Jaren Marle, Human Disaster
Jaren was sitting in his room, reading despite the late hour and the fact that he’d had a long day mucking the stables. The entire room smelled of the herb-scented soap he’d used to get the smell of dung off his hair though it had been a couple of hours already since he’d come in. On the stables days he didn’t come to his room without visiting the baths first, for obvious reasons.
He was close to nodding off over Tales from the Blightborder when there was a knock on his door. He looked up from the book, frowning. Who could it be at this hour? Or ever, for that matter; his friends weren’t really the sort to visit him in the Dedicated’s quarters even in daytime. For a ludicrous fraction of a second he entertained the thought it might be Jaryd, and once he realised where his mind had gone, he laughed out loud; reading tales of daring adventures must have softened his brain.
But that still didn’t solve the mystery, and the knock sounded again, more insistent this time. With a not-quite-stifled groan, Jaren set the book aside and picked himself up and headed to the door. “Yes—?” When he saw who the intruder was, his first instinct was to close the door again.
“Marle,” his former roommate, Marten Emry said.
Jaren inwardly regretted ever getting up from his chair. Whatever the Soldier wanted, he didn’t have either time or energy for this… Wait a second. Something caught Jaren’s eye, a glint of silver catching the light of the sphere of saidin illuminating the room behind. Marten’s collar held the sword pin of the Dedicated. His eyes took in the sight of the younger man again, noting the haunted look in red-rimmed eyes, the bedraggled state of his uniform and hair. Jaren suppressed a sigh.
“Congratulations,” he said flatly, not moving from the doorway or opening the door wider. “What do you want?”
The new Dedicated ducked his head briefly before looking at Jaren again. “Please, just… let me in?”
“Why?” Jaren replied. “Why me? Friends are for emotional support, you know, not former roommates you spent years antagonising. Run along now.” He started to close the door, but Marten moved in the way.
“I don’t exactly have any!” the younger man blurted out, his voice brittle and pitiful. “Friends. I don’t have… friends.”
Jaren didn’t try to stop the sigh this time, or rein in the sarcasm in his voice when he spoke again, “Yeah, I wonder why that might be.” He stared blankly at the other man for a long moment. Marten didn’t look a day older than twenty, if even that much, though he had to be in his mid twenties; he’d started channelling young, and had been either blessed or cursed with a face that would remain boyish even as he aged. “So tell me, are you going to be doing something stupid if I send you on your way?” Jaren eventually asked, voice heavy with resignation.
A confused frown creased the younger man’s brow. “What, 'stupid' like trip myself off a balcony or—”
“I mean 'stupid' like going out to the city, getting blind drunk and passing out in a gutter because you don’t have a friend to drag your drunken ass back to bed,” Jaren interjected sharply. “If I thought you were going to actively harm yourself, I’d be dragging you to Maever. I’m not a Yellow yet,” he added, a little wryly.
Jaren shook his head; he wasn’t really going to turn the kid away, was he? “Ah, alright. Fine. Come in, then.” He moved aside to let the other man pass, closed the door behind him… And punched him in the face.
Taken by surprise, Marten fell on his backside on the floor with a pained yelp. “What the bloody hell was that for?”
“That,” Jaren replied, wincing a little as he rubbed his hand, “was for Nasrin. For every woman you’ve ever treated disrespectfully. For being a pain in the ass for three years.” For talking shit about Jaryd for three years.
Marten grunted, touching his left cheek gingerly. “Whatever,” he said. “You hit like a Novice, anyway.”
“Hey now, what did I just say about being disrespectful to women,” Jaren said. “Many of them could break your sorry neck. Unlike you, however, they have manners.” But despite his harsh words, he knelt beside the other man still sitting on the floor. “…I can Heal that for you if you like?”
“Whatever,” Marten repeated.
Jaren seized saidin and pressed his fingers lightly to the injured cheek. Without Healing, there would be an epic bruise coming up soon. Threads of Spirit, Air and Water formed the simple Healing; the amount of energy involved in fixing such a minor injury was small enough that it didn’t matter that he didn’t use any of the more advanced weaves. Marten gasped and shuddered as the chill of the Healing washed over him, then he looked at Jaren again.
“You’re a bloody disaster, Marle,” he muttered.
Jaren snorted. “Look who’s talking,” he replied, surprising himself with how calm and reasonable he sounded. He felt calm, too, as though he’d used up all his annoyance and frustration on that single punch that hadn’t even done a lot of damage. He backed away a little, to sit with his back against the side of the bed. “So… did you want to talk about it?”
For a while, Marten simply stared at him in silence. Then something seemed to… break, the obnoxiously defiant expression crumbled and he slumped forward, sobbing uncontrollably.
Jaren closed his eyes briefly and ran a hand through his hair. Really? Am I really dealing with this? You’ve got to be kidding me. But it was not in his nature to just sit and watch when someone was in pain and not even try to help. He moved closer again, placing a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. And as though the touch had torn down some barrier, Marten turned to look at him for a second, then collapsed against him, still sobbing. Jaren’s arms came up around him as if of their own accord, and though a part of him wanted to laugh hysterically at the whole situation, and another part wanted to tell the kid to get a grip and get lost, he did neither.
Instead he sat there in silence while the new Dedicated wept in his arms. Wishing, maybe, that somebody had done the same for him after his Arches, months ago.