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A friendly chat (Attn Tai)

Arath Faringal

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Arath felt drained.  Tar Valon seemed to have that effect on him.  Or more precisely, the inhabitants of the White Tower had that effect on him.  Zarinen alone could be exhausting to deal with, but ever since the other ajah's had caught wind of the 'arrangement' his days had been mercilessly busy.  Aes Sedai were viciously curious creatures. 


The Black Tower hadn't changed too much in the time that he had been away.  Work on the walls continued of course, and a number of new structures dotted the town.  A new Soldier barracks was nearing completion, and the stables that had been destroyed in the battle with Brent had been rebuilt.  But it was familiar.  A good place to be.  And there were no Aes Sedai.  Probably ...


He wandered the Farm aimlessly for a while, simply glad to be away from Tar Valon.  It was a pleasant place, certainly far grander than the Farm, but it wasn't ... home.  The Black Tower was the place that he belonged, regardless of Zarinen's efforts to 'civilize' him.  Eventually his wandering took him to his own home, the plain but comfortable Faringal Manor.  It looked ... empty.  It hadn't really seen much use recently.  Not since he and Covai had put down Brent in his madness.  Michelle had found ways to keep herself busy and was often away for long times, and after Aria had been killed Tai'Dashan had started work on his own place in his clearing,  Curious to see how the place was progressing, Arath headed off toward the woods.  It would be good to speak to Tai again and see how he was doing.  He'd been getting regular reports, but still ... it wasn't the same. 


It didn't take long for Arath to reach the familiar clearing in the woods that Tai had claimed as his own.  A sturdy home filled one end near the spring, and Arath could faintly feel channeling within.  Good, Tai was home then.  Siezing Saidin himself, Arath wove a simple weave of air, a little snarl of loosely knotted strands that produced a small thunderclap when pulled tightly.  The Asha'man equivalent of knocking on the door.  Arath grinned to himself as he remembered the last time he had done that weave.  Zarinen had been less than amused.  With a tug, the weave collapsed and thunder sounded throughout the clearing.  A moment later the door cracked open.


"Nice little place you have here Tai.  Are you going to invite me in or what?"

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Tai sat at his desk, desperately studying the weaves he was working with. The weaves were woven with as much skill he could muster, and something itched at the back of his mind. He felt as if the weaves were close to snapping into place, into… something. So many weaves were basic, one or two elements used to accomplish something. The most powerful weaves however, seemed to use all 5 of the powers. Tai let the weaves dissipate with a sigh. He had been torturing himself with this for days now. With Arath gone, any spare time was spent searching, for what? Burn him, he didn’t know.


 But that was a lie, Chaos whispered to him that it was, and Tai knew it for truth. He was vainly searching for something, anything to calm the gnawing aching loss. Something he could have done, some way to become more powerful. He was terrified of failing those around him like he had failed her. He knew it, and Chaos knew it…


A small, inverted ward, triggered at the edge of the clearing warned him of someone’s presence, before a thunderclap seconded the job. Tai got up from his desk and went to the front door to see who it was. 


"Nice little place you have here Tai.  Are you going to invite me in or what?"


Tai smiled in spite of himself, although it did not quite reach his eyes. He hoped they did not look as hollow and haunted as they had in the mirror this morning.


“Of course Arath, of course! Please, come in!”


Tai moved the door and motioned for Arath to come in. Tai had spent enough time here in Arath’s absence that he had become accustomed to it. He had forgotten that his friend had never been here. It was a pleasant surprise to see him after so long. Tai had buried himself in his new duties as Attack Leader, and had missed his friend.  Seeing him again surprised Tai with quite how much...
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Following Tai inside, Arath couldn't help but scrutinize his former student.  He trusted Tai, and knew that he was more than capable to perform his duties, but promoting him to Attack Leader had been a risk.  Given the loss he had recently experienced, and his particular symptoms of the taint, the extra strain of Attack Leader duties could have broken him.  There was also the chance that it would give him something else to focus on and prevent him from dwelling on his loss.  Arath was counting on the second option.  He hadn't counted on leaving Tai on his own for the first few weeks.


Arath siezed Saidin as he moved through the house, delving the foundations and getting a better look of the structure than he could with his eyes.  There were wards around some areas, which he left alone, but he noticed that the house was very solid.  A little more so than strictly necessary.  "Interesting ... you fortified your basement walls a little bit more than my house.  Didn't feel like having someone dig you out again?"  He chuckled slightly.  During the construction of Arath's own house, back when Tai was a  new soldier, Tai had worked on the cellar walls but hadn't fortified the walls enough.  Arath and one of the dedicated had had to dig him out when it collapsed on him.


"So how have you been Tai?  I hear you've been splitting your time between the training grounds and the great store in Tear.  Keeping busy?"

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Arath seized Saidin and Chaos babbled in the back of Tai’s mind. He had never really liked Arath, not after their exchange in this very clearing… Tai shoved the dark thoughts aside. He would rather not think of that at the moment. He glanced at Arath’s back as he watched him delve the house, shoving aside Chaos’s angry cries.


~ Kill him! Strike him down before he hurts you! Melt the flesh from his bones! ~  


“Didn't feel like having someone dig you out again?"  Arath chuckled softly. Tai tossed a half hearted laugh at his once mentor. Light, it seemed ages ago that he had helped Arath create the Manor. So many deaths ago, so much time gone.  Tai motioned into his office/study.


"So how have you been Tai?  I hear you've been splitting your time between the training grounds and the great store in Tear.  Keeping busy?" 


“Well, I have been busy… “ Tai heaved a sigh in spite of himself. He tried to crack a smile, and truth be told it held more warmth than any in a long while, but it felt hollow. “Light Arath,” Tai began, collapsing heavily into his chair. “My duties as Baijan'M'hael take up all my time. If they didn’t…” He felt the cold walls of solitude crumble. After so long of keeping up appearances, of showing a face of strength and confidence to the men; it felt good to be around someone who knew him. Really knew him.


~ like she did…~ Chaos whispered.


“I don’t know Arath. I miss her so much...” He dropped his head in his hands and the grief rolled over him, sobs shaking his frame. “I should have been able to…” He choked off, and composed himself. “I’m sorry Arath…”


After a moment Tai spoke again into the silence. “I can’t change it. No one can. But it doesn’t matter. There is so much to be done and I will do it. My life is truly the Dragon’s now.” He said with a note of conviction. “I have nothing left to live for but to fight the shadow.” He finished softly.
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Arath was silent for a moment, not sure how to respond.  Tai's focus and conviction was right.  They were supposed to be weapons for the Dragon, dedicated to winning the rapidly approaching Last Battle.  So why did that feel so wrong?  Nothing left to live for?  Granted, that life might not be very long, but still ... it felt like something was missing.


"There has to be something," he said finally, looking down at his hands.  "If you have nothing else, you risk losing yourself."  He thought to say more than that, but words utterly failed him.  He'd never been in Tai's position before.  He'd lost people before, but in different ways.  He'd lost his mother, but he'd been very young when it had happened.  He'd killed his own father when he first started channeling, but that had hardly been much of a lose.  Since then he hadn't really had many close attatchments, with the exceptions of Tai and Michelle.  And now Zarinen he supposed.  Hmmm ... Zarinen ...


"I don't know if now is the best time, but maybe you should think about spending a little time in Tar Valon.  It hardly seems like the best place for our kind to go, but believe me when I tell you that you will have absolutely no time to dwell on your problems.  The Aes Sedai run me ragged ... and don't get me started on the one I'm bonded with."

Edited by Arath Faringal
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"I don't know if now is the best time, but maybe you should think about spending a little time in Tar Valon.  It hardly seems like the best place for our kind to go, but believe me when I tell you that you will have absolutely no time to dwell on your problems."


Tai considered this for a moment, studying Arath's face. As always, Arath's words seemed to have a solidness to them that helped anchor Tai on his sea of emotions. It almost sounded like an assignment, and usually, Arath gave Tai assignments right when he needed them. Tai gave a resigned sigh. 


"Perhaps you are right Arath. I know there has been talk of men training with the Warders of the White Tower. Maybe I could go and train. If nothing else I am sure some of the Aes Sedai would just love to study me like an insect..." He shuddered and gave a dark chuckle.  "What about my duties here, and at Tear?" he asked. Tai did not want to abandon his duty, just because it was difficult. It was just not his way...

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