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

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


Haiiro tore around the corner down the hall as fast as he could, holding both knife and phylactery close so he wouldn't drop either. He felt the mind he wanted, just two halls down, in one of the rooms-- under a desk. Just a few minutes, and he would--

No, this was stupid, he didn't have time to run it. He teleported right into the room, ran a few paces before he managed to stop himself, and only with a quick turn did he avoid smashing his nose into the wall. He just banged his shoulder, instead. But he was here, he still had the dangerous possessions, and the man he wanted was right at his feet.

Haiiro dropped to a crouch to peer under the desk. A middle-aged, nervous-fingered, pudgy little man stared back at him, for a moment utterly terrified until he realized just who was looking at him. It was one of the archivists, one Haiiro remembered from their three-day stay at the complex. At the sound of the breaking window, he had obviously decided the better thing to do would be to hide than to run, either that or he simply couldn't run any farther. He was cowardly, of course, but Haiiro didn't hold that against him; he was also brilliant. That wasn't why Haiiro wanted him, though. He wanted him because he was also a mage, and while his magic wasn't a great magic, it was very specific. He had two specialties, both of them the reasons he had been working with Ishtar's collection-- and both of them possibly useful, now.

"Can you do something for me, Master Gaerin?" he asked in an undertone. "It might get rid of the assassin for us."

"H-how can I be of help?" the archivist stuttered.

"Two things. I need an illusion, inside this box," Haiiro explained quickly. "I need it to seem like this knife--" He pulled it out to show it to him, then set it on the desktop. "--is still in it. It can fade after an hour or two, but it needs to be as convincing as you can make it with such short notice. Then I need you to lock the box so that no one can get inside until the spell wears off, or I turn it off."

"Y-yes, I can do that.... I j-just need a few moments."

Haiiro smiled encouragingly at him, backing up a little so he could come out if he needed to and offering him the empty box. "Thank you...."

It was hard not to be impatient while Gaerin worked, especially since he checked in on his bond every couple seconds. He and Tayne were holding their own, but doing nothing else-- and only barely holding their own. But rushing a mage gave you shoddy work, and this needed to be convincing. He managed to kill half a minute or so hiding the real knife elsewhere in the complex, but then he was back, trying not to pace or tap his feet or twist up strands of his hair.

Finally the archivist mage looked up, holding up the closed and locked box. Haiiro took it with relief. "Thank you, Master Gaerin... this might just save the rest of the Order still inside." And, of course, the supernal brothers. "Wish me luck with the assassin."

Without waiting to hear whether he did or not, Haiiro vanished-- first from Gaerin's senses, and then from the room. He reappeared, still hiding as strongly as he could, around the corner from the battle, peering around nervously, half-afraid of what he might see. Tayne and Torshael were retreating towards him, forced back by swipes of claws that Tayne was taking and Torshael was healing. Neither one was hurt badly, and Zu didn't seem to be trying to hurt them badly-- face wounds and shredded ears did not exactly threaten anyone's life. She was just-- driving them back, causing pain but not real damage.

Well, that might not last, and he didn't want to take that chance. They needed to get out of here and deal with Ishtar. Haiiro ducked back, taking a few steadying breaths before dropping his hiding and stepping out. The box was obvious, held in both hands against his chest. If this was what Zu cared about getting, surely she'd pay attention to him.

"Stop, please," he called, and it didn't take any acting to make his voice shake. He was confronting a black infernal, with no protection but his own negotiation.

With one last slash that sent Tayne crowding back against his brother, shaking his head and sending blood from a final cut across the cheek spraying across his golden horns, Zu took a step back and disengaged. She licked blood idly from one of her claws, eyes on Haiiro now. Tayne very nearly lunged at her, but Torshael must have guessed that something was strange and stopped him.

"Changed your mind, perhaps?" Zu purred. "Or do I have to play a different game, now?"

"A little of both, maybe," Haiiro suggested, voice still trembling a little. "I want you to leave. Stop hurting Tayne and Torshael, leave the people here alone. If you do, I'll-- I'll give you this." He held up the box a little, showing her what he meant.

"Haiiro!" Tayne exclaimed in a strangled-sounding voice.

"If that's what I came here for. You disappeared for a little while, didn't you, precious?" Zu purred.

Haiiro looked down at the box in his hands, trying to look a little embarrassed. "I was afraid. I'm not a fighter; I couldn't do anything against you. But-- but I don't want you to hurt them anymore. Here." He undid the magical lock silently, with a thought-- it worked perfectly; Gaerin was good, he decided, he just hoped he was good enough-- and opened the box, showing the illusory knife to her. "See?"

"Haiiro, what--" This time it was Torshael who spoke, sounding confused.

"Ishtar has to catch Yaashir before she can use it," he said tightly, refusing to give away-- even to them-- what he was doing.

Zu didn't look at all suspicious; maybe it was his own bond's expression of stunned disbelief that did it. She even retracted claws and spines both, and Haiiro snapped the box shut as she beckoned. The magical lock snapped back in place. "You promise you'll leave, and the spell will fade in an hour or two. Once you've gone."


"Torshael, I have to."

"I don't think I need to tell you what will happen if you do not," Zu pointed out.

Haiiro made his way carefully past the supernals-- thankfully, neither one tried to stop him, though they both looked like he'd somehow lost his mind-- and even more carefully approached Zu. He half-expected her to change her mind and decide to hurt him, or doubt him, or even kidnap him, and his heart was beating very fast when he offered the locked box to her. All she did was snatch it from him impatiently. "Could have saved your sorry hides a bit of pain if you'd just given it up in the first place."

"A bargain," Haiiro reminded her. "Leave. Please. The box will only open once you're gone from here."

"Heard you the first time, precious." Zu smiled sweetly at him, making him shiver, then vanished in a blaze of black fire.

She was gone.

Haiiro sank down to the floor, trembling. It had worked. They had a little time, anyway. An hour, maybe two, unless she broke the spell herself. Shivering, he put his face on his knees for a few deep breaths. He could sense Torshael coming tentatively up behind him. " ... Haiiro...?"

"Go to Tekas's old room," Haiiro answered shakily, muffled a bit by his knees. "The real knife is in there. We really should go."

Tayne barked out a laugh as Torshael just hung his head against his cheek. "Knew you couldn't have gone nuts in the span of a few minutes.... I'll go let the Order know what's up. --thank you for your help, gentlemen," he added for the mages' benefit. They nodded, and quickly made themselves scarce. Tayne did the same, to go spread the news about Zu, and Torshael let Haiiro turn and hug his neck for a moment in relief.

"I'm sorry I doubted you," the supernal said softly.

"You had to, or Zu might not have believed me," Haiiro answered, climbing to his feet. "Come on, let's get that knife and get out of here.... There's still so much to do."

Torshael sighed his agreement.

Half an hour later-- too late for Haiiro's nerves-- returning to the City of the Sun was like stepping out of nightmare into familiar morning, only they had to bring all the worries and fears of the nightmare with them into the warmth and sunshine. They went back to Thaddius's inn to beg a night or two's stay off of him, and he welcomed them with a mix of cheer and anxiety, offering them a place to stay as long as they needed. He'd been surprised to see Haiiro in a form that didn't need shrinking to be comfortable in his establishment. He promised he could wait until the next morning-- it had been full night at the Order's complex in the north, but evening had only just fallen there-- for their story and their news when Tayne politely suggested that the object of his congratulations needed sleep before launching into explanations.

At first they'd expected to stay only long enough to sleep and eat; Haiiro was dead on his feet by the time they arrived, which didn't help Torshael's wakefulness much, meaning Tayne was really the only one capable of polite suggestions. But as the next day dragged on with no news from Soul Catcher, it seemed like they would have more time than that to at least try to relax. The fine food and comfortable beds would do a lot to restore their spirits, but none of them could really forget that the worst was likely yet to come.

When her messenger that afternoon said that she and Ixin were still working on a solution to their "little problem"-- the phylactery, obviously, though the young man delivering the message didn't say as much-- and, though not quite as important, Jaliath's cold was slowly improving, they decided to make the most of their time. Haiiro visited the bondless dragoness who they'd met their first time here, Vespacia, Tayne dropped in with the local chapter of the Order, the Sentinels and wound up spending the evening-- and much of the early morning, as well-- out with a couple of the knights, and Torshael mostly just wandered the city, not having anything he particularly wanted to do or see but too restless to sit inside. He did note that the damage to Lady Ashka's tower had been repaired.

Soul Catcher arrived in the city the next day, mid-afternoon. Tayne was still battling the results of his night out with the Sentinels, and Jaliath preferred to stay home and nurse the remains of his cold, so it was a smaller group than usual who met in one of Thaddius's private parlors. Haiiro greeted Chi with a smile and a crouch for a hug, and Torshael, human-formed again, took in both Soul Catcher's unhappy expression and Irithin's wan, pale look.

"I have a feeling the news isn't good," he said.

"Depends on the news you're referring to," Soul Catcher sighed as Torshael motioned that they all sit; Irithin looked like he needed it. Haiiro just dropped down to sit on the floor with Chi, so Torshael chose the nearest chair. "Dealing with Ishtar's phylactery won't be terribly difficult. Ixin came up with something... so it's really just a matter of when you want to deal with it." Haiiro and Torshael shared a relieved sigh, at that; Haiiro hadn't let the cursed object away from his person for the past two days, and it was wearing on him. "That just happens to be the news on the lighter side," Soul Catcher added sourly.

"What other news do you have, then?" Torshael asked, almost dreading the answer.

There was a breath before Soul Catcher answered. "In the northlands... that city, Cirni... it was destroyed."

"It was-- oh, High One," Torshael breathed. Haiiro made a choking noise and shut his eyes tightly. Torshael glanced at him sympathetically, and asked, "What happened to it? Did anyone get out?"

"Yes," Soul Catcher said, to his relief. "But not everyone... there were still some casualties.... And what wasn't crushed into rubble was burned to the ground."

"We thought she might take revenge on the Order," Torshael said quietly. "We'd told them to stay out of their headquarters for a few days, just in case. But the whole city...."

Haiiro just put his head in his hands and didn't say a word. Irithin didn't, either, but his own expression of remorse was clear: he either hadn't seen it coming at all, or hadn't seen it soon enough. Soul Catcher nodded once, slightly. "I know.... They thought ahead about it, from what I hear... managed to get a lot of people out... but some just wouldn't leave, and... well...."

There a pause before the guilt all but radiating from his bond finally drew words out of Torshael. "Haiiro... you did the only thing you could."

"No," the muffled response came. "I could have just kept running. We all could have just run."

"And she could have destroyed the city from spite," Torshael sighed. "She's an infernal, a truly evil one. I wouldn't put it past her. And you couldn't have just given it to her."

"What would it matter if she had a dagger, if we had her phylactery?"

Torshael didn't have an answer for that one, and neither did anyone else. Soul Catcher sighed. "Look... just let me know what you want to do with that thing when you figure it out.... I'm going to get a drink."

"All right. Thank you, Soul Catcher." Torshael mustered up a smile for her, though it was a little wan.

Soul Catcher disappeared from the silent room in the direction of the bad, leaving Irithin to drift to a corner, Torshael to send a wordless prayer to the High One, and Haiiro to curl up a bit, hugging his knees, on the floor. When Chi nudged his leg with his muzzle, Haiiro sniffed a bit and wrapped an arm around the little dragon. It's my fault, he told him miserably; "speaking" with the colors and emotions was much easier now than it had been, with as much practice as he'd gotten with the dragons on Kynn. I tricked Zu, to get her to leave, and then we just left. I knew she'd be angry. We should have stayed.

She would have hurt them, anyway, Chi answered, encouraging and sympathetic all in one. You gave them a chance. Haiiro, please don't be so sad....

He couldn't help but smile a little at the plea. I'll try. I just feel like I ran away.... She was... she really scared me. I was sure she'd come back, but I ran away, anyway.

It's okay to be scared, too. Chi giggled softly and nudged his knee again. I bet I could tell you a couple stories about when Soul Catcher and her friends ran away and stuff.

Haiiro smiled a bit, again. It was hard to nurse a good bad mood when there was a little dragon trying his hardest to cheer him up. Why don't you tell me one? At the very least, it would be distracting, and maybe get him in a mood to actually do something again.

Chi looked all too pleased to share. Well, there was this one time....


Chapter Forty

Back to Torshael - Back to Tayne

Back to Haiiro'Hiwatari