Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Tel'aran'rhiod and Portal Worlds
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Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Postby Bridget » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:17 pm

Haxia
Haxia stifled a yawn in her sleeve, reaching absently for an apple as she surveyed the dining hall. She was probably late, and could only count her blessings that there was still fruit. Having never been on such a schedule before, Haxia had only recently realized that she was always late. Aes Sedai, however, seemed to be far too dour to accept that excuse. Rubbing idly at her eyes with one hand, Haxia took a bite of the apple-

Except there was no apple.

She shrieked, jumping an awkward half step away from the table, her hand grasping first at air, and then at her own face. The dining hall was empty, and the fruitbowl was gone. Haxia deflated, sinking inelegantly to her knees, and stared vacantly at the floor. She had not meant to fall asleep. She had saved tea from the afternoon meal, and had situated herself as uncomfortably as she could manage in her chair. Her bed was as clean and neat as it had been when Haxia had arrived at the Tower.

Haxia sobbed, her shoulders shaking with the force of it, exhaustion burning her eyes through the tears. The Aes Sedai had said they would help, but there had been little of that so far. They told her that this place was a dream, that she must believe it to be a dream, but Haxia hardly saw the sense in that. Even they admitted that this Tel’aran’rhiod could hurt her, and that was real enough for Haxia. To say that she must believe herself to be real, but nothing else? It was all senseless riddles, and none of it had stopped her from ending up here.

She pressed her palms to her eyes, hard, and forced herself to swallow her sobs. When Haxia finally looked up, her shoulders were shaking fractionally with the force of her hiccuping breaths. The dining hall was as empty as it had ever been, with a few stray bowls of porridge that vanished as soon as she noticed them. Light, but Haxia hated this place. She stood and wiped at her face with the sleeve of her plain nightgown. It did little but spread wetness across her cheeks.

Scowling as fiercely as she could manage, Haxia stomped toward the door, green silk skirts brushing against her legs. Oh, Light. She was happy enough to be out of her nightclothes, but couldn’t a single thing in the blasted place stay constant? First fruit, then her clothes… Tel’aran’rhiod was the eeriest place she had ever been. Haxia could never shake the feeling of someone’s gaze on her back, and doors had a nasty habit of opening only to reveal no one standing on the other side. Haxia had not known what trollocs had looked like until her dreams had shown her, and she did her best not to wonder what nightmares she might see now. Haxia ran her thumb fitfully along her right forearm, at the scar Tel’aran’rhiod had left. It was terrifying to know that she might die in this place, although she supposed it was likely enough to die outside of her dreams, as well. But at least doors never opened for no reason when she was awake-

The door to the hallway swung open.

Haxia froze, her heartbeat thumping in her ears. She could smell smoke, hear the low crackle of fire. It was just like the dreams that had haunted her as a child, after she had burned herself on the fireplace. A man made of fire. He had chased her in her nightmares, a man with white hot embers for eyes. Haxia took a slow, stumbling step backwards, hand flying to the table to steady herself. It couldn’t be-

“Nothing here is real.” She breathed, trying hard to believe. But the scent of smoke was stronger now. Fingers of flame wrapped around the edge of the door, wood crackling as it caught fire. Haxia screamed and turned, tripping over her own skirts and caught herself just in time on the bench before her. Her slippers skidded across the stone floor, and she scrambled to her feet gracelessly. She ran, her slippers turning to leather boots as she tore towards the kitchens. Haxia skidded through the door and froze, her eyes darting from the counters, to the cabinet, to the pantry.

It was only after she had tucked herself into the pantry, knees clasped in trembling hands, that Haxia remembered that the man of fire had always found her, no matter how cleverly she hid.

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Re: Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Postby Elan » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:27 am

Mael

It was funny, Mael thought idly, how some things were so fundamentally tied to your identity that they carried over to Tel’aran’rhiod without conscious thought — and some others were not. The scar on his face fell into the former category, but the leg injury that made him use a cane in the waking world didn’t. Of course he didn’t want to be limited in such a way, here, where he didn’t have to be… but sometimes it was difficult not to get all philosophical about it. At which point did something become a part of your identity rather than just a limitation of your body?

Even more interesting right now, however, was how the red cord of his new Ajah had stuck immediately; he’d never once had to imagine it into being, it had simply been there as part of his uniform the first time he’d entered the World of Dreams since officially joining the Grey Tower.

Maybe that meant he was in the right place. Or maybe he just wanted it to mean that. Want and need were powerful tools in Tel’aran’rhiod, but one had to remain especially wary of seeing signs in things like that in a place where you could imagine things into being.

At present he was simply wandering the empty halls of the Grey Tower with no particular aim or purpose. He’d already visited the M’Hael’s office — the Black Tower one’s, not Liendin’s — Light, this was confusing — but all he’d found there had a list of new recruits from the past month, a report of two dead and one burnt out in a training accident, and something that had borne the seal of an Andoran noble House that Mael hadn’t been able to identify before the document turned into a badly written, angry letter from someone demanding to know what had happened to their son. The name was not familiar to him, but Mael had committed it to memory in case he happened to find out the kid’s fate and might be able to help the family.

Lost in thought, he drifted until he found himself near the kitchens. Amused at the choice of destination — maybe some part of him had fancied a midnight snack — he was about to leave when suddenly he smelled smoke. That was always an unfortunate thing to find in the kitchen, but that aside, there shouldn’t have been anything cooking here, much less burning. Perhaps one of the cooks was touching the World of Dreams while having a nightmare? But ordinary people never stayed in Tel’aran’rhiod for more than a few seconds at a time. Sometimes their nightmares lingered, however, and unwary Dreamwalkers might stumble into them.

Thinking it was best to check it out, Mael strode into the kitchen… and stared. Instead of a distressed cook and burnt dinner, he was faced with what looked like a creature of flames in vaguely human form. Pure malevolence seemed to radiate from the thing like heat — in addition to actual heat, of course — as it glanced back at Mael before resuming its slow, lumbering advance towards the pantry closet.

A nightmare creature if there ever was one. And, Mael suspected that whoever had dreamt it up was cowering in the pantry. Well then. Usually it was simple enough to get rid of stray nightmares, simply refusing to accept them as real, but that was made more difficult if there was someone present who believed in the nightmare… And whoever was hiding from the flame creature very much believed in it. This made things more complicated.

Or perhaps not so. “Hang in there,” Mael called out, hoping the poor soul wasn’t too terrified to hear him. And then he latched onto the fire creature with his mind, shifting through the World of Dreams as he did so, landing both himself and the mass of flames in a lake in northern Kandor. The shock of being suddenly immersed in freezing water was far from pleasant — in retrospect, he could have thought that move through a little better — but watching the fire creature die in a puff of steam made it worth it.

With half a thought, Mael shifted back to the kitchen in the Grey Tower, for a second dripping water onto the floor until he fixed the image of himself again, his uniform dry and tidy. He’d been gone for only seconds, and he hoped the unfortunate dreamer hadn’t bolted in the meanwhile. Carefully, avoiding sudden movements, he pulled the door open and held out his hand towards the young girl. “You can come out now,” he said softly. “It’s safe. Are you alright?”

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Re: Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Postby Bridget » Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:56 pm

Haxia
She stared at the hand extended to her for a moment before she took it, and promptly burst into tears. For a moment she knelt there awkwardly, one hand extended and gripping the man’s hand hard, before she hauled herself to her feet. Haxia let go of his hand slowly and reluctantly, and leaned unsteadily against the doorframe instead. She shook while she cried, horrible soundless sobs that she couldn’t seem to stop. “I’m sorry.” Haxia forced out, through the tears. “I… I hate this place so much!”

It was a juvenile thing to say, but Haxia could think of nothing better. She covered her face with her hands, ashamed, trying desperately to master herself. The monster from her dreams was gone, somehow. She was safe now, or at least as safe as she could expect to be in Tel’aran’rhoid. It took a long minute for her to cease her tears, and Haxia didn’t dare look at the poor man while she cried. “I am sorry.” She forced out, one more time, disgusted with herself.

Finally, she ceased her sobs, and wiped the tears from her face with a trembling hand. It was with great effort that she made herself look at him, new tears prickling at the corner of her eyes with the shame of it. He was an Asha’man- Haxia had learned enough to know what a cord signified. Abruptly, she was aware of what she was wearing. Or rather, not wearing; her clothing flickered incessantly. She could not help but flush anew. Desperately, she thought of the white dress. Plain white wool skirts, plain white slippers… Haxia focused until it was true, held it in her mind so she could think of nothing else. She imagined her face dry, her hair pulled back in a simple braid, and believed as hard as she could. For once, it was a relief to look down, and see the horrid white dress.

“Thank you.” Haxia gathered herself to meet his gaze, doing her best to smile prettily. But her mouth trembled at the corners, despite her best efforts. “I do not know what would have happened if you had not…” She trailed off then, suddenly all too aware of what would have happened if this Asha’man had not happened upon her. “I- thank you, Asha’man.” It occurred to her then that she should curtsey, so she bobbed awkwardly in place.

The Asha’man was a handsome man, with curly hair and an interesting scar. Haxia forced herself to think of that, that and her white novice dress, instead of focusing on what might have been. “I am Haxia do’Catalan a’Coralle. I… can’t seem to stop myself from dreaming of Tel’aran’rhiod.”

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Re: Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Postby Elan » Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:24 am

Mael

The girl was crying. That, Mael supposed, was a perfectly natural reaction to such a fright, but that didn’t mean he had the first idea what to do about it. He patted her shoulder awkwardly, but that didn’t feel like enough… and at the same time anything more would have been too much; he was a stranger to her, for all that he’d just saved her life, a strange older man looming over her. No, invading her personal space any more was probably not the way to go.

He waited in silence for her to gather herself, simply focusing on asserting his will over the surroundings, keeping more monsters from manifesting. Everything was quiet, calm; there was nothing to fear. Gradually she seemed to regain control of herself, her dress stopped changing, the tears stopped, and eventually she looked up and spoke again.

He tried to think of a way to wave aside her apologies and thanks that wouldn’t come across as rude, but in the end he just nodded. “It’s alright, look, what you need is training. Haxia, nice to meet you. I’m Mael. Mael Akashi, of the Red Ajah, but that’s not important here; just call me Mael.” He smiled briefly. “There’s no Mistress of Novices here.”

Light, he was not used to reassuring or comforting people. And in Tel’aran’rhiod, he wasn’t used to even interacting with anyone. He’d only ever seen some poor souls who touched the World of Dreams by accident, for a few seconds, and he’d seen the nightmares they sometimes left behind, but no other Dreamers. Since coming to the Grey Tower, he’d sometimes felt like he was being watched; sometimes he was almost sure he could see a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye but when he turned there was nothing there. If there was another Dreamer watching him, they never made their presence known to him.

“Speaking of whom… Are the Aes Sedai not teaching you?” If for whatever reason they weren’t… Well, Mael wasn’t going to leave another Dreamer to figure out Tel’aran’rhiod on their own, even if it meant overstepping boundaries.

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Re: Dreams that Burn (Atn: Elan)

Postby Bridget » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:55 pm

Haxia
The Asha’man looked terribly uncomfortable and awkward in the face of her unhappiness. It lifted her spirits and shamed her all at once; it went against all her training as a perfect host and noblewoman, but light, he had patted her shoulder. In any other circumstance, it might have been enough to make her giggle. As it was, it was still difficult not to shake. Haxia clamped her right hand to her other arm, trying to fight off the chills. It was all she could do not to hunch over herself, to keep her gaze focused on the Asha’man instead of darting uselessly around the kitchen, searching for monsters.

“Of course, Mael.” She said at his urging to use his name rather than his title, her smile steadying slightly. The man was charming, likely despite himself, and Haxia could not help but enjoy his bluntness. Every other Aes Sedai and Asha’man was likely to talk circles around her, which was just another source of frustration and dismay. She had been taught wit and conversation in the cradle. Her father would be ashamed to see her now; incapable of following subtle conversation and blubbering over strange men.

Her expression soured at his question. “Yes, an Accepted is teaching me. I’m afraid she rather… despairs of me.” She suspected the lessons were to teach Jesanyne patience as much as they were to teach her to dream. The other woman clearly resented the encroachment on her time in the World of Dreams, and just as clearly found Haxia to be a tedious and unfulfilling student. “I was meant to not enter Tel’aran’rhiod tonight.” Haxia could not help the anger that touched her words then. Jesanyne knew very well that that was an impossible task for her- it was obvious that the woman would rather avoid her than teach her. Haxia was only just accepting that she must learn, and it burned that the Accepted had no desire to help her.

If she could only learn to dream, she could leave the Grey Tower and return home. Well, perhaps not- Tia Sedai had made it very clear that she must learn to channel as well, lest she kill herself with that particular unwanted gift. Haxia shied away from that thought, tears prickling at her eyes, and squeezed her arms tighter about herself. She could not help but feel that she would never master Tel’aran’rhiod and saidar well enough to satisfy the Grey Tower- that she would remain in novice whites for the rest of her years, haunting the halls of the Tower asleep and awake.


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