Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions

Chapter Four


Tayne was ready for the wake to be over long before friends and family started drifting away to their homes or wherever they were staying for however long they were going to be in the City. He had been ready for it to be over almost before it began.

Normally, Tayne didn't mind large groups of people, even large groups of people where he didn't know many of the people in them. He preferred them when he had something specific to do in that group, some kind of job to accomplish or position to fill, but that wasn't necessary. He liked his family well enough-- there were always the annoying ones, like Aunt Calindae who always made a point to ask when he was going to settle down and start a family, or great-uncle Kortil who always went on and on about battles he'd been in, but on the whole they were good people-- and he was social enough to make small talk with just about anyone when he needed and wanted to.

That afternoon, though, he just didn't want to. He wanted his bedroom-- which wasn't likely to be his for much longer, as Torshael was due his own house in the next few days, and Tayne would, of course, be moving with him-- and the luxury of being alone. Or at least the luxury to not have to take care of someone else, smile for someone else, support someone else, or even think of someone else. His father was gone, and, stuck in the middle of a crowd of people who wanted to hear how he was doing and look at him with pity or concern even when he said he was fine, all he wanted to do was think about something else, or think about nothing at all.

More than once he just made up his mind to leave, to go back to the house and hole up for a while in peace, but each time someone caught him in conversation on his way out and the chance was lost. It was almost sunset by the time he finally managed to slip away, and by then his mother had already gone home, so his room wouldn't be the haven he'd wanted. He probably wouldn't even have made it to his room, waylaid halfway there by Vaillal or Vienel, and the thought or giving anyone else, even them, another reassurance that he was fine or another assurance that they'd be fine, made him want to bite something. So instead, he escaped to the darkening streets. He could wander until he found somewhere to hole up for a while....

Finally able to shift down again into his most comfortable form-- being stuck in full supernal for was yet another reason he just wanted to leave; he couldn't shift for fear of being stepped on, or even just considered rude, as if he came to a formal gala in rusty armor rather than silk-- he padded across the cobblestones silently, keeping his head down and wings folded tightly over his haunches. The streetlamps had yet to be lit, and everything was a vague sort of twilight. It fit his mood, and he kept away from the broader thoroughfares and more crowded districts. There would be supernals at the various establishments around the City set up for gathering, socializing, and commiserating, often over a drink or two-- not even supernals could fight, live, die, or celebrate all three without some form of social release-- so he avoided those. There would be supernals walking the streets in the park districts-- mostly younger supernals spending time with equally young friends, or courting couples, or even mated pairs stealing a few moments away from hatchlings, house, or both-- so he certainly avoided those. Instead, he found the quieter parts of the residential districts, and as the streetlamps finally flickered on, wandered through those, and tried not to think at all.

Trying not to think and not thinking were different things, however, and though Tayne was better at it than most, his head was so full that it was an effort in itself. He focused on his surroundings, sifting through memories for what he remembered about each place, occasionally getting drawn down other paths-- real or in his head-- because of what he remembered. Like when he passed the house his first study partner for second year religious theory, and he wound up not only letting his mind wander over some of the arguments-- amiable arguments, of course-- they'd gotten into during the course of some of those study sessions, but also letting his paws take him down another street to pass another house he remembered, and the memories that house stirred up. It was happier to think about the past, mostly.

So it was with a start of surprise that, when he looked up from wondering whatever had happened to the Aesyr siblings he'd known from school, he found himself on a street he hadn't had any conscious intention of going to-- or memory of getting to, for that matter. He twisted to look behind him; yes, that was where he'd come from, and it didn't usually open onto this particular spot... but then, the streets had been known to do odd things when the High One was involved.

Tayne stared up at the gates to the High One's palace for a long time before he finally made up his mind. Just because the High One invited you to his house-- and something like this was an invitation, not a command or even a strong suggestion; if he wanted someone's presence, he would just summon them, not change the layout of the City's streets long enough to guide them to his doorstep-- didn't necessarily mean that you had to accept the invitation. Sometimes one just wanted to be alone, one's deity's offer of companionship non-withstanding. And Tayne had wanted to be alone-- to get away from the crowd and the sympathy and the inane chatter and his watery-eyed mother and....

But at the same time, he... didn't think he'd mind someone. Not everyone, not just anyone, but... someone. And if the High One invited you to his house, usually he had a reason, even if it was just because he thought you needed someone to talk to. Or someone to take you against their mane and nuzzle your wings comfortingly.

Well, maybe he did. And... maybe he did. So he passed through the gate, either ignored by the sentries there or at least appearing to be ignored by the sentries there, and negotiated the gardens in the front courtyard. The High One's palace was, of course, magnificent, but Tayne wasn't really in the mood to appreciate it; he passed by the night-blooming flowers and graceful fountains, heading up the elegantly carved steps into the palace proper, without really even seeing what he passed. Though one normally could move through hallway and gallery and hallway and receiving room and hallway again in order to finally reach the Court, the High One apparently made it easier on him today and opened his throne room to him straight from the first short hall.

The Court was almost entirely empty. The sentry at the door let him pass without a word, and the herald was completely absent. The Court mages had been dismissed for the evening, and there weren't any hangers-on loitering in the entry. There was just a total of four Favored guards standing at attention against the walls and the High One himself, lion-formed and sparkling, opalescent white, sitting on his long couch of a throne and watching him make his slow, only slightly reluctant way towards him. When he reached the steps up to the dais, he lowered his front half and spread his wings in the customary bow, then hesitantly looked up, half-expecting reproach, even now. What he got was sympathy in that giant, leonine face, and a paw lowered towards him, another silent invitation. This one he took without even having to think about it.

Tayne had never been quite so close to the High One, and he'd never even seen him without having shifted into full supernal form first. He'd forgotten to shift, this time, and he was so much smaller than the deity that being settled against the furry chest, a paw curled around him protectively, felt like being a cub again, cuddled up against a parent after a long day or a nightmare. Tayne sighed out a shuddering breath, one that took with it much of his tension and even a little of his sorrow, and shut his eyes, burying his muzzle in the offered, sweet-smelling mane and letting his god groom mane and feathers soothingly while he struggled against the tears that once again fought to get out. He only partially succeeded, but the High One didn't seem to mind that a small part of his mane took on a certain salty dampness. He could make himself pristine again whenever he felt the desire to, after all.

For the most part, there was silence except for comforting breathing and a faint rumble of a purr-- lions couldn't purr, but the High One didn't exactly have to follow the rules of what form could do what, especially since he likely wasn't a lion to anyone else-- and Tayne's own occasional, embarrassing sniffles. At least he knew, though he didn't really know how he knew, that only the High One cared or even knew he was there, and no one else could hear him. That made it easier to actually relax and just let someone else be the strong one for a while.

Even when he finally won the battle against the tears and got his breathing back under control, Tayne didn't move immediately. It was tempting to stay there the rest of the night, cradled and warm and unaccountably loved and accepted despite his shortcomings and deviances, and he knew he'd probably be welcome until morning. But Torshael would be looking for him if he didn't show up by morning-- even without Tekasynos around for him to be tempted by, he'd probably still worry-- and Tayne didn't really feel like explaining where he was and why he'd needed to be there. And there would be petitioners and summons and the like come morning who probably wouldn't appreciate a simple Heat supernal watching them from the High One's throne with him. Besides, his mother was probably asleep by now, so he could get to his own room without having to deal with her until morning.

So he finally pulled his muzzle out of the High One's fur, receiving another fond lick on the top of the head as he did so. "Thanks," he said quietly. The High One merely smiled down at him and nodded gently his acknowledgement.

As he slid down from the throne few minutes later-- despite his resolve to return home, he'd been loathe to really leave the comforting embrace-- the High One finally spoke. "Whenever you are ready to leave, I will handle the necessary preparations for you."

"Leave?" he asked, blinking up at his god in surprise.

The High One perked one ear in amusement that Tayne hadn't expected from him. "You are long overdue in fulfilling your own desire to bond, are you not? And I know you will not be very happy here, without a task, while your brother sets about settling into his new title and position as the head of your family."

So Torshael was likely to be inactive for a while; well, that was hardly a surprise. A couple of the great-aunts, like Calindae, had already been starting murmurs about Torshael settling down to raise a clutch of his own, and that sort of thing usually took a while, especially for someone like Torshael. And easily imagining the kind of home Torshael was likely to get in the next couple days that Tayne would have to share until said family came about, and even more easily imagining how boring he knew it would be doing simple guard work in the City for so many years, he grimaced. "You know me too well," he agreed.

"It's my job to do so," the High One pointed out, smiling.

"You won't mind?" Tayne asked hesitantly. "If I leave the realm in search of a bond, and something to keep me busy until Torshael goes active again?"

"I even have a place in mind for you, if you wish a little guidance in that," was the easy reply.

Tayne thought on that a moment, then nodded. "You'll know when I'm ready, I think." He paused, then turned to give the still-dangling, pure white paw a shyly affectionate bump of a nuzzle before backing back down the steps.

"Good night, Tayne," the High One said.

"Good night," Tayne answered with a little smile, and left the Court to go home, at least for now.

And he wasn't particularly surprised-- or unhappy-- to find Haiiro waiting for him outside the throne room. They walked home together, not saying a word, just enjoying the companionable silence left in the High One's wake.


Chapter Five

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