Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
In the midst of packing up, Torshael made sure everyone got something to eat and drink, though it meant he didn't help much with folding blankets and getting things put back into the packs. He thought that feeding everyone, particularly the one who probably hadn't eaten in years, was probably more important. Irithin wasn't much use, either, as he was still weak from being trapped for so long, and Tekas seemed like his desire to rest hadn't yet gone away-- he had done the bulk of the work, after all. Still, there wasn't all that much to do, anyway, and they weren't in any particular hurry.
When the last dish had been put away, the last strap on the packs lashed shut, Torshael stood outside and shifted. "As promised," he smiled, "I'll play the pack-mule this time."
Tekasynos, who was helping Irithin outside much the same way Torshael had helped Haiiro when his bond hadn't been comfortable on his brand new feet, stopped short just outside the doorway with a slightly stunned expression. His eyes, Torshael noted with dismay, were on him, and he could have kicked himself. No matter how they got along, no matter that Torshael couldn't hurt him anymore, Tekasynos was still an infernal, and Torshael was still a supernal-- and a Favored one, at that, the most dangerous to his kind there was. He'd never shifted in front of Tekas before; he should have expected discomfort.
"I don't bite," he said reassuringly, with a slightly apologetic smile. "Promise."
Though he didn't reply except with a twitch of the jaw, as if he considered saying something then very quickly thought better of it, at least Tekas came the rest of the way outside. Torshael obligingly went down on his stomach in the sand so he could help Irithin up, and get settled, himself. At least he didn't seem too unhappy at taking a ride from a supernal. Haiiro had some of the packs, Tayne the rest, but as Tayne trotted forward to sling his own burden in place, slung over his shoulders so that the packs themselves rested on either side of his neck, Haiiro hung back, watching Tekasynos with a strange expression on his face.
::Is something the matter?:: he asked his bond silently.
There was a pause, then a sense of innocent blankness that had come to mean "nothing" but which rarely was actually "nothing", and which was obviously not "nothing" this time. Before Torshael could press him further, however, his bond withdrew his thoughts and came the rest of the way outside to finish the job of packing him.
Finally, they were on their way. Torshael didn't know if he could do as good a job at flying and still keeping his passengers as Tekasynos, so he went on foot, at a comfortable lope that, in the cool of the night, helped keep him warm as well as ate up ground. Haiiro was alert on his back, and Tayne led the way to the nearest "clean" sand for the safest teleport, but if the way his head kept nodding was any indication, Tekasynos was half asleep. After enduring the scorching day with a pair of passengers and all their gear, that wasn't surprising. Though he didn't really expect anything to come of it, Torshael felt honor-bound to make a suggestion.
::You can take a nap, if you like, Tekas,:: he told the infernal privately. ::If I could manage it on your back, I'm sure you'll be safe enough on mine, with all the fur to keep you in place. I won't let you fall.::
He was disappointed when he didn't get an answer, but he didn't press the issue. If Tekas wanted to stay awake, or felt too uncomfortable so close to a supernal to let himself really sleep, Torshael wasn't going to badger him about it. So it was with great surprise that, a few minutes later, he felt his mane parting a little and a warm body all but snuggling into it. Haiiro, at his inquisitive thought, sent him a picture of Tekasynos doing just that, remarkably quickly sliding off to sleep. Feeling much better, himself, Torshael just grinned and went back to focusing on the journey.
It was just past midnight, by best guess, when the sand finally changed to a more natural dusty brown. Torshael didn't bother waking anyone up for the the teleport-- Irithin was sound asleep, leaning back on Haiiro, who was nodding, only half-dozing so as not to make his bond too sleepy to continue and still be able to support the youth's weight. Neither did Tayne. The latter just landed soundlessly on his rump, and the former merely left. They reappeared in the middle of a forest, cast in the thick shadows of a distant sunset. Hopping all over the world would have seriously thrown off Torshael's biological clock if he still had one. The past three years of hopping between worlds had ruined it past recovery.
Thankfully, the trees were not so close together that Torshael had a problem negotiating a path, as long as he didn't go too quickly. He couldn't help getting a little tangled, to his regret, but at least he managed to keep from getting dirty. He was good at that, at least.
The forest looked ancient. The trees were massive, tall and generously canopied, and some with girths Torshael expected he could only just coil his tail around. Torshael himself gave off just enough light to see by as the sun set, so he didn't even miss his step. Actually, despite their somewhat dire purpose here, it was almost pleasant to walk through the forest, with the distant sleepy birdsong and the sound of the wind rustling branches above him. Having a trio of relaxed and contentedly dozing passengers didn't hurt, either.
When he stepped into the expected, lightly enchanted forest clearing and past the small, inscribed stone markers encircling it, however, Torshael expected he'd have to wake the three. Tayne landed to investigate the stone markers and Torshael eased down onto his belly and craned his neck around to try and get a look at the three nestled into his fur. ::Good morning, sleepy,:: he told Tekas, a gentle prod towards wakefulness.
Haiiro blinked himself back to full wakefulness, himself, and tacitly took it upon himself to wake Irithin with a gentle shake to the shoulder. Unlike Tekas, who groaned and tried to bury his face deeper into Torshael's mane, Irithin just yawned once and seemed to come awake quickly.
"Need help down, Irithin?" Tayne asked from the ground.
::Come on, Tekas, I'm not that comfortable,:: Torshael prodded a bit less gently, smiling.
Tekas merely grunted sleepily again at the second prod. "Perhaps he disagrees," Irithin commented, casting an amused glance at Tekasynos before sliding down Torshael's side into Tayne's waiting-- human-handed-- grasp.
"I've never tried sleeping on my own back-- or Tayne's, for that matter," Torshael admitted, "so I suppose I can't really argue whether it is or isn't comfortable. But you do need to get up, Tekas," he told the stubborn infernal. "I don't think I'll fit underground, like this...."
"Well, then do something about it," Tayne chuckled. "You're a better size-shifter than I am, remember?"
Torshael looked skeptically between his brother and Tekasynos. But Tekasynos, whether just finally awake or simply unwilling to take the probably inevitable teasing on Tayne's part, was already sliding to the ground. Torshael pinned back his ears at the infernal's expression, quite certain he'd gone and offended him. Again. And Tayne wasn't helping matters, curse it.
Haiiro was entirely too quiet as he pulled the packs off his bond's neck. ::And you are thinking so hard about, what?:: Torshael asked waspishly. The image of Tekasynos in his bond's head-- a rather upset-looking Tekasynos, in fact-- startled him. ::Is he really that upset?:: he asked guiltily. His answer: a shrug and a frown. Was that a no? Was that a yes? Torshael hated not being able to get words out of his bond....
... but he might as well apologize, even if he didn't know the depth of Tekasynos's unhappiness. ::Tekas, I'm sorry,:: he sent contritely as Tayne turned away to help Haiiro with the packs. ::Tayne doesn't mean anything, teasing is just what he does, especially when he's tense and we're out somewhere-- and I didn't mean to chase you off, honestly. Don't be upset.::
:: ... don't know why you're apologizing,:: Tekas answered, sounding more quiet than ever. ::You didn't do anything wrong.::
::Then why are you upset?:: he asked, hoping he sounded reasonable rather than worried.
::It's nothing you did,:: Tekas said, briefly. ::Just... bad memories. That's all.... ::
Haiiro looked over his shoulder at Tekas with another frown. Torshael wasn't sure what that meant, either, but he didn't want to press the infernal. ::Well, I can understand that. You can't have had many good experiences with supernals.... I hope they don't bother you too much. I do want you to be comfortable with us. We are a team, here, no matter how unlikely we might be,:: he sent earnestly as he shifted down into a body that would actually fit underground.
Tekasynos's lack-luster reply, ::Uh-huh,:: did little to make Torshael feel better. He was, actually, starting to get a little annoyed that all his effort at trying to make Tekas feel more comfortable was being entirely ignored. Rather than make a scene, however, he sighed and let the infernal sulk if he wanted to.
"So," he began aloud, "there's something we're supposed to do in order to get into Mori... but Ishtar never did say what it might be."
"I did some research, myself, but couldn't find anything specific," Tayne admitted with a frown, in human form as well and shouldering one of the packs himself. "Just that it's magical, and it has to do with the clearing and these stones."
Irithin added his own thoughts: "Those that live in Mori tend to be very reclusive, but they are not completely cut off."
"Well, since Ishtar managed to make a visit, that makes sense," Tayne nodded.
"The writing here is actually instructions," Tekas spoke up dully, now wearing his glasses and inspecting the stones. "If it interests anyone."
"Of course it interests us!" Tayne frowned at the infernal, looking just as confused as Torshael at the insinuation that it wouldn't. "Though I doubt most of us can read it. What does it say?"
Tekas smirked-- the first even slightly amused expression Torshael had seen on his face since they left Cirni. "Don't blink," was all he said.
Torshael, Tayne, and Haiiro all stared at him. What kind of instruction was that? Was that really what the stones said, or was it his own instruction? Or, rather, strange sort of joke? Because Tekasynos didn't seem to be worried about blinking: in fact, he was busy with the stone, fingers pressing to one of the markings, then another. At the third touch, the whole clearing glowed blue, then vanished.