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Winter Mist

Lady Sings the Blues - Rossa's Oaths

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She closed her eyes and rested her head against the wall.  It was still difficult to believe she was nearly at the culmination of her entire life’s purpose for the past fifteen or so years, and that she had come out of it as well as she did.  She had come out of it – that was the most important thing.  Of course this was dangerous, of course there were horror stories – there always were.  And even though Rossa had done her utmost to avoid such talk, she still heard the odd story.  After all, forewarned was forearmed. 

 

It had been one of the hardest experiences of her life, with the possible exception of fleeing her burning home and leaving her family to the fiery flames, or her arches when she was raised to Accepted.  The knock at her door, heralding the arrival of the day’s destiny, and the inevitable walk towards the testing chamber, had made her nervous but she did not show it.  She was Altaran.  She was High Seat of her House.  She was to be Aes Sedai.

 

The chamber was smaller than she thought it would be.  Somehow, Rossa had imagined it would be a stately hall rather than the room it was in, deep in the heart of the White Tower.  A large ter’angreal was the focus of the room, oval in shape, and the place where her hundred practised weaves would be carried out.  Would this be similar to the test for the ring?  No, Rossa somehow doubted it would be.  It would be hard work and this was not the time for questions.  She stepped confidently into the room, embracing the future and what may come of it.

 

An Aes Sedai from each of the seven Ajahs stood in a circle dotted around the room, and the Mistress of Novices stepped forward and turned to face Rossa, beginning the ceremony.  She was ready, she could do this – she just had to keep her nerve.

 

“You come in ignorance, Rossa Venye, how would you depart?”

“In knowledge of myself.”

“For what reason have you been summoned here?”

 

Rossa paused.  She knew the wording that would have to follow this question but she was seized by a sudden uncertainty.  Who would carry out her vengeance if she were destined to not pass this test?  She would be a failure and an example – an utterly humiliated try-hard.  She could not let that happen, and her chin came up sharply.

 

“To be tried.”

“For what reason should you be tried?”

“So that I may learn whether I am worthy.”

“For what would you be found worthy?”

“To wear the shawl.”

 

That was the aim of this, after all.  The next words Rossa heard instructed her to remove her clothes and begin the test by entering the ter’angreal.  She would be strong.  Clad in the light, Rossa walked forward proudly.

 

…flicker…

 

She opened her eyes to see a small room with some clothes neatly laid out on a single cot.  They looked to be her size as well, which was nice.  Rossa dressed quickly and walked to a spot that looked meaningful; at least, to her it looked meaningful.  A loud banging at the door heralded the first of the tests; accompanied by angry shouts that she couldn’t hide, that she would be found and the men would enjoy her soon enough. 

 

Disdain.

 

It hadn’t helped.  The door exploded inwards in a mass of splinters and large men walked in the room before she could do anything about beginning the first weave.  One of them grabbed her arm roughly and it was all Rossa could do to wrench it free as she whirled to face him.  Another was coming at her from behind and she panicked, running to the other side of the room.  She had no weapons, no dignity, no nothing!  A chair stood close to the bed, and Rossa took the initiative and lifted it in front of her, stepping on it.  At least she could kick them in the face now. 

 

That’s not the point of all this.

 

It was an odd epiphany of realities meeting, and the realisation of her situation.  Rossa quickly embraced Saidar and wove the first weave she had practised so hard at.  She knew them all by rote, but performing them under this kind of duress would be difficult indeed.  As she completed the first weave, the men vanished and Rossa looked around, startled.  Nothing had happened except that she had accomplished the first part of her test.  Gathering herself, she left the small room and went on to the next challenge.

 

And challenged she had been.  Spiders, rivals that tried to strip her and make her sing in front of a figure that looked like the Queen of Altara naked, Trollocs attempting to overrun her … lots of trials that somehow, miraculously, Rossa managed to overcome.  There had been a moment when she thought of giving up, but ruthlessly she suppressed it.  At the time she had been covered with choking vines, her hands only just able to make tiny gestures to weave Saidar to the requisite form.  With her success, she had dropped to the floor, gasping for breath and shivering.  Names could not hurt her; she scarcely felt the abrasions on her body or the parts that would bruise.  Her eyebrow was half singed at one point by one of the Trollocs she had thrown a fireball at – it had charged her and was almost on top of her when Rossa had been able to finish the weave and momentum carried the thing forward.  A hasty hand batted out flames, but not before half her eyebrow had burnt off.

 

Oddly it was seeing her rivals that forced Rossa to calmness.  The real reasons of becoming an Aes Sedai to help people and discover as much as she could of what was lost or in danger of being lost made Rossa realise these Court butterflies were useless creatures, and it rekindled her dignity.  Imagining she was being prepared for a presentation to the Queen, or worse yet, her mother’s inspecting eye, made Rossa focus harder on her task. 

 

It had done the trick.  The final parts of the one hundredth weave fell into place, and Rossa knew she could return.  She had been grazed, dazed and was completely amazed that she had succeeded this part.  She stepped back into the chamber. 

 

…flicker…

 

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As she sat looking at the wall of her room in the Accepted Quarters, Rossa was spending the night in a silent contemplation.  Tomorrow, she would be Aes Sedai.  It would be good to do something good for the world and as she was a noble Rossa knew the genuine worth of doing something good and right.  It might not give any immediate gains, but helping someone definitely helped you in the long run.  She hugged her knees to her chest, sat alone on the bed while the tray of food that had been thoughtfully left in her room lay untouched.  It would hardly do her any good if she fainted just before she could make her Ajah choice, so she took a bite and found that she had a large appetite. 

 

While she ate, Rossa pondered over how good an Aes Sedai she would make.  Granted, she could be a little bit over-analytical at times, and sometimes her Altaran temper did get in the way of things, but for the most part she thought she would make a good Aes Sedai.  She strove for it, and had worked hard for it.  Now, she could teach what she knew to others.  Rossa would make sure good things happened as a result of her wearing the shawl, but most of all she wanted to help people look after themselves better.  Particularly those in Ebou Dar, but that was personal, and since she had arrived at the White Tower her views had softened a little so she would now strive for all rather than for personal glory. 

 

Before she knew it, there was nothing but bare crumbs on the plate, and precious little left of the milk.  Rossa felt full, and now imagined how the morning would play out.  Sleep was not going to happen tonight: Rossa had too much on her mind for that, so the darkness played over her olive-skinned features as she pondered how the shawl would feel, and over her own family history as to whether House Venye would ever be fully restored.  She would live to see it, even if she were not the high seat herself.  The darkness faded to dawn, as all nights do eventually, and Rossa sat patiently on her bed waiting for the knock.

 

It came, and Rossa stilled the annoying nerves in her stomach.  Now was definitely not the time, not on the brink as she was.  As Rossa returned to the chamber she had suffered and succeeded in the day before, she was completely silent.  A representative of each Ajah was there, as well as the Mother and her Keeper, all with grave expressions on their face.  Her mentor, Sirayn Sedai, stood before her wearing the seven-striped stole of the Amyrlin and the usual look resided on her face.  Knowing full well the gravity of the situation, Rossa kept her face smooth and tried to not show any emotion at all, especially not the flickering nerves that threatened.  The memory of what she must say here was imprinted on her brain – she did not want to mess up here.  Her back was straight, her stomach held in.  An imaginary bird was pulling at the top of her head, keeping it held high and her gaze straight, and an imaginary sack tied to her belt to make her back almost as flat and straight as a board.  Shoulders back, stomach in, eyes to the Mother.  Sirayn Sedai began to speak.

 

“Who comes here?”

 

“Rossa Venye.”

 

“For what reason do you come?”

 

“To swear the three oaths and thereby claim the shawl of an Aes Sedai.”

 

“By what right do you claim this burden?”

“By right of having made the passage, submitting myself to the will of the White Tower.”

 

“Then enter, if you dare, and bind yourself to the White Tower.”

 

A breath.  A pause.  Now was the time to fulfil the dream she had clutched like a lifeline since the fire had taken away her previous life.  It was time for a new start.  Rossa stepped forward without a further trace of hesitation and walked through the ter’angreal, the oval passing overhead.  There.  It was done.  Sirayn Sedai, graceful and commanding as the Amyrlin despite her short stature, stood before her and presented the Oath Rod she had lifted from the small pillow the Keeper had been holding it on.  Rossa felt the smooth length in her hand and she swallowed, trying to generate enough moisture in her mouth to speak.

 

Under the expectant faces of those gathered around her, Rossa spoke.

 

“Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true.”

 

“Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another.”

 

“Under the light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my warder, or another sister.”

 

Rossa felt the impact of her words and stood waiting calmly, looking at the Amyrlin for the next part of this.  With every moment that passed, she grew in confidence.  Nerome would be proud of her.  Oh, Light, Nerome.  This had been the first time today that she had thought of him, and Rossa wondered if there was any way she could get a message to him.  It was something she could think of after this – right now, this was more important.

 

“It is half done, and the White Tower graven on your bones.  Rise now Aes Sedai and choose your Ajah and all will be done that may be done under the Light.”  Was that a smile on her mentor’s face?

 

The words were said.  All that remained was to choose her Ajah now.  Her head high, her back straight, and her future a few choice steps away, Rossa looked confidently at Estel Sedai.  She had noticed the woman that had been both nemesis and confidante when she had entered the chamber, and walked proudly towards her.

 

“I choose the Blue Ajah.”

 

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~Estel~

 

In truth, Estel attended this Raising in trepidation. Despite knowing months ahead, despite knowing before anyone else and despite being suspicious probably before anyone, Estel was not ready. Blood and ashes! This was the Novice who had plastered “A few Weaves short of a blanket.”, “Even the bluntest sword in the rack can still be deadly to a Warder.” and, her personal favourite-not, “If lost, please return to the ground in a whimpering position.” How on earth could her Ajah expect her to welcome this girl, the same girl to whom she held herself against and found herself lacking so much, with open arms? Light, if it had been anyone except her… well, Estel could think of a few who ranked lower down her list- but not many.

 

At the same time, however, half of her wanted to shout for joy at the raising of this new sister. A good deal of her even revelled in the fact that it was this woman to be raised. Their enforced week together had completely confused Estel’s previous unadulterated hate towards the girl. Now she wasn’t so sure. Between that week and the Blue Ajah Class her feelings towards Rossa had become so muddled she could no longer make head or tails of them.

 

Throughout this, as well, the temptation to gloat to Sirayn over how the little, but mighty, Green’s mentee had chosen the kicked puppy’s Ajah was nearly enough to make her destroy the decorum of the situation and smash Tower’s traditions. Almost… the phantom pain of Sirayn’s foot up her rear end kept her plans as fantasies.

 

None of Rossa’s speech came as a surprise. Estel had been through this all herself not so long ago. Despite all the forewarning, though, the older Blue was still unprepared as she watched the Altaran near her and take the Blue shawl from her arms. The room emptied, leaving the two former enemies alone.

 

“Despite it all…” Estel faltered, unsure of how to continue. A wave of emotions hit her like a ton of bricks- or perhaps it was the full weight of her Ajah’s collective feet. “Oh damn it all.” Exasperated, she drew Rossa into an embrace. “Welcome home little sis.”

 

~Rossa~

 

It was suddenly over.  The older face of Estel Sedai looked at her with a strange expression on her face as the fabric of her shawl settled on her shoulders.  She shivered.  Out of the corner of her eyes she could see the ends of it settle into the crook of her arms as though it belonged there, knots on tiny strands of silver that looked like raindrops, or melting icicles that formed on windowsills on freezing mornings in winter.  The rest of the shawl was a pale blue, like the ocean that surrounded her homeland of Altara.  She felt … complete.

 

Estel had called her sis … she had another sister now.  Rossa had been the middle daughter and had been used to having an older sister, but this was the first time she had actually felt like that since coming to the White Tower all those years ago.  Rossa looked at Estel and started to speak, her voice thick with emotion.

 

“I had an older sister once.  She … she burned, with the rest of my family, all dead now, all gone.  I was the only one to survive.”  Her face fell to study the tiled floor for a moment.  Rossa could not remember if the other woman knew this facet of her history, but it felt like the right time to tell her of it.  “That was a long time ago.  I keep her likeness as a figurine in my belt pouch.  For memory.”  Rossa placed a hand on Estel Sedai’s back and pulled her forward for another embrace.

 

She stayed there for a few moments, trying to compose herself.  After a while, Rossa succeeded in pulling herself together and fingered the shawl with care.  It meant so much to her.  This was the beginning of the rest of her life, and already a role was becoming established in it.

 

“I am so proud to call you ‘sister.’”

 

~Estel~

 

For a very confused minute, Estel interpreted Rossa’s words completely wrong. A flame of anger lit within her. How could the girl dare to threaten her? After Estel had just forgiven her and accepted her as a sister, despite everything? For a moment, a very stupid Estel clenched her jaw and was just about to give Rossa the tongue lashing of what could suddenly become a very short life.

 

All this stupidity lasted until the older of the pair pulled herself away from the younger’s embrace. The olive face, downcast, was set in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. Surprised, and touched that Rossa would share this with her. Hugging her new younger sister tightly Estel whispered “I never had sisters, not even when I was raised. You’re the first.”

 

“I am so proud to call you ‘sister.’”

 

That did for Estel. All her career she had dealt with being practically rejected by her Ajah. Even her beloved mentor had expressed doubts of her being worthy of the blue shawl on her shoulders. She doubted many would grieve her end should it find her conveniently quickly. The fact that this young woman would sent tears rolling down her cheeks. Hugging Rossa again, Estel replied “Proud of you too.”

 

When they finally parted, Estel wiping tears from her cheeks, she grinned and explained the Blue Ajah raising tradition. “Well, its kinda…well, it is tradition for the new Blue Sisters to walk “Clad in the Light” to their new quarters.”

 

~Rossa~

 

She blanched.  Being naked in front of a few Aes Sedai for the purpose of the test was … understandable.  This was traditional for the Blue Ajah to make their newest members walk through the White Tower stark naked?  Estel was grinning at her.  Was this a joke?  The other woman did not seem to be joking though, and Rossa’s face settled into a look of startled amusement.  This was different, oh yes.  At least she would be taken to her new quarters now, and she would perhaps be able to have a rest.

 

Rossa pictured the look on her mother’s face if she could see her daughter now.  Pride would mix with utmost dignity, tinged lightly with a devilish look in her flashing dark eyes.  She took another step backwards from her new sister and began to pull the dress she wore over her head, messing her neatly brushed hair up and Rossa folded it before handing it to Estel.  And then Rossa stood there, feeling a slight chill from somewhere that made her skin prickle.  Surely Estel had been through this before when she had been raised to the shawl, standing as Rossa did now and wanting to shift from foot to foot, trying not to blush.  She had nothing to worry about, she was not ugly or deformed, so why should modesty worry her? 

 

Finally, Rossa spoke.  “This was certainly not included in the Blue Ajah lesson you held, Estel Sedai.   Perhaps on the way to my new quarters you could tell me if there are any more “traditions” I should be aware of.”  Rossa smiled at her sister.  “Lead the way.”

 

~Estel~

 

Estel laughed good-naturedly at Rossa’s wide-eyed expression. Others’ modesty tended to amuse her, modesty, like discretion and subtlety, were new to the Domani’s vocabulary. “Sedai yourself!” It was only half a joke, despite her laugh, Estel was still too proud to use the term so lightly. “I suppose I should mention the entire Ajah does this every seventh day then where we also sacrifice virgins to the Great God that lives in the bowels of the Tower.” Estel contained her amusement for a record five seconds before breaking out in hysterics.

 

“Kidding. There are only a few other things, none of which as… unique as this particular tradition. You only thought the test was hard, I have to take you through all the public corridors and to each of the Ajah Quarters so all could “come out and see a Sister of the Blue.” You have my sympathy, not all the Sisters are as hesitant about giving voice to their peculiar senses of humour.” Estel laughed. She didn’t mention that she likely fit that category of Aes Sedai.

 

The two youngest Blues left the bowels of the Tower and set off through the almost ominous-feeling empty halls. Their pace was almost leisurely, mind you, Estel was setting the pace at her usual stroll, forgetting that Rossa was walking buck naked beside her and likely wanted to get some clothes on as quickly as possible. That would have to wait until they got all the way up to the Blue Quarters. It was going to be a long walk.

 

“Anyways, back to the subject of traditions. You know about the blue stockings and that Blues will never wear Red because of our long-standing animosity with that Ajah. As well, Blues are forbidden to marry; few Aes Sedai marry as is, but it is forbidden to the Blue Ajah. We are married to our Causes. Oh, and you remember the sixth Blue you kissed after petitioning the Blues? You have to make her a pie. Any questions?”

 

A long walk indeed. Not long for Estel, whose only worry was that she might burst out laughing and shame her new little Sister. Eventually, though, they finished in the Blue Ajah quarters with the entire Ajah filling the corridors.

 

~Rossa~

 

The walk to her new quarters was interminably long.  Her skin prickled and shivered with every step, and she knew her cheeks were flushed from trying to maintain dignity while completely disrobed.  Most of the Aes Sedai she had passed would understand; the other novices and accepted, should they see her, would not really understand what was going on, and the servants… Well, Rossa did not like to think on that too much.  It was the same when she was presented to the Green Ajah, proudly displayed as the newest sister of the Blue Ajah, knowing there were likely men present inside the walls.  Oh, they were Warders, to be sure, but Rossa could not help but think of Nerome, the one she would like to bond, and she blushed to the roots of her hair. 

 

Nerome.  Estel had mentioned Blues were forbidden to marry, but it didn’t matter to her.  Her cause was husband enough, and Nerome would understand that if he cared for her at all.  She had a strong suspicion that he did.  She smiled at the remembered mention of baking a pie for the sixth sister that kissed her upon being welcomed to the Blue Ajah – baking had never really been her strong point, as her mother would tell all and sundry, just waiting for the chance to find something to pick at.  Rossa would coolly reply that she would marry into station, and have a cook, and had never given cooking another thought until she had come to the White Tower and developed the notion of feeding the hungry.  Onwards she walked, her back straight and her cheeks flaming.

 

It had been such a long walk.  All of the sisters had been through this before, and Rossa tried to tell herself this as the bare marble passed underfoot.  That and the thought of what her mother would be thinking if she could see her daughter now.  It would be a mixture of pride and satisfaction, and also the sense of being extremely pleased that she had never encouraged her daughter to idleness.  She was proud of her figure, and pleased that she occasionally took exercise and did not indulge in excess.  A little maxim shot to mind; her mother had loved those.

 

Eat to excess, and prepare to amend your dress. 

 

The expectant faces of the sisters of her Ajah, her Ajah, now lined the corridors as Estel Sedai … Estel, she amended to herself, lead the way towards them.  Their faces were a mixture of approval and happiness, all the way to smiles and laughter.  Rossa turned her own face to Estel’s and held herself ready, waiting for the introductions to begin. 

 

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“Welcome home daughter, we have waited long for you.” Corinne said, unashamedly embracing Rossa despite her nakedness.  “I am Corinne’dei, the First Selctor and Head of the Blue Ajah.  After introductions have been made and you’ve had some time to settle into your new surrounding, I’d like to meet with you.  For tea sound good?” she didn’t bother to wait for a response.  She was the First Selector and Rossa the newest Blue, it better damn well sound good.  “I’ll meet you in your room and I’ll bring the tea.”

 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

 

Smoothing out her pale blue skirts, Corinne let the tea things trail behind her on a flow of Air.  She knocked twice and without awaiting a response, bustled in.  “Hello Rossa, how are you settling in?”  Forgoing ceremony, she plopped herself down in a chair and set the pot and cups down on the closest available table.  Corinne had quite enough of ceremony and pomp in the Hall, she wasn’t going to bother with it here.

 

“First things first, would you like Healing?  The Oaths can leave you feeling like your skin is too small and Healing actually helps relieve some of the tension.”

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Guest Estel

ooc: Moved for Serena

 

Serena slipped out of the small and dank room of which the Oaths were always taken in. It was always interesting and exciting when a girl...no, young woman was raised to the Shawl. Especially when it was your Ajah they wished to petition. Being the sixth woman to have been petitioned to enter the Ajah, Serena new what was coming to her. Most likely, a horrible rendition of blue-berry pie. The one she had made had been completely horrible.

With the familiar sly smile that often graced her lips, the small raven haired Aes Sedai made her way back to her rooms in the quarters of the Blue Ajah. She had worn a dress long enough, it was simply time to change. The amusement she felt would be short lived, but it was worth it while it lasted. It had been many many years since her own raising, but she still could not help but get a little satisfaction out of watching her Sisters parade about the White Tower in the nude. It helps that every once in awhile there's a rather attractive Sister being strutted around.

 

Serena's tilted emerald eyes glittered as she laughed silently to herself. By the time she made it back to her rooms, she had just enough time to get out of the horrible silk dress she had been wearing and into her breeches and coat. As she stepped into her breeches and pulled her floor-length coat over her left arm, she could hear her Sisters gathering in the main corridor. The buttons that pulled the coat tight across her chest seemed to do up with ease, but she shook her head anyways. Was it wrong of her to wonder what the Altaran girl looked like, clad only in the Light? She was only looking.

 

Closing the door behind her, Serena momentarily embraced Saidar and tied off the alarm wards she always had around her threshold. The heals on her boots clicked on the cold tiles of the floor as she headed towards the commotion.

 

Narrowing her eyes slightly as she made out her charge, Serena kept a close watch on what Estel was doing. Silently, she mused of lashing out at her Domani Sister; However, she knew it would go to waste. She had no real excuse to get after Estel....yet. Tilting her head to the side, the small Saldaean Aes Sedai waited until Estel and the freshly raised Sister came to her. Pursing her lips, she nodded to Estel in recognition, and turned to the Altaran. "Welcome to the Blue Ajah. Welcome home, we have waited long for you Rossa Venye." Again, she kissed Rossa on her cheek. "I am Serena Morrigan, and I believe you owe me a pie." Mischief twinkled behind her emerald eyes.

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Guest Estel

Estel grinned at her new little Sister.  The ridiculously moody Blue Sister attempted to exude warmth, encouragement, pride and all sort of other warm, fuzzy emotions at her sister right up until they got past the First Selector, a severe woman who never made more than a passing notice of her headache-inducing charge, and to Estel’s favourite big sister.  Take note that the term favourite is used extremely loosely here and crosses over into the territory of sarcasm.

 

Serena nodded curtly.  Estel glared.

 

Had she not been in full view of the First selector, Estel would have bared her teeth and snarled.  Luck favoured her not.

 

Once they had gotten past her babysitter, she leaned over and hissed in Rossa’s ear.  “Burn the pie.  Please!”

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