrugged, and put down the mug he'd been cleaning. "I could take a look if y'want," he suggested.

"Go for it," Tekas shrugged helplessly. "You're the one that put the shield there, to begin with."

"If you can, and he trusts you to," Torshael nodded eagerly, "that would be of great help."

"Hello, my lady," Haiiro called, waving someone over with one brightly-feathered wing. Torshael turned to see Ashka coming down the stairs. She waved, back, and came to claim a stool beside him. Thaddius slid her a simple glass of water before stepping in front of Tekasynos, who waved the archmage on with the bored air of one who had nothing better to do.

"Let's see what the damage is, then," Thaddius said softly, putting two fingers of one hand on the infernal's forehead, whatever magic he called up also summoning a faint glow. Tekasynos stayed very still, and for a long few minutes there was nothing but silence. Torshael sipped idly at his drink as he waited, but Haiiro ignored his in favor of watching anxiously. Ashka's escorts seemed nearly as interested as he did, too, though their attention was more curious than concerned. It was a long wait....


Chapter Eight

Back to Torshael - Back to Tayne

Back to Haiiro'Hiwatari