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

Chapter Eighteen

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


Haiiro didn't have long to wait before Tekasynos passed the book back to him: the infernal merely copied out the names to write out his observations on, then passed it along. One of the names-- or something on the page-- made him chuckle, and Haiiro perked his ears curiously.

::Ask him later,:: Torshael suggested, ::when we're going over the names.::

Agreeing that seeking out Ishtar's phylactery was more important than sharing Tekasynos's amusement, Haiiro knelt on the floor beside the map while Torshael settled opposite him with the journal. Haiiro took a moment to close his eyes and send a hopeful request to Yulaan, wherever he was, while Torshael flipped through the pages in search of the first location Ishtar mentioned. We can use any help you're free and willing to give, Father, he thought. I promise I won't be so dense about it, this time.

The first location was the home of the Oracle Ishtar first visited. Haiiro felt absolutely nothing, no inspiration, no interest, just a faint self-consciousness under Torshael's hopeful stare and a little nervousness that his ploy wouldn't work. They dutifully marked the location to the best of their ability, then moved on. ::It wouldn't make a very good hiding place for a heart, really,:: Torshael reassured him.

The same thing happened with the places Ishtar met her fellow heroes, and Haiiro was starting to feel a little discouraged until the journal moved the group to the desert in Talma, on the western-most continent. It was where the group had their first major battle, with the cult and the human sacrifices. Ishtar returned there later, Haiiro recalled, wiping the remains of the cult out entirely and freezing the underground sections completely to use it for a base. She'd abandoned it entirely after she'd died there, in the first failed attempt at killing Yaashir.

The minute Torshael read the name off, Haiiro knew: this place was different. He could could feel his ears perk and skin twitch with interest, almost of their own accord. There was something right about that place, a glimmer of hopefulness, a nudge to investigate further. "That one!" he exclaimed. "Mark that one differently." At Torshael's curious look, he shared the thing he was feeling, and his bond's brows went up, impressed. He marked the place on the map-- Haiiro corrected him with a slightly more exact location, somehow knowing, or more like feeling, where it should have been-- with a note for future research.

The next location to catch Haiiro's eager attention was a forest in Ilmendor, on the eastern-most continent on the map. Ishtar described it as holding an entrance into Mori, the underground country below Ilmendor and the home of some "darker" elves. She'd gone there to visit the elf rumored to be the strongest mage in Kynn, Ixin Del'Arammago. Torshael marked the entrance on the map, as Ishtar didn't say how far down Ixin was, and Haiiro had no further inspiration as to just how far into the underground kingdom they were supposed to go.

The third-- and last-- of the places Haiiro felt needed further investigation also gave him a chill. It was a portal, one that supposedly led to an "otherworldly" place, in this case the resting place of ancient, sleeping dragons. The only one of those portals she wrote of was at the end of a dangerous, frozen, underwater tunnel, and Haiiro knew without a doubt that it would be dangerous. But he also thought that it was more of a "just in case" measure than a true necessity.... 

"She doesn't say where it is," Torshael protested warily, still sharing in his feelings, but Haiiro could lower his muzzle over the waters off the northern shore of Khelek-- the frozen country they were in, at the moment-- and know that it was there.

"It'll be even colder, there," Haiiro commented softly.

They came to the end of the book without another locale specifically marked for investigation, and Torshael shut the book with a sigh. "Well, at least we know where we're going... do you suppose we'll have to go to all three?"

"I doubt Father-- or whoever," he amended at Torshael's doubtful expression, though he was quite sure who was giving him nudges in the right direction, "would have pointed them out if they weren't important, though I don't know for sure if 'important' means... visiting, exactly."

The sound of Tekasynos's scratching quill from the bed, loud for a moment in the silence shared between them, finally stopped, and both of them glanced over at him. To their surprise, he was just pulling off a pair of black, wire-framed glasses. Haiiro stared, completely surprised at the sight, but Torshael managed to sound less amused than he really was as he asked, "Finished?"

"It's as good as it's going to get," Tekasynos replied, offering the papers for Torshael to take. He scanned over them briefly, Haiiro sharpening his vision to see it, as well.

Tekas's list started with the victims Ishtar hadn't killed yet-- wise, that was-- with Lady Ashka at the top and the note that she was the Kynnese equivalent to a regional queen for the City of the Sun's territory. Others included the youngest daughter of one of the Inuun Clans' leaders, the fiance of an important elven lord, a male Tahrim serving as an ambassador in one of the other regions of Talma, and others. Very few of them were directly in power, but they were all close to people in power, so as to incite the wrath of those they left behind. Even as a complete stranger to Kynnese politics, Haiiro could see connections that, with a nudge in a certain direction, would cause a terrible mess of blame and, quite likely, the war Ishtar wanted.

About half of the list was made up of people Ishtar and Zu had already finished with. Tekasynos had written how they'd died or vanished, according to public knowledge. These weren't as important, politically, but they increased tension, suggested blame, and prepared the world-wide stage for the worst possible reaction to later assassinations.

One name in particular, however, had no notes beside it at all, except for one to say Ishtar had marked it in bold. "Tekas," Torshael asked, puzzled, "who is Hayate?"

"I was actually surprised to see that name on there," Tekas smiled. "Hayate is a Malakym Lord, a leader of his people. They're often referred to as 'the children of Yaashir', according to their myths. I mean, I can see why she'd want to kill him, that'd be a pretty big blow to them, but...." He chuckled. "That guy's got a track record over a century long. He's never been beaten in a fight, and that says a lot: the Malakym Lord is a position claimed by strength and skill. You don't stay ruler of your people if you're not strong enough to defend the title."

"Well, there's a first time for everything," Torshael said, "especially with a black infernal involved. He'll get warned and offered protection just like everyone else, I expect."

"Didn't say he shouldn't be warned," Tekasynos shrugged, "but he'd probably be the most prepared, at least."

Torshael nodded. "Small blessings. Thank you for this, Tekas."

The infernal scratched his cheek, looking faintly... embarrassed? Yes, definitely looked a little embarrassed. "It wasn't hard," he equivocated.

"It's still more than we could have done," Torshael said firmly, "and it's something to hand the Order to get started on. Which I'd better do," he added, heading for the door. "I'll be back. Haiiro, you can fill him in on what we got accomplished."

As Torshael disappeared out the door, Tekasynos rubbed his head again silently. Haiiro watched him a moment, then asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah... just... feeling tired again, I suppose...."

"You only just woke up," Haiiro said, a little concerned. "Maybe we should let you get some sleep, continue this later."

"I'll be fine...." Tekasynos continued to rub at his temple. " ... just feeling... strange, I guess."

"Well, you were unconscious for something like fourteen hours," Haiiro told him reasonably, "after getting one of the biggest shocks of your life on top of the worst beating of your life. Of course you're feeling strange. The healer said you'd get tired easily."

Tekas chuckled briefly, a surprisingly relaxed sound. "I suppose that puts things in perspective, eh?" He finally gave in and leaned back in bed, closing his eyes. Haiiro settled himself beside the door to keep anyone from disturbing him and, really, to get a little rest, himself. He was surprisingly sleepy, for having been awake not even half a day. But then, Torshael hadn't slept well, which of course resonated across the bond. And besides... it had still been a busy half a day....

What felt like just a moment later-- or maybe a lifetime later; he wasn't sure-- Haiiro stared up at a starry night sky, feeling the fog coiling around his hooves all the way up to his knees, and wondered idly what he was doing on an unfamiliar misty plain in the middle of the night. He looked back down again, and stared again: several long strides away, someone was watching him, a pale kirin with a long mane and fluffy ears and--

"Father?" he said with a start.

"Haiiro," Yulaan replied, approaching a few steps-- and somehow arriving right before him. Well, he was dreaming. He thought. 

Haiiro realized to his embarrassment that, at full growth, he was now taller than the kirin god. He lowered his head shyly, reaching out for a touch to his sire's nose; he met the touch halfway and Haiiro resisted the childish impulse to wriggle happily. "So it has been you?" he asked hopefully. "Helping me? Is this real?"

"Of course," Yulaan chuckled, a sound almost like the friendly tinkling of bells. "You asked for it, did you not?"

"I suppose so. Yes."

"And I suppose this is as real as a dream can get," Yulaan continued. "I am watching out for you and your friends as best I can. You've made me very proud."

That time he couldn't resist the childish urge and he beamed. "Thank you, Father.... Are you the one who called me here, too?"

"Yes," Yulaan admitted, "though I wish it had been under better circumstances. It was necessary, though I imagine you've already figured that out."

"Father, I don't know if we can do it," Haiiro said nervously. "The infernal-- she's so much stronger than we are. Did you see what she did? She shook off Torshael's strongest power like... like it was nothing."

"You will not be alone for this, I promise," Yulaan said reassuringly.

Haiiro dropped his head again, horn touching his father's shyly. "I'm glad, Father.... It's good to know you're watching, too."

"I'm not the only one looking out for you, Haiiro," Yulaan smiled fondly. "I shouldn't keep you long. Your friends will be returning... and you're likely to find a-- surprise when you wake," he added with an unexpectedly playful expression.

"A... surprise?" Haiiro repeated blankly.

"Mmmhmm." Yulaan's expression was supremely innocent-- so why did Haiiro not trust it at all? He eyed his sire wryly. "It isn't just my opinion that you've earned it... but you'll have to see for yourself to understand."

And then the sound of a gently closing door shattered the dream-field and Haiiro lifted his head, shaking it free of the last strands of sleep-- and struggled to focus. Everything looked strange, and for a moment he was seeing double until the two visions of the room merged. "Father?" he muttered, momentarily confused. Even when his eyes focused, he couldn't see right: everything was deeper, somehow, and there were blind spots to either side of his head, where he should have had better peripheral vision. And everything seemed so much bigger....

And, he realized with a shiver-- which also felt wrong-- the floor was remarkably cold. He tried to push himself up and slipped as his legs didn't want to work right. Irritated at himself-- he didn't feel sleepy enough to be this clumsy!-- he tried to gather his hooves under him... only to find he had no hooves. He had... hands. With fingernails. And feet. And long hair that hung in his face, which he was far too shocked to brush away. And much too busy staring at his fingernails, sitting back on his haunches-- no, heels, and quite tailless, non-equine rump. He couldn't wrap his mind around it, and wondered absently if he was still dreaming. Or, he thought, if this was the "surprise" Yulaan had mentioned. 

If it was... he was surprised.

The door opened again, and the sound of shouting echoing down the hall brought his eyes back up from the stunned contemplation of his new fingers. Torshael's head poked in, not noticing him at first-- he was, he realized, rather small now, much smaller than he had been-- as he checked on Tekasynos, who was somehow still asleep, curled around a pillow which he'd captured in a hug sometime during Haiiro's dream. A brief smile crossed the supernal's face, but it faded into a frown after a moment, and he gave the room a cursory glance-over. His eyes slid right over Haiiro-- then snapped back with furrowed brows over them.

"Who--" Recognition came belatedly, but too quickly for Haiiro to feel hurt by the mistake, along with wide eyes. "Haiiro??"

Tekasynos made a little purring sound from the bed, and Haiiro glanced at him before saying anything. His thoughts didn't want to finish themselves, but he still thought vaguely that they shouldn't wake the infernal, he was exhausted, he had been wounded.... As he struggled to his feet, trying to get his only-jointed limbs to obey him and his bipedal balance to find an equilibrium, Torshael slipped into the room and hurried to support him. ::Haiiro, you... you're....:: His thoughts seemed to be stumbling on each other, too. 

"Father told me," Haiiro whispered, mildly surprised and very relieved to note that he at least mostly sounded like himself. Not as deep, maybe, but still recognizably himself. "He said he was watching us, and I'd have a surprise...."

::Well, I'm certainly surprised! Can you walk?::

"We'll find out," Haiiro whispered tentatively, though now that he was actually up he was rapidly starting to feel steadier on his feet.

::Wait a moment,:: Torshael suggested, his mind-voice sounding a little odd. He left Haiiro with one hand on the wall to steady him, then crept to Tekasynos's bed and carefully took the long coat from the chair beside it. ::Taking you outside naked probably wouldn't be a good idea.::

"Naked-- oh." Haiiro glanced down at himself and, though he was pleased that his eyes focused properly now despite the different proportions of his face, he couldn't help but blush a little as he realized he'd need clothes now. He hoped the Order would be generous; not only did he have no idea how much clothes cost, but he didn't really know what kinds one was supposed to get. Or how to get into them, for that matter.

Torshael helped him into the coat-- it felt particularly stifling when he realized he still had wings, though they were much reduced in size and certainly quite useless-- and showed him how to work the buttons to get it closed, then Haiiro attempted walking. It wasn't as difficult as he'd been afraid it might be. It was, in fact, easier than learning to coordinate four foal-long legs, two wings, and a tail, most of which sometimes seemed to have a mind of their own. That, however, had been when he was a foal, and tangling one's self up and falling down had been expected. Now, two-footed or not, he was full grown and expected to already know simple things like how to walk. At least Torshael wasn't laughing at him; he seemed as stunned as Haiiro himself, though he was managing to be helpful, at least.

By the time they got out the door, at least he was feeling relatively steady, especially with Torshael at his side with one hand at his back. And they hadn't even woken Tekasynos.

"Where did Tayne go?" Haiiro asked once the door was shut. He was pleased that, now that he was no longer whispering, he sounded even more like himself. "And-- was someone shouting?"

"That was Tayne," Torshael told him. "That Rein fellow, who brought you the journal, was just coming out of the room.... Tayne took off after him. Do you think he did this to you?"

"I don't know," Haiiro answered. "I thought my father did. He told me about it... sort of. --Do you think he caught him?"

"No idea. Come on, let's go find out."

Since Torshael was the one making sure he didn't fall and make a fool of himself, and as he was very curious about Rein now, he let his bond lead him down the hall in the direction Tayne had disappeared in.


Chapter Nineteen

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