Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
The sound of the door opening carried easily to the tower's kitchen, as did the sound of footsteps in the entry-- and the sound of claws clicking on the tile floor. Tayne in lion form padded to the kitchen door and peered out, a little glad for a possible distraction. There was a... cat-woman, a feline-esque humanoid, out in the entry, with tawny fur and dark clothes and a very large sword slung over her shoulder. That was, he guessed, the Tahrim. And trailing after her was... a small dragon. Like the dragons from the Order, only smaller.
Jaliath? Who else could it be? Ishtar never did mention Jaliath's species.... Well, he and Torshael were in appropriate forms, if this was their contact. Tayne appreciated the lack of need to shift.
::You're presentable enough for company, right, brother?::
Torshael, much shrunk down but decidedly furry, and still minus his usual glow, came to look over his shoulder.
::Oh,:: the Favored said blandly, then proceeded to pace out into the entry. "Jaliath and Soul Catcher?" he asked with a charming smile, sounding as calm and regal as he ever did. Tayne wasn't sure whether he was proud as his ability to act like nothing was wrong, or annoyed at his ability to act like he was king of the universe in order to do so.
"Eh?" The feline-woman turned at the voice and blinked at the speaker. "Oh... no, I'm Soul Catcher, but Jaliath will be along-- ah-- shortly.... This is Chi." She smiled warmly at the dragon, who purred at the mention. "I imagine Ixin is upstairs? I need to speak with him for a moment... we can get introductions out of the way once Jaliath, ah, arrives."
Something was funny about this. Tayne thought Jaliath was never in far from his "guardian", or so Ishtar had said. The fact that the comment on his eventual "arrival" caused an amused noise from Chi only made him wonder more.
"He is in his study or beyond," Torshael nodded. "Would you like us to wait downstairs for you?"
"Oh, no, by all means, come up. You won't want to miss this." Soul Catcher chuckled, starting up the stairs, Chi on her heels, and Torshael padded sedately after her. Tayne, following after his brother, caught him giving his mane a few stealthy swipes with a paw to put it back in order.
Haiiro was in the process of climbing to his feet when they reached the second floor landing, and he smiled shyly at Soul Catcher. "Hello...." The shyness turned to happy curiosity at the sight of Chi, for no reason Tayne could fathom. He dropped to a crouch, on the little dragon's level, and smiled at him. "Hello," he said again.
"Chiiiiii!" the little dragon squealed, making him smile wider. Heck, Tayne smiled wider. The little critter was cute.
"I'm Haiiro," Haiiro said, looking positively cheerful for the first time in hours. "And somehow I doubt you're Jaliath, though you're a handsome fellow nonetheless."
Torshael even smiled, though it wasn't at little Chi. Tekasynos chose that moment to step outside of his room hesitantly, and the white supernal twitched a little, like he'd been caught between two motions, before giving the infernal a tentative smile. The infernal, though not smiling back, at least gave a brief wave and the illusion that he was joining the group behind Haiiro. Tayne was just glad to see him out of bed, at last, and looking remarkably not like he'd spent the last couple hours crying his eyes out. All sympathy aside, he didn't like the idea of him making quite so much of a fuss over all this.
"Aharachianu, that is rather a mouthful," Haiiro laughed-- who in the world was he talking to? "I hope you don't mind me using Chi, I'm not sure I can remember all that." ... oh. The dragon. How in the world was he doing that? Chi was beaming toothily and wagging his tail in a most amusing canine fashion. "Oh, no, I'm not a Guardian," Haiiro continued. "One of my parents was, though, the Guardian Yulaan."
Chi seemed to get even more excited, at that, and Haiiro blushed. "Herald of Light, huh? --Well, yes, I suppose I am, though I'm not really used to the title." Then he paused and blinked. " ... spider?"
There was another pause while Soul Catcher raised a brow and the rest of them waited for an explanation. Haiiro "listened" for a moment, then shook his head. "No, he didn't show us, but I was wondering why he smelled funny. I can understand why he wouldn't want to tell people, though. A lot of people don't like spiders. --Ixin is some kind of part-spider, I guess," he explained belatedly for the benefit of everyone who wasn't talking to Chi. Aharachianu. Tayne thought he'd stick with "Chi", too.
"Well, that's interesting," Tayne said with a rustling shrug of his wings. He didn't care of Ixin was an infernal-- well, actually, maybe he'd care then, if just because there were enough cursed infernals on this planet already. Trying again, he thought that he didn't care if Ixin was... was... a talking potato. He seemed all right, anyway.
"He's a drider?" Irithin asked, looking intrigued. "No wonder I couldn't read him."
"And you'd be a seer of some kind?" Soul Catcher asked with a raised brow.
"Indeed." The elf offered her a little bow.
"Shall we continue, then?" Soul Catcher gestured up the stairs, and Torshael nodded.
Tayne heartily agreed, and trotted up the stairs at the end of the little party. Time they got down to business.
Business wasn't what they got, however. Not immediately. Ixin was at his desk, as always, but he looked up at their entrance and looked a little surprised. "Ah-- Kaorin didn't tell me you were here." And, as they all filed in-- both Torshael and Tayne shrunk at least a foot as they squeezed in; it would have been crowded in there, otherwise, with Soul Catcher, Chi, Haiiro, Tekas, and the brothers-- he added, "Jaliath is...?"
"'On his way'," Soul Catcher smirked.
Ixin flinched visibly. "Oh dear...."
"I'll get the window," Soul Catcher suggested, moving to the wall and pushing aside the glass to said window, opening it. Haiiro obligingly scooted over to make room beside said window, probably assuming that someone was going to come through it. That it was coincidentally closer to Chi, who he seemed quite enamored with, probably had something to do with it, too. Thinking he probably had the right idea, at least with the window-opening thing, Tayne did the considerate thing and did the crowding of Tekas. It didn't seem very nice to make Torshael rub legs with him, after all. Heh.
Of course, now he was curious as to just what was going to come through that window.... Ixin and Soul Catcher were both silent, and Tayne didn't expect Torshael and Tekas to have much to say. With Haiiro and Chi quite probably chatting silently between themselves, as Haiiro usually did with this worlds' dragons, it was pretty quiet while they waited. Ixin actually sounded like he was counting under his breath. Tayne watched him, and when he mouthed "zero", braced himself and looked to the window.
Right on cue, a blur in man-shape came tumbling through the window. He rolled head-over-heels and dramatically came to his feet. Tayne snorted amusement. He had pale skin, almost blue-toned in its lightness, and black hair done up in dozens of braids and dredlocks decorated with beads of all kinds of shapes and colors. His clothes were certainly extravagant, being rather frilly and topped with an even more extravagantly feathered hat. Actually, as he stood there and grinned, he rather looked like he was posing. High One, no wonder Ishtar hated him. She probably couldn't even stand to look at him, the boring old lich.
"Jaliath," Ixin said wearily.
The flamboyant newcomer swept off his hat with a bow-- Torshael ducked the swishing feather with a stunned look-- and exclaimed, "At your service!"
"If I had hands, I'd applaud," Tayne chuckled. "Someone likes to make an entrance, I see."
"And why not?" Jaliath replied, straightening and plopping his hat back on his head.
"You should've seen him back when we traveled more," Soul Catcher snickered. "He had a different entrance for every bar."
Apparently Jaliath didn't want to talk about his flamboyancy. "Now, then, to business," he announced. "I believe you required assistance in the retrieval of a particular object hidden in the possession of one-- Ice Bi-- excuse me, Ishtar?"
Tayne grinned. Yep, the dislike was definitely mutual. "Well, it may not be in her possession at the moment, but yes. She's gone and turned herself into a lich, and we want her phylactery. Ixin there suggested it might be in a portion of the dreamworld, and that you might know how to find it. Or at least find the dreamworld."
"Aaaah, that, that... mmmhmm...." Jaliath stroked his chin in thought. "I can certainly get you most of the way there. All of us used to use that place. Ishtar isolated her own part so there would have to be a little breaking and entering involved." He chuckled. "It's been a while since I had a challenge."
Jaliath looked delighted at the idea of stealing something so important from Ishtar. Torshael looked a little less so, and though he was polite enough to look politely interested rather than dismayed, Tayne got the brunt of his unhappy surprise privately: ::He has to come with us? Does that mean the whole group of them? We're large enough, as it is, how are we ever going to stay quiet...?::
::Don't know, brother,:: Tayne replied calmly. He expected that Torshael was more worried about including the new trio in the group's dramatic dynamics than about going unnoticed. Which was probably a valid concern, but Tayne couldn't really bring himself to care. ::But beggars can't be choosers. We need that phylactery.::
Tekasynos was, as usual, less hindered by the need to be polite. Less predictably, however, he actually voiced his complaint. "And you're coming... why? You seem a bit... loud."
That earned him a funny look from Jaliath. "Why not? Ishtar set up rather nasty things to keep her privacy, even when we were allies. If you think you're going to get in unnoticed, you're sorely mistaken."
"Well, that really depends on how we intend to go about it," Tayne pointed out. "Haiiro here is really excellent at, ah, going unnoticed. Not that I'm turning down your help, of course."
"We shouldn't," Haiiro put in suddenly, smiling a bit. "Apparently they're very good at, er, item retrieval."
Tayne guessed Chi had told him. Somehow.
::Somehow, that doesn't surprise me,:: Torshael grumbled.
::Yes, well, Haiiro's technically a spy,:: Tayne commented. ::So don't look down your nose at a thief.::
Irithin spoke up, then: "While the dark one stirs, but does not wake, she is blind to what we seek."
Everyone blinked at him. Tayne shook himself and broke the silence first. "Well, that's good news, anyway. I think. --Well, Haiiro, what do you think?" he asked, turning to his brother's bond. "We do the dreamworld first, or that tunnel?"
"Um." Haiiro blinked, and paused. " ... I think we should probably avoid the tunnel, for now."
Jaliath gave Soul Catcher a look that fell somewhere between impatient and amused-- it reminded Tayne of when Tekas had muttered "seers" at Irithin a day ago. Or was it two days? "Well, if you've quite made up your minds, then...?" the flamboyant fellow prodded, apparently quite eager to get going. Well, Tayne couldn't blame him; he was quite eager to get going.
"Everybody else ready?" Tayne asked, glancing between Haiiro, Tekasynos, and Torshael.
No one had any objections to leaving right away, and most of them were quite ready to move, so Torshael said, "Let's just get our packs and meet you outside, then."
"As you like, gentlemen," Jaliath said with another bow. Then he turned to Ixin and began a rapid, one-sided conversation in another language. Ixin, who had been looking a little disinterested, sat up again, alert, and-- opened six more eyes? Tayne, who had been getting to his feet with the intent of heading for the door, blinked at him in surprise. Torshael, who had been looking mildly annoyed that Jaliath had interrupted his attempt to be gracious and thank their host, still had his mouth open, startled enough by the sight that he forgot to close it. Haiiro, who just seemed interested but not particularly curious, leaned over and tapped on the bottom of his jaw. He snapped it closed, having the grace to look embarrassed.
Ixin noticed. Even Tekasynos was staring, so it was probably hard not to notice. He held up a hand to silence Jaliath, who looked annoyed at the interruption. "I suppose you weren't expecting that?" he asked.
"Well, you'd gone to so much trouble to hide it so far," Tayne said with a rustling shrug of his wings. "And I must admit, we've never seen anyone with eight eyes before. It's-- different."
"Chi showed me a picture, so I knew what to expect," Haiiro said self-consciously.
"I suppose I became a bit more relaxed than I was before... it was not intentional." The mage coughed a little self-consciously, himself. "Though I suppose I was curious as to the reaction you would have... considering you do not share in all of the beliefs of this world. I share this only with people I trust, if you are curious... and Tayne? It's more than just my eyes."
"Hey, it takes all types, right?" Tayne grinned.
"We are trying to save the life of the so-called Spider King," Torshael pointed out, composed again. "We would be quite remiss if we took offense at a spider... person. And we are from off-world; I am sure we've seen other things just as different and unexpected. It's certainly not our place to judge. I was just surprised, that's all."
"You did a lot better than most locals would," Ixin chuckled, and shifted aside, to come around the side of his desk. Tayne perked his ears curiously: he moved... wrong. Not only did he not stand up, he didn't walk right. As everything below his waist came into view around the side of his desk, it was obvious why: he had eight more legs down there, and the thorax of a spider. It was fascinating; Tayne had never seen a "bug" that big before.
"Staring I can handle," Ixin continued. "Screaming, babbling, and lynching... not exactly my favorite responses. Luckily, I've been able to avoid the third one on that list."
"What about poking and prodding?" Torshael suggested innocently, and both Tayne and Haiiro looked away, Tayne with flattened ears and Haiiro with a definite blush.
"What...." Ixin raised a brow-- which looked decidedly strange, with eight eyes; Tayne wasn't sure how he managed to raise just one-- while Jaliath snickered. "Did you want to?"
"No, that's all right," Tayne answered for them both, smiling innocently, though "innocent" with the sharp teeth often wasn't interpreted so. Well, really, either would work for his sense of humor. "Can't see why anyone'd want to string you up. You look great, to me."
"It's not so much the look, but the belief that accompanies it," Ixin explained. "I was not born this way."
"Oh?" Torshael asked curiously. "Do you mind if we ask how it happened?"
"I don't see why not," Ixin answered affably.
Jaliath looked skeptical. "Oh? You have a change of heart in the past few years? Last I checked it was a sore subject."
Ixin smiled a bit. "Something like that." To the rest of them, he said, "Some six thousand years ago, I-- well, I suppose you could say I offended one of the gods. It was a turning point for the ancestors of the people here now, and I was at the head of it. Revolutionary leader, I suppose you could say." Tayne was mildly impressed: six thousand years old. Not many supernals made it to that age.
"Said god decided that punishment was in order, and I ended up cursed." He held up one finger. "First part was the transformation into a drider." A second finger. "Second was immortality." Aha, hence the six thousand years part. "Might not seem like a significant sort of curse from an outsider's perspective. Driders are rare-- more than rare. Much like kirin, people of Kynn portray them as divine servants. Unlike the kirin, they are not praised or revered. They're messengers of the underworld, bad omens, harbringers of doom, that sort of thing."
Tayne thought he could see where he was going. From Torshael's expression, so could he. They were right: "My kin, in particular, have a rather intense dislike-- even hatred-- of them. You can imagine, then, having to flee and hide from my own kindred, never being able to die-- tends to do a number on one's psyche."
"I can imagine," Tayne muttered.
::You'd think they would remember he was a leader among them and honor him, no matter what form he wore.:: Torshael kept his own muttering mostly to himself.
"Until I got an idea some time later," Ixin continued. "My kin believed I had disappeared or died, so, what I did was create this tower, an isolated place, and acted as a member of my own family, taking on Ixin's name in memorial... and every so often I'd train a successor who would take over my role of watching out for my kin. Obviously I'm still the original, but not many people know that."
"They didn't even recognize you?" Torshael asked, a little sadly. "You don't look any different from anyone else, from the waist up, if you close your eyes."
"People were... less tolerant at that time," Ixin said. "With reason, really. It was a time when people were frightened. There was war fought on many fronts. As it is now, I do have friends." He motioned at Jaliath and Soul Catcher. "There are others that show open-mindedness." Here, it was Irithin he glanced at, who, though almost a "local", looks more intrigued than afraid. "Honestly, I don't blame them, after everything that happened in that time." Ixin shrugged, apparently over whatever the damage to his psyche he'd hinted at in millennia before. "It's not so much of a punishment, now. And the choices I made cannot be undone. I wouldn't change things, anyway."
And Haiiro chose that highly inopportune moment to burst out laughing.
"What, what?" Tayne demanded, startled.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Haiiro giggled, pointing. "Chi...." Sure enough, the little dragon was rubbing himself against one of Ixin's many legs like an over-sized cat. "He just-- said-- oh, it's hard to translate. Something like 'Ixin is soft and furry!' only the tone was-- I'm sorry, it was funny."
He didn't look all that repentant, though, and he kept on giggling. Neither did Chi, who kept on rubbing. Tayne grinned. Ixin even chuckled. "Well, it's technically true."
"I'm more cat than he is," Tayne complained cheerfully, "I should be the one getting a spider-grooming. Come on, Chi, I bet one of us furballs will gladly take over. We ought to get going."
This time, Torshael was determined to be grateful. "Ixin, you have been far more helpful than we had any right to expect. Thank you."
"That's what I'm here for, really," Ixin smiled, and with a last pat on the head sent the little dragon scampering back across the room.
"Well, it's appreciated," Torshael smiled back. "Farewell, Ixin."
"And that's our cue to get gone." Tayne gave the spider-mage a friendly wave with his tail, then padded out the door.