Arriving on the bright side of Rolui 3, Ryath asked the Rangers to find some dead wood and make a pyre while she prepared the body.
She was happy Dunstan had been allowed to join her. The presence of Tomás didn’t bother her; in fact she was glad of the distraction from Dunstan.
When Tomás told her Captain Hale had agreed to Dunstan’s brief trip off the ship, Ryath was suddenly aware of how scared she was. Up to then, she had hidden behind Dunstan’s duties to the crew and her own need for closure, at least at this stage in her evolution. Now there was no excuse. She had greeted him in Medlab with a curt nod, stiff and witless at the very sight of him. Tension squeezed the smile on her face into a cordial line. It was concern over the Narn and her involvement, she had told herself. In truth, it was the thought of facing Dunstan and the tangle of emotions that prospect entailed.
She waited until both Tomás and Dunstan were out of sight, deep in the rain forests surrounding her Flyer, before turning to the ghastly job at hand. Replacing the Tech into the body.
Opening the cryo-tube, she retrieved the box at Olyn’s feet. She pulled back the shroud covering the body and began to carefully implant the Tech into the rent limbs.
It was a arduous task, more ceremony than surgery. And ghoulish. A flicker of life yanked her attention to what her hands were doing. Still, a trace of Mage energy emanated from the Tech. It probably wasn’t unusual. Determined to send him Beyond with proper reverence, she steadied herself and got on with it. After placing the last node just under the base of the skull, she set the shroud and the body back as they were. Then she cleaned herself up.
It was only when she had finished that she realised she had received a message.
She stood frozen. The message was from Olyn.
He had somehow managed to set his Tech into a continuous loop with the message encoded before he died. It explained the residual energy. On her way back to the cargo hold, she invoked the message and smiled. Clever Olyn.
I hope this reaches you safe and sound. In all sincerity, I'm not certain whether this parlor trick will actually succeed. I never thought it had any value. That is, until now. Circumstances change. One last lesson for both of us, perhaps. Forgive this foolish old man. I'd hoped to see my student once more. Without my place of power, I fear that I shall in time become too weak to travel. I have hidden an object on your ship. I overstepped my bounds and I'm sorry for it, but there was no time. With it, I include two data crystals. One is for you. The rest must go to the Anla'shok.
She stopped dead once more, next to the cryo-tube. “The Anla’shok?” she whispered, shocked.
Just then, the two men appeared in the airlock doorway. Sweat dripped off them.
“Okay!” Tomás Darquin called out. “I think we got a good mound built up. Took some doing, though. Talk about humid. Most of the stuff out there’ll just smolder. At least we won’t accidentally start a forest fire. Jungle fire. Whatever it is.”
Dunstan was gasping for air, but smiling. “This planet… I’ve never seen… anything like this! No sound. Barely a breeze. No birds or insects.”
“Easy, man.” He turned to Ryath, adding softly, “It’s the atmosphere. It took all the oxy-pills I had to get him moving again.”
“Quite so.” Groaning, Dunstan leaned against the nearest bulkhead. “Wretched lungs. I will need… a breather-mask. To go out again. And I must confess… I’m sorely tempted. Rain forests, to the horizon!”
Quickly adjusting her features Ryath stepped to a storage area near the door leading to the rest of her Flyer. Reaching in she grabbed two breather-masks, handing them to Tomás. “Thank you both for your help. I hope you’ll join me shortly to send him on his way?” She indicated the covered body in the cryo-tube.
She glanced furtively at Dunstan as she crossed back to the tube.
Darquin handed him a breather-mask. “Black tie and breathers.”
Once she was sure of herself Ryath conjured a platform beneath the prone body and lifted it out of the cryo-tube. “Please. Follow,” she said as she turned to the airlock door, flipped up her hood and walked slowly past them.
Kordieh slipped the small breather mask on, and permitted himself two slow deep breaths before pushing himself off the bulkhead to join the somber procession.
Ryath guided the body to the prye. She stepped to one side as she lowered it and slowly dissolved the platform, leaving the shrouded body resting on the wood. She waited for the Rangers to step close, then raising her hands, closing her eyes and lifting her head to the sky, she recited.
"Death is nothing at all I have only slipped away into the next room I am I and you are you Whatever we were to each other That we still are Call me by my old familiar name Speak to me in the easy way which you always used Put no difference into your tone Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together Play, smile, think of me, pray for me Let my name be ever the household word that it always was Let it be spoken without effect Without the trace of a shadow on it Life means all that it ever meant It is the same as it ever was There is absolutely unbroken continuity Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you For an interval Somewhere very near Just around the corner All is well."
She lowered her arms and conjured a ball of magical blue fire in the middle of the pyre. “We say these words. Know them as true, and I ask that you know us when we step Beyond.” With her final words she lowered her face and opened her eyes. The fireball had taken hold, and even though it burnt with little heat there was still quite a bit of smoke.
She stood still for a moment, staring into the fire. There was silence from the others, no sound of movement. She glanced across at Tomás.
Kordieh was watching the fire, though his expression suggested that what he was seeing lay far beyond Rolui 3. Slipping the mask off his face, he looked at his companions and recited:
"When I am dead, my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me; Plant thou no roses at my head, Nor shady cypress tree: Be the green grass above me With showers and dewdrops wet; And if thou wilt, remember, And if thou wilt, forget."
He coughed twice and continued:
"I shall not see the shadows, I shall not feel the rain; I shall not hear the nightingale Sing on, as if in pain: And dreaming through the twilight That doth not rise nor set, Haply I may remember, And haply may forget." 1
When Ryath heard him speak she shifted her gaze to fall on him. How eloquent, she thought when he finished. Such depth of emotion. No! It’s too dangerous. She stepped back from the fire, shaking her head, deep in thought.
Beside them, Darquin was scrambling through his childhood memories to find an appropriate prayer. “Uh…. Que los ángeles llevanse en el cielo, Dios se acoja en su seno…y que su alma por el piedad del Padre en paz descansa. Amen.”
Glancing at the others, he added, “I probably botched it, but I wanted to do something for ‘im.”
She stopped at a nearby tree when Tomás spoke. She hadn’t expected either of them to speak at all, let alone with so much compassion and emotion. Leaning against the tree she watched them both, trying not to use either of her gifts to read them. They deserved the privacy of their inner emotions.
Darquin crossed himself, mumbling another prayer. “I think I’ll go back to the ship and hang out there. Take all time you need.” He glanced at Kordieh and for a moment grinned. “Stay where somebody can see you.”
Kordieh nodded, with a quiet laugh that turned into a not so quiet cough. He quickly slipped the breather mask back on and took several deep breaths.
Ryath nodded once to Tomás. “Thank you.” Her voice was soft, just a little more than a whisper.
As he moved away from the small clearing, two lines of small blue fires appeared, leading to Ryath’s ship. After a quick double take, he followed them in soft-spoken wonder. “Whoa.”
1written by Christina Rossetti
ISA Phoenix–“Ignis et Cinis” © 2004 Joe Medina, Jamie Lawson, Niki Hipwood
Babylon 5 tm and © 2004 Warner Bros.