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

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


Snow was falling lightly over the Order building, a cozy-looking curtain of white in the welcoming torchlight as they approached. It was full dark, but not so late in the evening that the streets were deserted, much less so late that the complex doors were shut. Things looked calm. Normal. Hopefully that meant Zu hadn't arrived yet.

"I'll alert the Order on who's coming and see if I can't get as many as possible out," Tayne said, shifting up into human shape.

"And we'll go find that knife, before Zu does," Torshael agreed, doing the same. Tayne immediately turned to the guards at the Order complex's entrance, talking in a low but hurried voice, and Torshael looked back over his shoulder at his bond. "Haiiro, stay with me-- two to protect that phylactery is better than one." The small smile Haiiro gave him proved he was well aware that Torshael was as worried about what might happen to Haiiro if Zu found him alone, as he was about the phylactery. Torshael huffed a bit at being so transparent, summoning up a faint protective glow, then passing his brother and heading inside at a brisk walk.

"They kept that knife with the rest of the artifacts they recovered from the towers, yes?"

"As far as I know," Haiiro agreed. "It's down that hall," he added, pointing, and jogged to catch up as Torshael's longer-legged stride stretched out even further.

Just as they turned down the hall with the artifacts, Haiiro let out a muffled yelp and broke into a run. Torshael stalled to a stop in surprise, then started into a run to catch up as his bond relayed what he'd just seen: a shadow darting past the window, moving stealthily but swiftly, towards the nearest entrance to the building.

::Zu is here,:: he sent to Tayne. ::East corner entrance, I'm guessing.::

::We're getting people out as quickly as we can,:: his brother replied grimly. ::I'll make sure that building's finished first.::

There was something in his voice that made Torshael very nearly skid into the wall as he tried to turn into the artifact storage. ::Tayne, don't you dare go after her--::

Tayne didn't reply.

"We need this," Haiiro was saying hurriedly to the man in charge of the collection, presumably with a mental picture to go with. Torshael cast a nervous glance at the door on the opposite side of the room, closer to where Zu would have to enter. "And then everyone in here needs to get out of here. Go back the way we came; I think it will be safer."

"It's right here, Exalted," one of the researchers said, offering over the box that hopefully contained the knife. Haiiro took it, checked inside with relief, then tucked it under his arm.

"Thank you. Now please, hurry.... Ishtar's assassin could be here any minute."

::Tor', she's not here,:: Tayne's tense mental voice interrupted Torshael's worry as he stepped aside to let the archivists pass him.

::You are looking for her! Tayne, you know she's--::

::Torshael, lecture me later. She's not where you said she'd be. Where else could she be?::

Torshael tried to think of the was the building was organized. ::She could have gone around to the north side entrance, down the hall and around the corner from the one you went to, unless she doubled back after Haiiro saw her.::

Tayne didn't bother to reply.

So Zu hadn't taken the most obvious path. She couldn't know they were here-- or that she'd been seen-- could she...? "Haiiro, we should probably go with them," he called, waving his bond over from where he'd been eying the opposite door. "Just in case."

"All right," Haiiri replied, trotting over, and the both of them followed the last of the archivists out. Torshael intensified his glow warily, just in case.

Barely ten steps down the hall, Haiiro, walking just behind his bond, quite suddenly shouted, "Run!" at the pack of archivists, and gave a very unsuspecting Torshael a violent shove. The reason why was obvious not a second later, as the window he'd just past shattered noisily, and as he picked himself hurriedly off the floor, Zu swung in and landed, catlike, in the midst of the shards of glass. She was, as Irithin had suggested, dressed all in black. And she was smiling.


"Hello again, boys," the infernal said smoothly.

"Fancy meeting you here," Torshael replied. "I wish I could say it was good to see you again."

"I'd take offense," Zu purred, "but I'm not here for you. I'm here for that." She gestured nonchalantly at Haiiro-- presumably at the knife under his arm. "Hand it over, and you might live to see tomorrow."

"You don't honestly think we would, do you?" Torshael asked in a pleasantly conversational tone. "Come, now, I thought you were more clever than that."

::Tayne, are you coming?::

::Keep your shirt on, I'm coming! Just give me thirty seconds!::

Zu shrugged. "Just giving you an option before I put my claws into that pretty little hide of yours, Favored." She sneered the word, and her fingers darkened, and lengthened, into wicked black claws that made Torshael think automatically of her more natural, massive spines.

"Somehow, I think you'd be likely to do that, anyway," Torshael commented, taking a step back, himself, and brightening his glowing protection. ::Haiiro, behind me.:: His bond obeyed, albeit reluctantly, and he could sense his mind working frantically for something he could do. If he came up with something, it was more than Torshael could do.


Torshael had time to blink at the enthusiastic sending, before a lion-formed Tayne and a pair of only vaguely familiar Order knights appeared behind Zu. The former sprang at her, teeth opened and aimed for her neck, only to snap shut on her upraised arm as she half-turned on the instant of their arrival, and the latter were casting magics of some sort. She didn't even flinch, much less topple from the weight of a seven-hundred pound cat ramming into her.

But it distracted her for a minute. Haiiro apparently thought of something he could do, for he took the first opportunity when Zu wasn't looking at him to bolt.

Smarter than we are, Torshael thought, and abruptly shifted so it wouldn't be too incongruous when he spat a bolt of lightning at her, letting the enclosed space and Tayne's open wings direct it out and down as much as his own will. Unsurprisingly-- but disappointingly-- aside from all her hair standing briefly on end, and a bit of smoke from a good, solid shock, she just shrugged it off.

"You think you can stop me?" Zu taunted. "Who do you think you are, hmm?"

"Would you even care, if you did know?" Torshael growled back.

Tayne was still clinging to her arm, finally over the shock of not bowling her over, and he brought his hind feet up to tear at her legs and stomach, foreclaws at her shoulders and face. Even if she could regenerate, at least maybe she could be slowed down a bit if her guts were on the floor. He managed a few nasty gashes before she gave her arm a fling in an attempt to throw him off. It nearly worked, too. He clung desperately to her arm, wings beating frantically in her face to counteract the force of the throw and foreclaws hooked into her shoulders.

"Doubtful," Zu grit over his growling, "I suppose I was hoping for something more than this pathetic display."

"Then I guess it doesn't matter who we think we are, does it?" Torshael retorted, and lashed out with his own claws, each one glowing brightly with his holy power.

Zu did as any infernal probably would: she pivoted, teeth bared as if she had her natural sharp ones, and swung Tayne in front of her like a shield. Torshael only barely managed to keep from tearing a gaping hole in his wing; as it was, he sheared off a few feathers and left behind a thin line of blood.

::Thanks, brother! Glad you missed me!:: Tayne growled tightly, and silently.

::Sorry! Here, have some of this, instead.:: He lit up Tayne's mouth and claws with his power, as he tried to bring his hind claws back into play.

"Such a powerful infernal," Torshael said snidely, "hiding behind a supernal?"

"No worse than attacking someone from behind, precious," Zu said with a sweet smile, despite the smoke Tayne was raising from her skin.

Torshael was the one to notice, first, the slow spread of ebony scales from her shoulder, down, but Tayne was the one to realize what that meant. He simultaneously released her shoulders, braced his forepaws on her chest, and let go of her arm. He had barely pushed off, given his wings one beat to distance himself from her, when the space where he'd just been biting erupted in sharp spines. Torshael grabbed his brother out of the air with his forepaws before he crash-landed and broke something, backpedaling furiously.

"When you're omniscient enough to tell when someone's attacking from behind, I don't think it counts," Tayne growled, wriggling free of his brother's grasp and landing heavily on all fours, shifting from lion into supernal, albeit a slightly smaller supernal than usual so as to fit in the hall.

Without any more breath wasted on taunts or banter, Zu launched herself at Tayne, fingers crooked into long, wicked claws. With a sound that was half snarl and half feline yowl, he swatted at her, claws still glowing brightly, turning his head this way and that so her swipes, when they got through the furious lashing of his own claws, hit his horns and ears rather than his eyes and nose. Even so, he wound up with sprays of blood from small, messy wounds around his face. Torshael growled impotently, behind them both, wishing fervently that his Purification actually did damage to her. All he could do was try to heal Tayne as he got injured, trying to keep ahead of Zu's claws.

Tayne's rump bumped against his chest, his brother forced to retreat against Zu's onslaught to protect his face.

::This is ridiculous!:: he growled privately. ::There's nothing we can do about her except-- maybe-- keep her contained! Is Haiiro long gone with that knife?::

::He's-- no, he's just a few halls over!:: What was Haiiro doing?


Chapter Thirty-Nine

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