Araya acknowledged himself for what he was; in as much as one raised by the Tuatha’an ever could accept himself to be the antithesis to everything he believed. He was a weapon; a blood drenched, accursed weapon. His soul was ruined. And he coped by reaching out to those around him, scooping up the lost and setting them right. Widowed Hana, orphaned Korene. He protected them so they did not have to protect themselves; helped them how he could, because he could. But when the final horn sounded he would march, and he would leave them.Homeward Bound
Araya was a Tinker once, in a time when strange powers and black-clad men and Towers were nothing but fantasies and the substance of stories. He was well protected from the rumours – though they were very well more than rumours, by now – of Dragons and Asha’man, save for the odd passing tale through small towns and villages. The Tinkers had no use for stories of such violence and danger. It served only as a distraction from their important work and, if anything, made their search for the Song more vital. In this way, a youth in a fantasy of fairy-tale and innocence, Araya grew unknowingly in a world fraught with nameless threat.
His world changed beyond recognition when, upon his nineteenth year, he was branded a channeler. The Asha’man, who Araya now knew to be real, insisted on testing the men of the wagons when they stumbled on them in Andor, a purely incidental turning of the Wheel. He took his fate in stride, raw and youthful and unknowing. There was something freshly exciting in having unexplained power; in being able to reach a source few could. It was the stuff of stories, a fantasy of unfathomable fascination.
It didn’t last long.
As a Soldier, Araya was reluctant to say the least. Naïve as he was, he refused to partake in his duties beyond chores, books and the more mundane, harmless uses of the Power. In the evenings, he would climb into his bunk and murmur the stories of his childhood to himself, and those who listened silently in the dark. Ostracised because he rejected the Asha’man ways – for who wants to be associated with a troublemaker? – and for his heritage (though this died down with time, he was at first blamed whenever something went missing or was misplaced) this was the only time when he, unknowingly, connected with the others in his barracks.
Meanwhile, the punishments for not complying grew stricter. His books were taken away, and reprimands for declining weaponry lessons, physical or power-related, earned him more arduous chores and duties. Eventually one of the Dedicated took matters into his own hands. Whilst Araya was running laps on the fields, he approached him and stuffed a sword into his hands. Real, not the wooden practice ones (it was his intention to scare Araya into partaking, not to hurt him). Araya dropped it, glaring, shaking his head, refusing as he usually did, but the Dedicated did not leave, nor pause in his taunting. Araya turned to walk away – because that was what you did, take the moral high ground. In the end it was the Dedicated who tortured his soul, or what was left of it.
A fist to the head knocked that sense out of him and he stumbled to the floor, hands breaking a fall that might otherwise have broken his jaw. Turn the other cheek; he knows not that he hurts himself more than me. Another blow. Light! The stars, the colours, the pain! There were tears in his eyes, down his cheeks, but he felt no shame. And another.
There’s only so much one can take before they break.
Few Tinkers, Araya realises now, ever come up against violence such as he faced that day. A sort of feral instinct took over, caused by the taste of blood or will to survive – or maybe Saidin itself. Araya lunged for the discarded blade, desperate and foolish since he didn’t know how to use such a light-forsaken weapon, and dragged himself to his feet. The world was dizzy. He pounced forward, sword slack; it was heavier than he’d thought it would be. The Dedicated parried, attacked back.
This foolish charade continued until Araya felt excruciating pain across his neck; the hot bubble of blood, the blade slipping from his grasp. His hand went to his neck protectively, unbelieving, and he stared at the Dedicated in horror.
Everything went black.
The Dedicated was punished for unruly misconduct and abuse of power, or so he heard, but Araya was ‘cured’. After a few weeks recovering in the hospital wing he rejoined his peers, not with keenness, but with a beaten acquiescence. He could not let that happen again; would not.
There were no stories at night now; not least because, at this point, Araya had no voice with which to tell them. He felt wronged, punished beyond belief. The Dedicated had taken away his voice.
Time passed and Araya was raised to Dedicated. There was some doubt, at this point, whether he would ever make it to Asha’man. Though he had the skill, in the power and in physical prowess, he neglected to have the passion with which to use it. Ask him to perform Apple Blossoms in the Wind, and he would execute it with precision. But there would be no passion; no desire nor will behind the move. During spars, he would often give his opponent the advantage; would calculatingly avoid his own opportunities, whilst maintaining a flawless defence. It was frustrating for his mentors, but it was how it was; he had no want to kill, nor hurt, and concentrated on defence only.
It was decided that an assignment to the Blight might be the missing ingredient to passion, and that was where Araya was sent. He spent almost six months out there, and the effect was what had been required. Within the year he was raised to Asha’man.
By now, Shadow al’Mere was dead and the Black Tower was in turmoil. Roal Tambrin’s leadership was shaky, though it was unsurprising given the way M’Hael’s had been passing like water in so short a time; Taim, Whiteraven, al’Mere. Araya took his leave, accepting an assignment on the familiar turf of Andor. He reported back frequently, but never returned to the Black Tower in Tambrin’s reign. Upon hearing word of Larnair’s promotion, and the subsequent ‘cleansing’ of the Tower, he returned.
For a while he lived among the Aes Sedai, which is where he met the gaidar Trista Alquin, with whom he quickly became besotted. Then, after a letter from the Blight border, issuing the news of the death of Araya’s first love, Kaeon Tharalor, he journeyed north and returned home with a small child; Korene.
Since then he has kept a residence in Tar Valon.
He had sent word ahead of his arrival. A year too late, but such was the length of time it had taken for the letter to reach him. Better late than never. And there had never, ever been any doubt that he would come, the moment news of his friend’s death had finally arrived. Grief hung a heavy weight, dampening Araya’s usual affability. He was in little mood to deal with hostility, even well meant.
“The girl?” The letter burned a brand against his chest, where it lay folded in a pocket. His voice was weakly husky, bare above a whisper and more hoarse than usual. The woman blinked at that, found the scar against his throat, and did not miss another beat. Disfigurement was not so uncommon here, and the shining pins marked him a warrior even if the lack of sword sheathed at his side did not. “This is her?”
He squatted on the floor, arms draped over his legs and fingers lightly interlaced. The girl glared from behind the woman’s legs, even when he offered her the flicker of a smile. He supposed he cut a grim aspect, and even more so to a child. Araya had never been good at shielding his emotions, nor usually cared to. Assailed by the heated rise of bitter-sweet memory, he pushed a hand back through pale locks and stood. “She deserves a better life than blood and ice.”Araya
He is prone, on occasion, to ponder the philosophical struggle between his upbringing and the irony of his fate as a weapon, and at such times is withdrawn from the world, else lands himself in a destructive bent. More often, though, he is laid-back and straight-talking, quick to laugh, smile and disregard rank (certainly, he is not one for gratuitous scraping and bowing). He is not easily ruffled, and quite content to let others take the reins (and the glory that goes with it). He also enjoys teasing and is a generous flirt, both with men and women.
Very fair, his features smooth and sculptured, making a face that is pretty rather than handsome (and always clean-shaven). White blonde hair falls into his eyes, cut about his ears and shorter, and a ring of pale silver circles his left ear; some distant trinket of memory to remind himself who he is, especially when in uniform. His eyes, a dark blue, are sharp and tilted in shape, and he appears of a muddled and mixed heritage.
Araya speaks softly, voice a little above a whisper, because an old war-wound slashes his neck diagonally across his vocal chords (usually hidden by the tall collar of his uniform, else a brightly coloured neckerchief or scarf). If he must speak loudly, his voice is gravelly and harsh. It hurts to speak at this level, but is possible. The scar has been Healed as far as is possible; in fact it was Healing that spared his life in the first place.
He’s slim and perhaps a little under average tall (5‘10’’). In the rare instances he is clad in his black uniform, he is a grave, solemn figure. More often, though, he wears the clothes of his youth; brightly coloured mismatches from a dozen different fashions and nationalities.
- Hana – Araya’s housekeeper and main carer of Korene (Araya considers them both family, and it is often assumed she is his wife). Hana is a widower. Her husband was an Asha’man called Daeyl, and Araya was the one to deliver news of his death.
- Korene Tharalor – Araya’s ward, the daughter of a deceased friend and Araya’s first love. Her mother was a Saldaean Accepted of the Sword called Ellisei, who left her training to return home and defend the border. Trista and Ellisei were friends, and the necklace Korene wears
- Trista Alquin – gaidar of the White Tower, who he bonded while in Arad Doman.
- Jai Kojima – fellow Asha’man whom Araya brought to Tar Valon for Healing.
- Keio Telerian – miscreant servant of the White Tower who wishes to become a gaidar one day, like her hero Akari Miyakawa. She has declared she will marry Araya when she is a grown-up.