Torshael and Tayne's Story: A New God for a New Mission
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
When she woke, it was to pain-- sharp pain, burning pain, pain that, for once, was difficult to block out or ignore; a lasting sort of pain-- but it was also to life. She was still alive, and that was what mattered. There was a bandage around her middle and around her hand, and cool sheets pulled over her. She was still in her hybrid form-- and really, staying in it felt like it would probably be a good idea, given the bandages and how much she hurt.
Also, when she woke, it was not to her familiar rooms in her familiar lair-- the scents and sounds were all wrong, obvious even before she opened her eyes, and there were no servants or minions within sensing distance. She couldn't even sense anything beyond the single room she found herself in. It wasn't even to swirling snow, which was her last memory: a teleport gone far off-course into a frozen wasteland, a snowstorm, white everywhere colored only with blood. Here, though, there was a healthy fire crackling not far away, keeping the room hellishly-- comfortably-- warm, and the faint sound of wind rattling a window somewhat farther away. An unfamiliar wind at an unfamiliar window.
And then a voice, familiar but from a time so long ago she couldn't place it, and a surprisingly gentle hand on her torn belly. "I was wondering when you'd wake up, chick."
Chick. No one called her that. No one would dare, unless they were looking to die. No one, except....
"Asuliz," Ereshkigal-- a name she hadn't used in a long time, but a name that his presence brought back to life-- said, her voice half a hiss and half a grumble, opening her eyes. The room was dim, unlit except for the fire and the faint red glow from two sets of glowing eyes, and put together of dark colors. She was tucked into a bed in one corner, an alcove beside the fireplace, and there was a man sitting on the edge of her bed. Only he was no more a real man than she was a real woman.
He didn't bother to confirm or deny his identity. He didn't have to. "You managed to get fairly well beaten, didn't you?" he commented instead. "I've done what I can for you, so at least you aren't likely to die unless you make a concerted effort to."
"I don't need any help from you, Asuliz," Ereshkigal growled under her breath, having barely enough energy to be angry. But that didn't mean she wasn't going to use it to be so.
"Of course you do," he told her lightly, giving her stomach a pat that was quite possibly more painful than Asuliz had intended-- but then, perhaps not; he was allied with the Fallen, after all, despite not being... quite... an infernal. The touch made her flinch despite every intention not to. "I wouldn't want to have to report that the Fallen's favorite granddaughter died on some backward planet, now, would I? Now relax or you'll start bleeding again."
Ereshkigal said nothing, but she did do as suggested and tried unclenching her stomach muscles. It helped the pain, a little, but not her fury and wounded pride at being looked after by someone-- by anyone-- even Asuliz R'mazahes.
He was currently wearing a form she recognized as one of his earliest human shapes, the one she knew best, though she knew he had others, just as she did. He was sturdily built, with smoky gray eyes that looked vaguely amused most of the time, steel gray hair in a wild mane around his face, a salt-and-pepper moustache, and dusky skin. He withdrew his hand when she grudgingly obeyed him-- for her own sake, certainly not because he'd told her to-- only to return it a moment later, holding her a cup that smelled like broth. "Take it, chick. I'd rather not have to feed you, and I expect you'd rather I didn't, either."
She grudgingly accepted the warm cup, and he eased her up enough to drink it despite her growling at every touch. "What in the Abyss are you doing here, anyway?" she grumbled, resigned for the moment to him helping her.
"Keeping an eye on the Fallen's favorite granddaughter, what does it look like?" he answered. "He was quite interested to see whether you succeeded in obtaining godhood."
"Hmph," she snorted into her mug. "I doubt that."
"I wouldn't, if I were you," Asuliz said, a little more seriously. "He was actually a little annoyed with you for the attempt. He didn't exactly send you out into the world to try to take over planets."
"Somehow, that does not surprise me," Ereshkigal growled. "I'm sure he'll be delighted that I nearly got myself killed in the process."
"It's the only reason he's not punishing you," Asuliz admitted, with a kind of malicious cheerfulness. "Though he was tempted to, anyway, when I told him who you were busy trying to maim in the process."
Ereshkigal snorted briefly. "What? A pair of young and foolish supernals? I don't know why he'd care."
Asuliz clucked his tongue at her reprovingly. "Do you pay no attention to what the other side is doing? Those young and foolish supernals-- who, by the by, I would not call so foolish as they and that young fellow of theirs did manage to nearly kill you-- just happen to be Torshael and Tayne Peregrin."
Zu's eyebrows shot up at the delicate emphasis on that name. Peregrin? Peregrin? She hurried to put up a front of anger again. "I don't make it a point to track down members of the family tree whenever one of them decides to spawn again," she sneered. Still, whether she was too tired or still reeling from the shock of hearing that name, paired with her recent enemies, she found herself unable to hide the signs of anxiety: chewing at her bottom lip with a couple sharp teeth and looking away guiltily from Asuliz's amused expression.
"Stop that," Asuliz scolded lightly, almost fondly. "You haven't the energy to regenerate it, and I'd rather not be treating your mouth, as well. Besides, there's no permanent damage done, since everyone is apparently recovering just fine, or was last I heard. Even the one to whom you gave a few very nice holes in the chest."
"Just leave me alone, Asuliz," Ereshkigal grumbled. No one had teased her in millennia, and she'd forgotten how much she hated it. The memory was coming back now, with a vengeance.
"Not until you're whole again, I'm afraid," Asuliz said apologetically. "Or at least whole enough that you can look after yourself." He leaned over her, lips nearly pressed to her ear, and purred, "Finish up your broth and get back to sleep, chick. The faster you heal, the faster you leave."
"Fine," Ereshkigal snapped, jerking back-- wincing at the pain the moving caused her-- then glaring at him over the rim of her cup for causing her more discomfort.
He gave her a bland smile and stood up, the bed creaking faintly as he left it. "Just so you know," he said, sounding more matter-of-fact now, "I wouldn't suggest trying any magic-- or shifting-- until you're more healed up. Something about that sword seems to be affecting more than just your body. And we're in someone else's domain, of sorts, so do try to be polite if you take it into your head to wander around over the next few days."
"Great," Ereshkigal muttered, then pointedly turned her attention to the last of her "dinner", not in any mood to talk. Asuliz chuckled softly, patted her knee through the sheets, then moved off, leaving her in peace.