Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
The next few days were a horrible combination of running around trying to get things done, and tense waiting with nothing at all to do. Haiiro spent more time at the latter than the former, because unlike Tayne, he wasn't a warrior, and unlike Torshael, he wasn't equipped to combat infernals. Really, he spent most of his time walking around the city and talking to dragons of the Order-- both of which Torshael and Tayne assured him was helping, by lifting people's spirits to see the Exalted looking out for them. And when he wasn't doing that, he was watching over Irithin-- who still hadn't woken up-- and trying to make plans for himself during the battle, since he couldn't do anything directly with anyone else.
Torshael's meeting with the Malakym went well, at least. Ironically, a priestess of Yaashir was the leader-- the Malakym were all religious and dedicated primarily to Yaashir; it was something to do with their origin myths, or so Haiiro had been told-- and she was glad to listen to Torshael. They didn't even get angry at the possibility that they'd be blamed for the eminent attack, and seemed to take it resignedly in stride, as if it happened all the time. They were at least grateful for the warning.
However, when Torshael took the chance to ask about the so-called champion of Yaashir the Spider King who, according to Irithin, was the one likely to defeat Zu, they didn't get much of an answer at all. Yes, the priestess knew of someone who could possibly have been this champion, a member of the Blessed-- mortals chosen by a deity to represent them in the mortal plane, and perform tasks that could be difficult, dangerous, or just plain silly for a god to do himself-- and no, she was not going to tell them who these people were. She was very evasive on the subject. Haiiro understood their reasoning, not wanting to "give them away", as it were, to villains and fearful civilians alike, but it was still disappointing that they had no further clues as to who they should be looking for. This certainly seemed like it would be the great battlefield Irithin mentioned, or at least a great battlefield, so now was the time for the champion to show up. If it was just up to Haiiro and his bond, he wasn't sure they'd manage, though they'd certainly give it their best. Yulaan's wordless, abstract reassurance that their champion was near "in case he was needed" helped a little, at least. Still, it didn't stop him from keeping Ishtar's knife close and his mind busy with what he could possibly do against their powerful adversaries.
Tekasynos wound up being a lot of help, despite his protestations that he didn't have anything he could contribute. He knew the most about Zu and what she was likely to be capable of, as well as what abilities of hers she would be able to share with others-- which, really, was nothing at all except her ability to withstand purification. Her regeneration and resistance to lightning were personal, and her resistance to purification was based on proximity. Torshael was immensely relieved to discover that his purification wouldn't be useless, at all, as only those infernals nearest Zu could share in her imperviousness to it-- and only those who didn't rely on it out of cowardice would even enjoy that boon.
Of course, he'd still need to be careful: destroying or morally altering citizens of the city itself was counter-intuitive to the purpose of protecting the city, regardless of how evil they were. With that in mind, though, he'd been practicing at aiming his purifying power whenever he had the chance. Instead of simply releasing it in all directions at once, he wanted to focus it slightly more in two dimensions rather than three, like an expanding wave rather than a sphere. Seeing him working so hard at getting the result he wanted was so much better than the uselessness he'd been feeling before, when he was certain nothing he could do would really help. It was almost amusing, seeing him pause at random intervals during the day and let out a burst of light that only reached a few feet, and would have been truly funny if the purpose behind it hadn't been so dire. At least it helped build up his endurance, too.
Of all of them, Tayne managed to keep himself the busiest. He was with the Order most of the time, only coming back to the inn for the occasional meal, a brief respite from the hustle with Haiiro, Torshael, and Tekasynos, and to sleep-- and the last apparently only because he'd been kicked out of his cot after the first night. He was always either going over plans for the battle itself, advising on protections for civilian shelters since the city was too large to evacuate most of the populace, suggesting defensive spells against infernals in general and Zu in particular, or training with a few of the Sentinels in how best to keep the airspace around Torshael clear so he could use his power. He was even acting as liaison for Tekas and Torshael both, summoning or even just contacting one of them if they weren't on hand whenever someone had a question. Haiiro didn't know how he managed to keep going, but he seemed happy with so much to do.
Tayne and Tekas seemed to be getting along well, especially compared to when they were on the road, if a bit oddly. Tayne was remarkably friendly at times, even beyond his usual teasing familiarity, and at those times Tekas just seemed confused by him-- which made sense, really, since Tekas used to be certain Tayne hated him. Haiiro wondered whether Tayne wasn't going a bit overboard in making certain the infernal felt accepted, but since Tayne was really quite busy, he never had a chance to say anything to him about it. It probably didn't matter; it wasn't as if Tekas seemed upset by the attention, just off-balance.
Torshael's involvement was limited mostly to conferring with mages and speaking with the guardian dragon of the city, the golden Einlendathir-- Ein for anyone not being formal or who had a poor memory for long names, one of the Aniya Riihan or Elder dragons-- about the wards, seals, and protections he would be holding for as long as possible to keep Zu's army out. When he wasn't needed for something, he was getting to know the air above the city and the best places he could move between and practicing. He practiced his purification, mostly, and he practiced flying with the small entourage Tayne had appointed him from the Order.
With any luck, the Order-- its numbers greatly inflated by backup called from various branches around the globe-- and the supernals could do a great deal of damage to the infernal army before Ein's wards fell. The goal was to route them before Zu overwhelmed Ein's power with her own, but no one was under any illusions that this would be likely. No one knew just how many infernals they would be facing, whether it would be just infernals or if she'd gathered minions from other species, or whether she and her army would be harboring hidden talents that not even Tekas or the supernals could guess at.
And Haiiro... well, he was planning on finding Ishtar. At least he had some idea of what to do against her, thanks to her constructs in the dreamworld, and since he couldn't do much against infernals, Ishtar was his goal. Exactly how he'd manage what he wanted to do, he wasn't sure, but he hoped a solution would present itself when the battle was joined. Until then, he'd just have to settle with letting his mind go over and over every possibility it could come up with, filing away the useful ones and discarding the improbable ones. Chi, when he wasn't with Soul Catcher in the midst of their own preparations, was a willing sounding board.
So they spent four days like that, waiting and doing what they could to prepare. They'd need every bit of preparation they could get.