Dreams of the Past - to Rhuidean
Posted 02 March 2009 - 12:41 PM
Kairn laughed and hugged Melanas and ran a hand through the other girl's short springy curls. "He is a baby, they grow fast. But you will not be gone from us for so great a time, Apprentice." Melanas hid a small smile, she was still so pleased to have been chosen for the great work of Wise One. It meant a lot to her to have so important a position within the clan, and to be able to give so much to her people. But no matter how much she was happy to be going, she would still miss Kairn and her little brother Shulo. She was certain the toddler would be practicing spears and learning the words to the battle songs before she got to see him again. She would miss watching the child grow up, but someday she would have the wholes tribes' people and children to look after.
With a determined smile, Melanas broke away from Kairn and set out for Rhuidean.
It was not a short trip from their hold to Rhuidean, but most of it was settled enough by her people that as a Wise One apprentice, she was able to move from hold to hold and sept to sept and find welcome and shade and water at each place. Part of her longed for company during the trip, but most of her was happy that when the tears came, tears of fear or sadness at her life changing, they were not witnessed. This dream was too sweet to wake up from just yet, and sometimes she worried at whether she would be strong enough for the training an Apprentice must endure.
Melanas did arrive at the slopes outside of Rhuidean just after sunset. She climbed the slope in the dwindling light. She would meet with Covina and her new life would begin. When she gained the summit and looked back down behind her, she saw the billowy clouds that shrouded Rhuidean in mist and mystery. She would be going into the city of the Jenn Aiel in the morning, and she could only hope that she would make her way out of it again.
She slept under the stars that night, the warmly woven cloak from her mother serving as blanket, her folded arms as her pillow. The night was clear and cold, and she could see the stars shining clearly, looking down on her. She fell asleep and dreamed of the life she hoped would come.
She woke up with the dawn, scrambling to her feet and letting the cloak drop away unnoticed as she realized she wasn't alone. Covina, head of all the Wise Ones, stood nearby gazing down at Rhuidean. The light of morning caught in the clouds and shaded them pink and orange, giving the lost city a warm glow, almost welcoming. She knew not every Apprentice came back out of Rhuidean - not even most of them. As she scrambled to the Wise One's side, she wondered what hidden horrors could be lurking in so beautiful a place.
She faced Covina bravely, but she could not work up the moisture in her mouth to say even the customary greetings. Surely the woman would have seen this in enough girls to know that it was awe at Rhuidean and a fear of what was to come that held her tongue instead of any intended slight.
Posted 02 March 2009 - 07:51 PM
She had offered the young woman a tent, but could respect her desire to sleep under the stars. She knew that every year some girls went to Rhuidean and woke from the dream. It was hardly something to cause fear but the prospect of waking did cause many new thoughts; especially for one unused to courting death.
That night Covina did not sleep, not a true sleep. She had spent the night in the World Of Dreams. There was much to prepare and with only her to do the work she was afforded little choice. She could only hope that the new girls would have the talent. Covina was out on the slopes with the other Wise One’s before she sun was up and Melanas stood ready to face them.
One of the others had to remind her to strip down to her skin, and give her a small poke to make her move. It was not the first time a girl had been struck dumb at facing the city in the land of the Jenn Aiel. “Your new life will await your return Malanas. Now listen and heed. “
“In Rhuidean you will find three rings, arranged so.” Covina used Saidar to draw the rings as they would be seen. “Step through any one. You will see your future laid before you, again and again, in variation. They will not guide you wholly, as is best, for they will fade together as stories heard long ago, yet you will remember enough to know that some things must be for you, despised as they may be, and some that must not, cherished hopes that they are. This is the beginning of being called wise. Some women never return from the rings; perhaps they could not face the future. Some who survive the rings do not survive their second trip to Rhuidean, to the heart.”
A Wise One from Melanas own hold leaned in to whisper words of encouragement and kissed her cheek. Covina was the last in that line and she kissed her cheek tenderly, with the sudden thought that someday her daughter might well stand in this place. “Come back to us” And with that she was gone, it would be decided soon. Taking to her tent Covina meditated over tea.
Posted 02 March 2009 - 08:39 PM
She took off for Rhuidean without speaking. Her throat was constricted tight with some combination of apprehension and excitement and if she'd tried to speak, she didn't think she'd have gotten much more than a squeak out. It was not the way an Aiel should greet the next step of her journey. So she took off at a run, bare feet pounding against the hardened rock of the slope as she pumped her arms and legs as if Sightblinder were hot on her heels. Her thoughts churned as she run and they cycled around themselves. Dread turned to wonder, wonder to excitement, excitement to apprehension, apprehension to dread. By the time she closed on the mist surrounding the ancient city, she was thinking very little at all, having exhausted the courses to think about.
After the warming heat of the morning sun, the sudden cool mist was startling. She broke out in goosebumps within three steps and with the slowing of her stride, started to feel chilly. It wasn't the cold of last night sleeping gazing up at the stars, but it was enough to make her lengthen her stride and run harder. That served to keep her warmed, but she didn't loose the crawling and tight sensation of goosebumps until after she passed through the mist. She faultered there, and stumbled on nothing at all, nearly falling. The mist domed the city and closed it off, making sounds echo and reverberate oddly. She heard the slapping of her own feet against the smooth street returning to her from behind her and ahead. The sights of Rhuidean were unlike any she had ever dreamed of, with great stone buildings and fountains and ahead of her, the greatest tree she'd ever seen.
She knew it at once, Avendesora, and her skin at last relaxed from the goosebumps. She slowed again as she passed under it, taking a deep breath and wishing for nothing so bad as to be able to relax under its spreading branches and rest. Like all Aiel, she could run all day, but she could not keep up the sprint she'd adopted crossing through the mist for that long and there was a dull ache working up in her muscles. With another longing look up to the leaves, she continued past the tree. She didn't slow again until she came at last to the rings as Covina had described them. Then she pulled up short and looked at them for a long moment.
Some girls never came out. Some girls entered into the rings and instead of returning having taken the first step towards becoming one who is Wise, they never took another step at all. She wondered if she didn't return from the rings if she would wake up from this dream, or if she would just continue to wander endlessly. Did those who never came out of the rings die, or just not come back? A shiver coursed down her back and she thought that if there was anything she didn't want more than waking from the dream so soon, it was never waking at all. With a deep breath, she entered into the rings boldly and without hesitation.
Posted 02 March 2009 - 08:39 PM
She was not to have children.
The fact of it hit her like a blow, she had wanted nothing more than to be wife and mother to a great man until a few weeks ago when her Wise One had come to her and told her that she must journey to Rhuidean and then train to be an Apprentice. It had seemed a great adventure and honor then, and she hadn't ever thought that it would interfere with her hopes and plans of having a widespread family with lots of children and grandchildren constantly underfoot. But it would never be. She knew that her training as a Wise One had nothing to do with the loss of her future children, she would hold no resentment or anger to the Wise Ones or to the position she would one day hold, but it was a bitter drink to swallow. Her body was not made whole, and there was something missing from inside her and though she could get pregnant, she could never carry a child for more than two moons.
She clasped her hands to her face and moaned into them, the sound echoing around her in the strange acoustics of the long-abandoned city, and she struggled to her feet. She paused as she approached the Chora tree and went to it, resting her forehead against its bark. As she did, more of the futures that she had glimpsed within the rings came to her. There was one life she was to live where she had a first sister and her first sister's husband gave her children that Melanas called her own as well. In another, she married and her husband left her for another woman that could bear his children. She was too young to make these decisions, too young to know what the right path would be, but the combination of futures scared her away from growing close to men.
There was more in her visions from the rings that she couldn't puzzle through as readily. She had seen herself wandering through a wet land tending to people whose lives had been torn apart by a savage war and she wondered what it would be that could release the Aiel, and her specifically, from their Three-Fold Land. She would have sooner believed that there would be Trollocs coming from the stedding in the far south. Avendesora must have done something soothing for her heart, because when she found the strength to leave its comforting shade she was no longer so fixated on the fact of her never having children. Her whole hold's children would be her children.
Panting and sore and sun-pinked in places usually covered outside of sweat tents, she made her way back to the Wise Ones gathered atop the slope. It had been a long run back to them, uphill for much of the way instead of down, but she had not dawdled along the way. She was eager to begin the next step and devote herself to becoming a Wise One. The long run was good for thought, and she had found herself working through what little she could remember of the rings and trying to see how they could better her life. At least now she would never have to go through the pain of finding out she could not have children after the joy of having conceived one. To go from that level of delight and expectation to the sad and mourning of losing a child would have been so much more to deal with all at once.
By the time she had padded to a stop before the gathered Wise Ones, who had seen her running back from a long way off, she had come to grips with her new knowledge. Or at least come to accept it enough that it no longer painted her face in shades of sadness and loss.
Posted 04 March 2009 - 01:07 PM
The girls eyes seemed wiser than they had when she sat off, she seemed older as well. Knowledge often came with age and no woman could face her future without out gaining some scrap of age. “Welcome home apprentice Melanas” The sun was just starting to set and one of the other Wise One’s lay a blanket around her shoulder. “Come, there will be water and shade and we will tend to you.” They led her into the tent that had just been prepared, but for a moment Covina stood staring down into Rhuidean, as if her eyes could penetrate the fog. Only a few more days now.
Ducking into the tent she found the child already putting on her new clothes. Symbolically all her old had been burned, even the small belt knife she’d carried. It symbolized her starting a new, her new life, and the new responsibilities she would face. “You will be apprenticed to me, Melanas. Work hard and you will not find it onerous.” Perhaps it was the baby that had made her take on new students, or maybe something else entirely, but the dream had told her that it must me.
Posted 13 March 2009 - 03:19 AM
She drew on the algode blouse and shrugged into the skirt. She finger-combed her short hair before tying it back with a scarf. The shawl that all Wise Ones wore would wait, she had no desire to put on more clothing, even in the shade of the tent. She was still struggling with cooling down from the run and wondered for the first time if she was strong enough for the task set before her. She would have to be strong, and find the reserves that seemed to come so easily to the Wise Ones.
"I am honored by your personal teaching, Covina. I will work hard to prove that your time is not wasted with me." She was overcoming her trip to Rhuidean and had fiercely forced the knowledge it had revealed into some back part of her brain where she would deal with it when she had time and energy to be weak, she had already cried her tears for the children she lost and she would not cry again. Not today, anyway.
She had decided on the long trip to Chaendaer to become a Wise One and she would not lose her will just because it was going to be hard. Some women fought their duties and ran from it, but she would not dishonor herself so. "How must I begin?"
Posted 17 March 2009 - 07:16 AM