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Hey Now, Wait a Minute...


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Several weeks had passed since her Aes Sedai's return, and Mariasha had been enjoying having her Sister back at her side.  And yet, still, there had been an edge of unease that still persisted.  She couldn't understand it, but then, the edge of shock from the sudden return hadn't worn off quite yet...


Uneasy as she was about things, she tried asking other Warders around the Yard for advice.  She knew this was akin to talking about a spouse to a friend in a manner that most wouldn't, but she was so lost.  Some small part of her remaining innocence wanted to believe that they could pretend that all was well, and that she'd not been run out on.  But as she talked to more of her brethren in the Yards, the more her mind wanted to question this action Taeadra had taken.


Mari had asked no questions of Taeadra, not yet; part of her was desperately trying to pretend all was like old times.  In some ways, it was truly as if Taeadra had never left.  They had fallen into their normal daily routine almost seamlessly... and coupled with the fact that Mari herself had been pretty much drunk the entire time Tae was gone made it easier to pretend that no time had passed.


But as time had rolled by, the constant knot of Taeadra's feelings in Mari's head started to infect her as well.  The other woman was full of wariness and anger, and it was all that the Warder could do to cheerfully ignore a headful of such.  She redoubled her efforts in the Yard, and fell asleep easily in a satisfied exhaustion.  Still, as time was passing, there seemed to be a switch between the two.  For whatever reason, some degree of contentedness was growing in Taeadra's head, while the suspicion and anger started growing in Mariasha's.  <i>Why</i> had the other woman left her for so long?  Had she done something wrong?  Was it the Creator's way of punishing her for... <i>"No, no, mustn't think about that, no.."</i>


Finally, the Warder could take it no more.


It came to a head over the course of a normal meal.  The pair was dining in Taeadra's chambers, as they often did, and making polite conversation about the day's events.  Perhaps it was how hard she was pushing herself.  Perhaps it was the denials she kept making in her head, but something snapped.  Or perhaps it was Taeadra's grumblings about the penance her Ajah had handed down for her absence...


"My fellow Whites are... cross.. with me for going away for as long as I did," Taeadra commented, reaching for another slice of bread, "I guess that it's universally felt that even though I had important business, the Ajah's own business at that, that I should be punished for it."  The White Sister reached for the butter and hummed softly to herself as she applied it lavishly to the bread.


"Perhaps they thought you were dead, Tae," Mariasha spoke quietly, "Perhaps they were worried, as I was, that something horrible had happened."  Her voice began to raise; a hint of anger began to creep in, "Maybe some of them were drinking themselves to death from worry, trying to deny that anything could've happened.  After all, if someone cares, they'll let everyone know they're doing alright, wouldn't they?!"


At this point, Mari was quivering with rage and had stood unbeknownst to herself.  As she glared down at her Sister, her fists clenched unconsciously.  The sitting woman's mouth had formed a small 'o' in surprise at the sudden verbal assault, and taking a deep breath, Mari made herself sit back down.  Fishing a whetstone from her belt pouch, she whipped out one of her daggers and began sharpening it nonchalantly.  "Perhaps, Taeadra, it's time to tell me what was so important that you had to leave me here thinking you were dead for so long.  I think it's time for you to tell all."





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The weeks since returning to the Tower had been…difficult…to say the least. She had been called to question by her Ajah, and though she found it totally ridiculous, she had been handed down a penance. A penance! Not since trading in her Novice whites had Taeadra received penance, and to have it handed from her Sisters, well that had been nearly more than she could bear. Ah, part of her understood their reasoning, but as one of the eldest of her Ajah, not to mention the Tower itself, it had been a very long time since Taeadra felt she had to answer to anyone for her actions.


Then there was Mariasha. They’d spent weeks slipping back into their normal routine, but it was strained with unanswered questions and accusations. Tae knew all too well that Mari would demand answers from her, she just didn’t know when. The not knowing had left a ball of emotions within her that, though she had tried hard to conceal, she was sure Mari could sense.


It had been only recently that Taeadra had found some inner calm, and tried to pass that through their bond, to Mariasha. But it seemed as if the calmer Tae became, the more agitated Mari became which in turn had agitated her. Tae made note in her head that it had been fascinating how their emotions seemed to flow from one to another and gain in intensity as they did, at least that was how it felt for her.


When at last Mari’s questions came forth, Taeadra was almost too stunned to respond. They had been sharing a meal and discussing various items they both found of interest, when an innocent statement (at least she had thought it innocent…) made by Tae suddenly had her Warder firing the questions they had avoided for so long………


"Perhaps they thought you were dead, Tae. Perhaps they were worried, as I was, that something horrible had happened. Maybe some of them were drinking themselves to death from worry, trying to deny that anything could've happened.  After all, if someone cares, they'll let everyone know they're doing alright, wouldn't they?!"


“Perhaps, Taeadra, it's time to tell me what was so important that you had to leave me here thinking you were dead for so long.  I think it's time for you to tell all."


Taeadra schooled her face as quickly as she could, letting no further sign of shock show, though she was certain Mari could sense it through the bond, and settled her eyes on her Warder. Tae held her eyes there, not speaking a word until Mari lifted her head from the beating she was giving both her dagger and the whet stone.


The silence seemed to stretch on for an eternity as Tae digested everything Mari had said. Drinking herself to death? Light Tae...she did what she could to mask the guilt she felt, though she was uncertain at how successful she had been.


“Perhaps,” she spoke quietly, but firmly as she folded her napkin and set it on the table, “my reasons were just that; my reasons. And perhaps they should remain as such.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Tae regretted them, but she wouldn’t back down now. At least that was the stance she held for mere moments until the wave of pure anger hit her through the bond. So strong was it that it nearly staggered her. Tae’s head fell as Mari’s words echoed through her head again... drinking themselves to death from worry… thought you were dead.


“Or perhaps,” she spoke again, her voice nearly trembling, “you are owed an explanation.”


“Owed an explanation? Owed? Is that what our bond means to you Taeadra?” Tae didn’t need the bond to know the accusation Mari’s words held.


“After spending over two centuries unbonded, do you think I entered into this lightly Mariasha? Do you think I took this bond as a convenience?” Her voice had grown stronger, though she was still trying to reign in the guilt she felt pouring through her.


She embraced the source then, and for a blissful moment allowed herself to be enveloped by it. The sweet song it sang to her was as tempting now as it had been the first time she felt it. Tae gathered together the weave to set her room in silence from prying ears, though there was little to worry about here in the White quarters, Taeadra had always held her secrets carefully guarded and was not about to let them slip, especially not now with all she had discovered on her journey.


Taking a deep breath as she released Saidar, Taeadra began to tell Mari, everything, she left out not one nuance, knowing full well that when the last of the words left her mouth, Mari would be only more infuriated that Taeadra had left her behind...


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  • 2 months later...


Quirking an eyebrow, Mari raised her eyes from the whetstone in her hands.  "So then, you mean to tell me that wandering off on an extended adventure was more important than those that care about you?  More important than your duties in the Tower to your Sisters?!"  She snorted, slamming the whetstone down on the table. "I know that you always try to put the best face on things, Taeadra, but word has it around the Yards that your Sisters of the White are out to punish you severely for your <i>'important business'</i>.  I'm guessing that if it was so important, they'd not be that ticked about it, would they?"


Standing up, Mari began to pace along her side of the table; she occasionally shot a dark glance at the woman she had considered her closest friend.  That burned - <i>had</i>, not <i>was</i>.  Or was she?  It was all so hard to think about. Had her parents...




Choking back a growl, she stopped dead in her tracks, "No, it's nothing like that, nothing like that at all," the Warder muttered to herself.  Her right hand drifted down to her dagger and gripped it unconsciously, "I wasn't sworn to protect them, they didn't think I could... DON'T THINK ABOUT IT!"


Coming back to the here and now with a start, she jumped once she realized she'd been shouting.  Shaking with an unidentifiable emotion, she spoke slowly to the air, "I... I.. am... I'm going.. to.. yeah... I'm going to go now."


Doing her best to pretend Taeadra wasn't there, she gathered up her things and departed as quickly as dignity would permit her.  This was all too much for Mariasha, and the young Warder was unaware that she had started running once clear of the White quarters.  She didn't know where she was going, but knew she had to get away.  <i>"You can't run from your thoughts though,"</i> her mind whispered at her, spurring her to try even harder to escape from it all.


The sun hung low in the sky as she exited the Tower at a dead run.  She was blind to the curious glances from the people she passed, and as she made her way past the Warders Yard and down the eastern road, her mind made itself up about her destination.  Content in this, she allowed focusing on not running anyone down take over her mind as she continued her mad dash towards the river.




Mariasha's steps slowed as she neared the bank, and she began to pace quickly alongside the river to cool herself down from her short run.  It was no secret that she found the riverside calming, not that she expected anyone to follow her out here, not really.  Still, the run had been pleasantly exhausting, and as she slumped down to sit on the grass lining the riverbank, she let the flow of the water soothe and distract her mind from the turmoil she did <b>not</b> want to deal with.



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  • 1 month later...


As the sun glinted off of the river as it set off into the distance, Mariasha pushed herself off the grass and sighed.  Her thoughts had run themselves in circles to no avail, and the serenity that the river usually brought her couldn’t even begin to make a dent on her internal turmoil.


She slowly made her way back to the Barracks, flipping a dagger absent-mindedly as she went.  The Andoran woman had found that it did a good job of changing peoples’ minds about bothering a woman alone… not that she really wanted to be alone, not with these thoughts.  But still, whom could she talk to?  Taeadra <i>would have</i> been the person she talked to everything about, but where did things stand now?  Sighing, she entered the Barracks and made her way to her room.




Mariasha’s sleep was troubled.  That is to say, the few times she managed to nod off, she found herself immediately jerking back awake from stray and painful thoughts.  Her Aes Sedai, her parents… All of this mixed ‘round in her mind, making an impolite mess.


So when she ‘woke’ up the next morning, she found herself nodding and red-eyed.  She wasn’t sure how many times she had randomly started crying, but she prayed to the Creator as she dressed for her efforts in the Yard that she wouldn’t start again.  Of course, her resolve only lasted until she got outside and ran into Thera…


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She was going stir crazy! She was under instructions only to do calisthenics for 30 minutes a day and to cut down the length of her runs. She wasn’t to practice the sword for more than 2 hours and her only students were to be Aes Sedai. She couldn’t spend more than an hour behind her desk and none of that time was to be spent seeing trainee. If she was lucky it was lunch time before anyone noticed that she was still around, but that still left too many hours with nothing to do.


This morning her ‘shooing’ had come ever early and so now Thera was pacing the Yards and the Barracks trying to keep herself from losing her mind. Books had been suggested to her as a way to pass the time, but the vile woman who’d pressed that suggestion did not realize that words on a page were no substitute for sweat on your brow and a practice blade in your hands. Thera was grumbling softly under her breath when she almost ran straight into Mari. They had not seen each other in some time, but any fool could have seen that Mariasha looked like death warmed over.


Perhaps it was finally the maternal instinct setting in, but Thera stopped to see what had the woman looking like she’d been run over by a wagon. “Mari? I hardly recognized you. You look like you were pulled through a key hole backwards. Did you get yourself next deep in the ale last night?” She meant the remark as a joke, but wasn’t sure it would be taken as such. The only thing worse than a woman in temper was a woman in mourning.


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"A-ale?" Mariasha stammered, "N-n-no, no ale.  I had been trying t-to stop drinking and t-trying to get my head back together... for..."


She burst into fresh tears before he could stop herself.  Fishing her handkerchief from her pocket, she mopped herself up with a sigh.  "I'm a wreck, Thera," Mari started, taking a moment to tuck her hankie up her sleeve, "Just a total wreck.  Light, I'm not really sure if I'm in good enough shape to be out and about right now; I've just..."  She shook her head slightly, "There's a lot on my mind."


Mari smiled weakly at her old friend.  As it were, she wasn't sure she <i>could</i> unjumble all the pain and hurt in her head... but she knew she had to try.  She had seen what ignoring emotions could do to people, and she didn't want that.  Oh sure, it had to be done in the heat of battle, but one couldn't live in the Void and stay human.

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Thera blinked and shook her head. Emotions were not her strong point, especially when they were not her own, but she couldn’t just walk away and leave her like this. The usually strong woman really did look as if she were falling apart. “We can go to my office, there are comfortable chairs and we will be private.”


It was true, no one would be bothering her, and they were all on strict orders to go to Dargar first with any issues they had.  With a gentle nudge she got Mari started in the direct of her office, taking the most direct route out of the way of prying eyes. Thera had never liked anyone to see her weeping and she didn’t think Mari was much different. When they entered Thera bolted the door behind them and immediately got two mugs of water, and led them over to the two overstuffed comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. With your back to all the swords, and shields you really could forget that it was an office.


“Do you want to tell me what’s wrong Mari? What caused your….tears?” Thera was impossibly bad at this, she’d almost said your melt down, and was grateful that for once her mouth didn’t out run her brain.


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Flopping into the cushy chair, Mariasha gratefully accepted the glass of water. “Thank you,” she murmured, drinking deeply before lowering the mug to clasp with both hands.


“Do you want to tell me what’s wrong, Mari?  What caused your… tears?” Thera inquired politely.  The Andoran woman couldn’t help but laugh a bit, even if it meant that Thera was looking at her if she’d gone mad.


“Well, you remember how a few weeks ago my Aes Sedai showed up out of the blue?  Light, like anyone can forget that, what with me screaming about ghosts and falling off of walls and things.”  She took another sip of water, and continued, “Anyways, the shock of it was just all too much for me, and I tried to convince myself that everything would be like normal again now that she was back, and that I could overlook her absence.  Her <b>considerable</b> absence…” 


Mari trailed off, staring at her hands as they cupped the mug for a long moment.  “We were having dinner last night, and I just kind of snapped,” she spoke in a low voice, almost as if talking to herself, “I just completely blew up on her and demanded an explanation.  To make matters worse, Taeadra came up with the most cockamamie story I think I’ve ever heard in my life.  Claiming she was off on important business, but if it was so important, why didn’t she take me with her to protect her, Thera?  Why didn’t she?”


Her eyes shone with tears waiting to be shed again as her hands trembled on the mug in her lap.


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Every since becoming with child Thera’s senses had been heightened even more than when she held the void. With that came an extra understanding of emotions that she’d never had and a small part of her empathized with Mari.  It was annoying, because she found herself wanting to cry as well. The story seemed so much like what she and Serena had been through, though she didn’t think that comparison would be a comfort just now.


“Aes Sedai are…Well…” She struggled between wanting to speak the truth and wanting to comfort Mari. “They are women 100 fold. Most are as stubborn as the day is long and more foolish than men. They think their power makes them invincible, when it truth it makes them more vulnerable.”


“Trying to make them see sense can be like pulling teeth, and as much as it hurts us, it is part of the bargain we make when we accept the bond.  The oaths we swear to protect them count for little if they make the decision to go their own way.”  Sighing Thera got up and refilled her mug.


“I wish I could say something more to comfort you, but I do not know that there are words. They will never understand the worry and the pain we feel when they go their own way. I do not think they are capable. They see the Tower, their Ajah, and their chosen purpose, and little else. Even if you are she are close friends how can those bonds compare with those the Tower forges?” The last question was something she desperately was searching for an answer for herself, though she didn’t think it would ever come.


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Mari pushed a few stray strands of hair out of her face as she sighed in response to Thera’s question.  “I don’t know if some of them bother to form any bonds with anyone at all.  Taeadra is reputed to be in fairly hot water with her Ajah over her little… adventure, and I’m sure that me having a nervous breakdown probably isn’t doing her a world of good either.  I mean… it’s in our very souls to care for our Sisters – the bond makes sure of that.”


Turning her attention to that part of her mind that was Taeadra, she could tell that the White Sister was still sleeping.  It was much like her not being there – no sense of emotions came through the bond, yet Mariasha could tell that she was there.  She tapped her cheek in thought before casting her eyes back to her fellow Warder, “I… I don’t know Thera, I just sort of snapped.  You’ll probably laugh at this, but I just had a moment where I realized I felt what my parents probably felt when I just up and vanished.”  She herself chuckled mirthlessly at this before continuing on, “But unlike my ‘fortune’ at getting Taeadra back, I… I’ve never bothered to contact my parents in the years since I’ve left Caemlyn.  I… I don’t know if they’re alive or dead, and they... they don’t know and...”


Another sob ripped out of her before she could stop herself, and she growled at herself slightly, “Light Thera, I’m so bloody tired… it’s just been running around and around in my head all night, and I don’t even know how to sort it out yet.  Even a promise made in one’s cups is a promise that should be kept, and when we decided to bond those years ago, I was thrilled to have someone to take care of, to hopefully trust in.  I just… I just don’t know how to lay the line.  I think I need to, though – how can I do my job if she wanders off?  It would be just like an Aes Sedai to betray their Warder by wandering off to die, right?”


She helped herself to another gulp of water, and put the freshly emptied cup to the side, “Anyways Thera… any thoughts?  I just… I just want things to get back to normal, the way it should be.”


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Thera saw the almost distant look in Mari’s eyes and she knew it well. In the back of her mind was a tiny knot of emotions, vivid and alive, and her fellow Tower Guard was gently probing them. Suddenly the emptiness in her own head seemed vast. Every day since Serena had released her, Thera had missed the tiny raven haired beauty, but her duties as Mistress of Trainee’s and her marriage to Jasine had filled up the lonely hours. Now, watching Mari struggle as she was she had to fight a wave of jealousy. For the first time since the dissolving, Thera considered the idea of taking another bond. What would Jasine say? Could he accept that desire? And the child? So many questions popped into her mind, but she tamped them firmly down and tried to focus on her friends problem.


Thera gave a dry laugh at the idea of an Aes Sedai wandering off to die. Had Serena sealed herself to that fate when she went out into the world without alone?


“Sadly if your Aes Sedai does wander off to die and leaves you no trail to follow there is little you can do beyond worry and wait. But since Taeadra is here you must set your boundaries of what you will accept and what you cannot. I assume you already told her how her leaving made you feel, but now you need to set ‘rules’ so that it cannot happen again.”


Shaking her head Thera wondered why so often she did not follow her own advice. Perhaps if she had Serena would still here. “She may accepted them, and she may not, but then at least you will have stepped into your own integrity and….you will know. If she does accept, then time will get you back to where you used to be.”


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  • 2 weeks later...

Pushing herself out of her chair, Mari impulsively hugged Thera.  Squeezing gently, she managed to stumble back from where the other woman was seated without falling over as she rose from her half-crouch.  “Thanks Thera, you’ve given me a lot of food for thought, even if it’s perhaps not the taste I want in my mouth.”  She chuckled softly, shaking her head, “Taeadra is a <b>very</b> headstrong woman, and I guess I’m just going to have to learn how to be more stubborn than she is… perhaps I can find a mule to teach me.”


Sighing, she headed for the door, “Thanks again,” Mariasha started, opening the door, “I’m going to… go... something.”  She stepped through and shut the door behind her, and started out across the Yards.


She’d not gotten more than a hundred paces towards the Tower when her steps slowed, and then stopped.  The young Warder’s thoughts were much like honey – torpid and squishy.  Still, it suddenly dawned on her that she probably looked a right fright.  <i> “I should go clean myself up before going to talk to Taeadra,” </i>  she told herself firmly, turning back towards the barracks, <i> “She won’t take me seriously if I look a mess, and I have to come from a position of strength, not of weakness.  Plus, if I make her wait longer, it might make her easier to work with… yes…”</i>


Upon arriving in her chamber, she closed the door behind herself and sat down on the bed.  She had only gotten as far as removing a single boot, and tugging at the next, before she found herself flat-out asleep on the bed.



After having a much-needed rest, Mariasha’s body still felt leaden, and her mind quite asleep.  Stifling a yawn, she levered herself up.  She eyed her still-booted foot ruefully, and proceeded to finish the job she had started before passing out on herself.  A bath would do her mind wonders.



The sun hung low in the sky before her as the Andoran made her way back towards the White Tower proper.  She was as pristine as she could be – her hair was brushed and pulled back, her boots were shined, and her clothing was spotless between.  She was still unsure in her heart if this would be good for her friendship with her Sister… but protecting the woman she was bound to was the most important thing.


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