Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

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Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Craig » Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:15 am

Elia Darrow
Where am I? How did I get here? She didn't know. The last few moments were a dizzying blur, and before then was nothing. Her memories seemed only to exist from this moment onwards although she knew who she was. I am Elia Darrow, Aes Sedai.

Something pressed against her neck. She felt a line of pain as the knife cut into the skin. If not for the imminent threat of death then she would have cried out. Instead, she visibly shook whilst trying to keep the dagger away from slicing up her throat. Or she tried, except that she found her hands and feet bound. Her bare knees kneeled on the cold stone floor and the air was freezing against her flesh.

"Do you wish to join the Black Ajah?"

Elia went bug-eyed. The question had been whispered in her ear, quite likely from the same woman who held the knife at her throat. Fear gripped her, twisted in her stomach and heart. The Light preserve me, she prayed. By her ear, the woman chuckled. "The Light won't save you, Elia."

A mirror appeared in front of her. Elia saw her reflection and the knife pressing against her knife. She saw the absolute look of terror in her eyes. Her nose was running even though she held back the tears.

"Yes," she lied. It was a lie, and she could lie. The Light preserve her, she had dodged around the Three Oaths. She was Aes Sedai, but she was not bound by the Three Oaths. The mirror and knife vanished. She gripped her throat and tried to breathe deeply at the same time. Turning her neck, she looked around the room at the four other figures assembled there. Four shapeless forms in black robes. Darkfriends, she wailed, Black Ajah!

One of them, possibly the woman who had whispered, pressed something firmly into her hand. It was a foot-long rod of white ivory. The Darkfriend closed Elia's fist around it and then started to channel into it. "Repeat after me. 'I foreswear all oaths that bind me.'"

"I... I foreswear all oaths that bind me."

Nothing happened. There were no oaths to unbind her from. The woman that gripped her hand seemed to hesitate for a second, then she added "Repeat after me. 'I shall obey all commands given by those placed above me in service to the Great Lord.'"

"I shall obey all commands given by those placed above me in service to the Great Lord." As her voice clicked shut, a jolt of something strange ran through her. Her skin felt tight around her as if her body was being stuffed into a bag that was too small to fit her.

"Repeat after me," the woman continued, "'I shall prepare for the day of the Great Lord's return.'"

Great Lord? Of course, they didn't refer to the Dark One as the Dark One. The hand around her own squeezed in a demand for compliance. "I shall prepare for the day of the Great Lord's return," Elia repeated.

"Repeat after me. 'I shall hold close the secrets of the Black Ajah, unto the hour of my death.'"

No! "No!" she cried. Elia rose swiftly, breaking free from contact with the Oath Rod. She spun around to strike at the woman but the robed figure moved too fast. She took a hold of Elia's right forearm in an iron grip, and placed her open palm against Elia's chest, preventing her from moving. Somehow Elia felt paralysed, incapable of doing anything other than being held in place by the woman in black.

Then there was the pain. A torrid rush of agony burnt its way through her veins. Her body felt like it was on fire, but she couldn't move. Wide green eyes struggled to look for salvation in any form, but the flames seemed to consume her soul. She could only scream within the confines of her own mind and it was a scream that should have shattered the world.

It ended after only a few seconds, the Darkfriend releasing Elia's arm. Looking down, the Shienaran gasped in horror. Her arm was blackened and withered like a corpse's. The limb seemed to belong to a creature of the Shadow, but it moved in concert with her thoughts. "No! No no no," she wailed.

Something clamped around her throat. She heard the click of a latch and felt the cool touch of metal. She reached up with both hands and felt a singular piece of metal around her neck. It only had one blemish, where a loop seemed to be attached to a chain. Elia tried to turn around to face the origin of the chain, but it was always behind her. After a few moments of wild thrashing to see who held it, the chain rose up, pulling the collar and Elia up from the ground. Her larynx was pincered between the metal collar and gravity. Elia tried desperately to break the chain or lift herself away from the collar, but nothing worked. Her legs kicked before up, seeking purchase on anything. There was no ground. The chain wouldn't break. I'm dying she thought as the air within her blood began to diminish. I am going to die.

----
Elia bolted upright. She gasped for air as she flailed to remove the a'dam from her neck. There was no a'dam, no collar. It took her several more panicked moments to realise that she was not a sul'dam's toy, nor trapped in a cage of Vaidulo, nor being forced to swear oaths to the Black Ajah in the basement of the Grey Tower. This was her bedroom, within the Indigo Ajah Hall. I am Elia Sedai, Aes Sedai. Fortunately, the nightmare did not start anew.

She was awake. There was no denying that sleep would fail to find her if she tried it again. That nightmare had replayed in her mind countless times, although the inclusion of the a'dam was new. Elia was well aware what the dreams meant. I made a mistake in trusting Mirin. That trust led me unwilling into the Black Ajah. The Black Ajah led me to other Darkfriends, and they led me to Seanchan. A singular failure in judgement transformed her into Deyeniye, the crippled and pregnant Darkfriend.

What had been woven in the Pattern could not be unwoven. I am Deyeniye. She could never change the decisions she had made, so the only course of action was to move on. Move or die. That was the philosophy when you made it to the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah: always forward, never backwards.

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, Elia struggled up onto her feet. Her shift was sweat-slicken and stuck to her rotund form. She was only just over halfway through this struggle, and she would have paid a fortune to have it over. The Yellows had practically crooned over how easy a pregnancy she was having. The First Seeker had a few choice words to throw back in their unpleasant faces.

Elia stripped herself bare, then used a towel to soak up the worst of the sweat. After that, she pulled open one drawer from her cabinet and slipped into a new shift. It wasn't the nicest of feelings but she had no energy to do any more. Maybe she could bathe later. For now, being up and in a vague semblance of dress would have to suffice.

The Shienaran took a little bit more time getting into her dress. Today it was a dark green like her eyes, although the similarity was unintended. She struggled to get the buttons behind her back, and conceded with only half of them finished. That left her with loose shoulders and a drooping neckline, although neither was wholly inappropriate. Not that she cared. No-one looked at her in that way anymore. The rumours were about the father, and she wondered most than even the worst of the gossips.

The First Seeker entered the main room of her apartment and went straight to settling into her chaise longue. Her bump was quite noticeable, but it concealed her state of undress. It was also comfortable, which was a luxury. I am never sleeping with another man again if this is the result. Light, why couldn't she just give birth now?

Before her thoughts descended into further pitiful cries of self-despair, there was a familiar knock on the door. Her disquiet immediately vanished. "It's open," she called out.
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Marla » Sat May 13, 2017 2:15 pm

Dax

When all else failed to settle his mind Dax turned to what he knew best. The padded mannequin that bore the brunt of his attack had no physical face, but in his mind it wore many. Every man who had laughed, every woman who looked down on him. His brother. His father. The Borderlander Drin who had once roundly defeated him and dumped him in a fountain. Others, each coupled with its own distasteful memory.

Thump.

The Blademaster’s leg dropped as he turned, then swung up and unfurled again with mechanical precision.

Thump.

With every face and word that rose in his mind the Tairen’s feet and fists left their mark on the padding. The fabric he wrapped his fists in was stained with his blood, unnoticed in the miasma of grief and anger that gripped him.

Shadows seeped through his vision as he fought demons no one else could see. The real world faded and he found himself on his knees in a room he had once called home. Please, he said as his eyes fixed on a slender woman’s swelling belly. Please don’t do this. I love you.

I release you from your vows, Dakson Torellion. A woman’s voice drifted across time and the bond he had once hated ceased to exist. The color went out of the world and his mind whirled, battered about by emotions he did not want and could not understand. Do not follow me, Dax. And she was gone.

Dax swore out loud as he returned to the present, his fist swinging with all his strength in a desperate attempt to banish the loneliness that gripped him. White-hot pain lanced up his arm and the Gaidin stumbled backward with a yelp, clutching his hand to his chest. His fingers tangled in the necklace he still wore after all that time, the metal digging into his neck. It was too much. All of it, too much. He yanked on the pendant, staring at the broken chain with blind eyes.

The green in the bond had been a baby. A baby. A child the Tairen would never know and yet still loved. She is never coming back, brother. Dax bit into his lip so hard he tasted salt and iron. Why are you torturing yourself? Jem so rarely seemed rational or caring; why did he have to start now?

The Gaidin strode away at a rapid pace, the bit of amber still clutched against his palm. His feet soon carried him blindly along the northern path to the old Tower ruins. He didn’t know what he was looking for until he got there, but once he arrived he knew it instantly. He paused between a bit of crumbled wall across from what had once been a rounded alcove, his head swinging back and forth thoughtfully. Eventually cold blue eyes fixed on the ground before the wall, rebuilding an entirely different scene in his mind. My name, Dax. Say my name. Light, what had happened to him that day?

Dax didn’t look to see where the amber pendant landed when he threw it away. It didn’t matter.

---

When Dax returned some hours later he worked his way up through various corridors and stairwells to the Indigo quarters as he had every morning since returning from Vaidulo. The woman who waited there needed him even if they never touched each other in passion again. She bore children as well...two of them. His. The Tairen lacked the ability to explain why he had claimed them. Elia didn’t trust him- why would she? He knew he would not back down, however. How could he ever hope to describe what happened inside his mind when he thought about losing them? Never again.

His bruised knuckles protested when he knocked, but he barely felt it in the face of the tumult in his mind. When Elia’s voice called for him to enter he pushed the door open and strode in, his eyes scanning the dim room momentarily before alighting on the green-eyed woman on the- what did she call it? Ah. The chaise longue. It was a sofa to him, but the Indigo did like fancy words.

Elia wore dark green, her growing stomach apparent even with the loose folds of fabric that gave away her state of dishabille. Her pretty face was marred by dark shadows beneath her eyes and her vibrant locks looked as if she hadn’t bothered to straighten it when she rose from her bed. For a moment he remembered how she had been the night that had brought her current condition about...every hair and fold of fabric in place, beautiful face perfectly distant, every action deliberate and controlled.

At least in her current condition she could not judge him for the clear signs of a late night of dedicated drinking followed by a morning of violence.

“Good morning,” he said gruffly. The words felt trite, given their shared disagreeable state, but some sort of greeting seemed necessary. Although she did not respond, Elia’s green eyes lit up, even if only a little, and he gave her a small smile in return. Dax went to the side table without another word and gathered her tea tray, noting the cups had not been rinsed and the pot still held the remnants of last night’s drink. The quiet continued as he fetched water from her wash stand and cleaned them, then poked up the coals in the hearth and put the kettle on to heat.

Then he settled next to the Aes Sedai to wait. “Did you have bad dreams again?” He asked. She nodded in frozen silence. After a moment of hesitation the Gaidin lifted his arm and put it around her shoulders, pulling her pale, slender body against his side. “Do you want to talk about them?”
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Craig » Wed May 17, 2017 12:13 pm

Elia
Elia didn't stop noticing things just because of her condition. She saw the telltale signs of heavy drinking before she smelled it on Dakson's breath, and she wasn't fooled by the wrappings around his hands. There was something wrong with Dax and it wasn't getting better. That concerned her, although it was one concern amongst many. She wondered if Dax would actually step up into his role as a father, and questioned how good a parent he could prove himself to be. She levelled the same questions at herself, although things were different for her. These children were definitely hers, and she was bound to the Grey Tower. Neither was necessarily true for Dax.

The sad part, maybe for the both of them, is that she would never ask what it was that troubled him. She thought about it, as he prepared the kettle, but those tentative inquiries vanished the moment his arm looped around her shoulders. There was something about his touch, or possibly just something about the inferred intimacy of the action that completely stilled her mind. When she was with Dax, she could simply be in the moment. For those precious few seconds, she could just be a person being held by another, and nothing more.

The moment never lasted; the moment never could. Dax was never going to be hers in a way that had meaning, and Elia didn't think the Tairen wanted to be any more entangled with her as he already was. Maybe she was wrong about that, but that was another question she wouldn't ask. Everything about their relationship, such as it was, felt fragile. She didn't wish to ask anything of him in case he flew away in anger. He never shown her anything but a dutiful sense of care but she was scared of it.

She felt wretched. Closing her eyes to avoid looking at him, her mind made her stomach churn. She'd never been so dependent on another person before, yet this was the position she found herself in. Reason said that she would manage everything -- being Aes Sedai, being Deyeniye, raising two children -- with the assistance of various servants and minions. Yet to her heart, Dax seemed integral. Vital. The world would literally end if he left her.

Opening her eyelids, she looked at Dax. At his chest, specifically, but anything of him was good. With him, she didn't have to pretend to be anything other than this. And for him, she could answer these questions. No-one else knew about the dreams, but Dax could know.

"Vaidulo and Seanchan," she stated simply. It was always that, or the Black Ajah, if it was a nightmare. "I dreamt of being imprisoned again. I dreamt of dying." It didn't matter if it was death by strangulation or death by Rending or death by becoming a sul'dam's pet. All three of those scenarios had played out in the past and they would again. Becoming damane was the worst of the three. Sometimes she felt like weeks had passed in her dreams, and all the time she was just some beast on a leash.

A tear trickled down her cheek. She pressed herself deeper against Dax. Elia didn't know what he dreamt of, nor the horrors that kept him in this circle of self-loathing. Maybe her problems were the lesser of the two. Again, she thought of asking and again she decided against it. Maybe he was brittle, but he was here. That was what she needed.

After a long moment, she turned her face so her voice could be heard clearly. She was giving in to distress, but she hadn't the energy to fight it. "You'll look after them if I die, won't you?" Whether the Seanchan or the Black Ajah or the Grey Tower, death would find her sooner or later. Now she understood why Mirin did as she did. Mirin, who Elia had thought of as so pathetic at the time. The dead Cairhienin would have laughed herself to death to see Elia now.
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Marla » Sat Jun 03, 2017 2:15 pm

Dax

Elia pressed against Dax like a scared child, her mystery and power cast aside and forgotten. The Tairen looked down at her thoughtfully. Her bodice had twisted awry to bare her shoulder; his palm rested at the top of her arm, dirty thumb in sharp contrast to her milky-white complexion as he drew slow circles on her back. He could not see her face, only a screen of tangled copper that glinted in the light of the fire.

Vaidulo and Seanchan. The stuff of nightmares indeed, only all too real. Dax’s encounters still haunted his thoughts and he had taken no lasting damage; how much worse for the woman who had been imprisoned and damaged by both? He could not blame her for thinking of death, but that didn’t mean he had to sit by and let it happen.

"You'll look after them if I die, won't you?"

Something in his chest lurched. Dax shifted to face her, his fingertips tilting her face up to his. “You are not going to die, Elia.”

“You can’t know that.” She pulled free, but didn’t look away. Small victories. “You will, won’t you Dax?”

Dax remained quiet for an inordinate amount of time after she spoke. I could be free again, if something happened. You would never know, and no one else in the Tower knows they are mine. Light caught on lines of wet that streaked down the Aes Sedai’s face; Dax brushed at them, the dirt on his fingers mingling with her tears. A mess, just like they were; he supposed someone other than he might have been enamored of the symbolism.

I do be finding that those who do be needing to create their own moral compass, do so after a long time...it does make me very happy to be hearing you did find your way home.

Well then.

Dax dropped his hand, letting it rest gently on her belly. “By the Light and my hope of salvation and rebirth, I will protect and care for our children,” he said softly, “from this day to my last, come what may.” He smiled up at her, blue eyes alight. “Does that suffice, my lady?”
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Craig » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:05 am

Elia
Elia smiled faintly, but on the inside she was jubilant. With that oath, the children had a chance. Something that was hers would outlive the threats to come, of which there would be plenty. She overlaid her good hand on his, her slender digits finding the gaps between his fingers. Elia squeezed his hand lightly, still wary that this moment could be easily shattered by a single false move.

A few more moments passed in his arms. Long, glorious moments filled simply by their shared presence, ruined by the smell of stale ale and sweat. Elia didn't want to think what it was doing to the fabric of her chaise longue, so she didn't. Just focus on this she thought. The moment wasn't going to last. She let go of his hand, twisted her head slightly to get a better look at her momentary caretaker. Even as dishevelled as he appeared this morning, Dax was still undoubtedly handsome. That was a good part of what made him so attractive. His silver tongue was another.

"My lady?" she echoed, lips curling into a more fulsome smile. Flattery will get you everywhere with me 'my lord'. Clearly it was just made as a passing comment, but the insincerity didn't matter. "It more than suffices. Thank you for... everything." Sliding her hand underneath his, she lifted it before her lips and kissed him gently. The back of his hand tasted of sweat and dirt.

Settling back against his chest, Elia closed her eyes again. No sooner than she got comfy, the piercing whine from the kettle began to fill her chambers. Dax's hand vanished from her stomach. Elia started to shift her weight off from him as he extracted himself and tended to the fireplace. She used his momentary distraction to sort out her dress.

"Dax? You--" Brilliant blue eyes momentarily froze her speechless. "That oath, you made that for the children. It... That... You don't feel like that toward me, do you?" She smiled wanly, eyes downcast, frightened to see the truth in his expression. "I mean that whatever this is between us, it ends if the children aren't yours, doesn't it? You're here for them and not for me."
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Marla » Fri Jun 16, 2017 3:52 pm

Dax

The tea kettle interrupted a moment with dangerous potential. Dax extricated himself from the couch -chaise longue, he reminded himself- and crouched by the fire. He could hear the rustle of cloth as the Aes Sedai moved about, but it wasn’t until she said his name that the Gaidin turned to face her.

Human. Vulnerable. Beautiful. He almost didn’t hear the words coming out of Elia’s mouth and he certainly forgot about the kettle in his hand as they stared at one another. Her eyes dropped and he came back to himself just in time to transfer the hot metal from one hand to the other to avoid a burn. “I mean that whatever this is between us, it ends if the children aren't yours, doesn't it?You're here for them and not for me."

The Tairen poured water into the pot on the tray, then set the kettle on the hearth. The activity was more a pragmatic acknowledgment of his own distraction than it was any attempt at delay; the moment the metal touched stone he pushed himself back to his position next to the pregnant woman.

“They are mine.” Dax collected Elia’s hand between his own as he spoke. “Maybe they don’t share my blood, but I will keep my vow regardless. No child should grow up fatherless when there is someone willing to fill the void. Never!” Thoughts of his own childhood and Katrie’s departure gave the last word a great deal more passion than he had intended; his voice cracked and he inhaled sharply before he exposed himself further. Too late to take it back now.

“As for you…” The Tairen studied the slender hand he held as he put his thoughts together. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I’ve felt like a bloody nuisance more than anything else, but you need assistance that I can provide and that you won’t admit to any other you need. So here I am, and here I’ll stay.”

He looked up at her, thinking of how he might have responded in similar circumstance in the past. Have I ever been in this circumstance? No, not particularly, but there had been other moments of honesty he could draw from for guidance. “What,” he took a breath, “what do you want me to say, Elia? What...would you have from me?”
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Re: Growing Pains (Attn: Marla)

Postby Craig » Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:15 pm

Elia
She shouldn't have asked that question. She was scared of losing him. Anything that jeopardised that shouldn't have been broached... but her heart and her mind were apparently not in agreement.

What do I say? Asking Dax to make up his own choice was the wisest path to take. To maintain the status quo. She could survive in this emotional landscape where he was a feature but never home. Between than the alternative, where there was no Tairen for Elia to find modest, fleeting comfort in. That still brought a wretchedness with it, knowing that she depended so thoroughly on his presence to maintain her sanity.

That is why I should pull him closer. She'd never made do with what she had for years now, so why did Dax get to be the exception? If the Tairen was as lost and adrift as she was, then reeling him in would be easy. Then it would be a case of enduring his alcoholism and self-flagellation.

Elia breathed in unsteadily. Heart pounding, she squeezed on his hand. "I can't lose you," she stated with naked earnestness. Everything the Oathsworn should say had to be true, but her cracking voice denied her any room for deception. "I want more from you, but not at the risk of losing what we have." Whatever that is. At the moment it seemed like Elia was the patient, with Dax playing the carer. Maybe an unjust definition, and maybe not much.

Her thoughts drifted for a moment, back to familiar musings. "I would want my parents to love one another. I would like the same for our children. If it is possible."
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