Astrala din Eslandri Crescent Sun
|Astrala din Eslandri Crescent Sun|
|Affiliation||The Grey Tower|
The voice was deceptively gentle as it spoke, each inflection grating over Astra’s nerves like jagged glass. “Tell me again, child. You must tell me again.”
“Why?” Light grey eyes glared hard at the shawled women. “And I am not a child!” she snapped petulantly, her voice as heated as her fiery, dark red curls. This was wearing on her already thin patience. Slight of stature, her small frame at standing height barely topped over 5’4”. It deceptively lead most to believe that she was mild mannered. She had repeated the same things to the woman over and over again, the Aes Sedai, so many times repeated in fact that her own name was beginning to lose meaning to her.
Ignoring her outburst, the Aes Sedai merely watched her, patiently waiting for yet another of Astra’s recounts. Now and again, a significant smile was directed at the door, the serene face betraying not a whit of emotion. Astra sighed. Again…
“I am Astrala din Eslandri Crescent Sun…”
“Good, child. Please, continue.” The woman smiled encouragingly, warm brown eyes crinkling at the corners as she reached hurriedly for her quill and open book. Astra let out a loud, mental groan of anguish. The brown-eyed woman would yet again compare the notes she had made in her book to what Astra would be saying, interrupting now and again with questions.
“I was sent here by my mother, Seiyaa din Eslandri Southern Star who is the Sailmistress of the Taladahi. She said that since I was not born into the Atha’an Miere, their Windfinders could not give me proper instruction.” Astra glanced down quickly at the backs of her tattooed hands, rapidly blinking away the sudden tears.
“Aahhh…ahhh…” the brown-eyed Aes Sedai made sounds of happiness. “This is most interesting! Not born into the Atha’an Miere…please, expound upon that.”
Astra grimaced faintly, her discomfort obvious. “I…I was originally a servant girl to the Throne of Winds. My mother…my birth mother…worked in the kitchens of the palace. She was ashamed of my presence because I was the product of a drunken coupling. She did not know whose child I was, and separated herself from me completely when I was nine.” She paused for a moment, her lips pressing together. “It was…difficult.”
“Mmmm…” came the only response in the room, accompanied by the scratching sound of the quill as the Aes Sedai scribbled furiously into the margins of her book.
“I did not mind so much after I reached adolescence…I was not the only orphan there and was free to do as I wished, so long as I served the throne well. Time passed relatively quickly, until my eighteenth nameday.” Astra hesitated, glancing to the distracted Aes Sedai. “The Seanchan came.”
Even now, after hearing Astra’s story again and again, the ageless woman still jerked slightly at the word, brown eyes narrowing. Still though, she said nothing and continued to make notes.
There was a long silence as Astra gathered her self-control and squared her shoulders plainly. “They came into Ebou Dari like wave after wave of demons…and…our Queen…she became one of the Blood. The Seanchan did their tests with their damned sul’dam and their collars to see who among the women could channel. I…I was taken during the first testing.” Astra continued on, voice shaking. “No one tried to stop them…no one even cared, it seemed. The Seanchan…they kept all of us in tiny rooms…spiraling together like we were prized animals on display. They told me that I was…a ta-talented damane…and…they would be kind if I obeyed.”
The silence that echoed around her was so deep and pronounced that even drawing breath seemed to disturb something sacred. Astra could not bear the telling again and hastened to finish, her voice tight and her words clipped and brittle.
“I defied them every chance I could… I was beaten day after day…starved at times…locked into my tiny cell in solitude for weeks.” Gracefully, her head lifted, painful pride burning in her pale eyes. “They could not break my will, but they could not kill me because I was useful. My…potential, I believe they called it…my potential was very high and so the High Lady who owned me forbade my execution.”
Brown eyes gleamed at that, and the Aes Sedai’s writing became even more impassioned.
“I would still have been in their clutches if it were not for the Atha’an Miere. In my suffering, I had befriended another woman who was kept in a cell beside mine. The only way we were able to converse was through a hand-sized hole in the wall, eaten through by termites. She spoke many times of her people and called herself Cisema din Eslandri Coral Winds. I strongly believe that she was my only lifeline to sanity, and I hers.
“I do not know how, but one night, I heard voices through the wall hole! Their voices stopped and I could hear a clinking sound, like the sound a door makes when it latches shut. Then, I heard Cisema sobbing…frightened for her, I tried to pull my collar off its resting peg, but to no avail. I made myself ill in the process. Cisema spoke to me through the hole a little while later. I was to be free!!! She would not say how, but later I heard her murmuring to another woman and I caught a name. Mattrim. None explained further, saying only that this man had freed one of the Atha’an Miere and in turn, she was to free as many as she safely could.”
“Extraordinary!!” The brown-eyed Aes Sedai exclaimed, her enthusiasm boundless. She was so excited, Astra half expected the woman to giggle. “Oh child, do go on!”
Light grey eyes grew distant. “Cisema and her Atha’an Miere saved me. I had no family to return to…Cisema refused to leave me and after little explaining among the other Atha'an Miere they agreed to take me along. I had kept her sane. I was adopted into Cisema's clan and family and given a new name. I had a family again! They teased me at times, calling me their ‘shorebound daughter’ or their ‘shorebound sister’ but they did love me. That love was proven when Seiyaa wanted me to learn and become the Windfinder along side Cisema to the Taladahi. None protested. However, it soon became painfully evident that I could not find saidar since I was never taught, and none on the ships could help me.”
“Child, you have indeed come to the right place. It is one of our duties to teach.” The brown-eyed Aes Sedai spoke kindly, though she was still partially absorbed into the book, her quill making dizzying swirls through the air.
Astra smiled faintly, glad to have finally engendered a response from the composed woman. “The other Windfinders believed that you could teach me…help me control this power that I have so that next time, the Seanchan will not be able to take me. Seiyaa and Cisema are confident that I will learn, and in time, if the Light be willing, return to take my place as Windfinder.”