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

Chapter Eight

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


The silence broke, at last, not with the sigh and headshake of failure or even grin and affirmative of a success, but with Thaddius suddenly yelling and wrenching himself back. His hand, the one which had touched Tekasynos, was-- was infected by some horrible combination of ice and rot, and it was already climbing up his arm. The sense of wrongness and death triggered an instinctive reaction. Torshael didn't even think, he just found himself on his feet, glass somehow safely on the table, as the mage crashed back into the wall behind him, shattering glasses and knocking more to the floor only for them to break, there. A short-range Purification took only seconds to charge for, and then he could eradicate the evil--

"Torshael, stop!"

--alarm not his own distracted him, and Haiiro's hissed warning made him glance to the side, at whatever his bond was interrupting for. The infernal was sitting just two chairs away-- looking utterly horrified, in fact-- oblivious to Torshael's magic, but close enough that when he released it-- no. Not good. His glow hastily flickered out.

"Sorry," he winced automatically at Tekasynos, who thankfully didn't seem to notice. He was still staring at Thaddius, shocked and disturbed.

As for Thaddius, he had at least part of his own defense ready: a motion with his good hand, a quick incantation, and the progress of the frozen necromantic damage halted at his elbow. Even so, given the pained expression on Thaddius's face, it had to hurt. "Let me see, Thaddius," Haiiro ordered, giving Torshael a warning look; Torshael pointedly kept his mouth shut and let his bond handle the situation with his rather less disruptive powers. "I have healing and fire magic, I might be able to help."

"You're welcome to it," Thaddius winced, examining his damaged arm while his good one held it up. "I should have expected that, with all that you said before... but one can count even unexpected blessings...." Just how having his entire forearm rotting and frozen was a blessing, Torshael had no idea. Haiiro began examining the damage done while Thaddius turned his explanation to Tekasynos. "You know you said you wouldn't have noticed the memory hole without Torshael asking you to remember? Well, you've got a lot more gaps in your memory than that-- someone's been messing with you for a while."

Haiiro looked up at that with a shocked expression, and Torshael couldn't help but be indignant in the infernal's behalf. Tekasynos himself bristled-- quite literally, as it was a motion that would flex some of his many spines if he had them at the moment. "But that's the first time I ever saw that woman!" he protested.

"That may be the case," Thaddius shrugged. "Or, she's simply appeared and been removed multiple times. The memories are still there, but... well, imagine your memory issues as actual holes. Then, what's blocking you from retrieving them would be something more like a chasm. It's very strange."

"Very," Haiiro agreed with a frown. Torshael knew his bond had never encountered such a thing; he had never encountered such a thing, for all he didn't usually work with minds directly.

"But," Thaddius continued, "I think that might be a bit less worrisome than this." He motioned with the damaged arm, wincing at the motion, and Haiiro clicked his teeth at him to stop moving. "It would have taken me hours to try and figure something out from the mess in your head, but this tells me everything I need to know." He sighed. "It's a shame one so promising would fall so far."

"You know who it is?" Torshael asked eagerly.

"Could we wait until I've fixed this?" Haiiro countered. "I won't be able to concentrate...."

"Sorry," Torshael apologized again, sheepish. "I take it you can?"

"I think so, but it's difficult.... Hold still, please, Thaddius."

Torshael was obediently quiet while his bond worked. It took several minutes of combining his elemental gift with the healing "borrowed" from Torshael through the soul-bond, but Haiiro did finally melt the ice, slowly and one bit at a time, with a warm breath infused with his element, even as he restored the flesh underneath. Torshael couldn't help but be proud of him at how well he managed his first attempt at healing necromantic damage, especially as it was combined with the ice in such a unique fashion.

"There," Haiiro sighed as the last of the ice dripped onto the bar-top from Thaddius's fingers, then smiled. "Now you can say who it is."

"Finally," Torshael muttered under his breath, and deftly moved his foot out of the way of Haiiro's neatly planted hoof. 

Wiggling his wet fingers experimentally before taking up a towel to dry off his now-restored arm, Thaddius nodded in approval. "Fine skill, I must say. My sister would be intrigued. But... back to business, I suppose." Haiiro ducked his head in embarrassed pleasure at the praise. Thaddius added reassuringly to Tekasynos, who still looked utterly horrified, "It's certainly not your fault, you know."

"It's the fault of whoever cast those spells to begin with," Torshael agreed firmly. "Imagine an infernal able to create cold, anyway!"

Tekasynos didn't look particularly reassured, but Thaddius was continuing, anyway. The archmage sighed, stroking his beard in an obviously habitual gesture. "Yes, I can tell you right now who's doing this, and maybe even some of the motive behind it, but first, I think a bit of explanation is in order...." He began gathering up the broken glass pieces at he spoke. "The way the world-- this one, anyway-- works, there's three things to keep in mind: fate, luck, and choice. Each affects the other. Well, a few years ago, Inanna-- that's Kynn's goddess of fate-- got wind of the end times. Fated end of the world, you might say. Well, none of the gods wanted this, but their interference would do nothing to change the end result."

The idea of helpless gods was an ironic one, but since the world was obviously still there, they must have done something. "In order to change fate, there has to be free will," Thaddius continued. "So one of the gods found some talented mortal folks and started challenging them, to give them the skills they'd need to fight, but still giving them the choice to do so. Well, that group changed the fate of the world, luckily for all of us."

"I'll say," Torshael agreed in an undertone.

"Thing is, sometime during the whole mess, they got wind of these challenges, and who was giving them." Finished cleaning up the broken glass, Thaddius leaned on the bar to look seriously at all of them. "One of these people was a talented young mage from the northlands, an Inuun woman by the name of Ishtar. When she found out about the challenges, she chose to ignore the divine reasoning behind it and forgot that it was the greater good. She lost the reason for her fight. So while she continued along, she started to nurse a right horrible grudge against this god: Yaashir. She became distant and even colder, and when everything was said and done, she disappeared. Short time later, her friends discovered she'd murdered... dozens of people, everywhere they'd traveled, then covered it up. They knew it was her, though, simply by how the people died: they were frozen to death."

"You could have just said 'mad elemental mage' instead of all that," Tekasynos commented, his sharp tone belying his still shaken expression.

"If only it were so simple," Thaddius sighed, not taking offense. "She hated, and still hates, Yaashir. Every person she murdered was one of his followers. An entire tribe of the desert people were wiped out because of a shrine. I even heard among the Malakym, who are considered in legends to be children of Yaashir by his blood, there was some sort of 'freezing sickness' about two years ago, though it was never advanced enough to kill any of them."

"And you think this woman, Ishtar, is behind the attacks on Lady Ashka, Tekasynos's memory loss, and our involvement?" Haiiro asked. "Including the necromancy? What could she have against the lady-- or Tekasynos, for that matter, to use him like that?"

"I saw her briefly once, after she had 'disappeared'," Thaddius said heavily. "Her aura already reeked of death then, but she was gone before I could assess how far she had gotten. I've no doubt she could have done this. ... as for why, I can hazard a guess at least.... Ishtar is ruthless when she wants something. And she wants, at the very least, revenge, if not more. And she will use anyone as a means to that end. Whatever her plan is, it will not do anyone any good."

"I'll tell Tayne," Torshael said. "He's still with the Sentinels; they'll want to know about this. Do you know anything else about her that I could pass along? Where she is, what she could do?"

"Do you think she was the one making me think Tekasynos was involved?" Haiiro added anxiously. "Could she do something like that?"

"I've little doubt she would be capable of such things, given her very obvious advancement through the forbidden arts. She is very skilled with ice, and generally augments her spells with the element, regardless of what she's doing. It's never warm around her person, either." Thaddius hesitated, thinking. "As for where she might be, I can only imagine that she would be least conspicuous in the northlands, somewhere."

"Then whether it was the High One, Yulaan, or someone else who involved us," Torshael said smugly, "they picked good people to combat her. Haiiro's element is fire, and my brother's is heat. Give me a moment to talk to Tayne...."

"I do hope we can continue to help," Haiiro murmured. Everything seemed to fit just right, as if this was what they were supposed to be doing.

Thaddius's response was nothing more than a chuckle, though Ashka gave him a confident smile. "I'm sure you will do wonderfully." Tekasynos had no response at all, he just put his head down on the bar and covered it with his hands.

Haiiro gave Ashka a pleasantly embarrassed smile, back, not sure he deserved her confidence but glad of it all the same, but the infernal's dilemma was on his mind, as well. "Tekasynos," he began tentatively, "is there anything I can do to help you? Vouch for you to business partners, try to help heal your memory-- pay your bar tab?"

The last earned him a chuckle from Thaddius, but it took longer for Tekasynos to reply. Haiiro was about to give up and lap up the rest of his watermelon wine when the infernal finally turned his head slightly, looking sideways at him, and suggested, " ... let me come with you."

That hadn't been something Haiiro had expected, and he glanced at Torshael, who had his own head in his hands and eyes unfocused on the bar counter, either too deep in silent conversation with his distant brother to have noticed or leaving Haiiro to field the request on his own. "As long as you don't mind working with supernals," he answered hesitantly. "And can get out of the way if Torshael needs to use his Purity ability. I'd hate to see you hurt accidentally."

"I'll deal with it," Tekasynos replied. "But I want to give this woman, whoever she thinks she is, a piece of my mind-- part she hasn't punched a hole in yet, anyway." He smiled wryly at his own bad joke, and Haiiro, not expecting humor, was startled into a slightly-strained snicker.

"Thaddius," Torshael said, looking up again, "what does Ishtar look like?"

"Well, first off, she's an Inuun woman, which means she's got ears that look a might like bird wings. Dark blue marks on her skin, from Rohim Clan. Pale complexion. Her study of magic had some taboo... like... she can't wear red, and never cuts her hair so it's real long-- which looks cold blue, by the way, dunno if she dyes it. Had a thing for wearing black last I saw, and has some crazy-lookin' staff as well. That help any?"

"Well," Torshael said distractedly as he relayed the description, "it wasn't her Tayne saw. Must be someone working for her. That same woman who had breakfast with you, Tekasynos, went by the tower, waved at Tayne when he caught her eye, then moved off before he could disentangle himself from the magic he was working with to chase after her. She might still be in the city-- I'm letting him know she's an accomplice. Hopefully they can send some Sentinels after her...."

Thaddius nodded approval. "I wouldn't get my hopes up, though-- if she's anything like that assassin you described, she'll be gone the moment she knows someone's tailing her."

"She won't have a chance, if she tries to leave the city and the guards are warned of who she is and that she needs to be detained-- preferably for some unrelated reason, until a Sentinel or one of us shows up to speak with her," Torshael grinned. "We need some kind of direction to look for her mistress in, and at least some idea of why she chose Lady Ashka to-- er, focus her attention on-- would be useful."

"You have a good point, I'll give you that," Thaddius nodded in approval.

"Thanks ever so," Torshael replied, very carefully not rolling his eyes.


Chapter Nine

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