The Story of Tata Chapter 22
By The Man
Nodding at the window, Glenn slowly strode in a circle around the room. He had done it several times by now, pondering about one thing or another. The rain had begun to pour even heavier than before, making it impossible to see through. A bloody perfect set up for a sneak attack on us. Glenn thought grimly. That was what was currently troubling him. Schala, Flea, and himself had erected barriers around the cave they currently occupied and the surrounding village homes. But still he was sure that Grendel would find a way around or through it. The other two had told him that that was all they could do for the time. Of course, they had never fought that monster before; they still did not have a very good idea of what they were up against. Glenn did, and to tell the truth, he was scared. The abomination of a man had slain many of his comrades and was still as strong as ever. Not even Lavos had accomplished as much; anyone who could lay claim to that was to be feared as much as the worlds most deadly poison.
He still remembered Lucca whenever he thought of Grendel. He remembered her smile, her eager, yet calculating intellect. But more often than not, he only remembered her body after life had fled it's dead white bones. He remembered the large, dark pit in her middle, neatly circular, which had ended her life. He remembered the glass shards, rammed hatefully into her body, and how no matter how many of those shards he removed, or how many times he tried to wake her up, or how many times he kissed her and told her he loved her, she still would not open her eyes.
"Glenn?" Schala rose and strode over to where he had stopped pacing, in front of the window again.
He had his head down because it hurt too much to raise it. But when she tilted his head up with her smooth, gentle hand, her eyes pained at the sight of the tear that had just rolled off of his jaw.
"Glenn," she repeated his name, this time the sorrow in her eyes blending with her voice. "Why tears? You look like you've been to a funeral."
Glenn's mouth tightened briefly as he tried to hold back the rest of his tears. "I have Schala." He said gravely, though his voice cracked. "I have been to far too many."
Flea remained sitting at the table, but her eyes probed him thoughtfully.
Glenn ruefully wiped the tear stream from his face. "I am sorry, Schala." This time, his voice was steady. "I'm just upset about everything that has happened. The people who have been taken from us, the pain that has been inflicted, it all hurts so much. I don't mean just with Grendel either, Schala. Ever since we all became involved with taking on Lavos, we have all been hurt one way or another. You Schala lost your own mother to Lavos' wrath, and right now you may lose a nephew or your brother, or both." He turned to Flea wearing a grim face that may have been carved from stone. "You have lost your entire family, Flea. In the war, you lost friends and comrades, but you also lost a part of your compassion. I know, because I have lost it as well. The things soldiers like us do in battle are irrevocable, and even if we are capable of love now, we can still kill just as easily." He let his head drop and turned back to the window. "I lost my best friend, a person whom I respected and admired and who I would gladly lay down my life for. I led a squad of trusted friends, and they were all slaughtered as well. I have lost so much that I wake up some mornings wondering if I am insane or not. But that is how it is. We knew the risks involved in the adventures we were getting involved in and we accepted them. It also won't do any good to quit now because then we die too. So I suppose all we can do is keep running and hope for the best. It's the least we can do."
Flea, with her eyes lowered gave a low, bitter laugh. "One of us should go and write a book about being a hero, and see how many people want to save the world then."
Schala's face reflected great amounts of sadness as her eyes fell on the sorceress. "Poor Tata," she murmured. "He's only a boy, not even full grown and yet still he has it worse than most of us."
"So does Janus." Flea added. She still remembered last night when she had asked him that fated question. With his great arms around her bare body, she asked if he would marry her. She had seen the pain in his eyes, saw the battle going on in them, and remembered how he had pushed himself away from her with a small shake of his head. He had looked so sad, like he had done something terrible. She knew what it was and every time she acknowledged it, she wanted to cry as well. His past, contorted with pain and suffering, had left him more or less empty of life. With all that horror in his past, he found it impossible to love someone the way he once had. Even after that night, he still acted cold. Well, she would make that fool marry her, she thought, even if she had to throw him over her shoulder and take him to the cathedral.
"Janus was " Schala began but lost the words. She knew everyone had heard her voice crack on the mention of her brother's name. " He was always angry at the world. He would not trust a hair from his head to it. I used to always try to coax the notions from his mind. Then all this " her hand gestured to her surroundings. " It proves him right. It's like he knew it was going to turn out this way." She lowered her head. What a wasted life. She thought mournfully. It was just one constant struggle to stay sane
"A shadow!" Glenn exclaimed. He was already peering out the window before Schala or Flea knew what he was talking about.
Indeed, out in the pouring rain, a silent, oddly shaped shadow approached slowly. The scraping sound of the Masamune being drawn sounded in the cave. Schala too readied the fiercest magic she had summoned for quiet some time, as did Flea. Then the feeling hit them. It was a pure feeling that soothed their souls.
"It's Tata." Glenn said quickly as he ran toward the room's exit, but they didn't need to be told that. The two women hurried after him.
Glenn's barrier went up around the three of them before they were out of the cave. The rain continued to pound mercilessly all around them, refusing to let up one whit. Flea's head whipped around to find what they were looking for, but neither of them could see Tata or Janus. They had disappeared.
"Where are they?" Schala asked hurriedly. Her head was whipping back and forth so quickly Flea thought she would break her neck.
"Could it have been a trick? Some sort of ploy of Grendel's to lure us out?" she asked.
"He would have never have wasted his time with such a silly trick." Glenn didn't speak loudly; really, anyone would have said he was talking to himself. "He could have just killed us in the cave-"
"Tata!" Flea shouted. At first it seemed to Glenn that she was simply calling to him. But then he felt a break in the bubble and turned to find Flea racing toward the shadow. It stood not more than forty paces away, but now it stood still. Glenn couldn't tell what it was at all because of the blasted rain, but
"Flea, wait!" He shouted and he and Schala ran after her.
Flea reached the shadow well before the other two and quite suddenly she shrieked as though in terrible agony. They reached her and their eyes fell on Tata, standing still with his head down. In his arms he carried Janus, eyes closed and appearing to be sleeping at first glance. But Glenn also saw the lines of blood streaking down the sides of his face from the corners of his mouth. And he saw the scythe that ran through his chest and out his back.
"Oh, no," sobbed Flea from her knees on the ground. "No please, no no please "
Abruptly, Tata's legs gave out and he fell to his knees, head still lowered. Schala broke down in sobs on Glenn's shoulder, constantly repeating again and again "Not this." Glenn himself eyed the body with his mouth open and his lower lip trembling. He simply could not believe what he saw.
Flea slowly crawled toward Tata and his burden, sobbing uncontrollably. She touched Janus' face, caressed it as though trying to stroke the life back into it. Then she burst into more crying and put her face against his.
Schala and Glenn both knelt down next to Tata. Then the boy spoke. His voice trembled raucously.
"I couldn't pull it out." He said. "It hurt so much when I touched it. Oh Fire, I just couldn't "
He raised his head and Glenn looked at the son of Janus in the face and saw agony beyond agony. His eyelids were crusted with past tears and his normally beautiful eyes were nearly completely red. His whole face trembled involuntarily like someone was plucking at it from every angle. Glenn's own face contorted with pain at the sight of it and he felt tears of his own begin to fall from his eyes, but this time he did nothing to stop them.
"Oh, Tata," he spoke softly.
"Glenn " Tata responded and clutched the body with a tight grip. "I couldn't save him Glenn. I couldn't get out of Grendel's trap in time. Oh Gods I couldn't I " he began to spasm with sobs.
Glenn crawled over to him and wrapped his arms around him and held him tightly. Tata let go of the body and cried like a child into Glenn's shoulder, as Schala had done. Face buried, Tata loudly moaned something Glenn could not make out.
Schala had been fervently trying to wrench the scythe loose, tears falling from her face with every tug. It finally came free with a small splatter of blood and a terrible squishing sound. Then she fell forward and began another round of crying into his chest. Flea just kept holding his head while repeating "Please come back." Over and over while her tears fell through closed eyes.
"He-he told me everything Glenn " Tata lifted his face enough to be heard. "He was so brave Oh, Gods why couldn't I protect him ?" and he buried his face once more.
"It's alright Tata," Glenn said sadly, because he knew that nothing could make it so ever again. "Just keep crying for as long as you like."
It was two days later and the storm had passed. It was still cloudy but cracks of sunlight fought to get through the dark clouds. The grounds of North Cape still bore dark spots of dried blood from the first duel it hosted. The mound, roughly six paces long and two paces wide was darker still, rising out of the earth like some sore threatening to burst. Tata had dug Janus' grave himself while the others built his coffin. Now the work was complete and the great warrior's peers now stood over it with solemn faces. No gravestone of any kind yet marked his final resting spot. That was soon to change.
Glenn stood off to the left of the grave, wearing his moon armor and holding Janus' scythe in his gauntleted hands. He held the wickedly curved weapon up to his face. Peering at the curved blade, he caught a glimpse of his reflection.
"You wished for this for so long, Glenn." He murmured to his reflection. "Well, I hope you are bloody well happy."
That last bit was said a little louder and his voice was like hard steel. Flea glanced at him through moistened eyes, but said nothing. Taking one step towards the end of the grave where the feet were, he thrust the end of the scythe into the earth, hard enough to plant it halfway down. It would take some doing to remove that. Then, without a word he sauntered away from the rest of them, disappearing off in the distance.
Schala, who had been standing next to him, looked on after him. Then, as if remembering why she was there, she turned her saddened eyes back to the mound before her. Kneeling beside the grave, she placed a pendant, her pendant, which she had kept with her all her life, near the middle of the mound. She did not rise from her kneeling position, but instead sat on her heels and looked mournfully at the grave.
Flea still allowed the occasionally tear to fall from her soft cheeks, but she held a flower that she had found about a mile from their residence. It was as red as her hair and had nine petals with a black center, and was perhaps the first flower to grow on earth for thousands of years. She knelt on one knee before the grave and placed the flower near the top of the grave. Then she kissed her hand and softly placed it on the mound. Another tear fell from her face as she whispered what would have normally been inaudible to a normal person, but Tata heard her. She said, "I will never stop loving you."
It was Tata's turn but he had nothing to offer the grave that held his father. He stared on with a face that seemed unconcerned about everything. Too unconcerned, perhaps, but it was all Tata could do to not break down in tears again.
"Shadowdancer." He said the name as though to name the skies blue. He had to control himself. "It's a name respected, feared, and hated by many. You embraced it when any other person would shy from it. Your soul, once pure and of good will, is forever darkened by hate and sorrow. Except for one sliver of light that still shines in you heart, like a new moon " It seemed at first, with his eyes barely blinking, that Tata had lost his train of thought. But then he raised his head and looked at the sky, peered at it, really, like he was straining to see something that was not there. Then he looked back at his father's grave.
"But how could you be this man, Janus?" he spoke now as though he really expected an answer from the grave itself. "Shadowdancer never fathered before, never loved anyone. But here, in this world, you fell in love more than once, and you loved me. I only saw Shadowdancer inside of you when you fought, never more than that. How could you be the one who murdered King Beremese while he stood defenseless " That last was to himself; no one else heard it, or seemed to, at least.
Then Tata knelt by the grave and placed his hand on the mound. His companions' expressions acknowledged the Life magic being drawn and used there, and from the top of the grave a tiny spark appeared. It began to grow and become even more luminescent. Then the light solidified and became a tombstone made out of what looked like ivory and glass, upon it a man who held his arms downward and outstretched. His face was strong, framed by long strands of hair that hung to his shoulders. The figure floated on nothing about the rounded stone, but he did not budge and would not even from a hurricane. The tombstone itself read; "From the heavens to the underworlds, there will always be love."
Tata stared at his work for only a second, and then he lowered his head to stare at the ground. "Maybe I was wrong." He said. "Maybe you are not Shadowdancer at all. Perhaps you are simply a gifted warrior. Or maybe the darkness in you isn't forever. Maybe at one point or another, we will find an end to all things, even our souls "
Tata could feel the eyes of his companions on him, but he didn't care. Tata also could see the small smile on the figurine's face. Would that thing last forever? No. Would he last forever? No. Would hope survive? The universe alone knew.
On their way back to the village, Tata spotted a lone figure standing under a single, bare tree off in the distance. At a closer look, he discovered it was Glenn, staring at the ground, caressing the hilt of his mighty sword. The other two did not seem to see him, nor did they notice when Tata slipped away to talk to his best friend.
"You left quite abruptly, Glenn." He said when he was close enough to him that he did not have to yell to be heard. "With Grendel still alive, you are lucky to be standing on your own two feet."
Glenn did not have an immediate reply, and really did not seem to realize Tata was there, except that he had stopped stroking his sword hilt. "Pardon me if I scared anyone."
Tata came closer and stood against the opposite side of the thin trunk. "No need for that, Glenn. I knew you'd be okay, really." He paused to stare at the sky. The clouds were covering up even heavier now. It would either rain or snow soon. "I heard what you said to yourself before, Glenn. Do you mind talking about it?"
Tata caught out of the corner of his eye, Glenn looking at him over his shoulder. He twisted his head back around and stared at the ground again. "I assume you remember my guise, that of a frog, and the one responsible for it and the murder of my best friend. While I wore that veil of hideousness, my hatred for Janus seemed nothing less than amorphous. But the day we both arrived back in 1000 AD, after Lavos' defeat, I found that one shred of compassion that he had kept hidden for so long, and with it, I was able to see the good in him. I thought I forgave him for his crimes, but I was never completely sure if I had put to rest my demons. I still am not sure. I suppose that when I realized that that man, who had killed thousands of people and destroyed my life, was dead, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or to cry. Or both."
Tata stood up from his resting place and came around the tree to face him. "You forgave him? For all that he did to you and the rest of the world?"
Glenn stared back at his shorter companion. "You said it before, Tata. Nothing lasts forever, not the universe, or the darkness or light. Not even hatred, Tata."
Tata stared at the ground with a somewhat surprised look in his face, the look of someone with a revelation. "You were able to forgive someone whom you used to hate utterly and unconditionally. I have never been able to stop hating Grendel, never even came close to it." He lifted his gaze to stare at his friend. "I envy you for that, Glenn. My soul was once full of kindness, but no longer. I hate now more than I love. Glenn, you are much more the kind hand that gives life than I will ever be. You would have made so much greater a person of me than I did."
Glenn sighed and dropped his gaze to the ground. Then he looked at a hill rising out of the earth about a mile away. Over that hill was the village, and Tata knew that they should be getting back soon anyway. But as Glenn walked away, he turned to Tata and said; "Maybe, Tata. But you're not done yet."
" I do not know."
"He appears lost in thought."
"Maybe he is sad about something.
" There is something foreboding about him."
"Best leave him be. We will be gone soon, and perhaps so will he."
"I just can't believe it's going to turn out this way."
"Me either. No way I would have thought "
Tata found he was surprised to see the Epoch a short distance away from the village as he approached. He had all but forgotten about it in recent days, which he hoped was understandable. The ship seemed to stare at him, examining him, probing him. He found that his feet no longer moved, and he now simply stood staring at the gallant machine. He had driven that machine before, and knew the controls by heart, but not even he could comprehend its engine. A much greater mind than his created that machine of the time stream, one that was now deceased. He had actually once met the man, known more commonly as Hedrid. It was in the fourth realm, where a force of humanoid monsters fought against mankind's forces. Hedrid was one of the most brilliant minds ever in the universe's history, and his knowledge had aided Beowulf in slaying the majority of those beings. But now that man was completely and utterly gone, sleeping beyond the flow of time. His soul would never awake, would never reincarnate. It was gone to where no one could follow.
The named party blinked and looked at Schala, who now stood a few feet away from him, blue hair and cloak flowing in the gentle, winter winds.
"Are you doing okay, Tata?" Her voice was music to the soul, her face fair beyond words. Tata had once thought that he and Schala could have but he knew now that he would never love another woman as he did his beauteous Minka. Besides, they were blood relatives. Blood relatives aren't supposed to think of one another that way, Tata thought. But in the fading light of day, with the sun peeking thought the clouds in orange and yellow and red rays, she was the most beautiful sight he had seen in a long time.
"I suppose." He said quietly. His eyes met hers and she smiled a small smile, the kind someone wears when they are trying not to cry.
She stepped closer and he was able to inhale her scent. It smelled so sweet right then, that he just wanted to be near her to smell that smell with every breath.
"I know that you and Janus didn't exactly get along well." She said slowly. "You two were so alike, yet you were opposite sides of the same coin. I know that when he told you everything " He saw a small tear begin to form in one eye, but she blinked it back. She was trying so hard to be strong. "I just hope you know how much he really loved you."
Then it hit Tata like a rock. He was standing here, talking to his last piece of family. She was his aunt, a strong and beautiful woman who loved him. His head was suddenly spinning and Tata rested his head in one hand. What if Grendel killed her? He would be the last of his family left, the only descendent left of the royal family of Zeal. What if he couldn't protect her?
He realized that she stood inches away now. "Tata ?" she tried to look into his face. He almost tried to hide it, but instead of trying to keep the pain in, he let it out.
"Schala " he whimpered through tears and literally fell into her arms. Again, as he did so long ago, he felt that feeling of love wash over him as her hand lightly caressed his neck. He held her like a precious jewel, for she was nothing less, yet so much more. After a while he lifted his head enough to peer at Epoch, sitting in the sunset colors, shining brilliantly in its magnificence. Suddenly, he had this vision of Minka, standing in front of him in his house, smiling warmly at him. Another instant later, it was gone..
"Schala," he began in a soft voice. "I have to go away for a while. There are some things I need to do."
She didn't even stir, and only said; "Okay."
With a heavy sigh, he pulled away from her enough so that he could see her face. "Thank you, Schala. You don't know how great it feels to be loved again."
She smiled that small, sad smile again. "You will always be loved by us Tata, now matter what."
He smiled then, too, if maybe a little broader. Then he leaned forward and kissed her. It was not a long, hard kiss like those he used to give to Minka. It was simply a goodbye kiss. With that he walked slowly to where the Epoch stood, all the while feeling Schala's eyes on him. He reached it and climbed in as he turned on the controls. As the machine took flight, Tata surveyed the small island. He looked through the cockpit window and saw Schala, still watching him from below. He flew higher, and saw the village, with its people milling about. Tata could see some hug one another; others helping people that needed helping. Even at his height, he was able to spot Janus' grave, with its unusual gravestone shining in the fading light. Tata saw all of this from his tiny cockpit in the Epoch and he realized right then how beautiful the whole scene was.
This was what he fought to protect, he realized, and that every life he lay down was truly worth it. If he could have given that tiny island a name, he would name it the most beautiful word he knew. Hope.
With a few flicks of a few choice switches, the Epoch carried its lone, smiling passenger into the time stream.
End of Chapter 22
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