Disclaimer: I do not own the Wheel of time. I do not intend to make any money from writing this. It is written for my own enjoyment.
A/N: Please again enjoy responsibly.
Only a Child
That night found Nynaeve sitting with her back pushed up against the wall, facing a window she could not reach. Outside the world glowed in reds, oranges and flickering yellows as buildings burned. The sounds of fighting had quelled almost instantly after her strange awakening, only the sporadic boom of distant thunder, the flash of lightning and the shaking ground told her the fight continued.
Outside the sounds of the guards that had been left by her door came time and again. The quiet slurred voices deep in conversation. The clang as metal hit metal as they shifted. The thud of a body leaning up against her door. The soft crunch of leather boots on gravel as they patrolled the area around her house.
Once one had come inside.
The door near the window had opened without warning, quickly followed by a light that she had no time to adjust to. She had squeezed her eyes shut, brought a hand up to shield her face and turned her head against the abuse as the lantern was followed by a hulking mass of a figure.
When her eyes had adjusted, and the pain receded, she had found herself looking at one of the biggest man she had ever seen. Big in a way that would make her feel as though a child had she been standing, big in the way that he could have impersonated a small Trolloc had he wished.
Clad in metal armour of red, gold and green he had moved his bulk in her former home as one might move around a wine cellar. Carful to make no sudden movements, always watching his step as if at the next moment he was going to break something he had never intended to even touch. He had had to stoop to even make it through the door and had never stood to his full height once inside.
She had eyed the long metal sword at his waist and the slim jagged knife tucked into his belt that caught the light as he moved but had made no attempt for either. It wasn't fear that stopped her, or the knowledge that even if she somehow managed to grab one and deal the soldier a blow that she would still be no closer to escape, but the fact that he had never stepped within her reach.
She had remembered Egwene's descriptions of her time wearing the collar, remembered word of Cadsuane's studies. Moving beyond the range allowed by the leash that linked bracelet to collar would leave her screaming and thrashing on the floor. So she had watched as he moved about, a mountain trying to step like a cat. He had brought the lantern up to inspect the bracelet as it hung, clipped to the edge of the cloth that covered her table. Then satisfied, followed the length of the leash to the collar around her neck.
And she had smiled.
Not a smile of joy, happiness or friendship. She had smiled a smile that had once terrified her, one that had chilled her to the bones every time she had seen it. She could still remember the cold sweat that had dripped done her back, following the curve of her spine, when that smile had been directed at her. She smiled the smile that Semirhage wore after they had captured her, closed mouthed, tight lips slightly upturned. A smile with a promise.
His green eyes had widened as he jerked back with a curse, his footsteps for once not carful and precise. In rushed movements he threw something wrapped in cloth at her feet and started for the door as quickly as his lumbering frame would allow.
She spoke, trying to imitate the control in the voice of the woman that had originally worn that smile and had been disgusted with herself for it. "Release me now and I swear you will not be harmed."
He had frozen at the sound of her voice, and then his body started trembling. She had sat up straighter, tense, hopeful and then had slumped again as his laughter filled the room. He had turned and spoken to himself as he had regarded her in the dim light. "A damane with demands, who would imagine such a thing? As well a horse demanding not to be saddled." He spoke around his mirth, exasperated. "And to look me in the eye…"
"If you do not, I'll-" she had tried again as he trailed off, but had been drowned out as he laughed even louder and left shaking his head. Seconds after the door had snapped shut, after a quick exchange in that slurred way of theirs, a second laugh boomed into the night.
She had gritted her teeth and unwrapped the cloth he had tossed to her, and upon seeing it was a small wedge of cheese and hard bread, had thrown it at the door as hard as she could, which only brought more laughter. She had grabbed hold of her braid with both hands, squeezed her eyes shut and focused on taking long deep breaths as she resisted the urge to scream.
It was that anger that had finally allowed her to work up the courage to attempt what she knew she would from the moment she had felt the collar around her neck. She had been stalling, holding onto one of her last little bits of hope for as long as she could, afraid of failure.
She knew how the collar worked. She knew how to open one that she held in her hands, she also knew that attempting to open one is such a way that was around her own neck was impossible. Pain would blossom, her fingers would shake and then go numb. Her hands spasm and flex uncontrollably. She had been careful up to now to only touch the cold metal with the intent of simply feeling it there. Careful to not let her thoughts turn to removing it while her fingers felt along its cool length.
But she also knew how to open one with the Saidar. As she had done for Egwene. Egwene who had said she had been able to channel no more than a thread while collared. Egwene who she had released in Falme. 'And that had taken no more than a trickle.' The thought had swirled in her mind for what felt like the thousandth time.
And so now she sat, gazing out that window at the flames as her anger cooled, determination worming its way through her. The thought of failure, the thought of been trapped with no way out…her mind shied away from such thoughts. It could not be so. 'Dear Creator, why had I never tested this?'
She reached for Saidar, opened herself to its warm embrace, and started in surprise when nothing happened. Puzzled she reached again. It was like standing atop a mountain and trying to touch the ocean just visible on the horizon. An ocean that had made the impossible journey to fill her with its calming waters time and again, only now it seemed indifferent to her call. A scorned friend whose back was turned. An indifferent foe where an ally had once stood. She was left grasping at air.
An icicle of fear wormed its way into her stomach. 'Light Egwene had never mentioned this.' She had never said they could remove the ability to touch the source so completely when they were not wearing the bracelet. 'Always, always she had said she could channel, if only in meagre amounts.' It was like they had blocked her somehow, but with no shield. A permanent block was in place like…a block…
'Light her block was still in place.'
The realization caused her breathing to even out and her fear to wane. She knew suddenly, with an irrational certainty, that her block was the reason she was here, alone, in this room and not outside leashed to a sul'dam helping to pacify the people she loved. She was useless to them.
That made her pause. If she could not channel they would have no reason to keep her leashed. She could not be forced to use her abilities for their ends. She may still be denied her freedom, but she would not be complicit with their deeds. 'I can deny them if I leave the block in place, I…' the thoughts died.
'They would find my anger or a way around the block,' she realised, 'or worse still, they will find a way to break me, and I will remove it willingly.' She shuddered at the thought. If that happened, she would never attempt, never even try to escape. Egwene had admitted in her quieter moments that her ability to resist had faded overtime, that part of her had slowly come to long to be with a sul'dam, if only so she could touch Saidar, come to look forward to the praise, the rewards… 'No better to try it now, while I am still strong. Light what would Lan say if I never even tried?'
She sat up straight and pressed her back firmly against the wall, brought her hands to her lap, bowed her head and closed her eyes. She tried to imagine herself elsewhere and was surprised when it came easily. Not where she had intended, but appropriate none the less. She would need to tread the old paths, step by step.
She was back in a tent on the road from Fal Dara to Medo, from where she would travel the rest of the way with the Aes Sedai to Tar Valon. A little under two years ago, after they had visited the Eye of the World. Thoughts assailed her, questions of how the pattern spun now, who had lived, who had died, if the Eye had even been visited. 'Had I been there?' She pushed them aside as her vision started to waver and focused. They were a distraction she could not afford.
She was in the tent sitting beside Egwene. Verin Sedai in front of them both. Verin the black. Verin the hero. Verin who was instructing one eager young girl in her attempts to touch the one power. One eager young girl and one misguided, ignorant, fool of a young woman. She grimaced in her room in the Two Rivers. It was so very odd to consider herself back then, not so long ago. Wanting to learn the power so she could use it against the Aes Sedai themselves, full of fear and misunderstanding. She finally admitted to herself something she had known for a very long time. 'Moiraine Sedai,' she pulled on her braid briefly before releasing it, 'Moiraine coming to the Two Rivers was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It had led to… everything.'
Back in the tent Verin was speaking and she smiled slightly as she followed the instructions as she never had before, willingly. Verin spoke of emptying herself, of emptying her thoughts and she did. She spoke of the only thing in her mind been the bud of the flower and she imagined her blackthorn bush, buds hidden among the sharp black thorns. "Only the bud," she had said, "You can see it in every detail, every vain, every leaf. You can touch it, smell it." And she could. "You and the bud are the same. You are one. You are the bud." And she was.
She thought of the day she was drowning in the river, of her surrender. She imagined it now as she did as Verin instructed and brought the buds to bloom. She surrendered those beautiful white petals, those beautiful flowers to whatever fate awaited them. They bloomed to face the sun in parts of the blackthorn bush not protected by the thorns, open and defenceless.
A fear tried to come then, from deep within her, an instinctual reaction of her mind. The very same instinctual reaction that had created, that had formed her block. It had also saved her life, allowing her some measure of control over a power that would otherwise have killed her. She gave it to the world, released it from within her and for the second time in her life, all doubt, all fear vanished. She stood meekly before the flood waters and surrendered herself to whatever fate they wished.
And Saidar came.
She drew and held no more than a trickle, not wanting to alert any of the sul'dam or damane that may be in the village. Tentatively she channeled a simple weave, one of the first she had ever learnt and immediately convulsed as her stomach heaved and sweat beaded on her forehead.
'Too much,' she thought desperately, 'I am channeling too much.' She reduced the amount she was channeling, then again and then more. The nausea in her stomach lessened each time, until it merely felt like she was sailing the open sea in rolling thunderstorm. She channeled barely a thread.
"Light that's less than I used when I freed Egwene," she muttered as she picked herself up from where she had slid to the floor. "Half what I used."
But she had known next to nothing in Falme. She had grown both in understanding and skill since then. And Moghedien had lectured, after many false starts and open threats, about female channelers and dexterity. The ability to do more with less and quicker.
"And you have already used that, discovered it is true," she whispered to herself, steely determination creeping into her voice, "why not with this too?" She thought of her skills with healing, already since those lectures she could split her weaving more ways at once, her threads of the power that she used had shrunk threefold, entire weaves of healing no bigger than a thread of the finest silk. Less power used to accomplish the same result, with greater control.
There was a larger understanding there, that she had come to realise she was missing, come to realise that Moghedien had held back. Why did certain weaves work better than others? Why, if she attached water to spirit on a certain weave the barest fraction away from where she had been taught to put it, did the weave perform better or worse. Why did the weave work at all?
'You're stalling again.' The thought floated softly up out of the recesses of her mind and she flinched. She realised her heart was beating faster and she was sweating heavily, the mind trick forgotten. The nausea gnawed at her and she knew she was running out of time, gambling with her own fate. The longer she channeled, the longer she held the power and did nothing, the greater her chances of discovery.
The weave started to grow slowly before her, refined, reformed and rebuilt thread by thread. It seemingly came together of its own accord and she began to shake. Layer by layer it built, spinning slowly as it grew. Instinctively, as the last thread of Earth fell slowly into place, she knew this would open an a'dam, she just had no idea what would happen using it against one she wore herself. She eyed the weave as she would a coiled snake.
"Oh burn me," she muttered and threw the weave at the cold piece of metal around her neck.
The next time she was able to move, the sun had almost risen, the fires had been put out and the a'dam was still around her neck. Her thoughts were turned to that place outside of time, to the being that had brought her the memory of her people, to the one that wanted her to be here. It gave her a hope, her last. A hope she clung too desperately.
"… only a child. Why would you do this?"
The words came to her from a faraway place. A voice she knew well. But Jancy hardly paid it any attention. She hurt, she hurt all over.
"She is not a child," another voice, harsher, one she did not know, spoken with a strange accent. "She was marath'damane and you both needed to be taught a lesson, your first lesson. Disobedience will only bring punishment." It came to Jancy that she was lying on a floor, her head resting on something soft and some part of her knew that was wrong. She needed to run. She had been running. 'Why aren't I running?' "Now that you both have been properly made damane, we your sul'dam, must instruct you on how to behave properly."
She opened her eyes, or at least tried to; one of them didn't appear to be working. She flinched against the pain and quickly just tried to open her right eye. She found her head was nestled in someone's lap. She tried to shift her body to see who it belonged to, but the movement turned into a groan as the pain hit her again. Her legs didn't seem to be working, her right arm and hand had flared with a bright hot burning the moment she had pushed against the floor and the movement of her body forced her ribs to move, which was making it harder and harder to breath.
"Instruct them?" another, higher voice came to her as a hand reached out and began to rub her forehead, pulling her hair back from her face. "The little one may become something once she learns her place, but that one," she paused for a reason Jancy could not see, "should be put down. It is a mercy."
Jancy turned her head, just her head, toward the hand that was stroking her face as the body under her tensed. "Put down?" came the first voice with the odd accent.
She finally made eye contact with the woman looking down at her. Nynaeve's face was etched with such concern and pity that she began to cry. "If your horse breaks a leg and cannot run, or your raken a wing and cannot fly, you put them down. It is a kindness." Nynaeve began to rub the tears from her eyes as the other women spoke, whispering to her to be strong, that everything will be alright, which only made her cry harder. "What good is a damane that cannot channel?"
As she looked up at those eyes through her tears she realised something was wrong with them. Something different. Something that had never been there before. "She has the same impediment that many others we have taken in these lands have, Alwhin. We must be patient with her and she will become like the others, among the very best of the new damane."
Those eyes, they looked like eyes she had seen once, long ago.
"Most of those you speak of died in the attempt to train them, only a few learnt to touch the source properly." With an effort Jancy pulled her gaze away from the Wisdoms strange comforting eyes and turned her head toward the two women in conversation.
Both were in blue dresses with red panels, forked lightning embossed down the front. Dark cloaks hanging limply from their necks. One with short blond hair and a crooked nose, the other had a sharp face with thin blue eyes. Both were covered in dust and dirt. Hair had escaped from tightly controlled braids, eyes were sunken beneath dark lines and shoulders were slightly stooped, anger painting their expressions.
The one with the blonde hair spoke, seemingly at the edge of her patience. "We cannot afford to waste a damane. Not with the White Tower still standing, not with the nightmare creatures in the north. Or would you like the Seekers to inform the Son of Nine Moons that we killed his property offhand, that we did not try?"
The other, Alwhin, shivered at those words and made a sign of warding in front of her chest. "Very well Taisa. She is yours to deal with then. The little one is mine." She turned and looked right at Jancy, a look that made her skin crawl. "While I think of a name for my new pet, I am going to see what food that Inn has to offer, it was a long night." She turned toward the door but paused on her way out. "It saddens me that she has already been punished for it."
Taisa watched Alwhin leave before turning and making her way over. She squatted in front of them both and spoke directly to Nynaeve. "Earlier you asked why." A hand came up and rubbed her crooked, and she now saw, swollen nose. "You do this to me," she gestured to Jancy, "and we do this to her. We could have used the a'dam, and we did for some, to help her understand, but I felt this was more appropriate. This is the price of disobedience, of disobeying your sul'dam."
She watched terrified as the woman reached down and her hand grazed some of the more painful parts of her body before digging in to her ribs, causing her to scream. Her vision blurred. "When I found out she had been your apprentice while you were both marath'damane I understood immediately what your first punishment should be. Continue to disobey, and I will find other methods to help you understand."
The hand reached out and patted Nynaeve on the head. Her voice took on a different tone as she smiled, the smile of a woman talking to a small child. "You are scared and unsure of your place, that is to be expected, you have been marath'damane for a long time. I will help you to understand. Soon you will come to understand there is nothing to fear. Damane are prized throughout the Empire. We will show you to do things you never dreamed of; you will join the armies of the Corenne and help win back these lands from the oath breakers. It is an honour."
As her vision cleared Jancy saw Nynaeve lean forward slightly those strange eyes looking straight at the woman in blue and red. "I will remember Taisa, I will remember."Nynaeve's voice had an edge to it that she had not heard before. It was calm, laced not with an underlying threat, but a certainty.
The woman in front of them sighed. "No, no, no." She tossed her head. "What you should have said was 'Kira will remember, because Kira is a good damane.'" She paused and her voice hardened. "Say it."
When it didn't look like Nynaeve was going to respond the other woman quirked an eyebrow and her hand began reaching toward Jancy's ribs again. She moaned and feebly tried to pull her body away.
The words came out of the Wisdom in a rush, her voice flat. "Kira will remember, because Kira is a good damane."
The other woman stood, smiling brightly. "Very good." When she spoke again her voice had taken on the same odd tone that she had used before. "Now get some rest. I will be exercising you after lunch." With that and another pat on Nynaeve's head, she turned and left.
As soon as the door shut Nynaeve turned to her, her face full of sorrow. "Oh Jancy, how could they do this to you?" Her gaze travelled the length of her body and back to her face. "You are just a child."
She tried to smile around the pain and failed. "I will be able to braid my hair in a year or two Nynaeve, you promised. I am almost a woman, not a child." The Wisdoms face tightened at her words, causing her to starting crying again, her high pitched voice almost squeaking. "I tried to run, just like you said. Into the woods, out to the old al'Dar place and on to The Mire if need be. They caught me, I ran, I tired as hard as I could, I-"
She cut off as the other woman placed a finger over her lips, then began stroking her face again. "I believe you. There is no need for that. They had horses and those ra-," she paused, "other beasts. I am not sure anyone could have run from them."
She nodded as she eyed the silver bracelet and the leash connected to her throat. "Light what are we going to do?" she started crying harder, "They hurt me Nynaeve, they hurt me. I do not want them to hurt me again."
Nynaeve carefully pulled her close and held her as she sobbed, supporting her body, laying her cheek on top of her head. "I know, I know." She began rocking her slowly. "We just have to be strong. They are going to try horrible things to make us less than what we are but we just have to be strong. I swear I will get us out of this." She pulled back and looked her in the eyes. "I swear by the Light I will."
She nodded as best she could, trying to believe the other woman, wanting to believe her more than anything. "I will try Nynaeve, I will try."
The other woman smiled, strong and sure, "I know you will Jancy." She laid her cheek back against her head. "Hopefully they will," there was a slight pause, "allow me help you later." She hoped so too. She had seen the Wisdom work wonders time and again.
"Jancy?" Nynaeve asked, sometime later.
"Yes?" she mumbled, her eyes starting to grow heavy.
"This may sound like an odd question, but where is Rand al'Thor?"
She yawned as she rolled her eyes, something that was very difficult to do with one eye swollen shut she realised. "My head is fine Nynaeve; my words are not slurring, I have not lost my wits. They did not strike there often."
She felt the Wisdom's cool fingers softly brush her swollen eye and her voice came again, some of its old firmness returning. "I have to be sure."
"Rand," she sighed, "Rand left with the others nearly two years ago after that terrible Winternight."
"The others?" Nynaeve prodded.
"The Lady Moiraine and her Warder. Perrin, Matrim, Egwene and that Gleeman that could juggle so well." She paused. "You know, I still think sometimes about what would have happened had the Trollocs not come, that would have been the best Bel Tine ever. Fireworks and a Gleeman."
"Probably," the other woman stiffened. "And me Jancy? What did I do?"
She frowned as her eyes drooped, looking for the trick, "You?"
"After the others left, what did I do about it?"
"What you have always done Nynaeve. Some of the villagers wanted you to go after them yourself, but you said there were too many wounded, that Emond's Field needed its Wisdom. There was a vote but Tam al'Thor volunteered to go after he was well." She snuggled in closer to the other woman. 'Light how far had I run last night?' She smiled slightly. "And two months later you took me on as your apprentice because you needed someone to help after Egwene left. See Nynaeve, my head is fine."
The older woman made a noncommittal sound in her throat. "Yet you have not answered my question, where is Rand al'Thor?"
'Ah, so here it is.' There were things she knew, things no one outside the Village Council or Women's Circle was meant to know. Dangerous things. She told Nynaeve only what everyone knew as she struggled to keep her eyes open. "Tam's last letter said he was moving toward Cairhien. But that was a long time ago."
"Thank you."Jancy just grunted softly in response, far closer to been asleep then awake to do much more. At least Nynaeve would let her go to sleep now she had decided there was no chance of her not waking up. 'I told her there was nothing wrong with my head.'
The Wisdom began to hum softly, holding her close at the waist with her right hand, rubbing her back gingerly with the left. After a few minutes she had almost drifted off when she felt something odd from the other woman, a slight surging. Nynaeve leaned down and whispered into her ear, her voice strained. "I am sorry, but I have to know."
Seconds later a distinctive click sounded throughout the room.
A/N: I have found after writing this that I have more questions about the a'dam then I have answers. I know someone who wears the collar cannot remove her own or someone else's physically. I found reference in TGH to Egwene searching hers with the power, but not knowing how to remove it. Could someone remove their own using Nynaeve's weave? No idea. I decided not. Could someone using it remove someone else's? I decided so. If someone has a reference please share it with me, it's too late to change anything but it would be good to know.
Jancy is the only other girl with the spark in the Two Rivers that I found mention of. If Egwene left and Nynaeve stayed to me it is natural Jancy would become her apprentice.
And don't think the ending is as clear cut as it seems, think it through, think of Jancy's condition. There are problems whatever road Nynaeve decides to take.
Just be glad I didn't give Nynaeve a Husband in the Two Rivers.
Anyway hope you enjoyed!