Once upon a place
by Te
December 24, 2004

Disclaimers: All belong to Robert Jordan.

Spoilers: None. Pre-series.

Summary: Nynaeve isn't a proper girl.

Ratings Note: G.

Author's Note: Written for yuletide. Happy Merry,

Acknowledgments: To Sheila for a great deal of
hand-holding, a jumpstart, and being herself.


There are never enough sons in Emond's field.

This is a fact, told and told by even the best of the
adults -- her father points them out, each by each,
and she's to remember.

There are other facts, though, and sometimes it's
a tangle. Because it starts with the one and leads
to the other, and the other, and mostly she doesn't
think about it unless it's net-mending day.

There are some -- "Cauthons," says her father in her
mind -- who feel there's something more to fishing
than merely dinner, and they craft their flies just
so and spend hours and hours at the streams.

They bring home trout that shine and flicker like
the first brushes of morning after a storm, and
great, ugly, clawed beasts that taste of little but
the seasonings they're cooked in -- "Some would
have it a delicacy, Nynaeve, but where's the
*use*?" says her father.

No use at all, she responds, in silence and her
listening. But Cauthons are horse-traders and
thieves and never go hungry.

Her father isn't here, just now, because the roof needs
patching and she is neither tall enough nor balanced
enough on her feet for it.

There's no help for it -- and this is a fact, too, she
knows it -- because she's at That Age (this is how
they all say it, as if there's a meaning behind it as
hard and true and *fact* as the claws of a
delicacy, instead of just the way she can't seem to
keep her hair from being tangled into things and
her feet from tripping) and, even though she won't
be forever...

This, she can do. Her fingers are nimble enough
at this that she always takes the netting
somewhere private, somewhere (safe) away from
the other women, who would look at the motions
of her fingers and pull out the needles and the
cloth and she is no good at *that*, at all.

She's not a proper girl, after all.

This, though...

There's a trick to it. The rounded stones can be
plucked, the sharpened ones unwound -- and then
she looks, and feels, and looks *again*, and then
mends whether or not she *thinks* she has to,
because her father says the worst holes are *always*
the ones that shouldn't be there at all -- and then
there are the *vines*.

She likes these best of all, in a way she can't really
describe. Something like the feel of venison beneath
her teeth, when the hunt was a good one. Something
like that.

Mostly there's a feel to it, a *rhythm* almost like
(the wind, a voice which isn't a voice at all whispers,
the *wind*) her heart. Because sometimes the coils
go this way, and sometimes they go *that* way,
and her father had said, "Congars and Coplins, and
who can tell them apart?" and laughed, and laughed
harder when she'd frowned at him.

The Congars tend to be taller, after all.

"Look at you beetling up so fierce," he'd said, and
brushed at her eyebrows. Whenever he does that,
she thinks she must be like the barn cats, or even
the feral ones.

She likes it when he does that.

But the *unwinding* is necessary, because even
though the vines would strengthen the net, they
would also make them catch the smaller things,
the little things, and they will never be so hungry
as all that.

Her mother said, and her father nodded, and
looked toward the Mountains of Mist, as if to
chase something back.

Nynaeve knows what it was. Sometimes it's on
the wind, but mostly it's on the voices of the
people her father says aren't worth much of
anything at all.

The ones who say there's a reason for everything,
from the way the winters just get longer every
year, to the breakbone fever that hits and hits and
*hits*, no matter what the Wisdom has to say
about it, to the way that Emond's Field never has
quite enough sons.

It seems to *her* that having a reason for
everything wouldn't be so bad, but she thinks her
father is right that there's something just a little
(nasty) convenient about how the reasons are
always so bad.

"Some will always go looking for those who're
different enough to blame for something," he'd said,
when the woods were loud and close around them
with the thundering of birds, when the summer was
just too noisy for quiet to be any use at all, even
on the hunt. This is so -- there aren't many girls of
an age with her, but the way they look at her
muddy stockings and hard hands is enough to
say --

It's enough.

Still, though, she wonders if saying something
enough, no matter how silly, is enough to make it

She wonders, sometimes, when she winds and
unwinds, when whatever quiet space she's chosen
is quiet *enough* for her to almost taste the
next breeze, and whatever message it brings, if
the way her father turns away from the mountains
might not be dangerous.

She wonders if the boys she knows might not be
special like the fattest, stupidest sheep of the fall
are special, as opposed to the sort of special that
lets *their* sisters have *soft* hands.

Mostly, though, she has her repairs, and her
lessons, and the woods, and the streams, and her

And also she's started to have *other* lessons, and
her mother clucks her tongue about how Nynaeve
is *never* going to learn anything she ought, but
she does it very quietly, because the Wisdom
doesn't *take* nonsense.

The Wisdom makes the messy tangle of her hair
seem like something more fact than anything else,
more *true*.

"And didn't your ma have hair just like yours when
she was a girl? Well she *did*, and a mess it was
when she fell in the  -- but we were talking about
*snakeroot*. Pay attention, girl!"

Mostly there's all of that, and she can't quite weave
a net that will catch anything smaller than a
delicacy, but she can mend them just fine.

This is a fact, a true thing and useful.

Just like her.