December 2000






Sapphos Trelaney

Helgatha Thrin


Egwhine al'Mascara

Dulcinora Pym

Deanne al'Moiran





January Arches                                 back to Library






  Sapphos Trelaney

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 breathed, “Lenoire.”

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 blushed furiously.

“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 a scream


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 in her.
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 go now.”
“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, sobbing.
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 steadfast.”


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 cringed.

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”

Sapphos Trelaney
Aspiring Red


Helgatha Thrin

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 find.

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 refuse.”

"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 house.

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 back!”

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...

Aspiring Gray


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 diary.

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 waved back.

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 washcloth.

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 aside.

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 walking.

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 stood there.

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 al'Mascara

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...

Arch 1:
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.

Arch Room:
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...

Arch 2:
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…

Arch Room:
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 tingle…

Arch 3:
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…

Arch Room:
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…


Dulcinora Pym

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 and down.

"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 herself.

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 Sister."
"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 willing."
"Then let her face them." Sabine turned to her.

"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 her eyes.

"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 gulped.

"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 grasp.

"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 litter.

"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 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'" 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 dough.

"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 blinked. That...

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 all.

"I left my brother to die to come back, my baby brother."

"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.

"I'm afraid."

"Good, you should be. The third time is for what will be. The way will come but once. Be steadfast."

Dulcie leapt.

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 exhausted too.

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 al’Moiran

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.
My arches
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 measured reply.
“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 slipped away…

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 than this.

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 simply was.

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 consume her.
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.