Blood, Sweat, and Tears (solo fic)

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Blood, Sweat, and Tears (solo fic)

Post by Owen » January 15th, 2019, 3:35 pm

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears Jun couldn’t channel.

It was just as he feared. On most days, Jun couldn’t even sense the Source. Not unless he was angry, and even then he could not channel unless he flew into a rage. And perhaps that wouldn’t be a problem - because then maybe he’d find ways to make himself mad when he needed to - except that his rages were uncontrollable and destructive and left him bedbound for days, too exhausted to move.

His teachers had shaken their heads. “You are going to burn yourself out,” they said, and then refused to allow him any more lessons until he broke his block. He went about his chores and attended other lessons which did not concern the One Power, but the question weighed constantly on his mind - what if I falter, what if I fail? - and Jun despaired.

Then one day, the Master of Soldiers told him to report to Neran Banin, a White Ajah Asha’man. Jun had met Neran once before during one of his first days at the Tower, when the Asha’man had come to sign him onto the trainees’ roster. They were to meet in the Channeling Yards, where special wards had been placed to prevent the Power from doing harm during practice, and Jun realized that this was his chance. Neran was going to help him break his block, and Jun was determined not to disappoint.

The sun shone overhead, and a fresh spring breeze swept through the Yards. Neran was waiting for him, arms crossed across his chest. When Jun arrived, Neran spoke without preamble or introduction.

“You are afraid of the Power.”

Jun would not call himself fearless by any means. But he knew that he didn’t carry as much fear around with him as others usually did. He was not afraid of bees or bullies or hard work or heights. He was not afraid of speaking up for others when they were silenced, and he was not afraid of admitting his wrongs and apologizing for his faults. So it surprised him to realize that Neran spoke the truth. It was fear that held him back.

“Only a fool would not be afraid,” Jun countered. “The Power can be dangerous.”

Neran looked at him impassively and said, with the calm logic of the White Ajah, “Having a healthy respect for the nature of the Power is not the same as fear. Your father told me that you had set fire to a village. Is that why you are afraid?”

“I was a danger to others. I still am, if I can’t control this!”

“When you can control it, you will still be dangerous. In fact, even more so. A trained channeler is one of the most lethal weapons in any army.”

Jun did not like the thought of using the One Power as a weapon. It went against everything he had learned among the Tuatha’an. A leaf does no harm, and falls to the ground to nourish new leaves, his father had said, and so Jun shook his head. “It is an awful thing, to use the Power to hurt or maim. Or to kill.”


“How is that wrong?” Jun demanded, ignoring the glances he received from other channelers in the Yard. It was unusual to see a soldier raising his voice to a full-ranked Asha’man, but Neran didn’t bat an eye and Jun was too frustrated to care. “Even the Three Oaths forbid harm, except in the defense of life!”

“The Oaths are for the sake of others, not for ourselves. We don’t live in fear of the destructive potential of the Power. We learn to seize it. You need to accept that, or saidin will reject you, as it is now.”

“I don’t like it,” Jun said, as petulant as a child. But he knew that Neran was right.

“You don’t have to like it,” Neran said. And then he explained what he wanted Jun to do.

Jun gasped. “No! I won’t. I can’t.”

“You can’t yet,” Neran replied, humorlessly. “But you will.”

The next morning, Jun woke up in his bed and found blood on his sheets, though his skin had no wounds. He tried to remember how he had gotten there, tried to remember what had happened. But there were gaping holes in his memory and he wondered what Neran had made him do.

It wasn’t only fear that held him back.

His block remained, and Jun spent many days wallowing in his disappointment. Another month passed before Jun was summoned to see the Asha’man again. This time he went to the Channeling Yards, feeling increasing dread with every step.

“Why do you want to learn to channel?” Neran asked.

Jun forced himself to raise his head and stare the Asha’man in the eye, even though looking at him made his stomach churn uncomfortably.

“I want to be strong,” he said, quietly. “I want to be strong enough to protect the people I love.”

“That is not logical. Would you draw on the Power only for defense?”

Jun did not answer and allowed the silence to hang in the air. All of his answers seemed to be wrong, so why would he bother to try? He waited for Neran to get to the point of this lesson. Neran waited with him, until perhaps he realized that the young soldier was not going to give in.

The Asha’man sighed and said, “There is so much more to the Power that merely strength. Its uses and capabilities are nearly infinite. You need to want the power, not for others, but for yourself. You need to be a little selfish, a little controlling. Saidin will not serve you unless you bend it to your will. Yours, not the wishes of others.”

“So you’re saying that I can’t channel because I’m too selfless and weak?” Jun said, incredulously.

“Your words, not mine,” Neran said, mildly. And again, he explained Jun’s task for the day. As he listened, Jun felt only despair.

This time, he woke shivering and drenched in sweat, like he had sprinted a mile in his sleep, chased by faceless nightmares. Again, he did not remember what had happened. He rolled up out of his bed and, with a hoarse shout, punched a fist into his pillow that sent a burst of feathers scattering throughout the room.

The lessons came more frequently, around once or twice a week. They left him weak and exhausted with lost time in his memory, and perhaps it would be worth it if they were making progress, but they weren’t. The block remained. It was utterly infuriating. Then one day, he was told that the lesson would be held in Neran’s quarters in the White Ajah halls. Jun did not want to go. He spent several minutes pacing his room, wondering if he could somehow avoid the summons, until he heard the bell in the clocktower, and then he sprinted up the Tower and into Neran’s rooms, several minutes late.

The Asha’man lived in an austere three-room apartment. The walls were painted white. Each piece of furniture was purely functional. In the center of the room, there were two dark wooden chairs facing opposite over a square table. There were no decorations, though a single potted plant grew on the windowsill.

The Asha’man was sitting on one of the chairs, calmly sipping a cup of tea. He watched placidly, as Jun bowed and made his apologies, and then said, “Why do you become angry?”

Jun had many reasons for his anger.

“Because I’m still afraid,” he said, frustrated. “And I’m weak, and I still can’t seize saidin. It’s almost been an year.”

Neran took another slow sip of his tea.

“There are other ways,” he said. “We’ve been trying to force it. Maybe we shouldn’t try, not anymore. It will happen when it happens.”

Jun shook his head violently. “No. I won’t give up.”

Neran looked distant. “I don’t know,” he said, and his voice was filled with doubt and disdain. “I think you’re right. This isn’t working. Look at you. Still a pathetic child, without even a modicum of control over his emotions. Who can’t even make it to his lessons on time. If you can’t control yourself, then how could you ever hope to control saidin?”

Jun felt the rage beginning to build. Neran observed him, apathy written all over his face.

“See, you’re getting angry again. You just can’t help yourself.”

“I can,” Jun said, through gritted teeth. “I will.”

“Face the truth, soldier. It doesn’t matter how hard you try. You won’t ever be good enough.”

The rage exploded outwards, his vision blurred, and Jun set about systematically destroying every piece of furniture in Neran’s quarters. Yet even as he raged, he knew that Neran was right, and had always been right, and he began to cry.

When he regained consciousness, he was laying on his back on the floor, his cheeks wet with tears. He rolled over, wincing as splinters from broken wood pricked his skin, and then he saw the body in the corner of the room and panicked.

“Asha’man,” he gasped, voice hoarse from screaming

“I’m here,” Neran said, appearing at the doorway that lead into his inner quarters. He looked remarkably unruffled. Then who….?

Jun crawled forward. And then the blood drained from his face.

“Papa,” he said. “Oh, Light, no! Papa!”

He knelt by his father’s side and dragged him upright, checking on his wounds. Why was he here?, he wondered. Why did Neran bring him here?

“Save him!” he yelled at Neran, who remained infuriatingly calm.

“Why should I? You are the one who did this.”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“You meant to,” Neran said, coldly. “When you were angry, you meant to do this. You wanted to hurt someone, and you didn’t care who. This is the part of you that you are rejecting. This is why you can’t control yourself when you channel. Because you can’t accept that you can hurt others, and not only that, you can want to hurt them. And because you can’t face the truth, and you can’t ever accept that part of you that loves violence, you reject saidin.”

Jun frantically tore strips from his father’s clothes to bandage the worst of the wounds.

“You’re right,” he said as he worked. “I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I’m just not good enough. But I’m going to save my father, with or without saidin!”

Then he hefted his father onto his back and took off at a dead run to the infirmary.

In the end, the block was broken by the thing Jun least expected.

Jun knew rage. He knew hatred. He knew how it felt, to be out of control. But when he hurt his father with saidin, he knew that he hadn’t felt these things. He had thought he did, but he didn’t, not really. Instead, when he looked at his father, he felt only devastation, regret, and love. And he remembered everything. He had thought that he lost consciousness, but it was only his own mind placing the block, suppressing the memories, and now everything that had happened returned to him.

He remembered channeling Air to whip his own skin until he bled, while Neran gripped his wrist and Healed him, over and over again. He remembered battling the Asha'man in the Yards, drawing out threads of Fire and Earth with vicious delight. He remembered the flows of Air and Fire that he wove in his mindless destruction of Neran’s quarters, and the weaves that he used to blast his father away. It was overwhelming. And it made his heart heavy with sorrow, that he had done these things while in the ecstasy of saidin and could rejoice in causing pain.

He knew that he had failed, in the worst way possible.

“Don’t be angry,” his father said, when he woke up in the infirmary. “I agreed to it, when the Asha’man wrote me, and I came to help you, knowing what could happen.”

“I can’t believe that you would do this to me,” Jun said, though he was relieved to see his father awake.

“You didn’t really hurt me,” his father insisted. “I knew you wouldn’t.”

“You should have told me that you were coming. Then I would have told you that I still can’t control it.”

Then he paused and realized that he was wrong. For the first time, he could actually sense the presence of saidin, its heat set apart from himself, but still easily accessible.

“Wait,” Jun said, bounding to his feet. “Wait. Light help me, I think it’s gone. I think the block is gone!”

He let out a whoop of delight and jumped up and down in his excitement. Then he seized saidin, letting it fill him with its wild, violent heat. The ability to touch the Source was a magical thing, and Jun felt sorry for those who could not sense its wonder. He used flows of Air to make the curtains billow by the windows. He wove threads of Fire to juggle balls of colored flame. He tried to demonstrate all that he knew - which wasn’t very much - but he rejoiced, because even the smallest things had seemed previously impossible. His father watched him with a look of pride, and laughed.

Eventually, when he could manage to sit still again, he told his father everything that had haunted him since his arrival to the Tower. His father listened with a fond, gentle smile, and then when Jun was finished, he touched his hand and said, “Even if you falter, I would find a way to help you up. Even if you fail, I would still love you.”

Jun thought that he had never felt happier.

In the end, the block was broken with love.

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