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Babes amongst Sunflowers
Sun Sep 24, 2006 08:48 (XFF:

Novice Ryell Riddell.

Madeline’s script was elegant and flowing, as if the slip of paper were an invitation to a prestigious dinner party rather than just the name of a novice Sonja was supposed to teach.

Sonja wearily climbed the ramp curling up the along the rising decks of the novice quarters. Her knees creaked beneath her-- Getting old, old, old… she chanted in her head, one step after another. Which, of course, was nonsense. She was a ‘wee slip of a girl’ in Aes Sedai years. If her knees were already creaking now, she’d be a pathetic arthritic lump by the time she reached her first century. Unless, of course, she let the Yellows at her.

She sighed, checking the name on the paper once more. Madeline had written the room number beside it. Sixth deck, fourth room on the left. A little more info would have been nice, Sonja thought grumpily, counting the decks with a finger. There, this was the sixth. A giggling trio of novices were coming towards her, and Sonja eyed them suspiciously as their giggles quickly abated and they dipped the appropriate curtsies. She really did not like novices. They knew it too, and the glints in their eyes told Sonja all she needed to know. The moment they passed her, the gossip would strike up, elaborate tales of her misadventures and reputation as a loner with a sore tooth and a bad attitude.

She didn’t care though. What did she care what novices thought? She hadn’t cared when she was a novice, and she certainly didn’t care as an Accepted.

Sonja only hoped that this Ryell wouldn’t be too much of a monster. The Mistress of Novices hadn’t said much more than that she was brand new to the Tower and very close to her first touching. Madeline seemed to enjoy ‘testing’ her, so likely this girl would be a snooty noble with her head in the clouds and the staunch belief that she shit lumps of gold. Sonja laughed at the thought, covering her mouth with a hand. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing, to have to dampen an attitude this morning. She was in just the right mood for it.

Not bothering to knock, she pushed the door open.

“Novice Ryell?”

A girl lay curled up on her bed, her head buried in her arms. She popped up the instant the door swung open, scrubbing at her eyes with small fists. Sonja gaped at her. The girl looked no more than a child—all leg and bone, with a round face and huge blue eyes that were rimmed red with tears. A riotous mass of black curls sprang in every which way from her head, and her novice whites looked like they had gone through the wringer, all scuffed and tear stained and wrinkled.

The girl hopped out of bed and did her best to curtsy, wobbling a bit on the uptake.

“H-hello,” she stammered, wiping her hands on her skirts. “I’m Ryell.”

“Hi,” Sonja said briskly. “I’m Accepted Sonja Meranes. I’m to teach you to today.”

The girl’s eyes dropped to the floor, and she stuck out a foot, tracing invisible patterns on the floor with her toe. “Um, okay,” she said, her voice nearly a whisper.

Sonja waved a hand. “Let’s get out of here. I hate small spaces.”

Ryell nodded miserably, and followed without a word. She looked like a sad, lost puppy, with her head down and her eyes following Sonja’s feet as the Accepted led her out of the quarters. She shuffled along as Sonja led her out into the small garden just outside the novice quarters, a patch of earth tended by the novices. Each week a different novice was assigned to watering and weeding. It looked rather overgrown and shabby, as if whoever was in charge of tending it this week had forgotten her chores. Wildflowers poked their heads from the ground, overshadowed by towering sunflowers reaching yellow heads up towards the sun.

Sonja found a pair of benches up against a wall, facing the garden. A slanting bar of sun gave warmth, and a crisp autumn wind gusted their skirts.

“Here,” Sonja said, waving an absent hand. “Sit.”

Ryell sat. Her scrawny legs barely touched the ground, and she swung them absently, still not quite meeting Sonja’s gaze with those big eyes.

Sonja sighed. “Okay, first off. How old are you?”

“Nine,” the girl whispered.

Sonja’s eyes popped wide open. “Nine?

Ryell squirmed. “I’ll be ten next month.”

“But—you’re only nine? What in the Light are you doing at the Tower when you’re only nine bloody years old?”

Ryell looked up sharply. “You shouldn’t swear.”

Sonja scowled, but the girl was right. Madeline would give her hell for swearing in front of novices, especially a bloody nine year old novice.

“Right. Whatever. Seriously, what are you doing here so young? Usually the youngest I see is like…eleven, or twelve. You’re just a baby!”

“I’m not a baby,” Ryell retorted, and now Sonja could see that the girl did have a bit of backbone. “I said I’ll be ten next month.”

Sonja put a hand to her head. “So answer the question. How did you end up here at nine?”

The girl burst into tears. One moment, she was glaring at Sonja, telling her she was no baby, the next she was bawling as if her favorite puppy had been eaten by a bear.

“I miss my moooommmmmy!” she wailed. “I didn’t want to come here! I wanna go home! I miss my kitty and my mom and my sisters and my dad, even if he is mean sometimes and swears a lot. I want to go home!”

“Here now, hush,” Sonja said, a note of panic entering her voice. She looked around, wondering if anyone was noting this spectacle, then scooted across her bench towards the girl. “Come on. Don’t cry.”

The girl only cried louder. “I want to go hoooooooome!!!!!!!!!”

Sonja pulled a tissue from her pocket and offered it to the girl, but Ryell only pushed it away. The level of volume that was coming from this novice’s lungs was simply amazing, and it was only growing louder. Sonja could only sit there and pat the girl’s hand, making stupid hushing and shushing sounds. Ryell wept, and cried, and howled, and only after a good ten minutes of this did she seem to settle down.

Sonja closed her eyes, mentally warding off the headache she could feel coming.

“Look. You wait here. Don’t cry, don’t go anywhere. Just…play with the flowers or something. I’ll be right back.”

Ryell wiped at her eyes again, her cries finally subsided to pitiful sniffles, and nodded. “Where are you going? I thought you were gonna t-teach me.”

“I am. I just…have to run an errand real quick. Don’t go anywhere.”

She gave one final pat to the girl’s arm, then took off at a trot. She wasn’t going to do any bloody teaching until she had some questions answered.

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    • Babes amongst Sunflowers — Accepted Sonja Meranes, Sun Sep 24 08:48
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