Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions
The High One's Stoneworker had done a good job with the sarcophagus, Tayne thought vaguely as he stared at as good a rendition of his father as even his own memories. Maybe better. The old green supernal, whose Earth powers extended mostly to stone, had been creating sarcophagi and tombstones for the City's cemetery for millennia, and he'd never lost his touch. Even if he had never even met the person he was recreating in death, he still managed a perfect likeness, caught forever in a moment of peace or power or whatever he thought represented them best.
He even incorporated a supernal's bond, if he had one when he died. Though a human chosen by and bonded to a supernal slowed drastically in their aging, few-- if any; Tayne didn't know any who had-- ever lived beyond their supernal's death. Most of the time they simply died in battle with them, or had a heart attack from the shock of the link being broken if they were somewhere else.
Tashel Peregrin's sarcophagus was white, veined with pale blue, brown, and gray. It was life-sized, his figure and form carved as if about to take flight, with body crouched and wings half-open and bond standing unafraid between them, arms raised as if to cast a spell. Every curl of his horns and whorl of his armor was exactly as Tayne remembered it. It suited him, how he spent his life, always ready to leap into whatever was asked of him.
It was also empty.
The story had been slow in coming; not even Vaillel had known it all when she greeted them with the news, though she knew enough to be devastated. A messenger had finally come down from the High One that night, intruding only briefly on the grief-stricken home, with full details of what had happened. A small group of unusually disciplined infernals-- including a fairly old and devious red-- had managed to bring him down before somewhere in the far south, killing both him and his bond, a human mage named Jonas. Though the messenger didn't say what they did with them after that, her soft apology that their bodies were irretrievable was enough for Tayne to make a few guesses. His imagination did the rest.
The funeral was planned for seven days later, after all the arrangements had been made, the empty coffin prepared, and family notified. The Peregrin family was old and prolific, widely spread across the realm and often deeply engrossed in whatever their task or assignment was. It would take that long for some of them to get away and get to the City, and it would take that long to make sure there were places to house everyone who would make it.
Besides, seven days was traditional.
The night of the sixth day until the morning of the seventh was spent in silence, contemplation, and vigil on the part of those who knew him best, usually his immediate family and sometimes close friends. No one expected Vaillal to keep the vigil, not if they wanted their own night to be quiet. She was still too broken over the loss, and the thought of staying up all night with an image of her husband before her was simply too much for her to take. Vienel stayed with her, saying that she could contemplate just fine while keeping her company.
So it was Tayne and Torshael, Haiiro with Torshael, and an old friend of the family who had gone to school with Tashel, a burly Fire supernal named Idel Cirelli, who knelt in the small temple where the empty sarcophagus rested until the funeral and procession to the graveside in the morning. There wasn't room for many more, anyway, not unless someone kept to another form. The temple was for the contemplation and vigil preceding a funeral, not gatherings, socializing, or even instruction or worship. It hardly had anywhere to sit, just a few wide benches in the back, though the floor was well-carpeted as the traditional place to hold a funeral vigil was the floor in front of the dais holding the sarcophagus. It was only sparsely, simply decorated, everything focused towards the front of the room and its beautiful, morbid contents.
There wasn't much talk, nor even much sound beyond the hourly toll of the small temple's bell marking the hour and three supernals' soft breathing. Idel kept his own counsel, all but glaring at the image of his old friend, as if he were somehow angry at him for dying. Torshael was one to take tradition seriously, and so wasn't likely to say a word, and Haiiro looked like he'd much rather be asleep.
Well, Tayne was glad. He didn't want to talk. He didn't really want to be here, now, either.... But not talking he could do. Avoiding this, hiding from it, pretending it hadn't happened-- turning back time so that it hadn't happened-- that he couldn't do.
Though it might have been wrong to say it, or even think it, of all his family Tayne had loved his father the most. His mother was sweet, yes, and his sister clever and witty, and Torshael was his best friend, but Tashel had been something special. He'd seen his sons for themselves-- seen Tayne for himself-- as more than just colors and titles. He'd always encouraged Tayne to be the best that he could be, whether he was standing in Torshael's shadow or not, and had been good at making him feel loved, even on a particularly bad day, a day when he felt ignored by everyone else.
He'd been proud of Torshael, of course, as any father of a Favored would be, as anyone would be. But he'd also been proud of Tayne, even when he failed at something-- even when he knew the worst things about him. Tashel was the only one besides the High One who knew he liked men just as much as women-- "liking" in the way he "liked" Tekasynos-- and he'd accepted him anyway, more readily and completely than Torshael had managed even now, after a week and a half to get used to the idea. He'd been proud of him for admitting it, for coming to him with his worry that it was wrong and fear that he'd be cast out of the City by the High One, himself, for being wrong. The worry, he'd said, was enough to prove that whether it was wrong or not, Tayne wouldn't do wrong with it, and the fear was groundless, because even if someone felt or did something wrong-- or just different-- the High One was still loving and forgiving.
And even after the conversation had ended, and his fear and worry had subsided to something he could ignore or forget about most of the time, after he'd needed and gotten the understanding and supportive parent... nothing had changed. The crisis had passed, but nothing had changed, though it easily could have. Tashel still loved him and was proud of him, and they never actually spoke of it again. It felt like they hadn't needed to.
Tayne had promised himself more than once during his childhood and schooling that he'd grow up to be just like him, in strength and character if not in color. And other than being too quick too tease and a little too quick to anger-- and maybe the bit about liking men-- he liked to think he'd done his father proud.
But now he'd never really know.... Not until he managed to die in combat and move on, too. He knew Tashel's spirit had gone on to the final plane that promised rest after a life of battle-- the somewhat amusing picture of his friendly father running around from ancestor to ancestor in an attempt to shake all of their hands came unbidden to his mind, and he set it aside for a time when he could actually bring himself to chuckle at it-- and he knew that someday he'd see him again, too, but... he just wished that "someday" didn't have to be so far away, and beyond the span of his life, however long or short that might be.
After leaving school and going out as a new working team, Tayne hadn't seen much of Tashel. He'd been assigned to the City, for the most part, while they were growing up and in training, but once they were no longer in the City, neither was he. It was rare that they were all home at the same time, though before they'd left the realm he'd been able to spend a few days at home with the whole family, for once. He'd been happy, Tayne remembered... happy to see everyone home, happy to be having dinner with everyone or sharing stories or even listening to Vaillal fretting about whatever she fretted about while her children listened with varying amounts of tolerance and amusement. Tayne was sure Torshael had gotten his tendency to fret from her, though his brother would never admit to it....
Yes, the last time he'd seen him, Tashel had been happy. He'd been able to see them off, and wish them well, and say... say he'd been proud of them.
Tayne put his chin down on his paws, refusing to look away from the stone carving in front of him and refusing even more resolutely not to cry. If he let himself, if he gave in and let it out, he didn't know if he could stop, and he needed to be steady for the funeral in the morning. For his mother, for his brother, for himself.
It was going to be a long night, and an even longer day to follow....