Mabriam's Day

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Kali
Posts: 140
Joined: Sat Apr 20, 2019 6:57 pm
Location: New Mexico, US

Mabriam's Day

Post by Kali » Tue Feb 11, 2020 5:26 pm

Kali looked up from the paper that lay atop the plain, white bedside stand to glance in the mirror for perhaps the fourth time that evening. She adjusted the hem of her dress, smoothing out the rainbow bands of color at the hem. The face that stared back at her was not the same face she'd seen in the mirror the day before. There was no physical difference, of course. The oddly youthful olive face set with the same large brown eyes, raven-black curls tinged with just a hint of gray, kept impeccably in place with small pins. But she knew to her bones she was no longer the same person. It was the eyes that stared back at her, she decided. Far too ancient, having witnessed too much, to belong to a face so young.

Outside, she heard the chitter-chatter of novices and Accepted, scurrying about, hushed whispers floating through the air. Word had spread quickly that Kali had recently undergone the Test, and had put herself into seclusion. Not that seclusion particularly mattered, as the girls seemed to timid to approach her now. A gulf had widened between them, even those that had been closest to her. As a last gift of kindness on this side of the divide, Kali had discreetly summoned sweetcakes from the kitchens in celebration of her recent nameday, and left them to feast, while she herself returned to her prayer and contemplation, quietly lighting a candle in honor of parents of whom she had no memory.

Not for the first time, Kali wished for one -- just one -- memory of them. She held that wish in her mind and in her heart for one more moment -- and let it go. It would never be a thing she would ever get, nor would it change anything. As a child, Kali had once snuck into the headmistress' office and stolen her own file, finding one of the stewards willing to discretely read it to her -- but there was no clue to follow. Only the Companions' report.

Some claimed war created nothing and destroyed everything. They had obviously never been around to witness the aftermath. War was good at creating at least two things -- widows and orphans. They had found her in a field, surrounded by slaughtered livestock, sucking her thumb and clenching a soiled doll made of straw. Her own first memories came years later, sharing bunks with six other young girls in the Perfumed Quarter, nauseated by the overwhelming odor of pitch, hemp and stagnant salt water, just down the canal from Mistress Sidoro's establishment.

The children and wives of fallen soldiers were provided a modest stipend from the King and the Council of Nine, but peasant orphans rarely fared as well. It wasn't out of cruelty or an uncaring State -- at least not exactly -- but simply out of there being far too many for a war-ravaged nation to provide anything beyond the basics for. As a Ward of the Crown, Kali was provided with sustenance, clothing, modest supervision and little else. The King saw it best for such children to be adopted, and if not, managed until their obligation could otherwise be discharged, typically around the child's fifteenth to sixteenth name day. For a boy that might mean apprenticeship or a path to military service. The girls were taught housework and refinement. Better for an orphan girl to be married off through arrangement than end up on the street. At least that was the crown's reasoning.

Kali looked back down at the unfinished letter sitting before her, carefully reviewing every word. Beautiful, meticulous flowing script covered the creamy white paper. Satisfied, she took her quill in her left hand, dipped it in the ink one more time, and signed her name at the bottom. Without a signature, likely no one would have been able to read it and put the impeccable grammar the thick Illianer speech that rolled off her tongue. She'd been enrolled in the novice books just barely able to write her own name, and unable to read much else. The White Tower had seen fit to properly instruct her in her letters. She sprinkled fine sand on the parchment to dry the excess ink, folded the letter, and addressed it. Then she picked up a nub of blue wax and, pressing it to the paper, reached out to Saidar. She channeled a thin line of Fire into one end, just enough to melt a small part of it into a plain blue circle, sealing the letter. She left the seal unmarked. Best not the recipient think her to be too pretentious yet.

Kali poked her head outside of her quarters and beckoned over a novice. The girl, maybe one of sixteen or eighteen years, tall with red-gold hair, jumped and stifled a squeak before hurrying over.

"Deliver this to where it do be needing to go, please, with all haste," she said, handing the letter to the novice. The novice snatched it from her, awkwardly dipping a half-curtsy, and hurried off. Kali arched an eyebrow. Test or no, she was not Aes Sedai yet. No reason for the girl to act so nervously.

Kali watched her go, and with just a hint of a sigh released Saidar. As she did, the bells announced the hour with a dull toll. She did some quick counting in her head and smiled. The hours had become a new day. And today was Mabriam's Day.

Returning to her stand, she opened her belt pouch and reached inside. Her hand came away with a delicate golden diadem, adorned with a dangling sapphire.

There was little that orphan children had to look forward to so much as a good feast day. And for Kali, her favorite had always been Mabriam's Day. On that day, chores were made lighter and the girls would all gather together to conspire to play pranks on the boys. No one knew how the tradition started. The point was to pick a boy you were interested in, but to work with others so as to conceal who did it. If he could guess right, he would win a forfeit.

Kali let her mind drift back to a Mabriam's day long ago. Six days prior, on her fifteenth name day, it had been announced that a marriage had been arranged for her, to a balding hemp merchant who owned a small share in a river vessel, enough to afford a paltry sum for a dowry. Fearing she would never get a chance to have any agency again, she decided to seek out the attentions of the only eligible man who really had shown her anything approaching beauty or compassion, a young baker's assistant named Milos. Maybe, just maybe, if he caught her, he'd take some interest in her too, and offer to marry her himself. Or carry her off in secret. Or something, anything. She had two other girls distract him while she set her trap, a bucket of pitch and a goose-feather pillow, set to fall upon him as he took out the refuse from the back of the kitchen to the inn. Then she hid behind some sacks of flour and waited while a third girl called for him.

Milos opened the door -- and nothing. The thread she'd rigged snagged upon an outstanding nail and snapped.

Desperate, reaching for anything -- in her mind grasping for any sort of thread to escape her fate with everything she had -- this had to work!

And something happened.

As of its own volition, the bucket of pitch fell, upended, splashing the warm black ooze over himself, and the goosefeathers rained down upon him like silent cool snowflakes, sticking to hair, face and clothes.

Milos roared in surprise, and then burst out in laughter. He looked around as Kali crouched in silence, biting her lip so as not to giggle.

"Why you---" he let out, turning and storming back to the kitchen, "--Aleriosa, fortune prick me, did you be behind this?"

Kali stayed hidden in silence for some time after, not sure whether to laugh or cry.

To this day she never understood why she hadn't just let herself be found. It just wasn't the way that sort of thing worked. And Milos never found out it had been her. Soon after, however, things started to happen. Unexplained sicknesses. Changes in behavior. Fits of giddiness. The headmistress finally, grudgingly, gave up the coin to pay for a wise woman to examine Kali. Her diagnosis was as swift as it was final: Kali could channel. By sundown she was on a carriage to Whitebridge, with a walking staff, the clothes on her back, and just enough coin to make her way to Tar Valon.

Bringing her mind back to the present, Kali fixed the diadem around her head, weaving the chain through her black hair. The sapphire hung just right in the center of her forehead. The day she set foot in the Tower Square, cold, hungry, completely ignorant of the outside world, had been the start of a new life. The weaving of the Wheel had plucked her from her old life and thrust her into a direction that was completely unknown.

Kali dropped her hands, and absentmindedly turned her Great Serpent ring on her finger. Those remints of her old life had been so far back in the past that they might as well have been the memories of another woman. One by one she let them go.

Still, maybe -- just once -- maybe it would have been nice for Milos to catch her.

Kali held that thought in her mind, and in her heart, for just one solid moment -- and let it go. And with it faded the last moment of regret or bitterness for an unlived life she would ever have. The last moment of self pity for that scared orphan girl.

Kali looked at that face in the mirror, and nodded to the reflection. It was, indeed, her face.

She turned to her bed and neatly laid out her items upon it. The dresses in her closet would be left behind for someone to follow after her.

Then came a sharp knock on the chamber door.

Kali opened the chamber door. Two women stepped inside. One, a short, fair-skinned woman with red hair done in small braids, which hung down past the yellow shawl wrapped around her arms. The other, a stocky woman with a face devoid of any expression, a shawl of deep blue draped across her shoulders. Their presence at that moment seemed to drain the very air from the room.

Kali stood before them without dropping to a curtsy and regarded the ageless faces in silence.

"Accepted Kali," said Kitiara. "Please follow me."

Fyra nodded in silence to Kali, and the two Sitters turned around. Kali stepped out the door after them. It was time to come home.

Reyne
Posts: 999
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:46 am

Re: Mabriam's Day

Post by Reyne » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:30 pm

5/5

Erulisse
Posts: 535
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:32 am

Re: Mabriam's Day

Post by Erulisse » Fri Feb 14, 2020 8:15 pm

Beautifully executed!

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