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February 2001

Eniara Kisharad

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Eniara Kisharad

Eniara Kisharad looked at her shriveled hands in disgust. I really hate doing dishes. Light, how can anything get so greasy? Mumbling inaudibly she turned the corner and nearly ran headfirst into another woman.

"Eniara!" The Mistress of Novices wore a scowl. "Iíve been looking all over for you. You werenít in your room and the Mistress of Kitchens didnít know where youíd gone."

Eniara curtsied. "Iím sorry, Sabine Sedai. I didnít know you needed me." I didnít know I was so hard to find!

"Well, never-mind. Come. Youíre late." Sabine turned to go.

"Late for what, Sabine Sedai?"

"Why your testing for Accepted, of course."

Eniara gasped. Her raising! Already? Why now?"

"Well? Are you coming?" Eniara stared dumb-founded. "Close that flytrap and come. The Wheel waits for no woman." The older woman turned and strode off down the broad corridor.

"Yes, Sabine Sedai." Eniara dropped a curtsy and then had to scurry to catch up. The Aes Sedai led her deep within the bowels of the White Tower. Their footsteps seemed to reverberate off the dark stone walls. By the time Sabine stopped at the doorway to a large chamber, Eniara was sure her heart was ready to beat clean out of her chest. Sabine strode if first and Eniara quickly followed. The chamber was cut out of the bedrock and had a high-vaulted dome ceiling. Centered under the dome was the legendary teríangreal, a collection of three silver aches joined to form one piece. The three arches glowed with a flickering white light. Three shawled Aes Sedai glowing with the light of saidar sat on the floor, one at each corner. She didnít know the White Sister, but she thought she recognized the Yellow and the Gray, Tania Ramsey, had taught her first saidar class.

"Eniara?" Eniara gave a start. "Are you with us, child?" Sabine wore a look of concern.

"Yes, Aes Sedai. Iím sorryÖI was distracted." Sabine shook her head exasperation. She stepped aside and Eniara noticed another Sister across the room. Sheen Sedai, Eniaraís mentor, wore her brown-fringed shawl and was tending to a silver chalice on a small oak table. She looked up and shared a smile with Eniara.

Sabine tapped Eniara on the shoulder. "Hello?"

Eniara blushed. "Sorry."

"Yes, well, letís begin. Novices are allowed three chances at this. Twice you will be allowed to refuse, but refuse a third and you will be put out of the Tower permanently. Do you understand?"

Eniara nodded. "Yes, Aes Sedai." She felt bile rising in the back of her throat.

"Do you wish to refuse, now?"

"No."

"Alright. There are two things no woman is told until she is standing in this room. First, once you have begun there is absolutely no turning back. If you refuse to continue once you have begun, you will be put outside the Tower just as if you had refused to start a third time. Is this clear?"

Eniara nodded. "Very clear, Aes Sedai."

Sabine cleared her throat. "Secondly, to seek and to strive is to know danger." Eniaraís heart began to pound a little faster if that was possible. She felt faint.

"Are you sure you are all right?" Sheen looked concerned from across the room.

"Yes. Just a little tired, I suppose."

Sabine studied her a minute before continuing. "Some women have entered the teríangreal and never come back out. When it was allowed to grow still, they were-not-there! And, they were never seen again. If you are to survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail,Öwell your guess is as good as mine." Eniara broke out into a cold sweat. Sabine went on. "This is your last chance to refuse. Take it and you will only have one mark against you. There will still be two more chances to enter. If you do not refuse you are committed to going on to the end. Do you wish to stop?"

Eniara was sorely tempted. She clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering. I donít have to do this now. I can try again later when Iím more prepared. But, how can I be more prepared than I am now? When will I be less scared? Besides, if I am to prove to my grandmother that I am worth anything I must become Aes Sedai.

"Are you going to refuse, child?" Sabineís face could have been carved from stone but her eyes flashed in irritation.

"No. I will continue. No turning back." Light! What have I gotten myself into? But I have the ability in-born. I doní t really have a choice.

"Very good." Sabine looked satisfied. "Make yourself ready." Sheen looked up and smiled at her mentee.

Eniara had to think for a second. My clothes! Light, I forgot! Hastily, she stripped and hid her red face in neatly folding her dress. The Mistress of Novices moved over to where Sheen was waiting by the first arch. Eniara followed reluctantly.

"Whom do you bring, Sister?" Sabine ceremoniously queried.

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

"Is she ready?"

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

"Does she know her fears?"

The gray stone walls seemed to absorb all of the heat in the room. Eniaraís bare skin prickled in goosebumps at some unseen draft. Oh, light. Oh, light!!

"She has never faced them, but now is willing." Sabine glanced at Eniara.

"Then let her face what she fears."

Sabine leaned over and placed her hand on Eniaraís shoulder. "The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast." She gave Eniara a slight squeeze and smiled encouragingly.

Eniara took a deep breath and stepped forward. White light swallowed everything.

The hilltop was covered in fragrant wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Eniara twirled around and flopped in the soft heather. A large blanket lay spread out a little distance away and a large wicker basket laden with food sat nearby. A pretty, slim woman sat on the blanket, pulling items out of the basket. Her mother. Shock rolled through her mind. This canít be! Just as quickly the thought was gone. Off in the distance, two mounted figures picked their way closer.

"Mother! I see father and Thim coming!" Father?

"Alright, Eniara. Come get something to eat." The woman beamed at her daughter and brushed a stray blond hair out of her eye.

The way back will come but once.

What? Back to where? Oh well, Iím hungry. She sat on the blanket and her mother handed her a plate. Something isnít right, but what? A tall, handsome man with streaks of gray in his dark hair and forked beard, walked up to the blanket. He bent down to give his wife a kiss and his daughter a hug.

"And how are my beautiful lioness and kitten this gorgeous day?

Eniara laughed. "Just fine, thank you."

Be steadfast.

What? Her brother came up the hill from where he had hobbled the horses to graze.

"Afternoon, Mother. Sister."

"Hello, Thim," they replied together. Eniara couldnít shake the strange feeling of being out of place.

"What a wretched day for a picnic," Lord Kisharad chuckled. His wife laughed and straightened the silver chains on his coat.

"What is today?" Now, why did I ask that?

"Why, itís your eighteenth birthday, silly!" Thim laughed. "Donít tell me you forgot."

Eniara didnít answer. My birthday?

"Are you feeling well, kitten?" Her father wore a concerned face.

Light, I make a lot of people concerned about me. Wait. When have I ever made anyone concerned? I take care of myself. "I donít knowÖI mean, I donít think so. Never-mind."

Be steadfast.

"Sweetheart, are you sure youíre alright? If you donít feel well we can come back another day."

My parents are long dead. Ahhhh! Where did that thought come from? "Itís nothing really." Her family wasnít so easily convinced.

"Honey, I think we ought to go back to the manor. She looks like sheís seen a ghost." Lord Kisharad nodded in agreement. Suddenly, a glowing silver arch appeared behind her family. Something about it tugged at Eniaraís memory. Something important.

"Eniara, letís go. Youíre pale." Thim took her arm and began to lead her toward the horses.

Eniara was torn. One half wanted to go with him and the other wanted to go to that strange arch. Giving a cry, she pulled free and ran toward the arch. Her familyís pleading followed her.

"Eniara, stop! Where are you going?"

"Come back! We donít have to leave if you donít want to!"

"Eniara!"

With a scream of agony she flung herself through the arch.

Crashing to her knees, Eniara sobbed into the hard stone floor under her. She trembled as water poured over her head. Looking up through clouded eyes she saw Sheen standing there with the silver chalice. Memories came flooding back. The teríangreal.

"You are washed clean of what sin you may have done," Sheen intoned, "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."

Sabine was standing next to Sheen and Eniara grabbed her skirts. "Please, Aes Sedai. Tell me it was not real. Tell me! Oh, light! I lost them a second time!"

Sabine took Eniaraís hands in her own. "Almost every woman who comes out of there wants to know the same thing. And, unfortunately, I do not know the answer. Whether or not they are though, you must remember that the danger is real."

Eniara sadly nodded. Still shaking, she allowed the Aes Sedai to gently pull her to her feet. Light, I just left them thereÖI lost them all over again. Sabine led her to the next arch.

"The second time is for what was is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast."

Eniara shuddered and stepped forward.

The shouts and clamor of battle greeted Eniara as she topped the hill. Galloping toward her was a man in heavy Kandori armor. It was her brother Thim.

"Eniara!" he called. "There you are!" He rode up next to her, well-oiled armor coated in blood yet not making any excess noise. "Eniara, come help us. There are too many Trollocs for the few of us to hold on our own. Sister, you can kill more of them with the One Power than several warriors combined."

Eniara reflexively glanced at her hands. She gave a start at seeing a golden great serpent ring on her right hand. Yet, she knew it had been there for years. Why does it seem out of place? "Yes, Thim. Youíre right. I could certainly help." The sound of clanging swords and horse whinnies beckoned them. Thim wheeled his stallion and together they galloped down the hill. When the reached the field, Thim unsheathed his sword and pressed forward to where the fighting was hottest. He was swallowed immediately by a mass of twisted human bodies.

The light be with you my brother. Eniara turned her mare and searched for a vantage point over the field. She jabbed in her heels and the mare dashed forward, avoiding the bloody corpses lying about the base of the hill. War was a part of everyday life in the Borderlands. Everyone, noble or common, took in fighting with their motherís milk. The Blight never allowed a respite from that fight for long.

The way back will come but once. Eniara was startled but she had other things to worry about than stray thoughts. Thimís men were still holding their own, but slowly the Shadowspawn were beginning to push them back. Trollocs greatly outnumbered men among the dead but more kept coming from the next hill over.

Be steadfast. What? I am being steadfastÖIím not retreating am I? A shout from the field grabbed her attention.

"Eniara!" It was Thimís voice but she couldnít see him. "Eniara, help!" There he was. A Trolloc with a goatís snout had a catchpole noose around her brotherís neck and he was in a duel with two others. He staggered and went down under a mass of Trollocs. Frantically, she searched for him. No luck. She prepared to blast the Trollocs near where he went down. She didnít dare get too close to him in fear that she would kill, rather than save him. She wheeled her mare and headed back down the hill. Then, at the top of the hill appeared a silver arch.

"Eniara!" Thim screamed. The arch beckoned. Whoever did this to me is going to pay dearly! With a scream of rage, Eniara dismounted and climbed toward the arch. A Trolloc horn sounded off to the north and another answered it. Burn themÖburn them all. She staggered through the arch and white light swallowed everything.

Eniara stopped dead when her feet hit the cold stone. The Light burn them all! I will make the Aes Sedai pay dearly for making me do this. "Why, burn you ?" She glowered at Sabine. "Why did I have to leave him there to die? The Dark One take you will all toÖ" She trailed off as Sheen tipped the chalice and poured water over her head.

"You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul."

Sabine took Eniara by the arm and wiped away a tear that leaked down the novice's cheek. "I know it is hard, but there is always a price we must pay. Aes Sedai must be dedicated whole heart and soul."

Eniaraís lip quivered. "Why must I abandon those I love? It isnít right." Sabineís face was sympathetic.

"I donít know the answer to that." She led Eniara on to the last arch. "One to go and itís over. The third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.

Eniara bit her lip and stepped forward.

The condensation beading on the pitcher of chilled punch looked inviting. Pouring a goblet, Eniara settled down into a large comfortable chair. A knock at the door made her look up. "Come in."

Her longtime servant and childhood friend Timan entered bowing. "Lady Lilean has arrived, my Lady. I knew you wished to be informed immediately."

"Thank you, Timan. If you will escort her to the front retiring room Iíll meet her there."

"Very good, my Lady. I will see to her now." He bowed again and closed the door softly on his way out.

Light, keep my wits about me today. Eniara took a big gulp of her punch. This is my chance to prove myself, once and for all. Standing, she glanced at the mirror on the wall. An ageless face stared back. A ripple of shock drifted across her mind. Why am I surprised? This has been my face for many years. Perhaps my nerves are even more frayed than I thought. Composure and a strong will are goin to be the deciding factors today. Taking a deep breath, Eniara straightened her shawl and left the room.

Timan was waiting at the door of the retiring room. "Lady Lilean Kisharad awaits, my Lady." He grimaced. He disliked the High Seat of House Kisharad just as much as his mistress. He opened the door, bowed, and closed it behind her. Here goes.

A stout woman with gray hair neatly in a bun stood in front of the great fieldstone fireplace. Just the sight of her pricked the hairs on Eniaraís neck. I must be in control! The older woman was nearing seventy years of age and had been a widow for almost ten. She had a lot of power in many respects. The aunt of Kandorís Queen, and the widow of Miltan, High Seat of House Kisharad, Lilean Kisharad thought she ought to be the center of the universe and let everyone know it. Her selfish actions had driven her orphaned granddaughter, Eniara, almost mad as a child. Eniaraís brother Thim had always seemed more tolerant of the old hag.

"Eniara!" Lilean had turned to face her. Every syllable she spoke was clipped short. "What under the Light is the meaning of disturbing me while I was on a retreat?! And the gall of demanding I be here today! When I was a girl, elders were respected byÖ"

Eniara let her thoughts drift as the tirade continued. Does she really know how foolish she looks going on like this? Yet, as foolish as it is, why do I feel like losing my breakfast? I havenít seen her at all in the last five years and in the fifteen before that perhaps not more than three or four times. I should think the influence had worn off. I guess not. Light, but I feel like running to hide in the stables.

"Eniara! EN-I-ARA! Have you heard a single word Iíve said?" Lilean wore a deep scowl. Eniara had to fight hard not to curtsy and apologize.

"No, Grandmother, I havenít." Time for nerves of steel. "I have listened to your ranting and raving way too many times. Far too long have I let you bully me around. I do not intend to listen to your babble any longer."

The way back will come but once.

What under the Light? Rare surprise flashed across Eniaraís face and Lilean took advantage.

"How dare you speak so to me! I am your grandmother and donít you forget it. If not for my taking you in when your parents died you wouldíveÖ"

Eniara did not let her finish. "Iíd have what? You nearly drove me to insanity as a child. In fact, you nearly killed me!"

"I did not! I always had your best interest in mind."

Be steadfast.

What? Focus, must focus. "When you look at me what do you see?"

"What do I see?" Lileanís face gave away nothing. "I see a willful girl in a pretty dress who needs to be taught to respect her elders. I girl who needs to learn some manners."

Fury bubbled under the calm on Eniaraís face. "Look at me, Lilean! What do you see?"

Her grandmother went rigid. She was not used to being challenged. Face white with rage, she trembled. "I see a face of no age on one who does not deserve it."

Was that jealousy I just detected? She sure knows how to push buttons. Eniaraís calm snapped. "I was BORN with the spark of the One Power. You knew that. The Aes Sedai made it very clear to you. You were very well aware that I if I did not go to the Tower I would probably die. You knew and yet you still refused for your own selfish reasons. It was I who ran away twenty years ago to save my life. It was I who spent ten years learning to use my ability. My gift. I paid for this shawl with my own sweat, tears, and blood. That is much more than ANYTHING you ever did. And, regardless of your social position, I could very easily break you like a reed if I saw reason to. Right now, I am sorely tempted to do just that."

Lilean dropped into the chair behind her with a thud. Chair? Eniara blinked and realized she had backed the older woman clear across the room. Light!

Be steadfast.

Not again. Where are these thoughts coming from? Eniara made herself as chillingly cold as she knew how. "Now that I have your attention, I intend to make myself very clear on several things. One, never again will you treat me like a small child. I am a grown woman in a high position of power. This is my first visit back to Kandor in several years and I will not have you ruin it. Two, never again will you throw a tirade in an attempt to cow me or any member of my household. You are not mistress here. Have I made myself clear thus far?"

Lileanís mask of defiance melted and was replaced by fear. She nodded emphatically. Light! She really believes Iíll break her. But isnít that what Iím trying to do?

"Now, I will not tolerate anyÖ" Eniara trailed off in mid-sentence. Behind Lady Lilean was a glowing silver arch. Something important on the other side beckoned to Eniara. She glared at Lilean. The gray-haired woman was trying to disappear in her chair. Torn between berating her grandmother some more and the arch, Eniara stood frozen. Her anger began to boil. Burn whoever put me here! Iíve worked my whole life for this moment and now itís being taken away! Blood and bloody ashes!! I will make whoever they are pay! With a snarl of rage she stepped around Lilean and into the light.

"Iíll make them pay! Light help me!" The shout echoed off the drab stone walls. Eniara fell to her knees and beat her hands on the cold gray floor. "I was so closeÖso close." Tears began leaking down her face. A hand touched her bare shoulder. The Mistress of Novices looked into her eyes with sympathy. Sheen was there too but didnít have the silver chalice. That was across the room in the hands of the Amyrlin Seat. The Mother was waiting by the table with a shawled Sister from each Ajah. Eniara scrubbed her cheeks and climbed to her feet. She crossed the room and knelt in front of the Amyrlin. The other woman tipped the chalice and slowly emptied its contents onto Eniaraís head.

"You are washed clean of Eniara of House Kisharad of Kandor. 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 Eniara Kisharad, Accepted of the White Tower. You are sealed to us now." Eniara stood. The older woman took her left hand and slipped a golden great serpent ring on her finger.

"Welcome, Daughter." The Amyrlin kissed her on each cheek and smiled. "Welcome."

"Thank you, Mother." Eniara felt like sheíd been trampled by a horse. Facing your fears takes a lot out of a woman. "By your leave, Mother, Iíll return to my room." The Amyrlin nodded her assent and Eniara turned back to Sabine and Sheen. Sabine handed her a bundle. It was a dress with seven bands of color on the hem. An Acceptedís dress. I finally made it.

"Thank you, Sabine Sedai." Sabine smiled in acknowledgement. Hastily dressing, Eniara slipped out of the chamber began to made her way up the long, wide corridor. Before she had gone fifty feet, Sheen caught up and laid a hand on Eniaraís shoulder.

"You did well, Eniara. I know itís hard. Iím proud to be your mentor." Her smiling face grew somber. "I want you to always remember something. Whatever happened in there, it does not have to break you. Learn from it and it will make you stronger. Becoming Aes Sedai demands a price. We must all leave something behind." She face became stern but her eyes twinkled. "Now, missy Accepted, off to bed. You can hardly stand." With a final shoulder squeeze, she returned to the chamber. Eniara turned and plodded up the hallway.

I respect them, like many of them, and desire to be one of them, but one day I will exact my own price. Light help me, somehow I will make them pay. Her steps quickened slightly and she held her head a little higher with a sense of purpose.

Three Arches RP
Dragonmount WT
Shannon McColley
aka Eniara Kisharad