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Everything posted by Lavinya

  1. Silence stretched for only a few moments, but in that time it thundered in Lavinya’s ears; her fingers curled about the stem of her glass tightened, tension mounting as she waited for him to snatch at the opportunity and walk out of her world once and for all. She could scarcely dare to breathe as she waited, eyes locked to his, impossible to tear them away now as returned the inspection, his jade eyes always seeing too much, piercing through her armour into the soft underbelly of her soul. And in an instant, the atmosphere changed, the welling anxiety dispelled as the cocky guard nonchalantly propped his dusty boots onto the table and spoke so casually. So great was her relief she didn’t even care to lecture him on the impropriety of where he set his feet, the breath she held escaping and drawing with it much of her tension. He is not going to leave me; not yet. With that knowledge in hand, finally she was able to relax, a massive weight lifted from her shoulders. She didn’t give two figs where they went, so long as it was far from the filthy black-coats and their insanity. Freedom; just the two of them, no pressures, no strictures, no responsibilities. The open road and Corin by her side – ahh, life had not tasted so sweet in an age, not since the moment the warm weight of a squalling babe was placed into her arms, all pink skin and balled fists and the sweet fragrance of new life. Her eyes cut to his guiltily for a brief moment before shying away, her attention returning to the rapidly emptying cup of red wine. It would not be without its snares and pratfalls, this journey. The weight of her secret returned, grounding her in the reality of her situation that was far from the rosy ideal she wanted to imagine. She promised herself she would take him to meet her; well and so, she would keep it, in her own time. There was no way to know just how he would behave when there was no buffer between them; not so much as a pretty waif to interrupt and smile coyly at him. A perverse desire to laugh rose up within her chest but she tightly held onto control. Her homeland? A hint of amusement quirked her lips as she looked at him; he looked at ease but she couldn’t shake the thought that his real desire was that of the player seeking information on his quarry. He wanted to dig into her past, did he? Honestly, the exasperating man could simply ask and she would only need to look into his eyes and every last sordid detail would come spilling forth. He clearly had no notion the power he commanded and it was best it stay that way lest he use it to discover that which he was certainly not ready to find out just yet. How would he react? Cold anger, she thought. Disbelief. Horror? Disgust? A small furrow marred her brow as a distant pain squeezed in her chest. How many times had she played out the scenario in her minds eye? Countless, she thought, and still she could not settle on a sure reaction save that she would feel the brunt of his disdain and any lingering hopes she had of an idyllic family reunion would be cast into the flames of oblivion. She swirled her glass, the liquid sloshing in a less than perfect swirl suggesting the heady liquid was having some affect and forced her thoughts to move away from the unknown and focus instead on the very real, living problem in front of her that was looking at her with an almost wolfish amusement. She narrowed her gaze, noting how he seemed younger and lighter for it and was made instantly suspicious. By all accounts he should still be chafing at the bit, longing to be free of the leash he perceived she held, not looking positively smug at the notion of the association being extended. She immediately discarded the idea that he simply wanted to spend time with her – even though in her secret heart of hearts she wished it to be so – and instead considered that he was looking rather confident. Did he think that perhaps he could run roughshod over her without the need to pretend deference in front of another Sister? She took a sip, letting the warmth rush over her palate. No, he might try it, but she doubted it was his motivation. More likely was the fact that he believed he could rattle her or slide beneath her façade more readily in such an environment. So why was he also willing to alter their outward association? No longer brother and sister…now that was an idea with merit. She quirked a brow, a mysterious smile dancing about her lips as she downed the dregs in her glass. How many had she consumed? Three? Four? She didn’t remember, but she was certainly starting to care a lot less. “You wish to discover Arad Doman, Corin? I believe that could be quite enjoyable.” And if she was not bound as his sister, she would be freer to warn off the too-forward women they encountered, which was bound to be many. The image of him blushing and stammering, all off balance made her smile bloom into full life as another flare of cruel, bright hope flickered within her breast. To see him smile, even at her expense…ahh, maybe they would be alright after all? Reaching once more for the bottle, Lavinya unsteadily sloshed more wine into her cup, spilling a few drops that she paid no heed, instead welcoming the numbing embrace of intoxication. “I sent the carriage on after Saline; your mount will still be in the stables though.” One hand idly twirled a scarlet curl about her fingers as she began planning out loud, reclining more comfortably in her chair now the imminent trouble seemed to have passed. “We should have some supplies between us still, I have coin…” Dark, heated eyes lifted to his and a familiar mischievous smile tugged at her mouth. “We could always ride Ayende together, like you said it’s not far.” A dimple creased her cheek as her smile deepened, conjuring an image of riding astride the magnificent mount, securely wrapped in a pair of strong, masculine arms. Did he still find her attractive? Would he hold her so aloofly distant if he did? “And if we dispel the ru-“ she paused to hiccup, “the ruse of being siblings we can save money on lodgings.” She took another gulp of wine. There would be nowhere to hide. No shield from her night terrors, only the shame of revealing her weakness to him continually, the pity and disgust in his eyes as she again disgraced herself in front of him….or maybe, just maybe….her smile slipped, gaze flicking somewhat dazedly from her cup to his face as it now swam a little in front of her. Maybe she would feel safe enough to sleep, and he would give her comfort like he had twice before. He still hadn’t mentioned the night in the barn. He was honourable and discreet, but she half expected him to bring it up when she least expected it, like a surprise attack. Like when they were alone and it was easier to speak freely…nowhere to hide, she thought, but maybe I don’t want to hide from him. He is here. He will always be here, won’t he? “What have I overlooked? What needs to be done?” She asked, once more subconsciously deferring to him for direction as the glass again approached her now rosy lips.
  2. (ooc sorry for the delay, moving house is busy business!) Lavinya's lips curved in wry amusement as she noted Viviane's genuine remorse on behalf of her peers that even now would be answering to the Mistress of Novices' wrath. Such admirable caring and concern showed a warm heart beat beneath the striped gown of Accepted she wore. Would she maintain that empathy once she attained the shawl? Such a naive and innocent view of the world she must hold; it was almost refreshing, though in a woman of Viviane's years she would have expected it to be soundly quashed by now thanks to her rigorous training and the realities of life's difficulty. The Gray herself couldn't remember a time when she hadn't held cynical, calculated views of the world, and her years in the tower had only reiterated those opinions. Compassion was weakness, warmth a hindrance to the work that needed to be done. In silence Lavinya finished putting the front desk she had leaned on to rights, watching as the Accepted's mind visibly mulled over what she had learned. More subtle than a novice, but decidedly not a player of the great game with her emotions on display in such a manner that a player such as she could discern them almost without thought. She is not impressed with the Gray, Lavinya thought, noting with bored curiosity the way the younger woman's brows drew down and her jaw tensed in response to the passage of thoughts. A yellow then perhaps, with a desire to help the hurting, or perhaps a blue with dreams of passionate crusade. Then again, the way she was mulling suggested she may be willing to pause and view all angles after all, mayhap she did have a calling to be in Lavinya's Ajah after all. One of those who liked to mediate and represent the unfortunate, no doubt. A sparkle lit the dark depths of the Gray's eyes at the question posed to her - perhaps a promising initiate after all. "Yes, it can be learned to an extent by any, though some do seem to be better suited to it than others." She considered Viviane thoughtfully. "Have you ever played a game of chess, or stones? Games that require you to think several moves ahead of your opponent. It is similar, in mediation or negotiation. One must guess at the results of each option - how will this party or that party react to that? What would the implications be? And if another measure were instead chosen? What if a compromise were suggested in this area or that..." She broke off and laughed lightly at the expression on the Accepted's face and waved one hand. "It is not so difficult as it sounds, it simply requires you to think everything through." "One of my favourite exercises in my classes I like to do is a debate - a vocal representation of what many Grays do internally in their work. A simple topic, let's say...All novices should be allowed wander the halls at any hour." Lavinya clasped her hands together, smiling. "Most novices are able to animatedly list any number of good reasons why they should be allowed. The difficulty is when I assign them the task of arguing against it. Rarely does anyone want to, but when they are forced to stop and think about it, to consider it from an angle other than their own, that is where we see true breakthroughs. It's easy to argue your own points; it's harder to argue someone elses. And yet, that is what often a Gray must do." She nodded her head towards Viviane, spiral curls bouncing lightly. "Try it. What is one argument you might make for each side of the topic?" Lavinya
  3. There was something gratifying about skittish underlings, and when the younger woman's eyes widened at being posed a question Lavinya was forced to swallow a smile. Viviane clearly thought quickly on her feet, Lavinya conceding the point with a small nod of her head. "Indeed, facts are the path to finding the truth of a matter and without a full picture of the issue at hand it's impossible to make a sound judgement." Righting the last book on the shelf, Lavinya stepped back, leaning casually against a desk and folding her arms as she considered the girl thoughtfully. "A very important skill or tool a Grey has in her arsenal is the ability to see things from different perspectives; putting themselves in their shoes as it were and inspecting the issue with new eyes. Facts and logic are vital, but so too is empathy and understanding. If we can learn something of the emotions involved, of the motives and the why," Her lips quirked slightly, "the passions at play and combine it with the facts, only then can we truly find the means to do what is right." She smiled fully, a dimple flashing in one cheek. "Now right is subjective and often open to interpretation by the individual, but striving to find it is, I believe, just and good." An elegant hand waved expressively, indicating the lingering mess in the room. "Logic states that all the girls in this class today were channelling and each played a part in creating the chaos we experienced. That is not untrue." Lavinya lifted the other hand, a counter to the first. "The empathetic view is to aknowledge that none of the girls present had complete control over their actions, either by being the passive partner in the link or by being inexperienced and thus surprised and overwhelmed by the power. It is a heady thing. This is also true." Lavinya brought her hands together, eyes twinkling as she warmed to her topic. "Both views are correct yet vastly different, so how do we find the middle ground? Lack of control is dangerous and requires firm correction, but should those who had no physical control over the flows be forced to suffer the same fate?" She shook her head, corkscrew curls bobbing with the motion. "We instead strike balance." Lavinya watched the girl process the information, her expression one that seemed thoughtful. The Gray pointed to the last row of desks that had endured less of a soaking and more a sprinkling of water. "Does that help illustrate a little who the Gray Ajah are? And please, if you have any questions do feel at liberty to ask them." Lavinya
  4. Lavinya approached all classes with a mix of emotions. There was some pride and arrogance associated with knowing what others did not and the curtseys, courtesies and honorifics were always highly gratifying. Unfortunately none of this came without a great deal of frustration and tested patience. 'Motherly' was not a term that was ever associated with Lavinya. Neither was 'nice', 'kind' or 'friendly' for that matter, depending on who one spoke to. 'Arrogant' and 'cantankerous' were far more fitting - and yet...and yet. There was some satisfaction in teaching, something she would not openly admit to but it was what found her a regular tutor nonetheless. To see novices discover with wonder the joy of saidar and learning to submit to the bright river of power, or successfully form their first basic weaves, that brought a secret happiness that had yet to dim despite the many years of training. Many of them also brought recalcitrance, attitude and mischief but Lavinya was undeterred by such things, relishing the challenge when it arose. Accepted, now they were different again. Older and one would hope wiser, these were no longer children in the eyes of the world but within the White Tower still they were little more than girls. An awkward stage, having a little freedom and experience but still considered far from Aes Sedai, the women she trained seemed to either dive into their studies and thrive, or slowly spiral helplessly and find themselves unable to complete their training and attain the shawl. All of them seemed to handle themselves differently - some grew spines and tested their new found authority, minimal as it was. Others imitated the serene hauteur of the Aes Sedai whose ranks they longed to share, lording over the novice who ranked below them. Some did not cope and were prone to fits of tears; still others rebelled at every turn. There were many challenges in teaching, but it staved off the boredom, to be sure. This days adventure had been one of the more lively in recent months for Lavinya, and truth be told it often was when the girls learned to link with one another for the first time. One's ability to channel was not infinite; linking provided the means to channel more power for longer, the ultimate act of cooperation. It is relatively simple in practice, but in reality giving up control to another was often times difficult to learn, and for the one discovering new depths of saidar to plumb it was a heady and unpredictable moment. It had gotten a little out of hand, the Grey could admit it to herself if no one else. For some reason the girls holding the control were swept up in a power trip, attempting weaves beyond their ability and control until chaos reigned and Lavinya was forced to intervene, her voice sharp as a whip as she chastised them for the dangerous actions. Every novice has the very real threat of burning out drummed into her from day one, not to mention how careless weaves can be volatile. The behaviour was a fine example of why Accepted were still considered children. Having sent the foolish culprits to the mistress of novices for penance, now she was forced to clean up the considerable mess they left behind. This, this was a definite downside to tutoring. Lavinya was sopping up a puddle with a towel when she saw one of her students approach. Not one of the trouble makers this time. She paused, brushing her riotous red curls aside as Viviane made a pretty curtsy, all proper deference and meekness. Deep brown eyes assessed the girl before her, assessing the motive behind the request and determining it to be a genuine desire to learn. Well and so, the Grays had much to recommend them and the Domani sister was happy to speak on them. She nodded once, straightening and handing the towel to the Accepted. "If I am to speak, then you will make yourself useful." Moving to the table at the front of the room, she began straightening a sheaf of scattered parchments, putting them back into a neat pile. "All Ajahs hold to certain philosophies, but you will find that each individual will still interpret them differently. I will try to paint you a picture of our overall beliefs but just what they mean to me, or to you, may differ." She smiled lightly. "The Grays are in essence the ajah of balance. Mediators, diplomats, seekers of harmony; we have been named these things and they are all true in their own way. Many rulers have sought our wisdom and advice, and we are renown as impartial and fair judges and advocates." She paused, pointing with one finger to direct Viviane to the next row of desks. "Compromise is an important concept; it is the path to harmony. The best agreement is one where both parties are left feeling satisfied, and that only comes when both are willing to bend. The Gray, we seek to facilitate this, approaching matters with a measure of logic and a measure of passion." Her lips quirked in a small smile. "You see, the Whites hold that cool logic untainted by emotion is the correct path, and the Blues place their passionate causes above the wisdom of simple logic. Thinking with hearts more than heads. And the Gray, we are the balance between the two." Soot, how in the Light had soot come to dust the side of the room? Again Lavinya pointed, ushering the girl to wipe the charcoal smudges as she in turn set about righting a shelf of books and scrolls that were now unceremoniously strewn about the place. "To consider us peace makers or harmony seekers does exclude the fact that we are only mortals and fallible. We each still have our personal preferences and beliefs, our reasons for choosing one side over another. There is a fine line sometimes between mediation and manipulation." One that was best concealed - the finest result was one in your own favour with the other party none the wiser at how they had been played but that little tidbit Lavinya kept to herself. "The Gray Ajah tries to maintain perfect impartiality." Again Lavinya paused, a scroll in her hands as she glanced over at the Accepted. "Do you know how such a thing might be accomplished, Viviane?" Lavinya Morganen Aes Sedai of the Gray Ajah
  5. Remarkable, simply remarkable! Senette hummed to herself as she swept through the tiled halls of the tower, a pile of books and sketches in her hands and resting reverently atop them was the pristine, perfect cutting of a snow-white anemone and the source of the current bounce in her step. It had been something of an idle experiment initially, wondering if she could cultivate a blossom in such a pure colour and formation from rosier hues growing in the gardens, and it had become a labour of love and extreme patience. Reds had lightened to pinks and ivory, but at last she had found success and the bloom was not only the right colour but it was also unblemished in formation. Coaxed along its journey with the help of the one power, the fragile flower was a symbol of Senette's triumph. No longer needing the reference volumes she carried, she made her way to the library to return them and to pick up another slender tome, one she was quite sure made mention of the use of saidar in horticulture. She liked to think she could expand upon the knowledge therein. Mayhap she would even publish her own book about her experiments, with results such as these! Deep in her own reveries, she didn't notice the people she passed and certainly not the glances at the grass-stains on her cornflower-blue skirts or the tendrils of hair escaping the confines of the two braids she wore in the traditional Arafelin style, tinkling silver bells and all. What she did at last notice was some sort of ruckus in the library, something of note by the sounds of urgent voices. Dropping her returned books with a harried looking Brown, she carried her fistful of rough sketches and carefully, so carefully carried flower towards to commotion to see what was going on. "Oh! There it is." Chaos forgotten, she noticed the volume she was after sitting unattended on an empty table. Tch, the Browns never liked anyone to leave the precious books lying about, how fortunate she found it before the poor person who left if suffered a tongue lashing. She flipped it open with one hand, skimming the contents briefly before closing the black covers with a satisfied nod. Excellent. What a delightful day this was proving to be. Piling the sketches and the precious flower atop the book, she collected her things and swept out of the library, blissfully unaware of the black smudges now staining her fingertips. ooc: I figured you'd like to tag her a bit and enjoy the spectacle! Feel free to have her absentmindedly spread it, I promise she will notice eventually and as I'm sure you can guess it will be disastrous in her eyes and there will be hell to pay. She'll probably meander about and eventually end up back in the gardens. Have fun!
  6. Lavinya’s fingers tightened around her fork at the mention of returning to Tar Valon. Asha’man walked the halls there now, the taint-touched men in black coats that had attacked her sisters, had murdered and captured and destroyed. She had stilled one, she remembered absently as her vision swam, remembered the wail at his loss in a distant way. The scent of burning flesh filled her nostrils, the screams and shouts of battle assailing her senses. She had followed a warder through the gateway, bound to a Green, she thought. She didn’t even know his name, but he had exploded before her eyes. One moment there, the next torn apart. How quickly they had been overwhelmed, completely unprepared for the ambush, but they had fought; fought and failed. A shudder ran down her spine as the old fear and horror clawed with cold fingers around her throat, tightening and stealing her breath. Her eyes flicked upward, found twin emerald orbs that served to anchor her against the darkness that struggled to take hold. She blinked a few times, clearing her vision and the moment was gone, all that remained was the taut silence; Corin. Her eyes dipped to the fork she held in a death grip and she forced herself to relax her fingers, to maintain her serene composure, assuming she hadn’t just let it crash and burn entirely. She had given him the choice, Lavinya knew how he chafed at the enforced close association they currently shared; of course he would leap at the chance to be free of her at last. She had half expected it, but to hear it voiced brought an unexpectedly sharp pain to her chest. He gave her an out. Not deliberately, she presumed it was under the pretence of being a humble guard, a token display of deference at best as he assumed there would be no reason to delay his escape. “No.” She said, her voice clearly sharper than she intended as he rose his brows in response. “No,” she repeated softly, “I am not yet prepared to return to Tar Valon.” She could see the question arise instantly in his mind, followed no doubt by suspicion, anger and seething frustration. She didn’t owe him any explanations, she was Aes Sedai and he was sworn to protect, not question her every action; but she wanted to be able to share with him, to be on equal footing, both giving and taking. To have his advice and opinions; to similarly give hers. A proper friendship, a relationship. Carefully she set down the eating implement and pushed away her plate, no longer interested in pretending to eat. He didn’t deserve an explanation and the Light knew she was loathe to give it, to remind him yet again of her weakness but she would give it anyway. She looked at him again and sighed, wondering if she would ever find a way to put him at ease, like he used to be, like they used to be. Carefree. Playful and relaxed, uncomplicated and warm. Romantic fool, she berated herself, looking away. “There are Asha’man in Tar Valon. In the White Tower,” impossible to keep the venom from her voice, her bile rising at the very thought of those lunatics befouling her safe haven with their very presence. Her lips twisted in a bitter parody of a smile. “A peaceful delegation, forging friendship and harmony and sweeping their atrocities under the rug.” Her hands had clenched again, anger a raging torrent in her blood. She exhaled slowly, forcing herself to let it go, to relax, to breathe. “I cannot, will not reside beneath the same roof as any man linked to the Black Tower.” Her glass found its way into her hand, the crisp red liquid passing her lips in gulps until it was empty. Mayhap a whole lot more of the rather rough stuff would be a good way to pass the evening; a drunken stupor sounded quite appealing in that moment. “When they leave I will return; not before.” She wanted to look at him, to find some understanding or reassurance but her cowardly eyes didn’t dare reach his face; she imagined his expression well enough, the disgust, pity and urgent desire to be far, far away from wherever she was, certainly not those things which she sought, needed. It was selfish of her to want to hold him against his will, and yet there were secrets she needed to still tell him, that it was wrong of her to continue to conceal. Would he flee if he knew? Would his anger turn to pure loathing? She thought she had lost him once; no, he’d never truly been hers, but she had believed him lost and it had been a bigger blow than even her incarceration and torture. Good sense and morality warned her to free him, but how could she ever bear to watch him walk away? At last her eyes clashed with his, hers filled with an inner turmoil. He had not shouted at her in a few days, progress indeed, but the peace was tenuous at best, what could she possibly do to preserve it, to strengthen it and find a way back to the natural ease that had always shared since the very beginning? She could let him return without her, even though the idea made her insides twist painfully. It was the right thing to do…and yet she couldn’t let him go without the knowledge he was the father to the most beautiful little girl in the world. She should tell him; needed to, had to. But what would that knowledge do to him, to them both? Guilt threaded its way around her thoughts, festering and cruel. He deserved the knowledge, did she hold onto it selfishly, that she might first ensnare him, prevent him from hating her? How he felt about her did not change the fact of his daughter, but what if the news broke him further? She knew him well enough that it would hurt him; he had such a strong sense of duty, so strong he faced the penalties of returning to the tower despite losing the one he loved, when any lesser man would have remained in exile. He would feel a strong sense of duty to his child – would it also extend to the mother? If he chose to remain out of guilt and duty – despite his loathing and anger that were guaranteed to accompany them – what would be the point? A continued existence steeped in loneliness but tempered with constant resentment would be disastrous for everyone. Light help me, I don’t know how to proceed. His gaze held hers, face not betraying his mind; very much the player now, holding his cards to his chest, waiting out his opponent – must it be a battle, always? – and it drew forth her frustration. She was tired, physically and emotionally, weary of this endless wariness and watchfulness. “Ahh Corin!” A smile that held no mirth twisted her lips and she pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes for a moment before her fingers speared into her mass of curls restlessly. “There is so much I would tell you, so much you should know,” she paused, dropping her hands and lifting her shoulders in a helpless shrug. “I don’t know that you’re ready to hear it, not yet.” She looked away once more before she could detect his answering anger, instead focusing on the empty wine glass and wishing it were full. As if on cue, the willowy young maid returned, anxious to ensure everything was well for the Lady and her esteemed brother, cutting through the thick atmosphere in the room and forcing both to bide their time beneath a veneer of normalcy. “Wine, and plenty of it,” Lavinya ordered coolly, not liking the way the girl – she was scarcely beyond her teenage years, surely – kept casting doe-eyed looks at Corin, blushing prettily when he thanked her for filling his tankard, hovering by his elbow as the very picture of youthful grace and sweet innocence when she returned hastily with the wine, asking Master Elisar if there was anything, anything at all he might need than she would be most happy to oblige. With a saccharine smile and clenched jaw Lavinya dismissed her in no uncertain terms, firmly instructing that they no longer be disturbed unless she was summoned. Swallowing a few hearty gulps of wine – it really wasn’t particularly good, though it was warming her quite nicely – Lavinya looked back at Corin as the door clicked shut on the reluctant serving girl, casting him one last longing glance on the way out. For what must be the millionth time, she wondered why; why must they be so at odds, why must he resent her so, why couldn’t he have shared her feelings, why had he refused her, why, why, why. Still no answers came to her, only bittersweet memories of a rose fluttering over her eyelids, of callous hands laced with hers, of emerald eyes alight with mischief and merriment. Resignedly she broke the silence again, eyes dropping to the hands that laced in her lap. “If you desire it, you may return to the Tower with my blessing.” The words were more difficult to say than she could have realised, it may be the right thing to do but Light how it hurt. Another memory came to her, a conversation, filled with dreams and musings of the future. Did he still harbour some of his boyhood dreams of travel and adventure somewhere within the surly shell? Her eyes flicked back up to meet his, at once achingly familiar and yet now different. Harder now, where once they had danced at her with amusement and mischief; with scalding heat. “But I would like it if you stayed with me.” Could he hear her voice shake? Sense the uncertainty in her gaze, the desperate hope that maybe, just maybe he wasn’t so eager to depart from her? “There are always contacts to check in on and rumours to be heard; a little travel would not go amiss, seeing a bit of the world.” She raised her brow in question, once more putting the option back into his hands. She could order him and she thought he would most likely obey – though it was far from certain – but she didn’t want to compel him, didn’t want to be heavy handed least she drive him further away. She wanted, foolishly, for him to simply choose her, if only this once. Foolish indeed, she chastised herself, finishing off the contents of her glass and refilling it a third time. He already made his choice, why keep setting yourself up for further rejection? Tell him about Elise; lance the boil and then learn to go on as you always have - alone. “Is there anywhere you would like to visit?” If he stays with me, I will take him to Elise, she promised herself, the image of the sweet child causing another pang – she missed her dearly. And I will endure the consequences whatever they may be. Lavinya
  7. Well done. Well done?? Far from lavish praise but it was recognition all the same, and despite how lacklustre it was, Lavinya warmed inwardly at the two short, simple words. For her entire life she had hungered for power and position, and nothing had managed to satisfy her – Sirayn had offered her everything and delivered on naught. Sometimes she even believed it were true that the woman had deliberately baited her into a trap where she was torn asunder for stepping into the Green’s territory; for discovering Corin. Too often her striving had amounted to little; it seemed however that two small words of notice from her wayward tower guard made up for it, especially when coupled with the acknowledgment of just how she had achieved the goal. How long will you be my shield? Of course the moment was short lived, but hope, cruel and fierce tried to burst into flame at the thought that perhaps he meant to be by her side permanently. Ruthlessly she crushed it to a mere ember – he was here under duress and she must not forget that. Given the choice he would flee from her presence and never look back. A sombre realisation that this journey was her one real chance to reach him, to find a way back to the people they once were; once playful and light, passionate and tender if only for a brief time. Was it possible to find that again? Had they moved too far to ever return? Hope, that was all she had, and it was far from a firm foundation to build upon, but what else could she do? As once more the aloof mentor role settled into his voice she bit back a sigh. Just hold onto the knowledge that he chose willingly to teach you and don’t look to closely at the why of it. It seemed he was not yet done with his lesson, now directing her to more menial labour. How was she supposed to dry the weapons he had purposefully splashed, with her soaked through dress? Her jaw clenched as she thought back, on how the wife of her captor had enjoyed deliberately creating work for her, for no other purpose than because she could, and now doubt having an Aes Sedai slave had been immensely amusing. There had been little sympathy from that quarter, even as her pregnancy progressed there had been precious little respite from the pointless and humiliating chores. She glanced once at the enormous axe – that task she understood in light of the strength training, little though she might like it – but the other she could not see what benefit it might bring, and it chafed at her hidden and only partially healed wounds. “Corin,” she said his name, not harsh but not weak, either. Hollow, even to her own ears, but she heard him halt, lifted her gaze to see him turn, brows raised in question. “There was a woman,” she looked away from his enquiring eyes, her voice flat, “who rejoiced in giving me menial busywork as though I was her slave, and in essence I was just that.” A muscle worked in her jaw and one hand clenched unconsciously into a fist, her unseeing gaze directed at the fan of weapons on the grass. “I will do what you have asked because I agreed to obey your directions, and I trust there is a purpose. If it is merely a desire to see me humbled, I advise you in future to reconsider. I will not be a willing tool for anyone’s spite.” She knew that Jocelyn has resented her, resented the bond and her forced association with her husband but blood and ashes her jealousy had been entirely unfounded and served to only increase Lavinya’s misery and put her too often in the path of Linten. She swallowed against the rising tide of memories, of the degradation and cruelty, of the helplessness, sorrow and fear, forcing it all back into a mental abyss. Corin was not like them, she knew it in her heart and would even stake her life on it. Even so, she didn’t quite meet his eyes when she looked back up, instead stopping the path of her gaze at his chest long enough to see him nod once, afraid of what his expression may be, of discovering pity or disgust in his eyes. Having said her piece she turned away, hiding her fragility beneath a straight spine and determined movements. She hated that she had reminded him yet again of her weakness, of the pathetic failure she had proven to be on an important mission. Aes Sedai with years of training but embarrassingly useless and now fractured as she had revealed so graphically last night. Whatever he may have thought of her once must now surely be completely shattered in the light of the terrible truth. Despite all that, she would be no man’s whipping toy ever again. She didn’t look to see if he left but eventually the silence told her he must have as she set about separating the dry weapons from the wet, annoyed at how many had managed to receive a good splashing. Glancing around she discovered not only that he had indeed left her to it, but that there was a large scrap of linen slung over a fence rail not far away. A rag, she decided on closer inspection, and one that no one would miss. Sitting cross-legged in the grass away from the puddle, she took each weapon one by one and dried it with the cloth, the methodical action surprisingly soothing. The sun was pleasant and so too was the moment of solitude, even if some of the weapons were surprisingly heavy and others decidedly sharp. A nick on one thumb had her rub down the blades with greater care as she pondered just why she may have been set the task. That Corin might snatch the opportunity to get a measure of revenge upon her for what he saw as his own servitude since his return to the tower she didn’t doubt nor did she begrudge it, not entirely. It was far less confrontational than his shouting matches but she was still in mind of a caged beast snapping at her fingers, if perhaps with less force than before. A little humility for the haughty Aes Sedai for once dancing to the tune of the guard may bring a brief amusement, though he would have to know it would not last. Both of those things perhaps, but more than that too; it was logical that weapons wrought of metal and wood would require care and maintenance, moisture unchecked could lead to rust and warp. Hmm. Perhaps another teaching moment after all, wrapped in an irritating cloak of banality. She really ought to speak to one of his trainees, it would be interesting to discover if they resented his methods or admired them; she was leaning towards both sentiments thus far. Once done with the chore Lavinya eyed the massive battle axe warily, standing before it with hands on hips. It was a wicked-looking weapon and she knew instinctively that it was going to be heavy and awkward – the jar all over again except blessedly dry. Reaching for the haft with two hands she lifted it experimentally, eyes widening to discover just how heavy it was. Light, she was not that weak was she? She’d spent the better part of a year lifting and carrying and toiling – admittedly the burdens were less due to her delicate ‘condition’ – had she really become so soft since her restoration to the Tower? Surely not. Adjusting her grip she hefted the axe, holding it two handed and wondering at the strength it must take to wield the terrible thing in battle, given simply carrying it was far from easy. Mindful of the curved blades and not willing to test them, she made off with her cargo to find Mister Mitya, muttering prayers under her breath that he might not be far. Had her prayers ever been answered? Surely they had before, else she would surely have abandoned the practice years ago, but in that moment it was hard to recall as once more she was denied her request. Blasted trolloc-loving Mitya was nowhere to be found. The courtyard, someone said, though her arrival found him long gone, in the stables they said. No, not the stables, he had gone to the blacksmith about horse shoes. No not the blacksmith, the little store on the main street. Oh yes he had been here but she had missed him, he was headed for the inn, presumably. Blood and bloody ashes, the axe was a deadweight in her hands and her arms had long grown weary with its weight. It was pure determination that kept her going, ignoring the burn in her biceps and the ache in her back. She had promised to obey and there was no way she was going to give Corin any cause whatsoever to call her out for being less than exacting to his orders. He no doubt expected her to cheat or to rebel, and every fibre of her being urged her to follow those natural instincts but stubbornly she refused. She was not so useless and pathetic that she couldn’t manage what an adolescent trainee did in the natural course of their training. She would fix her broken parts, one stupid moronic task at a time. When she at last found the captain of the red guard it was a relief to note that all would soon be in readiness. She glanced longingly towards the carriage; the haven where she would find respite and rest for at least a while – assuming she made haste and finished her own packing. She saw Corin as she made her way back inside, his eyes from across the courtyard measuring. Rolling her eyes skyward, she pointed silently to the captain and his newly returned axe, before striding inside to her room with all the haughtiness she could muster. Insufferable man! Lavinya
  8. He was enjoying this, she was almost certain of it as she watched his face, his body language, read the tone of his voice. Lavinya wasn’t entirely sure what sort of answer she had expected, an explanation perhaps on just which sword form the task would benefit? Frankly she had half believed he would refuse to indulge her and merely issue his command again. Small mercy he hadn’t, perhaps she still maintained some level of authority after all, or at least the illusion of it. Why did he have to be logical? Oh he danced around the why prettily enough, not quite giving a satisfactory answer but all the same there was sense in what he spoke. Quite irritating, really. Almost patronising, like a blind man…was he insinuating that she was the blind one to his teachings? Was it so terrible to question things rather than accept every little snippet that one was served without comment? When it was anyone questioning her – absolutely terrible – but this was vastly different. Well and so; she did not miss the subtle message in his speech, she had agreed to this training and to refuse to submit to it would be folly indeed. In this, she very much was the clueless novice and he the master. She thought to remind him that she was not completely without battle experience – she had watched someone’s warder literally explode at the hands of saidin right in front of her, for goodness sake – but then she recalled all too well how they had lost that encounter, how they had been beaten and bound as chattel for their failure and that, that had been only the beginning. A shudder rippled down her spine like a winter chill despite his bright grin as he reinforced the point that she had already failed at Linten’s hands, too many times to count. That she was unfit to manage so much as sleeping without incident, of course she wasn’t going to come up with a better way to be strong and survive – well beyond the fact that so far she hadsurvived – but it forced her to ignore her bruised ego and focus on the point of the training. He was trying to help her, cruel as the reminder seemed, this was for her benefit, and she could not deny that he had made a living study of his craft; was more than equipped to instruct her, if she would just bite her tongue and trust him. Trust…ironic that he expected something he himself refused to give. She trusted him; always had – with her secrets, with her heart, with her life. “So really you are asking me to just trust you, hmm?” The words were resigned as she spoke them, much of her earlier fire now diminished though her gaze which met his head on still held a fair measure of disgruntlement. I trust you, the look said, but why won’t you trust me? Bending, she hoisted the jar up, propping it against her hip as she had before and inspecting the small holes now marring the purpose of the vessel. They were small, true, but there was nothing to stop the water from flowing freely from them at what she estimated would be rapid enough to see far more than a handspan escape before she crossed the distance from the well back to where she now stood. She would have to be quick then, mayhap the task was to measure her agility and speed? Whatever else happened, she was going to have a difficult task keeping herself dry; no doubt the dilemma was part of the entertainment for ‘brother’. “I can show you how that is done at least.” Uttered largely to herself, she referred to the matter of trust but the twinkle in his gaze made her think he took it for bravado in the task instead. Let him think what he will – she was more tenacious than he gave her credit for and would not be so easily deterred, no matter how unpleasant the task. Upon reaching the well she faced her first dilemma – managing to fill it in the first place. A stone lip edged the well and she balanced the jar atop it, frowning in thought. How was she to prevent it from emptying as fast as she could fill it? She glanced towards where Corin waited and while she couldn’t see his expression she had no doubt he was waiting for the inevitable entertainment to come. With a stifled curse she pulled the robe, drawing the bucket to the top, filled to the brim with cool water. Experimentally she tipped it into the jar, watching as it filled a small way before reaching the first hole. She kept pouring, watching with narrowed gaze as water trickled steadily from the hole – not quite as bad as she may have thought but it was certainly a rapid leak and before long the level was again below the hole. It would be twice as fast with both holes weeping. She scowled again – it was becoming a fixed expression – and turned the jar, considering the holes, measuring them with her hands. She could stopper one with her finger, like so…but the other was in such an awkward position, she could reach it with her other hand but it would be impossible to carry it like that empty, let alone heavy with liquid. Well, she had declared if only to herself that she was not one to quit easily; she had best get on with it. Her sigh was more an irritated huff as she lowered the bucket again, filling it and heaving on the rope to bring it near. It took a bit of balancing but she managed, blocking the lower hole with her hand as tightly as she could while rapidly filling the jar. The bucket was large, the weight of it made easier thanks to the pulley system so that the jar filled night to the brim. Immediately water began to trickle from the uncovered hole; with a scarcely stifled oath Lavinya wrapped her arms around the jar, hefting the heavy, ungainly load and began her walk. Water sloshed over the top, splashing one slippered foot, so she slowed down to compensate but the water level within the jar continued to recede at an alarming rate. She looked up, dismayed to realise she had barely crossed half the distance. She was not returning so obviously defeated and so with a grunt she turned on her heel, back to the well to begin again. Several false starts later – let it not be said she lacked determination – and Lavinya was bristling with vexation. Of all the pointless, idiotic, humiliating tasks to be given, this had to be the worst. The hem of her skirts were decidedly damp now and her arms were getting tired from hefting the stupid vessel. It was so perfectly torturous, even the shrew wife of Rion’s would have been in awe of its genius. With hands on hips Lavinya glared her irritation at the water vessel, freely leaking back into the well without anything to stem the flow. Again her gaze swept to where Corin waited, no doubt brimming with laughter to think she stubbornly kept attempting the impossible task like a fool who couldn’t see the woods for the trees. Her eyes tracked back to the light-blasted flaming jar that she now loathed, hot frustrated tears pricking unbidden at her eyes and her hands balling into fists. Would he really be so cruel as to make her toil at something that was indeed impossible? Would he go so far to further shatter her pride? As much as the evidence of the task seemed it was so, she couldn’t convince herself that it was truth. He wasn’t cruel at heart. Angry, bitter and hurt, yes; but not cruel. He may find amusement in her predicament but she didn’t truly believe he would set her up for certain failure…would he? Maybe she just needed to think it through again, to find what it was she missing, there had to be a solution, if only she could block both holes at once she could possibly slow the leak enough to make it back across the yard, but she couldn’t do it with the other hand, she had tried it briefly, but maybe, if she… Suddenly it was obvious, so obvious she slapped her own forehead in reprimand. She could block both holes, yes. She just couldn’t stay dry doing it. She sighed heavily, wearily. Not an impossible task, but certainly one that was bound to leave her discomfited all the same. Corin was a right tyrant of a mentor she decided with bemusement and perhaps a hint of begrudging admiration. One attempt, she thought tiredly as she again pulled the rope, summoning the full bucket, one last attempt before I drop the blasted container and shatter it, confirming my failure. Carefully she blocked the lower hole, sealing it as firmly as she could with her hand. Awkwardly, she manoeuvred herself around the jar, exhaling sharply to brace herself. This is going to be cold, ugh. Quickly she tipped the bucket, filling the jar as full as she could, quickly quickly lest too much spill. Bending her knees she wrapped her other arm around the jar, pulling it against her chest so that the second opening was pressed tightly against her middle and lifted the heavy vessel in one jerky movement. Light, the cold seep of water was unmistakable as it dampened her gown and it was positively icy, drawn from the depths as it was. Gritting her teeth she ignored it, consigning the discomfort and slow moving trickle of water to the depths of her conscious and instead focused on holding the jar secure in weary, trembling arms. Her steps were short but hasty, eyes watching closely the level of the water; yes it was dropping but not nearly so fast as before. Hope blossomed with each step, the realisation that perhaps yes she could succeed, might prove herself not completely useless in Corin’s eyes. Just mostly. Lavinya was breathing heavily from the exertion when she stepped across the grass, the burn in her arms at odds with the cold rivulet soaking her gown. Scarcely waiting for Corin to check the level – she knew she had managed, burn him if he denied it – she hastily set it down with a sound that was half relief and half triumph. She had done it, pointless and irritating and ridiculous but she had done it. Shaking out her poor arms, the grey looked over her gown with dismay. The dress that had once draped and clung so enticingly was now plastered to her skin from bust to knee, the hem speckled with mud. Entirely impractical for training, but what else was she to do? Remembering too well how he had assessed and dismissed her imperfect frame earlier she plucked once ineffectually at the emerald silk then dismissed it entirely, there was little for it but to let it dry. The wool-headed oaf would just have to add to his criticisms, the important thing was she had succeeded at his silly task, and she had done so on her own. She was not so incapable after all. She glanced at Corin, waiting to hear his praise or chastisement. Perhaps in some regards she was capable, though not, it seemed, in those things which were truly important. Lavinya
  9. I’m hardly wearing the dress for it’s classic battle-cut, you wool-brained lummox, Lavinya thought grouchily as Corin’s gaze wandered over her attire in a very deliberate but impersonal manner that stoked her temper further as surely as it poked uncomfortably at her confidence. Would it be so terrible to look at least mildly appreciative? She was painfully aware that the process of bearing his child had altered her physique drastically and that perhaps she had not managed to regain the exact same allure of her old frame, but still she hadn’t thought she had entirely lost her physical appeal. Not until Corin inspected her so impassively and critically that was, no doubt noting every flaw. Ridiculous, Lavinya had always enjoyed the admiring stares of men and had been exceedingly confident in her own exceptionally created skin, and this new self-consciousness was most unwelcome. First, she ridicules herself with her pathetic night-time display and now she adds to her failures with physical defects. I’d like to see how well you would like to be so assessed and dismissed, she half muttered under her breath as she snatched up the bow once more, glowering to see his half-smile. He had called her beautiful once; a lifetime ago and very likely a pretty lie, all part of the polite guard trying to detangle himself from unwanted attentions without being rude. Well, he had no qualms about that now. Doing as she was bid, Lavinya went through the motions, moving into position as he had instructed, holding the bow aloft, string taut by her cheek as she glared daggers towards the fence post, thinking how nice it would be to put him in a dress that clung to every curve like a second skin and see how his confidence fared then. Naturally her thoughts conjured a picture that started amusing at the idea of a man in a dress but her memory began filling in the details of just how nicely built he actually was and it only irritated her further – why did she have to like the way he looked quite so much? Infuriating man, let him have a child and then see how his body fared…her teeth clenched together as he admonished her distraction without so much as looking at her. Tension radiated through her frame as she aimed her scowl as well as her imaginary arrow at the post, muscles holding the strain of the string slowly beginning to burn in protest. He droned on, correcting without looking and blood and ashes if it wasn’t so irritating that he was somehow still right, sensing her errors and short-comings as thoroughly as he had looking at her dress. Fiercely determined to prove herself capable in something she held the pose, slowing her breathing, forcing herself to steadiness and sureness of frame. She did well she thought, holding as long as she could before the inevitable wobble of tired muscles became too great for her to counter and she released the position to the great relief of her arms. The considering tone of Corin’s voice drew her gaze, still very much the teacher assessing the student – was he actually smiling? Disconcerted she let him hold her gaze, his expression unreadable. Did he find her shortcomings amusing? Was it seeing the haughty Aes Sedai brought to the lowly status of student that he enjoyed? She wasn’t sure, was hardly sure of anything with this man anymore and it was most unpleasant. Still, whatever the cause, something inside her flipped giddily at seeing the curve on his lips, the amusement in his gaze. She didn’t know the cause of it but she welcomed it all the same. How long since he had genuinely had cause to smile, to laugh? Some of her ire dissipated as she returned the bow to the array of weapons under his less than glowing praise, a sidelong glance showing the smile still firmly in place on his face. How much younger he seemed for it, lighter; as though the weight of the past year had shifted and the young man beneath was at last able to come forward. The change in is tone distracted her, the way his smile seemed to lose its warmth. Was that how he saw her? Broken? A damaged tool in need of fixing? A frown returned between her brows as she followed his eyes to the now punctured water jar, wondering if he was correct and she was horribly broken – was she even worth fixing? Could it be done? Was the jar now supposed to be a representation of herself, unable to even fulfil her original purpose she was so badly defected? She wasn’t that bad, not really, she told herself. Everyone has nightmares sometimes, she had endured far worse; besides no one else even knew about that little concern. She was still Aes Sedai, was still strong enough and capable enough…why was he smiling again? A sense of nervous apprehension trickled over her like a silken net laid upon her skin – was he deliberately goading and baiting her? Was this all a test on her patience, temper and obedience? And why in the light did he seem to be enjoying it so much? He was positively gleeful when he issued his next command, tapping the jar lazily with the tip of his arrow and a playful grin at her. Ahh, what things that smile did to her! That twinkle of mischief in emerald depths, the attractive curve at a mouth she thought of far too often – this was what she had sought since his return but why oh why did his impishness have to be directed at her? She was torn between wanting to revel in the smile and the strong desire to box the insolent oaf about the ears. She stiffened her spine and clenched her jaw, thinking of the task and how he had deliberately set her to failure and humiliation. She had knocked quite a few uppity novices down a few pegs in her time and no doubt trainees needed similar treatment at times, but burn him she was not some naïve child dreaming of glory in battle, willing to chase her tail in pointless endeavours out of sheer obedience. Folding her arms stubbornly under her bosom Lavinya glowered at the gleeful guard who took far too many liberties; with any other Aes Sedai he likely would have been whipped soundly by now. Why did she let him get away with so much? A puzzle for another time she decided, tapping one foot with open impatience. “Why?” She asked simply, levelling her gaze at Corin. She hadn’t outright disobeyed – she did want him to teach her, after all – but she wasn’t going to let him make a fool of her for no purpose than his own personal amusement. Even if the evidence of that joy made cold places inside thaw and twist. He could bloody well explain himself. Lavinya
  10. Lavinya watched his face as he spoke, his own gaze no longer trained on her. She saw the cynical curl of his lip, the tenseness in his jaw – how could he still be so enjoyable to her sight while filled with unease in her presence? – and wondered not for the first time how to reach him. Not just the surface, not the same measure as anyone else might, but deeper, she longed to recapture the playfulness she remembered, the mischievous glint in his gaze, the smile which had once so easily warmed his face. She knew he walked his own private perdition, had been to the pit of doom and back but surely, surely he was still there on the inside, just waiting to be drawn out. And into her arms. Pah he did not think that way anymore, if he ever really had save that one evening…No, this was not the time to reminisce on such things, she should be paying attention to his words, not wondering if his hair would still feel as soft if she speared her fingers through it. She would be a better student if he was less distracting she thought, but all the same she forced herself to focus, noting how his voice grew colder, more distant as he described his method of escaping his emotions; no more than that, the void was where those thoughts and feelings had been ruthlessly squashed, the good and the bad, discarded. A frown formed between her brows as the significance of what he did touched her coupled with how utterly unreachable he seemed in that moment, even his words halting as he fed everything into the flame. Is that what he did with his memories of her? Why he no longer seemed to see anything but a nuisance Aes Sedai set forth to torture him? Worse than the Whites with their cool logic, this was ice in comparison. What was the point to living, to striving, if not for those very thoughts and feelings and emotions? Briefly she considered the emptiness that gaped beyond should she feed her own tumultuous thoughts into the flame; without the overwhelming love and pride for her daughter, without the hope of a bright future, without the affection she felt for the man before her, unrequited as it was. Without dreams of what could be and memories of what had been, even without the temperance of her very real fears and weaknesses, what was left? Nothing. Her frown deepened. How under the light was he going to find the will to live in a great, vast abyss where nothing touched him and nothing mattered? She understood the escape and freedom from the pain, in months past would have demanded he show her until she had it perfected too, and yes she supposed there was logic in removing these distractions when one was in the midst of battle and each breath could be the difference between life and death; but the tone of his voice was tickling something in her, some measure of familiarity. This was not the first time he had escaped to the void in her presence, she thought. Did he really view their association as such – warfare? Did he need to avoid all emotions just to endure being close to her. How empty he must feel, how very alone. But you are not alone, you mule-headed lump! She glared her thoughts at him. Live? This was not living, this was enduring in some light-forsaken stasis. He may think differently if he knew he had something worth living for. Someone. No not me, he’s made that very clear, but a sweet, innocent daughter? It made sense, surely he was not so far lost to the man he was that he would wallow in despair while his child needed him? Assuming of course the very knowledge didn’t break him…and he’d have to believe her first, what if he thought she made it up to try and snare him? It was the worst sort of tangle and she couldn’t see her way clear. Her mind ceased its wayward wandering once more as his voice changed, a subtle inflection but the emptiness seemed to have disappeared now. Silently she made note to pay closer attention to his voice in future, to know when he escaped to the void but the thought was interrupted when his eyes returned to hers, a hint of their old mischief dancing in their emerald depths. Why did she have a sudden sense of foreboding, as though she was about to be the target of his impishness? Fetch? Fetch?! He was ordering her about like a novice or, worse still, a dutiful pup? Her jaw tightened and her eyes narrowed – he may be the teacher here but she was not some sort of common servant he could send to do his bidding. Infuriating man, she already gave him far too much leave to be insolent in her presence and opened her mouth to expound precisely on just what he could do with the water jar he wanted when he raised a finger, surprise silencing her more than the action itself. He was enjoying her turmoil, could read it clearly on his face and in his high-and-mighty tone. Her mouth closed with a small click and she glared at his smug face, considering. He spoke true of course, she could hardly learn if she wouldn’t follow his instructions but did he have to make her run about like a fresh-faced trainee in the yards? She held his gaze, seeing the challenge and hint of satisfaction in his eyes, the shadow of amusement. In that moment she saw the boy she knew, the bold young guard who thought to challenge a White sister in a battle of wits despite the odds, and something inside her coiled painfully tight. If it brought him back, she could endure a little meekness and work, couldn’t she? Besides, he was doing this to help her. Resignedly she exhaled and without a word (though with a parting glare) she rose to her feet and went where he pointed, straightening her shoulders for all the world as though she wanted to go where she strode and not because she was told to, moving with natural grace in the clinging emerald gown and a decent measure of haughty irritation as she crossed the distance to pick up the jar. Blessedly empty, still the clay pot was heavier than expected. Hefting it from the ground she braced it against one hip and made her way back to the yard where Corin waited, ignoring the few odd looks from passers-by. “Your water-jar, master,” she uttered with cloying sweetness and no short amount of defiance in her gaze as she placed the vessel in front of her teacher, wondering just what he had in store for her.
  11. After having one of the better sleeps she’d experienced at night for quite some time, Lavinya had foolishly expected that the worst of her nightmares were behind her and had allowed herself to slip into bed and sleep like a normal person; that expectation had been rudely torn asunder when a scant hour after drifting off she had found herself once more in the grip of a very real and very troubling terror. Linten’s face a mask of mingled menace and delight as he employed the birch to her trussed frame, an image formed from very real memories that the light of a candle could not diminish, nor even the memory of the strong frame she had found solace against last night. No, the laugh echoed in her ears, the air was his breath on her neck, every shadow held his cruel, grasping hands. On reflection Lavinya should have questioned the fact that she found herself alone in the small bed chamber, Saline having left to confer with a contact about the details of Corwin’s camp or some such, but it wasn’t the first time the woman had stayed out until dawn so rather than know concern, the Grey only felt relief at the solitude which let her vulnerability go unnoticed. This time. Lavinya flushed hotly. Twice running she had shown the highly embarrassing brokenness to Corin Danveer, and if the first was not at her choosing the second certainly was. He’d still not said a word about it which was a relief in itself but she had no idea just how he was thinking. Was he embarrassed for her? Did he feel pity? Did he resent her forcing a show of closeness he did not want nor feel? He had allowed it but how much was duty and good manners and how much, if any of it, was the simple urge of a man who once claimed to care offering comfort? She paced in the small room between the narrow cots, fending off the lingering images of the dream and focusing instead on the irritating and complex knot that was her child’s father. Even now her feet itched, urging her to go find him, to let the memories fade into insignificance beside the very real warmth of his embrace but her pride – what little she had left – demanded she not be so wretchedly weak. In the end it was the uncertainty as to just how much he had despised the contact (and not knowing precisely where he slept) that helped her stay her feet, instead maintaining wakefulness through the night until the sky lightened enough for her dreams to be banished and an all-too-brief nap to be snatched before the day began proper. She had filled more pages in her journal, trying to articulate the complex emotions and feelings of that midnight embrace that her child, their child may one day understand should she not live to tell her. It could almost have been a dream in itself so unremarked upon as it was, but if so I should wish to dream like it a thousand times. Lavinya snapped it closed and slid the journal back into its pouch before looking for breakfast, thinking soon she would need a second volume. It seemed she had a knack for being rather verbose when it came to muddling over her fractious relationship with Corin and the girlish yearnings of her heart. If it weren’t for Elise I should burn all evidence of such foolishly weak prattling and inappropriate displays of emotion. I would be ruined as Aes Sedai. She probably already was, an Aes Sedai who could not sleep, mooning over an unrequited love while hiding a secret child. Add to it her already questionable reputation for being a philandering lightskirt and it’s a wonder she hadn’t been cast out in disgrace already. She gritted her teeth; no, she had earned it and by the light it was about all she had left to her, it was the sleeplessness making her agitated. The guard and Corin lingered over their own breakfasts in the common room when she descended from her room, doing her best to present the perfect amiable noblewoman and not the haggard vagrant that she actually felt like. Willem near tripped over his own feet to pull out a chair for her at the table – he at least seemed to think she looked acceptable in the bold scarlet gown, given his eyes scarcely roamed elsewhere – but she thought Corin’s smile was a bit tight, his gaze a bit too perceptive where they lingered over her eyes and their weary shadows. He would certainly not look at her so admiringly she thought dourly, allowing young Willem to dance his sweet but bumbling attentions on her to ensure m’lady has everything she needs. It seemed as yet they had no further instructions as to the camp from Saline and so they would bide; Captain Mitya would see then to restocking some of their provisions with his guard until they knew more about their next movements. “Would you like to visit the market, my Lady? I’d be happy to escort you…” Ahh he was so young, scarcely more than a teenager, if that, but he was bold, Lavinya had to give him credit for that. His blush was a charming touch – she’d rather grown to find it endearing in Corin – when the subject of her thought smoothly interjected that he had already promised to assist his sister that day and that young Willem would be best carrying sacks of grain to feed m’lady’s carriage horses. She had been intending to refuse the lad of course; she had no interest in flirtations save from one corner. If only he would not deny her any such playfulness or enamoured doting she thought wistfully, only raising a brow at his interference in question. Perhaps he was softening? To actually seek her company was highly unusual in this new Corin though she was pleasantly surprised to find it, just as she had been when his hand appeared to help her from the carriage only yesterday after doing his best to dodge the task as often as possible. Hope flared in her chest and she sought valiantly to hold it down, something in his expression not as encouraging as she might have expected. Her intuition had proved correct; Corin’s promise of ‘assistance’ was sheer physical torture as he put her through her paces once more in an effort to train her at arms. How easily he held himself aloof, issuing commands and relentless corrections delivered with the flick of fletched arrow. She believed she remembered well their first lesson though apparently it was not remembered to his liking and nor was her fitness or musculature up to par given the exercise he pushed her through. Lavinya’s temper was flaring wildly, all the more so when she gained the impression he was actually enjoying himself, light blind the mule-headed cur, but she held onto it tightly, reminding herself that this was to help her after all, and that she had endured worse. Still, given she was already tired from her sleepless night and it was only exacerbated by the physical exertions. Was this punishment, perhaps? For being weak, for daring to intrude upon his boundaries in the still of the night when it was harder for him to cast her away? Or perhaps annoyance that she should have let the lad smile at her so? No, never that, he probably didn’t even notice. It was very likely that it was purely because she was Lavinya Sedai – he needed no further reason to direct his ire at her than that. She still didn’t entirely understand why he was so often angry with her in particular, she only had assumptions and guesses but honestly, it was so undeserved. She was only trying to help the stubborn brute! And he is now helping you. She couldn’t deny the truth of that, though as she stood panting, sweat-slicked and weary – the ache would be back soon – she didn’t really like it. Something in his expression told her he knew despite her not saying a word of complaint – well only one or two perhaps – knew and was possibly amused by it, or mayhap just satisfied at her suffering. Either way she had never been so happy to sink into a hot bath in her life after that gruelling round of torment, and thankfully there was still time to nap before the evening meal. She was determined to meet him again composed, relaxed and amiable. OOC: Ok after reading the thread where we get the note again I realised a few things were mentioned about the day that didn't happen yet in this thread so I lengthened the time to being now the second afternoon/night in the inn (had to fit in the training and lack of sleep!). Not sure how you plan to send the note but it will mean Saline has a whole day on the guard's pursuit, Lavinya sent them after her but up to you if they ever catch up or you went it alone :). After that we should be all squared up at last, hurrah!
  12. I believe I understand why he closed himself off, pretended to be nothing but a mindless tool. If he was not forced to make the decisions or ponder on mysteries, there could be no onus on him, no more guilt when things go awry. He carries a heavy enough burden already though he won’t speak of it, but I know it’s there and while I wish to know I am not fool enough to ask, not yet. He clings to regrets over past failures, the pain of a broken heart for the woman he loved lost to him…how complicated our lives are, how tangled the threads! That together we should have created you unwittingly and yet be so at odds with one another is some sort of twisted joke. It’s not how I would have wished for things to be, not ever, but in time I hope to help him heal, to show him how I love him still, to introduce him to you but patience is needed, and hope, I have to hold onto hope… Eyes cut from her page illuminated by the guttering lantern instinctively towards where Corin sat, an unmoving shadow stationed about as far as humanly possible from her while still technically being indoors. Did he loathe her presence so much? Once they had known a friendship, an easy, relaxed manner in which they could converse and joke; before she had seduced him and confirmed the accusations of his beloved Green that indeed she was nothing but a painted lightskirt and how it had spurred him to set her as far from him as possible, unwanted and undesired. Pain and regret, her ever vigilant companions fogged her gaze and she looked away, doing her best to harden her wayward heart. Any rational person would have long since stopped their pining and mooning over someone so obviously disinterested in their affections but Lavinya struggled to let go, telling herself she had a duty to see him whole, owed it to their daughter to try. In that secret part of her though, that painful little corner of her heart which she tried not to inspect too closely or too often, there she acknowledged that her motivations were far more selfish, that she wanted him for herself, to recapture the simple joys of the past, to bind him to her for always; she wanted him to love her. No amount of recognising the lunacy of the wish could dispel it and so she was trapped still in a cage of her own making, treading on eggshells around him, hoping, waiting, wishing. …without hope, precious little remains. But I have not given up yet, and I will not. He may not think so, but he is worth it. You will see one day, I can only hope that you will understand and not despise us for being what we are. I know I must tell him soon, it weighs like a millstone about my neck but he can barely stand to be in the same room as me, I cannot bear to think how he would take the knowledge of you while he continues in this state. Even now, we shelter from a storm in a barn and he hides himself away, never relaxing for a moment, even in sleep. She glanced up once more. Did he sleep? It was hard to be sure but it seemed foolish for him to stay awake, they were safe enough here and besides, they had already appointed a sentry to stand guard. She tried to squint through the darkness, making out his shape in the shadows where he leaned against the wall, head resting on a beam. Mayhap he was asleep after all she thought, trying to make out the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. It had grown quieter in the barn, Saline having wrapped herself in a blanket and making a bed in the hay not far from where Lavinya reclined against the stall wall, and the Red Guard had eventually left off their drinking and turned to similar beds themselves, the deep snores of the intoxicated blending into the howling wind that buffeted the walls that housed them assuring her that they at least were at rest. Lavinya yawned and stretched, silencing a sound of protest as her muscles pulled and complained at their earlier abuse. She was so very tired, but what would happen if she surrendered to her body’s need for sleep, only to wake the whole damned farm with her ridiculous screams over nothing more than shadows and dreams? There would be no way to explain that sort of display and there would certainly be no saving face. No, she thought as she rubbed her tired eyes and closed the slender journal, she would just endure until the dawn; there was always the carriage to catch a nap at the least. It would be fine, the wind was too much of a racket for sleep anyway; she tugged the blanket closer around her, staving off the chill that was pervading the air. Rain was an irregular tattoo against the iron of the roof and the straw beneath her was surprisingly comfortable, a thought she’d never imagined would cross her mind, lover of luxury that she was. She’d changed in many ways over the past year, been through so much. What was a little discomfort in comparison to any number of the situations she’d faced? She’d take this over returning to the farm any day; no matter how strained or awkward things were now with Corin, no matter the unspoken secrets, no matter that she was fractured and embarrassingly volatile and vulnerable. He is here. He may be as emotionally distant as he was physically, but he was still here, and had barely shouted at her since the journey began. Mostly. There was the little matter of his temper last night before she had fallen into slumber, of course, but even that was nothing compared to the outbursts that had become all too common in the Tower. He was like a wounded bear with no obvious routes of escape. He turned on her as his jailer no matter that she was there to not snare him but to heal him but maybe, ever so slowly, he was beginning to trust her? Wary and looking for the trap still, but it was something. Another yawn cracked her jaw as her mind lingered on how his eyes had sparkled when he was angry with her, how even as he was filled with tension and tightly controlled rage his movements were a delight to behold, precise and fluid. Strong. He had strong hands, she liked his hands… …………..“What would you do to save the life of a man who does not even love you. Would you truly do anything to ensure his lifes’ thread continued in the pattern?” Linten stepped back and placed the whip and poker on a table that materialized just below them….. “Would you be the sacrifice to save the Tower, your Amyrlin, your Corin. Or are you just as fallible as them. Could it be that you want so desperately to be loved and accepted as a person that you believe your life less worth then them.”…………. “There are many things I could do for you, teach you.” Lavinya’s voice was soft and sultry, a calculated tone…………….“You would like that, wouldn’t you?” She purred, eyes locked on his as the unseen knife was lifted and plunged cruelly into the muscle of his thigh…………Instead of recoiling and releasing her, Linten’s hands clenched on hers in a bone crushing grip, causing Lavinya to gasp in pain. Warm blood spilled over her hand, a small satisfaction before his cruel hand yanked her head back at an awful angle. Light, let it be a fatal wound! A terrifying rage was distorting Linten’s face, and Lavinya again new true fear, followed by blinding pain. Lights danced in her vision and fire bloomed in her cheek and scalp. She was lifted and tossed as though no more than a rag doll, making her realise just how foolish she was to play such a dangerous game with one much stronger than she………….. Lavinya burst from sleep with a start, her breath caught on a sharp gasp as her heart thundered in her chest. Oh light… panic clawed at her throat as the dream receded, an all too real recounting of her past, that first encounter in tel’aran’rhiod. She found she was sitting bolt upright, light had she screamed or shouted? At some point her lantern had guttered out and all was darkness around her and it felt so oppressive, pushing on her, drawing her into a gaping abyss…calm yourself, lunatic woman, be still. She fought to control her breathing, slow and steady, listening to the sounds around her. No voices, no cries of alarm or concern. Rain still pattered on the roof if now with less gusto than before; a horse whickered quietly and she could discern a soft rumbling snore from one of the stalls. Slow, steady breathing. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness it became easier to discern shapes and figures, like the still form of Saline Sedai cocooned in a blanket not far to her side. If she hadn’t noticed Lavinya woke, mayhap no one had and crisis had been averted. A shudder ran down her spine and she tugged her own blanket tighter around her shoulders, her heart still thumping a rapid, frightened rhythm despite her attempts to calm herself. That had not been just a dream but a memory conjured from the depths. Linten had been relentless in his cruelty, Corin and her wounded heart his favourite weapons to wield against her and he had done so ruthlessly and effectively. She lifted her hand, noting how it trembled, recalled how the blade had felt, how she had struck out but paid so very dearly for it. You survived it. You kept him safe; all of them. He is here. Her eyes lifted to where he still sat propped against the wall, still and silent. A wave of emotion crashed over her, drowning her in its storm. So much yearning filled her, for that emptiness inside her to be filled, to know comfort and acceptance and warmth. She was so cold, so alone and the knowledge tore at her heart, sharp and raw. But he is HERE. She rose, clutching the blanket to her, instinctively moving quietly and slowly, sensing her way across the barn in the dark, urgency driving her towards him. Did he notice her trek? He didn’t move that she could see and it was impossible to make out his eyes in the shadow he claimed but in that moment nothing mattered but that she reach him, touch him and know his real, steady presence; the knowledge that he was safe and so was she. He didn’t speak but she sensed his alertness, felt his questioning gaze. “Please just go back to sleep,” she whispered, begged, as she slipped down beside him and curled into his warm, unyielding side. Her cheek rested on his shoulder, one arm snaking under his to find his hand, half hugging half spooning him. “Just sleep.” She breathed deeply, her eyes closing as his familiar scent pervaded her senses, his warmth seeping through their clothing, slowly banishing the memories from her vision and stilling the tremble in her slender frame. Blessedly he did not speak or move away and while she didn’t dare guess at his thoughts she took heart from the fact that he had not pushed away. She closed her eyes, revelling in the moment, letting her thoughts drift as her heart gradually resumed its normal rhythm and her breathing instinctively matched his like in their training earlier – steady, deep, restorative. Peace fell over her like a net, cradling her in its embrace and lulling her back into sleep, even as the gentle pressure of Corin’s hand squeezing hers gave reassurance. He is here and all will be well. The first rays of dawn were lighting the sky when she knew herself awake again, disoriented for a few moments before realisation dawned; the very warm, very real body she snuggled against. Stillness pervaded the still-dark barn but it would not last with the coming morn bearing on them swiftly. Tentatively she lifted her head, peering up through the riot that was her fiery hair to glance at Corin’s face, relaxed for once in sleep where it rested against the post. Tenderness blossomed inside, bright and fierce as she looked at him. How many times had she dreamed of his face? Thought on the shape of his jaw or his perfect emerald gaze, or the solid breadth of his shoulders, the seductive curve of his lips? Silently she thanked the creator and all things good that he had been brought back into her path, even if that path was still fraught with traps and snares, before ever so carefully extracting herself reluctantly from where she rested, careful to not wake him nor any of the others sprawled in various positions about the barn. She may enjoy jokes at Corin’s expense in the hope of seeing him blush but she had no interest in any close scrutiny as to why she may have found rest where she did, and she was not quite sure how to face him in the light of day. It had felt the only right thing to do in the depths of the night, with fear shrouding her like a cloak. Lavinya had instinctively looked for comfort in the only place she’d ever found it before – Corin. But what did he think about another display of her weakness? How she must continue to fall in his esteem with every passing moment that she revealed her pathetic vulnerability. No, let the night hold the secret and the day begin anew. A sense of loss pervaded her as she withdrew, causing her to linger a moment and impulsively brush the faintest of kisses across his temple before she slipped from his side, careful not to look back in case he had indeed woken – she feared what may be in his gaze. Either her midnight sojourn had gone unnoticed or the party were wise enough to keep silent on it as they were soon preparing for the day, fetching stiff but thankfully dry clothing, breaking their fast, seeing to the horses. A blessedly thoughtful guard – Willem, he was named – fetched trunks from the carriage so the Aes Sedai could change at last and refresh themselves properly in clean attire. A silvery gown hugged Lavinya’s form now, the hem and sleeves embroidered intricately with climbing roses of scarlet thread. Less diaphanous than custom made the dress warmer though the cunning cut made the demure-appearing dress cling and drape enticingly. Hardly practical despite how she enjoyed the foray back into her heritage, still it fit their cover and the deep sapphire velvet cloak she wore gave some additional modesty. Why was she suddenly caring about modesty? She had certainly rarely given it much thought in the past, either due to her own private rebelling or deliberately being provocative. Mayhap the extra sleep, unusual and pleasant as it was, was causing her mind to work in bizarre ways. Never mind her clothing, what under the light would she do with her hair? The unceremonious drenching and poor drying had left it in untameable, rebellious mass of corkscrew curls that had decided to go wherever they damn well pleased, which was every direction it seemed. Irritated at the less-than-pristine image it presented, she eventually caught it into knot at her nape with the help of many pins; even still tendrils escaped that she did her best to ignore. Soon enough all was in readiness and the party made their way from the farm with farewells and good wishes from their hosts; Lavinya thought the farmer and his wife wouldn’t be particularly upset that they would never return though they had welcomed their coin well enough. The day was bright and clear if cool; the breeze noticeably chillier in the wake of the storm though the sun shone merrily. It was indeed a good morning, Lavinya thought, glancing out the carriage window. She had continued to be unfailingly sweet and pleasant to Corin even if she had remained distant, still unsure what he may be thinking and too cowardly of what she may see in his eyes though it seemed unnoticed by the others. Her gaze had kept straying his direction, however, despite her best intentions. He was exceedingly nice to watch at the best of times; now she kept remembering how he had looked in the tranquillity of sleep and how natural it had felt to sleep curled against him. He wasn’t in her line of vision outside the window at the moment but she was unconcerned, finding herself in quite good spirits despite the uncertainty she may feel. “We should reach the village by early afternoon, so Mister Mitya thinks,” Saline reported from beside her, an underlying energy in her voice, though whether it was eager anticipation or grim determination Lavinya couldn’t say. “I have a contact to meet; I will confirm the direction of the Corwin’s camp. Mitya said we will be able to replenish our stores here and find lodging for the night; on the morrow we continue on.” The Grey sister glances at the hands knotted tightly in Saline’s lap and felt chagrin at her own good mood. She was letting herself lose focus on the purpose of the mission while she mooned about after Corin blacksmith-puzzle Danveer. “I will go with you if you wish it, sister,” Lavinya said softly, “know that you need only ask. I am here to assist you.” ooc: Thanks for indulging me guys! Feel free to move us along. :)
  13. The change in the weather seemed to match the flux in Lavinya’s temperament. Corin had almost relaxed at times during the training, but so quickly he returned to his sour countenance and aloofness. Sardonic humour was her fall back, subtle jibes and teasing - usually without malice - but it seemed the more she acted completely within her natural character, the more he closed up and pulled away. Infuriating puzzle of a man. There had been a time, where he had responded with his own sharp wit, meeting the playful battle with his own sword drawn to return the parry, not disdained entirely of her mischievous word-play. Disdained of her. She thought they had been making progress but apparently not, given he did not take it upon himself to discover the plans for the next leg of the journey but rather waited to be briefed by Mister Mitya, like he was no more than a brainless sell-sword. Her molars ground together as she clenched her jaw and directed a glare towards the window, beyond which she knew he rode. Why was he so determined to push her away? Was she truly so abhorrent to him? Or mayhap…mayhap their past was the lie, memories distorted by longing. He had tried to warn her off, after all. No doubt he had been playing at a game, perhaps even a test sent by Sirayn, and any affection she perceived had merely been artifice. What he presented now – surly, gruff and distant was a truer representation of his feelings towards herself. Briefly she closed her eyes against the wave of self-inflicted pain the musing caused and ordered herself to cease her own private pity-party. None of that mattered anymore, not really; all that mattered was restoring Corin and healing his wounds. Elise needed him. She needed him. She could not just give in to his childish tantrums and walk away, not with so much still unresolved between them. He deserved to know about the repercussions of the night in the Ogier grove, deserved to resume a life as an esteemed guard. Frankly he also deserved a beating at her own hands followed by her bonding him, in her personal opinion, but the pattern rarely gave her the satisfaction she craved. He already knew her better than anyone else ever had or ever would, knew of the woman she had once been and now also saw glimmers of the fractured soul she kept as tightly hidden as she could. She would never be so revealing to anyone else, the very thought of it brought repulsion and dismay, but it had always been different with Corin. She’d wanted to leave off the façade with him, to fall away from the game and just be, free with her thoughts and opinions and feelings. One true confidant, bound closer than any friend, sharing her life and purpose as surely as he would have felt and known her emotions through the intimate bond. Remember the spectacular failure it had been last time when you were open with him and asked him to be your gaidin? She needed to refrain from the instinctual urge she seemed to have around Corin to open up her veins and bleed pathetically all over him and protect herself from such idiocy. She had learned that much, at least. Her eyes glanced away from the curtain to the sister sitting beside her, dozing it seemed for the moment, and her expression softened. So caught up in her own private undertaking and the trouble it brought, she kept forgetting the stakes of the actual mission at hand. Lavinya had been there, had desperately clung to hope and looked for word. She hadn’t actually taken herself off in person, but there had been little to follow and a very real and precious daughter anchoring her to home. This was not just missing acquaintances but love that drew Saline, Lavinya was almost certain of it, and she understood, very well. Corin would too, she thought, glaring once more towards the window, if he would actually speak with her, have a conversation like normal friends, share thoughts and feelings. She would very much like to confide in him – not just the big things she guiltily kept hidden – but also the small, every day things. She only kept her own council and it was no longer enough; if she was honest it hadn’t been enough since the day she met him. It was his own fault, honestly, why couldn’t he see how very well they were suited? Did he even notice how in private she often conceded and deferred to him, despite her rights as Aes Sedai? That she respected him and didn’t care to carry on the same showing the public eye demanded of them? She twitched the curtain aside a fraction, glimpsing out into the drizzle at one of Mitya’s guards that rode beside the carriage with a frown. When did Corin leave off? Was he going to return to studiously avoiding her? She was prepared to continue to be the doting, amiable sister if she must, but why must he always goad and challenge? Would it kill him to show a little warmth? He was warm last night… Lavinya clamped down on her wayward, circuitous thoughts. Reliving the embarrassment of the night-terror was not something she wanted to do, though she did reluctantly concede that he had shown her a much more compassionate side during the humiliating spectacle. Was it that, which thawed him? Seeing her so wretchedly undone? Or was the knowledge that she sheltered a fractured psyche enough for him to feel safe and not at risk of more of her unwanted attentions poking at him? A large clap of thunder interrupted her reverie, jolting her out of the pointless musings and back to reality. One couldn’t always untangle a knot by yanking fiercely at the ends, that would only pull it tighter. What she needed to do was find a way to gently unravel the snags and loops, testing one and then another until she found just the right spot to tug. She would just have to keep dancing the steps Corin led her through until she found her opening, because she was painfully conscious that the longer she took to tell him of his paternity, the worse it would be. Saline stirred beside her, once more drawing Lavinya’s gaze. The Red was holding up quite well, all things considered, but then she had leads to pursue that Lavinya had been denied in Corin’s absence. Well and so, she could only pray that a similar happy – she used the term loosely, given her current situation – ending awaited the Aes Sedai at the end of the journey. Holding onto hope and ignoring the odds of the venture took great courage indeed, she thought, her mind touching on how similar that must be to Corin’s pursuit of Sirayn. Had he known where she was instinctively, due to their bonding? Had its breaking sent him after her? Had she released him out of mercy first? Had it even existed? Her lips pursed in thought – she had decided the bond never took place, thinking it the most logical explanation for the state of things, but doubt still lingered. “The weather continues to cling to its desolate pall,” Lavinya murmured, “though the rain has paused for the nonce, light be praised.” The carriage slowed, its bumping growing more pronounced as it rolled to a stop through mud and rut alike. “I do hope we will still manage to find lodgings and will not be forced to strike camp in this weather.” Her distaste was evident in her tone as she alighted from the confines of the vehicle, noting how the air had grown cooler as they neared the blight. Unconsciously her breathing eased out of long practice into a steady rhythm, ensuring the cold did not touch her despite the diaphanous gown as she sidestepped a puddle and took in their now rather bedraggled party. Each of the men were wet and hunched morosely it seemed, the weight of the cold and rain chipping away at them as they went about their chores. Saline had chosen well with the red guard, they had served them admirably thus far. So too had Corin, for the most part, Lavinya thought as her eyes flicked to where he set about hobbling his horse. Lavinya surveyed the country where they rested, the incessant rumble of grey clouds overhead only seeming to intensify their isolation. They carried on their charade to help their search, but there was no reason they couldn’t make things more tolerable on the way, she decided as she approached one of the guard, his sodden cloak hanging limply about his shoulders. The cold would seep into their very bones and no one wanted to deal with the whining that came from men with the sniffles. She stretched languorously, easing muscles stiff from travel and sore from her training, ignoring the appreciative smile the guard gave when he noticed her. “Be still,” she admonished as she embraced Saidar, drawing on the power in narrow, careful threads to draw all the moisture from his clothing, a hint of fire leaving warmth in its place. Slowly she made her way around each of the grateful guards, drying their clothing and restoring a measure of good spirit with her amiable manner, quick smile and occasional humorous quip while Saline helped fortify them with the distribution of food – simple fare but filling – and hot tea. The guards now warm and merry, Lavinya turned her attention to Corin, friendly disposition still firmly in place. “May I?” She asked quietly for only him to hear, a nicety she hadn’t offered any of the guard; them she had merely ordered to hold still while she worked. Can’t you see that you are different to them in my eyes? At his mute nod Lavinya channelled, hands hovering as she worked, restoring his clothing once more to noble perfection, from the dull sheen of his leather boots to the embroidered cuffs of his coat while he held himself perfectly still. Is it my presence that has him so on edge? Or does our destination bring back the pain of his lost love? Every shred of intelligence she had unearthed said Sirayn had disappeared within the blight, mayhap she was forcing Corin to relive his reckless pursuit even now…ahh blood and ashes, she wanted to help him, not hurt him further. Tamping down a familiar surge of jealousy that rose with every thought of the missing Amyrlin, she gave him a soft smile when he uttered a gruff thank you, eyes lingering briefly on his face before she turned away. Did he know how much she enjoyed his features? How she could happily admire the lines and angles of his face, the clarity of his deep emerald gaze for hours? How she delighted in his very presence, in simply knowing he was alive and near? Maybe he did after all, and it was why he kept her at arms’ length, saving himself the need for another dramatic outburst at his inevitable rejection she thought dourly. “I do no think we’ll make it to the next town before dark,” Captain Mitya was saying apologetically to Saline as Lavinya approached, his eyes warily scanning the ominous black clouds that long blotted out the sun but now gathered thicker and darker than before. “It will be dangerous to risk the storm, hard to see and find the way. The horses may founder,” he added grimly. Lavinya glanced at the Red, at how her gaze seemed ever distant as though she only saw what lay ahead. This too, she could understand somewhat – that’s where her heart was, just as surely as Lavinya’s journeyed in the pocket of a surly tower guard who was entirely unaware of its presence within his keeping. “We cannot camp here,” frowned Lavinya, her eyes moving to Corin, as though willing him to come near and give input to the situation. He studiously avoided her gaze and she sighed, looking once more to Mitya. “Send scouts ahead, we will seek lodging with local farmers, perhaps we will be fortunate to at the very least find a barn to shelter in until the morrow.” Quick to obey, soon they were again on the road once more in a race to beat the storm. Lightning crackled and clawed across the sky in great cracks, as though the clouds that lie ahead were gathering energy for a violent expulsion. The rain held off for a time, as though the clouds above held their breath for the brewing torrent. Large, fat raindrops had begun a sporadic descent when the scout returned at last having sighted a farm not too far afield with a barn that didn’t look too ramshackle. Some luck after all, perhaps. The rain grew heavier as they at last drew up before a small house, darkness closing in as surely as the winds whipping their hair and clothing. “No room, not in the house,” shouted the wiry little man who stood in the doorway of his cosy little farm house, his expression somewhere between apologetic and slimy as he glanced between the hefty woman at his shoulder and the two sodden women on his doorstep, particularly the noblewoman with her dress sticking almost obscenely to her form thanks to the pelting rain the little awning couldn't deflect. One of the guards had offered to treat with the farmer and his family while the Aes Sedai sheltered in the carriage but Lavinya had insisted. That was before the rain became so heavy, she thought grouchily, hoping against hope that her filmy dress was still giving her some measure of decency and had not grown as transparent as she feared though nothing in her proud stance gave any discomfort away. She was a Grey, and negotiations were her bread and butter. The sour glare from the rotund woman who was his wife made Lavinya think perhaps she was just reluctant to aid pretty women in need of help. She was no stranger to the jealous animosity of women who viewed her as competition or perhaps a hunter of their prey; her eyes were guileless as she looked past the man wringing his hat in his hands to the woman instead. “We seek only to shelter from the storm within your barn, and will recompense you with our thanks for your generosity.” I am not your enemy. Most saw only an attractive female when they looked at Lavinya, when dressed as befitting her heritage that often became an alluring female, but few naturally attributed her with any skill or merit beyond her womanly wiles. And still, she was trained by the best in the White Tower and was far from incompetent when it came to using the skills and abilities that had marked her for the Gray Ajah. Thus, with minimal back and forth they soon found themselves ushered out of the rain and into the relative shelter of the barn, sturdy enough against the now howling wind and blessedly dry. In addition to shelter for the evening, the farmer, his wife and a bevy of children that ranged from just peeping around mother’s skirts to the cusp of adulthood all turned out to assist the sodden party, all deference and bumbling politeness now as they saw about feeding the horses and procuring bundles of towels and blankets in addition to providing lanterns and a delicious piping hot beef stew, all for barely a song, in the end. The space was bigger than her first calculation, with numerous stalls to house the horses and also to act now as sleeping spaces for all of them, assuming they didn’t mind sharing. A cursory inspection had thankfully revealed most were unused much of the time and largely devoid of excrement, even if the air held its share of the stench. No decadent bath or luxurious soft bed, but it would do. At long last their hosts left them to idle away the hours until dawn, and the barn now seemed to share a closer resemblance to a laundry with bits of wet clothing hung all over the place to dry. Lighting a fire in this tinderbox would be madness, and while it was tempting to dry them again as she had earlier in the day it seemed prudent to uphold the disguise – it would not do if it was discovered who they really were – and so her stockings, ribbons and slippers joined the array of shirts, coats, cloaks, boots and other sundry bits and pieces hanging in all manner of places to dry. The clinging emerald gown she left on, now half-damp beneath the blanket she wrapped about herself. Fetching one of her trunks for a dry change of clothes was more trouble than it was worth, and she was not about to go naked under the blanket. Despite the rumours and opinions surrounding her she was not a shameless light-skirt. Well, not for quite some time now, anyway. Commandeering a lantern, Lavinya settled herself in a corner of the cleanest stall she could find, opening the slim journal she always carried with her these days – thankfully dry still thanks to its oiled pouch which had been inside the carriage. Now she wrote, thoughts and notes of the journey to one day be passed on to her daughter, and hopefully a suitable distraction to get her through the night without any more embarrassing nightmares. The moment of solitude was welcome even if she was hardly alone, the conversation and laughter of the others rising and falling from where they lounged and drank no small portion of what smelled like ale. Idly she wondered if it was another gift of their hosts or a hidden stash of Mitya's. OOC: Sorry it got so verbose. There is an idea I've been pondering for ages that I'd like to play out during the night while everyone is sleeping but I think at least Corin will notice (if not both of you), so if it's not too much to ask maybe only write up to going to sleep? Would that be ok? It's only a little thing really but deserves the right to respond I think. ^_^
  14. I posted up Senette's oaths, for any Blues that would like to join and welcome her and introduce me to some of the mysteries of the ajah please feel free to jump in! :) https://dragonmount.com/forums/topic/105884-the-future-looks-blue-senettes-oaths-attn-blues/
  15. She knew what the solitude was for – it was a time for contemplation, for meditation upon the oaths and the duty she was about to bear – but Senette spent a good portion of the night in a state of numb shock. After all the years of study and sacrifice, of training and chores and character building and repetitive revision, at last the final goal had arrived. She’d managed in quite good time, from what she could determine, which was a tribute to her hard work and quick mind, as well as her studiousness. All the years had been preparation for this point, and now it was here…. blank. It wasn’t like her to not be mulling over the words of some ancient text, or pondering the properties of a mineral or even mentally dissecting a new botanic specimen. And yet, here she sat upon her narrow cot, staring at the same spot of chipped paint upon the wall, her brain in stunned silence. Really, she should be considering the weight of the oaths that would be written into her marrow in the morning, or coming to terms with the direction her life might now take with the combined freedom and duty that came with being raised to Aes Sedai. But no, she sat, and she stared. She had closed her eyes for a few moments despite knowing she was not supposed to sleep, but the weaves she had learned for the testing were ever burned into her memory and had begun a maddening revision behind her closed lids, now with the addition of the disturbing distractions that had tried to thwart her during the testing, and it had caused her to hastily reopen them. She didn’t think she could bear to see a snake ever again, no matter how interesting the specimen might be. The Tower was still and quiet in the pre-dawn hours, and Senette found a certain serenity in it. Her mind was cast adrift, attaching to nothing in particular, for once still and silent. Mayhap this was the true purpose of the night, to grant a reprieve before the structures of duty took hold, and a blessed respite from the bustle of life as an Accepted of the White Tower. Images of distant family came to mind, momentarily she took mental note to send them word of her achievement before her mind cast off again, flitting over books and sketches and samples, skimming ahead to the unknown future where her imagination conjured amazing discoveries and scholarly revelations. A small smile touched her lips at the picture as it became more focused, turning into one of her favourite daydreams as she rediscovered forgotten mysteries from the Age of Legends to great acclaim. She didn’t really long for recognition, but the notion did warm her in the secretes of her fantasies. To be renown for her work would really be quite lovely, she decided, but only if those discoveries served a greater purpose, she added loyally. She hadn’t always had a direction or purpose for her studies, but she knew she would find it now, with the backing of her chosen Ajah and with the newfound freedoms of the shawl. That was, of course, assuming they accepted her. She gave herself a slight shake, drawing her mind back from its meandering. Dawn was approaching, and with it, her destiny. How very dramatic. She had been moulded and guided for years now, though she’d only truly recognised it after that fateful encounter in the library when the Blue sister had questioned her motives and how she flit so readily between subjects of study. Since then her work had taken on a whole new perspective and a surprising passion – how will what I learn benefit the Tower and the world at large? What good can I do with my research and enquiries? If she was to leave a mark on world, let it be for making a difference. Putting aside her thoughts, Senette rose from where she sat and began preparing for the day, dressing for what would blessedly be the last time in the banded dress of the accepted. Not one for vanity, Senette still thought it would be exceedingly nice to choose her own wardrobe for a change and wear something other than barely relieved white. Her dark hair she carefully twined into two fat braids that she drew over her shoulders. Pondering her reflection in the small oval mirror, she hesitated, hand wavering over the small wooden jewellery box that owned what meagre pieces she possessed. It would be fitting, today, she thought, extracting two small silver bells that were engraved with tiny nightingales and gave of a subtle, harmonious chime when shaken. These she attached to the ends of her braids with small lengths of white ribbon, turning her head to and fro to both admire the look and sound. Resuming her position sitting on the edge of her cot, Senette returned to her daydreaming, eyes vacantly locked onto the same chipped spot of paint, a single taper now burned low in its dish flickering in the corner of her vision. It seemed only moments later that a knock sounded on her door, confident in its rapping. She stood, taking one last glance around the sparse room and schooling her expression into one she hoped displayed appropriate calm before opening the door the Aes Sedai – one from each Ajah – who summoned her. In silence she followed, the anxiety that hadn’t touched her all evening now gnawing on her empty stomach so that she felt slightly ill with nerves for what was to come. Stay calm, perfectly calm, she chided herself, doing her best to maintain a serene façade as her slippers trod quietly against the smooth tiles underfoot, undulating about the halls of the tower. The journey slid past in a blur, so that Senette was almost startled when she found they had arrived and had to force her mind to the task at hand, knees dipping into a habitual curtsey when she found herself in front of so many Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin and Keeper in particular. Should she have not done that? Was that amusement she detected in the eyes of the Amyrlin? She couldn’t tell and a blush pinkened her cheeks though she fought to maintain a smooth face. “Who comes here.” She lifted her chin a fraction, swallowing. “Senette Nadari.” “For what reason do you come?” “To swear the three oaths and thereby claim the shawl of an Aes Sedai.” Was that truly her voice, strong and true? Remarkable. “By what right do you claim this burden?” The Amyrlin continued the ceremony in ringing tones. “By right of having made the passage, submitting myself to the will of the White Tower.” “Then enter, if you dare, and bind yourself to the White Tower.” Oh, she dared. She knew in theory what would now happen, knew the words by rote. Her eyes were focused forward, taking in the oath rod where it rested reverently upon a velvet pillow. The entire hall was arrayed around the room but she paid them no heed. This was the moment, the pivotal moment where she left off the past and stepped into all the future held in store for her. She exhaled a short breath. This was who she was meant to be, and by the light she would be the best servant of all she could be. The rod was cool in her hand and it sparked a curiosity in the back of her mind which she did her best to quell. Now was hardly the time to indulge her desire to examine closely the artefact, she had oaths to swear. “Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true.” Senette’s eyes widened in surprise at the sensation that came over her with the firmly spoken words. She had been told something of what it would be like but it was more uncomfortable than she had reckoned, like her skin was suddenly too tight. “Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another.” With great difficulty she kept from grimacing, the invisible net pulling closer, squeezing her into a smaller space. “Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my warder, or another sister.” Senette clenched her jaw - tight, so tight! – and her spine was rigid but ahh, she had done it, and she felt her oaths as though they were burned into her very marrow. She was bound, by her word and by her duty to serve, and if she felt she might burst with pride, well it surely wasn’t out of place in this moment, was it? A smile tried to come to life on her lips but she denied it, despite the joy now thrumming through her veins. Aes Sedai. At last the title was hers. “It is half done, and the White Tower graven on your bones. Rise now Aes Sedai and choose your Ajah, and all will be done that may be done under the Light.” Despite her efforts, a smile flitted across her lips as she looked to the sisters arrayed in a semi-circle, shawls held out for her taking. It was for show, she knew it was part of the ceremony, but it made a pretty picture, like the decision was still not yet certain. Stepping forward, she approached the Blue Sisters, accepting the shawl of her station with gratitude and another betraying smile as the other Aes Sedai melted unnoticed by her from the room. Senette Nadari Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah
  16. I'll try and get something up for the Blues to join into later tonight :)
  17. I like the idea of the brand new rp, she’s only late 40s main timeline so still fresh. I might start with her walk to the blue quarters after her oaths? Then you can introduce me to the blue customs ?
  18. I'll leave it to you pranksters to start it off then? Point me to it when you're ready! @keyholder21 that sounds like a great place to start!
  19. I'm not sure Senette would notice the moustache haha, in her bio it mentions she's oblivious to her appearance at the best of times and often has ink smudges and the like. I can imagine though, something like you two poised on a balcony, ready to drop flour bombs or something on a novice that was coming by only at the last minute it's Senette wandering by that cops it, one moment daydreaming and the next covered from head to toe in flour....hahaha. Anything largely harmless but inconvenient would get the best reaction I think ;) @keyholder21 I would love to! Any ideas? I've never played a blue before so I'm very open to suggestion for ajah rp scenarios :)
  20. Ok @Chaelca and @Oddpositions why don't you plot a prank of some description, whatever takes your fancy - itching powder, soap bubbles in the fountain, mice in the library, flour bomb, water bucket on the door....I don't know, anything you can think of. Except, let's presume you had a target in mind (like a fellow novice/accepted) but Senette unwittingly ends up walking into it and becoming the unintended victim. Naturally there needs to be IC consequences, so if the MoN is agreeable Senette will put you to work helping her with her research which quite possibly could involve you both lugging heavy books and equipment about while she pokes and prods at rocks and plants and things (or even you, ha!)...I like to keep things open to unpredictability so if something like that works for you, let's do it! (assuming MoN says it's ok, Chae?) @Jagen Sedai I would love to RP something with one of your characters, any ideas? I'm ok with multiple threads, time is something I have plenty of at the moment :)
  21. @Taymist some sort of Blue RP once you're up to it would be awesome! I'll try and brainstorm but I am absolutely open to ideas. @Chaelca and @Oddpositions if you would like to prank Senette, I am so up for that. Or at least, attempt to. She may not even realise she's been pranked which could be extra hilarious. Or she might catch you and put you to work. Lots of possibilities! OR I can just recruit you as a pair of pack mules to help with her work...hmmm lots of appealing ideas. Let me know what you'd like to do. :D
  22. It took every ounce of willpower Lavinya possessed to keep her brows from climbing and her eyes from rolling heavenward in exasperation and instead keep them trained on the infuriating figure opposite her in the small room. To think, she was the one considered arrogant, while the unpredictable tower guard once more retreated behind a façade of polite acquiescence that did not ring with truth given his words. He offered magnanimously dictated that he would stay and guard her, as though she hadn’t practically begged him in most unflattering fashion to stay with her. Drawing on reserves of patience she did not know she possessed, Lavinya bit her tongue as she studied him, noting with no small amount of chagrin how he quite deliberately held her at an emotional distance, his voice proper and the honorific securely in place once more. Had he really been holding her, soothing her with words and actions such a short time ago? Where had that man gone, curse him? Deciding discretion was the better course of valour for the time being - for both their sakes, perhaps – Lavinya complied without a word, though there were many things she longed to say. Like how it was foolish that they should both go sleepless, she only wanted his presence, not his guarding gaze. Or how infuriating he was by being at turns warm then ice-cool, calming and then condescending. Or, she wondered amusedly, what would he do if she told him she felt she could only sleep if he joined her on the narrow cot and helped her feel safe? Her face remained impassive but the wicked notion did satisfy her, thinking of how he might blush and stammer, all off-kilter. No, silence was the safer option, even if it went against her nature to quietly obey. She had learned, it seemed, that there were other avenues of battle than head-first into the fray. Still, there was no denying she was so very tired and even another hour or two in slumber would be most welcome. Quietly she settled back into the bed, pulling the covers up to her chin and stealing covert glances over at his immovable presence. He could have walked out, she reminded herself. Could have made his apologies and fled, could have scorned the needy Aes Sedai, or even submitted with obvious reluctance and distaste. But no, he remained. Why? He so clearly chafed at being bound to her for this mission and would much prefer to berate her and fight with her when forced into her company. Duty, she thought with a weary sigh, that and no more. He would play the part of proper guard to the Tower, there was no more to it than that. To think he would perform the same service for any other sister brought a dark scowl to her face and had her abruptly roll to face the wall, willing herself to leave off her irritating thoughts and to actually get some precious sleep while Corin was still here. He is still here, she thought, and it followed her down into the depths of blissfully dreamless slumber. ----- Rolling one shoulder, Lavinya repressed a wince as muscles not used to so much use twinged in protest. Corin had been gone when she had woken to the first rays of sunlight. Disappointment had flooded her before she could tamp it down, though on it came the heels of relief – she felt more refreshed than she had in the days since they began travelling, and it gave her time to compose herself in the light of day. The note was something of a burr under the saddle but at least he hadn’t run the moment she closed her eyes. No, he hadn’t run, he had helped her, and somehow managed to make even that an event peppered with frustration and torture and too many unanswered questions. Light, her body would ache tomorrow, thanks to the training he had introduced her too that morning. If she could not channel in the dream, then she should learn to protect herself with her own hands. It was entirely logical and frankly she was annoyed to not have considered it sooner; still, he was a hard task master and had done his best to pretend the caring, warm man she had rediscovered in the early hours did not reside within him. There were some cracks in the defences, she decided with satisfaction as her gaze cut across to where he was preparing his mount. Rotating her wrist to stretch those muscles – it was ridiculous, she used her hands all the time, how could she even ache there? – she halted when he glanced in her direction. Burn him if she’d let him see any more of her human failings than she had to; she couldn’t shake the thought that he would be amused if he saw her plagued by the effects of the morning’s exercise. All she could do was pray that there would be a deep, hot bath at the end of the day’s travel. Glancing around the rear courtyard where the Red Guard continued to make ready to journey onward, Lavinya at last saw Saline Sedai make her return, hesitating before making her way to her side and halting a respectable distance behind her shoulder like a proper lady’s maid. It was not difficult to deduce that she had spent a sleepless night given the shadows smudged beneath her eyes and the less than pristine state of yesterday’s dress. Lavinya considered what it might betoken and was preparing to ask Saline if it was good or ill news she now possessed when a rather ribald jest met her ears from the pair of guards loading trunks into the carriage. Not usually one to pay the coarse tongues of service men much heed, it was the way the word ‘sister’ was spoken that caught her attention, and how she was looking far more at ease today while her ‘brother’ looked quite worse for wear. Her eyes darted across to where Corin stood attending to Ayende, noting the faint tinge of colour on his cheekbones and the way his jaw clenched. The guard knew who the party truly were, of course, but this was rather an interesting development. She rather liked him looking less than composed, Lavinya decided, a hint of a smile dancing about her lips as she filed the comments to the back of her mind for later consideration and turned to the Red who waited demurely. “Saline, the men seem to have all in readiness and I had your own belongings brought down. I pray your evening was fruitful.” There were too many strange figures out in the open for a proper conversation, too many who may wonder at it. “I would wait in the carriage with you, I think, that we may discuss the wedding plans.” The last was spoken stronger than the first, laced with the authority appropriate for a woman of her station. Their deception was important to protect the mission; there was no harm in her enjoying it, however. “Corin, dearest brother, would you help your sister into the carriage?” She called, all sweetness and affection as she awaited him by the step. “Unless your stamina is failing me at last, and I should ask one of the guard to assist instead?” Her smile was bright as she held her hand out to him, for all the world the picture of a loving sister, and if her eyes glinted with a wicked amusement, surely that was only due to being a sister who playfully teased her brother and not related at all to the barely stifled snort of the guards standing closest. Once safely in the carriage, Lavinya allowed herself a moment to smile at the play before turning her shrewd gaze to the Red. “Tell me, sister,” she said not unkindly, reminding herself that for the other woman this was not just an escape from the tower but a sojourn to find her missing beloved. A mission she understood. He is here. “What news, and where do we go from here?”
  23. A diamond glint slid down the surface in a mock of beauty. An attempt to hide the death purpose of the edge below it as the candle light reflected happily along the blade of the dagger in his hands. Their purpose had been distorted over the years of its existence, from tool to weapon, to ornament. Masking its skin like a chameleon to its surroundings. But inside, it always held deaths offering, it’s true purpose. The quiet chuckle that escaped him held no mirth, no light, as the form on the bed murmured once more. It almost seemed like a relaxed sigh. No doubt she dreamed of further methods to ensnare him. But his cold disjoined chuckle was not for her and her plans. It was the realization of how close his own life resembled the view of the simple tool he held. Only he was the tool now, and held tight in the Towers grip. Too tight it felt, the life slowly squeezing from him. Did she not understand the delicate balance between fluid of motion and controlling grip? The tool became barbaric, useless even if the grip was white knuckled, the arm unable to make it dance. But with gentleness, the correct pressure of the hold, the looseness of the arm. All parts allowed to work as one to make simple steel something more, almost as if alive in the hands of a master. A master …. Would he ever reach that state now? At one time it was a dream, now, could the mocking denial even be called a nightmare? A twitch, her form moved on the bed drawing his attention to her briefly. No doubt she found pleasure in her latest dream of torturing him. He had brought it upon himself. Stupid impetuous youth clouding his judgment. He thought he could sit at the table of games with Sirayn, how arrogant his pride. How did he think in his few short years under her tutelage he could ever compete with the width and breadth of her long-spanned life deeply steeped in its finest intricacies? No, it had been a failure that had cost him … no had cost the very world the greatness of her thread in the pattern. Now he seemed forever embroiled in a struggle of wills with another of her creatures, a distant one-time friend. A flash of her smile, twinkling eyes of simple mischief slide across his mind’s eye. He allowed it to linger a moment, study it briefly before letting it fade back into the darkness. An opportunity lost, his pride yet crushing another life. She could be so much more if he hadn’t been in that garden, had not ruined their friendship in the grove, cut much deeper than the steel in his hands at the field outside the cabin. Why had the pattern chosen his life to bring such misery to others? He didn’t feel like a dark friend; did they even feel? He visibly shook the thought away, repulsed at the very notion of it. Murmuring, whimpering pulled at his ear. A change in the room demanded his attention, fought to capture a guard’s normal alertness. How could he protect if his mind was never in the here and now? His eyes cut sharply to the movement on the bed, restlessness. Something had changed in Lavinya, replaced the restful slumber with agitation. Perhaps a bad dream, the dagger slipping away as he reached out to comfort her, settle her. His brother had them when they were young, he had probably as well. But he did not recall them now … the memories lost to the cacophony in his head. When had simple thought become so allusive a prey? Ice chocking the heavy flow of a river, his blood halting it’s motion in time to his heart briefly as the silence was shattered by the touch of his hand. Lavinya shot upright in front of him, unseeing eyes wide and petrified, whites overwhelming the deep comforting chestnut that normally dominated them. Her hands clawed at the front of his shirt, the horrid sound still emanating from her mouth; stretched wide and threatening to split. Panic, silent and swift, threatened to overwhelm his control. It crushed the stunned shock that held him allowing motion and control to return to his limbs. Pulling her in tight to try and still the movement, create a comfort, draw her back from the depths. Her head pressed into his shoulder as she tried to draw a ragged breath. “Lavinya …. Lavinya, you are safe” he tried to keep his voice soft, keep the shock and worry from filtering in. “Lavinya … Lavinya wake …. Please wake … I’m here, you are safe …wake.” The heavy fall of boots in the hall vibrated the floor, the guard was in motion, alarm raised. Silently he prayed that the chair would hold the door, keep her dignity intact to some small measure. “Lavinya …. Shhhh … Lavinya I’m here …. always”. Pain twinged his heart anew … always only he had not. He had abandoned her once, no, twice already. Why had he said always? He could feel her grip on his shirt relax, her breathing beginning to slow. “Shhhh …. You are safe Lavinya …. You are safe.” The inevitable boom on the door sounded as the Red Guard arrived attempting to knock it in” Corin flinched as Lavinya tensed briefly at the sound. “It's okay. We’re fine …. I … I stubbed my toe in the dark that's all. Really, we’re fine.” He had to shout to be heard over the banging and regretted it as she flinched again against him. His toe, they will never believe it. How do I explain this later when they ask? Slowly foot falls began to sound their departure and he let slide a soft sigh of relief. From the guard at least, he would have a momentary reprieve. Slowly, tenderly he pushed her back from him; allowing him to see her face, her eyes. “Lavinya?” Her name a question. A simple word with an inflection that carried a myriad of questions in its tone. Quizzical emeralds sought and held the gaze of her earthy dark eyes. Firm, yet gentle the gaze flicked from one eye to the next seeking an explanation, an answer to the unspoken question. It was a mixture of wounded pride and self-indulgence that allowed Lavinya to revel in the simple yet firm embrace, the sweet lie that this was right and natural. How long had it been since anyone had offered her any sort of comfort? The irony that it was likely Corin what felt a lifetime ago to last do so did not bring a smile, but rather a sensation of keen loneliness. Aes Sedai had no need for such banal offerings, but she did, oh how she needed this, the warmth of another human being, connection, a life with whom to share. Hot tears of mortification mingled with those she had already shed in the midst of her terror, the sudden pounding at the door making her tense as though it was her own flesh that was struck but no, almost worse than that was the knowledge the red guard were about to witness her humiliation. It seemed fitting, somehow, that she should be so thoroughly undone in one swift motion. Corin shouted at them, blessedly attempting to stave off complete ruination but the sudden noise so close to ear twanged her already jangling nerves, echoing in her mind like the laughter of a mad man, memories of the dream haunting her, toying with her. How pleasantly it had started, to force the knife all the deeper into her fractured heart. Foolish notions of happiness and bliss, memories twisted to have happy endings; how he had held their child with such loving, reverent care…Valiantly she tried to turn from the images in her mind’s eye, hiding from the fallout of her revealing display in the crushed and damp linen of Corin’s shirt but ahh, it was not to be, he would have his due. Swallowing convulsively, she tried to brace herself to meet his inquiring gaze, those emerald eyes that saw too much, delved too deeply, tore her façade asunder. Elise’s eyes. Light, have mercy, she prayed silently as her too-wide eyes met his. She could see the questions in them – had expected them - but the concern almost looked genuine and it was more than she could bear. Shame set colour over her cheekbones and her eyes slid guiltily away, avoiding the gentle scrutiny. “A bad dream…I’m sorry.” She murmured, looking at her hands knotted in his shirt and willing them to obey and release; decidedly uncooperative, her hands flexed and stretched but did not let go, like one who had been drowning and rescued might be reluctant to release their life line. His centre twisted in an anguish of torment as her eyes cut down and away from him. For a brief moment he had seen hurt in their depths like he had never known. Still he haunted her with a hurt unwarranted. A monumental reminder of how much pain he had caused her. Even now, she could not sleep, could not even look into the eyes of one who had hurt her so completely. His shame threatened to rise and carry him away to just punishment, only her hands still held him; still gripped his shirt as if life itself was to be found there. It made no sense, a person did not cling to the edge that cut so deep, cleaved life and love from heart and soul. Something was wrong with the picture playing out before him; the game players mind noting the pieces of the puzzle before him and silently worrying out a solution. His eyes cast first to her hands, colour slowly returning to the soft delicate flesh that still maintained their hold. Noted the focused study she gave them. The quietness of her voice, the emotion belying a deeper thread of something that he could not fully make out. A different emotion perhaps. But it made no sense, none of her out cry, her clinging form, the words from her lips made sense. She was Aes Sedai, and agent of Sirayn, a force of reckoning on her own. Another piece slipped quietly into place. His fingers gentle against the bottom of her chin slowly lifting her face to meet his gaze once more. "Lavinya, please," softness still caressed his voice; gentle to match his touch. But concern had begun to weave along the edges, "this is not the reaction of a simple bad dream." His eyes sought hers, trying to find answers in the windows to her soul. Like so many before it, her prayer for mercy went unheeded. Of course he wouldn’t let the matter lie after that minimal explanation, she herself had been the driving force, pushing him back to the life of inquiry and puzzling and now found herself the very subject of it to her own dismay. Why, light blind him, did he have to be so, so….kind about it? She could steel herself against arrogant demands or angry commands, could find escape in aloofness or distance but no, instead he unravelled her defences before she could even begin to erect them with gentleness, with familiarity. The wheel was cruel in its turnings; she had longed to hear her name on his lips again without the honorific, to feel the tenderness in his touch, but now, why now? Sorrow was a hard lump in her throat, her betraying soft heart leaping and demanding she shed every one of her secrets at his feet like sacred offerings but how could she lay such poison fruit at his feet? He had his own spectres, his own heartaches, he did not need the additional burden of her ghosts and by stone and sea she would die before she saw pity in his eyes! Still, despite her wish to hide she was helpless beneath his soft coaxing and again her dark eyes clashed with his clarion gaze, the effect like a physical blow that stole her breath, seeing clearly there was no artifice – he was concerned, likely despite himself. No doubt he would remember his anger soon enough and turn from her, but she would cling to this timeless moment nonetheless, the evidence that he was not so far gone as she thought. “Corin,” she said softly, shaking her head as she sought the words, hating the tremble and rasp in her voice, her pathetic weakness – no wonder Linten had found her easy prey, she thought grimly. “It is true, what I said, true and not true.” Teeth caught her lower lip and bit down, the bright bloom of pain naught compared to the turmoil churning in her soul. Why did he have to see her so vulnerable, see how despicable and pitiful she truly was? This was what he had turned from, and rightly so; so why did she find herself preparing to confide in him again? Had she learnt nothing from the past? How easily she had opened herself for the killing blow before, revealing the ugly, unlovable interior that had set him running, why was she ever compelled to drive him from her even as she longed to hold him close? Resignation made her voice small, but she managed to not look away this time, though it hurt her to think she would see the disgust and rejection plain on his face when it inevitably came. “There was a mission…it failed very badly….” She halted at the massive understatement, a fresh wave of pain crashing over her as Linten’s laugh echoed again in her mind and her fingers tightened convulsively in Corin’s shirt. “No one knows, not really, but I…I remember too well…” She did look away then, struggling with the words, the emotion, the phantom pain, all of it welling up and threatening to consume her anew. He would think her blight-touched, she was sure. “Do you know anything of tel’aran’rhiod – the dream world, Corin?” She held her breath, bracing herself for she didn’t know just what, not even certain what to hope for in his answer. His name, again soft from her lips. Once he had revelled in it, a time and place different from now; a past so distant it seemed lost in the foreshadow of their present strife. She had been warm and filled with life then. A subtle force less she let her ire through. But voice and women that now greeted him were far distant to that memory, a pauper to a queen. What could have shaken her so? He would not deny he had hurt her grievously, but surely there was something else to the terror that had enveloped her. Something beyond the simple guard she was now tasked to make pay the bill for his youthful stupidity and childishness. Only, it was a whispered memory that pulled at him as her words reverberated in his mind, pieces spinning in the silent pause. The game player awakened in the back of thought; sought out the fine changes to her character. Grasped at meanings inside of meanings to her words. It was not a pulling of his will that brought the game player forward but her words. Aes Sedai twisting of simple meaning to distract or divert. The form familiar to him, to anyone with time spent in the Tower proper. He did not draw the player forward; did not seek to slip into the comfortable mantle but it hovered with glee itching to be worn. He tried to hold her gaze, eyes flicking to her held lip before he could pull them back up, an unseen tightening at their edges. Why Lavinya .... Why must the games continue ... Why can't you just end this strife .... free me ... free the Tower of me .... Why? Questions slipped through the cracks in the wall he used to hold the game at bay; to hold who he had become at bay. He need answers; completeness. How long had it been since he had felt whole? Inside the player sneered at her words, offered little warmth as he sifted for the clues to trip the trap. There were always failures somewhere, not all plans could succeed even for the great and powerful Aes Sedai. The flex of her fingers drew Corin back to the forefront, forced the player to the shadows once more. How quickly her need could over power the ingrained training in him; almost. Tel'aran'rhiod, he sampled the word soundlessly his mind playing through the memories like fingers flipping through a filing box seeking a match. But the fingers came up empty, the puzzle piece alone and not paired. Her eyes had turned from him with more pain at their centre, a sheen glazing over them once more. This time his fingers did not seek to draw her gaze to his own. His arms enveloped her protectively, hand lightly pressing her head back to his shoulder. She needed the break, needed him to not see to deep. Why ... What will I find? The movement had said as much, her meekness shrieked unspoken of the need for protection. Protection even from him it seemed. Still his mind worked in the silence that stretched between them seeking out some reference to dreams; carefully avoiding the snares around his own that would bring ruin to this moment. There was something about the word, a passing conversation; words not meant for other ears in passing perhaps. It teased at his mind, slipped like smoke through his fingers; unable to add substance to his search. "A dream but not a dream?" the words slipping out before he could catch them a mix of question and statement. Why had he used her own way of twisting meaning, the player's cynical chuckled silent in the shadows seeking more pieces. His desire to find meaning in the word from his memories left him wanting; distracted his attention while the player slipped by. She couldn’t see his face, had deliberately avoided his gaze in fact, so Lavinya could only begin to guess at what he thought, whether even now he was mentally planning how to have her sent back to the tower and seen to by a yellow for paranoia and insanity, like a taint-touched asha’man. Just the brush of that thought within her mind’s eye brought another shudder but suddenly she was drawn back into Corin’s embrace, held safe from the shadows that pulled at her and threatened to drag her under. It was madness indeed to think such a simple show of affection could protect her from the real perils of the dream world but still she revelled in it, felt at once the keen, painful edge of the knowledge she had lost the right to this, had never had the right to it – and also she felt safe, beyond the reach of the world, from anything that could threaten or destroy her. It was disconcerting but she indulged in it all the same, let him hold her, soothe her. He was warm and solid and real – Corin, her Corin, and she was as powerless to pull away from him as fish dangling on a hook. Moments passed, the question gentle, coaxing, and before she even knew what she was doing words were spilling from her, halting at first as she tried to piece together an explanation that he may understand. “I had thought it was largely fiction too, before I was drawn into it.” She closed her eyes tightly, taking strength from the firm shoulder beneath her cheek, the implacable band of protection his arms provided around her. “At the bl…the black tower,” she faltered slightly but continued, “it was disastrous – we were accosted as soon as we arrived, there was fighting…we lost, there was too many of them, too well trained, they were cutting weaves...” The hands against his shirt tightened painfully against the cloth covering his chest – distantly she thought she must be ruining the shirt – her knuckles were white with the fierce grip but her voice remained flat, the story continuing to spill out with gathering momentum. “We were forced into bondage. Bonded, like a cruel parody of a warder, except they used compulsion, forbidden, disgusting compulsion…with tainted saidin to obey like pathetic slaves and forbidden to channel.” A long shudder went through her frame unbidden as she spoke, her voice filled with loathing and contempt - but she felt those comforting arms tighten slightly and took heart. He is here now. It took several deep breaths and she assumed great patience on Corin’s part, but she managed to continue. “I could not ward my dreams and there was….is…..this, this madman,” she spat venomously, thinking the word was far too weak for the likes of Linten. “With the skill to draw me into the dream world.” Remembered panic clawed at her anew, fresh tears of terror pricking her eyelids and burning her throat, muscles tensing in very real fear as the words continued to spill forth. “I was powerless, a mouse next to a lion and he was cunning, so cunning and cruel and he…he….” She stopped then, unable to continue as the humiliation stole her voice and replaced it with a sob. Mention of the Whites' tainted opposite set tension at the edges of his shoulder blades. They had done this? Those tainted men the Red's hunted had caused this mush loss of her? ... How? Questions, always there were questions. Had a time existed before Sirayn when he mindlessly accepted the world; not questioning its madness, it's beauty, it's pain. Simple minded farm boy mesmerized by the city sizes and squares. Lost to the ebb and flow of people who called them home; past through them in travels and filled the stories of Gleemen. A time no longer afforded to the simpleton now seated at the table of the great game. His new hand now forced to play, cynical outlook to measure each word and phrase seeking the hidden meaning. Rooting out that which others so desperately wish to bury. The leverage to change the path of another; cursed addiction surely brought to life by the Father of Lies. This was who he had become now, who they had made him; what they had made him. Instinctively his arms tightened around her as she shuddered. Dreams ... how could someone be drawn into a dream? Vaguely he noted the unbidden hatred in her voice as she spoke with disdain of a man that could do something with dreams. The thought held on the edge of focus while he continued to sift for information on this dream world. Was it always a place of terror? Did it only affect those capable of touching one of the power? How was he to find out more here in the country, away from the hub of Tar Valon? Pieces masked in shadow, their edges blurred continued to spin in his mind. He let his focus shift back to her hatred of the man. He had done something to her, something she couldn't voice yet. Like a child, his hand lightly patted and rubbed her back trying to comfort her, calm her once more. This was not the woman he remembered nor the picture of Aes Sedai control and serenity. Sirayn would be crawling out of her own skin if she were to have witnessed this display; no doubt the Amyrlin would have Lavinya surrounded by yellows had they been at the tower. But they were not at the tower and had only a Red in disguise and himself to help her. The thought occurred to him that perhaps Saline Sedai could help her. But it was quashed just as it quickly as it arrived. She had plenty of time during their travels to approach her, so she must already feel the Red would not be able to help. Or was it Aes Sedai pride? A new concern began to bloom in the back of his mind. A tidbit his subconscious had picked out while he had been puzzling other paths. She had been bonded! She had been bonded by a man with taint laden power. His hand stilled on her back, eyes cutting to the back of her head. Had the taint touched her; touched her mind? The bond allowed emotions and thoughts to pass between members and could almost be considered an intimate conversation, so he had heard. At least for some it was. An image tried to coalesce in to a familiar form and he pushed it away harshly. Sirayn would have to wait for now. Something niggled at his mind. An alarm silently raised but its origin not understood. There was something about the bond that worried at thought but refused to come clear as the silence began to stretch. In the darkness her soft sob seemed to reverberate off the walls. "You are safe now Lavinya," his head tipped as he prepared to draw her face back up to emphasize his resolve to protect her. "He can not reach you now. No one knows where you ...." the rest of his words were snuffed out like a candles light as the earlier thought solidified. Oh no ... location! As then a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach began to take root he remembered that bond-mates could point to the other’s location instinctively. His eyes swept the room, head turning slightly to look behind him before he could still it. Did he know where they were, where she was? A tremor threatened to rise through his back, the itch of unseen eyes watching him. Would he react correctly and keep his charge protected and safe this time? This time… the bitterness of the thought slipped past as his concern cleared his attention and set his focus sharply. "No one knows we are here, correct? I mean how could they, that was the whole point of the disguise." Lavinya was such a horrid jumble of complex emotions in that moment; one of the Forsaken could have waltzed in and started hurling balefire around and she still would have been incapable of rousing herself to move. The fear and the remembered suffering was a raw graze on her soul, inflamed and searing, while yearning and a keen urge to surrender to the pitiful hope blazing in her heart strove for attention. Add to the mess overwhelming exhaustion, humiliation and a healthy dose of unabated infatuation – how one body could contain such a frenzy of feeling she did not know, but somehow she felt all these things in a whirlwind that seemed to find catharsis in the outpouring of her very embarrassing tears. Aes Sedai did not cry – for all anyone should know, their tear ducts were removed at birth. No wonder he’d bolted from her, she was the very antithesis of what it should be to wear the shawl. It was these thoughts that eventually saw her tears abate, helped along with Corin’s words as they filtered through the fog of her distraught mind. She could hear his concern, oh yes and how it warmed her, but she also began detecting something other in his tone, almost patronising like she was indeed a lack-wit or touched with madness. Irritation quickly rose to squash some of her other less savoury emotions and she found the strength to sit upright and meet his gaze once more, even if she wasn’t completely strong enough to pull herself well and truly out of his reach like she should if she had any sense whatsoever. Her eyes narrowed, the stern look no doubt completely ruined by how horrid she must look – tear stained, splotchy and dishevelled – but still, she was not a complete idiot. “The bond was resolved when I was released from my captivity,” she said gruffly, “you do not need to look as though I am deliberately putting us all in undue danger.” She sniffed indignantly and also out of necessity, scowling at the dampness on Corin’s shirt in self reprimand as she at last untwined her fingers from the fabric and instead tangled them wearily in her riotous hair. “I know he can’t find me, even my dreams are warded now, but my subconscious refuses to listen to reason.” She glanced askance. “It’s why I do not sleep well in the evening hours,” she added in an almost mumble, one shoulder lifting in a helpless shrug. “I have been unable to stave off the nightmares since…since I returned.” She peeped back at him through the tumble of her hair, half glaring in annoyance, half pleading with him to understand. She sighed heavily. “I know how it sounds, there is a good reason I’ve told no one.” She shook her head ruefully and gave her hair an impatient yank. “I don’t fully understand it, but he had this power to pull me from sleep and into the dream world…it’s a dream but also it’s like waking. What happens there has repercussions in the real world, like injuries taken will show real bruises or,” her eyes lit with unholy satisfaction, “daggers in the thigh will leave very real, bleeding wounds. But there I could not channel, and he was like the master of the house in that place.” She shuddered again, pushing away the memory of his torments, his threats, his promise to find her and her babe. “It is not easy to forget.” The attempt at a cool Aes Sedai look failed miserably in its effect; lost under the array of tear streams, red eyes, and the other obvious signs of distress and weeping. But he gave her credit silently for the attempt. At least it showed a sign of the woman he had known inside. Though her words of the bond's removal did ease him, it did not completely remove the tension that had lightly wrapped around his muscles preparing to move them into action should the environment around them warrant its necessity. The indignant sniff at the end wanted to pull at the corners of his mouth; the look and the sound at odds with one another like an upset spoiled child. There was a time that pull would have resulted in full on laughter erupting from deep within. Now was not the time or the situation to allow it life and instead only a slight twitched at the corners passed quickly. His hands folded together in his lap as he worked her comments about the bond over. It was information he had not heard before. That the bond shared between warder and sister should be the same, and that it was dissolved was something he had never pondered. Perhaps it was shared only with the potential bond-mate prior to bonding and held in secret or perhaps he had not sought out the information as he had never imagined a time and place where one would want to remove it once in place. Briefly the cynical player added the thought of a secret kept by the sisters to keep the warders enslaved to their purpose without the knowledge of an escape. He let it slide past without grabbing hold. There was already too much bitterness building to add to its heap. The malicious light that bloomed in her eyes as she spoke of daggers drew his attention more than her words. There was a fire behind that light. Something that resounded deep in her soul and openly dared you to challenge her. Light help a person that might fare that look. A small sense of pride in her eked out of the darkness inside as more of the Aes Sedai mantle seemed to touch her. A growing strength within that spoke of the woman he had once believed he had known and the woman he expected to wear the ring that flashed through her unruly locks. "This dream world you speak of .... this dream that is a waking world. A world where injury inflicted can carry across the boundary and where restriction in the world can carry to the dream. This seems too good to be true; almost an illusion perpetuated by the Father of Lies. How is it that one can find a single soul and force them into this world while not arousing suspicion of others they may have tripped over in the process? It seems that it should be widely known as the power and the options that could be gained from it is beyond that of the heights of Dragonmount itself." His wandering muse was given a light quizzical voice as his mind spun the puzzle pieces in place and sought a more vivid picture. A picture that refused its very form and as insult offered more pieces to the mess. Cut off words reminding him of a previous path not completed. His gaze sharpened slightly as he sought the deeper meaning to an earlier part of their conversation. "Lavinya, what did he do?" the question a hard turn from the direction they had been just on, but one that demanded he ask. "You were helpless and he .... what did he do Lavinya?" After glimpsing the play of puzzlement and disbelief across Corin’s face, Lavinya’s eyes settled on the hands in his lap as a safer target, only to find herself scowling to think she had voluntarily removed herself from their embrace and comfort after longing for it for so very long. No doubt it was for the best – she presumed in the light of day he would still accuse her of using womanly wiles to try and tie him to her and torture him for her own amusement – but it had been nice. Very nice. At least this way it was easier to focus her attention on his words and the subtle clues between them, in his tone and expression. He did not believe her, and why should he? It was ludicrous and far-fetched, and she had questioned her own sanity in the midst of the maelstrom of abuse many, many times. Still, the lack of trust was an insult to her pride, he knew she could tell no lie, but believe in her own delusions? Totally plausible. Her scowl deepened as he continued to speak, angry at his words, angry at herself for revealing this debilitating vulnerability, angry at him for being so damned difficult all the time, angry at the pattern for toying so cruelly with her thread. Opening her mouth to sharply clarify a few things such as the tower’s knowledge of the dream world but the lack of those with a talent for many years, and how only fools like taint-brained black coats thought to toy in the dangerous realm, and how was she bloody supposed to know how that madman knew what he did when the wretched man homed in on that little omission like a wolf might track its prey. That cursed intelligence and sharp wit of his was far less admirable when it was directed at her secrets. Her mouth clicked shut in a brief moment of panic – how does one simply spell out the methods of physical and psychological abuse she had been subject to? And what did they say about her? Would he think her stained by them? Broken and no longer fit for anything but pity? And if she began, would she be able to stop the spilling of her secrets? What if she thoughtlessly mentioned her pregnancy? She wanted to tell him everything, and the need frightened her. Agitated she rose from the bed where he still sat and walked to the wash-stand, pouring some water into the basin and splashing it on her face, not looking in Corin’s direction, instead gazing unseeingly into the dish as memories flashed painfully across her vision. The meetings in the dream world were only a part of Linten’s tyranny; he had dogged her waking and sleeping. The woods, the switch, the violations…all to be repeated in cruel parodies in her dreams. How he had learned Corin’s name and used it against her, wore his face, threatened her growing baby…Her hands clenched tightly on the edge of the wooden wash stand. She knew she had to tell him, that he would not let it rest and that - light burn her for a fool – she wanted to tell him, to unburden herself at last but ahh, why couldn’t it have been in different circumstances? Why couldn’t he have returned to the tower because he was looking for her, that he wanted to see her, and cared, genuinely cared like a true friend, confidant and lover. “He took advantage of my peril in every way his devious imagination could conjure.” Her voice was low as she reached for a towel, patting her face, lingering as though she could hide in the rough linen. Flatly, she continued, “Systematic abuse of both the mental and physical, the waking and the dreaming.” She threw the towel aside and wrapped her arms around herself as she paused in front of the single taper, shivering despite her best efforts as she remembered everything she tried to forget. “He was cunning and cruel and very clever, and delighted in bringing an arrogant Aes Sedai to heel, all the more so as I fought him every step of the way, as best I could.” But her best had been pitiful, a stone tossed at a hurricane, and she had to protect Elise, her innocent unborn child; Sirayn, she had protected the Amyrlin too, and Corin, always Corin, she had to keep Linten from finding them. And what happened while she did? The Amyrlin Seat took herself off and her ever vigilant guard had followed her. While Lavinya endured countless horrors, they had been together, for all she knew, laughing and cavorting- idiot, you know it’s not true. With difficulty she put aside the bitter thoughts and straightened her spine. “I will spare you the details, but whatever you might think to imagine, I assure you I endured it and worse still.” She held herself stiffly, waiting for the further withdrawal, for the contempt and pity, for the appropriate condolence before a hasty exit from the room and her very life. The spider sitting in the dark corner twitched at the sounding thread; watching over its moving prey. Patience and timing were key for its capture; light reflecting off the silky threads in perfect harmony until the unwitting fly touched their surface. In that instance panic ensued and the helpless fly's thrashing only ensnared it more as the spider rushed forth to secure its prey. Corin's eyes watched Lavinya as she played out her emotions, some well-hidden and some not. The image had once been a picture of his weakness in Sirayn's cold masterful hands. How different all their lives could have been had that chance encounter in the armory not taken place. Foolish thought, nothing by chance happened when Sirayn was involved. Even when Lavinya could control her emotions on the exterior, hid the thoughts and plans she held inside, secrets upon secrets, the barren absence shouted loudly of unspoken paths. Even a blind man robbed of sight could compensate and with time puzzle out his surroundings. But did he have enough time to leisurely puzzle out the mystery of the fiery redhead before him? As she began her tale he moved quietly to the peripheral of her vision as if slipping into the shadows that floated and twisted in parts of the room. Better to be silent in the background when one was waiting for a tongue to loosen. A reminder of lessons from the past burned into the tool the Tower had trained; the Green’s hand had seen to. Even as she spun out her story, the parts she was willing to share until he pulled more from her. His mind slipped into what had almost become second nature to him at one point in the past. Carefully noting words and inflections, looking for the absence and the change in thought or flow of her telling. His heart, the battered and bruised mess it had become, rumbled in the dark, under the analytics, wanting to plead a case. To act on her behalf and remind him of the past that had existed. It was forced back down out of focus swiftly and the action sickened him. What had become of the man he had been? Nothing, you were a farm boy before the Tower made you a man; she made you a tool. Now that tool has purpose again. The internal strife not even quirking an eyebrow as the analytical continued to measure each word and form before filing it away for later review. So many horrors of war could be found in books, Gleeman tales, and that of the battlefield after the butcher’s bill had been paid. Was there truly someone so evil there could be more than his imagination could conjure up? Darkfriends, mere children of the Father of Lies. Could you doubt that his taint touching the mind and soul of a man could not produce worse? He was suddenly aware of her form motionless before him, arms wrapped tight as if warding off the cold, or perhaps seeking protection from the dark. Her last words lost due to his internal distraction, a tool still flawed it seems. There was obviously more to the tale then she was willing to share at this point. Only snippets escaped her careful grasp of the whole. Fragments of a picture but still too many missing pieces to properly deduce the whole. Night had continued its slow creeping passage while they jousted over the information; over her brokenness. How long still remained? Moreover was the question of the Red and how she might look upon things if she was to check on her charge and find him in her room and a story of disaster writ on her face. If she came would Lavinya portray the confident and defiant Aes Sedai, or hand him over to her as a broken antagonist attempting to thwart her position with slander and trickery? Surely they hadn't drifted so far apart she would tie him in such a light. He was part of the cause for the hurt she held deeply to, but he was not solely responsible for it all. The vision of mirth filled storm gray eyes floated in the depths of his mind. They had once more come to be of their own volition, but he was unable to muster the desire to cast them back to the depths. He deserved her pleasure at his torment and failure. He deserved it all. Stepping closer his fingers lightly encircled her arms as if to add comfort and support to her. The contact warmed the palms of his hands while he peeked through the entangled strands of her wild hair and sought to find a glimpse of her eyes. It was the eyes that told the true story, the window to a person’s very soul. No matter how well they controlled their face, breathing, timing of words, or a myriad of other tells that plagued the human species. The eyes could tell you the truth, if the owner was willing to let you see to their depths. "Surely the Tower had dealt with this man before the rest of their gatherings were allowed to set foot in the Tower proper." The light flowery scent of her hair edged with a musky hint from the nightmare-induced panic that had gripped her assailed his nose and further fogged over the pieces he worked. Their close proximity now seeming to turn on him, a path he had ventured before. But it was not the path the Wheel had afforded them in the past. That foolishness had cost too many people. He could not afford to let it happen again, he would not. "Perhaps we should have your maid attend you further." His hands dropped back to his side as he turned back to the chair firmly set beneath the handle. The Red can protect her better from somewhere I obviously cannot travel. He scowled at the door briefly, a new thought arising. If this dream world that is not a dream is as she stated, then what good is a Warder? What good is the purpose I have given my life to? How could a Warder hope to protect their charge if the attack was from somewhere they could not see or be a shield from? A dark shadow slipped over his eyes; brow furrowing at the missing answers to his questions. Now that his very purpose seemed to be in question to an odd degree by his own hand and that of the wheels weaving, the player fell silent and into the back ground. A tool that only held part of a solution was still of value surely. Lavinya heard rather than saw him move, felt it like knife to the heart as she imagined him withdrawing in repulsion, leaving her to her misery, perhaps casting her one last pitiful glance before he opened the door. Wallowing in the imagined scenario meant that his touch was unexpected when it came, so simple a gesture and yet it pulled at her heart, drawing deep from the well of emotions she battled to contain. Tears pricked at her eyes and burned a lump in her throat; he was here, he was here, touching her, consoling her, he was here, and it was so very bittersweet. She had yearned for this in the secret places of her bruised heart, for companionship and an understanding soul, for friendship and the knowledge that someone cared; and yet she hadn’t wanted it from just any source, always it had been Corin she longed for, his arms she dreamed of around her, his understanding and his trust and friendship…no, more than friendship, she wanted love and intimacy, his love, for her fractured self to be made whole once more with their mutual affection serving as the healing balm. And now it was so close, he was so close, but still he was distant, further now, drawing away, assuring her that her fears must be madness, slipping out of reach, turning from her like he had before, leaving her alone, alone, always so alone…. “No!” The word was wrenched from her unbidden, hand outstretched towards him before she could even consider the consequences of such an action. Stupid, foolish girl. “No,” she whispered again, dropping her hand, anguished dark eyes clashing with piercing emerald before slipping away. He thinks you pathetic enough, she chided, no need to prove to him how accurate that opinion actually is. Mentally she scrambled, fighting for control over her wayward emotions but light it was difficult as she watched him mentally detach himself, trying to flee from the mess she made of his life. If only he knew just how much she had done so, her mind guiltily conjuring an image of Elise before it was banished once more. She had endured countless horrors in the name of protecting this mule-headed man, had borne his child in secret, had grieved for him when she thought him lost, had scoured the lands for news of him, had done all she could to protect him from scandal and retribution, longed for him still with all the strength in her foolishly generous heart. She was not letting him just walk away; could not, would not. But how could she truly stop him if that was what he wanted? “I do not know how effectively a man with his ability could be kept from the dream world,” she murmured, thankful that as yet Corin remained; for how long she couldn’t say. “It’s different there…thoughts come into being like images…faces and names betrayed to him…” she frowned, her fingers knotting together in front of her, absently toying with the space on her finger where her serpent ring usually resided. “No one knows the full extent of what he did, it was the only way I could keep,” you, she thought with a wry twist of her mouth, “people safe. I am sure he is still very much alive, though he was not one to join the delegation to the White Tower, light be praised.” A coward, no doubt he thought her a coward, weak and pathetic, too frightened to see a man brought to justice. A flash of anger lifted her chin, a hint of pride she clung to like a life-raft adding steel once more to her spine. “Saline knows nothing – along with the rest of the Tower - and so it will remain. My current…disagreement with sleep is no one’s concern but my own and I will deal with it as necessary.” Affecting a nonchalance she did not feel – her heart thundered in her chest, somehow it seemed everything between them past, present and future, balanced on her steps in this very moment. She shrugged one slender shoulder, a simple movement that expressed a complacency at odds with the way the pieces of her heart ground painfully against one another when she gazed at his face. “Eventually my subconscious will catch up with the reality I know; he cannot find me while my dreams are warded, and that is always, unless I am stilled or shielded, and I will die before that happens again.” Heat had crept back into her voice by the last, vehemence lacing the quietly delivered words. She did not need some false lady’s maid to dance attendance on her any more than she needed the pity of an ungrateful, surly tower guard who should bloody well treat her a lot better than he did. But then, she thought ruefully, I will take whatever I can get with Corin Danveer. Whatever it takes. A sudden yawn caught her and she clenched her jaw, fighting it back, warily glancing towards the window only to note how the sky had lightened with the first hint of dawn – it was only a touch, but it was enough to ease something that was tightly coiled inside of her. “There is still time to sleep.” She glanced over to the second bed in the small room, untouched by the red sister and likely to stay that way, Lavinya presumed, as the younger Aes Sedai followed her own whims and fancies and had airily made some mention of not waiting up that Lavinya had barely had patience to hear, eager as she had been to crawl into her bed. She moved then, crossing the small space to sit on her own bed, glancing up towards where Corin still hovered by the door. She caught her lower lip between her teeth but hastily released it when she realised she committed the betraying action and did her best to conceal the inner turmoil her next words were causing her. She held her breath, hoping against hope – “Corin…please stay.” Corin & Lavinya
  24. So! I have a shiny new Aes Sedai character and I'd love to play with her! She's a Blue with very Brown-ish tendencies and is generally friendly. Anyone feel like meeting her? I'm open to absolutely anything, including retro rp as a novice or accepted to help flesh her out. Chance meeting in the gardens? Novices looking to prank someone? Encounter in the warders yard? I'm open to anything and anyone, I just want to take her for a spin. Let me know if you're interested in something! :)
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