Paragon funerary rites.


(The following is a public display that takes place several days after the last gathering. It is freely observable by all in the Barstow area who wish to be aware of it.)

The early morning stillness is broken by the peeling of a bell outside the Five Crowns tavern. The bell tolls slowly, ten times, then is silenced. Paragon Sebastian releases the clapper of the large bell from his grip, ensuring it does not swing and strike the mouth of the bell again. As the tone fades, Sebastian rejoins the other paragons, and they heft the remains of their compatriot.

The Paragon pall-bearers carry the permanently dead body of Myra, arranged on a stretcher. From the Five Crowns tavern they travel nearly two miles in the crisp morning air, before reaching the final destination of a small crypt outside of town.

A pyre has already been built, and as the Paragons approach the stone building a solitary figure emerges. Vellis carries various accoutrements and acts as an attendant to this funerary proceeding. The Paragons approach the pyre and gently place the stretcher on top of the wooden structure.

Paragons Sebastian and Ephram stand tall on either side of the pyre, faces grim and hands clasped in front of their bodies. Vellis stands nearby, carrying a small bundle of items as Hannah addresses the gathered witnesses, however many they may be.

"Paragons are not immortal." She begins. "We live and die, we serve our land and its people. Our lives may be long, or they may be short. Myra served her land with dignity for decades, and she never shied from her responsibilities." Paragon Hannah paces slowly back and forth in front of the pyre supporting her dead friend, speaking to any who listen. "Myra was my friend, and we had grown to know each other deeply over the years. She was my confidant, she was a patriot, and she was a hero. Her death is tragic, and we will not forget her sacrifice, but her spirit has moved on. This body is not her. She lives on in all of us. In all of you. When you feel the urge to do right, Myra is with you. When you feel compassion for your fellow people, Myra is with you. Her strength was considerable, and in death she passes it on to you." Hannah pauses for a moment, controlling her emotions. "Myra has left us, and we are poorer for the loss, but we choose to turn this loss into strength. Normally, we would hold Paragon funerary services at the capital, but Myra was committed to the war effort and had grown close to the heroes this war has born. She would prefer this, and we honor her spirit by interring her here. Take solace in her actions, her sacrifice, and be inspired by her heart, her spirit. Today we commit her to eternity, and she will live in on all of us. Goodbye Myra. I love you. We all love you."

On cue, Vellis approaches the corpse, lifting a thin veil and removing it from the body. Myra is displayed on her pyre in her Paragon garb, looking pale and drawn for all who observe. The Paragons take up three positions in a triangle around Myra. They produce their weapons and plant them in the ground in front of them, assuming a ready position.

The three Paragons do not move or speak for twenty four hours. They stand vigil over their friend and do not take relief for food, drink, or sleep. Vellis attends the vigil, answering questions in a hushed tone and preventing people from crowding the Paragons during their watch. The Paragons are as stone. They do not move, they barely breathe, they hardly blink. They stand, with weapons planted, holding vigil over their fallen comrade. The only indication they yet live is the occasional tear which streaks from their eyes as they contemplate the fate of their compatriot.

The public is allowed to approach and view the corpse, some touch her hands or the hem of her dress. The community is invited to join their grief with the Paragons and the people of Stradyn. For a full day, the corpse is available to view, and the Paragons stand watch over her.

Mid-morning of the next day, Vellis takes position at the foot of the pyre and announces, "The viewing is concluded. We now begin the interment." The Paragons break from the watch, retrieving their weapons from the ground and sheathing them. Vellis produces a ceremonial torch, along with a flint and tinder. Passing the torch to Paragon Ephram, and the flint to Paragon Sebastian, Vellis takes a large step back.

Sebastian sparks the flint and tinder, producing a small flame. He holds the flame to the torch in Ephram's hands, and it springs to life. Hannah approaches the two Paragons and takes the torch from Ephram. Sebastian and Ephram fall back, next to Vellis, and Hannah approaches the pyre. Having dried in the sun, the lumber of the temporary structure is ripe for the flame. Hannah puts the torch to the pyre and it catches quickly, having been packed with accelerant.

The flame spreads quickly, engulfing the pyre, and Myra's body with it. The pyre towers and the flame reaches to the sky. The gathered witnesses watch as the midday sunlight is contrasted by the intense flame of the bonfire. Hours pass, the body of the Paragon is consumed, and the pyre itself burns with intensity. Much of the crowd disperses, and the pyre collapses in on itself. For those who remain through the entire ordeal, eventually the fire burns itself out.

The Paragons and Vellis await the fire, allowing it to take its course. Once the pyre is reduced to embers, they approach and retrieve the bones of Paragon Myra. Her remains are gathered placed into a smaller casket. This temporary vessel housing the bones of the Paragon before they are spirited away by her friends and loved ones. At the conclusion of the burning, Hannah addresses any who remain in the crowd.

"Myra was an inspiration. Her valor and her character are without question, and we will avenge her. Our grief will become our fury, and we will carry the memory of it forever. I will remember her as long as I live, and I implore you to do the same. Carry her in your heart." Hannah’s eyes grow wet with tears, and she turns to the task at hand. The Paragons lift Myra's casket, and proceed to the door of the crypt, which Vellis holds open for them. The small procession disappears into the crypt, and the public disperses.