Chapter 23: A Band Apart
Vatyr and Telemica awoke on comfortable cots, surrounded by golden linens embroidered with a black and white sun. A fireplace nearby crackled warmly. Too confused and disoriented to think or speak, the only thing that got them up was the residual vigilance of the battle they were in seemingly seconds before.
Vatyr was the first to realize they were at the top of the Burning Shrine, home to the mysterious Brothers of Osiris. They saw no such brothers around here, but the symbols were recognizable. Vatyr had been fascinated by them for some time.
Walking towards a nearby ledge, they saw the aftermath of their engagement with the Vex. The battlefield that was mere minutes ago filled with guardians, Vex, and a gargantuan conflux was now devoid of battle. Vanguard forces were buzzing around, tending to the wounded guardians and the few still-living ghosts that housed what remained of fallen comrades. After getting picked up and reuniting with their forces, they learned that the Vex and their conflux had both vanished in a violent cascade of light and fog. Many considered it a miracle of some sort, as the tide of battle was beginning to flow heavily in the Vex’s favour.
Telemica and Vatyr didn’t say much then, nor did they revel in the hard-won celebration of others later. Instead, they did their best to help the wounded and assist with evacuation efforts. They did everything they could to take their focus away from the fact that they had just lost their friend.
The debriefing took place after a slight recovery time. On one side of the long conference table, Vatyr and Telemica told their accounting of how they infiltrated the Vex installation and shut down the conflux. On the other side, Ikora Rey stared out a window at the Traveler and listened to as much as she could bare. She had arranged it so she would run the debrief, but it was in some ways like a wake, as Vatyr told of the sacrifice Solas had made. Telemica and Vatyr knew how close Ikora and Solas had been over the years. Solas had trained her as a rookie, after all. Telemica knew that while they had lost a dear friend, Ikora had lost perhaps the closest thing to a father she will ever know.
At the end of his recounting, Vatyr stood up from his chair tried and to force all of his ache out from his throat. He tried to say he should have done more, should have fought harder. His words choked behind welling tears and a wave of regret that threatened to swallow him whole. He began to shake before Ikora and Telemica could ease him back into his seat. The three sat there together and felt what needed to be felt. Funerals were not a custom among guardians, but many were known to grieve in some ritualized form or another. Ikora noted that Solas would have been the first to call this mournful reprieve wasted energy, saying he would note clinically that such emotions detracted from one’s focus instead of enhancing it. The next hour was spent sharing stories of the one they had lost.
Eventually Ikora informed them that they were on leave until further notice before dismissing them.
Telemica and Vatyr walked the inner halls of the main Tower. Almost every person they met stopped to offer their condolences. Some came to attention and saluted as they passed, while others stopped to share stories of how Solas had touched their lives. Some titans spoke of a rite of honorable passage. Hunters spoke of a small memorial they found at the base of The Burning Shrine, presumably built by the Brothers of Osiris and that some were journeying to add to it. Warlocks offered words, but whatever plans they had were, like anything, shrouded in secrecy.
Angela had not come out of her room since Solas’ death, refusing to see anyone or even eat. Ikora had asked that they try to coax her out. They went to her quarters and she let them in, collapsing on to the floor in a weeping fetal ball of pain. Telemica carried her over to her bed and the two guardians just let her cry for hours until words could come out. Soon she was calm enough to eat and sleep. Telemica noted as they left the exhausted child that a loss like that at her age will come to define her, and neither guardian could figure if that would be for good or ill.
The pair spent the late afternoon hours at the Watch by the hangar doors, trying to calm their minds while the world moved around them. Not a word was spoken and nobody disturbed them. Twilight began to set in when someone approached and cleared their throat. “Guardian Arrenn Gee, reporting for duty.”
Telemica didn’t turn to meet the voice. She knew fully that she’d see a rookie guardian ordered to replace Solas on the fireteam. It was standard procedure and while many would have liked to give them special dispensation to act as a two-guardian fireteam, their experience and skills were priceless to those new to this life and in need of mentoring.
Vatyr turned to duly greet the guardian. A human warlock. He introduced his titan companion, as well, and asked that she be forgiven as they were in mourning.
“I understand. From what I’ve heard, Solas-3 was someone I would have liked to meet. I also understand we’re on leave for the time being.”
“True, but we do have a mission. One of the utmost importance.” said Vatyr in a matter-of-fact tone that snapped Telemica out of her daze and made her turn.
“We do?” Telemica and Arrenn said at the same time.
“Of course! We’re going to bring Solas back from the dead.”