< 2000 - [Arches] Marce Dalfor

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Besanin
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< 2000 - [Arches] Marce Dalfor

Post by Besanin »

Marce's Arches

Marce was laying on her bed in her room. She had her notes from her OP Challenged class lying in front of her and she was brainstorming different offensive and defensive strategies she could use with limited resources and very little help from the Source. Her two roommates were laying on their beds studying other class notes, so Marce was surprised when the door opened after a light tap. The Mistress of Novices stuck her head in the door and shook her head from side to side. "I still don't know why I allowed you to pull an extra bed into this room," she said. "There's hardly any room to walk on that floor! Well, time to fix that. Come along, Marce."

Marce was surprised, to say the least. She thought that it was okay with Phrygiana Sedai that they three Novices had decided to share a room. She thought she was being moved until she realized that they were walking out of the Novice Quarters.

"Um, excuse me Phrygiana Sedai, but where are we going?" she asked. "Have I done something wrong?"

"No, Marce," she replied with a smile. "You've done nothing wrong. It's time for your Accepted test."

Marce missed a step and almost tripped over her own feet. "Now? Already?"

"Yes, now. Come along. The hour waits on no woman. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, when the Wheel wills."

Phrygiana Sedai led her down a hallway and pushed open a huge wooden door. Behind the door lay a domed room. In the center of the room stood the ter'angreal with its three silver arches whose ends touched where they met on a silver ring. The room was lit by lamps on stands and at each of the places where the ends of two arches met sat a shawled Sister. Marce recognized the three. Lorelia Sedai, a White, had been in her OP Challenged course. She had once done a chore for Sabine, who was wearing her brown shawl. Evara was the Yellow who had healed the Ward she had been asked to watch over. It helped her relax seeing some faces she knew. However, she did not know the Red, who was looming over the table that contained three silver chalices of water, which Marce knew she would be wearing before she left.

Phrygiana Sedai turned towards her and started what sounded like a familiar speech. "Novices are given three chances. You may refuse twice, but on the third refusal, we give you enough silver for a year and you are sent out of the tower. You have the right to refuse. Do you wish to go on?"

"I do," Marce said firmly.

"Then you shall hear two things which no Novice hears until she enters this room. First, you must finish if you start. Refuse at any point and it will be the same as if you had refused for the third time. Second, to seek, to strive, is to know danger. Some women have entered, and never come out. When the ter'angreal was allowed to grow quiet, they--were--not--there. And they were never seen again. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail, and . . ." She fell silent and Marce swallowed, with what she was sure was an audible gulp. "This is your last chance. Refuse now, and you may still try twice more. If you accept now, there is no turning back." She fell silent to allow Marce to make her decision.

Marce looked around the room slowly, taking in everything she saw, before she turned back to Phrygiana Sedai and quietly said, "I accept."

She realized that this was point where she should be removing her dress. Having grown up with only boys until the baby was born, she was completely unused to anyone seeing her even mostly unclothed, let alone totally unclothed. This caused her more fear than thoughts of the ter'angreal which would show her all her fears. Her hands shook as she undid the buttons on her dress and removed it along with her shoes, shift, stockings, and smallclothes. She tried not to slouch or cover herself with her arms as she stood and stepped forward with Phrygiana Sedai.

"Whom do you bring with you, Sister?" the Red began the ritual dialog.

"One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister," Phrygiana Sedai replied.

"Is she ready?"

"She is ready to leave behind what she was, and, passing through her fears, gain Acceptance."

"Does she know her fears?"

"She has never faced them, but now is willing."

"Then let her face what she fears."

The ping-pong action of Marce's head going back and forth between Aes Sedai stopped with her looking at Phrygiana Sedai as the Mistress of Novices said, "The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast."

Marce took a deep breath, knowing that this was her cue to step through the first of the arches. She shoved down her last reservations and thought please let me have clothes there as she moved her foot forward and stepped through...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

...into an unfamiliar kitchen. She was standing at the stove with a spoon in her hand and she could hear a baby cooing behind her at the table. Her baby. But I don't have a-- The thought was cut off by another that followed right behind. Of course the darling is my child. I wouldn't give my little Nelia up for the world!

She had just finished the thought when she heard the front door slam. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. "Dearling, where are you?"

Dearling? "Your daughter and I are in the kitchen whipping up a fantastic dinner to greet you with." His daughter?

A dashing man swept through the door and scooped her up into his powerful arms. The spoon she had been stirring the dinner with clattered to the floor. She instantly recognized the silversmith's apprentice, who she had dreamed over back home. The spell the arch had cast on her wavered. "But you're married!" she sputtered.

"Of course I'm married, my spring flower. I'm married to you! Do you think I'd have a home and a daughter with just anyone?" he replied teasingly.

Ahhh, my husband. "No, not me. I remember. You married a maid from Caemlyn." She struggled to pull herself out of his arms and out of the pattern of dual minds that held her stronger than his arms.

"My dear, unless you had an occupational change that I'm not aware of, I married a weaver from Kore Springs. We grew up here, remember? As far as I know, you've never even been to Caemlyn, and neither have I." He laughed as he answered, but he did let her go.

"You didn't meet her in Caemlyn. You met her when her lady came down to visit the estates of Lord Bryne." She quickly stepped back from him. This felt so real! Of course it was real! And she truly had been hurt and disappointed when her silversmith had married another. He married me.

His face started to show true worry now, and the baby must have been picking up on the emotions in the room, because she started wailing with a voice that could have woken the dead. "Marce, what's wrong? Are you okay?" He took a step towards her and slipped on the spoon she had dropped. As he fell, he hit his head on the edge of the table and his fingers pushed the baby's chair over, knocking her out of it and across the room. Marce could hear her child crying frantically from across the room and she could see a puddle of blood starting to form slowly beneath her husband's motionless head. As she rushed to her husband's side, she heard a distant thought. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. She knelt beside him and felt for his heartbeat. Relief overpowered her when she found it. She looked up to check on her daughter and out of the corner of her eye, she saw a silver arch that looked completely out of place in her plain kitchen. She stood up to head towards her daughter, but found herself turning instead towards the arch as the words Be steadfast echoed in her head. The closer she came to the arch, the louder her Nelia's cries became. She was only a few feet away when her husband lifted his head and groaned out, "Marce, my wife, where are you going? Please help me! Please Marce!" She bit her lip and forced back the tears she could feel forming as she flung herself through the arch.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She could still hear his cries in her head as she came through the arch and back into the room with the silver ter'angreal. The tears she had been holding back started to fall as the Red Sister poured the first chalice over her head. The water was cold and as the Red spoke, Marce tried to imagine it washing away all the hurt she was feeling at this moment. There wasn't enough water to remove all that was her silent thought.

"You are washed clean of what sin you may have done, and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul."

As Phrygiana Sedai returned to her side, the realization that she could have lived the life she had dreamed of hit her. "Oh, please. Tell me it wasn't real," she whispered.

"No one knows," was the response she got. "Some have come back with injuries. Others have come back feeling as if they had been torn to shreds, but physically fine. Some believe that those who don't come back have chosen to live out their lives in another place. You must decide what you believe. But remember, whatever you believe, the danger is real."

Marce felt far from reassured, but she decided at that moment to believe that it wasn't real. If she believed that it could in any way be true, she would never be able to forgive herself for leaving her family. She stepped up to the second arch.

"The second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast." Marce stepped through the arch ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

... and into the garden that she often frequented since her arrival at the tower. She walked along a row of rosebushes, studying the flowers and delicately smelling each one. She did love the scent of roses! Suddenly there was a Novice by her side. "Excuse me. I was sent to find you. You have visitors."

Marce turned and followed after the Novice, wondering who could possibly be here to visit her. She arrived in the courtyard the Novice was taking her to and immediately saw her four brothers and half a dozen of their friends from back home.

"We've come to take you home, Marce," Wil, the oldest, stated forcefully and without prelude. "Father is quite angry with you and Mother is worried sick. I will have no arguing. You are coming."

"Wil, I am an Accepted of the White Tower. I cannot go with you without permission and I will not request it. My place is here," she replied with just as much stubbornness.

"Come on, Marce," Benji cajoled. He was the youngest and he had always been Marce's favorite. "Momma really misses you and Jina has been asking for you." Now that wasn't fair, bringing the baby sister into it. "Please come with us." His voice sounded sincere, but his eyes said that no was not an acceptable answer. He had always been the one who understood her dreams and fancies and wanted her to reach them. Why was he doing this?

"Benji," she started sweetly, remembering how much she loved this particular brother, "dear, I can't go with you. Even if I wanted--"

"You will go, whether you want to, or not!" her normally passive brother, Kale, burst out. He picked her up with the strong arms of an apprenticed blacksmith and threw her over his shoulder. "We are leaving," he said firmly, and the whole group started to head for the gates.

Marce could see some of the other Accepteds and Novices, who were also in the courtyard, were getting a bit concerned at this point. She had not wanted to channel in response to her brothers' threats because she really didn't want to hurt them. They carried her towards the gate, but were stopped by the guards. They were an obvious group to stop, ten men, one with a girl in a banded white dress thrown over his shoulder. Marce was still begging Kale to put her down, so she didn't really hear what started the arguing, but suddenly the men around her were removing their belt knives from their sheaths and holding their quarterstaffs in more threatening positions. The next thing she knew, she was back on her own feet and pressed firmly between the bodies of six of the men. She could see through the gaps between bodies that the other four men were frantically fighting the guards and started yelling at them to stop. When one of those surrounding her went to help an obviously overpowered friend, she slipped out of the gap and yelled, waving her arms around, trying to stop this useless confrontation. From her position outside the circle, she saw Benji in the instant he fell from the sword thrust of one of the guards. She screamed and ran to him. More guards came pouring towards the fighting and began to take the others into custody as Marce fell to her knees by her brother's side. He had numerous cuts, but the two worst were in the center of his stomach and high on his right thigh. She knew he would live if she found a Yellow Sister quickly. She stood up to dash off and heard The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. As she turned towards the tower, she saw a flash of silver from the corner of her eye and glanced over to see the arch that had appeared.

"No," she whispered, "I have to get a Sister. I have to help my brother. Now is not the time. I can't go! Oh, please, let it wait!"

She turned back towards the tower and took a step. She could see the arch wavering out of the corner of her eye. She let out a sob as she turned and flung herself towards the arch at top speed, trying desperately to ignore her brother's cries behind her. She shot through the arch ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

... and pulled herself up short. She melted into a puddle on the floor and soaked herself with her tears as the Red poured the second chalice over her. She felt the cold water mixing with her warm tears as the Red's words flowed past her ears unheard. "You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul."

Phrygiana helped her back to her feet and gave her a quick hug, saying, "It's almost done with. Just one more." They walked towards the third arch slowly, giving Marce a chance to choke back her tears and convince herself that she didn't leave her brother to die while her other brothers suffered imprisonment for trying to do what they thought was best for her.

As they stopped before the third arch, Marce wiped the tears from her face and then rolled her head in a large circle to loosen up the tension in her neck. She stretched her back and straightened her shoulders, then nodded at Phrygiana Sedai. She still didn't quite trust her voice to stay steady, but she wanted to get this over with.

"The third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast."

She hardly waited for the words to leave Phrygiana Sedai's lips before she propelled herself through the arches ...

~~~~~~~~~~~

... and into a palace. She was just rising from a curtsy before a woman who could only be a queen. Trel stood on her left and Nina on her right. Marce had known Trel since shortly after she came to the White Tower. They had spent lots of time building a solid friendship in both their classes, and outside of the classroom. Nina had arrived just before Marce had been raised to an Accepted. Marce didn't know her very well, but felt that she was competent enough to present a good image of the White Tower on this trip. She knew they were an embassy sent to speak with this queen about the false dragons that had been found in her lands. The Amyrlin had made her the head of this embassy because she was of the Gray Ajah.

Marce took a small step forward and was opening her mouth to begin her planned speech, when she saw a glow surround Nina. She had embraced the Source. She could see the weaves of Fire and Air the other sister was gathering, but could not figure out what she could possibly be doing. As the weave for lightning formed, Marce found herself shocked and instantly alert. She prepared to embrace the Source herself and shield the sister, but found that she could not reach it. Suddenly, the lightning weave was cut. As Nina gathered the flows again, Marce turned to see that Trel was also embracing the Source.

"Marce, I'm going to need your help," she said calmly. "I can't keep cutting her flows forever. She's stronger than me. I need you to shield her."

Marce frantically tried to grasp the Source, but it kept slipping through her fingers. She watched as Trel cut flow after flow and knew she was beginning to weaken. She still couldn't grasp the Source. She was beginning to wonder why the queen was still sitting on her throne, when she noticed the thin weaves of Air that were holding her to it. She kept reaching and reaching, knowing that once she had the Source, her first move would be to cut the queen free, and then she would link with her friend to shield Nina.

Marce was becoming truly frustrated and was starting to lose her composure when she heard the words that, deep down, she had been dreading. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. Right on top of that Trel cried out, "Light, Marce, if you can't reach the Source, punch her out or something!"

A ray of hope shined in Marce's eyes, as she turned and began to walk towards Nina. She stopped when she saw silver out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head, already knowing she would find the arch. "Marce, please! I can't hold her much longer!" Trel shrieked.

She turned towards Trel and whispered, "Forgive me, my friend," before she turned and ran through the arch one last time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Marce emerged from the final arch, she knew she had no more tears to shed this night, although her soul was weeping. She found herself blaming the Aes Sedai for all her hurts. They must have controlled the arches, must have had a way for them to appear at just the right moment so that she had to choose between those she loved and her place in the Tower. Her eyes swept across the Aes Sedai that had entered the room while she was in the ter'angreal and settled on the Amyrlin. Her pain was their fault. She knelt. The cold water fell on her head.

As the Amyrlin's words flowed, Marce took them to heart. "You are washed clean of Marce Dalfor from Kore Springs. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul. You are Marce Dalfor, Accepted of the White Tower." The Amyrlin helped Marce stand. "You are sealed to us now."

Marce looked around the room at all the Aes Sedai present. They had all been through the arches, too. They knew the pain she was feeling. They knew the nightmares that would surely haunt her sleep for who knows how many nights. They were here to support her, not to hurt her. She managed the tiniest of smiles as the Amyrlin slipped the Great Serpent ring on her left hand's third finger. As the ritual was finished and Marce escaped to the warm towels and banded dress that waited for her, emotion overwhelmed her again and the tears started. When Phrygiana Sedai asked her if she wanted to return to her old room or go to her new one in the Accepted Quarters, she chose the second option. She wanted to be alone tonight.
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