Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions
Home. There was no place quite like it in any world they'd been to in the past three years. The colors, the people, the sights, the sounds, the smell. The sense of holiness, of comfort, of familiarity. Stepping up to the great gates of the City, thrown open and manned by a pair of Favored guards, ivory and silver catching the light in the way it always did, Torshael breathed deeply and happily of home.
"Welcome home, Favored Torshael," the nearer guard said, and Torshael blinked at him a moment, not in surprise that the guards knew who they were-- that was to be expected, since they were due to be home this morning, and they were difficult to mistake for someone else-- but rather at the use of the full title. Then, realizing what that meant and suddenly feeling even more uplifted than he had at his first sight of the City, he broke into a very un-adult grin, making the fellow chuckle. When he'd left, he was a Newly Favored, still young and largely untried-- now, apparently, he warranted more.
"Welcome home, Tayne," the other guard added for Tayne's benefit, as the lion-shifted supernal followed his brother up to the gate.
"And who's this?" the first asked amiably, catching sight of human-formed Haiiro on Torshael's back, decked out in the fanciest of the clothes Tekasynos had made for him and wearing the sword made from his own blood. He was tense and nervous, despite looking his very best, and despite being more worthy of being here in this City than many supernal bonds. He'd chosen his smaller, human-like form for his entry to the City specifically because all the other bonds to supernals were human-formed, and he didn't want to stand out. Torshael wished he didn't feel so apprehensive about it all; there couldn't be a better bond for a Favored-- for him-- anywhere in the whole city, and Haiiro should have been proud of himself even without being Torshael's bond. He had plenty to be proud of.
"Haiiro'Hiwatari Taelaan," he introduced the kirin-kin, feathers fluffing importantly. "My bond."
"And rather holy in his own right," Tayne added, but under his breath so only Torshael and Haiiro could hear him. Haiiro hadn't wanted his nature to be common knowledge, if at all possible, worried that the child of some other deity might not be as accepted, and though Tayne-- and to a lesser extent, Torshael himself-- disagreed, they both respected his wishes for now.
"Ah, welcome to the High One's City, Master Taelaan," the guard said, giving Haiiro a respectful bow of his head. Haiiro radiated embarrassment-- not even on Kynn, where he was honored for the guardian kirin blood he shared, had they called him by his last name, though "Exalted One" could hardly have been better-- but nodded back.
"Hope you'll be comfortable here," the second guard agreed politely and with a smile.
Haiiro smiled shyly back at him, and then the trio entered the city.
After Shu-Riin, the City of the Sun on Kynn, perhaps Haiiro wasn't as awed as he could have been by the sheer size of this City-- but that didn't stop him from staring, either. Torshael was obscurely, smugly pleased that his bond was impressed, even though the City of the Sun was larger by simple number of buildings. The High One's City-- which, unlike the City of the Sun, didn't have another name and didn't need one-- was still more beautiful than any other, with its shimmering and shining buildings and veritable rainbow of inhabitants. The buildings were large for the sake of full-sized supernals rather than fitted for tiny humans, impressive in their stature and sweeping architecture. The streets weren't over-crowded, but neither were they empty, and more supernals than anywhere else in the realm made elegant subjects for people-watching. Wind chimes, musical breezes, the happy gurgle and splash of the fountains, and the sound of gentle voices filled the air.
It was so good to be home....
"So what do you think?" Tayne asked from the ground, walking at Torshael's shoulder.
"It's beautiful," Haiiro answered honestly, staring around him in an attempt to take it all in. "You live here?"
"For the first five years of our lives, we never left it," Torshael laughed, feeling lighter and happier than he had in weeks-- months, years. He was bonded, he was a full Favored, he had no expectations for the next few days except to relax with his family, and he was home. Any of his previous worries and concerns seemed small, now, in the face of all that.
"And you're sure they'll let me live here?" Haiiro asked nervously, as if a little cowed by the surroundings. He'd asked that before they got here, and had seemed to accept the answer then, but apparently needed reassuring in the face of the real thing.
"Pretty much all Favored bonds live in the City," Tayne assured him again.
"Most Favored bonds aren't related to another deity...."
"If I might remind you," Torshael said warmly, and a little amusedly, "the High One helped us with your mission on Kynn, and even if he hadn't, he sent us to the Destiny specifically for your clutch, so I doubt he has any problems with you."
::Says the one originally worried about whether we would be allowed to help out Kynn's gods, to begin with,:: Tayne prodded him.
::Hush,:: Torshael said back. ::This is about Haiiro, not me, and that was a long time ago.:: Well, at least a month ago. Or a few weeks. Or something like that. High One, how long had it been? It felt like longer than it really was, so much had happened.... ::Besides, I'm in a good mood; don't ruin it.::
He caught the fringes of his brother's amusement in the back of his head, but at least Tayne didn't comment again, and Haiiro seemed to accept what he'd said. "I wish he'd talk to me like he does to you," he sighed. "I'd feel a lot better about things."
"Maybe he can't," Tayne shrugged from the ground. "He doesn't talk to humans and elves and the like, here in the realm. Not directly, anyway, and certainly not obviously. Maybe supernals have a particular connection to him that makes the speaking possible."
Haiiro seemed a little surprised, but surprisingly mollified. "I wonder if he'll let me see him, now that I'm here."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he sends for you," Torshael chuckled. "If just to make sure you know he doesn't disapprove."
Though he couldn't see it without craning his neck uncomfortably, he could sense Haiiro's rueful smile before he changed the subject. "So where do you two-- er, we live?"
"Right now, just down this street, at the end," Torshael said. "With our parents and Vienel, our sister. But if I've really been elevated to full Favored, we'll probably be moving in the next few days.... I merit my own house now."
"High One, we'll have to decorate," Tayne chuckled.
"At least it won't be Mother's decorating," Torshael countered with a theatrical shudder. "Haiiro, I love her dearly, but she's rather a lover of flowers, kittens, and the color pink. She's a bit silly. I don't think she's left the City since she spent her first-- and only-- year in the field, right after training."
"Some aren't meant for battle, no matter what color they are," Tayne said patiently. "Mother is one of them. There are plenty of things for her to do in the City, that need to be done."
"I know, I know," Torshael agreed. "Silly or not, she never forgets a name, a face, or what name goes with what face, and she's an organizational genius when it comes to housing. I really wouldn't be surprised if she's already decided where we're going. I just hope it's not next door."
"Given that the Harethiels live next door, I'm sure it won't be," Tayne chuckled. "Now put on your 'I love my family' face. Here we are."
"I do love my family," Torshael protested, but he did don a smile as they turned up the walk to the Peregrin residence.
Unlike in other cities, the houses in the City were not an indication of wealth, but usually of age and personal preference. Also unlike in other cities, the houses had no theme between them, no over-arching style, not even from block to block: every one was unique. Some were different colors, with different gardens, a different arrangement of rooms or a different style of architecture, and some were probably in better taste than others-- but that was to each individual's own preference. When you were likely to live a very long time, you made your house as comfortable and fitting to you as possible-- and when you were likely to die in combat, you wanted to make the most of what time at home that you had, so you did the same.
It was obvious that this was the Peregrin house, however. It looked very much like something Vaillal Peregrin would be comfortable in for the next millennia or two. It looked like a homey cottage-- albeit a very large cottage, since it sprawled out lazily across its plot of land-- though it was straight out of a fairy tale rather than an actual peasant's village. It had been a long time, after all, since Vaillal had seen an actual peasant's cottage. Torshael did have to admit that it was comfortable and inviting, though not particularly elegant and certainly not to his tastes.
It was also obvious that Vaillal had been waiting for them, for she burst out the front door before they even set foot on the porch and, as was her norm when they'd been away for more than a couple days, threw her wings around them tearfully. Haiiro had to duck and scramble to avoid being unseated by a leading pinion, and Tayne-- who had shifted up into supernal form in anticipation so he wouldn't be trampled or overlooked-- found himself half-buried in his brother's mane at the motherly embrace. Torshael himself wound up half-buried in his mother's mane, and so it was he who realized first that the tears were not tears of joy and relief.
"Mother," he finally managed once he'd pulled back enough to get a forelimb around her-- and enough to be able to speak without eating her fur. "Mother, are you all right? What happened?"
"Oh," Vaillal hiccoughed. "Oh. You haven't heard...."
"Heard what?" Tayne asked anxiously, having disentangled himself from Torshael and mother at the same time Torshael managed to keep from suffocating, himself.
"Oh, Torshael, Tayne," Vaillal sniffed pitifully, wiping her reddened eyes, "your father is dead."
And with that she let out a grief-filled wail and buried her face in Torshael's shoulder, leaving the brothers and one small kirin-kin bond to stare at each other in shock.