Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Tel'aran'rhiod and Portal Worlds
Sunny
"Knife of Dreams"
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Joined: July 18th, 2014, 3:23 am
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Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » November 13th, 2017, 8:46 am

Dax
A palm brushed over Dax’s face and fingers combed through his hair. He flinched away from the sharp pain that blossomed when the touch grazed a certain place on the side of his head. “Shhh, shhh. That’s a good lad. Shh.” The hand shifted to smooth his hair away from his face with feather-light care. Tension and pain drained away further with each new touch. “All will be well, the Light please it be so.” Tension lurked beneath that warm reassurance. Fear. His stomach turned and he opened his eyes.

Dax found himself staring into a woman’s worried face. He stared at her first in fascination, and then in wordless wonder. She had high cheekbones and a well-shaped jaw, dark brows, pale eyes, and naturally red lips. Her beauty was marred by lines of worry that made her look older than she actually was. Her dark hair was pulled back with a red ribbon- the only touch of color in her otherwise dark attire.

“....Mamma?”

“Go back to sleep.” Ryanne leaned down and kissed his forehead and his nose filled with the scent of lavender. “You hit your head something good, my boy, but I’ll take care of you.” As she pulled away, he reached for her with a cry of fear.

“Don’t leave me!”


“Shh, Dakson. Mamma’s here. Mamma will always be here.”

~*~*~

Dax opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn’t. He blinked rapidly, turning his face away from the sun to scrub at it with his forearm until the watering stopped. Muttering a variety of curses at himself for drinking too much yet again, the Tairen pushed himself upright and looked around.

He sat at the base of a stone pillar that seemed to tower into the sky from his vantage point. The smooth sides were inscribed with a variety of symbols that reminded him uncomfortably of some of the things Elia had written in her journals, but he couldn’t point to any one of them and say he knew what it meant. In front of him rose a hill banded in the colors of the seven traditional Ajahs. He turned and scrambled about to look the other direction; the movement caused his vision to swim, but he could tell the bands of color continued in an unbroken circle all the way around him.

He squeezed his eyes shut and scrubbed at his hair, then growled another inventive curse when his fingers caught on the lump just above his left ear. He explored it carefully, his fingers finding the rough ends of sutures without too much effort. No Healing, then. That simply piled mystery on top of insult and injury; muttering to himself, the Blademaster pulled himself upright against the stone. It was taller than he was, he realized.

The weight of his sword hung at his hip, and his cloak at his back. He checked his purse and found coin and a pair of Elia’s earrings, one of them broken. He had meant to get them repaired for her before- Before what? Thinking about it made his head hurt worse. At least he hadn't been robbed.

Stumbling clumsily and muttering the whole time, the Gaidin climbed out of the bowl-shaped divot in the ground. Eventually he stood -or rather, crouched while he panted for breath- in a clearing only a few spans from the edge of a cliff facing north. Lake Somal spread before him, glimmering in the mid-morning sun, unmistakable in its stately elegance. Its still waters reflected the deep blue sky and the endless trees marching along its shore perfectly, a mirror of reality that seemed to continue forever.

It reflected the trees marching along its shore.

Its entire shore.

Dax wet his lips. Then he reached for the flask strapped to his thigh and drank its fiery contents in one draft.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » December 6th, 2017, 8:00 am

I know she won't mind, she won't even know
She'll be dancing with a memory, crying teardrops of her own

“Want another?”

Dax nodded, mute, and held two fingers up without shifting from his intense perusal of the tabletop. A few minutes later a small tumbler and a mug appeared, pushed by be-ringed fingers several shades darker than the wood beneath them. He picked up the tumbler and examined the amber liquid within for a moment. Then he drank it down, blinking shocked tears back as it burned down his throat. Then he reached for the beer.

“You won’t find what you’re looking for at the bottom of that cup any more than you found it in the last seven, handsome.” Sultry and caring were an odd mix; Dax’s mouth twisted into an approximation of a smile before he looked up at the owner. Blue eyes lingered appreciatively over perfect curves, momentarily fell down an expanse of magnificent golden-brown bosom, then slid up to the woman’s face as smoothly as if no distraction had ever occurred. Amarie did not seem to mind. She had a full mouth that smiled easily, big caramel eyes, and thick hair that fought to escape the green scarf she had wrapped around it.

“Who says I’m looking for anything?” He shook his head. “Maybe I just like to drink.” He put the mug to his lips.

You won’t find what you’re looking for… No, he wouldn’t. Not in the cup, not anywhere. Insofar as he could gather, the world he wandered had never heard of the Grey Tower. What that meant, he couldn’t begin to imagine. Perhaps he had hit his head and the last week had been a dream. Perhaps the Shadow had tried something, or Elia had done some jiggery-pokery with the One Power that he couldn’t begin to comprehend, or….or maybe he had actually legitimately lost his mind. He wasn't sure it mattered; regardless of reason, he certainly wasn't getting out of the nightmare any time soon.

Amarie leaned forward and rose oil, heavy and sweet, pulled him back to the tavern. “Well you’re awfully dark and mysterious in that walnut of yours. Lonely, too. I can help with the last, you know.” Her hand crept up to cover the one he had left on the table; heat and tingles traveled up his arm from the contact. The Tairen maintained his bemused silence, and resisted the urge to pull- himself away, or her closer, either was as likely as the other. “Works better than alcohol, you know.” Ebony fingers laced through his own and gave a suggestive tug. “What do you say?”

He considered the proposition, tongue caught between his teeth as he met her gaze. Then he pressed a silver coin against the table and slid it toward her with two fingers. “You are beautiful,” the Tairen told her, silently cursing himself when his voice wavered. “But I have a- a wife, you understand. I can’t- won’t-” his breath hissed through his teeth as he searched for words.

The thought of explaining Elia to a stranger overwhelmed him more than this strange place he had found himself in. Four years had to count for something even if they still danced around the word ‘forever’ as if it might bite them. Elia had a color and her scent kept him up at night and somewhere...somehow...she was caring for their children. He might never see her again; the least he could do was honor her memory by calling her wife.

He looked down and away, hiding his face lest Amarie see his thoughts on his face. She tucked the coin away, her grip on his fingers loosening into something closer to a hug- if hands alone could do such a thing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” she said. “Have you been apart for long?”

“You don’t have to pretend to care anymore, you already know I’m not worth the time,” Dax snapped, abruptly angered by her curiosity and wanting nothing more than to be away as fast as his feet could take him.

The former Tinker tsked softly. “You want some cheese with that wine, honey?” The Tairen looked up, surprised by her tone. Amarie arched an eyebrow at him and for a moment Dax felt like nothing so much as a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “That was some grade-A self-pitying crap,” she informed him. He scowled, pulling himself upright. It wasn’t like that!

Amarie shook her head, crazy curls taking on a life of their own as she moved. “Now you’re going to pout at me with those big blue eyes, aren’t you? Do yourself a favor and grow a pair. Your lady friend deserves that much at least.” The woman patted him on the cheek without waiting for a response, kissed him on the forehead, and sashayed away, wiggling her fingers at him over her shoulder.

Dax swore under his breath and reached for his drink. As it turned out there was something he wanted at the bottom of the cup after all: oblivion.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » January 9th, 2018, 7:06 am

The people of this world knew his name.

The first time he became aware of this fact, Dax was sitting outside a tavern in Aringill with his feet propped up on the table in front of him and a mug of beer in his lap. It was a pleasant day, all things considered, with the sounds of a market a few streets away carrying on the light wind, a warm sun to ease the tension in his shoulders, and a few extra coins in his pocket from a ring fight the night before.

So the Tairen sat, chin planted on his chest and gaze firmly on his drink, and tried to think of home. Elia came to him in his dreams sometimes, and Tomas and Thea, and even Ravak with all his bluster. At night he could see them, but during the day they felt infinitely far away. Did Thea have blue eyes or brown? Was Ravak’s missing finger on his left hand or his right? Thus distracted by trying to put together his memories, Dax almost didn’t hear the voices rising inside the building behind him. Then he heard his name.

“Dax? He said his name was Dax. Torellion?”

“He didn’t give a bloody last name,” the tavern keeper said irritably. “I wouldn’t even know his first if not for Megna.”

Megna the tavern maid was beautiful, sassy, curvy, perfect...and a third of Dax’s age. There had been a time that would have been an attraction rather than a deterrent, but it had passed while Katrie still wore his ring. Beyond that, Elia was waiting for him; she had to be. Elia, who would look at him with those green eyes of hers when he told her what he had done. She probably wouldn’t say a word...or maybe she would yell and throw things as she did sometimes when angry. It didn’t matter, really; either way the gray-white whiplash of her hurt would cut through him like a blade.

That was why Dax refused to flirt with Megna of the big brown eyes, much to her chagrin. He had given her his name, however, when he turned he down for the last time. It had seemed only polite, given how intently she had pursued him. Now, however, it felt as foolish as the intimacy he had avoided.

The door opened and boots crunched across pebbles. “Are you Dax Torellion?” A man’s voice asked. It was the same man from the conversation inside. Dax lifted his head and twisted to look up at him through half-lowered lids. The stranger was of average height, but wide, with thick black hair, a bristling beard, and small, pale eyes. He wore workman’s gear -nothing exceptional- and no visible weapons..

“Who’s asking?” Dax Gaidin had replaced Dax the sellsword as his dominant identity at some point, but the cautious question came naturally regardless. Smart mercenaries, the ones who wanted to live, were careful with their names. Certainly they were more careful than Dax had been since he woke up in this world with no Grey Tower, no Elia, no friends, and no hope.

“My name is Senclar Lebann.”

“Is that supposed to mean something important?” Dax returned his attention to his drink. Deliberate arrogance sometimes got better results than good manners. He had learned that first from watching Jem, then again as a fifteen year old punk with a stolen sword he had no idea how to use.

“It means money...a great deal of it...in exchange for your particular services, Torellion.”

The Tairen swirled his beer around in its cup and took a drink. It had gone flat and sour, but he swallowed anyway. “I’m listening,” he said, dropping his feet to the ground. “Have a seat.”

***

Senclar paid in advance, which was both unheard of and exceptionally well received. He asked Dax to hunt a man named Dayne Ocara. His target led the Gaidin on a merry chase up the river, across the Caralain Grass, and nearly to the Black Hills. There he took on a small band of body guards and dispatched them with laughable ease. No one expected a mercenary to fight as Dax did, especially not on some desolate stony plain in the middle of nowhere.

Dayne was a scrap of a human, scrawny and pale. Dax hesitated with his fingers wrapped around the man’s throat, held back by some muddy-brown feeling he didn’t immediately understand. ”What did you do to Senclar?” he asked. He hadn’t asked for details when accepting the job; they hadn’t mattered. Now he had the man in his grip, however, Dax found that he needed to know whether this was a murder or an execution.

“Not to Senclar. Oh no. His son though? Well...” His captive's eyes were wild and his tongue rambled; as his story unfolded the Tairen’s gaze faded from curiosity to blistering ice. It seemed Dax had also forgotten how satisfying it was to simply squeeze the life out of a thing that no longer deserved to exist. It was good to watch the light go out of the squirming monster’s eyes and even better to toss him aside like the refuse he was.

Dax washed his hands in a nearby stream and walked away.

***

It turned out that people didn’t just know his name; there was actually another version of himself wandering about.

Dax found himself by accident while walking through the docks of Illian toward a new work opportunity. The other him had a girl with dark hair trapped between himself and a wall, one arm pressed against the wall above her head while he talked. His sleeves were rolled up and the skin on his forearms was devoid of ink. It was odd to see his arms without herons. Indeed, save for a few unmistakable marks of age he might have been the same man who fled to the Grey Tower for sanctuary decades before. Dax’s skin crawled just looking at him. Me? Him? What is the appropriate word?

The Gaidin decided he would rather not find out what would happen if the other noticed his presence. He turned on his heel and pulled his hood up despite the heat. It took most of his remaining money to buy space on the next ship leaving, but he took it. He called himself Stefan after that, unless the person knew him. He knew himself too well to presume the other him would not come looking for a supposed impersonator.

***

Job followed job, life got a little easier with a flow of coin to support him, and Dax lost track of time. The world actually seemed to move differently here, spinning ever faster beneath his feet with every step he took. His loneliness faded a little beneath the guise of familiar routine. He did not quite stop thinking of home, but it no longer consumed him. Even meeting Ria -or perhaps more accurately, this other version of Ria who was missing an eye, had clearly had intimate acquaintance with his other body, and had a stunning right hook- did not change the distance he felt when he thought of the Grey Tower. If anything, it made ‘home’ feel even more alien.

***

It was fall, and Dax walked through the neatly ordered streets of Cairhien toward a mansion -rightly a palace- that belonged to House Damodred. He despised the machinations and gossip that went with working for Cairhien, but he could tolerate a little bit of verbal sparring for gold in his purse- and Lady Leilaine paid more than well for his services.

His pace slowed as he approached an intersection some distance from his destination. Dax knew exactly where he was and the knowledge burned sharp and hot and red in his chest. If he turned right and walked a little ways he would reach the Riatin estate. He stared up that street and reminded himself that Lady Aikaterine Riatin could hardly recognize a lowly mercenary on sight, not in this world. She was third in line for the Cairhienin throne, had trained with Aes Sedai...she was, in short, everything his Katrie had never wanted to be. Did she really want it, here, or had it been forced upon her?

The need to see her one last time, even if she gave him blank eyes and a pretty noble’s smile, was suddenly all-consuming. His treacherous feet made the terrible decision for him and he began the long walk up the hill.

A few minutes later a carriage barreled down the street completely oblivious to the humans that might be in its path. Dax flattened himself against the wall with a muffled curse. He could hear raised voices over the rapid hoofbeats- a woman, a man, another woman. Abruptly someone inside unlatched the window and threw something out; the square object landed on the smooth stone and slid to land neatly at Dax’s feet. When the carriage finally rounded a corner and disappeared from sight, the Tairen looked down to see what had been so rudely discarded.

A book, roughly the length of his forearm, bound in red leather.

All the breath left his body in a shocked sort of oomph and Dax dropped to his knees in the dust without care for bruises. Rough fingers scrambled through the dirt to caress the delicately embossed cover of that book, tugging it toward him with reverent care. He traced the decorative woven frame, the scripted title, the whimsical tree and the lovers standing with their fingertips pressed together above the still waters of a small pool. He knew it all. He knew every single flaming detail. The Tairen gathered it into his lap, opened the cover. It fell open to an illustration of a woman talking to a snake through an oddly twisted doorway made of redstone. The story that went along with it was hand written in a painfully familiar hand; even the ink blots were the same as he remembered.

“Light help me, how?” Dax gasped, slapping the cover down once more and gathering the precious object against his chest. His eyes traveled from the ground where it had landed, along the street and up, until it landed on a tall wall with a massive banner bearing five gold stars. Of course. Katrie. She had made that book for him at the Grey Tower, so it only made sense she would make it here, as well. Had she made it for this version of him, or for another?

His mind spun at the possibilities and his heart ached from the force of the memories pouring through him, but in the end Dax did something wholly unexpected: He cradled the book to his body like a child and returned to the inn he was staying at. Whoever she was in this world, Katrie had thrown the book away here as well, and he was bloody well going to keep it.

That night he dreamed of snakes and foxes, impossible doors, and Elia’s delicate hands stroking through his hair.
OOC: Ria and Dax are getting their own entire separate thread. I'll edit this to reflect any changes that thread inflicts upon the story line. :)
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » January 21st, 2018, 11:31 pm

Dax read children’s stories by the light of his breakfast fire. Mara and the Three Kings, Len and Merk. The Horn of Valere, Birgitte Silverbow, Artur Hawkwing, Jain Farstrider. Somewhere in the Grey Tower -wherever that may be- this very book sat on a shelf with a host of other well-loved books for children. He had read every word within it to the twins three times over. Reading it now he could pretend he was home again for a little while.

Light, I have a home. It was painfully ironic that he hadn’t realized it until he didn’t know how, or even if, he could get back. Then again, that’s how it always was in the stories, wasn’t it? Humans had an uncanny ability to miss what was right in front of their faces.

Shaking his head, Dax flipped to the beginning again, back to the story of the First of Mayene and the snake people. He studied the picture thoughtfully, fingers tracing the outline of the door with care. Living with Elia had taught him one thing: if the stories said an object existed, it very likely did. Whether it did as specified was considerably less certain, but the thing did exist. Therefore...

He set the book aside and fished in his bag for the rolled up map at the bottom. He spread it on the ground then glanced up, consulting the sky before turning his attention back to the map. He didn’t really need to do either because he knew exactly where he was, but the confirmation was comforting. His finger tapped the map just south of Cairhien, in the rough area of his camp.

I should have taken a ship. Except that ships took money and he had abandoned his work for House Damodred, so that idea had been wholly impossible from Cairhien. He could win enough coin in Aringill to get a ship from there, however, hopefully one that would take him straight to Mayene.

The good humor brought about by his plan carried him through the morning, but by early afternoon drudgery began to descend again, the same as it always did when traveling alone. He sang to himself, he thought of home, he retold the stories he’d read. He talked to his mount -he and horses had never been friends, but Thunder seemed friendly enough- and he planned the next leg of his journey. Again and again.

It was two hundred leagues or more from Cairhien to Aringill, and not all of it flat road, so the journey seemed to take forever. It rained sometimes and other times the sun shone so bright it hurt his eyes. Sometimes he walked for a change, ignoring Thunder’s surprised looks. Eventually (and blood and ashes, it felt like it had been a year and a day) he crested a hill and looked down at the port city where Senclar had found him.

Drawing nearer, he soon realized the city was overflowing with travelers. Some seemed excited while others seemed downright horrified, but none were interested in sharing the reason. Dax stopped asking questions the third time someone threatened to draw a knife; while he could certainly beat a farmer with a pigsticker, it seemed best to avoid the issue altogether. One thing did become clear, however: space on a ship was at a premium. Therefore, the Tairen sold his horse, bought an overpriced meal at a tavern, and went looking for a fight.

There were multiple ways to win quick money with his fists. The first was to enter into competitive fights organized in the city’s fight rings. In those Dax would be matched against someone of similar skill and if he beat that person, he moved on to fight another. That was the ‘right’ way, the honorable way, the way he had won his herons. There were also more rules that way, less money involved, and more risk that he wouldn’t get paid at all. Therefore, the Gaidin preferred the other, less organized option, even if he walked away bloodier.

He spent the day staggering from tavern to tavern, acting more belligerent with each door he pushed through and heavily favoring his left leg. He flirted with every woman he saw and even, after a moment of thought, with some of the men. He made lewd jokes about the Queen, he insulted the tavern keeper’s wife, and he spilled beer on anyone who came within arm’s length. Eventually a burly man with blonde hair took exception to his behavior. Dax hid his smile behind his mug as he took another drink of beer, then rose to meet the stranger eye to eye.

“Whatter ye gonna do, fight me?” he slurred with his chest pushed out and weight resting heavily on his toes.

“I would destroy you,” the blonde. “Get out.” He had his hands on his hips, all radiant confidence. It was surface-level bravado, little else. Dax was familiar with the act.

“Yer jus scared,” Dax taunted. “I bet,” and he paused to fumble in his belt purse, clumsily counting out coins with overt care, starting over twice when he ‘lost count’. “I betcher five silver coins I beat yer bloody face in.”

“You’re wasted, man.” The man certainly did not waste words.

Dax laughed into his drink. “You are scared. Y’are, don’t deny it! Look at this, people, prince charmin’ here’s afraid of an ol’drunk.” Faces turned, voices rose, interest grew, and Dax continued to taunt. The Tairen saw the exact moment that reason gave way to irrational pride, like a sweeping hand over the other man’s face. He straightened, squared his shoulders, dark eyes glaring at Dax in frustrated annoyance.

“It’s your life...or death, I suppose. Outside.”

The Gaidin stumbled over his cloak as he stood. “Wherever ye like, ye big blonde buffoon,” he chortled. As they pushed to the exit, and others followed suit, Dax gathered more bets from amused spectators. He also learned the other man’s name was Henri, and he was from Amadicia. Of course he’s from bloody Amadicia. That echo of what Dax had begun to refer to as his “real life” seemed strangely appropriate for the game he played.

When Dax made to draw his sword, a bystander interjected exactly as he had hoped. The end result was that he faced off with Herni bare-handed. Even better: if anyone asked, it wasn’t even by his own requirement. Not that it mattered, all things considered. The man before him presented little challenge either way.

“Ready,” he huffed in a mocking tone- then braced himself for pain. It was not long in coming.

It was important to lose this fight. Every instinct in his body screamed for him to block Henri’s strikes, to follow through on the openings in the other man’s defenses, to annihilate this strange insect that dared to invade his personal space. The alcohol he had consumed both helped and hindered his efforts. It helped in that it blurred the shock of the blows he let through. It hindered in that by the third blow, dark shadows had already begun to creep into his vision and he could feel howling rage building within his gut. Do not kill the bloody fool, he reminded himself shortly.

He put up just enough of a fight to be believable, then allowed Henri to pin him face down in the mud. He didn’t hand over the money, however. When his opponent came to collect, he suggested a rematch with boisterous aggression. When Henri declined, Dax needled him for a moment, then looked around as if just noticing the people around him. “Anyone here braver than prince charmin’? I bet..ah...” he fumbled at his purse again, spilling silver like rain on the ground below. “Ah, I bet all of this here,” he said with a goofy smile, “that I can beat any four a’ye.”

It was a good amount of money, apparently easily won, in a city reeking of desperation. As Dax scrambled about shoving the dirty bits of metal back where they belonged, he saw onlookers pass each other calculating glances. It only took a little more prodding and posturing for four men to accept the offer, pooling their own money to match the Gaidin’s. Others added to it, all save one betting against the foolish drunkard.

That man, Dax decided, was the only person with a brain in the entire bloody country.

The Tairen’s mouth settled into a feral smile as he faced off against his victims. Poor bastards, some distant part of his mind murmured. He ignored it. When they moved forward, so did he.

The minutes after were a bloody, battered, shadowy blur. He fought like an animal, pent up rage boiling out of him with every strike. He heard their surprised yelps at the difference, and his smile broadened. He barely noticed when two of the four drew knives, even when one blade raked across his shoulder leaving a line of icy fire in its wake. Soon enough he caught the arm that wielded the weapon, jerked it about and yanked, felt bone shatter in his fist.

It did not take much longer for silence to fall. The gathering had fallen back, wide-eyed and silent. Dax stared up at them from where he crouched over his last opponent, blue eyes glinting in the fading daylight. He pushed himself to his feet without a word, strode to where the money had been piled, and swept it into a fold of his cloak. “You, with me,” he said to the shrouded figure who had bet with him.

“That seems wise,” the other said amiably. He pushed his hood back as he spoke and Dax choked, nearly dropping his prize as he stared down into a pair of black eyes that were entirely too familiar.

The Tairen bit back a demand to know Jaryd’s business in Aringill. This world had no Grey Tower; whatever this version of the Altaran was, it certainly wasn’t Asha’man of the Red Ajah, and he clearly didn’t know Dax from any other drunken Maule rat. Unless he does. It was always a possibility, given the reputation the name Torellion had in this world.

Mind reeling, deeply regretting the alcohol he had consumed, Dax led them away from the crowd before it could get itself together enough to rightfully accuse him of cheating.
Last edited by Sunny on February 18th, 2018, 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
"Knife of Dreams"
Posts: 3757
Joined: July 18th, 2014, 3:23 am
PC: Jaryd Kosari
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » February 18th, 2018, 7:36 am

“You.”

Dax rolled onto his back and pillowed his head on his hands in in the dirt beneath him. Blue sky arched above; for some reason that reminded him of something important, but when he tried to focus on the thought it skittered away from him. Dismissing the experience as nothing more than an odd fancy, the Tairen squinted instead at the interrupter.

The man standing over him looked as if he’d been on the business end of a bad hangover for weeks. Wind-tousled hair that hadn’t seen a brush in its lifetime surrounded a face with heavy brows pinched in annoyance, a day or more of scruff, and a stubborn jaw. The stranger wore black -of course he did, everyone at the bloody Black Tower wore black- with the pins at his throat that Dax knew meant he was Asha’man. How do I know you? He frowned, but even as the question occurred to him, an odd ringing filled his head and his curiosity melted.

“Blood and ashes, Kosari’s done a number on you hasn’t he? You poor, bloody blighter,” the stranger muttered to himself. Dax scowled, feeling something hot and red boiling through his bones at the implied insult to Jaryd. Before he could move, the man made an appeasing gesture with his hand. “No matter. Calm yourself, Blademaster, I mean him no harm.” He yanked a flask from somewhere and drank as if washing filth from his mouth. “You’re name is Dax, correct?” He asked after.

“You got me. Though I gotta say, I hear I’m hard to miss unless you’re blind and stupid.” He flexed his arms, the blue-black herons rippling over corded muscle.

“I am Mael,” the stranger replied simply, completely ignoring the boastful show.

Dax frowned, half-forgotten memories stirring somewhere in the depths of shadow. He should know this man, surely, but… that name. “Light, whose misbegotten idea was it to name their poor kid ‘hope’?” He asked in his best ‘punch me, I bloody dare you’ voice. “Ironic that you look like you’ve lost all yours.”

Much to his irritation, Mael didn’t respond to that, either. Instead he took another long drink from his flask, then twisted in place, scanning the immediate area. The sense of familiarity returned tenfold and Dax frowned, both irritation and amusement forgotten as he fought with the fog in his mind. The Asha’man seemed to find what he wanted, because he called out, low but intense: “Marle! Get your Andoran ass over here.”

Moments later, a young man with blonde hair the color of honey mead appeared. Unlike Mael he knelt by Dax’s shoulder, seemingly oblivious to the dirt grinding into his black breeches. He had stormy eyes and a quirk of a smile, Dax realized faintly. Once again a wave, a veritable earthquake of uncertain desperation, rolled through the Gaidin’s mind. Flashes of light crossed his vision, the distorted scents of herbs and linen and blood filled his senses. Red hair, green eyes...a man’s voice, calm and steady. Breathe with her, Gaidin. It will help with the pain.

“Jaren?” It took every ounce of will he possessed to force the whisper past the shadows that insisted on his silence. The snap-back rolled him on his side and he emptied his stomach in heaving gasps, the world dipping and swirling around him. When he wiped his mouth and pushed himself upright, Dax couldn’t remember why he had been sick.

Marle and Mael were having a silent conversation with their eyes. Dax looked between them, anger building as the moment stretched. “What do you want of me?” He demanded. “I have work to do.”

“This might hurt. I am sorry,” the younger man said, and when he reached for Dax’s head the Tairen found he could not move. He struggled anyway, his mental landscape washed with vivid shades of red, orange, and murky green. Where is Jaryd? Fingertips pressed against his forehead and for all intents and purposes, the Wheel stood still.

When clarity came, it arrived in waves that washed away the lurid colors, the dizziness, the buzzing, the odd shadows and the fog. It also hurt worse than anything Dax could have imagined previously, worse even than losing his bond. He could feel every particle of his being ripping apart and could do nothing to stop it. Eventually it ended, leaving him blinking into familiar blue eyes in utter confusion.

Two breaths later and the Tairen was on his feet facing the two Asha’man. “What did that scrawny rat of a bloody Altaran DO to me?” He demanded. He had been fighting in Aringill. The Asha’man had bet with him and they had left fast to split their winnings. Dax had trusted Jaryd, because- why, exactly? He couldn’t remember. Why hadn’t it occurred to him that the man might be different in this world? Different? That’s the understatement of the century, Dakson Torellion!

His thoughts felt a little too close to hysteria for comfort, but he could not seem to bring them to rest. “What did he do?” he repeated, dazed.

“Compulsion.” Mael’s voice was cold and hard as Borderland steel. Dax forced his eyes open, giving the two men a curious look. At the Grey Tower these two were the closest things Jaryd Kosari could claim as friends. In this world, they appeared to be anything but. Consideration of that line of thought dissolved as the impact of the Kandori man’s statement hit him.

“He put his fingers in my mind,” Dax said in a voice flat with shock, eyes turning from one to the other in horror. “Jaryd Kosari used Compulsion on me?” The very idea was unfathomable, so alien he couldn’t even wrap his thoughts around the concept.

“You sound surprised. You must not know him that well,” Jaren said wryly, shaking his head. “He’s good- perhaps the best, though I wouldn’t inflate his ego by suggesting such to his face. It took all my strength to break through his web.” He did look tired, Dax realized. The Andoran still knelt in the dirt, breath uneven and heavy.

“Why did you-”

“The last thing this world needs is for Kosari to have a pet Blademaster,” Mael interrupted. “Especially one I suspect does not belong...here.” He gave Dax a level look as he spoke, putting peculiar emphasis on the word ‘here’. He knows. He flaming knows. But how?

“No,” Dax acknowledged after a long stretch of silence. What good would it do to deny it at this point? “No, I do not, but I would like to go home. Do you know the way, Asha’man?” It couldn’t hurt to give the men who had just saved his sanity a little respect. Especially considering how rude he had been in the moments prior. Dear Light, was that how he had been before he became Gaidin?

“We don’t,” Jaren responded. He made as if to push himself to his feet and Dax automatically held out his hand. After a split second of hesitation the Andoran took it, nodding his thanks as he rose. “And we had best hope Jaryd didn’t find out from you.”

The prospect of a version of Jaryd that possessed a Talent for Compulsion and no moral qualms against using it finding his way into the Grey Tower made Dax’s skin crawl. Something of his inner discomfort must have shown, because Mael laughed without humor. “Whatever you’re thinking, Blademaster, it would be a thousand times worse. We need to get out of here before he realizes what we’ve done.”

That, Dax could agree with. He gathered his cloak from where he’d tossed it prior to his earlier workout and the three made themselves scarce.
Last edited by Sunny on February 18th, 2018, 3:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
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Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » February 18th, 2018, 7:49 am

They Traveled away. Then again and again, a seemingly endless string of holes in the air.. Each time the two men stopped to stare at the space where the Gateway had been. Dax did not need to be a channeler to know they did something with the One Power. Eventually they stopped Traveling, but they did walk nearly five miles before Jaren announced he could not take another step and Dax’s legs gave out beneath him without waiting for permission.

The Tairen thought they might be in Mayene, judging by climate and time of day. He glanced around curiously, and abruptly the memory of what he had intended to do before Jaryd waylaid him came back all at once. “Have either of you ever heard of a … door?” He asked.

“I assume you aren’t talking about just any door,” Mael responded, his voice utterly dry.

Dax laughed, shaking his head at his own folly. “I’ve only read about it in stories,” he said. “It’s made of redstone. The stories say that it’s...twisted oddly, like it couldn’t actually exist...except it does.” He frowned, studying his hands. “The stories I read said that the very first ruler of Mayene went through to speak to the snakes. It is said they answered three questions for her, and for each First after her, and that is how Mayene has stayed free of Tear’s tyranny.”

“Why would you believe a relic from a children’s tale actually exists?” There was studied indifference in that inquiry; Dax had spent far too much time among Aes Sedai and Asha’man not to hear it.

“I have seen many such tales proven true in my life,” the Tairen responded. “Ter’angreal are as varied as the people of the earth in my experience. I somewhat doubt she actually spoke to snakes, but something gave her answers. I had thought perhaps if I could find that door, whatever lay beyond might help me find my way home.”

Jaren gave him a sharp look. It was strange to see his pleasant face so serious and cold. “You speak lightly of the One Power and its tools for a Tairen,” he said.

Dax hesitated, but then he thought of Elia, of the twins, of the comfort of home, and his reserve dissipated like early morning mist. “I know very little of what happened to me,” the Gaidin said, “except that I am….not in my own world. The last thing I remember in- in my world, the White Tower had just abducted you,” he nodded to Jaren, “and I was part of a peaceful delegation sent to negotiate your return.”

“From the Black Tower?” He couldn’t blame Jaren’s skepticism.

“Certainly not. It’s...complicated and the details would only confuse you,” he said. His tone was apologetic rather than arrogant and the Andoran nodded slow acceptance. “What’s important is that in my world I am...was...Gaidin and a Blademaster in my own right. Such trinkets -ter'angreal, I mean- hold little fear to me anymore, save those that pose a risk to- certain people.”

“You have family there?” For a moment...just a moment...Jaren was the Yellow Dax knew, his concern evident even through the hard shell he possessed in this world.

“A wife-to-be and two children.” A moment later he added, “Not knowing if I will ever see them again is...torture.” Saying it out loud made it real and a tumbling tsunami of jagged yellow, muted blue, and dull gray were all the warning he had before abruptly it was too much, it was all too much. The Tairen shoved himself up and strode away, deaf to their calls and blind to his surroundings. He didn’t know how long he wandered or how many times he lashed out at trees and brush in impotent displays of temper before he realized he was no longer alone.

“Tear has the doorway now,” Mael told him. “Just let us give Jaren time to rest first and we will take you there.”

Dax stared at him for several long moments, then nodded jerky acceptance. His tear-chapped cheeks ached as if someone had scrubbed them with a rock, but he lacked even the energy it took to wipe them clean.
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Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » February 20th, 2018, 12:16 am

The two men found Jaren sprawled out against the roots of an old tree, head lolled back at an awkward angle and eyes closed. Dax tried to ignore the sleeping Asha’man, but after a few minutes of twiddling his thumbs he walked over and touched Jaren’s shoulder to wake him. The other man moved like a snake, something cold and sharp pressing up into Dax’s jaw. He jerked back immediately, the blade slicing his jaw as he withdrew. “Ouch.”

“Oh, it’s you,” Jaren muttered in a thick voice. He shoved the knife back in his boot as he scrubbed at his eyes with his free hand. “Knock next time, would you? Some of us don’t like surprises.”

Dax bit back a snort as his fingers twisted around the clasp on his cloak. “Whatever you say, princess. Take this, you need real rest and you won’t get it sleeping on a tree.” He shoved the fancloth into the younger man’s surprised hands and strode away without waiting for a response.

“Are you actually an asshole, or do you just play one at festivals?” Mael asked as the Tairen drew level. Dax frowned, but the Asha’man just shrugged. “My contacts say you’re a rude brute at best and our first interaction would support that. However, when no one can see you, you give a stranger the literal coat off your back. You must admit the contrast is intriguing.”

“Perhaps your contacts have mistaken me for my evil twin,” the Gaidin said with a half-smile, “which sounds like the punchline to a terrible joke until I remember it’s horribly real. I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest: that I have to hide from myself because I know I’d kill me first and ask questions later, that I used to be that man in every way...or that I thought I still was.”

“I can’t say I envy you the choice.”

Dax sighed his tired agreement, then kicked his shoes off. “May as well get some exercise while Sunshine’s sleeping,” he said by way of explanation.

“Sunshine...oh, Marle?” Mael chortled, then wandered away to stare out into the trees as Dax began to stretch.

So the afternoon passed. At some point as he and Mael talked, Dax realized that his companions had given no notice of their departure to their...authority figures...at the Black Tower, and that there would be formal consequences for their absence even if Jaryd never discovered they were complicit in Dax’s escape. “Why?” He asked when the pieces finally clicked together. “Why help me?”

“Because at least I can help you,” Mael responded, his voice too quiet, the words too meaningful. Dax had no idea how to respond to that, so after a moment of working his mouth open and closed around non-words, he didn’t.

The shadows had grown long before Jaren stirred. He pushed himself upright and scrubbed his hands through his hair, picking burrs and dirt out with a litany of muttered curses that Dax took in with growing respect, and Mael with amused concern. “Stop looking at me like that, I’m not going to flaming break,” Marle snapped at the other Asha’man as he hauled himself to his feet. “Food?” He added after a pause, and for just that moment he sounded exactly as young as he appeared.

“Just traveler’s bread.”

“Fine.” Jaren caught the tossed biscuit, made a face as he knocked on it with his knuckle, then began to nibble on it with a pronounced lack of enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Dax retrieved his cloak and pinned it back about his throat where it belonged.

A slash of light appeared in the air moments later, rotating open to reveal- darkness. After a moment of staring, Dax realized they were actually looking at a room piled with boxes and barrels; a basement or cellar of some sort, clearly unoccupied. “Dangerous to Travel directly to the city,” he commented.

“We have safe rooms,” Jaren said around a mouthful of bread. “Traveling rooms, I suppose you could call them. Usually just one or two per city, but it saves us having to walk around in the countryside as much.” That made sense, though Dax had to wonder whether the rooms were specific to his companions, or known to the Black Tower as a whole. If the latter, there was danger they weren’t telling him about. Great.

Dax stepped through first, tense and ready to fight. The room was exactly as unremarkable in person as it had been through the gateway, however, save for the strengthened scent of fish. That was not a odor Dax had missed, though thankfully it was not so strong as the Maule. Upper city, then.

“Where do they keep this door?” He asked as the others joined him and the opening snapped shut.

“In the Great Holding in the Stone,” Mael said, his fingers busy removing the pins at his throat and shoving them in his pocket. “Which is conveniently near.” Jaren had found a lamp and a flame now danced merrily within its glass chimney.

As it turned out, ‘near’ meant ‘a few corridors away.’ How did you establish a ‘safe room’ in the bloody Stone of Tear? Dax wondered as they strolled through the hall. He soon learned that the people who presided over the Holding believed Mael and Jaren to be collectors and purveyors of curiosities and were used to their comings and goings. If the Tairens knew the black-clad men were channelers they gave no indication...and they showed no recognition when they glanced at Dax, either. He released a breath he hadn’t known he’d been hiding as the three moved further into the depths.

“That was so easy it was frightening,” Dax commented in a low voice. “This stronghold is supposed to stand until the Dragon is Reborn, but we just walked in like we owned the place…?”

“Curious, isn’t it? My ongoing theory is that if we came here with the intention of doing harm, the Pattern itself would put a stop to it somehow,” Jaren replied with a nonchalant shrug. “A too-wary guard, an unexpected social event...Light, who knows. Any number of things could prevent us from ‘just walking in’ if fate deemed it necessary.”

His steady faith reminded Dax of Jaryd. The real Jaryd, the one who believed so devoutly in the Creator and the intent of the Pattern that he had sacrificed his health and sanity in its service when captured by the Seanchan. How had such a soul become so corrupt that he would use Compulsion on a stranger and be feared by good men? That was a question for the Ages with no answers to be found; the Tairen shivered and scrubbed his hands along his upper arms.

Eventually they paused at a door, one that looked just the same as any other. “Here,” Mael said, pushing it open.

Dust rose to greet them and Dax sneezed violently. In the room beyond, barrels and crates were stacked haphazardly along the walls, the glitter and glimmer of this object or that catching the lamp light as they moved in. Ahead stood an empty square of redstone, the corners joined in such a way that Dax’s brain seized trying to follow it. “Are you certain of this, Gaidin?”

Dax shrugged, his thoughts fixed on a single word: home. “I do what I must.”

“You are either very brave or very foolish.” Jaren's tone left it up to the universe to decide which he thought it was.

“Or very desperate,” the Tairen whispered. His palm brushed the frame, fingers trailing over the three sinuous lines running along the side of the door. Snakes indeed.

“I probably know less than you about what’s in there, so I’m afraid my assistance ends here unless you actually come back to us,” Mael said, then paused before adding, “Three questions, as your stories told you...and only three, you understand? Be careful what you say.” Dax grimaced, then nodded acknowledgment.

“If I’m not back in a bell or so...don’t wait,” he said, and hidden in that statement was a ‘thank you’ that he didn’t know how to voice.

“We weren’t planning on it,” Jaren said in a droll voice, and Mael added, “We can only excuse our presence in this room for so long.”

Dax looked between them, took a deep breath, and stepped through the redstone frame.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » March 3rd, 2018, 4:58 pm

Dax found himself in the center of a circular room, with white and yellow tiles spiraling in to meet him. Following the lines made him dizzy, but when he glanced up, he found himself looking at darkness. Staring into the emptiness he got the uneasy feeling that rather than standing below a high ceiling, he dangled head first over an endless abyss. One wrong move and he would fall forever, alone and cold. The columns that reached into the shadows didn’t help matters in the slightest, and neither did the stench that assaulted his nose.

The Gaidin hunched his shoulders uneasily and tore his eyes away from the shadows. He couldn’t quite make his feet move (what if he fell?), but his torso turned- and stopped when he found himself face to face with…

What, exactly, is that? Dax frowned, distracted from his vertigo by the strange apparition before him. It was taller than he; perhaps even taller than Nate or Zeen, but inhumanly slender, and its face…narrow, jet black eyes blinked at him over impossibly angled cheekbones. The whole thing seemed strangely familiar, but for time during which the Tairen thought he might scream if he didn’t get a hold of his nerves, he couldn’t place it. It was only when he finally wrestled his mind back into the ko’di that he remembered.

A snake. It looks like a snake.

Whatever it was, it spoke, a stream of sound that initially meant nothing to Dax. Somewhere in the midst of the gabble of unfamiliar sounds, however, he caught the word asmodi and held up a hand to pause the creature’s inquiry. “I don’t speak the Old Tongue,” he said carefully. “I will require assistance.”

That gave it pause, though only for a count of three. “You honor the agreement? No light. No instruments to make music. No iron.” The thing’s voice sounded dusty and it formed words oddly, the syllables running together or placed too far apart, and emphasized in the wrong places. The Tairen frowned as he pieced it together. His hand fell to his sword, but the thing’s eyes glanced right past. “You have none?” It asked.

“I have none of those things,” Dax responded, unable to hide his confusion. “What do-” he cut himself off. No questions! It would be his luck to waste the ones he had on inanities. It didn’t actually matter to him why music bothered them when his sword did not...but he knew that if -when- he got out of here, he would try to find out anyway. Just in case.

“I was told I could receive true answers to three questions in this place,” he said after an uneasy pause. The snake thing had been smelling him, he realized abruptly, its nostrils flaring ever so slightly and its lips parted as it moved its head about. This was a terrible idea.

“According to the agreement. Follow.” It crooked a finger longer than any he had ever seen, bone thin and yellowish. Dax nodded agreement. When the creature turned way, he followed in silence.

A few minutes into the interminable walk the snake thing took him on, Dax put his eyes firmly on his guide’s shoulders and did not look away. Better to study the overlapping layers of yellow cloth that wrapped the thing, as disgusting as it was, than wonder about what really lay outside (the windows were the opposite of enlightening) or spend too much time looking at impossibly curved surfaces that stretched into infinity.

They walked until his feet began to hurt, and then walked some more, but eventually the snake thing stopped and gestured at a large door. “Enter here and ask your questions, world-walker.”

Dax blinked at the title, turning away from the door to demand an explanation, only to find the thing had vanished. Confused, tired, and a little annoyed, the Tairen forced himself forward and through the door.

Inside he found a chamber similar to the one he had entered through, though this one had red decorations rather than yellow, and instead of the twisting columns towering into the upside down pit, there were three that ended in a platform upon which three more snake people sat, cross-legged and alert. They, too, were wrapped in strips of fabric, although theirs was the same rich red as the tiles below them.

Dax bowed. It seemed the right thing to do. The three figures glanced at one another as he straightened, but otherwise seemed unaffected. “Enter and ask according to the agreement of old.” They spoke in perfect unison, yet their words also sounded as if they had been jumbled in a drawer and pulled out at random.

He walked a few steps forward, fists clenching and releasing only to clench again as he sorted through what to say. They knew something about him, clearly, but surely they didn’t know every detail? I don’t even know everything, he thought, and as that realization dawned, another quickly followed it: I have three questions. One to get him home, yes, but….what of the other two?

The Tairen opened his mouth and let the words pour out.

He explained his history before the Grey Tower and his reasons for choosing to train there, the work he had done to earn his herons and how that had changed him. He talked about Katrie and the child they shared that he would never meet. He described the nigh tin Hama Valon with Elia. His actions seemed shameful in retrospect; his face flushed hot. He talked about Vaidulo and its horrors, and his subsequent spiral as he tried to forget what he had seen there. Elia’s pregnancy came next, and his decision to stay, and finally the unexpected, but all-consuming, love he had developed for her and their children.

At that point he hesitated, chewing on his lip and picking at his thumb. They simply stared at him until he finally shared his growing concern about the secrets he knew she kept from him. “It isn’t jealousy,” he told them as he gouged into his cuticle with a fingernail, “though I think others might think it that. It is more that I can’t help her.” Black eyes scrutinized him in silent judgment until he corrected himself, each word clearly bearing the strain of his reluctance. “I am afraid she is involved in something much worse than petty intrigue. I’m terrified that I will someday be forced to decide whether I protect her, or protect others. Even with what I suspect...I know which I would choose.” Blood had pooled along the side of his thumbnail where he had picked it raw; he stared at it until it dripped to the floor and disappeared against the red tiles.

From there he gathered himself and talked about the White Tower. The three became visibly agitated when he mentioned Aes Sedai, so he quickly skipped over the particulars and instead focused on how he had ended up where he was. What little he knew of it, anyway. Then he talked about the world he had found himself in, its brutality and oddities, the emptiness he felt when he considered being stuck there forever. “I would rather live with fear than live in despair,” he whispered at the end.

He felt raw and exposed, every secret he had ever kept laid out for alien strangers to rummage through at will, but he took a deep breath and turned pleading blue eyes up to the snake people, vaguely aware that his heart pounded in his chest as if he had just run for miles. “Please, help me.”

“Ask, world-walker.”

Dax asked his questions.

***

A life time or more had surely passed by the time the Gaidin stumbled back into the dusty store room. Mael was seated on a barrel, one leg crossing the other knee and in no hurry to move. Jaren was up and across the room before Dax had taken more than a step, however, shoving his shoulder into the Tairen’s armpit while one arm went around his waist.

“I’m neither damaged nor a child,” Dax objected, but his voice sounded hoarse to his own ears and his body felt like he had been pounded with hammers. The Asha’man gave him a no-nonsense look that was all too similar to the Jaren Dax knew and guided him to a crate near Mael’s perch, shoving a flask and a hunk of travel bread into his hands as soon as he had settled.

The liquor burned away the cobwebs in his brain on the way down. Dax coughed, surprised despite himself, then pushed it away and took a bite of the biscuit to ease the fire. It was exactly as dry and boring as the Andoran had made it seem earlier, but he forced himself to chew and swallow before he spoke again.

“I have to go to Rhuidean.”

“Isn’t that in the Waste?” Mael asked.

“Yes.” Dax stared at the bread, turning it over in his hand. “I’m not sure where, but I know it’s protected somehow. I had to convince a friend of mine not to wander around the Waste looking for it when she wasn’t able to Travel there directly.”

“Is this the end of the road for us, then?”

“If you are willing to get me somewhere nearby, I would appreciate not having to walk,” Dax said in a subdued tone. He sifted through his memories, trying to think of everything Ravak had ever said about his trip to that city. Unfortunately it really wasn’t much; the man had been remarkably close mouthed. “I think it’s more north than south, but other than that...” He spread his hands. “I get to fight some Aiel, I suppose.”

“It’s your funeral.” Jaren's tone indicated regret. He went to take a drink, but Mael snatched the flask from his fingers with a grumbled comment about a man deserving some of his own bloody brandy. The Andoran snapped something about goats and the older man's mother, and the verbal spar went several more rounds before they subsided.

Dax’s lips twitched as he watched the Asha’man bicker, but when he spoke, his voice was steady. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve faced Aiel. If an entire sept shows up, sure I’m screwed, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.” He took another bite of the bread.

They left shortly after, picking their way back to the ‘safe room’ where Jaren created a Gateway to a place that, by the air quality, was high in the mountains. “You’re going to sleep before you go into the Waste,” Jaren told him as they walked through. “That isn’t a request.”
OOC: Please note that in canon, Rand had to have a translator because he didn’t speak the Old Tongue. I have exactly Zero Interest in writing that out, so I just made their use of modern language … really weird. leshrug.
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » March 6th, 2018, 12:50 am

Sleep was slow in coming. Eventually Dax gave up completely and sat up, joining Jaren in companionable silence as they both stared into the fire. Tomorrow he would go to the Waste and likely never see his companions again regardless of the outcome of that insanity. Jaren wasn’t actually Jaren, but his face was familiar and brought with it soothing washes of blue and green even if the young Asha’man did look like he was ruminating on something with every ounce of energy he possessed.

“What am I like? What's...he like, the other Jaren? Is he happy?"

Ah. So that’s it. Dax settled back slowly at the question, but his eyes remained fixed on Jaren's across the fire. The question was not a surprise, not entirely. Most people would want to know, he supposed, but he had an uneasy feeling that answering it would bring nothing but pain for the Asha’man. The world he sat in seemed harsh and unforgiving, its denizens clinging to hope by a thread. If they even managed that much; far too many of the people who had brought him salvation with their faith in his world had completely lost their way in this one.

Then again...if a version of Jaren could be happy, then perhaps this version could find a way, as well. But not the way it is at home, Dax thought. Never with this version of Jaryd, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. For some reason that caused the Tairen’s chest to twinge. He didn’t particularly like Jaryd--either version of him--but the couple’s joy was infectious even so, and its loss somehow more terrible than anything he’d seen so far.

There are other people, he reminded himself. Other men (and his eye strayed to Mael without his bidding, remembering their easy familiarity) other causes, other things to live and die and smile for. Jaren simply had to find the strength to try.

"You are the happiest person I know," Dax said finally, his voice pitched for Jaren's ears alone. He leaned forward to poke at the fire with a stick, his eyes following the shower of sparks upward. "We don't know each other particularly well, but your hands delivered my children and for that you -any version of you- have my loyalty and service should you need them.”

He lowered his gaze to meet Jaren’s again, clear and frank. “A story is guiding me home. Perhaps this one will help you.”

Dax held nothing back.
OOC: this is pure fan service for Elan and I am not sorry. <_<
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False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

Sunny
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Re: Moments Lost, Though Time Remains [Dax Solo]

Post by Sunny » March 7th, 2018, 7:41 am

“You are not Aiel.” The speaker was a woman clad in brown skirts and a white blouse, the glint of gold showing between strand upon strand of ivory beads encircling her neck. She had a shawl, too, though how she could stand to wear so many layers under the boiling sun, Dax couldn’t begin to imagine. Her hair was nearly white, though not from age, hanging preternaturally straight around a face far too young for the authority in her voice. So she can channel. He doubted she knew he was aware of that fact...and also doubted it would do him a single bit of good.

There were three other Wise Ones, all of them watching him where he stood, all of them taller than he. A spear pressed against his throat, its wielder staring at him with ice-blue eyes. Jein and several other Maidens had brought him here after confronting him some hours east of the Dragonwall. They had all clearly been amused by his persistence and curious about his mission. Given the stories he had heard about wetlanders being killed on sight or left to die of thirst, he was thankful for their odd humor.

“I am not,” Dax admitted. The Wise Ones were nameless still, but he didn’t need their names...not yet. “I was born in Tear.” He supposed others might have spoken more eloquently, but saw no reason to do so himself. The likelihood of them caring for anything beyond bare minimum seemed small.

“How do you know of Rhuidean, wetlander?” That Wise One had pale green eyes framed by nearly invisible lashes, and fiery red hair; the combination reminded him painfully of Elia, although she resembled his lover in no other way. He thought the Aielwoman might be able to crush rocks with her bare hands.

“I am Gaidin,” he responded slowly, “and in my service to Aes Sedai I have heard of many things.” Her eyes widened ever so slightly and Dax hid his smile. “My Aes Sedai poses no concern for you, Wise Ones. I am not from here.”

“What do you mean, ‘here’?” If she was offended by the implication that an Aes Sedai could be a threat, the older woman showed no sign.

Dax sighed, tugging at the cuffs of his shirt. He wished he had his bracers. “Are you aware there are many worlds contained within the Pattern?” He asked. It had been difficult to understand them, but the snakes had explained the phenomenon...a little. Without his memory of both Katrie and Elia’s curiosity, it would have been well beyond his ability to grasp even as little as he did. “There are hundreds of others, thousands even. The world you live in is one, while the world I live in...is another.”

They were staring at him, eyes cool and disbelieving. After an extended silence, Dax continued. “An enemy sent me here. I don’t know why.” He hadn’t asked the snake people for an explanation so he would never know for sure unless he found that bloody Aes Sedai again. However, given what the things had told him about Elia, it had not been difficult to come to his own conclusions.

“I don’t belong here, and I want to go home. In my search for a way, I went through a redstone door in Tear, one fabled to answer questions for visitors.” The blonde tensed. It was so minute he would have missed it if not for a lifetime of training. She knows something. That was far more interesting than anything he’d seen so far. What would a Wise One know of a ter’angreal in Tear? How could she know?

One way to find out, really. He glanced at the Maiden, then nodded to the ground. “May I?” After a moment of hesitation she nodded and withdrew the spear; he crouched, and drew with one hand in the sand. “It looked like this.” He couldn’t capture the redstone, but he could show the distinctive way the frame had twisted. “The people there told me in order to get home, I must go to Rhuidean.”

Still they stared in silence, lips pursed and eyes distant, though the blonde woman looked thoughtful. The Tairen could feel the others withdrawing, choosing to disbelieve. He licked his lips, offered a silent prayer to luck and insanity, and made the verbal gamble of a lifetime. “In my world, Terric of the Nakai Aiel is Gaidin with me and we fought side by side to defend our Tower for many years. He’s a good, honorable man in my experience, but he has abandoned his people for good. In your world I suspect he spends his days catching thieves and his evenings eating sweets from his first-mother. He and Rhiale might be married...hard to say, really.”

A clatter of ivory and metal mixed with the rustle of rough fabric and soft whispers as the Wise Ones turned to murmur to each other. Jein felt no such need for conference; her spear jabbed into the ground between his legs as she leaned forward to stare at him. “Where did you learn these things, Dakson Torellion?” Not for the first time in the last few days, he regretted giving Jein his full name.

“I am from a different world,” he repeated, unable to keep the tired frustration from his voice any longer. “What more can I do to prove it to you? I just want to go home,” he said softly, “to the people I love and the places I know.”

The Wise Ones turned back. “We hear your story, but it is not permitted,” the redhead told him. “You have no Aiel blood.”Dax closed his eyes and blew a long breath out through pursed lips. He could not give up. This was not the end! Not now...not this close.

“I have heard stories of the Aiel accepting newcomers to their number,” he said slowly as he pushed himself to his feet. Even standing his eyes were on level with their chins, but he felt better even so. “Hundreds of years ago, perhaps even thousands, but it has been done.” Thank you Katrie. That was one story he had not personally read, but it had certainly fascinated his former wife. And then, of course, there was Ravak with his tattoos...surely that had to mean something. “However, all I want is to visit the city. If I prove my worth against the spears of your choice, would that be sufficient to grant me entry?”

The Maiden chuckled as if he had made a great joke, but otherwise did not speak. The Wise Ones glanced at each other, no trace of humor on their faces. “It is not permit-” the woman began again, but the blonde lifted her hand.

“I will allow it,” she said firmly. The others frowned, but after a long pause in which Dax thought he might actually sweat the entirety of Lake Sohal through his cloak, the others all nodded slow agreement.

--

Dax suspected the journey to Rhuidean from the camp the Wise Ones took him to would have been brutal even if he hadn’t been aching and bruised from fighting for the privilege to make it. He remembered little of that battle beyond the initial encounter. The shadows in his mind laid claim at the first direct hit, rage carrying him through what Jein claimed were impossible odds for a wetlander.

”I’m not a typical wetlander,” Dax remembered telling her. When he rolled up his sleeves to wash the blood from his face the Maiden had seen the ink on his wrists for the first time. She had laughed, pointing to the herons and making some odd gestures with her hands as she turned to the other Maidens. They had laughed as well, then scattered without another word spoken, much to his mystified surprise.

Now he was alone with his thoughts and his wounds, walking down a hill toward a bank of fog taller than the Grey Tower itself. He watched it curiously as he moved nearer. The cloud was heavy and dark, constantly moving, yet remained in place despite the light wind that had sprung up an hour prior.

Eventually Dax topped a small rise and found that the fog cut a line through the sand like a wall. He stepped closer, closer still, until he could reach out and hover a hand inches from the roiling cloud. He pushed his hand forward, half expecting it to rebound, but it passed through easily; when he pulled it out, a slight damp feeling followed, but it quickly dissipated in the sun. “Strange.” Of all the things to give him pause in this world, a wall of mist seemed a ridiculous candidate, and yet the Tairen hesitated, licking his lips and considering his options, until the sand beneath his feet finally grew so hot he could no longer stand still. He squeezed his eyes shut, built an image of Tomas and Thea and Elia behind his eyelids, and forced himself forward.

When he opened his eyes again, it was to find himself inside a vast dome, its blue-ish surface comprised of that same queasy-looking moving mist. He turned on his heel to stare at it. How many channelers did it take to build this thing? How do they maintain it? Those were questions for Elia, assuming he ever had reason to ask. For now…

His gaze wandered, taking in the structures surrounding him. The Wise Ones had given him no instructions beyond telling him he could have no food or water--and Light, he regretted not drinking his fill before he left, now--and thus the Tairen had no idea what he was supposed to do next. After several more moments of hesitation, he willed his feet forward. Whatever he was supposed to do here it would become apparent eventually.

Easy to have hope when my options are have hope or die, he thought somewhat morbidly as he explored the wide avenues and enormous, unfinished structures that lined them. It was beautiful, yet haunting; it reminded him a little of Hama Valon after the Seanchan attacked...if construction had been forced to stop midway. I wonder how many have come here to die? He hadn’t seen any evidence of such, yet, but he had difficulty finding comfort in that fact.

Slowly the Gaidin’s feet carried him inward. At first he sang tavern songs to pass the time, but then his dry throat protested the abuse and he proceeded in silence. Eventually he rounded a corner and found himself staring into a plaza the likes of which he had never seen before. His eyes skipped from columns to statues to strangely shaped sculptures...item to odd item, thousands of them, spread out like a child’s overturned toy box.

Near the center was a tree larger than most Dax had ever seen, its limbs reaching up to the dome above as if its trefoil leaves could feel the sun despite the block. He wanted to go to it, but the tree seemed out of bounds to him, cordoned off by a wall of his own mistakes and lies, and the blood on his hands. Others might deserve to spend time with the Tree of Life, but Dax? No. Dax could never claim such a right. Lips twitching up in a crooked smile, the Gaidin bowed to Avendesora every bit as respectfully as he ever had to a human, and turned away.

He wished it didn't hurt so much.

On his third circuit of the plaza, he found what he needed. He had been staring at a figure of a woman in a flowing dress that he was absolutely certain Elia would like, but when he finally ripped his eyes away and looked around, they landed on a redstone doorway, its frame twisted so the eye could not follow from point to point. It stood there, silently taunting the Tairen, until he crossed the intervening space to examine it more closely.

“I already talked to the snake people,” Dax told the door conversationally. “They answered my questions. If I needed more questions answered, why wouldn’t they just grant me three more, or tell me to re-enter the door in Tear?” He touched the frame cautiously, running callused fingers along the triangles that framed the door in rows of three. That’s different, isn’t it? He couldn’t remember, but it hardly seemed important. The Tairen argued with himself until he could think of nothing further to say. Considering all he had been through to get there, it seemed absurd to stop then, no matter how strange it seemed to go back in.

He sighed, shrugged, and took a step into blinding light and resonant sound.
Image Image Image Image
False alarm- there's still a song for me; I'm just about around to sing it
There's still a chance for me...and I'm still here singing.

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