Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Torshael wasn't paying much attention to his brother and bond outside the sickroom. He heard Tayne's receipt of the journal, noted it absently, then let him and Haiiro read it and glean what they could. Whatever they learned, they would pass on to him later; Haiiro was a better tactician, really, and Tayne would know who to contact about what. He was busy, at the moment.
Not that "busy" would have looked like much, to anyone else. He had his feet propped on Tekasynos's bed, knees bent to support his elbows, and his fingers interlaced under his chin while he watched the silent sleeper through half-closed eyes, in a silence of his own. But though he was nearly as still as the infernal, his mind was spinning in a tight circle of guilt, worry, and prayer.
What good was a Favored supernal if his prayers weren't answered, after all, even if those prayers were for the swift recovery-- and personal forgiveness-- of an infernal?
He wasn't sure how long it had been when he started hearing voices again from the hall, but when he did, he shifted and sighed, shutting his eyes for a moment and resting them against his fingers. I know I didn't have a choice, he told himself, and it probably saved my brother's life. But....
With another sigh, he looked up again, and for an instant, he could have sworn he saw someone leaning against the wall in the far corner. He blinked, looking sharply over at the figure, but then it was gone. He squinted across the room, wondering if he was imagining things, now-- he hadn't exactly slept well, busy with nightmares of infernals and blood and bones, so it wouldn't exactly surprise him. But normally he didn't actually see things, and he was remarkably certain that he had seen a person there.
A faint rustle of blankets and a quiet whine from the bed, however, neatly distracted him from phantom presences. His gaze snapped back to the bed to find Tekasynos's eyes open, just a crack-- but with an infernal's glowing gaze, it was nearly impossible to mistake for anything else.
"Tekas?" he asked, very quietly, dropping his feet and leaning forward anxiously.
"Nnnn...." The infernal's first word was a muted grunt, brows furrowing slightly as he focused on Torshael's face. He looked, if anything, confused. " ... you're still alive?" he mumbled, " ... or did I finally finish dying?"
Torshael laughed, softly, full of relief and gratitude. "Tekasynos, I could kiss you! --But I won't," he added hastily, forestalling the inevitable protest, though really, he looked too tired and stunned for much protesting. "Yes, I'm still alive, and so are you. You're even healed."
"What's going-- Tekas?" Tayne poked his head in at the sound of voices, blinking at the newly-awakened infernal. "Awake at last, are we?"
" ... headache," was Tekasynos's only reply, lifting a hand to rub the side of his head before letting the arm flop back down to the blankets.
"I'll get the healer," Haiiro exclaimed from the door, and cantered off, hooves clicking on the floor as he went.
"How do you feel?" Torshael asked. "Besides the headache?"
" ... okay," came the brief answer. " ... what happened... after?"
"What's the last thing you remember?" Torshael countered.
" ... you apologized." The infernal rubbed at his temple again.
"Ah. I... used my ability, as a Favored supernal. Purity. I was afraid it would...."
"Kill you," Tayne supplied mercilessly from the doorway, then grinned. "Apparently you weren't evil enough, though."
Tekasynos was silent, at that.
The healer arrived at the room a moment later, before the silence got too awkward, Haiiro trailing along behind her, and carefully slipped around the two supernals-- they helpfully got out of her way-- to give the infernal a quick examination and a little relief for his headache. He certainly didn't protest. Haiiro caught her just outside the door, before she disappeared again, asking politely for her opinion of his condition. She didn't seem at all concerned, expressing an opinion that he might experience some fatigue over the course of the next day or so, but otherwise his wakefulness meant he was definitely on the mend. Haiiro let her go with a smile, thanks, and relief.
Inside, Torshael was relieved to find Tekasynos looking more awake and comfortable after the healer's ministrations. "I'm sorry," he said softly once they were alone again. "About the Purity...."
"You apologized once already," Tekasynos said with a glance at him, somehow sounding neither distressed nor angry. "There's no need to do so again."
Torshael, having expected fury over a change he hadn't asked for and probably didn't want-- after all, it wasn't as if Tekasynos didn't know what the alternative to death was, in this case-- wasn't sure how to take acceptance. He blinked at him with a tentative smile. "I was expecting to be yelled at. You're not upset?"
"You'd be surprised how much thinking you can do when you're certain you're going to die." Tekasynos smiled, albeit very faintly. "I heard you apologize the first time... and I decided... I wouldn't be angry about it, even if I didn't wake up again."
Torshael shut his eyes for a moment, then smiled more unreservedly. "Thank you."
"Don't see why you'd have any reason to thank me," the infernal muttered, pushing himself up to lean against the headboard, mostly sitting. Torshael resisted the impulse to help. "But, for what it's worth, I'm glad the three of you are doing well." Before Tayne could make a sardonic comment about the sappiness-- it was obvious he wanted to-- Tekasynos continued, "What happens now?"
"We fill you in on what happened," Tayne said, coming further in and leaning against the wall at the foot of the bed, "and what we just found out."
"The journal was helpful?" Torshael asked, adding for Tekasynos's benefit, "They found Ishtar's personal journal in the castle."
"More helpful than we would have hoped it to be," Tayne grinned. "You tell him what he missed when he passed out, and then I'll get to the new stuff."
"Ishtar's body was destroyed in the Purification," Torshael began, "and Zu-- well, she stopped fighting, anyway. Any damage I caused her regenerated, anyway," he commented sourly. "She took Ishtar's skull-- and, presumably, her spirit, as that managed to live on and scream at us-- and disappeared. We got the Order in to handle things, after that. They've been exploring that fortress and removing the items my Purification didn't destroy."
" ... delightful," was Tekasynos's wry comment on all that.
"Not the best of circumstances," Tayne agreed. "However, we're one step ahead of where we were, at least: this journal," he held up the little black, leather-bound book, "tells us everything Ishtar has done and was planning to do."
With that, he launched into a summary of the journal, particularly the important points like Ishtar's plan, the way she intended to kill Yaashir, Zu's intentions towards godhood-- which earned a gasp from Torshael-- and, as an afterthought, the ritual of lichdom Ishtar had mentioned.
"Wait-- she's a lich?" Torshael repeated blankly.
"That's what she said, yeah," Tayne nodded, and Torshael slowly smiled. "What?"
"I think I know how we can stop her, then. Does she mention a phylactery?"
"Uh, yeah, just briefly...." Tayne flipped pages until he found it, and nodded confirmation. "Just says it's safe where she keeps it. Why? What's a-- phylactery?"
"It's her heart," Torshael said, sounding very satisfied. "To stop her, all one has to do is destroy it."
Haiiro, head still stuck in from the doorway, started laughing softly. "Her heart. Oh, High One... her heart?"
"What's so funny?" Tayne asked, confused.
"I had a thought, during the battle-- I guess it was more inspired than I thought it was--" he chuckled, shaking his head ruefully. "I thought-- her body is dead, her mind is insane, the only thing left was her heart. She would be vulnerable through her heart. I just misinterpreted it.... Father must think I'm horribly stupid."
"Father?" Torshael repeated.
"I'll explain later. It's not important right now."
Tayne looked dubious, but he shrugged and turned to Tekasynos, who was staring out the window at the falling snow. "Tekas," he began, "back there, Zu said she gave you back your memories. What did you remember?"
After a somewhat uncomfortable pause Tekasynos, who didn't look away from the window, said slowly, "Unless you're asking about her, in particular... then it's nothing you need to know."
The brothers exchanged a look. Sensitive subject, perhaps? "Well, anything you happen to know about her would be helpful, yes," Tayne said with a polite cough. "I did, in particular, want to know what it was she wanted with you, and how she got involved with you to begin with."
The infernal sighed. "I was hoping you weren't going to say that, but I suppose, if you think it's of any importance....." He reluctantly looked back at them and explained. "By nature, we-- infernals-- have a somewhat matriarchal hierarchy. The females get that they want." Torshael nodded; that much he knew, from his studies and own observation. "Blacks are rare enough, but a female black... well... you don't say 'no' to a female black. Ever. When 'Zu'-- " the emphasis suggested what Torshael had already guessed, that "Zu" was not really her name, "--decided she wanted me, I spit it in her face. She would have torn me apart if she wasn't so keen on getting her way. I, however, had no intention of her letting enforce her choice." He coughed uncomfortably, and Torshael belatedly realized just what it was she wanted: not service, not alliance, but sex.
::Sexy, indeed,:: Tayne shared privately with him, and he had to cough, as well, to keep from smiling. There wasn't much he could do about his blush, though. Tekasynos's expression was clear: that was not to be mentioned again, much less commented on. If it had been Torshael, he wouldn't want to mention it again, either.
"It was fate or chance I ended up here, I really couldn't care less which it was," Tekasynos continued in a more normal tone of voice. "And now that I can recall the memories she tried to hide from me... Zu followed me. Not right away, but eventually. She came along with several others, hiding among them. I don't know if you're aware, but to my knowledge, most blacks can not only alter their size, but shift their colors as well. For all their strength, not even the Order would have noticed her like that."
"We'd heard rumors, but this is the first time they've been unequivocally confirmed," Tayne admitted, glancing at Torshael.
"Blacks also tend to attract other infernals," Tekasynos added, "so it's likely that she has a horde of allies somewhere. It's obvious to me now that she knew where I was the entire time, and repeatedly propositioned me in more subtle ways, altering my memory after each failure so I wouldn't know how close she was, or what she was up to. Right now, she's threading her claws through every dark corner of this world she can find. She's got more than just infernals as her minions, as well, and if what you say is true, Tayne-- that she's vying for godhood-- if she gets what she wants, you can kiss your City and your High One goodbye."
"At the very least, it would be a terrible divine war," Torshael acknowledged grimly. "No wonder the High One sanctioned us coming here for Haiiro."
"We've got to stop her," Haiiro exclaimed.
"Stopping Ishtar will at least ruin this plan of hers," Tayne pointed out. "I'd better get people working on this journal. I'll meet up with you all later and we'll talk about our next move."
"All right," Torshael agreed, and Haiiro nodded his own agreement, moving aside to let him by. Tekasynos said nothing-- he just stared out the window in silence, probably trying to forget his embarrassment. Tayne gave him a sympathetic grin, which he probably didn't see, then took his leave.