Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions
As it turned out, Torshael let his mother help decorate his new house after all. She needed something to do besides mope about her recent widow-hood, and she was surprisingly sensitive to his preferences compared to her own. The fact that the building had already been halfway to perfect for him when she showed it to him probably helped: it was sparkling white with an impressive front lawn, walk, and columned portal on the outside, and a richly elegant rooms inside. There wasn't much Vaillal could do to turn it into something she would be completely happy with, so it must have been easier to just accept Torshael's taste and work with it.
Really, Torshael didn't mind her presence. He hadn't been lying when he told Tayne and Haiiro that he really did love her, despite her silliness. Tayne was largely distant, distracted-- he'd been so much closer to their father Tashel, and his death really did seem to have hit him hard-- and prone to making snide comments about the house and Torshael's tendency to like the impressive, so he wasn't the best company. Torshael didn't really begrudge him the last, annoying though it was, because it probably wasn't a place Tayne would be comfortable living in and they were stuck together for a while, at least. But that didn't mean he wanted to be left alone with his unhappy brother. That was one reason Vaillal was something of a relief, if just because her presence kept Tayne quieter and kinder.
More importantly, however, Haiiro seemed to like Vaillal quite a bit, and enjoyed her company. She made him feel accepted and at home, and didn't stare at him or ask him questions about where he came from, why he looked so different, or whether he actually followed the High One or his own deity-family. So Haiiro's relief at her presence was another reason Torshael appreciated having her around. And, of course, it was good to see her after three years of being away, and he wasn't about to turn down help in settling in.
What he did mind was the slow but steady stream of other relatives and friends of the family who kept stopping by. The family was ancient-- they went all the way back to before the exile of the Fallen-- so it was correspondingly huge, especially with people coming into the City for the funeral. Tashel was well-loved, and had kept in contact with many non-Favored branches of his family, so there were a lot of first-, second-, and third-cousins, a wide variety of aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, and the like. Very few of them were Pures, but then, most of the Pures lived in the City already, and there weren't all that many of them to begin with. Torshael thought that there were only three others besides himself who could truly be called white in the family just then, not counting his mother who was only a Peregrin by marriage.
The visits were ostensibly to pay their respects as he was now the eldest male in the Peregrin family-- not counting their aged great-great-great-grandfather who refused to have anything to do with the rest of the family for some strange and convoluted reason that no one else quite understood-- and to express condolences about his father. That did happen, of course, and for that Torshael was amiable enough, if a little awkward. However, what they all really seemed to want to do was investigate his new home, gawk at his other-worldly bond, and to hint not-so-subtly that now that he was the head of the Peregrin house, it was high time he found himself a wife. Even Vaillal, now and then, sighed in hopeful agreement when a second-cousin or a great-aunt mentioned children and continuing the line.
And the very thought made Torshael nervous.
"Is it just me," Haiiro began one evening as a pair of older cousins-- orange and black, and red and black, a very dark-looking pair but friendly enough despite that-- left them for the evening, "or are your family members really looking forward to you having kids?"
"They are," Torshael sighed in answer, closing the door. "We're an ancient family, and an important one. No one wants to see the line end."
"But you're still young," Haiiro protested, following him further inside, hooves ringing pleasantly on the stone tiles of the entry hall. "There's plenty of time for you to get married. Why bother about it now?"
"Father was still young, too," Torshael pointed out. "Only about a hundred. And Tayne, Vienel, and I weren't his first clutch-- the first produced a pair of non-Favored girls when he was about fifteen. One of them died on her training mission; the other lives out on the edge of the realm protecting a half-frozen village in the far mountains. She actually came for the funeral-- she spoke briefly, you might remember her her; she's brown like Tayne only with a white mane-- but then left almost immediately afterwards, said she couldn't stay long."
Haiiro nodded. "Couldn't leave her town alone for too long."
"Right." Torshael nosed open the door to the kitchen for his bond, holding it with his tail while Haiiro went through. "Father was an active Favored-- like me, he went out and fought infernals. There's always a possibility, when you work in the field like that, that someone will get a lucky shot, or find you when you're asleep, or a black will show up who's stronger than you, and you'll die."
"They're afraid you might get sent out again, and not have sired any children before-- before you die?" Haiiro hazarded, though his fluffy ears turned back unhappily on the last words.
"They can petition to keep me in the City at least until I've married," Torshael shrugged, letting the door swing shut behind him and aiming for the table. "I expect aunt Calindae might, she seemed particularly interested in a grand-nephew. The High One might grant the petition, I don't know."
"So they're going to force you to get married?" Haiiro asked, this time with his ears flat, sounding rather upset at the idea. Well, Torshael didn't blame him; he was a little upset at the idea, himself, though he'd always known it was likely to happen.
"They can't force me to do anything," Torshael corrected wearily, stacking plates from the table so he could wash them. He'd felt obliged to serve dinner, though at least Tayne wasn't anywhere to be found, as was starting to be common for when family came over, so it had only been for himself, Haiiro, Vaillal, and his two cousins. "Though they can hint and nag and guilt me in an attempt to do so. It's something I should do, anyway; most of us do, you know, especially the Favored, since there aren't as many of us. And there are a few ladies from school who I like well enough, if it came down to that. I just...."
He shook his wings nervously, and Haiiro turned to nuzzle his ears. "Don't know if you're ready?"
"Something like that.... Come on, help me clean this up."
Haiiro obligingly shifted to carry plates to the sink for him, and helped him wash them-- the old-fashioned way rather than simply taking a small Purification to them, because he felt like using his hands today-- and kept him company for the rest of the evening. They didn't talk about children or wives or even family, instead going through Torshael's collection of spell-recorded music-- a few particularly gifted Air supernals dedicated their lives to inscribing huge amounts of music and having human mages replicate them for others to enjoy whenever they pleased. Torshael was pleased to impress his bond a few times with the beautiful pieces, and enjoyed telling him the stories behind each one.
The worry was never far from his thoughts, however, and when they bedded down for the night-- Haiiro had his own room, but so far had spent at least half the nights so far sharing Torshael's-- they came back with a vengeance. He lay awake, Haiiro snuggled up under his wing, with his mind fluttering around the issue like an anxious bird.
It seemed like such a long time ago, now, that he'd told Tayne and then Tekasynos that he simply didn't think about things like romance, marriage, or even sex. But it had been true then, and it was still true now. It wasn't something that ever really came to mind, and when he did think about it, it actually made him a little nervous. What if he did something wrong? What if he was bad at it? What if whoever he'd chosen grew to not like him? What if he and she simply didn't get along? What if he was a terrible husband, tied to someone he couldn't do well by? What if he simply didn't enjoy being married?
And then, of course, there were the children, which bothered him even more. What if he was a terrible father? He didn't know much about children, what if he did something wrong there? What if he didn't even sire any Pures like himself? It wasn't uncommon for even Favored pairs not to pass along the rare color-- Tashel's first clutch proved that. His family would be quite put out with him if he didn't manage to continue the tradition of important Pures in the Peregrin line.
Though he always knew, an an abstract sense, that eventually he'd have to deal with the whole idea, he always thought "eventually" meant "sometime in the distant future". He'd never imagined it would mean "right now". His father could always have had another clutch, birthed another Favored-- it had happened once or twice before, in the family, that a second or third clutch produced another Pure white hatchling. He'd never considered that Tashel simply wouldn't be there to sire more children.
But he wasn't there, and he was faced with marriage and children "right now". And he was afraid.
Thankfully, Haiiro was not, so when he finally fell asleep, Torshael wound up following not long afterwards, fear or no fear.