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The Grey Lady (attn: Lavinya)

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                Well, that was an… interesting class.


                Viviane dusted off her Accepted’s dress, soot dancing in the air. For the last eleven days, she and a few of the other Accepted had been learning how to Link from Lavinya Sedai. It was a weave that all Sisters had to learn. Lavinya Sedai had driven that point home with a pointed finger for each word. Every girl in the room knew how serious this class was. They would not dare dream for the shawl if they could not Link at a moments notice. It could mean the difference between life and death for any Aes Sedai and those around her.


                Today had been the twelfth day of the Lesson and finally, every girl in the room had succeeded in Linking with their respective partners. Unfortunately for Lavinya Sedai, she had lost control of the class shortly thereafter. Each girl that had the Link suddenly felt a rush of power. No matter how much control the Accepted had exhibited before this class, it all had seemed to be thrown out the window when links were formed.


                Suddenly, each Accepted found themselves handling more flows of the One Power than they had been used to. Each girl controlling the link lost control of their inhibitions and were weaving different flows all over the room. Within moments, fire was exploding in the air, water was crashing down from the ceiling, gusts of air were tossing books and parchment all over the room. It was chaos.


                Unfortunately for the Accepted, Lavinya Sedai reined them all in quite quickly with a sharp clap of her hands. All at once, the weaves stopped and all the chaos had ceased. The girls controlling the flows had each been sent to the Mistress of Novices right after class. Lucky for Viviane, she had not held the flows of her link. Thus, she escaped punishment. Not only that, but she had decided to linger after the lesson had finished.


                Viviane knew that she could have chosen a better time, but she was growing impatient. She had to know. Lavinya Sedai was the only Grey she had felt comfortable approaching…


                Wasting no time, Viviane rushed from her bench and up to the Aes Sedai. Lavinya was cleaning up the mess that the other Accepted had created. Viviane gave a deep curtsy, fit for a queen, before speaking to the older woman, “Excuse me, Lavinya Sedai… But, I hoped to trouble you with a question… You see, as an Accepted, I should begin to think of which Ajah I aspire to, and I must admit, I am a bit lost… I do not know much of the Grey, and I would not make an uninformed decision… May I ask what it means to be a Sister of your Ajah?”


                Viviane’s cheeks colored, foolish for a woman approaching her 29th nameday, but there it was. So long as she wore white, she would always be meek around a woman with a shawl.

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Lavinya approached all classes with a mix of emotions. There was some pride and arrogance associated with knowing what others did not and the curtseys, courtesies and honorifics were always highly gratifying. Unfortunately none of this came without a great deal of frustration and tested patience. 'Motherly' was not a term that was ever associated with Lavinya. Neither was 'nice', 'kind' or 'friendly' for that matter, depending on who one spoke to. 'Arrogant' and 'cantankerous' were far more fitting - and yet...and yet. There was some satisfaction in teaching, something she would not openly admit to but it was what found her a regular tutor nonetheless. To see novices discover with wonder the joy of saidar and learning to submit to the bright river of power, or successfully form their first basic weaves, that brought a secret happiness that had yet to dim despite the many years of training. Many of them also brought recalcitrance, attitude and mischief but Lavinya was undeterred by such things, relishing the challenge when it arose. 


Accepted, now they were different again. Older and one would hope wiser, these were no longer children in the eyes of the world but within the White Tower still they were little more than girls. An awkward stage, having a little freedom and experience but still considered far from Aes Sedai, the women she trained seemed to either dive into their studies and thrive, or slowly spiral helplessly and find themselves unable to complete their training and attain the shawl. All of them seemed to handle themselves differently - some grew spines and tested their new found authority, minimal as it was. Others imitated the serene hauteur  of the Aes Sedai whose ranks they longed to share, lording over the novice who ranked below them. Some did not cope and were prone to fits of tears; still others rebelled at every turn. There were many challenges in teaching, but it staved off the boredom, to be sure.


This days adventure had been one of the more lively in recent months for Lavinya, and truth be told it often was when the girls learned to link with one another for the first time. One's ability to channel was not infinite; linking provided the means to channel more power for longer, the ultimate act of cooperation. It is relatively simple in practice, but in reality giving up control to another was often times difficult to learn, and for the one discovering new depths of saidar to plumb it was a heady and unpredictable moment. 



It had gotten a little out of hand, the Grey could admit it to herself if no one else. For some reason the girls holding the control were swept up in a power trip, attempting weaves beyond their ability and control until chaos reigned and Lavinya was forced to intervene, her voice sharp as a whip as she chastised them for the dangerous actions. Every novice has the very real threat of burning out drummed into her from day one, not to mention how careless weaves can be volatile. The behaviour was a fine example of why Accepted were still considered children. Having sent the foolish culprits to the mistress of novices for penance, now she was forced to clean up the considerable mess they left behind. This, this was a definite downside to tutoring.


Lavinya was sopping up a puddle with a towel when she saw one of her students approach. Not one of the trouble makers this time. She paused, brushing her riotous red curls aside as Viviane made a pretty curtsy, all proper deference and meekness. Deep brown eyes assessed the girl before her, assessing the motive behind the request and determining it to be a genuine desire to learn. Well and so, the Grays had much to recommend them and the Domani sister was happy to speak on them. She nodded once, straightening and handing the towel to the Accepted. "If I am to speak, then you will make yourself useful." Moving to the table at the front of the room, she began straightening a sheaf of scattered parchments, putting them back into a neat pile. 


"All Ajahs hold to certain philosophies, but you will find that each individual will still interpret them differently. I will try to paint you a picture of our overall beliefs but just what they mean to me, or to you, may differ." She smiled lightly. "The Grays are in essence the ajah of balance. Mediators, diplomats, seekers of harmony; we have been named these things and they are all true in their own way. Many rulers have sought our wisdom and advice, and we are renown as impartial and fair judges and advocates."  She paused, pointing with one finger to direct Viviane to the next row of desks. "Compromise is an important concept; it is the path to harmony. The best agreement is one where both parties are left feeling satisfied, and that only comes when both are willing to bend. The Gray, we seek to facilitate this, approaching matters with a measure of logic and a measure of passion." Her lips quirked in a small smile. "You see, the Whites hold that cool logic untainted by emotion is the correct path, and the Blues place their passionate causes above the wisdom of simple logic. Thinking with hearts more than heads. And the Gray, we are the balance between the two."


Soot, how in the Light had soot come to dust the side of the room? Again Lavinya pointed, ushering the girl to wipe the charcoal smudges as she in turn set about righting a shelf of books and scrolls that were now unceremoniously strewn about the place. "To consider us peace makers or harmony seekers does exclude the fact that we are only mortals and fallible. We each still have our personal preferences and beliefs, our reasons for choosing one side over another. There is a fine line sometimes between mediation and manipulation." One that was best concealed - the finest result was one in your own favour with the other party none the wiser at how they had been played but that little tidbit Lavinya kept to herself. "The Gray Ajah tries to maintain perfect impartiality." Again Lavinya paused, a scroll in her hands as she glanced over at the Accepted. "Do you know how such a thing might be accomplished, Viviane?"



Lavinya Morganen

Aes Sedai of the Gray Ajah

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                Without hesitation, Viviane lept to clean up the room for the Grey Sister. She had figured this was coming. She would have offered to help regardless, but she had just grown so anxious. She had to ask her question before anything else. Thank the Light Lavinya Sedai had been willing to talk. Viviane listened on intently to every word Lavinya Sedai was saying in response.


                Viviane really hadn’t ever considered the Grey, and that was the perfect reason to learn more about them. She had been chasing after a few Yellows earlier in the day, but each one of them acted like they didn’t have the time of day to even acknowledge Viviane. No matter. The day was not a failure. Lavinya Sedai was an intelligent woman. At least Viviane would go to bed knowing something new tonight.


                Mediators, diplomats, seekers of harmony…


                Lavinya suddenly pointed and Viviane pulled away from the toweling and moved on to the next row of desks. The Aes Sedai went on and Viviane found herself nodding subconsciously. Lavinya mentioned the Blues and Viviane’s stomach clenched. That had been the Ajah she felt most attracted to. It was as she said though, she had to make an informed decision before settling on the Blue. Viviane would give a fair ear to every Ajah no matter what. To be frank, the more she listened to Lavinya, the more she liked the sound of the Grey. There was some good she could do if she joined their ranks, no doubt about that, and they seemed like they might even be able to help Viviane reach her own goals. She wasn't certain though... She used her heart in decisions all to often...


                Moving on to the charcoal smudges, Viviane began forming a few questions in her head. She dared not voice any, not yet. Lavinya Sedai still had more to tell. The brown-eyed woman glanced over her shoulder and put a question to Viviane. She almost gave a start, Viviane had not been expecting to be asked anything herself.


                Speaking cautiously, Viviane did not pause in her cleaning, “Admittedly no. That is something I’ve often wondered on. Were I to take an educated guess, I would think that you listen to the facts of the matter at hand. Facts can be proven through any number of means. A clear course of action should be apparent to everyone once all of the correct information has come to light. But that is just my guess, Lavinya Sedai.” Viviane dared a peak for the older woman, but still did not dare pause in her work. She wanted answers and she would have to earn them.

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There was something gratifying about skittish underlings, and when the younger woman's eyes widened at being posed a question Lavinya was forced to swallow a smile. Viviane clearly thought quickly on her feet, Lavinya conceding the point with a small nod of her head. "Indeed, facts are the path to finding the truth of a matter and without a full picture of the issue at hand it's impossible to make a sound judgement." Righting the last book on the shelf, Lavinya stepped back, leaning casually against a desk and folding her arms as she considered the girl thoughtfully. 


"A very important skill or tool a Grey has in her arsenal is the ability to see things from different perspectives; putting themselves in their shoes as it were and inspecting the issue with new eyes. Facts and logic are vital, but so too is empathy and understanding. If we can learn something of the emotions involved, of the motives and the why," Her lips quirked slightly, "the passions at play and combine it with the facts, only then can we truly find the means to do what is right." She smiled fully, a dimple flashing in one cheek. "Now right is subjective and often open to interpretation by the individual, but striving to find it is, I believe, just and good."


An elegant hand waved expressively, indicating the lingering mess in the room. "Logic states that all the girls in this class today were channelling and each played a part in creating the chaos we experienced. That is not untrue." Lavinya lifted the other hand, a counter to the first. "The empathetic view is to aknowledge that none of the girls present had complete control over their actions, either by being the passive partner in the link or by being inexperienced and thus surprised and overwhelmed by the power. It is a heady thing. This is also true." 


Lavinya brought her hands together, eyes twinkling as she warmed to her topic. "Both views are correct yet vastly different, so how do we find the middle ground? Lack of control is dangerous and requires firm correction, but should those who had no physical control over the flows be forced to suffer the same fate?" She shook her head, corkscrew curls bobbing with the motion. "We instead strike balance." Lavinya watched the girl process the information, her expression one that seemed thoughtful. The Gray pointed to the last row of desks that had endured less of a soaking and more a sprinkling of water. "Does that help illustrate a little who the Gray Ajah are? And please, if you have any questions do feel at liberty to ask them."




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                Viviane almost felt dizzy, Lavinya had given her so much to process. Viviane wasn’t slow by any means, but she didn’t think the way the Grey Sister did. It took her a few moments to process everything. Viviane had even halted in her cleaning to think on the matter. Once she felt she had a proper understanding of Lavinya’s words, Viv went back to cleaning up the classroom and listening to the rest of what the Grey had to say.


                Lavinya Sedai held great passion for her Ajah, that much was true. Even though earlier, Lavinya had all but laughed at the Blues for their passion; but she also spoke of balance, however. It was no secret to any adult that balance was the most important thing in life. That was why people didn’t labor day in and day out. Everyone needed a break every now and then, otherwise, they might die from exhaustion. The same was true for many areas of life. Why not passion and logic?


                “I am beginning to think that no Ajah in the Tower has an easy job… It must be difficult to have to find the common ground between two problems. I see why you sent some of the other Accepted to the Mistress of Novices, how would they learn what is right and wrong if they weren’t held accountable for their actions? It only takes a few trips to her to realize that fact. Even taking into account the fact that they were swept away with the intoxication of the One Power… That could happen to almost anyone but an Aes Sedai. I see the logic there, but I still feel bad for the other girls. I hope that they have seen the error in their ways.” Viviane said all of this in a soft tone. She really did feel bad. There was no doubt that if Viv had held the link, she would’ve joined in with the chaos. No doubt. Lavinya Sedai didn’t need to know that.


                Viv moved to the back of the class to attend to the final row of desks. The action was more of a means to gain time while she collected her thoughts and contemplated how to word her questions.


                I am definitely not fit for the Grey… True, their interests align with mine somewhat, but their way of thinking is so much more different than what I am used to… And then there’s the matter of the heart. I don’t know that I would have faulted the Accepted today, no matter what I just said. Still. An Aes Sedai needs to be hard. An Aes Sedai needs to do what she must… I’ll have to harden no matter what Ajah I pick, it seems.


                Were any Grey Sisters involved with the judgment that was passed over my family? I know I can’t ask… I won’t. No matter how much it stings at me… Uncovering that information will have to wait until I am a full Sister.


                What will I do once I have that knowledge? Were I ten years younger, I might try to exact vengeance upon the Sisters involved, but not now. I am past that. I love the White Tower and I love all of the women tied to it… No. I could never get revenge for that. It would taste bitter and I know for a fact that Mother does not wish for any of that to happen. She might even disown me if I did such a thing. No. I’ve grown. I’m mature now. I only want to know why.


                Light, Viv, snap out of it. This woman is talking about balance and mediation. She’s literally telling you how the Greys think. If you paid more attention, you might be able to work out the answers to your questions for yourself!


                Scrubbing at the water on the desk, Viviane began again, “I am still learning, Lavinya Sedai, but I do not regularly think the way you do. I had to think long on the answers I have given you today. How can I train my brain to seek the balance in the issues that plague us? Facts and the emotions that drive us are all part of it, but how do you weigh one against the other? The Grey Ajah does interest me, there are a few others as well, but what you say makes a great deal of sense. But I know that I must grow if I am ever to aspire to the Grey. Can it be learned?”

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  • 2 weeks later...

(ooc sorry for the delay, moving house is busy business!)



Lavinya's lips curved in wry amusement as she noted Viviane's genuine remorse on behalf of her peers that even now would be answering to the Mistress of Novices' wrath. Such admirable caring and concern showed a warm heart beat beneath the striped gown of Accepted she wore. Would she maintain that empathy once she attained the shawl? Such a naive and innocent view of the world she must hold; it was almost refreshing, though in a woman of Viviane's years she would have expected it to be soundly quashed by now thanks to her rigorous training and the realities of life's difficulty. The Gray herself couldn't remember a time when she hadn't held cynical, calculated views of the world, and her years in the tower had only reiterated those opinions. Compassion was weakness, warmth a hindrance to the work that needed to be done. 


In silence Lavinya finished putting the front desk she had leaned on to rights, watching as the Accepted's mind visibly mulled over what she had learned. More subtle than a novice, but decidedly not a player of the great game with her emotions on display in such a manner that a player such as she could discern them almost without thought. She is not impressed with the Gray, Lavinya thought, noting with bored curiosity the way the younger woman's brows drew down and her jaw tensed in response to the passage of thoughts. A yellow then perhaps, with a desire to help the hurting, or perhaps a blue with dreams of passionate crusade. Then again, the way she was mulling suggested she may be willing to pause and view all angles after all, mayhap she did have a calling to be in Lavinya's Ajah after all. One of those who liked to mediate and represent the unfortunate, no doubt.


A sparkle lit the dark depths of the Gray's eyes at the question posed to her - perhaps a promising initiate after all. "Yes, it can be learned to an extent by any, though some do seem to be better suited to it than others." She considered Viviane thoughtfully. "Have you ever played a game of chess, or stones? Games that require you to think several moves ahead of your opponent. It is similar, in mediation or negotiation. One must guess at the results of each option - how will this party or that party react to that? What would the implications be? And if another measure were instead chosen? What if a compromise were suggested in this area or that..." She broke off and laughed lightly at the expression on the Accepted's face and waved one hand. "It is not so difficult as it sounds, it simply requires you to think everything through." 


"One of my favourite exercises in my classes I like to do is a debate - a vocal representation of what many Grays do internally in their work. A simple topic, let's say...All novices should be allowed wander the halls at any hour." Lavinya clasped her hands together, smiling. "Most novices are able to animatedly list any number of good reasons why they should be allowed. The difficulty is when I assign them the task of arguing against it. Rarely does anyone want to, but when they are forced to stop and think about it, to consider it from an angle other than their own, that is where we see true breakthroughs. It's easy to argue your own points; it's harder to argue someone elses. And yet, that is what often a Gray must do." She nodded her head towards Viviane, spiral curls bouncing lightly. "Try it. What is one argument you might make for each side of the topic?"




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                Viviane stopped in her cleaning again; not intentionally. Of course. She listened to Lavinya Sedai with a rapt expression. She would learn what this woman had to offer, however short this visit may be. No more dawdling off in the brain or getting distracted. She had come to this Sister with a question and she shamed the woman by considering anything else.


                Of course, Viviane had played stones before. Who hadn’t? She never did look at the game in such a light. Perhaps navigating the undercurrents of the World wouldn’t be as hard as she had been anticipating. She was actually very good at stones. Still. She was not used to such sophistication before coming to the Tower. The rough men and lightskirts she dealt with in Camelyn were dimwitted by comparison to an Aes Sedai. That was plain as day for most. Oh, Viviane had known too, but experiencing everything first hand was quite different.


                It seemed a lot of preparation went into an Aes Sedai’s affairs. Much more preparation than running a business, surprisingly. Viviane had learned those skills from her Mother and Grandmother. Perhaps she could just use all of that as a base and layer everything else on top of that.


                As a Novice, Viviane had mostly focused on emulating the Sisters and mastering all different kinds of weaves… Well, the ones that were trusted to Novices at least. That was not to say she did not pick up a few extras along the way, but that was beside the point. During this conversation, Viviane had realized that she truly did not know half as much about Aes Sedai as she thought she did.


                Viviane pursed her lips for a moment as she thought on the question. An answer came to her that might surprise Lavinya Sedai to hear coming from an Accepted.


                “In the interest of balance, I think it best to answer in a way that benefits both parties on either side of the argument…” Viviane took a breath and continued, “Were Accepted and Novices allowed to wander about at all hours, then that would give us more time for study and chores. Many of the girls here are night owls, so to speak. I think that a good number would become more productive if allowed to set their own bedtime. That also means that we can assist with chores that happen after the lights are turned down. Many rise an hour or two before the sun does, is it that different? And I am sure the Servants would love the extra sets of hands, not to mention the Sisters up late needing a Novice or an Accepted to fetch something, or to assist in taking notes, or any number of tasks.”


                Viviane began to clean again and went on, “This also means that the Accepted and the Novices can get into even more trouble, but there are still Servants, Guards, and even Sisters awake at all hours of the night. I doubt we’d be able to get away with any more than we do now,” she suppressed a light chuckle at that, “Since a curfew is enforced, that helps many girls learn structure and discipline. It also reminds them that they are here to learn and to do as they are told. We are not full Sisters yet, so we should not expect any special privileges. That also helps the Sisters, that do choose to stay awake late, some privacy that could not be found in the daylight. After all, the nighttime typically is reserved for the ‘adults.’ Those answers weren’t as hard to think on, but I can imagine the tangled web that is weaved in the courts of Kings and even here in Tar Valon. I shall strive to be quicker on my feet, Lavinya Sedai, and to find the balance in all arguments.”

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