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

Chapter Forty-Three

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


Things had been going unusually well, for something involving Tekasynos. Dinner had been wonderful, enjoyed by all, and the conversation afterwards had been remarkably easy. Torshael even managed to relax enough to not be nervous about offending Tekas. Tayne seemed to have stopped worrying about that before he'd even come back to the inn: he was treating Tekas almost like an old friend. Haiiro was just pleased that everyone was friendly again.

Perhaps an hour after dinner, in the middle of a fierce but still amiable debate about some ancient ballad that Haiiro had never heard of much less heard, and whether it was an actual event or an allegorical one, Tekas broke off whatever he was saying. He winced, a whined, and pressed a palm to his temple as if hit by a sudden headache. Startled out of his nearly predatory anticipation of the retort, so he could pounce on it with his own argument, Torshael blinked at him in surprise. "Tekas? Are you all right?"

"Aah... hurts...." Tekas actually put his hands over his ears, as if trying to block something out-- but whatever he was hearing or feeling, it was in his head. Haiiro could all but hear it, himself. He stood up and put a hand on the infernal's shoulder, twisting away from the senses of everyone he could even imagine sensing him-- and, if he could, taking Tekas "with" him. He didn't know how to shield someone else's mind, but he could "hide" someone else... though he'd never actually tried hiding someone else with him in human form. It worked-- Tayne stood up with a startled noise as they both vanished-- but at the same it did not work. Tekas's pain didn't abate.

Then, as Haiiro became visible again, the infernal went pale. "S-- she--" he stuttered.

"Zu?" Tayne growled, still on his feet. "That was fast."

"Or Ishtar?" Torshael asked with a frown, standing as well, and joining Haiiro with Tekas and trying a bright glow of holiness, as if maybe that would ward off an infernal or necromantic influence.

"It's okay... it's not directed... at me...." Tekas seemed to be pulling himself together, slowly. "It's... directed to them.... She's... Zu's calling them."

"Them?" Torshael repeated, sounding like he was dreading the answer.

" ... She's summoning the infernals that followed her to this realm.... Ishtar still wants her war.... Zu's going to start it for her...."

"Well, hell," Tayne said at last into the ensuing silence. "I'd better to tell a few people, then. You know at all where she's taking them?"

"Here... they're coming here...."

"Then I really have to go. I'll find the Sentinel leaders here," Tayne told Torshael. "You talk to Thaddius, see what kind of suggestions he might have."

"I'm finding Irithin," Haiiro said. "He told us that the Spider King's chosen champion can defeat Zu, maybe he can give us a clue as to who that is."

"Sounds good, to me. Tekas--" Tayne looked momentarily helpless, looking down at the pain-inflicted infernal. "You gonna be okay, man?"

The infernal managed a nod. "As soon-- as she stops...."

"Here's hoping she stops soon, for all our sakes," Tayne said, dropping his hand briefly to Tekas's shoulder, then everyone scattered off to their various tasks. Haiiro sped up the stairs, taking them two at a time-- and winding up out of breath by the top-- and skidding to a panting stop in front of Irithin's door. The seer was asleep, and normally Haiiro wouldn't disturb him, but this was rather important.... He knocked loudly.

There was no answer, and Haiiro knocked again, accompanied by a wordless burst of "wake up!"-thought. When that got no response, he started getting worried. It wasn't like Irithin to sleep through that, or ignore him. He peeked briefly at the seer's mind, half-afraid of what he might find. He didn't find himself caught in any of Irithin's visions, but neither could he find a reason for the deep sleep the seer was caught in.

Well, maybe they'd be lucky and he'd wake up and tell them something about Zu's downfall before she arrived. Haiiro trotted back down the stairs, pausing at his own room long enough to pick up the scabbarded knife Ishtar had made with his blood, tucking it into a pocket. The hilt stuck out a little awkwardly, but he could deal with it. He wasn't letting it out of his sight, not if Zu and Ishtar were on their way here, and maybe it would be useful.

Torshael was at the bar, explaining the situation to Soul Catcher and Thaddius, when he reached the bottom of the stairs. Thaddius looked deeply disturbed, and Soul Catcher grim, but neither one seemed to have any ideas. "The city's too big to evacuate like Cirni was," Soul Catcher was saying as Haiiro came up to join them. Chi leaned companionably against his knees, and he scratched between his ears absently.

"Hopefully the Order will have some ideas," Torshael sighed. "At the very least, you have two supernals on top of whatever Order dragon-pairs are available to fight. We're trained for fighting infernals, in particular. I might not be much use against Zu herself, but regular infernals I can destroy."

Tekas had made his way out of the parlor in the back, and he leaned forward on his arms the bartop, obviously no longer plagued by Zu's summons but probably still with quite a headache. "Torshael," he said wearily, "you are strong, there is no doubt. But she will expect this from you. Those she summons she can also command, and she will empower them with her darkness to defend against your light."

Torshael opened his mouth in surprise, then closed it with a frown. "How is that possible? I've never even heard of an infernal who could share power like that...."

"Of all the infernal kindred, she is unique," Tekasynos said, looking like the words were as sour to say as they were to hear. "She is the First, the infernal that came before all others, from the line of the Fallen himself."

There was a long moment as Torshael stared in horrified silence. Haiiro was the first to break it, albeit with a very small voice: "And we're supposed to stop her?"

"Not on your own," Tekas said with a brief but at least marginally reassuring smile. "Luckily enough, you're not alone."

"We've got the Order, and our friends here," Torshael agreed firmly, shaking off his own dismay at the revelation and putting an arm around Haiiro's shoulders warmly. Chi purred at him, too, leaning even more affectionately against him. "And the gods of this world, and the High One. They wouldn't have brought us here if we didn't at have the best chance of doing what was necessary. We'll be all right, Haiiro."

Trying to ignore the lump dinner had become in his stomach, Haiiro nodded and hugged Chi against his hip nervously. "I hope Tayne comes back with some ideas, then."

"Do you have any idea how soon they'll be here?" Torshael asked Tekas hopefully.

"She's calling them together in the northern mountains before they come here," Tekas answered readily. "Near Ishtar's old stronghold. It will take time for them to gather-- several days, at least, before we see them."

Haiiro wasn't the only one to very nearly go limp with relief. Torshael actually sat down heavily on the nearest barstool. "Good... there's time to prepare, then. I'll let Tayne know."

"I think Irithin might be seeing something, too," Haiiro added. "He was too deeply asleep for me to see what it was."

"Seems a little off for a seer to sleep through a vision like that," Tekas said, looking skeptical.

Haiiro shrugged uncomfortably. "I'd rather think that, than someone's deliberately keeping him asleep.... I'll jump to that conclusion if he's still not awake tomorrow morning."

Tekas nodded, and after that there didn't seem to be much more to do except wait. Tayne checked in shortly after, and reacted predictably to the knowledge of Zu and her abilities-- with a word that made Torshael sputter at his brother to watch his language, which made Haiiro and Tekas grin in spite of the situation-- and just as predictably to the news that they had more time than they were afraid they'd have-- with immense relief. He'd promised he'd have more news for everyone in the morning, and said to not wait up for him. Haiiro got the impression that he would probably wind up catching a few hours of sleep on a cot at the Sentinel headquarters rather than making his way back across the city.

After that Torshael shooed everyone off to their rooms-- or, in Tekas's case, his house-- to at least attempt to sleep. Haiiro had been certain he'd lie awake for hours, but whether Yulaan was interfering again, the High One granted his bond some measure of rest and that resonated between them, or he was simply more worn out by the stress of the evening than he'd thought, he somehow fell asleep.


Chapter Forty-Four

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