Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Tayne was officially impressed by this Thaddius person. Not only had he completely won over Haiiro and Torshael, not only was he both friendly and knowledgeable, not only did his inn easily accommodate both a kirin-dragon and a lion, but he came up with exactly what Tayne had been craving. Tayne hadn't even had to ask. In fact, he hardly had time to even to guess whether he had that particular kind of meat and vegetable combination in stock, before the man was informing him that the meal was already in the oven, cooking.
While he ate and let his brother and Haiiro question Thaddius about the frozen north-- the man was quite interested in the events, particularly the "Zu" person and her supposed crush on the infernal Tekasynos, and had quite a bit of advice on how to proceed once they reached the tower-- Tayne ran over his own plans in his head. The Sentinels, being a local branch of the larger Order of the Dragon, would be getting in touch with some more area-specific members of the Order while his little family filled their stomachs. He'd agreed to the request that the northern branches be alerted, and for one of them to meet them at the teleport site just long enough for Tayne to establish some kind of communication, in case of an emergency. It was always nice to have back-up. He listened to Thaddius's advice with only a sliver of his attention-- most of it was quickly taken up by his fabulous meal-- but found a lot of it to be definitely sound.
No using magic close to the tower, in case of traps and wards: check. He wondered if psionics counted-- and wondered if Haiiro's abilities when it came to being unnoticed counted as "magic"-- but he expected his own control of heat did count. He could keep himself warm without setting off any alarms, he expected, and Haiiro and the infernal shouldn't have a problem, given their own Fire element, but Torshael was on his own. Poor fellow.
No mentioning Ishtar's name to the natives: check. The Rohim and Calu clans of the Inuun people-- the ones nearest where Tekasynos would be teleporting them-- might have been on friendly enough terms with each other, but apparently no one was on friendly terms with Ishtar. Tayne could actually see where stating they were on their way to confront Ishtar might have been useful, but if there were spies anywhere within the Inuun clans, also potentially dangerous. So that one stood, as well.
Dress warmly, since day is cold in the north and night is colder: well... sort of check. Tayne finally-- being mostly done with dinner-- added his own voice to the conversation at that point. "I think we'll be all right, at least for most of the time," he'd chuckled. "Heat is what I do."
They headed back to the tower square to find Tekasynos waiting for them, swathed in furs and looking larger than before in them, human-formed or not. For thick furs, though, they were remarkably stream-lined and well-cared-for-- testament to the infernal's lack of magic, fire-aligned or not, or at least a testament to being relatively well off. Well, even if he did lack control over his element, Tayne still wasn't sure what he thought of bringing the infernal along for the ride, particularly as he had been so heavily influenced by the "other side". Though he seemed innocuous enough, for an infernal, Tayne didn't really trust Tekasynos not to have some kind of horrible reaction to being exposed to the people who'd modified his memory-- at best, he expected blind fury and unrestrained attacks; at worst, outright outside control on the part of his manipulator-- and resolved to keep a close eye on him when they got closer to the tower, no matter how much faith Haiiro seemed to put in him.
While Torshael spoke with the infernal and Haiiro drifted over to the dragon who'd lost her bond, nosing her sympathetically, Tayne confirmed their meeting with the Order member in the north with the captain, got a name and description so he'd know who he was supposed to be meeting.
"Ghaurin of Irel," the captain told him simply, along with a detailed description and, added bonus, a mental image of the man. He was a native clansman, and though he was just one, not a member of a dragon-bonded pair, he had enough contacts and communications lines to mobilize them if needed.
"Thank you," Tayne nodded. "We'll be in touch if we find anything; let us know through this Ghaurin if you find anything?"
"Of course," the captain replied, and Tayne padded back to rejoin his brother.
Haiiro drifted back a moment later, looking a little sad and shaken, and more than a little touched. "You all right?" he asked, tail flicking with concern.
"I'm fine," Haiiro answered, shaking his head slowly. "The dragoness... she's so... sad, so hurt now. But she... I don't know how to say it all. Just that she wishes us well in tracking down who killed her bond."
Torshael gave the kirin's nose a fond stroke. "Ready to go?"
Tekasynos led them out of the city-- the nearest gates were closer and less likely to be crowded than the nearest telecircle-- and Haiiro did the honors of teleporting them again, based on Tekasynos's memory of their rendezvous point, the northern city of Cirni.
The first thing noticeable was the bitter cold, aided and abetted by a stiff wind that whistled through snowy streets and around their ears. Tayne gave himself a vigorous shake, fluffing out his fur, before stepping up his own personal body heat to compensate. He could sense Haiiro, beside him, promptly doing the same, though he had only his mane and wings to help keep that heat in: the scales weren't as effective as fur. Torshael, however, burst out in vigorous shivering before Tayne, being the considerate brother that he was, gave his body heat a boost, too. At least he hadn't shifted back, merely altering his appearance to include slightly warmer clothing; keeping a slender human warm and keeping a massive supernal warm were two very different things.
As expected, they'd arrived in a city square, thankfully a part not too horribly crowded with people-- because, he noted belatedly, they were in the middle of another teleportation circle. This particular city square was nothing compared to the City of the Sun, with smaller and less elegant buildings and snow piled everywhere. A few plants, somehow managing to survive the cold, climbed walls or sprouted from cracks, camouflaged in pale blues and greens. People moved about their business, as city-folk tended to do, without paying much attention to the newcomers. Tayne recognized a few humans and elves of the more familiar variety, all dressed much like the infernal in thick furs and many layers, but by far the majority were the Inuun, who didn't seem as bothered by the cold and certainly didn't dress as if they were. They were just as Thaddius and the Sentinel captain described them: human-like with strange markings, feathers in their hair, and small wings instead of ears.
Tekasynos stepped out of the circle first, unsurprising given he was the one familiar with the area, with Haiiro immediately following. Tayne nudged his brother down. "Can't stand here forever, cold or not," he muttered to him. Torshael just glared briefly before sticking his nose in the air and moving of his own volition.
Waiting for them outside the circle, by himself, was an Inuun man which perfectly matched the description and image Tayne had been given of Ghaurin of Irel: blonde hair, pale feathers, red markings, and even the earthen brown of his clothing. Tayne sidled cat-like around his brother and approached him. "Ghaurin of Irel?" he asked. "Tayne Peregrin. Thanks for coming out at such short notice."
Ghaurin nodded, offering the whole of them a short bow, apparently unsurprised by forms and numbers. Tayne spread his wings and dipped his head, in return, and he guessed that Torshael and Haiiro, behind him, were doing the same. "It was no trouble," the Inuun said, words slightly clipped with, Tayne guessed, regional accent. "I am pleased to be of assistance."
Torshael came forward, then. "May we speak a moment somewhere out of the wind?" he asked. "We'd like your opinion of our destination."
"Of course." Ghaurin motioned for them to follow and led them down one of the side streets. The wind continued to whistle-- it was, perhaps, even a little stronger now that the buildings to either side of the street were funneling it-- and snow started to fall. By the time they arrived at what was likely their destination, a large building that looked vaguely like a meeting hall and was decorated with the familiar dragon motif of the Order, they were all liberally dusted with snow. Tayne gave himself another shake before entering, not wanting to track snow around.
The doors were quite large enough for Haiiro and then some; Tayne expected that even Torshael could have walked through at full height and not have had to duck. Ghaurin led them into a fairly casual-looking meeting room where not only was it moderately warm and definitely not windy, there was a friendly looking little fire set in one wall. Torshael made straight for it and stuck his fingers up to the flames. They were white with chill.
"Sorry, brother," Tayne grinned ruefully, "didn't mean to forget about your hands.... Promise I'll be more careful next time."
"Next time I'll complain," Torshael commented, "since I expect it will be for longer, and I would prefer not to lose anything to frostbite." He paused in warming up his frigid fingers to pull out the map and lay it out on a small table beside one of the chairs. "This is where we're headed," he told Ghaurin. "I don't suppose you can tell us anything we might expect en route? The map isn't particularly detailed."
"Hmm...." Ghaurin gave the map a brief once over, thankfully not commenting on the odd writing or pictures "Zu" had included. "Give me a moment, would you?"
"Certainly," Torshael nodded, going back to the fire. Haiiro even stuck his nose over his shoulder to bask in the natural heat. Tayne didn't bother, sitting himself down beside the map's table and curling his tail over his paws. He just drew some of the fire's heat to him: much easier. He even offered to do the same for Tekasynos, in case the infernal didn't want to get too close to a Favored, even though said Favored was hogging the fireplace. When he declined, with a look that said he thought Tayne was crazy for even offering, Tayne just shrugged and let him be.
Ghaurin came back a few minutes later, after everyone was sufficiently warmed up again, with a map rolled under his arm. Tayne padded over curiously as he crouched down and rolled it out on the floor; he was the best of them with maps and direction, possibly because they simply interested him more. This map was far more detailed, including location notes and what looked like some very precise topography. He couldn't help but notice that there were no markings of roads where they were headed. Torshael and Haiiro joined him a moment later, the former reluctantly and the latter dutifully.
"According to your map," Ghaurin said, pointing to the foothills of some very impressive mountains, "you're heading here. The terrain is actually quite open between here and there. There are no roads out that way, because the further north you go, the colder it becomes. You may encounter wild beasts before you get too far north, or possibly a caravan or two. There's a trade route that runs through part of that area."
Tayne listened with one ear, more interested in the location of their final destination, the X on their own map. He overlaid the two maps in his head and found, to his disgruntlement, that the X corresponded with what looked like a dead-end ravine between the foothills. The terrain rose sharply right behind it, indicating nasty-looking mountains right in the tower's backyard. He frowned at it, annoyed by the obvious thought to defense the builders had taken into account. If they were clever, there would be lookouts on the highest point to either side, as well, to warn of advancing armies and the like. In a full assault, only a frontal attack would be allowed for by the terrain, and archers could be perfectly positioned to pick off assailants on three sides.
But a small group, flying? That would have better chances of getting close, unnoticed.
"How long would you expect the journey to take?" Haiiro asked. "I expect everyone will wind up riding me--" Tekasynos gave him a sharp and narrow look, as if the thought disturbed him; actually, practical though it was, the thought disturbed Tayne, too, though he forbore to comment, "--so take it at least at a horse's pace."
"Depends on the weather," Ghaurin answered. "Best travel, with clear skies and minimal wind, would take about three days, with appropriate rest in between. If the storm picks up, or worse, if you hit an incoming blizzard, you're looking at over a week, to be safe."
"Are there any places you would recommend waiting out the night or any blizzards that come our way, en route?" Haiiro continued. "Or would our best bet be to hunker down under the snow with whatever magical heat we could conjure, ourselves?"
"You'd be hard pressed to find anywhere specific. Travelers up that way move in well-prepared groups, that dig in as soon as they see a blizzard coming. That would have to be my advice on the matter."
"All right," Haiiro nodded. "Thank you." He glanced at the rest of them. "Would we rather start off tonight, or wait until morning?"
Tayne shifted to scratch at his shoulder with one hind paw. "Morning might be safest," he suggested between scratches. "Give us time to get some supplies, too. And for me to memorize this map."
"We'll be exposed to nights out there after this one," Torshael shrugged. "It doesn't really matter whether we experience one more. And the less time we spend here, the safer the lady will be." Tekasynos didn't even seem to be listening, gazing out the window at the increasing snowfall and slowly growing dark of evening and leaving the planning to the supernals.
"I will do my best to assist you, regardless of the decision you make," Ghaurin assured them.
Tayne gave Tekasynos's window a glance, himself, then sighed. "We might as well head out now. Haiiro and I can keep us all warm, no matter how cold it gets, and we might as well get a move on." He cast the infernal a sideways glance. "What if Zu gets impatient, waiting for us to bring her 'sexy guy'?"
Tekasynos growled under his breath. "Tayne," Torshael sighed, exasperated, but Tayne ignored him.
"Ghaurin, do you have a copy of this map I could bring with us, and any supplies you might suggest we bring?"
"You can have this one," Ghaurin nodded. "There are others in storage. As for supplies, if you can keep yourselves warm, then travel as light as you can manage. Slowing down under weight would not be in your best interest."
"Some food, then," Haiiro suggested. "Preferably meat; we're all largely carnivores. And a cooking kit. I don't think there's anything else we can't manage for ourselves."
"And thanks for this," Tayne added, nodding to the map.
Torshael, the one with hands at the moment, rolled it up for him. "We can probably be on our way within the hour," he said with satisfaction.