Jaryd padded up the narrow back stairs to the Triumvirate’s office. At this time of night there were no servants to mark his passing; no one to know his business, no one to stop him, no one to care. Even Zeen was absent, their bond shielded as had become the M’Hael’s habit. For once that’s for the better, the small, dark man thought. If the words felt bitter, he did not seem to notice.
There were more perks to sharing Elia’s bed than simple bodily pleasure, he had discovered. While she slept he explored those things she allowed him to see (and some she did not) and that was how he had found the ter’angreal he toyed with as he climbed. It was a pretty thing, really; a chain connected in a loop, with each link a separate chain, and then each of those loops a chain, and so on and so forth until his eyes could no longer see the details...and he had no doubt it continued even then. It had a specific purpose, that chain; one carefully outlined in the Vault log for any to see who knew what to look for.
The ter’angreal was an interesting physical metaphor for how he felt about the weave that held him to a man who had once been his friend and protege. There was no end to the complexity of their relationship; even without the bond, Jaryd wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Even though Jaryd knew Zeen had bonded him for a good cause, even though he had somewhat belatedly asked the former Green to use the bond’s compulsion to keep him alive, even though he knew without it he would have joined Kaia in the grave within a matter of weeks, the Altaran’s resentment had blossomed. Like lichen on old stone it burrowed into every tiny weakness in their friendship, causing what had once been unassailable to crumble and decay, until nothing remained but the memory of a thought. They barely spoke now, and avoided each other’s company whenever possible.
His foot topped the last step, and indecision set in. Jaryd stared at the door in front of him with blank eyes, his mind shuffling through events at a speed that Dax had once described as ‘nauseating.’ There were many branches in his line of thought, and the more Jaryd mused, the angrier he got. For a moment he was concerned -what if Zeen chose that moment to let the barrier fall?- and then he dismissed that concern entirely. His bondmate was used to his changing emotions. Anger, even outright rage, had never fazed him before.
Gritting his teeth, Jaryd sliced through the Ward on the door and pushed it open, stepping into a study that had once been his own. He looked around at the new decorations with one eyebrow up, then went straight for the M’Hael’s desk. He didn’t reach for sensitive records or communications (his own Eyes and Ears gave him all the information he needed), but rather for blank paper and a pen. Then he settled in the chair and began to write.
How exactly did one write what Jaryd wanted to say? He gnawed on his lip thoughtfully until words came to him.
As you will know by the time you read this, I wish to be free of our bond. As you may have surmised by the manner in which it ended, I do not trust you to keep your promise to me.
That was straightforward enough. All things considered, he could probably leave it at that and it would be sufficient. There was so much more, however.
You chose to bond me, knowing my condition, and knowing I did not desire it. Once you committed to that choice, your health and safety became my own. I will not survive another broken bond, after all. You do not seem to be aware of this fact, however; you play games with your life in the Blight with no care for the potential consequence to me. To make matters worse you refuse to allow me to act in my capacity as bonded Warder. I can neither insist you remain here for my sanity, nor even be present to ensure your safety once you go. When I feel you Travel north I have to prepare myself for the fact that that day may very well be my last.There was a time I welcomed that fate, but that time is long past.
It was realizing that his eagerness had changed to terror that had led to Jaryd stealing the ter’angreal from Elia some weeks before. The Indigo would not be best pleased when she noticed it gone, but Jaryd would be surprised if she ever figured out who took it. From his observations there were multiple people who had access to her chambers, and any one of them could be light fingered. Would he return it? Potentially. They no longer slept together, so opportunity to do so would be slim.
The irony is that if you had accepted the responsibilities that came with your decision; if you had endured my emotional state for the sake of my well being as you ought to, rather than blocking our bond at every opportunity, you would be aware of my changing frame of mind. Were that the case, I would not be writing this letter.
The lack of connection certainly became more apparent with every conversation he had with the Amadician.
Given that you toy with my life and block out my feelings as it suits you, it should come as no surprise that I do not trust you to keep your promises. If I were to ask you for freedom and you were to refuse, I would have no choice but to take you before the Hall. The laws on this subject are quite harsh. For your crime you would lose your ability to channel and you would be lucky to avoid execution given your status in the Tower.
The Red’s thin, spidery script faltered, and his vision blurred as he stared down at the letter.
Even after all that has transpired I cannot risk that chance, my friend. As you once took a choice from my hands to save my life, so I now take a choice from yours for the same reason. Forgive me my actions as I have forgiven yours. When people ask what happened, tell them you released me, and let this stain pass into history unremarked.
Jaryd tipped his head back and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling hot tears streak down his temples into his hair. It took an inordinate amount of time to get a hold of himself, but eventually he managed to sign his name across the bottom of the page. Then he folded the vellum in three and used a candle to melt sealing wax across the edge. He blew on it for a moment, then pressed his signet into the pool. When the ring came away, it left the clean imprint of a tomcat behind in the gold-flecked crimson wax.
Sighing softly, the Asha’man stood and walked to the M’Hael’s personal quarters, the chain looped around one arm and the letter in his opposite hand. Jaryd himself had created and helped maintain the Wards that guarded that room; it was a simple matter to unwind the flows and step through.
Zeen lay sprawled across the bed, sound asleep in little more than his smallclothes. Jaryd’s eyebrows went up -he had not expected his bondmate to actually be in the Tower- but it did not deter him from slipping across the room to prop the letter against the empty decanter on the bedside table. You drink too much. The thought was swift and quickly forgotten as the Altaran’s gaze turned down to the man on the bed. He stood there for some time, memorizing features that he may never see in such a relaxed state again. I will miss you more than you will ever know.
Letter written and peace made, he turned away from Zeen’s bed and walked out to the balcony. The one part of being M’Hael that Jaryd had truly enjoyed had been that wide expanse of glass and marble, and he felt his frustration begin to unravel as he stepped into the shadows there. His teeth flashed as he hopped up on the railing; two light-footed running steps later and he had scrambled to the roof above. Once there the thief-turned-Asha’man maneuvered to sit against the domed chamber where the Oath Rod was housed, knees drawn up before him.
The ter’angreal he carried felt heavier now as the reality of his decision set in. Jaryd stared down at it in the silver light of the moon, slender fingers caressing each link as he considered what he was about to do.
Removing the bond would have consequences, he knew that. He and Zeen had been bonded for quite some time, after all, and the Indigo’s notes on the ter’angreal’s effects had been rather specific. He was taking a risk by using it at all, let alone using it on the roof of the tallest structure in a thousand leagues. Assuming he survived the night there would be political issues as well, tensions birthed that might take centuries to quell given their extended lifespans. At least he and Miahala were no longer at odds; that would help keep the inevitable discord between two people rather than two Ajahs.
With a soft sigh the Asha’man seized saidin, Spirit threading through the chain links in the manner described in the Indigo notes. For a moment nothing happened...and then Zeen flared brilliantly bright within his mind, the wall between them smashed to pieces. The former Green surged out of slumber, panic and shock tumbling over the bond, their mirrored feelings echoing higher and higher until-
He vanished from Jaryd’s mind entirely.
Sweet Creator, it worked. The Red sat in stunned silence, staring up at the stars as he listened to the sound of his former bondmate moving about below. For a moment loneliness consumed him; how many more people would he love and lose in the many centuries he had to face? Panic and despair rose in overwhelming waves and his head fell back against the wall behind him, his breath ragged and uneven as he sought some form of peace. In some distant part of his mind, he recognized that what he felt did not belong to him. It radiated from the place where two people had once resided, a searing reminder of what he had lost. This does not belong to me. This is not who I am.
Jaryd heard Tia’s steady voice as they sat together in his chambers long after Low. He felt Jaren's body and mouth against his own, and watched the Andoran's grin light up an entire room. He saw Nasrin walk by ‘trying to Domani’ as she called it, then remembered her laughter as they scrambled over roofs together. Maever’s concerned face as he inquired after Jaryd’s happiness. Ravak’s smile as the Shienaran handed him a Thanksgiving gift, and Miahala giving him a knowing look over the rim of a glass of wine. One after the other people he had come to view as friends visited his thoughts and with each new face he relaxed more.
I am not alone. I will never be alone again. The core of fear and grief that had consumed the Altaran for decades dissipated entirely, and he stretched out on the roof with his arms behind his head, grinning up at the nighttime sky like a fool in love.
OOC: I will almost certainly edit details to reflect events in a thread Matty and I are about to write, but since Z&J's bond dissolution is already formalized and the actual manner in which the bond dissolves will not change, I've decided to just go ahead and post it.