Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
"I can carry him, if you like," Tekasynos said quietly as Haiiro disappeared, rather as if not wanting to interrupt.
"Teleport him out, I assume?" Tayne considered, then shrugged. "All right, go ahead. We'll see you at the top."
The three of them-- four, counting the sleeping one-- reconvened and made a camp, of sorts, up on the surface, in a building next door to the temple. It was, per Torshael's rather explicit instructions, one that had no skeletons or half-preserved corpses in it. They managed to get the sleeping elf at least relatively comfortable: he'd warmed up nicely, and was now enjoying the use of most of the blankets they'd brought. Not that Tayne begrudged him, of course. Whoever he was, he hadn't had a decent bed in years, after all, and Tayne had the option of soft, warm sand, which felt wonderful on his lion-form's belly.
However, he certainly didn't show any sign of waking up, which was a little worrisome, but really to be expected. Tayne figured they'd try again after Haiiro got back. Maybe see if they could get some food and drink into him, and an explanation out of him. Or maybe a name. Just calling him "that sleeping guy" would get old, fast.
More worrisome was how quiet Tekasynos was being. He hadn't ever been talkative, really, but now he hardly even answered when spoken to. Tayne had hoped that leaving the Order's headquarters and heading out into the open again might convince the infernal to open up... but so far, it had only made him clam up further every time Tayne tried to talk with him, banter with him, do anything other than issue orders or approve actions. It was... uncomfortable. Tayne didn't like not being on easy terms with a member of the group, not a member of the group who was liable to stick around for a while.
What was worse, Torshael seemed to think it was Tayne's fault, if the little glares he kept shooting him every time he unsuccessfully opened his mouth were any indication.
Haiiro got back form his search of the frozen underground before things got too awkward, at least. Tayne was stretched out by the entrance, making it easy for Haiiro to find, while Tekas, looking either worn out or completely antisocial, dozed with his head on his arms and Torshael fussed around the still-sleeping newcomer. "Find anything?" Tayne called as the kirin-boy approached.
"No more prisoners," Haiiro said a moment later, once he was close enough not to shout. "Nothing of value, and nothing that reeked of the undead. Just a ruined library, an extremely cold bedroom suite, and an abandoned mage's workroom."
"Looks like you were right," Tayne acknowledged. "Yulaan wanted you here for that sleeping guy."
" ... who won't be sleeping much longer," Haiiro said with a start, hurrying past Tayne, who hefted himself to his feet. Sure enough, their chained sleeping beauty was stirring fretfully, moving towards waking.
"Don't crowd him," Torshael said calmly, waving Tayne and Haiiro back before they could start hovering. "He'll wake up when he's ready."
And "ready" seemed more like "right then", as a pair of very blue eyes opened halfway, looking up blankly at Torshael, the closest to him.
"Good morning," Torshael said with a smile. "Or evening, I suppose. How are you feeling?"
The young man nestled himself further down in the blankets at Torshael's query. " .... warm."
Torshael chuckled softly. "You've been cold for a long time, I expect. What's your name?"
"A long time..." the youth agreed, trailing off for a long moment, as if thinking. " ... Irithin," he said at last. "My name is Irithin."
"I'm Torshael. Do you know why you were imprisoned, Irithin?"
"All too well," came the reply, but before Torshael could ask why, his brows furrowed and gaze sharpened. " ... I know you...."
It wasn't a question, and Torshael blinked. "You know me? From where?"
"I am sorry...." Irithin looked unaccountably sad. " ... I am at fault for the trials you now face... Ishtar knew of your coming because of me."
"Oh," Torshael said blankly. Tayne was a little surprised, himself, but really, when he thought about it, it made sense. Maybe this Irithin was a seer.
"There is no fault," Haiiro said kindly. "We were called here by one of the Guardians, specifically to do what we could against Ishtar. If anything, you made our job easier, because we didn't have to find her."
"Did you tell her when we were coming the second time?" Tayne looked over at Tekasynos, whose head had come up and eyes were on Irithin now. Apparently he hadn't been asleep, or if he was, Haiiro's exclamation woke him. "Before we fought?"
"Y-yes...." Irithin looked so upset and unhappy that Tayne couldn't even feel annoyed with him. Well, he doubted he could have anyway, given he was obviously a prisoner. "I do not expect to be absolved of any blame, but I was not given a choice."
"We can see that," Torshael assured him. "Trapped in ice and bound in chains? Of course you weren't being kept there and used of your own free will."
"So-- was that how Ishtar could see me in the ice?" Haiiro asked curiously. "Because of you?"
Even Irithin's ears drooped a little. "Yes...."
"And you're telling us all of this... why?" Tekas asked skeptically.
" ... I would offer it freely, regardless," Irithin began hesitantly, "but at the moment... I still do not have a choice. Ishtar's magic still compels me to speak truth when a question is asked of me."
"Well, we can probably fix that," Torshael said grimly. "You are of good heart and intent, Irithin?"
"I...." Irithin paused, looking confused.
A snort came from Tekas. "He can't be worse than me."
"Actually, he can," Tayne answered. "You survived, didn't you? Though I doubt he'll have a problem, really."
"Not what I meant," Tekas grumbled, closing his eyes against the coming light. Tayne had no idea what Tekas could have meant, and he cast the infernal a curious, disgruntled look-- looked like he'd managed to offend, yet again.
"This might feel strange," Torshael told Irithin. "But it shouldn't hurt, if there is no evil in you."
It didn't take him more than a breath to gather the tiny power he wanted, enough just to purify the boy of Ishtar's dark magic, and the comparatively gentle wash of light was concentrated. It filled the room, but only barely, brushing over Tekasynos against the wall on one side and Tayne standing guard at the door on the other. Irithin flinched, but then relaxed and cracked an eye open tentatively as the light and power faded again and nothing hurt him. The chains holding him clattered to the floor, useless and unconnected links of chain without Ishtar's spells to hold them together.
Torshael surveyed the results happily. "Oh, good, we hadn't figured out what to do with the chains yet. Do you feel better, Irithin?"
The poor youth blinked in surprise and tentatively opened and closed his now-free hands. " ... yes... thank you."
"You're welcome." Torshael brushed the remains of the chains away, looking quite pleased with himself. "Anyway, as we said, we're working against Ishtar and her plans. Anything you can tell us would be appreciated."
"You'd have to be more specific," Irithin said anxiously, looking helplessly between Haiiro and Torshael. "You'd have to give me something more specific to focus on."
It was Haiiro who understood what he meant, first. "Oh, no, we weren't talking about your-- visions? Your ability. Just whatever you might know about her."
"Though if you can work like that, with a specific request, and it isn't too tiring or anything," Tayne spoke up thoughtfully, "we could probably learn a lot."
"I am capable of focusing my visions, yes-- I suppose that's why I intrigued Ishtar so much.... I don't know much about her.... Just that--" Irithin hesitated, uncomfortable, but managed to continue. "She's powerful... obsessed with her goals.... I gave her a reading once, in passing, as I tended to do before... and it impressed her, I guess. I saw her again sometime after, and ended up being brought here. Since the dead cannot receive foresight, she bound my body in ice so I couldn't escape, and when she wanted information, she'd pull my spirit from my body-- and I couldn't stop myself from answering her...." If Tayne hadn't been so busy feeling sorry for the boy, himself, he probably would have been amused by the outraged expression Torshael was trying to keep mild. That couldn't have been pleasant; given from Irithin's shuddering as he spoke, he didn't exactly have happy memories about it. "I've only been allowed glimpses of what she's been trying to do.... If I can be of help, I would be glad to aid you, but I don't know what else I can do without something more specific...."
"We can give you something more specific, easily," Tayne rumbled. "A number of somethings."
"We're hunting Ishtar's phylactery-- her heart," Haiiro explained. "The Guardian who sent us told us to come to three places: here, the entrance to underground Mori, and an underwater tunnel leading to another plane. Anything you can tell us about what we're looking for in Mori, and-- what dangers we might come across in the tunnel and the portal it leads to...."
"And if you can find us a way to defeat the black infernal Zu, that would be perfect," Tayne added. "Really, any information on her and Ishtar's whereabouts and weaknesses would be more than we had before."
Irithin nodded, closing his eyes for a long few moments while the rest of them waited. When he finally opened his eyes again, they had a faint blue glow, and when he spoke his voice had a hollow quality, echoing slightly as if heard from the bottom of a well.
"In the underground dark, wisdom awaits: the ice queen's great teacher before her fall. With he, the secret of her heart lies. --The cold waters of the north, the once home of an ancient dragon, the spirit of its lost brilliance awaits you, bound by Ishtar's power to do her will."
Then Irithin hesitated, on the last question-- the one about Zu. "The black demon will know final defeat only on a great battlefield, at the hands of the Spider King's Champion."
That, it seemed, was what they were going to get, for Irithin blinked, the glow fading, and rubbed his forehead tiredly in the ensuing silence as everyone mulled over that. "I'm sorry it's so vague...."
"That's all right," Tayne said with a rueful grin. "That's how these things work, usually. Any idea who the 'spider king' would be?"
Irithin paused to think, then began, "It sounds like...."
The elf trailed off, gazing at Tekasynos, who filled in when the elf trailed off: " ... one of Yaashir's titles. I read enough on gods recently enough to remember that one."
"Well, at least it's a deity we're familiar with," Tayne said.
"Thank you, Irithin," Torshael told Irithin. "I don't know if it's going to be safe for you until Ishtar's been taken care of. We can take you someplace safe until we're finished, if you like."
"That would be n--" Tayne, Torshael, and Haiiro blinked at him as he stopped short, looking very much like he was listening to something in the distance that no one else could hear, his eyes still on Tekas, who, oblivious, just yawned. " ... no," Irithin said. "No, I do not wish to go elsewhere... may I stay with you for now?"
"Well, if you want," Torshael replied, a little wrong-footed. "We're going to go see the mage in Mori next, apparently, so if you don't mind that."
"I do not mind."
"Heh." Tekasynos looked unaccountably amused. "Seers...."
"Got a problem, fire-boy?" Tayne asked sweetly.
Rather than the chuckle he might have given for the tease, tasteless though it might have been, Tekas frowned and answered shortly, " ... no..." Then he abruptly clammed up and put his head back down on his crossed arms. Irithin watched the exchange with a slight frown, as did Torshael, and Haiiro just sighed faintly. Tayne, feeling abruptly embarrassed, and heartily wishing he hadn't said anything, put his head down on his paws and went back to being watch-cat, staring out the doorway.
It was just as well they decided to leave shortly after. Tayne didn't relish the idea of spending the night in the little room, with a disapproving brother and an offended infernal.