Torshael and Tayne's Story: Between Missions

Chapter Eight


When Torshael came from from his second visit with his sister that week, it was obvious he was troubled. It didn't take mind reading-- or considerable intelligence-- to figure out why, especially when one knew why he had gone a second time, to begin with.

"So where does she think you need to go?" Haiiro asked from the couch in the front room, off to the side from the tiled entry. He'd put down his book at the sound of the door opening, sitting up and peering over the back of the couch to where his bond drifted in. He didn't need to really see him to tell he was troubled, thanks to their bond, but seeing the frown on his muzzle and his slickly flattened feathers certainly did reinforce it.

"Someplace called Ryslen," Torshael replied, coming around the arm of the couch, shrinking as he walked. Once he was small enough to jump onto the human-sized piece of furniture without breaking it, he did so, and settled across Haiiro's bare feet. "The Flurry. It's this... winter festival, for white dragons, very exclusive and very... well."

"Very, er, free?" Haiiro supplied.

"A veritable orgy in the sky," Torshael agreed, shutting his eyes. "I don't know why she thinks that would make this any easier for me."

"Well, it will be a lot of women," Haiiro shrugged. "All in one place, all for the same thing, probably expecting awkward-feeling men to try and talk to them...." He smiled a bit, reaching down to brush white fluff out of Torshael's face, and his blue eyes opened and rolled up to watch his fingers. "You know, I bet someone shy and awkward about it would go over better than someone overconfident and rude. It's not like you're ever rude, Torshael."

"Just a little arrogant," he countered.

"Only when you let yourself be," Haiiro countered back.

"You sound like you support this," Torshael said warily, eying him suspiciously.

"I don't, really. But I don't necessarily think it's a bad idea, either-- just different. You shouldn't do anything you don't want to."

"That's the problem," Torshael admitted, ears back and looking very embarrassed. He slid off the couch again, restlessly, and started wandering across the room. "I do sort of... want to see what it's like. And I want to do right by whoever I marry, so practice or a way to learn more might be helpful...."

"You don't even have to marry, if you don't want to," Haiiro pointed out. The incredulous, almost affronted look Torshael gave him made him certain that, that was the wrong thing to say. Apparently this fell into the category of "things Favored supernals do", so it was something Torshael felt he had to do. "Never mind. So you have to get married. Well, what all bothers you about getting married, exactly?"

His bond relaxed again, now that his assumptions were no longer being called into question, frowning and resuming his pacing. "Well... I suppose I'm afraid. Marriage will affect the rest of my life-- which could conceivably be very long, if I'm lucky in battle-- and there's so many things that I could do wrong.... And I don't really know anything about being a husband, much less a father. I didn't talk to many girls in school, I was so busy learning and studying and practicing.... What do you do with one?"

Haiiro was glad his bond wasn't looking at him; he wanted very badly to laugh. "Well, this Flurry would probably help with knowing what to do with a girl, that's for sure."

Torshael swatted at him lightly with his tail in passing, missing on purpose. "And what about beyond that? After the Flurry's over?"

"It'll get you access to girls to ask questions," Haiiro suggested. "Maybe they've got some advice for you?"

"I could always just ask here-- or, well, actually, that might be awkward," Torshael corrected himself with a wince. At Haiiro's wordless question, he elaborated, "I'm from one of the most prominent families in the City, for one thing. Asking people what women want probably isn't going to get me anything but confused looks. That, and then it will get around that I am looking to get married, and that... could make things difficult." Judging from the way he shifted his feathers and picked up his pace, Haiiro expected "difficult" meant something more like "embarrassing", but they amounted to the same thing, really. "Especially if someone thinks the people I'm asking are possibilities, which they might not be-- or they might be. I don't know which one would be worse."

"What about family?" Haiiro guessed. "Or books?"

"I doubt there will be any books on romance in the High One's City," Torshael chuckled without much humor. "And letting my family know that I'm considering what they're pressuring me about will only make them worse-- and probably be just as likely to get it out. A few of my cousins are terrible gossips, and I'm sure Aunt Calindae would go about to every eligible young lady and round them up to present to me."

"Ugh, definitely not family, then," Haiiro agreed. "Why don't you ask the High One?"

"He doesn't give that kind of advice," Torshael said absently, still pacing. "That kind of thing you really have to figure out yourself; it's called Free Will. I did ask about the Flurry... whether it would be right to go and participate, or wrong. It's not the sort of thing supernals usually do."

"What did he say?" Haiiro asked.

"He didn't say anything," Torshael answered, voice troubled, turning to make another circuit across the room. "He didn't say yes-- but he didn't say no, either. I expect that means it's something I'm going to have to decide for myself...."

"And if you decide wrong?"

Torshael paused to glance at him and rustle his wings in a shrug. "He'd not going to strike me down with a bolt of lightning, or take away my status as Favored. Holy or not, we're as fallible as any other mortal out there, and mistakes-- even big ones-- do happen. There are still consequences to be dealt with, of course, but not a punishment."

There was silence for a moment as Torshael resumed his restless pacing, and Haiiro thought on that. "Well... what kind of consequences could a wrong choice here be?" he finally asked.

"Ridicule and shame, if someone here finds out I've flown in this... Flurry thing," Torshael answered. "Guilt on my part, perhaps, even if no one finds out. More generally, there could be few hundred lifetimes of unhappiness if I marry wrongly, for myself and my mate."

Someone was being a little pessimistic today, but Haiiro couldn't really fault him. He'd probably be pessimistic if he were being pressured into something that made him nervous, and that was such a big thing. He skewed his ears. "There's no harm in going and seeing what things are like at this Flurry, is there?" he suggested.

"Hmm." Torshael paused, thinking. "I suppose not.... If it seems very-- loose, or difficult, or wrong to me, I can always leave without having participated."

"I'll come with you," Haiiro offered, as much to be supportive as because he didn't really want to be left behind.

His bond smiled at him. "Thank you, I appreciate that. I wish Tayne hadn't disappeared, I'd take him, too...."

Haiiro shrugged. "He needs to be alone for a while, I think, that's all. Besides, he'd probably tease you."

"Ugh." Torshael made a face. "You're right, he would." Decision made, he came back and flopped back onto the couch, this time across Haiiro's lap, and let Haiiro stroke his feathers. "Well, we'll see how this goes. We'll leave tomorrow, with the High One's permission."

"All right," Haiiro agreed. "Maybe we can let him break the news to your mother that you're leaving." It was either that or leave a note, the way Tayne had, to Haiiro's thinking. She'd never want to let them leave so soon, whether she knew why or not.... 

At the thought of dealing with his mother, Torshael just groaned and shut his eyes.


Chapter Nine

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