Death was no more a thing of mystery than to which horizon the sun would fall. Things lived and things died; they became, they were, and then they ceased to be. Virtue could lead a human to be reborn as a seraphim but it was rebirth--not resurrection. The dead did not rise beyond the persistence of what was good in them. In that respect, Sorey understood completely why Mikleo had stacked a small memorial of stones beside a much older, weathered looking mound topped with a long, thin pipe under the bows of a familiar tree. They were markers to show respect for those who had passed and served as a place to remember and mourn. The nearby temple may have been in reverence to Zenrus but the stones paid homage to their beloved Gramps. Sorey had been given a similar place of honor. All the same, it sent shivers down his spine.
Mikleo mourned him. Sorey did not dare approach him when he saw him knelt in the grass under the shade of the tree before the stacks of stone. Not since the first time. Not since the argument. This was simply the way things now were. He couldn't reason away unhappiness or fight back against a stubborn heart without risking that it should break. So Sorey left him alone to his thoughts and reservations. He had his own trials of existence to contend with. They agreed in that respect at least and there was much Sorey still needed to learn about being an entirely different being in a world he remembered walking as something else.
"It's a funny thing," Maotelus mused, his kind voice echoing in Sorey's mind rather than formed on the dragon's tongue. "Those of us who were once human usually take comfort in the separation of our past and present existence. Not having to carry on the burdens of our past lives and accepting that we are our own selves regardless of our origins is a unique grace bestowed upon us. We see the human life and the seraphim rebirth as almost two separate selves that only have as much to do with each other as we are comfortable appending. You, however, desire only to be everything you once were. You'd rather ignore the blessing of a new life in favor of the one you lost."
Sorey sighed, looking up at the afternoon sun from their perch along the steps to the Throne. "Not so funny," he corrected with a frown that pinched along his brows. It had certainly not ever put a smile on his face when Mikleo looked away from him with a barely contained shudder.
His friend bowed his large head apologetically as he sat with claws crossed. "I'm sorry if I'm not entirely sympathetic. I understand your circumstances but I've only ever seen heartache and misery as a result of not letting go of the past."
"But Mikleo is my past. Every bit of it," Sorey reminded him. "I can't have one without the other."
It was a reminder that hardly needed restating. They knew each other's stories as well as their own. In sleep, no secrets had existed between them as years passed in the retellings of the paths they'd taken that lead them to each other. Maotelus's story was much longer with rich histories woven in that would turn Mikleo green with envy if he cared to imagine their scope. Sorey's own life was very short in comparison. There were sixteen years on a mountain falling in love with the world and its possibilities and then a handful of months spent in an epic adventure that lead him to Camlann. Mikleo was more than a constant; he was as integral to Sorey's life as Sorey himself. Regardless of how trite it sounded, they were two halves of the same whole. Existing apart was endurable but unpleasant to the point of pain. Especially now that they were together again. Sorey wished more than anything that the honeymoon phase hadn't ended; that the relief and joy of being reunited had been constant and not interrupted by logic, facts, and time.
Sorey sighed loudly as he leaned back against warm scales, taking refuge in the shade of a raised wing. Maotelus's silver light was nearly blinding in the afternoon sun, the Lord's massive body curling almost protectively around his companion as they enjoyed daylight for a rare, shared occasion. Darkness was more their usual surroundings. It was nice to be pulled away to the realms of man where other things existed rather than the confines of the places in which the other lords slept.
"You have your memories," Maotelus mentioned to console.
Sorey shook his head, bangs shifting over his eyes as he looked up through the whites of his hair. "I thought I did. Not all of them, though," he confessed, still unsure how expansive the loss was. "Sometimes we'll talk and he'll mention something and it's only by the look on his face that I realize the story doesn't take place during the time when I was asleep. Apparently I had squires. Two of them. And it was a pretty big deal to him that I didn't know who he was talking about. I read the books but... it's not the same as remembering."
Maotelus closed his eyes slowly in an expression Sorey had learned to read as resignation. Even a dragon's reptilian visage could sometimes relay the expressions of a human face. "The man he loved is dead," the Lord reminded him. "Let him mourn. You'll still be here when he's done."
"But I'm the same person... I'm still me!"
"No, Sorey," he said again. "You're something new. It's only that you choose to define yourself entirely by who you once were."
It was such a tired phrase that Sorey knew he must seem very stupid and very stubborn to still refuse to accept it as such. The words and his reality were simply too dissonant. "I don't want him to get over me. I don't want him to cry for me anymore. I just... want him to accept me. I hate being jealous of myself when he and I are both here now. This was supposed to be a happy time. Instead he can barely look at me some days."
"You cannot make him ignore what he's lost no matter how much you offer to give him instead. Do you not mourn for the Mikleo you left behind? Is not growing and making new memories in part the death of what was?"
Sorey's frown deepened as he sank further into the firm flesh of the dragon's shoulder. "Do I miss the person I said goodbye to all those years ago? Yeah. I do. I wish things could have been different every day even if I don't necessarily regret what I've done. He used to be so cocky and argumentative and... yeah, he still is... but it's not the same. No matter what, though, there's only one Mikleo in the whole world and it's him. And I'm the Sorey that finally gets to spend forever with him."
"Perhaps he'll come around," the Lord said at length with a sigh. "Don't let it consume you either way. I've seen love destroy as much as I have seen it save."
"Keep watching, then," Sorey insisted with resolve. "I won't lose," was his consummate promise.
Maotelus chuckled, his tail rolling like a slow whip from hip to spade. "That's more like it," he mused before raising his head from its previous state of repose. "Now give the heart a break and try using your artes again," he commanded of his young heir to the silver light.
Sorey groaned as he stood, pushing fatigue from his bones as he followed suit and stepped apart. He knew purification as part of many forms but never like this and never by his hand alone. It was in these moments more than in any other that the reality of his existence and how limited that life was felt real. He wasn't a person of great ability and battled honed expertise--he was a neophyte, an almost literal infant learning the very first skills of life. It was alarming in some ways how easy it was to accept his newness in that respect when in Elysia all he cared to do was pretend it wasn't so.
"You do not wield purification; you are purification. Through you, malevolence can be rejected and cleansed. Without a vessel, this power is all but useless, but it is important that you connect with your primary element nonetheless."
Sorey nodded, closing his eyes and he tried to feel out beyond himself into that part that now existed within him as a seraphim. He wondered briefly if that place was one of rapids or still lakes for one such as Mikleo. For him, it was a calming warmth that emanated outwards just outside his grasp. It was different but not frightening as he tried to command tendrils of it to come closer, physically twisting his fingers in the air to try and call the invisible warmth to himself.
"Even before I became as I am, I could command any element. My rebirth was linked with a powerful Lord and through that link, I inherited vast artes. As I am part of Innominat, you are in some ways part of me. See if you can find the flames inside that space as well."
He remembered the flames. Fire was the first element Sorey had been embraced by, the first to fill him as its vessel and leap to his command as Shepherd. For brief moments, he almost thought the peaceful silver light might lead him to the scorch of flames but there was nothing beyond the calming rays that spoke of elemental power. Even if there was, it remained out of reach. Purification was a power bestowed, not one wielded on one’s own.
Sorey let his shoulders sag after a moment more of courting the elusive light. “I don’t think being your vessel for over nine hundred years is quite the same as being part Lord,” he surmised.
Maotelus bowed his head, the sunlight blinding as it reflected off his horns. "You are still of mine. In time, we shall see."
Sorey nodded quietly. He was fine with it taking time. Time spent in Camlann with Maotelus was time given to Mikleo in Elysia to think things through. It was time not spent watching and waiting anxiously for the water seraph to look at him and smile like things were going to be okay. Absence had in a way become part of their normalcy after nearly a millennia apart. As much as he hated it, Sorey had to acknowledge it was there. The hope was only that it was temporary. Sometime soon, surely, they'd both feel okay about the way things now were.
"Try again," Maotelus calmly instructed.
Shaking heartbreak aside, Sorey honored his command.