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Grasping the Thorns (Estel)


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Orion made the slow walk to the West Gate leading Taishar behind him. His mind's eye made the images of where he was going, and with his horse behind him people stepped out of his way more quickly then they would if he didn't. The sun was beginning to peak over the horizon as he walked to meet with Estel.


It was quiet on the streets of Tar Valon, Orion and Taishar's footsteps ringing against the stone. Enveloped in the void to escape the pain, the soft sounds rang in his ears as if the street were full. The pain of once again being rejected by Estel floated outside the void, mingled with the lesser happiness that he would not be left again.


Why was it that when finally his love was returned that he still could not have the woman he loved. And not for the first time he wondered why he was here, why Estel had allowed him to come. The Commander had been willing enough, a newly warderless Aes Sedai going half way across the world alone. But still Orion had to wonder how it would go. Their relationship did not have the greatest reputation since his blinding, most of their meetings ending in shouting matches and heated words. Even the night before where both had admitted they loves each other was mixed with hurtful words. Orion sighed as he began to slow and came to a halt with Taishar standing beside him, standing in front of the Gate.




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  • 2 weeks later...

The horse’s hooves rang out sharply in the dim pre-dawn light. Clip. Clop. Clip. Clop. The sounds bounced off the walls of the buildings lining the empty streets. However, the horse’s rider paid little mind to both the original sound and the echo. The streets were empty, but her mind was not. Thoughts and memories filled her. Some were happy but most not. Nothing came to her in any semblance of order; it was all jumbled and confused. Burn her but she was so confused.


Clip. Clop. Clip. Clop.


Suddenly she turned her attention to the noise, desperately trying to forget the memories and banish the thoughts. Her ears drank in the sound like an alcoholic drank his hard liqueur. They were both an escape which the seemingly young woman on the horse knew only too well. Oh to escape reality- if only for a time. Brandy drowned the memories and banished the cruel thoughts but they always returned when the effects of the alcohol wore off. Distractions, too, only worked for a time. Sooner or later her mind found itself reflecting on her sins and shortcomings.


Nobody would believe her to be Aes Sedai if they could get inside her head. Aes Sedai were always aloof; nothing troubled them. No Aes Sedai worth her salt would leave her room in the middle of the night to go cry in some solitary clearing in the mighty Tower’s grounds. Aes Sedai didn’t love. They were impassionate; above the fickle sentiments of the heart. No woman worth of the Shawl and Ring would find themselves in a dilemma over a man, or rather a man and the memory of another. Above all she would never get herself pregnant.


Yet here sat Estel Sedai, the disgraced Estel Liones undeserving of the title Sedai. A light cloak with the cowl pulled over her face, supposedly to ward off the autumn chill, hid her enlarged belly, red, puffy eyes and the leaves and other forest debris that still clung to her hair. She was hidden from view, but what she truly longed for was to be hidden from the world. If only she could escape, not only their eyes, but their whispers, their manipulating, their expectations. But only the dead were truly hidden from the world.


Death; the eternal release. Only dead would she ever find peace. How she longed for that balm! Life was torture and death paradise. Thoughts of taking her own life were not uncommon in her mind of late. Just this morning, in the darkness by the brook she had held a knife to her throat. But she could summon the courage to truly end it. At every turn, fear froze her. She was terrified of life and terrified of death.


As she dwelled in the mind, reality continued. She reined in her horse before she got to the gate. She could see him perfectly, despite the dim light. Her eyes drank in the sight of him and it cut deep to know he could never see her again. His eyes stared off at nothing, seeing nothing. Nothing. Was that what he was? Was her companion for the journey nothing? He could do nothing. Nothing to help her in her pain, he could do nothing if they were attacked at any point. Nothing? He wasn’t nothing to her. To Estel, he was the world. Orion Mantier was Estel’s pain and pleasure. This blind Tower Guard was something- but what? What could he possibly be to her? A Warder? A blind Warder? She was already the laughingstock of the White Tower, she couldn’t further devastate her career, if it could be called that, by Bonding a blind man! A lover? Aes Sedai took no lovers. ‘Then why are you pregnant?’ Damn her conscience, couldn’t it go away and ease her pain?


Taking a deep, calming breath, she mentally prepared herself. No avoiding it any longer; time to take up her burden and take it with her. Clip. Clop. Clip. Clop. It was only her horse’s hooves on the cobblestones, but it sounded like drums sounding some impending doom. Her gelding, she had gotten the animal in Sheinar since Dieb had died with… ‘Light, don’t think about it!’, whickered at Orion’s larger stallion as they came near.


The man didn’t bother to turn his head to her but rather cocked his ear. His ears were his only insight to the world around him. Blood and ashes, but it made her want to cry. ‘Pull yourself together, fool girl, crying solves nothing! Mother’s milk in a cup, you’re supposed to be an Aes Sedai!’


“Good morning Orion. Shall we start off?†Short, she knew, but she couldn’t mange anything more. Damn her, damn him, damn the world! Why was this so painful?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Orion sighed ruefully as the distinct sounds of another horse joined the soft noises of Tai'shars breath and his. The horse stepped lightly and Orion gave a light tug on the reins to calm the stallion down. This was it, a moment he had wished for and dreaded for the past three years. He just hoped it would go better than every other meeting they had had.


"Good morning Orion. Shall we start off?" Orion sighed softly. Short and mechanical, everything necessasry to be cordial to a traveling companion but containing none of the care he had hoped would come from the woman he loved. Perhaps it would change, but until then this was going to be a rather akward trip.


Orion slowly ran a hand along Tai'shar's neck and placed a hand on the pommel of the saddle. In a single practiced motion he slid himself into the saddle. He couldn't bring himself to say anything for a few long moments, simply turned the stallion to where he knew the gate stood open.


Orion voice was tinged with despair and hopelessness as he opened his mouth to speak. "Lead the Estel Sedai. It seems like a good morning to be traveling." The conversation was strained to understate the situation. Orion's words as functional as Estel's though hiding what he really felt underneath.




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Weeks rolled by with no change except in their terrain. For two people madly in love with each other, they could neither speak to each other nor find any way to express their feelings. Not that they tried; Estel, at least, was still so torn by Matthias’ death and her pregnancy that she couldn’t seem to allow Orion near. Though in truth, it was mainly her unwillingness to forgive him and her stubborn refusal to take more than a little of the blame for their rift upon herself.


If she had thought herself miserable before, it was nothing compared to the torturous days of travel. At dawn they rose, saddled their mounts and broke fast in the saddle with barely a half dozen words between them. There were long hours to torment herself with memories on self-doubt. Occasionally she would steal a longing glance at her companion but it only brought more pain. They were so close now and yet they still couldn’t settle their differences. Would they ever? Were they doomed to lives their lives always wishing for what they could not have?


Despair had been a permanent part of her since the day she saw him led into the Tower, unable to see even what was put in front of his eyes. Hope had occasionally flickered within her only to be snuffed out by despair. It was now to the point where she dared not hope. Enough pain had pulled her apart, why add more?


So on they rode- from Tar Valon, through the Black Hills, to the Caralain Grass. Now, only a day’s ride from the Arinelle River, Estel was at her bleakest. Perhaps under normal circumstances, the depression would not have been so deep but adding her pregnancy to the mix augmented it. During a good spell, she counted herself lucky that she did not have the courage to carry out the suicidal thoughts she had during her bad spells.


They had been moving through the forest which surrounded the Arinelle for the last few days. She had been mildly- and pleasantly- surprised that Orion had been able to guide them thus far as she knew next to nothing of woodcraft. However, being able to guide and being able to protect were two very different entities. Again she found herself in a fit of depression.


Finally, the sun began to sink below the horizon. Not that they could see the horizon in the thick woodland but the drop in air temperature and failing light were signs enough. So tired and saddlesore, they dismounted- or in Estel’s case, fell. With her pregnancy came a host of inconveniences, depression only being the worst.

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Orion sat upon the line between hope and despair for the weeks they were traveling. He followed Estel, well, blindly along the rode and tried to help when he could though he feared that he was only making himself seem all the more worthless. He feared to try and change how things were for fear that he would just push Estel even farther away without meaning too. He held a hope that maybe things would be able to repair the chasms between them.


It was harder than he had expected as well, traveling with only the functionary words spoken between him and the woman he loved. Every step was filled with akwardness, every words pulled from some reluctant part of each of them. Each of the words filled with the distance that was almost palpable in the air.


Orion swung easily out the saddle as they stopped for the night. He was smoothing a hand against Tai'shars flank when the sounds of Estel stumbling out of her saddle, a sound more common now of late. It didn't suprise him, he knew her pregnency would be affecting her now as weeks has gone by.


With a few quick steps Orion was near her side and placing a hand on her arm to help steady her, a simple gesture from a person who wanted to prove his love for a woman. He took a step back as his hand was swatted away.


Orion sniffed and took a step away hurt and anger rising inside of him. "You spurn everything I do to try and prove that I love you. All I get in return is hate." Orion half turned muttering to himself but loud enough for Estel to hear him. He was angry and was allowing the tension and despair of the last few weeks take over him. "No wonder Rosheen named you a darkfriend."




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  • 2 weeks later...

His hand at her arm was swatted away quickly. As Estel backed away from him, fear and anger were clearly visible on her face. Hadn’t she made it perfectly clear she wasn’t ready for that! Burn him, Matthias hadn’t been gone from her bed four months! Even while in bed with her now deceased Warder she had felt dirty knowing her body belonged to him but her heart to another. She owed Matthias’ memory more than a few months’ abstinence. After all, she killed him and carried his child.


The hurt on Orion’s face drove another knife into her heart but she had little time to pity their torn relationship before anger once again drove it all away.


“You spurn everything I do to try and prove that I love you. All I get in return is hate. No wonder Rosheen named you a darkfriend."


‘How dare he!’ Outrage turned her face from its normal copper pigment to a shade of red so deep it was nearly purple. Anger coursed through her, blinding her mind from common sense. In her rage she forgot how much she loved the man with her and how much she wanted to make their relationship work. All she knew now was that she had to hurt him as much as he had hurt her.


The memory of lying face down in the dust of the Warder’s Yard came back all too quickly as it still haunted her dreams. Rosheen’s face and the memory of her practically insane near-murder served to enrage her further. Only a fool pushed an Aes Sedai over the edge. Rosheen had done it and now Orion was coming close.


“You dare speak of love, Orion Mantier?†she shrieked back at him. “You couldn’t possibly love me! My lover would understand the pain I’m going through and the time I need to forget the last man to hold that title!â€


His hurt and anger drove another knife into her bleeding heart. Had she destroyed any remaining chance that they could work something out? Would she never know his embrace of the soft touch of his lips on hers? Light, such pain and she was the cause! Frustration and pain welled within her, mixing with the rage that controlled her. Her already troubled soul could not stand the confusion and she did the same thing she had done so many times before.


She ran.


Some time later, Estel was curled in a ball on the ground, tears mixing with the bare earth and dead leaves beneath her.

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Orion stood molified by Estel's words. He felt ashamed for bursting out in anger with what he had said, the hurt seething through her voice. If he really was this callouse to the woman he loved he deserved to be alone. It didn't surpise him as he hear Estel turn and run, he took two steps before tripping over a root he couldn't see, falling on his knee with a painful hiss.


He stood feeling shattered to the core ashamed of himself and his words and wondering if their relationship could recover from this. He stood slowly and then his situation really hit home. He was alone. Alone, blind and in a place he had never been before. Estel. That was where he needed to go.


His plan was set, his despair pushed away and his resolve set. If there was a chance to make up with Estel he would have to find her first. He calmed himself, slipping into the void and moving began to move towards where the sounds of Estel running had come from.


He led Taishar by the reigns and calling Estel's mount to him, walking in a straight line. Estel's voice had been frantic and Orion assumed that she would run in a straight line from him, she would be running just to be away from him not to get somewhere. Taishar pulled back on the reign and Orion reached out touching the tree he had been about to run in to.


"Good boy." Orion smiled, there was always something good to having a smart horse. He stepped around and put a hand in front of him as he walked, moving around the tree. He let go of Taishars reign and let him follow on his own while he led Estel's horse.


He walked quietly and strained his ears for anything. The sounds of a running animal, trying its best to just get away from something. He doubted it was a wolf and began in that direction, thinking it would be Estel the animal was running from.


It was these small hints that led Orion on. The lack of normal forest sounds in one direction showing that they were hiding from something in another direction, or the frantic sounds of animals running from something. His extended arms guided him past obstacles while his slow steps stopped him from tripping over anything.


Finally the small noises that Orion knew from someone crying. It helped that Estel's horse began walking on it's own. He had done it. Orion let out a long breath, the panic he had been feeling subsiding. He let the horses go and took steps towards the sound. He reached out when he got near who he hoped was Estel. "Estel?"




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  • 2 weeks later...

She had run again, only to rediscover she could not possibly run from the pain. The only thing she had run from was Orion. This was all so wrong! It was never supposed to be like this! Estel Sedai wasn’t supposed to be pregnant with another man’s baby! Nor was she supposed to have just run away from the only man she really cared for! Why had nothing gone according to the plan she had subconsciously laid out as an Accepted? What had happened? What had brought them to this? She was supposed to be lying in Orion’s arms, not the dead leaves of the past year and she should have been sighing contentedly as he held her close, not crying because of another fight! It should be his baby, not Matthias’!


‘Damn him! Damn him for running into that fire! Damn him for losing his sight! Damn him for... Blood and bloody ashes! Damn him for leaving me in this pain!’


It was all so hopeless. Everything should have gone according to plan! Even after the accident, things could have still turned for the better! But they had been too stubborn and Orion hadn’t been the only one who had been blind. Their tempers got in the way and their own stubborn pride. Despite all their history, they had still had a chance... up until about ten minutes ago. He had tried, tried to make it all right but she had pushed him away. Pushed him away like she had ever since his blinding. She had pushed him away and hidden behind Matthias. Would she ever have the courage to let him in? Would she ever have the courage to let anyone in? Not only had she pushed Orion away but she kept everyone else at arm’s length as well.




Estel turned toward the voice. Such a beautiful voice. A longing rose in her for him to say it again and again, but it should not be filled with concern. If only it was filled with love and passion... No! She had run from him! Run from him because he brought so much pain! Light, she didn’t want to hurt any more. Every part of her ached. Not physically, but every inch of her heart had been torn apart again and again and again. Never could any Whitecloak’s torture equal to this.


Unable to look at him anymore, she turned away, burying her head in her hands, lying curled up in the dirt. It seemed she spent more time on the ground groveling and sniveling than on her feet. How she wanted to stand! She wanted- no needed!- the strength to stand on her own two feet but it wasn’t there. She was too weak. Too weak to bear her burden.


Tears came harder and her mumbled words were none too cohesive. “No... No I don’t want... I don’t want to hurt... I don’t want to hurt anymore... Go away... Just leave... No more pain... The Light blind you... No more pain...â€


When he touched her back, she snapped. This was not the first time and likely not the last, but she snapped again. Snapped as she had while fighting with Rosheen.


...ground again... maelstrom ... through her head... drowned... emotional issues... nearest branch... Sirayn... betrayed me... fallen Aes Sedai... literally... metaphorically... laying on the ground... In her mind... seconds... felt pain... his pain... over and over again... felt him burn... she was... burning... betrayed him... woman approached... Estel's death... so scared... lain with one man... two women... hurt enough... betrayed me... feet... Tower Guard... takes only a woman... No... Orion... man...with a stick to break... little I retained... hate myself... more... hate her... No... him... hate...


Her thoughts were disjointed as if her mind were not functioning properly. Memories combined with the present so that it seemed as if she were living in both at the same time. All the traumatc events of the past few year blended together and in her panicked and confused state, she laid them all at Orion’s feet.


Somehow she found her way to her feet and she lashed out, trying desperately to drive the pain- for Orion and her pain had become the same in her mind- away. Her hand connected with his face and while he recovered from his shock she managed to get ahold of the bullwhip, ever present at her belt.

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Orion stumbled backwards a few steps. Not from the force of the blow but just because the blow had happened. His hand raised incredulously to his cheek where the sting of Estel's palm print still remained. He hadn't beleived that the noise could be her hand going through the air until the sting of her strike.


And before he could respond with words, action or emotion. The whistle of something moving in the air, cracking where he had been standing only a moment before. The only thing that had saved him from Estel's bull whip was his quick reaction to the sound, but now this would not be easy. A whip moved faster than a sword and made less sound mocing through the air. With Estel in this mood Orion had to assume this was any other fight. For her it probobly was.


"Estel!" Orion tried scream her name and perhaps make her see some sense in what she was doing. He hissed lightly as the tip of her whip bit into his leg. He moved backwards, waiting for the next strike. He knew how to fight a whipe, you had to get iside of it's range, but Orion needed to know how long the whip was first so he could go about with that. And he didn't want to attack Estel no matter what she did. Even had he not loved her he would have relented.


He jumped again as the whip cracked next to him. He lashed out at the moment the tip cracked, taking a hold of the leather and jerking it towards himself while he moved forewards with quick steps.


He was next to Estel in only a breath's time and had hand wrist in his hand, a foot hooking behind her ankle as he pushed at her shoulder. He shifted his wieght, catching her as she fell mindful for the child in her stomach. As much as he would love for that child to simply dissapear he was not a murderer.


The added momentum of him carrying Estel to the ground dragged him on top of her. Even now his blood sang from the close contact, remembering the feelings of being with Matalina so long ago and Lavinya more recently. He forced those down, knowing it would not do now. Already he could feel Estel's breaht on his face and it was all he could do to refrain from leaning his head and kissing her for all he was worth.


"I will not fight you Estel but I will not let you leave again. I will not sit idly by as you flee from this. Not anymore."


There is always pain for those who take a hold of a rose carelessly. The thorns dig into the flesh and the crimson blood drips slowly from your hand to match the beauty of the flower above it. To love was grasping that rose and ignoring the pain of the thorns.


Orion would no longer hold his rose gently. A hundred thorns could pierce his hand and he would not care any longer. The life blood dripping out could only match the Rose. His life and love were one in the same. The wolf that was hate would be the only one to drain their life blood in this battle.




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  • 2 weeks later...



The words reached her, penetrating her thick skull but they had no visible effect on the woman teetering on the edge of sanity. To her troubled mind, they were muffled and sparked an emotion that was so quickly repressed by her mad anger that she could not recognize it.


The fight did not last long. She had only struck out three times, hitting him once, before he grabbed her whip and pulled it from her trembling hands- or at least they trembled without the leather handle of the whip to hold.


When he touched her wrist, sanity finally shone through the fog of her madness. Once again, like an alcoholic coming out of his inebriated state, she saw the ruin she had caused. There was blood dripping down his muscled leg. She had cut him. Panic sent icy chills through her body. What had she done? “Light,†she breathed aloud “I hurt him.†‘You always do.’ That truth sent tears leaking once again down her cheeks.


But she had only a moment to ponder the disaster she had caused before she felt his body on top of hers and the soft ground beneath her back. And then the weeping began in earnest. Her thin frame shook for all it was worth and her cries echoed through the forest and must have awakened everything in a mile’s radius.


He lay atop her and rather than push him away as she had done so many times before now, she clutched him to her as if he were the only thing keeping her alive. Despite her distress, it felt good. Really good to finally hold him like that. Had she been in any state of mind to pray, she would have praised the Creator in every way she knew that he didn’t pull away and held her just as hard.


â€I will not fight you, Estel, but I will not let you leave again. I will not sit idly by as you flee from this. Not anymore.â€


In response, Estel buried her hazel head into his shoulders and sobbed repeatedly “Don’t ever leave me.â€


It was sad that it had taken this long and that much pain for her to finally let down the barriers she had put up against him. What would have happened had she let him in from the first? Would the rift have never broken open? Perhaps, everything they had been through had brought them closer in the end. Only time would tell.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It was his love that finally moved him, Estel's tears hurting him more than the throbbing in his leg ever could. Estel's hurt tore at his heart as they always have, the void slipped away to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of care and love and a want to protect her and make the tears go away. Her arms wrapped around him, holding him close and Orion reciprocated.


"Don't ever leave me."


"Never again." Orion whispered as he held Estel, the chasm between them finally being bridged for at least a few moments. What hate and disdain he could ever have felt for what she had done to him dissapeared in that moment. The only thing he felt was the love that threatened to burst open his heart.


Orion said nothing, simply held the women he loved and made soft comforting noises trying his best to stem the flow of her tears, wanting desperately to try and make her pain go away. But now it would it would be possible, now he knew she would never leave him, that he would never have to let her go again. What they had done to each other in the past could perhaps be overcome and now just simply be together.


Tentively, slowly he  turned his head and pressed his lips to her brow. Restraining himself from actually kissing her, trying to respect the time she had asked for before to recover from Matthias death. As he continued with what he hoped would be comforting noises, he whispered softly. "I love you."




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  • 1 month later...

I don't quite know

How to say

How I feel

Those three words

Are said too much

They're not enough

If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

(Chasing Cars- Snow Patrol)


There had been very few times in her life when it had seemed all was right with the world. Despite trying to run, build walls against them and even beat her problems into submission, Estel had never forgotten about them- until now. With Orion’s arms wrapped around her and her head buried in his chest she could forget he was blind, forget she was pregnant, forget Sirayn, Serena, Matthias, Rosheen and the rest of the Tower. For the first time in years she could simply ‘be’ without striving towards something she could never hope to attain.


Three simple words. Oftentimes they were used too much and yet not enough. Three simple words and yet they calmed all her fears and for a few brief moments chased all her many problems away. She believed him. Not an inch of her doubted the man holding her despite his blindness, despite his betrayal, despite their fights. Had she ever doubted him? How could she have? He loved her and she him, it was as simple as that and nothing could ruin that anymore, she refused to let anything come between them- not even the Tower was worth that pain.


She didn’t bother to ruin the moment with a worded response. Instead, she clung tighter to him, nodding her head against him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It seemed right, that was it. Being in Estel's arms filled the void that had ben inside of him. What pain came from this rose was forgotten as he reveled in the beauty of it all. As he sinply enjoyed the love that burned inside of him for the woman in his arms. As she nodded against him he knew, even without the words that she loved him as well. Even unspoken he knew it, and that was all he needed. No more would he have to stand apart, no more would he have to wonder what the rest of his life would be like without Estel.


He simply layed there in silence, feeling for once complete and content with the world. He didn't want to move, didn't want to let go but knew that no matter what he there was always the mundane necessities that needed to be dealt with.


Slowly he began to remove his arms from around her after what seemed an eternity that went to fast. "We'll stay here for the night, it's been a rough day." Orion didn't want to press Estel any farther. Perhaps they would be able to stay here for another day or two.




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