Sapphos sat in her room that day writing her poetry.
Another ode to her lost Lenoire. Everything was Lenoire.
The woman’s memory consumed her. It had been a few years
since Sapphos’s troubles with the older Aes Sedai, since
her greatest humiliation. Life in the Tower had not been
easy for the Novice since then. There were many that
shunned her because of it. So she took to writing her
poetry in her free time. There was volume after volume,
and all about Lenoire. Sapphos sat back on the bed and
sighed. A single tear ran down her face. She saw her
lover’s face, her beautiful face smiling at her. She
Suddenly their came a rapping, as if someone gently
tapping, at her chamber door. Sapphos jumped. The doorknob
turned and Sabine, the Mistress of Novices entered. Seeing
the startled expression on the girl’s face, Sabine
grinned. “What did you think I was, dear, a raven?”
The two walked down the hall. Sapphos had been shocked
when Sabine told her that she was to be raised to
Accepted. She had thought that this time would never come.
She was not expecting it. “What should I expect, Aes
Sedai? What will happen?”
“Not yet, love. Just be patient,” she said with a
smile as she turned the handle to a large door.
“Remove everything Sapphos. Your dress, jewelry,
everything.” Sapphos reluctantly disrobed. The room was
filled with women. She covered herself with her hands and
“There are two things that no woman hears until she is
in this room. First, once you begin, you must continue to
the end. If you refuse to go on, you will be put out of
the Tower with enough silver to last you for one year. You
will never be allowed back. Second, to seek, to strive, is
to know danger. You will know danger here. Some women have
entered, and never come out. When the Ter’angreal went
silent, they were not there. They were never seen again.
To survive, you must be steadfast. You have one more
chance to refuse the test, you will be allowed back twice
more. There is no shame to refuse.”
Sapphos took a deep breath and approached the Amyrlin
standing next to the Mistress of Novices.
“Who do you bring with you Sister?”
“One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.”
“Is she ready?”
“She is ready to leave what she was behind, and in
passing through her fears, gain Acceptance.”
“Does she know her fears?”
“She has never faced them before, but now is ready”
“Then let her face what she fears.”
Sapphos approached what appeared to be a three arched
sculpture. “The first time,” Sabine said, “is for
what was. The way back will come but once. Be
steadfast.” She was confused, but she stepped through.
She was home. She recognized this place. The clearing she
was standing in was the same place she and her love
Lenoire used to escape to. The trees were green and the
flowers were in full bloom. The smell of early spring was
in the air. Sapphos took a deep breath and basked in the
sunlight that streamed through the trees. She wanted to
lie in the sun, to be free again.
Turning around, she caught the eyes of her lover. There
she was! Alive, breathing! She was beautiful. Her long
brown hair was dirty. Her eyes were red and puffy. There
was something wrong. Lenoire was crying. She sat on the
ground with her legs folded behind her. A dagger sat in
her hand. She looked up at Sapphos.
“I thought I’d never see you again,” she sobbed.
Sapphos’s heart leapt. Here she was! She scrambled down.
“I’m here, baby,” she cooed.
“I thought you had left me,” she cried.
Sapphos embraced the woman, pulling her head to her
shoulder. She could feel the woman’s tears and her body
as it shook from sobbing. Holding Lenoire again was
heavenly. She closed her eyes and breathed in her scent.
“I am here. I’ll always be here,” she whispered.
Looking over the woman’s shoulder, Sapphos saw a sight
that snapped her back to reality. It was the last thing
she ever wanted to see. A silver arch, the one she had
stepped through appeared. the way back will appear but
once, be steadfast Sapphos cringed, and her stomach
turned. She pulled away from Lenoire and rose. “Come
with me dear,” she whispered to her lover.
“What? You’re leaving?”
“No, I’m taking you somewhere we can be together.
You’ll be safe and we can be happy.”
“But I can’t leave here. I’m sorry. This is our
home!” Lenoire pleaded.
“Lenoire, we really don’t have time to discuss this.
Come with me.”
“Where? Where are we going?”
Sapphos realized that the woman would not come. That she
was not meant to come with her. the way back will come
but once, be steadfast “Why are you leaving me? Come
back to me!” The woman was holding out her hands,
pleading, sobbing uncontrollably. “Sapphos, I can’t, I
WON’T live without you!”
Sapphos was starting to cry. “Be strong Lenoire! You
can! You must!”
“NO! SAPPHOS!” The woman threw herself down, burying
her face in the ground. “DON”T LEAVE ME!” she said
as she held out a hand as if reaching to her.
Sapphos put one foot through the arch. “Be strong my
love,” she called, fighting back tears.
The woman picked up the dagger. Sapphos had to go. Now! the
way back will come but once, be steadfast Lenoire
plunged the dagger deeply into her chest. Sapphos started
The woman’s scream was almost animal. “NONONONONONONONONONO!”
She lay on the ground, flailing her arms against the
stones. Her cries were screams, and she could not stop.
“You have to get up, love,” Sabine whispered.
“Nonononono! She was right there! RIGHT THERE!” She
was bawling uncontrollably. “Come on, dear.” Sabine
helped her up. She walked her to the Amyrlin and helped
her kneel. She was still sobbing.
“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.” The water was poured from the chalice.
“The second time is for what is. The way back will come
but once. Be steadfast.” Sapphos was still crying. “Do
you want to go on?” Sabine whispered. Sapphos nodded her
head and stepped through.
Sapphos was on a dock in a southern town. She guessed it
was Illian by the way the men around her had their beards.
They passed on all sides of her. They were rough men, but
respectful, nodding their heads to her as they walked by.
In the distance, Sapphos saw a mob shouting and thrusting
sticks into the air. A young, thin boy who had obviously
been beaten by the men stumbled ahead of him. The crowd
was livid. “Kill him!” “Nancy boy!” “Queer!”
The crowd was saying all of this and more, spitting on the
boy as he stumbled ahead. Sapphos’s heart sunk. “Not
this. Damnit! Not this!” she muttered, anger welling up
The boy darted away. Off the docks and down a narrow
street he ran. She started after him and the crowd did the
same. Faster and faster she ran.
She caught up to the boy at the end of an alley. He was
holding a short piece of wood and backed up in the corner
as she approached. “Go away! Go away!” he cried in a
fay, high pitched voice. “You’ll no get me without a
fight!” The boy swung awkwardly, and it seemed like he
could not kill a biteme were it sucking his neck.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Sapphos told him as she
knelt down by his side. “I know what is happening to
you. I’m like you. Please, let me help you.”
The boy stopped resisting, and Sapphos wiped his face
clean of the blood and spit that stained him. Breaking
down, the boy started to weep. “They want to kill me
because of who I am! Why do they hate me?” the boy
asked, but Sapphos could not answer.
Hugging the boy close as he wept, Sapphos petted his long
hair. “I won’t let them hurt you. Come, let’s find a
place where you’ll be safe.” The crowd’s approach
was growing louder. They would be found soon. Se took the
boy into a deserted house and into an upstairs room.
Locking and bolting the door, she put him in a corner. She
squatted, waiting for the crowd to pass.
From the street she heard someone shout, “She took the
faggot in there!” The crowd burst into the house.
“Search every room! We’ll kill him right here! Get
that rope ready”
Sapphos’s heart was pounding. The boy was crying softly.
Sapphos though of his mother. A boy this young had to have
a mother waiting for him. Then it appeared. the way
back will come but once, be steadfast “No! Not
yet!” she growled. She stared at the boy. “I have to
“What?” He was panicking. “You can’t leave me!”
“I’m sorry. I HAVE to go! I’m so sorry, child!”
“No! Stay with me! They’ll kill me when they find me!
Do no leave me!”
“I’m sorry,” she said, starting to cry. Light, the
boy was beautiful. Her heart was ripping in half. The men
started banging on the door. She heard on of them yell,
“In here!” Turning to the door, she shot daggers into
it with her gaze. There was nowhere for the boy to hide.
Nothing for him to fight with. She knew he could not come.
And they would kill him because he was different. Anger
surged in her. She sneered at the door. “You fight them,
child. Do not go quietly. FIGHT!”
The boy was not speaking any more. He lay against the
wall, a look of stark terror in his eyes. A soft whimper
was escaping him. He stared at the woman like a puppy.
“You fight them! You keep your head up! Do not be
ashamed of who you are, beautiful boy!” she said,
She stepped through the gate as the door flew open, the
crowd livid with rage.
Sapphos stood, body shaking with rage. Her fists were
balled up at her side and tears streamed down her face.
Sabine approached. Sapphos glared at her, her lip curling.
Sabine gently guided her to the Amyrlin, petting her hair
with one hand. “It’s ok, dear. Whatever it was is
over,” she whispered.
She knelt before the Amyrlin. “You are washed clean of
false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You
come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.” Water
poured from the chalice.
She approached the third arch. “The third time is for
what will be. The way back will come but once. Be
Sapphos was in the bushes near a clearing in the woods.
They were much different woods from what she knew. The air
was hot and fetid with the stink of rot. She didn’t know
why, but she felt compelled to keep herself hidden. She
noticed the red dress and red-fringed shawl she was
wearing, but felt no swell of pride. Something was
desperately wrong. Two men stepped from a trail into the
clearing. They were clad in black robes.
“Have they found her yet?” the man asked the other.
“Soon. Very soon, Azrael. Be patient.”
The people stood and waited. Then Sapphos saw something
that set her hair on end. Galloping from another trail, a
black-clad rider on a black horse emerged. There was a
woman in a red dress strewn across the front of the
saddle. She was apparently a Red sister. Sapphos somehow
recognized her, though she had never seen her before in
her life. The rider unceremoniously dumped the woman to
the ground, where she lay conscious but dazed. The man
knelt before the two in robes.
“You have done well, Marak’tharr.” The man’s name
was in the unmistakably vulgar tongue of the Trollocs. He
removed his hood. Sapphos froze in terror. Dirty black
hair sat atop a head white like the snake of a leach.
Where there should have been eyes was nothing. No
indentation, nothing. “The gaze of the Eyeless is
fear,” Sapphos muttered. The two men approached. “Did
you really think you could get away from us?” the one
man asked, slapping the woman with a hard CRACK! Sapphos
wondered why the woman did not rip them apart with the
power. Then she knew. These men must be Dreadlords. Her
breathing became short and rapid. Light, Dreadlords! She
Pulling the woman by the legs so she lay flat on her back,
the man raised her dress. Sapphos looked on in horror and
disgust as the two men and then the Fade had their way
with her. She tried to look away, but couldn’t. Why
wasn’t the arch appearing? The woman was then knelt,
head hanging down. The Fade removed his sword. She never
knew what hit her. Her head rolled off cleanly. Sapphos
stifled a scream. Suddenly the two men turned to where she
was crouched. Now she knew why she couldn’t move or look
away. She was bound! Light, where was the arch? Threads of
air lifted her, and the Dreadlords approached, stopping
short of her. One spoke. “I wanted you to see this so
that you never forgot. Go now. Go and tell the others what
you have seen. Tell them that the Great Lord is waiting.
Tell them to swear fealty now, before it is too late.”
Sapphos was released, and the men started laughing.
“GO!” One yelled, and the Fade rushed at the woman
with his blade drawn. She turned to run, sure that she
could not get away. The arch was behind her, and she
unknowingly stepped through.
Sapphos sat, heart pounding. A look of shock sat on her
face. Her breathing was now rapid. She felt drained. She
started shaking. “I’ll never turn...I’ll never
turn...I’ll never turn...” she muttered over and over
and over as Sabine led her to the Amyrlin.
“I’ll...never...” she gave a final heave of her
breath before collapsing to the floor, her knees hitting
with a loud smack. She did not feel it. She felt nothing.
The water poured.
“You are washed clean of Sapphos Trelaney of Watch Hill.
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 Sapphos Trelaney, Accepted of the White Tower”
The Amyrlin slipped the Great Serpent ring on the third
finger of Sapphos’s left hand.
“You are sealed to us now”
Helgatha was working in one of the Tower's gardens,
spading the dirt to loosen it for new planting. She had been at it for
hours in the hot sun, and was sweaty and covered with dirt. She was
enjoying herself immensely, taking deep satisfaction in the break from
classes. She missed physical labor, and took any chance to do it she could
She was leaning on her spade, taking a quick breather, when she saw the
Mistress of Novices approaching. "Come with me, child." Helgatha,
confused, asked why. "The hour waits on no woman. Come with me."
Helgatha put her spade down and followed, wondering what was so essential
that she was not given the opportunity to clean up first. She followed the
Mistress of Novices down into the depths of the Tower, realizing something
momentous was happening.
They entered a huge room with 3 arches in the center. An Aes Sedai sat
cross-legged at the junction of each arch, staring into the glowing
openings. Helgatha finally understood. This was the testing for Accepted.
Hurriedly, she stripped off her filthy clothes and stood naked while the
Mistress of Novices went through the ceremonial words. “There are two
things that no woman hears until she is in this room. First, once you
begin, you must continue to the end. If you refuse to go on, you will be
put out of the Tower with enough silver to last you for one year. You will
never be allowed back. Second, to seek, to strive, is to know danger. You
will know danger here. Some women have entered, and never come out. When
the Ter’angreal went silent, they-were-not-there. They were never seen
again. To survive, you must be steadfast. You have one more chance to
refuse the test, you will be allowed back twice more. There is no shame to
"Aye, I reckon I'll do it."
Helgatha stepped through the first arch and…
She stood in the street outside her home in Lugard. There had been trouble
in the air for a long time. The gang of thugs, street children, and other
trash had been intimidating the residents of this part of the city for
months. They charged the merchants and craftsmen for protection, and
burned the homes and businesses of those who could not, or would not, pay
for protection. Lately, there had been some beatings. Poor Master Herulf
had nearly died, and would never walk again. Helgatha, the representative
of the neighborhood, had tried reasoning with them, but there was no
reasoning with trash. Finally, it had come to this. They finally had
worked up the courage to threaten her father. She couldn’t let that
happen. The protection racket, in this part of the city, had come to an
end. Helgatha had decided that enough was enough, and nobody in the
neighborhood could stand up to her. The thugs were about to learn the hard
way what it meant to say “No” to Helgatha Thrin.The way back will
come but once. Be steadfast… She thought she heard someone speaking
to her, but she turned and didn’t see anybody. She did see her brothers,
father, and the rest of the men of the neighborhood coming up behind her,
carrying barrel staves, axe handles, and stout branches. She herself held
an axe handle in her hand, and gripped it assuredly. It probably
wouldn’t come to violence, but with street trash, one never knew. All
she knew was, their reign of terror was over. She would see to it.
She turned around and addressed the group. “They’ll be here any
minute, lads. We give them one chance to go away, then we set on ‘em.
They are a bunch o’ bullies, no better than dogs. Show them you’ll
bite and they’ll go away.” There was mumbling from the group. They
were scared, and rightly so. The thugs seemed more willing to use steel
lately, and the watch was no help. “Stick with me, they’ll not stand
up to you. Ye’ll see…”
Down the street, the first bunch of ragged but hard-looking men and boys,
some no older than 10, appeared. The group grew until it outnumbered the
group of people from the neighborhood. Looked like the thugs found some
backup as well. Helgatha smiled. She hoped they would see reason, but if
not, she was more than ready to beat it into them…The way back will
come but once. Be steadfast… There it was again. That voice. She
ignored it and approached the group of thugs, her neighbors close behind.
“Are ye ready to pay, then?” called out the leader of the thugs, a
roach called Hickey. He only had one eye and a few fingers, and these were
his best features. A harder man Helgatha had never seen before. “You
know the bloody answer Hickey…time for ye to be movin’ along now.”
Hickey smiled and produced a dagger. She saw the other thugs were armed
with knives, rusty swords, clubs, even a crossbow or two. This would get
ugly. “Well,” yelled Hickey, “ye’ll pay one way or another…go
get ‘em, lads!” The thugs advanced, ready to draw first blood.
Helgatha stood with her legs wide apart, gripping her axe handle in both
hands. “Charge, lads! Fight fer yer homes!”
The two mobs met with a crash. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a
thug stabbing towards her with a rusty saber. She spun and clouted him on
the side of the head as hard as she could swing. The man fell, blood and
brains dripping onto the cobbles. Her neighbors were holding, but barely.
It was her strength, courage, and deadly axe handle that evened the odds.
She looked over to check on her youngest brother, Hervald. Over his
shoulder, she saw three shimmering arches. Then she remembered. “No! For
the love of the Light, this ain’t right!” With a growl, she turned her
back on the street riot and ran towards the arches. “Hel, where you goin’
lass? We need ye…nooooooo!” The last thing she saw was a sword taking
Hervald in the throat and the ruffian gang surging over her neighbors.
She tripped on the cold stone floor, went to her knees, and felt a stream
of cool water running hitting the top of her head. “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.”
The Aes Sedai said as she poured the water from the chalice over
Helgatha's sweaty head.
Sabine checked her over, then steered her to the ter'angreal. “The
second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.
With a snarl, Helgatha ran towards the arches again...
And stepped through into her house. It was a fine home, like one that
would be owned by a prosperous craftsman. Then Helgatha knew. It was her
She stood in the kitchen, baking loaves of bread. There were more than her
family would need, but she planned to take the extra down to her old
neighborhood for the soup kitchen. While she and her husband were by no
means wealthy, they did well enough that they could spare a bit for
charity, and Helgatha remembered going to bed hungry more than once. It
was the least she could do for her old friends and neighbors.
She turned away and heard a baby cry. Her baby…then she knew.
It was her child. The first of many she and Derrvik would have. Derrvik
was a butcher, and one of the largest men in this part of Lugard. A hard
man, with a face like an anvil, but his face softened enough for his wife
and child. Helgatha and the baby, Hervald, named after her brother, were
the lights of his life. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast…
Helgatha looked around for who had spoken, but saw nobody. It was just her
imagination. She went to get Hervald, and was changing his diaper when
Derrvik walked in. He was scowling, but his hard features brightened
immeasurably when he saw his family. “Helgatha, me love, how are ye?”
He swept both of them up in an embrace. She was so large that he dwarfed
even Helgatha, and she, who thought she would never find love, felt safe
and comfortable in his arms. “Ye’d not believe it…the cowman is
doublin’ his price for beef, he is…something about trouble down south.
He’ll ruin us yet.” While they were not rich, Derrvik’s meat trade
and Helgatha’s shrewd bargaining and mediating made them prosperous and
respected. She remembered growing up poor, and being bigger than all the
boys. They taunted her about her looks, until she learned to thrash them.
They stopped making fun of her, but the looks and sniggering continued.
She stood there, safe and warm in her husband’s embrace. She had news
for him. He would be a father again in the spring, and he would be
pleased. Thank the Light, I have everything I ever wanted… She
looked over Derrvik’s shoulder and saw three shimmering arches. “NO! I
want this! This is what I need!” “Helgatha, love, what’s wrong?”
said Derrvik as she pushed away and started, sobbing, towards the arches.
“What’s the problem, love? Come back! We’ll fix it, ye and me…come
She staggered out of the arches and into the cold stone room. Another Aes
Sedai reached up to pour cold water over her head again. “You are washed
clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to
us washed clean, in heart and soul.” How can I be clean...I left me
family! She was as close to tears as she ever got, which surprised her.
She had forgotten how to cry on the streets of Lugard. But, if she stopped
now, she'd be put out and have nothing to return to. She stared at the Aes
Sedai in the room malevolently. Burn you all! “The third time is
for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
With more hatred than she had ever known, Helgatha strode towards the
arches. One last time, and I swear I’ll welt ever’ last one o’
these bloody Aes Sedai…
She stepped through the arches, and found herself in an ornate conference
room. There was a huge oaken table there, with the king and
representatives from Tarabon on one side and the king and advisors from
Arad Doman on the other. The two countries had been fighting over Almoth
Plain again, and a delegation from the Tower had arrived to end the
feuding once and for all.
The two sides had been there for days, and while they continued to argue
back and forth, no progress had been made. The Tower had deemed these
negotiations so important that they had sent the Keeper herself, Reile
Sedai, who was renowned for her ability to negotiate. Helgatha looked
around the room to see Kirla, her friend from Novice days, and several
other Gray Ajah members.
They had discussed how they would approach the negotiations. They would
attempt diplomacy and negotiation, but they suspected that this wouldn’t
work. That was were Helgatha came in. They were using carrots, which it
was obvious wasn’t working. It was time for the stick.
Helgatha had been quiet, not adding much to the discussions. She sat
quietly at the end of the table, regal in her Aes Sedai finery despite her
size and looks. At a signal from Reile, indicating that they weren’t
going to get anywhere, Helgatha suddenly slapped her palm down on the
table. “I have bloody had ENOUGH!” Her Lugard accent, pushed down from
years of training, came to the fore when she was angry. “I have bloody
sat here for days on end, listenin’ to your babblin’. I tell you,
there will be PEACE, if I have to flamin’ beat it into ye meself! Now,
you will both withdraw to within yer borders before this war, and ye will
sign the flaming peace treaty if I have to break yer fingers getting’
them around the bloody pens! The Tower has told ye that ye’ll stop yer
fighten’, and ye WILL! TODAY!”
She smiled inwardly at the shocked looks on the faces of all around the
table. Nobody spoke to kings that way. Nobody but Helgatha Sedai. She
wasn’t the best negotiator in the Tower, but there were occasions when
her way was best. Be steadfast. The way back will come but once… Helgatha
was looking around for the voice, when the doors flew open and armed men
strode in. They were wearing white cloaks with sunbursts on them, but
there was something wrong about this. “This farce is over, witches.
You’ll come with us, and confess your crimes. If you admit to your
dealings with the Shadow, it will go easier on you.” Helgatha embraced
the Source and prepared to teach these Whitecloaks the folly of
interfering with the Tower when something slammed between her and the
Power. A tall man wearing clothes she had never seen before came into the
room, followed by two Myrdraal. The other Aes Sedai began screaming. They
had been shielded too. “Ahhh. Some new…playthings for my friends here.
Seize them.” One of the Whitecloaks grabbed for Reile Sedai, but
Helgatha grabbed her chair and ripped off a leg. “Not so fast,
Whitey!” She had been dealing with bullies since way before she knew she
could channel, and Fades or no, she was going to teach him a lesson he’d
not forget. As she rounded the table, she saw three shimmering arches.
“NO! I can’t leave them to die!” she screamed, but swerved and ran
towards them, diving through to the pained shrieks of the other Aes Sedai.
She fell out of the arches. "I...I bloody left them there to the
Fades! I would never do that to my friends. Never!" Sabine came over
and helped her up. "Hush, girl. You never speak of what happened in
there. It is your own."
Helgatha saw the Amyrlin Seat holding a chalice. Slowly, she reached up
and tipped it over Helgatha's head. “You are washed clean of Helgatha
Thrin of Lugard. 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 Helgatha
Thrin, Accepted of the White Tower." The Amyrlin slipped the Great
Serpent ring on the third finger of Tanya’s left hand. “You are sealed
to us now."
Helgatha shrugged off the help of the Mistress of Novices and her mentor,
who had been there the whole time. She quickly threw her clothes on and
stalked all the way out of the Tower and to a quiet garden clearing. She
needed to think. They had made her do terrible things, but she would get
even. They would pay...
She should have known. The dreams had continued, a dungeon, darkness,
evil. Pain. But as the days passed and the memories faded, she shrugged it
off. The nightmares assaulted her now and again, then with increasing
frequency. She caught glimpses of terror in those nightmares, and she kept
them to herself, bound the demons of the night within the cover of her
It was writing in that diary about those dream demons that led to her
losing her pen. Because of her trembling hand while writing one morning,
she had to keep putting it down and rubbing her fingers, rubbing her
temples to stop the pounding of fear. The last time, she had looked back
and the pen had been gone. She was in her room searching for it when
Sabine Sedai gently opened the door. Ebony saw a swirl of skirts out of
the corner of her eye and froze, one hand outstretched. She was halfway
under her bed, and her rear end was sticking out. She felt her face go
crimson, for she knew it wasn't a Novice or Accepted, no white dress was
this. She wavered - to continue on for the pen, or back out as soon as
possible? She finally decided to go for it, it was too late to save her
dignity now, and she lunged forward, closed her fingers around her pen,
How had it fallen down between the bed and wall, anyways??, then scrambled
out backwards as quickly as she could, rising to her feet and sinking down
into a curtsy, her eyes fixated on the floor. When she looked up, her face
went even redder; it was Sabine Sedai, the Mistress of Novices, herself.
At first she thought she was in trouble, but something tickled the edge of
her awareness. Quickly putting two and two together, she gaped as
realization hit at the same time she read Sabine Sedai's note to her. Time
for her test, now.
She followed Sabine down into the depths of the Tower, shivering as the
cold basement rooms reminded her of that dungeon in her dreams. She
worried, about this test. What kind of test was it? No one would say.
Lauralina Sedai said it changed you. That gave her a fiery determination,
to not let it change her. She met it standing straight.
There were others in the room, she couldn't remember how many, afterwards.
She was to take off her clothes. Trembling, she obeyed. They spoke, she
know they did, but she couldn't hear them. She was very gently directed to
a shining silver arch - there were three, actually, but she stood in front
of one. They gestured, she was to go in. She didn't. For a moment, she was
rooted in place with the kind of fear one only gets from the unknown, the
pure, undiluted fear brought on by having to trust solely in the words of
others... not even their words, for she couldn't hear them. The moment
stretched, she could feel the tension tightening about her, knew something
had to snap. Finally, it did, and she stepped forwards and through the
light. Fear was replaced by wonder.
She stood on one of the paths leading from the center of her small town's
square. She didn't understand why she was there, she hadn't lived there in
five years now. No matter. She walked without direction, following the
paths here and there. It was a beautiful day. But something seemed wrong.
Where was Charity? Ebony held tightly to her notebook and looked around.
She waved at Ed Marnus, the shoemaker, and he grinned his toothy grin and
She kept walking, but it wasn't aimlessly at all she realized. She was
following her route, the one she had always taken home. It was early in
the day for her to be coming home, she had been sitting near the waterfall
for days now, all morning until noon, writing about everything around her.
It was so peaceful, and there were so many ideas around her. She held a
bunch more thoughts in her journal now. Ebony looked down, surprised to
see that she was holding her journal along with her notebook. Of course
she was holding her journal too, where else would it be? She shook her
head and wondered if she was sick. When she had come down with that bug,
her memory had faded into the illness, until all she could remember of
that time were nightmares and Charity's soothing words with a cool
Those were bad times, she thought. I wonder why I thought of them now. Her
house came into view, a cottage with a patchwork roof of repairs (that
still leaked, it had always leaked), and a crumbling chimney, which even
now had wisps of smoke curling from its opening above the peak of the
roof. The cat, a big, one-eyed tom with a surly temperament, sat on a
discarded box in the yard. It hissed at her, mouth open in a display of
teeth and cruel hatred of the human race, then jumped down from his
precarious perch and streaked off into the trees, tail crooked where it
had been closed in that door. Light, that was an ugly cat. She never knew
why it hung around, except for the food she put out for it, it hated
everyone and everything. She thought maybe his loss of his left eye
(probably in some fight with a creature ten times its size, that cat was
just stupid enough to do that) had thrown off his hunting abilities.
The front door was slightly ajar, and Ebony pushed it open and peeked her
head around to look in. No one was in sight. She walked in. A form was
huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth. Ebony hurried over and
crouched beside it. Him. She took out her notebook and scribbled, Jas? Are
you okay? What's wrong? She hoped there was enough light for him to read.
His trembling hand took the pen and paper. Mum, and dad. Make them stop!
Pleese... He winced, apparently at some sound, and buried his head into
Ebony's shoulder. She hugged him, rocked him, smoothed his hair. Go to
Mark's. I'll take care of it, don't you worry. He nodded, got up and
stumbled out the door, not closing it behind him.
Ebony swiftly stood to her feet and crept towards the kitchen. She
remembered this day. Her father had almost died, if it weren't for her.
Peeked around the corner, she still gasped at what she saw. Her father,
6'4" and built like a bear, was huddled in the corner, head down,
tears dripping from his face. Glass littered the floor around his feet,
and in a second Ebony found out why, as her mother, the mother who was
supposed to care for her and love her, threw another glass at her father.
It missed, shattered against the wall, pieces falling to the ground, some
bouncing off her father's arm. Welts and cuts on his skin, red and angry,
showed where she had been more successful. A handprint flared bright red
on his cheek.
An anger like none she had ever known before started in the pit of her
stomach, expanding outward until it encompassed her entire body. She shook
with rage. She wanted to throw herself in there, shake her father, beg him
to do something, but she knew it was useless. He had always been like
this, ever since she had known. This was the worst it had ever gotten,
though. She never found out what caused her mother to snap, and she didn't
care. When the woman grabbed a knife, Ebony spun and ran, tears blurring
her vision. She had to go get someone, had to go get them now. She might
have waited too long already. She cried as she thought of her father,
helpless against the woman who held his life in her hands.
She was nearly there when a flash of light made her look off to the side.
She tripped on a root when she took her eyes off the path, landed on her
knees. A silver arch shimmered in between the trees on the right, five
paces back from the trail. She didn't know what it meant, what it was. But
it called her. She needed to go through it. No, I need to get help for
papa! She imagined him slumped to the ground, bleeding. She stumbled back
to her feet, towards the arch. He was dying. He was as good as dead,
without her help. She took another step closer. Chest heaving in silent
sobs that she couldn't control, she flung herself into the light, through
the arch, clenching her eyes shut and begging her father's forgiveness,
even though she could never receive it, not for what she had done.
She landed on her knees again, on the other side, in a basement room of
the White Tower. It was true. She had saved him that day, but she had
abandoned him to come here. She might as well have let him die. She should
have stayed and looked after him. And what about Jas? He too needed her
protection. She stared at the floor, not moving, never wanting to move,
wishing the arch would take her back, she didn't care if she never
returned. A cup of water was poured over her head, someone urged her to
her feet. She didn't know who, she didn't care, she never looked.
She was here for a reason. To become Aes Sedai. Because she could channel.
That's no excuse! voices in her head screamed, the only voices she ever
heard. They gave you no choice! They kidnapped you, and never let you go.
The used you, they didn't care who you left behind... NO! They were her
friends. They were all just like her. Trying to do some good in this
world. They had this talent, they had to use it. They were all just like
her. They had all left someone, something behind, some good, some not so
good. She had promised herself she wouldn't be like them, without feeling,
cold and hard, and Creator burn it all, she wasn't going to let this stop
her. She faced the next arch, still crying, she couldn't stop the tears,
and stepped through. She hoped for nothing, and knew she would meet her
next living nightmare. A scuffle of footsteps... a darkened alley...
shoved face-first into the stone wall... sharp, stabbing pain... knife...
slow motion... didn't know... ageless face... no warning... no time to
channel... sobbed... pain immobilized... world faded and ceased to
exist...Ebony jerked awake and stared at the familiar white ceiling, the
white walls. Her breath was short, her body had a light sheen of sweat
covering it, she was shaking still. The dream. Someone would die. Someone
important, to the Tower, to her. She had seen it, this wasn't the first
time. She hated this dream, and each time it got worse, more insistent,
clearer. She rubbed her forehead with her hands, then layed still, one
arms slung across her eyes to block the light shining in the window, to
block the memories, the thoughts. Sinda and Elril weren't there. She
didn't know why she had slept during the day, she never had naps.(It's
important) She paused. Important... she needed to find out why. There was
a reason for it, there was something important she needed to figure out.
She threw off her covers and stumbled to her feet, yanking her dress on,
not giving a thought to her snarled hair. She went to the library,
wandered the aisles, looking, waiting. She went to the front desk, stood
there, eyes unfocussed, staring at the wall. The Brown at the desk looked
at her in concern, and a hint of annoyance. Ebony blinked, looked down.
She wrote in her notebook, ripped out the page and slid it across. Do you
have any books about current Tower members, lists? The Brown eyed her
still, wondering if the girl was an aspiring Brown. Nodding, the Aes Sedai
led her to a corner, pulled out a large volume. Half the pages were blank.
Blank... why did that mean something. (Her life, a blank book) It was a
list of names, of all the Aes Sedai in the Tower, counting backwards.
Ebony glanced at the shelf, her gaze touching on row upon row of such
books. The sheer numbers overwhelmed her. She took the book, slightly
dusty, well-worn, it's red cover only starting to fade. It landed hard on
the table. Others looked at Ebony, she didn't notice. She opened the back,
started reading. Phrygiana, Reile, Lanfir, Taya... the names went on and
on. It wasn't right. She turned further. Whites. Lorelia, Lauralina. That
was closer. But not right. She kept looking, turning the pages with more
urgency. Lylana. (I know her) There it was. Her heart thumped against her
chest as she stared. That's what I saw, on the letter. She had seen her in
the dream. Saw her get murdered. Head of the White Ajah... There was
something in that, some resonance she couldn't put a finger to, not now.
(Destiny...) The book snapped shut beneath her hands and she left it
there, absently walking out the door.
She had classes to get to... but this was more important. Too important!
But what would she say? That she had a nightmare? (I should know better)
They'd laugh at her. The Head of the Ajah probably wouldn't even want to
talk to her at all. (She would) Ebony found herself at the White Ajah
halls without her knowing it. She walked up to Lylana's door. Knocked.
There was no answer. Another Novice walked by. 'Where is Lylana Sedai?'
she wrote, shoved the paper under the girl's nose. The girl shrugged.
Ebony ran to another girl, an Accepted, who walked by. 'Where is Lylana
Sedai??' The girl knew, she could see it in her eyes. The notebook and pen
were exchanged, words written. Ebony forced her mind to calm (It's too
late, she's gone!) and read them. 'She just left a while ago, went to Tar
Valon by the looks of it.'
Ebony ran. She shouldered the door to the Tower open and glanced up at the
sun, still hovering over the horizon. She would make it in time. Her mind
wasn't thinking, though, it was panicked, elated that she had figured it
out in time. The gates were guarded, blocked. No Novices allowed out,
period. She stopped, breath catching in her throat, more from this
revelation than from running. A blur, writing, reading, Guards shaking
their head, escorting her back into the Tower. NO! her mind screamed. You
can't do this! She wanted to fight, wanted to twist in his grasp and run,
but knew she would never make it, knew it was useless. She trembled from
the effort, and started running as soon as he let her go.
She made it into a courtyard, channeled, escaped over a wall. She knew
where to go, could picture it from her dream. Her tracks were halted as
something made the hair on her neck stand up. She breathed heavily,
squeezed her eyes shut, didn't move. When she opened her eyes, it was
there, mocking her like a shining blade does as it pierces your heart. She
knew what she had to do.
The dream flashed through her head as she stepped towards the arch. Lylana,
walking. Lylana, cornered. Lylana, dead. Ebony stepped forwards into the
light. She felt Lylana die as the arch swallowed her whole.
Ebony felt like she'd been chewed and thrown up, felt sick to her stomach.
More water on her head. She had betrayed her dreams, herself. She
remembered that dream, from long ago, years at the least. It has seemed
like a bad nightmare at the time, she had shrugged it off. Ebony shook
with the realization. Not a dream at all. Someone's life had depended on
her, and she hadn't even known it. She would look it up later. Maybe it
wasn't true at all. But she still remembered, the haunting vision, the
feeling of dying, because she'd condemned her to death.
Another arch faced her, the last of her trials. Ebony's face was white,
her head empty now, along with her self-respect. She stepped through.
A blanket of confusion descended upon her, smothering the clearness of
understanding as knowledge of her other life, the real life, was tossed
She stepped forward hesitantly, and it made more sense now. Serpent ring.
White dress. No, white shawl. She wasn't Novice anymore at all; she was
White Ajah. On her way to the Hall. She was a Sitter? A White Sister
passed her in the Hall and respectfully nodded at her, she nodded back. It
set in further, but she couldn't quite grasp the meaning. She kept
A Novice, wide-eyed and clutching her dress, scrambled up to her. 'Ebony
Sedai,' she signed. At least they had sent a girl who could sign, there
were several at the Tower now, for her sake. 'You're needed urgently.'
Ebony's heart quickened it's dance in her chest, pulsing to a beat no one
knew, but urging her adrenalin through her blood stream. Her mind
screamed, she knew what would happen, she remembered, but it was silenced
as the veil of time set upon her. How could she know? She'd never been
here before. This was the future! But the dreams... she knew, she knew.
She signed back, 'Why? What's wrong?' The girl started to cry, and Ebony's
heart went cold with fear. 'Kirla...' (Kirla?) was all the girl got out
before Ebony started walking, desperately trying to maintain the dignity
required with her station. Ajah Head, that was it. She almost tripped, but
regained herself quickly. Memory, of another life, of dreams and fears,
buzzed in her head, and the tears lay at her eyes. She started to run. So
what if she was Aes Sedai, Ajah Head. Sometimes it was logical, the voice
in her head argued, sometimes it was needed.
Kirla still hadn't recovered (Recovered from what?) and Ebony knew how
hard it was on her. Ebony had always been there for her, (She had?) as
much as she could. But Kirla was the best Healer in the Tower, (She was?)
everyone knew that, and she couldn't Heal herself. Ebony knew it was
hopeless, running would do no good. It was too late already, it had been
too late for a long time. She reached Kirla's room where people were
usually walking in and out, constantly checking on her, trying to help,
trying to fix it. But Kirla's mind had been broken, not just her body, and
there was little left to fight. She hit the doorframe with her shoulder as
she skidded around the corner, and spun around before throwing herself in
the room. Today there was no one coming in and out, there were few people
in the room, and they all just stood, not trying anymore, not hoping. Just
Ebony took a step closer towards the lifeless form of her bloodsister. No
breath, no heartbeat, no life. Clamping a hand over her mouth, Ebony
suppressed a sob, a wordless, soundless wail of pain. She had tried, but
it hadn't been enough... she had lived, she was here, and Kirla was not.
Ebony threw herself down beside the bed, face buried in her arms, and
cried until her throat burned and her insides felt empty, and then she
cried some more.
The world shifted, the reality. It went dark. Awareness came back, but
light did not. As reality as she knew it pieced together, this dream that
wasn't a dream, a knot tightened in her stomach. She remembered this, and
didn't want to. She didn't want this to be true. Oh, light, no... But this
time it wasn't flashing back and forth, this time it wasn't
disconnected... this time it felt real. The clarity of understanding was
gone as quickly as it had come. Searching her memories, she found this
one... three weeks earlier. This was the dungeon. Her legs started aching
with just the memories. She knew what was to come. The Tower, the memory,
where she had just been... She shook her head. The Tower? They hadn't been
at the Tower for a month now.
She was shackled to a wall, in a most uncomfortable position. Being a
White, she knew how to dissociate herself from it, to step back and watch
life happen from outside. She saw a slight bit of movement in the shadows
on the wall next to this one. The sconce on the wall beside the stairs
down flickered dimly, and Ebony squinted to see. She almost used Saidar to
see better, until she remembered she was shielded, shielded well. She had
tried probing for an opening, some sort of place to start unraveling it,
but it was very well created. That's why she had passed out, now that she
thought about it - she had pushed her limits too far. The shadows shifted
again, and Ebony could barely make out the form of her bloodsister, in the
same pose as she. The smaller girl sagged hopelessly, still tugged
uselessly at the chains with what little strength she had left.
Her vision darkened again, from exhaustion and hunger, and when it came
back into view Kirla's head whipped around to stare at the ascending
stairs. Ebony turned her head slowly, not wanting to take her gaze off
Kirla for fear something might happen to her when she wasn't looking. She
stared at the dark hole that led upwards out of this cavern. A man
appeared, his blond hair wrongly bright in the darkened dungeon, on one so
evil. Ebony remembered him, this one who took pleasure in others' pain. He
had stood by and watched while they were captured and thrown to the floor
like chattel, a smile of enjoyment on his face. It made her sick. She
watched, pretending not to be awake, as he walked over to Kirla, who
stared with wide eyes, a fierceness in them that could only be forged on
this anvil of pain and fear. The man touched her face, caressed her cheek
lovingly, like a master would a pet, and Kirla flinched visibly and turned
away as far as she could, pressing her face against her arm, tears rolling
down her cheeks. Ebony felt anger again, that anger she remembered when
she saw her father that day (Why did she think of that now?) and she
lunged, stopped after only a few inches, yanked back against the cold,
hard stone that knocked the breath out of her. The man turned his head to
smile at her, his whole face lighting up in joy that she was awake to see.
He touched Kirla again, then, delighting in the fires of rage that burned
in Ebony's bluish eyes.
He unhooked Kirla from the wall, dragged her coaxingly up the stairs. She
hardly had enough strength to stand, much less walk. Ebony watched in
agony, knowing what they would do to her, knowing what the outcome would
be, for she remembered the dreams. She couldn't let this happen, she
couldn't, it was up to her, it was her fault, she should have warned them,
she should have gone a different road, she should have killed herself
trying to prevent this from happening. The voices screamed in her head,
rising to a pitch that hurt her skull. Do something, do something! FOR
LIGHT'S SAKE DO SOMETHING! She gathered Saidar and, in one blow against
the shield that held her, knocked herself out cold.
When she came to, she was laying on a stone table, hard, the cold seeping
into her skin, her bones, her soul. First there was numbness, then there
was pain. Her legs burned, felt wrong. She had been left there, though she
still couldn't channel. They were coming to get her soon, she knew, to do
the same things to her as they were doing to Kirla. She had to work fast.
(A Novice, wide-eyed and clutching her dress) She levered herself up
slowly, closing her eyes against the throbbing in her skull. (Ebony
running towards Kirla's room) When she opened them again, her vision swam,
but she saw the blond man on the other side of the room, Kirla laying on a
table before him. (Kirla's mind had been broken, not just her body) Ebony
found strength in the white-hot anger that spilled over into everything,
and she slid herself off the table, almost folding to the floor as pain
rocketed up her body from her ankles, her knees. She pulled herself up and
held her body weight with her arms on the table, inching over to the wall,
ignoring her pounding head and the searing pain in her legs. She grabbed a
poker, one of the many assorted metal objects on the bench and wall. She
didn't want to think about what they were for. She turned and her whole
being focused on the man she was about to kill. She felt no remorse, not
like she usually did, no sadness at the thought. Only hatred.
She knew, somehow, she wouldn't stop him. Knew she'd fail her bloodsister.
But this time could be different! She knew that visions didn't always come
true, she knew that. Yet, still, it was the same... Kirla would die. She
glanced back towards the wall, the wall of torture, of death, and she knew
why. The silver arch shimmered, waiting, in place of the wall. But it
wouldn't wait forever. She wished she could scream. Wished she could yell,
could swear, could rend the air with her breaking heart. But she couldn't.
She stared longingly across the room, at the man whose back she should be
skewering with the poker in her hands. It was too much. She couldn't take
it anymore. Leaning her weight on her left arm against the table, Ebony
held the poker like a spear with her right, wound up and hurled it
savagely across the room, hoping against hope that it was enough. The
spear clattered harmlessly off the stone table beside him as Ebony pushed
off the table and fell through the arch, her legs crumpling as they
refused to hold her.
Ebony lay in the basement of the Tower, her cheek, her naked body, pressed
against the stone floor. She felt naked, not physically, but emotionally,
as if the arches had stared into her soul and ripped it bare, let it bleed
dry. Her tears dripped off her cheeks and made a puddle on the floor, a
miniature lake, she wished she could drown herself in it. Her legs were
whole again, but still ached in lingering pain. Thoughts, emotions,
swirled around in her head. Who was Kirla? Someone touched her shoulder.
She didn't move for a long moment, collecting herself, finding the will to
live beyond the dreams that weren't real, that were only glimpses of
possibilities. She slowly pushed herself to her knees, and looked up. The
Amyrlin stood beside her, poured a chalice of water on her head. Ebony
closed her eyes and imagined the words of the ritual were true, that it
wasn't her fault, that the water washed her clean. It wasn't true, it
would always stay with her, but she could pretend. A Serpent ring was
slipped onto the third finger of her right hand.
She was Accepted now.
Ebony collected her clothes, pulled on her new Accepted dress, left the
Tower's basement. Her face was expressionless. She went to the library,
not her room, went to the corner she remembered from the vision. The book
was there. Her hand trembled, she lifted it off the shelf, sat on the
floor where she was. The book resting on her lap, her crossed legs, she
opened it with one hand, her other arm clutched to her, protectively
covering her stomach, as if she could keep the truth out. Slowly, the
pages turned beneath her right hand. Page by page, scanning the names.
There. Her eyes stared at it. "Lylana Diandaere, Head of the White
Ajah." Died, three years past. Ebony started crying then, pulled her
knees to her chest, uncaring as the thick book fell to the floor, folding
the pages as it lay open against the floor. Huddled in the corner, Ebony
hugged her knees and sobbed until the light faded from the day and she was
left in darkness.
Egwhine got out of hammock (as opposed to bed) and flew
into her clothes. SHE WAS AN ACCEPTED!!!!!!!!!! Well, as soon as she went
through those blasted arches... She had prepared for this day, leaving out
only her Novice dress and her hammock, so that she could move in next to
Tylin really quickly. She had no intention of backing down from the
Challenge of the Arches, and would laugh in Sabine's face when asked. She
ran down the corridor, making glimmery patterns of light appear on the
wall, and leaped into the room holding the Silver Arches. Sabine and the
others were already there, apparently about to send for her. They looked
startled for a second, but recovered quickly. Sabine walked up to her and
said, "Very well then. Two things I will tell you now that no woman
hears until she is in this room. The first is this. Once you begin, you
must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, and you will very kindly be put
out of the Tower, and you will never be allowed back." Egwhine tried
to imagine life out of the Tower, and got a headache.
"Second, " the Aes Sedai continued. "To seek, to strive, is
to know danger. You will know danger here. Some women have entered, and
never come out. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail,
and... " Her silence was more eloquent than words.
"This is your last chance child. You may turn back now, and you will
only have one mark against you. Twice more you will be allowed to come
here, and only at the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. It
is no shame to refuse." Egwhine toyed with the thought of actually
laughing in Sabine's face, but quickly discarded it. She turned her nose
up like she had seen those bloody stiff-necked nobles, and said "Aye
think Aye hwill be staying here, thank hyou very much..." Sabine gave
her the oddest look Egwhine had ever gotten, and that was ODD. It said:
What do you think you are doing, why are you doing that, when did you
learn how to do that, I hope no-one else heard that, and do you realize
the gravity of the situation? Sabine motioned Egwhine to continue with the
ceremony; Egwhine blushed faintly, and stripped down to her Birthing suit.
Egwhine stiffened her back, and approached the Arches, where the Mistress
of Novices was standing near a woman with a pitcher of water.
“Who do you bring with you Sister?”
“One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.”
“Is she ready?”
“She is ready to leave what she was behind, and in passing through her
fears, gain Acceptance.”
“Does she know her fears?”
“She has never faced them before, but now is ready”
“Then let her face what she fears.”
Egwhine leaped through the Arch, eager to see what it was she feared. The
world flashed white...
Suddenly she was in a small, cramped room, filled with books of her notes,
and only one candle. Oh no... Not here...
Egwhine was home.
She looked around, fearing what she would see only for a second, and then
forgot everything about the Tower except what she had learned. Why had she
turned around? Oh, yes, she had been about to reach for some notes. She
leaned over, picked up the errant packet of notes, and turned quickly back
to the desk, as she heard THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT ONCE, BE PREPARED.
"Who's there? If that's you, Rouge, I knew it was you all along.
Hello?" The voice didn't answer. She sniffed the air. "Are you
cooking something? I told you not to bake that make-up, it's not good...
for... it..." She turned quickly again, just in time to see the paper
stack fall on the candle, knocking it over into the flames. Oh, bloody
blast. She climbed out the window, and was about to go around to the front
of the building to warn her family, when that voice came back. THE WAY
BACK- "YES! I heard you! You caused me to burn down my house!"
She turned around, and stalked towards the gateway she knew would be
there, trying to ignore the screams as her families faces wouldn't be put
out. She had warned them from using combustible lipstick.
She came out of the Arch, glaring at the MoNster so fiercely that she took
a step back. Abruptly, Egwhine smiled winningly. "I forgive you for
making me burn up my family, but if you really want trouble, pour that
pitcher of water over my head. Get it? Got it? Good. Take me to the next
Arch..." The MoNster was clearly not expecting this, because her
mouth was hanging open, as was every Aes Sedai's in the room. "Well?
Oh, yes, I forgot. *slightly mocking voice* Was it real, Sabine Sedai? Did
I dream it?" "No-one knows, child, and almost every Novice that
comes through here says that. This way." She walked the two steps to
the next Arch, and said "The way back will come but once. Be
steadfast." Egwhine leaped through this Arch, wondering if this would
be worse than listening to her family burn for curiosity...
Egwhine looked around a little before realizing where she was. She was in
her Novice room, complete with one empty side of the room and one hammock.
Suddenly, two men flew into her room, one looking like something the
cougar dragged in, and the other looking so far round the bend he could
hide in a corkscrews' shadow. She knew this. It had happened only two days
ago. No it hadn't, what was she thinking about? This was happening right
now, and there was nothing she could do. She was trapped and they were
going to do something to her. The crazy looking man grinned suddenly, and
she lost consciousness as something invisible hit her. When she woke up,
she was surrounded by Aes Sedai, each glowering at her, and glowing with
the shared link of Saidar. “You have committed a crime, Egwhine
Al’Mascara. You have given hospitality to Dark Friends. Your punishment
for this crime is to be cast out of the White Tower, and to be forever
shielded, so that you may strive to reach Saidar, but never reach it. You
will forever try to reach it, just beyond a shield that you can never
break.” THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT ONCE, BE STEADFAST. Egwhine looked
around, to see who spoke in all capital letters. As she did so, she was
knocked out again by the sudden shield snapping into place.
Eventually, Egwhine fuzzed back into consciousness, and was startled to
see the crazy man looking directly at her. She screamed and backed away,
because she had no defense against him. He appeared startled for a moment,
and then said “You scream well. I know you have been shielded, and I can
help you with that…problem… All you need to do is Pledge your soul to
the Great Lord…” Egwhine stared, then looked around for something to
tell her this was a dream. She wanted to feel Saidar again, but was it
worth selling her soul? No. It was not. She said as much, and the crazy
man grinned widely. “I knew you would object. Let me show you further
persuasion.” He cast his arm out, and a candle flared up. Her parents
were illumined in the glow, as well as her sister. “No. No, you do not
have them. You cannot have them. I will not be-” THE WAY BACK WILL COME
BUT ONCE, BE STEADFAST. Egwhine looked around, and saw something new. A
shining arch was behind her, away from her parents and the promised Saidar.
She started walking towards it, then started running, so she would not
have to see her parents’ agony on their faces…
Egwhine stumbled through the Arch, crying. She looked up in time to see
the bucket of water slip from the Aes Sedai’s hands, and threw herself
to the side to avoid the brass pot. “Thank you, Aes Sedai, for bringing
me back to the present. But next time, a little less assassination
attempt, a little more water.” Egwhine grinned shakily to take away any
offense, and turned to the MoNster. “I-I think I am ready for the next
Arch. Just tell me one thing, please. Is it worth it?” Egwhine looked up
at the MoNster’s surprised face. “Of course it’s worth it, Child.
What made you ask… Never mind, are you ready for the next Arch?”
“Yes, I am. And, if I understand this correctly, it is the worst one of
all?” The MoNster nodded gravely. “All right. Take me the two steps to
the arch.” Egwhine poked her finger through, wondering what it was
experiencing, and then leaped through, because it was starting to
Egwhine blinked rapidly. This was NOTHING like the previous arches. What
arches? She had ALWAYS lived here. Thoughts of the Arch Room in the White
Tower fled from her mind, as she remembered her life up until this point.
She remembered accepting the crazy man’s offer, and he had drilled a
hole through the shield, but it was only a trickle. Her parents were
alive, but only as long as she performed acceptably. The land was a
wasteland now, after years of war. She had done her part, but now there
was nothing left for her to do, but look for stragglers. And then make
sure they were no longer straggling. She had located a small farm, with
accompanying screams, and went to make sure there was no more screaming.
As she walked to the farm, she reflected on what she had accomplished.
Nothing. Everything she could have done, someone else could have done
better. She was tired of being sent on trivial errands, with her parents
as hostages. Her sister had already been lost to motivation. She wanted to
make a difference. The Father of Lies, indeed. She walked to the farm,
with a new spring in her step, and saw what was happening. There was a
collapsed roof, and apparently the family was trying to get it up, so that
their children could escape. Egwhine embraced the Source, and prepared to
lift up the roof, when suddenly a voice said THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT
ONCE, BE STEADFAST. Egwhine looked around, and the flow of Air she had
been wielding flew with her vision, and she accidentally gripped one of
the family members. The person she had picked up had been hanging on to
the roof, trying to lift it vainly, and now he clutched onto it for dear
life. It was not enough, and his arms broke under the strain of trying to
fight Saidar. Egwhine immediately ran to offer Healing, among other
things, when suddenly she saw an Arch, shining above the roof. Where the
children were. It did not look like a very stable roof. It looked like the
first thing that went on to the top of it would make it smash everything
beneath. Egwhine ran, tears in her eyes, trying to rationalize what she
was doing. But she couldn’t. Who could rationalize walking away from
people in help, and then deliberately murder their children? Egwhine tried
to leap over the top of the roof, but her foot caught the top, and she
tripped through the Arch, the crashing of the roof filling her ears…
Egwhine fell onto her face in the Arch Room, still crying. Apparently,
this had happened before, because the floor all around the Arch was
padded. She got up to speed quickly, and rolled to the side to escape the
next pot full of water, and was about to drill home the lesson that she
did not WANT cold water poured onto her in the middle of the night, when
she remembered that the person who poured the water was the Amyrlin. She
stood up, and started brushing herself off. “Did I pass? Am I Accepted
now?” The Amyrlin nodded, and handed her a ring. A ring shaped like a
serpent. Egwhine looked at the ring. “That looks obscene. Do you have
anything that doesn’t eat itself?” The Amyrlin gave her a frosty
glare, while some of the Aes Sedai, especially the Greens, tried to stifle
laughter. Egwhine pulled on her new robe, and went off to the Accepted’s
Quarters, to move her things…
Dulcie was in the steam room when they came for her.
It was the thing she had dreaded most since she arrived
at the tower. She had found many friends distraught to
the point of weeping on many occasions in the tower.
None so fearful as the times when they returned from the
arches never had they told her what the arches meant,
just that they were glad that it was over with.
The sister burst in on her as she tried to relax. She
had passed all the necessary courses and requirements to
take her turn through the arches. She was as far as she
knew the girl with the longest time spent as a Novice
and now it was time to advance. The woman grabbed her
arm and pulled intently.
"Hold on a moment, can't I have a moment to take my
clothes?" she protested. The Sister gave a look up
"You'll just be discarding them in a moment, why
bother, the hour waits on no woman. The Wheel weaves as
the Wheel will, and when it wills. Take a towel if you
must. At least have the nerve to be proud of your
body." She sniffed in the general direction of
Dulcie's ample chest. Dulcie smiled out of the woman's
view as she snatched up a towel and wrapped it around
She was led down a dark hall and around a long winding
ramp that seemed to go down forever, and if she could
picture it in her mind she must now be several hundred
paces below the island closing in on the river bottom.
Never before had she been so far down in the island that
was Tar Valon, not even when she was following Karana
Sedai when she got lost. She was led to an enormous door
tall enough to admit a gleeman on stilts, wide enough
for five people walking abreast, she adjusted her towel
and pushed her way into the room.
The domed room had smooth walls carved from the bedrock,
Dulcie supposed it had to have been made using the
power. She knew the arches in the center definitely were.
These were what she had to pass through in order to
proceed any more with her lessons. She met the gaze of
Sabine, her Novice-hood friend and unraveled the towel.
Living with three brothers had almost destroyed any
sense of modesty she had left, but for some reason down
here she felt more vulnerable than any bath day back
home. Sabine smiled and glanced down at her chest, she
gave a small shake of her head and a rueful smile. Her
face hardened suddenly.
"I must tell you two things now that no woman hears
until she is in this room: Once you begin you must
continue to the end. Refuse to go on and no matter your
potential you will be kindly put out of the Tower with
enough silver to live for one year, and will never be
allowed back. Second, To seek, to strive, is to know
danger. You will know danger here. Some women have
stepped inside and never returned. If you wish to
survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail,
and..." Dulcie shivered at the look in her friend's
face. "You may refuse now, and twice more. What is
your decision?" Dulcie swallowed, her throat had
dried. She licked her lips and swallowed again.
"Yes, I accept." Sabine nodded. One of the
sisters looked up.
"Whom do you bring with you Sister?"
"One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance
"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 she is
"Then let her face them." Sabine turned to
"The first time is for what was. The way back will
come but once. Be steadfast." Dulcie stepped
between the arches into the glow that now suffused the
room. The light embraced her.
Her slippers were kicking up dust that suffused the
streets. It was the heat of summer that had driven away
the damp that came with the spring. Her procession was
moving forward with a somber eagerness reserved for the
critically ill. Dulcie blinked away a tear, what was she
crying for? She shook her head and glanced down beside
her. Her mother lay on the litter she had one hand on.
"Mother!" she exclaimed shocked. Morgan opened
"Yes daughter?" she croaked. Dulcie staggered
backwards. Her mother had died of a fever many years
ago. She looked around. The street of Tar Valon, they
were walking the streets of Tar Valon! The White Tower
was in the distance, and they were walking towards it.
He father and older brother were carrying the litter as
they progressed through the streets as the quickest pace
they could set. In her other hand was the hand of her
smaller brother. Her grandmother was looking after the
baby. It was all as she remembered. Morgan placed her
hand on Dulcie's arm.
"Don't worry sweetie. The Aes Sedai, they're
miracle workers, with the Power they heal anything. My
fever will be easy for them to deal with." Dulcie
"But Mother Abigail has always been able to break
fevers before. We've never had to go to the Sister's
before." she proclaimed with the innocence of a
child. Dulcie could hear herself saying the words just
like on the day she carried her mother to the tower. If
she didn't concentrate she could feel herself slipping
away...Be steadfast. They reached the tower and carried
her mother inside. A girl in the waiting chamber placed
a hand on the compress on Morgan's head and pulled away
with a hiss.
"I'll get they Yellow's wait here please." the
girl scampered away. Morgan looked up at Dulcie
"You'll stay with me, right my sweet?" Dulcie
smiled of course mom." a reflection danced across
her vision. She glanced to the side. A silver arch
glimmered in her field of view.
"You love me right honey?" Dulcie screamed as
her mother asked her the question almost in time.
"NO!" she turned back to her mother. "Yes
mother I love you but I have to go now."
"Go? Why? I need you with me. I'm scared Dulcie."
"I need to go mum, I have to." Be steadfast.
"Dulcie I need you with me when the sister's try to
help me. I need someone there that I love." with a
sob she wrenched herself away from her mother's burning
"I can't. It's important."
"More important than your own mother?" Morgan
pulled herself to the edge of the litter. Dulcie's
father tried to grab at her, but the litter tipped
spilling her mother unceremoniously onto the floor.
Dulcie paused a second torn between the arch and the
"Please Dulcie I love you." With a sob she
leapt into the arch. The light caressed her.
Sobbing Dulcie tumbled onto the cold stone floor. She
landed in a kneeling position and a Blue sister poured
the contents of one of the chalices over her head.
"You are washed clean of what sin you may have
done, and of those committed against you. You come to us
clean and pure in heart and soul."
Dulcie face began to scrunch up uncontrollably. A sob was
torn from her and she wept.
"It was...so real. I could...remember that
day...perfectly." her breathing was erratic. The
blue sister looked at Sabine.
"She can't continue." she told her.
"No!" snapped Dulcie, "No
woman...dictates what I can't...do." Sabine waved
the sister off. Dulcie staggered to her feet and stared
at the second arch, she shut her eyes and took a deep
breath. Now she had an idea of what her friend Karolyn
had faced. Sabine spoke again.
"The second is for what is. The way will come back
but once. Be steadfast.
Dulcie stepped into the arch. The light snatched her.
Dulcie pumped the bellows to the oven. She had become
leaner over the last two years working for her father,
her body had filled out nicely and now she had muscle to
go with her womanly figure. She already had four of the
village boys asking her to dance come Sunday. She
glanced around the bakery at her brother moulding the
"So have you chosen anyone to take to the dance
Sunday Dulcie?" She smiled coyly at him.
"I haven't chosen yet, I was thinking of accepting
two offers mayhap, I'd like to see what they would say
if they both showed up. Or maybe I'd try and juggle them
like someone else I know." her brother blushed, he
had gotten to that awkward stage in life where boys had
only girls and honor on their mind. When they weren't
brainless over girls they were always trying to show
off. Jonn was no different. He was two years her junior
and though he was the Creator's gift to women.
The front door burst open. Dulcie put down the peel and
looked around the edge of the brick oven. There was a
man in a conical steel cap and a shining white cloak.
She snaked her head back.
"It's a Whitecloak." she hissed to her
brother. He grinned.
"I'll serve him Dulcie, you wait here." Dulcie
frowned but pushed the peel back into the oven and
continued shuffling the bread around so it baked evenly.
She couldn't quite hear what was going on in the front
and missed most of the conversation, but she did hear
the last bit.
"Hear now boy, fetch me that sweet girl that I saw
not a minute past." Jonn spoke up.
"No, she's not for you, that's my sister."
Dulcie removed the peel from the oven and began to
listen to the conversation.
"Look boy, this isn't a request."
"You're drunk sir, I think you should go." he
sounded as though the man had him by his shirt collar.
Dulcie rounded the oven peel in hand.
"What is it you want?" she asked. The man did
look drunk. He also had blood splattered on his mail now
that Dulcie looked closer.
"You lass, I've had a long hard day, now come here
or I'll take out my disappointment on your little
brother here." Dulcie frowned. The man leered
lospidedly at her. The peel hit the side of his face
with a flat SMACK. The length of the pole it was on gave
it a great deal of force and Dulcie had strong arms. The
man staggered backwards through a silver arch. Dulcie
She could hear muttered cursings and her brother
screamed. She had to get around the arch and stop the
man, she had to...The way will come but once.
"Dulcie help!" he brother screamed. If she
hadn't been here, it wouldn't have happened. If she had
stayed in the tower. The tower. Only once. She bit her
lip and threw herself at the arch.
The light spat her out.
"You are washed clean of false pride. You are
washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed
clean, in heart and in soul."
Dulcie snatched at Sabine's collar.
"Tell me it wasn't real, Tell me."
"Bad? It is always worse. And the third it worst of
"I left my brother to die to come back, my baby
"There is always something to prevent you from
coming back. This ter'angreal weaves traps for you from
your own mind, weaves them tight and strong, harder than
steel, and more deadly than poison. That is why we use
it as a test." Dulcie nodded.
"Good, you should be. The third time is for what
will be. The way will come but once. Be steadfast."
The light ripped her asunder.
The tower shook again. Dulcie felt saidar whisk away.
Muirien and Aolain rested their hands on their sides.
"This can't be happening." Dulcie dropped to
the side of her friend and mentor. Calliste coughed
blood and stared in awe at the spear that had slid in
between her ribs. Dulcie ripped the brown shawl from her
shoulders and pressed it to her mentors wound.
"Don't either of you know any healing?" Dulcie
shrieked at them.
"For the hundredth time today Dulcie, no."
Muir looked haggard. They had barricaded themselves in
an angreal storeroom. There was nothing left but minor
ter'angreals the Greens having looted most of the useful
once for the coming battle. Still it would prove
protection against OTHER threats, Dulcie herself had
proved that last year. But she never thought the fight
would make it to the tower. Calli coughed again.
"You were a good friend Dulcie, too bad you were a
brown, you have the spirit of a green in you,
girl." she shuddered and lay still. Dulcie wept.
There was a roar outside the hall. Muir's Warder stepped
into the room.
"They're coming again, a quarter of a fist."
he gasped. Muir sighed and the glow of Saidar surrounded
them. Dulcie stood up and channeled a tiny amount of
spirit into the ter'angreal she held. The blade of air
would hold until she channeled spirit into the woman on
the other side. It was only a tiny amount, just about
all she could handle right now. The others were
The trollocs burst through the shattered door and leapt
over the bodies littering the floor. Dulcie's blade of
air slashed through armor and flesh as though it wasn't
there. Spears of air lanced into bodies and the Halfman
danced with Muir's Ward. The screams of the dying and
the dead mixed with Dulcie's own and suddenly it was
over. She dropped the small wand and glanced at her
friends. Muir's Ward was on the floor with the Fade's
sword in his thigh. The Fade was thrashing but it's work
had been done. The Warder was already dead. Aol's
sightless eyes were staring up at the ceiling, her minor
angreal hadn't helped her. Muir was gone, she could hear
shrieking in the corridor. Her Warder groaned.
"Help her, please, release her. It would be more
comforting. Please!!!" Dulcie gathered her strength
and removing the angreal limped into the hallway. Smoke
was rapidly filling up the corridors as the library went
up in flames, eyes tearing she crept the halls as Muir
shrieked her name. She could imagine what the Trollocs
were doing to her friend and she knew the Warder was
right. She turned the corner. The arch was in front of
her. Wide eyed she stared in disbelief. It can't be here
yet. Drawing from the angreal she scattered water across
the hallways, and with a curse sent a bolt of lightning
into the hallway, hoping it would catch her friend and
kill her. She fell into the light.
The light burned her to ash.
Her scream echoed throughout the domed chamber and she
fell to her knees sobbing on the tiled floor. Sabine
held up her head.
"I hate you.
"Child, every woman who does this day much the same
thing. It is no small thing to face your fears."
Sabine lifted her to her feet and gave her a little
shove. The Amyrlin was standing before her holding the
last silver chalice. Dulcie knelt in front of her and
bowed her head, tears still leaking from beneath her
eyelids. The water mixed with them and flowed in
rivulets down her body.
"You are washed clean of Dulcinora Pym from Tar
Valon. 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 Dulcinora Pym, Accepted of the White
Tower." The Amyrlin drew her up to feet. "You
are sealed to us now." Dulcie looked deep into her
eyes. They had worked her body this past year, made it
tougher, stronger. She was harder that when she had
started, no longer the plump baker girl. Today they had
toughened her spirit. She was no longer the innocent
girl she was when she started.
She wept now for her lost innocence.
Deanne sat in her room, Calia was already asleep and her roommate’s
heavy breathing was a comfort. With shaking fingers she lit a candle,
letting the small glow settle across the small writing desk she shared
with Calia. Taking out a small leather bound book, a dairy of sorts that
had been given to her by her aunt just before she left for the Tower.
Deanne didn’t write in it much, only momentous events were recorded,
such as the first time she had touched Saidar, the pages were to precious
to waste on drivel. Taking a quill and ink out if her pack she began to
scribble furiously while the memories were still fresh.
By Deanne al’Moiran
I have just returned from the depths of the Tower, it is well past
midnight and still I shake like a leaf in a hurricane wind. I am now
Accepted and though I feel no different I know I have been changed, molded
and shaped by my experiences tonight. (Some say that what is seen and felt
in the ‘other place’ is not real, but it was very real to me and thus
I will call it experiences rather than visions ) Even now the mere memory
of them is enough to leave me silently weeping, tears of great joy and
even greater sorrow.
It was just after sundown when Sabine Sedai came for me, wearing her
formality like the shawl at her elbows, with familiarity and comfort. I
knew why she was there, somehow I knew, but still it shocked me to hear
her intone the words that every Novice both fears and longs to hear. “It
is time.” That was all but it was enough. I felt my stomach clench and
my knees turn to water but even through that I couldn’t help the excited
buzz in my head.
We went down a ramp, an endless ramp or so it seemed when we walked it but
eventually we were in a great domed chamber and what caught the eye
straight away were the Arches. Three silver arches, just tall enough to
walk under, sitting on a thick silver ring with their ends touching where
they joined it. An Aes Sedai sat cross legged on the bare stone before
each of the spots where the arches joined the ring. Each wore her shawl,
there was a Yellow sister, a Gray sister and a White sister, I knew none
of them by name but I had seen them around.
And then Sabine spoke and I dragged my gaze away from the mesmerizing
arches and focused on the Mistress of Novices. “Now I will tell you two
things that no woman hears until she stands where you do. Once you begin
you must go on to the end. Refuse at any point and you will be put out of
the Tower as if you had refused for the third time. Second. To seek to
strive, is to know danger. Some woman have entered and never come out.
When the ter’angreal was allowed to grow quit they were not there. If
you will survive you must remain steadfast. Falter, fail and…” At this
point she gestured an eloquent, elegant gesture that spoke more clearly
than words the price for failure. I think maybe I shivered then, but I
can’t be sure. It was all surreal at this point like the time between
dream and waking. “This is your last chance. Refuse now and it count
only as the first. You may still try twice more. I f you accept now there
is no turning back. It is no shame to refuse. Choose.” And I think if I
had known what would happen, just turned and run right there and then and
never have returned. But of course I didn’t know and truth to tell am
glad I am here now to tell the tale, if only to you. So I said in a clear
if soft voice. “I accept.” And apparently that was the right thing to
say because Sabine nodded. “ Then ready yourself.” And at first I was
confused but then I remembered that you must enter the ter’angreal
naked. For the first time I felt no discomfort at being naked in front of
another person, perhaps it was because I was being eaten up by nerves.
I was led forward by Sabine to a sister of the green, I knew her vaguely
but couldn’t put a name to her face. She spoke very formally to Sabine,
“Whom do you bring with you, Sister?”
“One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.” Was the
“Is she ready?”
“She is ready to leave behind what she was, and, passing her fears, gain
Acceptance.” When I heard those words I didn’t realize that they were
more than pretty formality, what a fool I was.
“Does she know her fears?”
“She has never faced them but now is willing.”
“Then let her face what she fears.”
“The first time for what was.” And the next sentence Sabine seemed to
stress. ”The way will come but once, be steadfast.”
And then I stepped under the arches and into the glow and the world I knew
Deanne looked around her and a smile came to her face, this was her land.
And there were her sons, two fine strong sons that would grow with this
land and work it as she and her dear Micah worked it. And they would love
it as she loved it. Just looking at them playing amongst the fields made
her heart swell with love and pride. And then she felt arms around her,
callused palms rubbing against the backs of her hands, Micah his name was
like a sigh on her lips and she leaned into the embrace, suddenly
everything was right. Deanne sometimes wondered why she didn’t glow with
the contentment and fulfillment she felt shining through her. The way will
come but once. Be steadfast. The thought was not hers but that didn’t
seem to matter, it wasn’t to be questioned it simply was.
Then her sons were barreling toward her on sturdy little legs and Deanne
threw open her arms and caught them to her breast laughing in delight at
the feel of little hands clasping her tight. And then she saw an arch of
silver light just a little ways off and Deanne was torn. Could she push
away her boys, her blood and walk the path she had chosen. The way will
come but once. Be steadfast. The voice was insistent now and still she
could not move. Tears welled at the thought of abandoning her family, they
needed her and she them. But the arch held something, she wanted more than
this, although Deanne could not think of anything that could be better
But the arches called her and she tore herself out of the warm and loving
embrace. Micah looked at her oddly. “Dee what’s wrong?” Dee, his pet
name for her, her heart clenched in pain, squeezing until she thought it
may just burst. Sobbing, Deanne turned away, left the love of home and
family, and ran to the arches.
And still sobbing and shaking with sorrow and regret for what could have
been (for what, for a short time was. ) I felt cool water run down my face
washing away tears I wish I could have kept, for in my mind keeping them
would have made my grief a little more real somehow. Then the Green sister
pronounced “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.” But all I could do was cling to Sabine and
sob, great choking sobs for my children, my precious boys and Micah.
“Did I just leave them? Are they there now waiting for a mother that
will never come home? Is it real?” And Sabine just shook her head sadly
and replied, “No one knows.” Then she led me forward again. My sobbing
had quieted a little but my body still shook. “Are you ready?” she
asked. I wanted to say “No!” and run far and fast from the Tower and
all the pain that was here. Instead I nodded, albeit a little hesitantly
then before, and Sabine nodded. “The second time is for what is. The way
will come but once. Be steadfast.” I thought I was ready, that nothing
could be worse than what was. How wrong I was…
Deanne felt the world slip away once more. She was dressed in fine dove
gray silk, a silver necklace hung at her neck, a gift from Tylin Sedai,
she never took it off. When she had been but a novice her and Tylin had
been close, closer than many people ever got to be and the necklace was a
reminder of that time and that closeness. Tylin wore one exactly like it,
a thick silver chain with a pendant swinging from it, an oval with the
engraving of two kneeling women facing each other with hands clasped.
Deanne had not seen Tylin for a long time, having become the advisor to a
well to do Nobleman in Tanchico.
There was a knock at the door and Deanne called for the person to enter.
The visitor swept in a swirl of blue silk. “Deanne you’re looking
well.” Deanne would have known that voice anywhere. “Tylin.”
Dropping her usual Aes Sedai reserve she ran to the other woman and threw
her arms around her. “It’s been too, long…” She felt the other
woman return her embrace. “Yes, too long…” Then there was a great
commotion outside and they both broke apart quickly and rushed to the
window. The city was under attack it seemed, flames burst here and there.
What was truly odd was that she could feel women channeling all around her
and she knew there were not nearly that many Aes Sedai in the city, unless
Tylin had brought them. She turned a questioning gaze to Tylin. “Not I
little sister, I brought no one with me.” Deanne would have laughed at
the ‘little sister’ if the situation had not been so grave. Tylin had
taken to calling her that a long time ago, just as much from a desire to
stir Deanne up as from affection she was sure.
Rushing down the stairs, she flung herself out the door and came face to
face with a panicked mob. Deanne wasted no time trying to calm them,
people were like spooked animals when they got into a group of more than
four, instead she pushed her way through them toward the docks where she
felt the wielding of Saidar. She caught a glimpse of Tylin in the corner
of her eye matching her stride for stride through the crowd.
The way will come but once. Be steadfast. The thought was not hers but
that didn’t seem to matter, the voice was not to be questioned, it
Then Deanne saw the glow of Saidar around a woman in a gray dress. What
puzzled her was she seemed to be chained or leashed to another woman in a
blue and red dress. Then she saw a shield come hurtling toward her,
cutting the weave with spirit, Deanne silently thanked Tania for making
her practice that weave. Then another two women appeared and the other
woman in gray threw a shield of spirit toward her, cutting it with spirit
Deanne turned and ran around a corner. Most could not channel at what they
could not see. She saw the silver arch in front of her and started toward
it. Tylin screamed, a shrill terrified scream and called her name, Deanne
froze. She couldn’t leave a sister fallen and helpless with these
wilders. Be steadfast. The arch waited, Tylin screamed again. Deanne cried
in frustration, she couldn’t leave Tylin, but something more important
lay beyond the arch. Although she could not think of anything more
important than this.
“Deanne please!” and the arch shimmered and Deanne turned from her
friend and sister and stepped into the silvery glow.
I shuddered without cease when I stepped back into the real world. There
were no tears this time, just a sense of failure, of loss, that could not
be expressed with useless tears. “You are washed clean of false pride.
You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in
heart and soul.” The Green sister intoned formally but the words gave
little comfort, I had still abandoned a friend in her hour of greatest
need. Sabine squeezed my hand as she led me to the third arch. “The
third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be
steadfast.” And I stepped through…
Deanne felt the world slip away once again. She found herself in the
Tower, wondering the halls, her warder at her side. They were to go out
this day, just a ride in the country to soothe her nerves. She had been
nominated for Sitter of the Hall and Deanne could barely contain her
excitement or her fear. It had been Tania’s idea to take a ride in the
country side and Deanne had found the idea appealing.
Once the had left Tar Valon behind them, Deanne breathed a sigh of relief,
it was an almost instantaneous lifting of the burdens she carried. So
great was the feeling that Deanne impulsively reached across and gave her
warder a playful pat on the rear. When he turned his shocked gaze to her,
Deanne actually laughed out loud. Oh this was the life, sometimes she
wished she could stay here forever. Then a buzz passed her ear and she
exchanged a startled look with her warder. The first buzz was followed by
another and another and all of a sudden it was raining arrows. Spurring
her horse she made a run toward the city.
The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. The thought was not hers,
but that did not matter. The voice was not to be questioned it simply was.
Silver glowed ahead.
She felt a burning in her chest and even as she looked down she knew that
she had spilled no blood. Looking back she saw her Gaidin’s horse was
riderless. Crying out wordlessly she wheeled her horse and rode to where
her lay. Putting up a shield of air to protect them she delved with Saidar
to access the damage. It was bad, very bad. He would make it if she could
get him to a Yellow sister immediately. Be steadfast.
No! She could not leave now! He would die, without her. She could feel his
strength waning, slowly slipping away. The arches shimmered. There was
something worth more than her warders life on the other side. But she
could not think of what would be worth more that that. She sobbed,
indecision tearing her.
And even as the man at her feet nodded in understanding she ran to the
silver light. Sobbing and tripping over her skirts she felt the light
I stumbled from the arch and collapsed on the cold stone. There were no
tears, just an aching grief that seemed to swallow me whole. And as the
water poured over me I hoped that the words spoken were true. “You are
washed clean Deanne al’Moiran of Taren Ferry. 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 Deanne al’Moiran, Accepted of the White Tower. You are
sealed to us now.” And somehow the words gave comfort, my suffering was
for something, it was worth the pain. And Sabine slipped a gold ring on my
third finger of my left hand. I look at it now and feel the thrill of
finally earning the right to wear it. And I think of the price. It was
worth it, I have to believe that what I did in the ‘other world’ was a
fair price to pay for what I may become.