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

Chapter Fifteen

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


The book was, as promised, a journal, written by Ishtar herself, detailing what looked like the entire recent history of the mage, from a year or so before her trip to save the world-- an event which they found written about in detail. It all began with a prophecy from an oracle-- no, from the Oracle, whatever that distinction meant. This Oracle, the Blessed of Inanna, the goddess of fate, had seen a vision which he then passed on to Ishtar. She dutifully detailed it in her journal: dark skies, death and destruction, the end of the world. "Typical apocalyptic stuff," Tayne commented wryly to Haiiro.

Ishtar fairly quickly found the rest of the chosen people-- "There are usually more than one," Tayne explained, "because gods like people to work together, or something,"-- and got down to the business of saving the world. Their first stop was investigating a cult, halting its practice of human sacrifice, and that expanded into hunting down old ruins and forgotten relics, and even a supposedly dead god-- who, Ishtar noted in the margin, wasn't really dead, but asleep and wounded by his own weapon, in the hand of another god, so that he had to be removed from the workings of the world. Ishtar sounded like a completely different person here, talking about it: intrigued, even excited, by all the things she was learning.

"I would love to do something like this," Tayne muttered, sounding intrigued, himself.

"You fight demons for a living, and you want to go hunting for dead gods?" Haiiro asked skeptically. Tayne just glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and didn't answer, burying his nose back in the journal.

As Ishtar and her compatriots got more and more involved, the tone of the writing began to change. Individuals started to appear in the path of the quest, repeated confrontations with people who all seemed to have been influenced by one god in particular: predictably, given what they knew of Ishtar's obsession now, that god was Yaashir, the god of war. Each encounter saw Ishtar more resentful, more spiteful, until her revelation that the whole party was being manipulated. This, somehow, infuriated her, and every mention of Yaashir afterwards was rimmed with hate-- he was, to Ishtar, nothing but a foul beast out to pick a fight.

"Makes me wonder where she'd been for her theology lessons," Tayne frowned. "Gods are always manipulating people. It's what they do. At least this time, it was for the better."

After that revelation, Ishtar started breaking from the group, a little at a time. Here were the first-person records of the atrocities Thaddius had mentioned, all in the name of revenge on a deity who had done what any deity would do, with the noble cause in mind of putting off the last days of his planet. All the things Thaddius had mentioned and then some; Ishtar was busy in her free time: maiming, torture, murder... horrific things, inspiring terror with whatever she did. She even tried to warn her companions against doing what they'd been told to do, furious at being "played like fools and puppets", but they ignored her and, thankfully for everyone else, succeeded in saving the world.

The culmination of the quest was an epic battle with a great serpent, the "Devourer of Worlds" and the "God-Eater".

"What a name," Tayne marveled. "Wouldn't wanna meet him."

"Me, neither," Haiiro replied emphatically. "We're nowhere near as strong as those people."

The heroes-- including the reluctant Ishtar and, surprisingly, Yaashir himself-- battled the serpent. Yaashir was grievously wounded and had to retreat, but the party still managed to stave off apocalypse. Ishtar's only comment on his bravery, support, and misfortune was sadistic glee that he had been hurt and fevered notes on exactly how the event had occurred. Much like the "dead god" of myth, it had been with his own weapon, though in the hands of a mortal. She didn't bother explaining why it had happened, or what the motivation was for it.

Everything from that point onward was dripping with venom, from rants about how Yaashir had no respect for their lives and never considered how their futures would be if he hadn't called on them, to multiple-- and subsequently scratched out-- ideas on how to kill him. Her study of necromancy was just a means to that end: she didn't even want death to stop her from completing her mission to destroy the god of war. She even underwent a ritual to make herself into a lich, whatever that was, before undertaking her first viable plan to kill the still-wounded god.

Apparently that plan didn't work too well, because the next entry, several weeks later, indicated-- after much raging and swearing-- that while her mission had failed, the ritual had worked. Her body had died, but she still remained. She didn't actually say how she had been thwarted-- "Demons take her!" Tayne growled at the omission-- but she did say it was some "bastard halfbreed Malakym" who had done it. Unfortunately, neither he nor Haiiro had any idea who that could have been.

Ishtar didn't write in her journal again for months, but the next entry was a new, full-fledged plan to-- yes-- kill Yaashir. First, she enlisted the aid of "an underworld beast in the guise of an assassin". That, of course, was Zu. She was charged with killing numerous individuals, intending to incite a war that would get Yaashir's attention while she prepared the strike that would end him. Zu agreed, obviously, but her reasoning was terrible to contemplate: if Yaashir died, his power had to be passed on to someone. The black infernal intended that place for herself.

"No," Tayne said, shaking his head numbly. "That would be-- that can't happen. Do you have any idea what an infernal as a deity would be like?"

"I can imagine," Haiiro assured him, "and we'll make sure it doesn't happen."

It came as something of a shock when they found themselves mentioned-- not by name, but it was obvious who was referred to-- in the next entry. Ishtar raged again, briefly this time, about how she wasn't ready, being only halfway through her impressive list of assassinations, but how she couldn't pass up the chance to capture an ignorant, naive Exalted-- "Hey!" Haiiro snorted, offended-- for her plans. She needed the holy blood of a kirin to bless her weapon, making it essentially divine in power, in order to harm the deity in the same way his own weapon had. But, with no way to summon a kirin, an Exalted's blood would do.

Haiiro's blood would do.

And there, the journal stopped-- and there, everything they knew began.

Haiiro looked up from the book with a little shiver of his skin. The very thought of being the instrument of killing a god was horrifying-- and he'd walked right into her trap. At least, with the help of his bond and friends, they'd gotten out of that trap....

And now they were liable to walk right back into the jaws of the demon, to try and stop them, again.

"I didn't know someone could hate that much," he said softly.

"Oh, they can," Tayne said grimly. "At least we know what she's up to, now. And we know to warn any of your kin that they might find themselves hunted. Though I honestly expect she'll be fixated on you, now.... It might be easier for her to find someone else-- maybe, anyway; I don't know how easy your sibs are to find, really-- but even if not, I doubt someone this obsessive already will go for 'easy' when she has her mind set on something, unless you literally disappear."

"At least I'm forewarned," Haiiro sighed. "So, we know what she wants to do. What now?"

"Thwart her however we can," Tayne shrugged. "What else? Get everyone she's named as a target into some kind of protective custody, first off. Get her plan made public, at least to as many government leaders as possible. If she can't start her war, everything falls apart."

"She'll just make another plan," Haiiro pointed out dubiously. "We can't just leave things as they are. And even without her war, if she gets a weapon with that kind of power, all she needs to do is get another opportunity."

"Well, then, we use the time we earn to find her. Check every hideout she's mentioned in this book for her-- they're better leads than we have right now, at any rate. We'll have to get some more heads involved with this whole thing with Zu, though.... Ishtar's not that tough, not if all three of us worked together--"

"Four, whenever Tekasynos wakes up," Haiiro reminded him, refusing to think he might not wake up in time to join them.

"--right, right, four of us," Tayne agreed hastily, glancing at the infernal's sickroom door. "But I'm stumped about Zu. She's far too powerful to destroy... we'll just have to find some way to get rid of her long enough to get rid of Ishtar for good."

"Well, it's still more of a plan than we had an hour ago," Haiiro said.

"Yep, and I'd better find somebody in charge, to get the word around. Don't let Torshael wallow in guilt for too long."

Haiiro smiled a bit. "I won't."


Chapter Sixteen

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