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

Chapter Forty-Four

Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight


Tayne made it back to Thaddius's inn early the next morning, feeling tired but accomplished. He'd only gotten a few hours of sleep, and he was yawning at fairly regular intervals, but he still felt alert enough that he could keep going for a while longer. Especially with a good breakfast, which he made sure Thaddius would start for him. He cast the inn-keeper-- did he ever sleep, he wondered?-- a cheerful grin, then headed further in to check on the rest of the family. He found Haiiro in front of Irithin's door, looking distressed.

"What's the matter?" he asked, surprised.

"Irithin," Haiiro replied worriedly. "He won't wake up, and I can't read him. I think someone's keeping him asleep."

"Tried going in and actually shaking him?" Tayne suggested wryly, earning himself a little glare. He held up his hands amiably, smiling an apology for his flippancy, and Haiiro sighed at him.

"The mental jabs I've been using ought to work better than just shaking him," he admitted, "and besides, he doesn't really feel asleep. Or, rather, he feels too asleep...."

"Get Torshael to look at him," Tayne suggested. "Maybe he could break whatever's keeping him out."

"Might as well try it. Once he's done getting his hair untangled, anyway...."

Tayne snorted a laugh at Haiiro's fondly exasperated tone, and headed back downstairs for his breakfast. Then it was off to find Tekasynos, the closest thing he had to a local expert on socio-cultural politics. Well, one who actually had time and inclination to answer stupid-sounding questions, like why it was such a big deal that the Malakym envoys were in the city right now-- aside from the obvious, that they could very easily get caught up in the little war Zu was planning. He found the infernal's own home, a simple and entirely unremarkable building in one of the middle-class residential districts, before too long-- the directions he'd given him the night before were pretty good-- and knocked. He just hoped Tekas was awake, and he wouldn't be greeted by a groggy and irritable infernal, or anything.

What he got, after a few long minutes and another knock, was a wet and bathrobe-wrapped Tekas. Light blue bathrobe-wrapped, even, hair loose and dripping. Poor fellow had probably been in the middle of a bath.

"Well, at least I didn't wake you up," Tayne grinned a bit. "Good morning. Uh, I can come back later, if you're busy."

Tekas shook his head, just a little, sending little droplets of water falling to the floor. At least none of them made it to Tayne, which he expected was the point of the careful head-shake. "It's fine," he said. "I just finished, anyway. ... do you want to come in?"

"For a few minutes, if it's not a problem," Tayne answered. "The knights of the Order are getting really sick of me bugging them with questions. Hoped you might be less annoyed."

The infernal motioned him inside, looking at least like he didn't mind, and shut the door behind him. The inside of the house was, predictably, in better and slightly more expensive taste than the outside. It occurred to Tayne that the outside might have been as much a disguise as the contacts that kept his eyes from glowing. In a sitting room just off the short entry hall was a towel across the back of a sofa, which Tekas snatched up and began vigorously drying his hair with. Tayne watched with a little grin.

"Have a seat," Tekas said through the curtain of towel and hair. "Can I get you anything?"

"That's all right, thanks. I just came from breakfast at the Red Ferret." Tayne did take the seat, though, dropping down gingerly in the couch. "Sleep all right?" he asked, leaning over a bit in an attempt to catch sight of Tekas's face through his drying.

"Mmmhmm," Tekas answered absently.

"Good, good," Tayne nodded. That probably meant that Zu was done calling minions, after all, and his headache finally went away.

Finally done with his hair-- though it was still fluffed up, damp, and definitely in need of a brushing-- Tekas sat, as well. For a minute, Tayne once again had the thought that his brother was an idiot, but Tekas was thankfully quick to remind him that there were more important things to think about. "You have questions, then?" he asked.

Tayne sat up a little straighter and got himself focused again. "Yup."

The next half hour was enlightening. Tekas didn't seem at all surprised by the questions, or reluctant to answer them. The presence of the Malakym was important, in its own right, because of how they were viewed by the rest of the planet: dangerous and violent, resembling in action the same mythical demons that they resembled in features-- probably not a coincidence, if the demons really were just mythical. Only recently had the current leader tried to rectify the mistakes of his predecessor, sending out envoys of peace to rebuild trust and feel out alliances. Their presence here, if the city was attacked, could ruin that-- for both sides, as the Malakym could jump back to their old ways and cry treachery, and the city-folk could assume the Malakym had gone back to their old ways and planned the attack, themselves.

"Which means Ishtar could very well be starting the war she wanted, on a grander scale than just one city," Tayne frowned. "Just with less espionage and trickery. And even if we just got the Malakym out of here, it'd just look like they left before the fire went down. Any advice, Tekas, or should I just make sure the Order's aware, and let them handle the politics?"

"Dealing with politics can be extremely messy," Tekas said, trying to smooth down the mess of his hair with one hand. He'd done that a few times over the course of the conversation, and perversely it just made Tayne want to mess it up again. "Heavens know I feel like I'm going in circles keeping up with it all."

"Agreed," Tayne sighed. "That's more Torshael's business than mine. I get lost too quickly."

"I'd at least let the knights know," Tekas finally suggested. "I think talking to the delegation themselves might be helpful, as well."

"Probably a good idea," Tayne agreed, leaning his head back on the couch and shutting his eyes momentarily. His lack of sleep was catching up with him; must have been the politics-talk. "I'll get Torshael on it, with the delegation. He's the diplomat. Unless they have a problem with priestly-types?"

"I don't think they would have a problem with him."

"Oh, good," Tayne sighed, and rolled his head back up to blink at Tekas's quizzically tilted head.

"You seem tired, Tayne," the infernal told him.

"That's probably because I am," he answered with a grin. "Was up way too late last night, at the Order. Got a lot done, though."

"You're welcome to rest here, if you like."

Tayne smiled. From feeling insulted by every little tease, to inviting him to take a nap in his very house; oh, how far they'd come. "That's nice of you, but I oughta get back and tell Tor' and the Sentinels what's going on with the Malakym. I'll take a nap this afternoon at the inn, or something."

"Fair enough," Tekas nodded. "If you don't feel up to it, though, I can have messages sent instead."

When the infernal stood, Tayne did the same. "Thanks again, but I'll be all right. When are we likely to see you next?" He wouldn't blame the infernal if he fled the city, with Zu coming.

Tekas looked a little troubled at the question. " ... I don't know. ... I don't know how much help I can really be, given the circumstances....."

"And if you want to keep your skin, Zu had better not find out you're still alive," Tayne agreed. "If you want to stay and find somewhere to help out, I'm sure you'd be welcome, but I don't think anybody'd blame you if you left until this is all over."

"There's that, too...." Tekas sighed. "I won't leave, though. I might find something I can do-- I'll just have to be careful about it."

"I don't think it'll be as hard as you think," Tayne grinned. "You are the only infernal around here, and you do know Zu personally. If you come down to Sentinel headquarters, I bet you could fill a lot of people in on what Zu can and can't do, what tactics your people are likely to use, that sort of thing."

Tekas looked away, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his head. "You'd be surprised how much I don't know," he muttered.

"More than these guys here, I'd wager," Tayne pointed out. "High One, you knew more than me, and I've fought your people my whole life. Give it a try, Tekas, maybe you'll be surprised how much you do know."

Tekas sighed again, running a hand through his still semi-fluffy hair. " ... all right-- though... could you refrain from from further comparing me to them? It makes me feel-- unpleasant."

Blinking in surprise, it took Tayne a minute to get to nodding. "Uh, sure. Sorry about that, no offense meant or anything." No more mentioning Tekasynos was a member of the infernal species. Right. That could be difficult.... Well, he'd give it a try. At least he was asking, instead of just taking offense. The fellow deserved a little effort on their part, anyway. "See you at the Order, then?"

"It's okay, Tayne. I guess it just makes me feel a bit-- awkward...." Tekas managed a bit of a smile, at least. "Yeah. I'll see you there later, I suppose."

Tayne reached over to ruffle the infernal's hair-- and, of course, completely ruin any attempt he'd made thus far at smoothing it down-- with a grin. "And brush your hair," he teased. "It's distracting like that. I'll see myself out."

"Heh... sure...." Tekas smiled almost awkwardly, running his hand through his hair again on reflex.

Doing his best not to snicker at the infernal's expression, and managing at just a grin and a wave, Tayne turned and headed out. It wasn't until halfway back to the inn that he realized he'd been flirting.

... he really, really hoped Tekas hadn't noticed.


Chapter Forty-Five

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