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At Sea: A Funeral Pyre

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To be a healer was to expose yourself to gore, to the varying measures of flesh and bone between the mortal races, to know the blood you work with. A studious doctor took measurements, would know surgery. This grim intimacy, familiarity with flesh often involved the study of cadavers. Should the healer be meek or sympathetic to the body before them, this could extend to respectful treatment of the dead.

 

Healing could be an undertaking in each sense of the word. Although a healer’s dedication was to stave off the creep of death, they were not always successful. Not all corpses possessed next of kin. Not all souls would be wept over or remembered. Inevitably, decay and the creatures which feast upon it would need to be staved off or else the corpse become a feast for scavengers.

 

Tanager Volaeren’s body was dry upon the cliff-face, framed neatly by an arch of carved bricks. Once it had been a door’s frame. The stone wall was little more than a surface to catch sunlight through the hawthorn canopies of the tropical isle.

 

It should smell of rot. This was the first thought which occupied Fëanor Sylvaeri’s mind. The space was surprisingly arid in what was a normally humid section: they were close to the baths, after all.

 

Turge, who had led Fëanor and Albatross Volaren there, slumps the broken carcass of the freshy slain Jim (a rascal of a man but otherwise weak and less than memorable) next to Tanager’s body. The human had been decapitated. The elf was mostly whole, and his living cousin knelt in examination then prayer to pay respects.

 

This was a matter of not one, but two burials. A pyre for Tanager, and a simple burning for the slain Jim, whose presence had promised the Isle only deceit and suspicion of his character. Both would need to be disposed of quickly, so as to not tempt scavengers of the dead.

 

Fëanor was displeased with the idea of disposing an honorable cadaver in conjunction with a petty troublemaker, and the elf expressed as much to those present. It was a request of Albatross on how he would like his cousin sent away.

 

The cousin said as much of the matter of funeral: “Yes, the All-Father would deem it most important that my cousin be burned effective immediately.”

 

Fëanor would gather the larger logs for the funeral pyre’s palette base. Long strips of crude spruce boards, kindling and more were gathered, then cut and stacked. Assembled within the hour, the neat palette rose three meters high upon the cliff. More the work of a carpenter than a warrior or smith, though none upon the Isles would question the origins of this Sylvaeri’s knowledge of undertaking.

 

How grim, that he had learned to bury, embalm, and burn the dead from the same mother who had instructed him in healing, in the protection of others…

 

It had been too late to properly embalm Tanager’s corpse, but the elf, with aid of Albatross, could spare him honor and decency. Crimson silk, later to be implemented into the signature armor of the Isles, was wrapped across Tanager in a manner of crude mummification.

 

As the silk would preserve decency and spare residents’ eyes the sight of decay, an axe would preserve honor. Made of iron, it had in Fëanor’s eyes been a functional but ugly thing. There was nothing wrong with it, yet it was not perfect. No weapon, no armor so far was, and this was especially true in the wake of any death.

 

The sun had set. The body, laid wrapped in silk atop the pyre, was honored with an axe which would rest at the base of the palette. It had been placed there by Albatross, whose customs were unfamiliar to the Isles, but not unwelcome.

 

The Lady Stewardess and Turge lingered by the clinic’s round, wooden archway. The Prince-Lord of the Isle, Belestram Sylvaeri arrived in short company of Vienele.

 

“I cannot offer the words of the All-Father's faithful, nor the blessings of Aspectism or other rites. Foremost, I am a warrior and smith, and I thank you, Tanager, that you will not be without it into the next life, to wherever your soul will find itself. May you rest, may your soul go in peace. You fought bravely, and to the last. And thus, a warrior's funeral.”

 

Fëanor Sylvaeri takes three steps forth. Though the remnants of his beginning words had carried through the canopies about the elven group, he continues. “A warrior's pyre, for Tanager. Have any others here parting words before we send him off?”

 

“He checked the walls, it was an honourable labour.”

“He was my cousin, so if shared anything with me then he was alright.”

“My condolences for your loss,” Vienele says as much to Albatross.

 

“Dispatched only bodily by a wicked wyvern,” Fëanor would muse. Come to kneel beside the pyre, the kindling tucked under his elbow was soon organized into a long, creeping pile against the palette’s wood. “A death braver than most.”

 

“One that could easily have claimed me,” the elf’s father speaks.

 

There was a long silence as the patient Fëanor took flint and tinder to the kindling. At first, the only sounds from him were the idle clicks of flint and tinder. Unafraid, barely moving, the flameworker casts sparks across the kindle.

 

“We send you away, Tanager, that you will be committed to a well-deserved rest.” Smoke, then embers rise across the pile of kindle, flames sparking and consuming the dry twigs and leaves. In a moment, it climbs across and breaches in the innermost cross-sections of wooden logs. These tufts of smoke begin to billow and climb at the outermost reaches of the cliffs, breaching a spot between the hawthorn canopies and mounting skyward into the dusk.

 

The kindle and logs had been arranged so that the heat would spread in a rectangular manner, up and towards the crimson-draped figure atop the pyre. Laid down, Tanager's broken form was soon to be consumed by the encroaching flames, which hastily make towards him from the elf's arrangements. It was certain now, no trace but ash would be left of Tanager Volaren.

 

“May Ælfwynn guide his soul, for one who falls in battle is accepted nowhere beneath the side of the All-Father himself,” Albatross prays.

 

Fëanor murmured hymns in the back of his dried throat. There was no exact word for the emotions coursing through him. Displeasure, anger: these were close, but not precise. Perhaps these were the lingering results of his trials with wyvern and lubba scales. Too many hours in the heat of the forge were sure to dry the body, make the mind weary. Prayer was one of his few reserved acts to settle his mind.

 

The pyre burnt into the dawn. As the elf spoke parting, hopeful words with the soon dispersing crowd, he was faraway in thought. For although Tanager would be laid to rest now, there was a second, headless corpse to be disposed of.

 

This next pyre would not be made for honoring Jim, and would be seen by no one but the most barren of trees.

 

Spoiler

OOC: This post takes place roughly a month after the events of The Crustacean Menace. It involves the PK of Tanager Volaren, played by @Nectorist This post is not a direct sequal to my previous post At Sea: A Mother’s Wrath, but is included in a longer series of RP posts which I will be undertaking throughout the rest of Atlas.

 

 

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