Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
The walk across town was a relaxed one, through a part of the city Torshael hadn't visited yet, with Soul Catcher pointing out different landmarks. They passed a part of the massive harbor-- Torshael enjoyed the scent of the ocean but couldn't help but crane his neck in case he could catch a glimpse of Tekasynos-- and she named a few of the types of ships coming and going. They also passed what the Tahrim identified as the most prominent college on the continent for bards and musicians. It reminded Torshael of the singular school of music in the City, though this one was probably attended by a wider variety of people than the one he was familiar with.
Soul Catcher announced it when they reached the appropriate street, and then they were finally approaching their destination itself. Torshael could actually feel it as it came into sight, a large, classically designed and quite attractive building surrounded by not a wall, but beautiful, green gardens. He could see the doors, flung open so anyone could enter, and acolytes at the entrance to greet those who took the implicit invitation to go inside.
Stepping onto the broad, simple path that eventually led up to the doors, Torshael paused and shut his eyes, momentarily overcome with a wave of homesickness. This place felt-- good. Clean, pure, holy-- but not quite right. So close to right that it almost hurt, but just far enough that, more than any other time on any other world in the past few years, he just wanted to be home.
But there was a job to do, and that was more important than homesickness. He shook his head and opened his eyes. "Are you all right?" Soul Catcher asked.
"It's just been a while since I've walked anywhere holy," he answered with a small smile, starting down the path. "Makes me think of home. I haven't seen the City in my own realm in just over three years."
"I'm sorry to hear that." She sounded sympathetic.
He shrugged with a sigh. "I'll survive.... Maybe after this, we can go home for a while. Tayne is certainly hoping so, and Haiiro has never even seen our realm."
"I'm sure it would do you all some good," Soul Catcher said, smiling.
"It probably would," Torshael agreed, then started up the shallow steps to the temple proper. "So tell me about this place?"
She seemed happy to. "Well, this temple was built around a spring: the building actually encircles it. The water from the spring has healing powers of some kind. The temple itself is dedicated to Aaliyah, the Mother Goddess."
Torshael nodded amiably to the acolyte greeters at they passed them. They, and those inside attending to the needs of whatever supplicants needed their attention, were dressed all in pastels, highlighted uniformly with white and blue-- rather like the inside of the temple, he discovered, as they entered. Ironically, Torshael noticed, he matched the decor. Unfortunately, he didn't share the same faint fragrance of incense, or he would have fit right in.
"What is she like?" he asked Soul Catcher, curious about the goddess whose holy aura-- and coloration-- so matched his own deity's.
"Aaliyah is revered as the creator," she explained. "She is wise and kind, and is said to offer guidance to anyone that asks with good intentions, even other gods. She's also the patron of music and the healing arts."
Following her lead as she spoke, they went past the foyer of the temple and into the room that housed the spring itself. It wasn't so much a room as an indoor garden, probably fed by the spring bubbling up at the center. Watching over the water was a statue of an elvish-looking woman with folded, feathered wings and a gentle smile-- probably Aaliyah. Torshael drifted that way, drawn by the spring, by the concentrated holy power in the water. He was sorely tempted to trail his fingers through it, but he expected that might not be appreciated.
"Is this the goddess?" he asked.
"Mmmhmm," Soul Catcher nodded.
"You know, I never knew people made images of their gods before I left our realm," Torshael commented idly, looking up at this one. "We never have."
Soul Catcher sounded surprised, and Torshael flashed her a smile. "The High One looks different, depending on who's looking at him. We would need a different statue for each supernal's vision." But that wasn't particularly important. He shook his head and asked, "Is there someone I should talk to, to ask permission of or warn, to use this chamber?"
"I can take care of that, if you like," Soul Catcher offered.
"If possible, I'd like to be the only one in here, in case the destruction of the phylactery is-- er, messy. That way my magic won't affect anyone else, either, and no one will need to be warned about a big, white creature taking over their sacred spring...."
"Sure," Soul Catcher chuckled, and drifted off, leaving Torshael alone in the garden, with the spring and its idol watching over it peacefully. He settled himself gently beside the water to wait-- this time, since he was alone, daring to dabble the tips of his fingers in it. The water was cool and pleasant, and the holy power infusing it both comforting and heartening. Torshael just sat there, trailing his fingers through the water idly and trying not to think, just enjoy the peacefulness of it, until Soul Catcher came back with her verdict. It didn't take long; the high priest was generous with his temple, giving Torshael the use of it however he needed it.
"Are there any rules about the spring?" he asked. "I've an idea or two I might try, but I don't know if it's frowned upon to drink or--" He glanced at it thoughtfully. "I don't know, stand in it."
"You're holy enough, yourself," Soul Catcher answered, looking amused. "I think it will be fine."
"All right, then," Torshael sighed. "Thank you." ::Haiiro?::
His bond already knew his question, but his answer was wordless frustration and warning-- no matter what he did, it was dangerous, and Haiiro didn't like not having a clear inclination-- or even a vague inclination-- either way. He, personally, had the preference to avoid the frozen tunnel if he could, but that had no bearing on what to do with the phylactery. ::I guess getting rid of it now will probably be safer,:: Torshael answered. ::At least then Ishtar can never get a hold of it and ruin our leverage.::
Agreement, but tentative, and more frustration. ::I know,:: Torshael told him soothingly. ::I'll be careful. Keep an eye on things for me.::
Torshael turned back to Soul Catcher, withdrawing the phylactery from his pocket. "We might as well get this over with," he told her. "I'd appreciate it if you stood well back."
"Don't have to tell me twice," Soul Catcher assured him, and promptly made herself scarce.
Torshael considered a moment between staying as he was and shifting larger. He always felt more powerful in his true form, but he was drawn towards the idea of literally standing in the spring for as much magical support as possible. The mental image of himself standing in the water with the purified phylactery in his hands won him over, at last. It was a much more pleasing one than standing over a phylactery on the ground, with his tail in the water-- he could never help being a little vain, sin though it was-- and besides, more immersion couldn't hurt and might even help. So he shrugged off the outer layer of his robes and walked slowly into the water, wading in until it reached his waist. The contrast between holy and unholy was marked and very nearly disorienting.
So we correct the balance, he thought grimly, and, with a silent prayer to the High One and a moment of respectful thought for the goddess whose power he was currently surrounded by, began summoning his power.
Whether it was the place, the power, or the prayers, there was a strange feeling that grew with the glow around him. Not unpleasant-- rather, comforting-- it was as if there were familiar presences behind him, surrounding him, giving him their strength, support, and belief. He could almost imagine his brother, his bond, his parents, his sister, schoolmates, people he knew vaguely, people he'd never even met but which still stood with him in his goal-- all giving their aid. As the dark taint in his hands contrasted even more sharply against the power all around him, he wasn't about to turn it away: it felt like he would need every iota of holiness he could summon before he unleashed it on the phylactery. It already felt warm, steadily growing on hot, in his hands in protest to the power he'd drawn-- but that same power protected his skin against the heat. The light was already so bright that he couldn't see past it, not even to the edge of the spring, and it reflected off of the water magnified.
For a moment, Torshael simply held the power, reveling in its heady, purifying presence. Then, staring down at the simple crest in his hands, he focused the power; this was different than anything he'd tried before, releasing Purification at a particular object, not simply out. Once he was certain the power at least knew the path he wanted it to take... he let it go.
The phylactery cracked. He heard the sound as clearly as he saw the rent forming, and it was the only warning he had before it shattered in his hands. He didn't dare flinch, though a few shards sliced his fingers. The pieces, suspended momentarily in the bright, blinding light, glowed with darkness before the remnants of sinister power coalesced briefly into the visage of an angry beast. The brief image made Torshael flinch when the pain hadn't: it was a disturbing amalgam of Ishtar's undead face and shadowy tentacles, and Zu's spiny body and glowing eyes. Then the light overcame even that, and it faded like a wisp of fog.
Torshael wavered in the water, hit by a wave of exhaustion, and decided that standing waist-deep in the spring might have been a bad idea. He at least managed to splash a few steps closer to the bank before winding up on his hands and knees. That was far enough that he managed not to drown himself, and he knelt there for a long few minutes, waiting for the light-headedness to fade.
And fade it did. To his mild surprise, he found the energy to get back onto the bank much more quickly than he'd anticipated, and as he sat there dripping, he guessed it was a property of the water. Smiling a bit, he shifted to cup some in his hand, drinking down a mouthful-- and felt better, again. Definitely the water. And not only was it refreshing, it tasted wonderful.
::Soul Catcher,:: he sent outside. ::It's done.::
That brought her hurrying back in, but at least he'd managed to get into a more comfortable-- and less embarrassing-- sitting position before she made it through the garden to him. "You all right?" she asked, giving him a mildly surprised look.
"Just a little tired," he answered with a smile. "But I think it worked. The phylactery is shattered and destroyed, and the infernal aura dispersed."
Soul Catcher nodded. "Good to hear. Though you look like you could use some rest."
"I do... and a change of clothes," Torshael agreed, getting his feet under him at last and rising, a little unsteadily. He was still dripping, clothes and hair almost completely soaked. A supernal, dripping holy water. The image struck him as rather amusing. "Though I suppose I could just shift...."
Something about that made Soul Catcher chuckle, and Torshael raised his eyebrows at her questioningly, even as he did as he himself suggested and shifted. He was still small enough to fit through the door, but the shift from clothing to fur and feathers shed most of the water. His mane was still clingingly damp, but a vigorous shake would help that. Once they got outside, he'd indulge.
All he got in return for the look was a dismissive hand-wave. Rustling his feathers in a shrug, he suggested, "After you, then, Soul Catcher."