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Dirge for Natalie (attn: Aramina)


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Music: Lullaby from Pan's Labyrinth (





The Ajah quarters were located halfway to the top of the Tower and it was quite a climb on the wide corridors spiraling upwards. Annais Nevell, an Accepted reasonably close to her Raising to the shawl had been sent to deliver a note to a Green Sister and the ascend had left her well and truly breathless. The Sisters were forced to do at least that much excercise which kept them in some kind of a condition. Still she was looking forward to the day when she herself could move up here, preferably to live with the Gray Sisters. But even though her choice was fairly clear already, her mentor Helgatha still insisted that she learned from all the Ajahs and Annais didn't really mind.


The Ajah quarters were identical in number of rooms and how they were laid out, but the details varied widely. The impression of a full-sized sword was worked into each of the huge white floorstones of the Green Ajah quarters, swords in two dozen different styles, single-edged and double, curved and straight. Every door along the hallways was carved with a sword, point up, gilded for the rooms of Sitters and silvered or lacquered for many others. The tapestries on the walls, between tall gilded stand-lamps on bases worked in the form of stacked halberds, were of martial scenes, charging horsemen and battles and famous last stands, alternating with ancient battle standards from lands long dead, many torn and stained and all preserved through the centuries by weaves of the One Power.


Another difference here was the number of the men. Not just any men, of course. Tall or short, wide or slim, even quite stout in one case, they moved like lions or leopards. None wore the distinctive cloak indoors, but the cloak was a mere decoration for a discerning eye. You could see Warders in any Ajah's quarters, excepting the Red, but most kept rooms in the Guards' barracks or even in the city. Greens' Warders often lived in the same apartment as the sister.


Many Accepted were really interested in the Tower Guards as they were prospective Warder candidates but Annais steered mostly clear of the Yards. She liked the company of men and especially soldiers who had a very special sense of humour due to the dangers of their profession but Warders made her still uneasy as her father had been killed by one. The vision of him getting run through still plagued her nightmares from time to time and likely contributed to her reluctance to Bond. Not right away at least but first she had to make it to she shawl.


Annais had luck as Kerene Sedai stood among a small group of other Greens and was discussing with her Sisters in low murmurs. Their Warders, nine of them in total, were positioned around their Bondholders and all stared at her with impassive faces and the steady gazes full of awareness of their own capacities and readiness for violence. She shivered unvoluntarily and forced herself to get closer. The first words that she heard made her blanch to deadly white.


"Poor Natalie, she had worn the shawl for barely a year."


"The Light shine on her soul. It was a great loss to the Ajah. She had such potential."


"Excuse me, Aes Sedai", she whispered and four sets of serene eyes nailed on her. "Are you speaking of Natalie Fylith Sedai?"


Kerene Sedai's face softened a bit with compassion when she nodded. "You knew her I see. Yes, Natalie Sedai died in a battle like a true Green should. She fell in the Borderlands defending Kandor against the Shadowspawn."


Annais was unable to hide her grief but she tried to compose herself quickly and wiped away the tears that wouldn't stop flowing. Three of the Sisters looked away with consideration but the fourth, Brid Rivalyn who had once lost a hand and a leg stared at her with a frown.


"The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and if we start weeping over it, there will be no end to it." Her voice was firm but not unkind. It was easy for a woman of her age and experience to say but this was the first time Annais had lost a friend in the White Tower. "Did you have some business in our quarters, child?"


"Yes, Aes Sedai", Annais tried to speak steadily. "I have a letter here for Kerene Sedai from Ruusa Sedai of the Gray Ajah." The note was off her hands and she wanted to get away as soon as possible to vent her sorrow freely. But she would have to hold it for a bit longer since someone else needed to hear the news too. Aramina had been Natalie's best friend.


"You are dismissed, Accepted", Kerene Nagashi said and Annais gave her a curtsy that she had forgotten when she had arrived and turned on her heel. The quiet discussion continued when she was a bit away. Once she got out of the sight of the Sisters, Annais gathered her hems and begun to run. She had to find Aramina and the sense of urgency was enough to drown the urge to just crawl somewhere and cry.


Out of breath and red faced from exertion, she reached Aramina's room in the Accepted quarters but she wasn't there. Asking around a bit she found out that Aramina had been summoned by the Mistress of Novices. It was too early for the test to the shawl and she didn't do any mischief, not without Natalie so the Mistress had to be breaking the news to her. Aramina would be badly in need of a friend and even if she and Annais were nowhere near as close as Ara and Nat, Annais knew that she could still be of some consolation if Aramina just let her to.


In the corridor leading to the MoNster's office from the Accepted building, Annais came across the woman she had been looking for. Aramina tried to appear normal, like nothing was wrong but Annais knew her well enough that she recognised it just as surface that she was desperately trying together. "So you've heard", she said with a tremulous voice. "I'm so sorry, Aramina." Her words had a bit unexpected effect as the other Accepted pushed past her and rushed toward the Accepted quarters, likely to  get to her own rooms. But Annais wasn't going to leave her alone in a moment like this so she trotted after Ara quietly. She encountered a closed door at the room that Nat had once shared with Aramina and she knocked softly.


"Aramina, will you please let me in."


Annais Nevell


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She knew the voice on the other side of the door.  She knew she should open it, should allow someone else in, someone who had cared as well, but there was nothing left of Aramina to give at the moment. 


She knew she hadn't been the easiest person to get to know and she hadn't been the most fun to be around, or the smartest, or even the most powerful.  She had been Natalie's friend though and that had been enough for her. 


A sob escaped her throat and without thought or concern for the consequences of her actions, Aramina reached for the source and sent a weave of air crashing through her desk.  The force of the weave upturned the desk and sent everything scattering.  It didn't change anything though.    Tears stung her eyes and Aramina felt her lungs sting.  Breath wouldn't come.  She couldn't do it.  Natalie had come into her life and stripped away the solitude that protected Aramina, that her mother had taught her to keep her safe from the cruel Game and the life she expected of her daughter.  Natalie had seen past it, had pulled and poked at Aramina until she let others see her as well.  Without Natalie she had no shield against the world and her solitude was just a shell now, an empty place to retreat that no longer held safety.


She fell to the floor, still struggling until small gasps of air finally made it into her lungs.  The gasps became sobs and as the sobs became more insistent, Aramina let go of everything.  She had heard of the void and the spring in the Warder's Yards, but her own flame was something different.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting the blackness that she felt settle into her being.  The sobs quieted and her breathing evened out.  She pictured her heart in the center of it all, of this dark stillness, with only this beating heart to bare witness to her pain.  Fingers dug into it, ripping it, until nothing remained but the stillness.  The stillness was her blessing and her curse and without Natalie she wanted nothing else.


She opened her eyes as the pounding on her door interrupted on her solitude.  A shuttered breath escaped her as she dried her eyes.  Her normally immaculate room was a mess, her Accepted Robes were stained from the things she had smashed into the floor, and her hair was falling from it's perfect braids.  She stood and didn't notice the crunch of the mirror underfoot as she  made her way to the door.  She didn't say anything as she looked out at the Accepted in the hallway, nor as she turned back and sat gracefully on the edge of her bed.


She'd have rather opened the door for the Dark One looking like this on a normal day, but this was no normal day.  Today her world had ended. 


Aramina sur Dulciena


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Listening to the sobbing and crashes from inside, Annais bit her lip and tried to keep her wits about and her own emotions under a check for a moment longer. Then all was quiet inside and she resumed her knocking. "It is not good to be alone in a moment like this. Please open the door, Aramina." She waited for a moment but no reply came. She had reached out her hand to rap the door again when the door finally opened. Aramina's face was tear stained and her hair a bit wild as it had escaped from the braids and the room was more than disarrayed, almost everything was broken. Annais didn't let it bother herself as she entered closing the door behind her and sat beside Aramina to the bed. She was careful to leave a slight distance between them and even though she very badly wanted to hug the other Accepted, it might have been more to calm herself. Aramina wasn't the embracing type so she would have to welcome it.


"Would you mind if I sung?", she asked quietly.


It was an odd enough request that it made Aramina realize that not only had she been followed into her room, but that the other girl was sitting beside her.  She looked at Annais and realized that the other girl had been crying as well.  It shouldn't have surprised her really.  Natalie had been a good person, warm and caring, and she had been well liked in the White Tower.  The fact that she had secretly kept her friendship with a few of the Accepted instead of cutting all ties once she had reached Aes Sedai status made it all the worse now. 


Annais and Natalie, they had known one another quite well and Aramina had been in more than one escapade at Natalie's insistence with the other girl.  They'd taken classes together, talked about Ajahs and Tower Guards, whispered about Warders and powerful King's they'd all have living out of their pockets, but it had all been Natalie really.  She had been the heart of it all. 


She didn't know what to say to Annais now.  Was it even necessary to tell her that any connection they might have had had drained away with the blood on the battle field?  Or was she just there because she felt the loss too?  Something inside of her wanted to scream that she was the only one that had a right to this loss, but she couldn't summon up the anger anymore. 


"If you would like to."  Her voice was cold and emotionless, the way she was trying to make her heart.


Aramina was trying to block it all out and that was going to hurt her in a long run. But she couldn't be forced to open up or she might break in the process. Annais could just coax gently and be there in case Aramina wanted to reach out. But first she needed to help herself a bit and maybe Ara would comfort her. Sometimes that did good too in your own grief. Annais begun to hum softly a sad melody and she hugged herself tightly and swayed slightly as her tears begun to flow freely again. Her agile and beautiful voice rose and lowered wordlessly utilizing its full scale as she mourned openly with her whole being.


As she sung she summoned vivid images of Natalie as she had been alive. It had been so easy for her to make friends and she had been a lively center of fun uniting a few separate groups of friends through herself. She and Nat had laughed and talked and the Green had definately intended to bond a horde of Warders. But now she would never do that, not in this life. But she would be remembered, always that and in their memories she would live and they would cherish all the good things she had been to them and try to become it to each others.


The music was beautiful though Aramina had never heard it before.  She couldn't remember having heard Annais sing before either, but part of her was certain she had.  She sat listening to the song and only realized the other girl was crying when she pulled her arms around herself.  She didn't know what to do with this anymore than anything else.  She wanted nothing more than to be left alone in her room.  Part of her knew that Natalie wouldn't have wanted Annais to be alone, but Aramina shut off that way of thinking.  If Natalie didn't want Annais to grieve alone she shouldn't have put herself in danger as she had. 


But this girl had been her friend in the Tower for more years that she wanted to count.  More years than any other except for Natalie.  She couldn't share her own grief, refused to let anyone else see the stillness that she was trying to create within herself, but she could pretend.  She didn't say anything, or even try to hold the other girl, but she reached out and took one of the hands that Annais had wrapped around herself and held it lightly as the other girl continued to sing.


The gentle hold of her hand that Aramina took was a good sign. Slowly but steadily she would be alright even though she likely missed Natalie the sorest of them all. Annais let her voice to die out slowly and ended the song with a sigh. She felt a bit better already but she knew that tears would well again if they spoke of Nat. She wouldn't hold them back as unshed tears would erode her from inside. "What is your first memory of Natalie?", she asked softly. "Did you like her from the beginning?"


Annais & Aramina

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A moment's thought was all it took to remember the first time she had seen Natalie.  She had been led to the Novice's Quarters and shown to a room.  Natalie had been there.  A little slip of a girl who seemed more likely to fall over than to cause trouble.  Little had Aramina known that the little slip of a girl had more spirit than the whole of them all put together.  Natalie had shown her around the Tower, had been the one to teach her the ins and outs of her Novice days. 


She opened her mouth to share the first moments of friendship, the stories that had been whispered between the two of them when no one else had been around, but it all dried up on her tongue.  She shook her head instead.  "I don't remember." She lied.  "She was just... always here."


Aramina was about to reply to her and share her stories of Nat when she suddenly closed her mouth and somehow turned into herself. Her reply was averse even if there likely was truth to her feeling like Nat had always been there. Aramina just didn't want to speak. But Annais wasn't going to give up quite that easily and even if Ara didn't say a word more, Annais wasn't going to leave her to her devices. "I didn't like Natalie at first. I thought that she was a tactless and careless bastard even though she couldn't exactly know my situation and I didn't want to talk about." She chuckled sadly. "Do you remember how reluctant I was to be in the Tower at first? I accused the Aes Sedai and the whole Tower of the deaths of my family." The was still an edge to her voice as she reminesced the tragedy.


"Natalie and Shan were gushing in the novice dining room about the Warders and what kind of a man they would bond and I totally snapped and hit Nat in the head with my tray. Merited me my first visit to the MoNster and she made me to do all my chores from that on with Natalie so I would learn to get along with my future Sister. It picked on from there and you know how Natalie was, irresistible when she decided that she wanted someone to start liking her. She worked you too hard too."


"Don't slip back to how you were in the start, Ara. Promise me. Nat was the most important to you but there are others who care about you too."


Panic welled up inside Aramina at the thought of it.  Was there any way to turn back the wheel and forget what she knew?  Was there a way to undo the hurt and make herself invulnerable to this ordeal?  No.  She couldn't undo it, nor would she if she found a way.  But she didn't think she was strong enough to talk about it, to open up about what she was feeling.  It felt like her entire body would shatter if she gave her feelings the reality of speech, that the force of her pain would erupt around her.  Light, but she wanted it, had wanted it when the Mistress of Novice had spoke the words she had never wanted to hear. 


It was all wrong.  She was supposed to be there to protect Natalie.  That had always been their way!  But Aramina had been too slow, she'd been... wanting... in some way.  The Aes Sedai hadn't believed her ready to join them and now Natalie was dead because of it.  Dead because she hadn't been raised to the Shawl yet to stand by her side. 


That in itself wa a sobering thought and she looked over at Annais.  The smile she gave was sad, but it wasn't the grief over Natalie that colored her expression.  It was the grief that she would not ever feel that way for another again.  "Thank you for your concern Annais.  You were always a good friend to Natalie.  And me." She turned her back then, an obvious dismissal to the woman who was holding a hand out to her.  A dismissal of the friendship they had once had, and what might have been.


Aramina's smile had sorrow in it and Annais knew that she was going to get the cold shoulder. But if Ara really thought that she would be deterred so easily, she was sorely mistaken. "Why the past tense, Aramina? I am not going anywhere." And that likely was the issue. Ara thought that if she let anyone else as close as Nat had been, they would leave her too painfully. She'd just have to stick close and prove that she would keep her promise. "What are you going to do now?"


Aramina & Annais

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What am I going to do?  The question seemed to rebound off the walls around her.  She wanted to turn back and tell Annais that she was going to throw herself from one of the high towers, or that she was going to burn herself out, or maybe just run away from the Tower and never look back.  But she would not lie and they were not things she could do.  She knew herself better than that, and knew that no matter what, Natalie wouldn't have wanted them.  Natalie would have wanted her to become Aes Sedai, even though Aramina no longer felt the desire to be a part of the Tower. 


What she wanted to do was curl up in her bed and cry until there were no more tears left, but until Annais left she could do nothing.  She wanted to bang against the walls and destroy everything that reminded her of her friendship with Natalie and anyone else, and she wanted to save every tiny thing that Natalie had ever touched just because it brought her that much closer to the woman that she could no longer know.


"What will I do?"  she asked in a voice as cold as the worst Borderland winter storm.  "I will train.  I am an Accepted of the White Tower and nothing less would satisfy, would it?" She turned to look over her shoulder at the other girl, her one time friend.  "In time, I will forget the name of Natalie Sedai and the distant battlefield she fell on.  I will forget to hurt for her and I will forget to mourn."


Never.  In her heart the words reverberated the lie over and over again.  You will never forget.  You will never stop mourning.  And you will never forgive yourself for not being at her side.  Never.


Aramina, Accepted 

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