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The time has come (Salandrian's arches)


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Eqwina was already walking laps around her room when the sun crested the horizon. She was often up walking that slow circuit even in to the wee hours of the mornings. Ever since that fateful night that had changed her life she rarely slept.


The trauma she had experienced had begun to affect her duties as a mentor, and she did feel bad for her neglect. Salandrian had grown much in the short years since they had met. She had grown so much so that Eqwina felt as if she was ready for the next step in her life. As all Aes Sedai did, Eqwina had watched for signs in Salandrian that she would be of her own persuasion. There seemed little hope that the girl would lean towards the darker side, but Eqwina remained hopeful that she may still sway the girl towards the yellow. No matter what, she would always think of herself as Yellow sister.


A few weeks had passed since Eqwina had gone to the Mistress of Novices and put Salandrian forward as being ready to advance. Even though her recommendation had been made the decision to test still rested in the hands of the Mistress of Novices. Rumor had it the child would be tested any time.


Right about midday a blonde haired novice had brought word that Salandrian indeed would be tested that evening; and she was to stand in attendance. Eqwina released a sigh of relief upon reading that note. It was not her mentees eminent raising that hand her on edge. She was supposed to leave the tower, and soon. In fact she should have been gone a week past. Eqwina hoped dearly that her failure to leap to obey would not be held against her. With all the sins she had committed, being able to take part in this ceremony felt like a way to give back. Like a way to make up for the destruction she had caused and would surely in the future.


As the light began to fade Eqwina gathered her shawl and wrapped it proudly around her shoulders. She had her things laid out so that the moment she was finished this evening she would be able to go. Eqwina began her decent into the Tower depths, towards the room where all novices became accepted, and she could not help but think of her own trip there so many years before.


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  • 3 weeks later...

For almost eight years, Salandrian had come in and out of this door daily. Yet she had never paused to look at it. The paint chips, dents, smudges had never seemed out of place, never made the door seem old. Odd, isn’t it? she thought to herself. To only now finally examine the door in it’s entirety. An obscure thought and she dismissed it. Pouring over The History of Costal Nations had gotten to her, and she flopped down on her bed. Though it was not yet that late, the late- autumnal sun was setting earlier and too much thinking placated Salandrian. After splashing a little water on her face, she lay on her bed, breathing deeply, trying to clear her mind. In… and out… Those words repeated over and over again in her head. In… and out... in… and- BOOM!- a loud knock on her door forced her up. 


Darienna Sedai, the Mistress of Novices stood in her doorway. The old door had opened under the strength of the knock. “Come child, follow me.” There was no hint of emotion of any kind, which scared her all the more. Dread filled Salandrian as she meekly obeyed the order, and could picture a disappointed Saline. Maybe that was why she was being summoned- Saline had betrayed them and told Estel Sedai and Vera Sedai who had laced their towels with itchweed. But when she expected to turn to the Mistress of Novice’s office, they continued forward. And then it suck in.


Salandrian’s time had come for the fabled Arches.


To the depths of the Tower, Darienna Sedai led her. They arrived at a domed chamber, with three silver arches, a head taller than Salandrian, sitting on a thick silver ring, edges touching. An Aes Sedai sat where each of the arches touched, and a fourth Aes Sedai stood near a table, on which sat three chalices. This ceremonial feel of the room made her at once anxious and hesitant, both excited and weak-kneed.


The Mistress of Novices turned toward Salandrian and said, “Two things that no woman hears until she enters this room. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, no matter your potential and you will be very kindly put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you a year, and 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 was allowed to grow quiet, they were - not - there. And they were never seen again. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Faltering leads to a failure.”


This ominous warning troubled her. How can I go on knowing that I might not come back? And yet how can I not go on, not knowing? If I do not continue now, it will consume my very being. I will face my fears. “I am ready, Aes Sedai.” She must go on now.


During her decision making, she had forgotten there were Aes Sedai in the room and was surprised when the one near the table spoke.


“Whom do you bring with you, Sister?”


“One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.” Darienna Sedai 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?”


“She has never faced them, but now is willing.”


“Then let her face what she fears.”


The Mistress of Novices instructed her to remove her clothes. She felt no shame now, undressing in front of this woman who had handed out punishments to her. When she had finished, she was guided toward her first arch, glowing with a soft, white light. “The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”


Her heart was beating so hard it felt like it might come out. Salandrian stepped through…


…and stepped out of the cabin of a ship and onto the deck. This was the Silver Swan on the River Andahar, heading toward Tanchico. The salt air filled her lungs, and she coughed. Gazing toward Tanchico, she knew this is where her father was. Fate had led her to a sailor stopped in Ebou Dar, who had once worked with her father. No native Ebou Dari had the hazel eyes she did, and the sailor would recognize those eyes anywhere.  He said that her father had settled down in Tanchico, opening his own sail-repair shop.


Time seemed to stand still as they rowed in to the harbour. At last the crew docked and the sailor led Salandrian onward. Street after street, full of Taraboner men in their odd hats, and veiled women. Street after street of odd smells, queer accents, and eccentric colours. Somehow, the streets seemed filthier and filthier the further they went. But she followed, blinded by the excitement of meeting her father at last. They turned suddenly into a small alley, and she realized what was happening. Three men, dressed roughly, looked at her with greedy eyes, laughing and nudging each other. A Saldaen, a Murandian and a Taraboner.


The biggest, the Murandian, moved forward and made to grab her arm. Before his hand had left his side, the sailor drew a dagger and whacked his hand. “Where’s my gold?” he asked. “No gold, no girl.”


“Think you can take my daughter from me, do you?” A man emerged from the shadows. His eyes looked strangely familiar, and she realized why. They were the same eyes that looked back at her in the mirror every day.  So the sailor had not lied. Forgetting the circumstances entirely, I ran forward toward him. “Father? Are you my father?”


“I am.” He looked down at Salandrian, and smiled. Her smile. “You have no idea how much I miss your mother. But she will not take me back. I have written every month, to ask her forgiveness, and I get no response. I sent Jafar, to get you. He was good, I trust?”


“Yes, father. But…” She had so many questions to ask him, but there was something she must tell him first. “Father. She’s…” Salandrian sobbed. “…she’s dead.” Her father sunk to his knees, hearing this, and hugged her. His strength, his love, flowed through and she felt more secure than she had ever in her life. She opened her eyes as she hugged him, not afraid of the tears. And she saw something glimmer behind the men. She frowned, then realized what it was. The way back will come but once. The first arch stood behind the men. And her father. “No!” She cried. “NO! I cannot choose.” How could she leave this place, where she felt security? “What is it, Salandrian?” She pushed him away, knowing that pretending to hate him would make it easier. The glimmering was growing fainter. “No!” One of the strong-arms tried to restrain her, but she kicked his shin and continued running. She was almost there. Looking back as she stepped through, she saw her father there, confused, hurt, and weeping. She fell through…


…and landed on her bottom, naked. Shivering, and not just from the cold marble floor, she curled into a ball. “I am so sorry father! Why? Why did I have to choose?”


A warm hand helped her up, then she turned and saw a thin Blue raise a chalice above her head. The cold water fell down her hair, giving her gooseflesh. “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.”


“If you have any questions now, child, ask.” Truth be told, Salandrian had countless, but if she asked now, she would not be able to continue. She shook her head. The Mistress of Novices returned her voice to its ceremonial tone. “The second arch is for what is. The way will come but once. Be steadfast.”


The second arch glowed with a soft, white light, and she closed her eyes as she passed through…


Salandrian opened her eyes, feeling groggy and tired. Her body was stiff, and her vision was clouded. When she tried to clear her vision, she found her arms tied at her sides. She tried again, to no avail. What was going on? Looking down, she saw a thick rope around her arms. “Why are you holding me?” Fear welled up inside her as she realized she had no idea where she was. Tears formed in her eye and she began sobbing.


Get a hold of yourself woman! If I truly am in distress, I must find out where I am, and what in the bloody hell is going on!


It took awhile for Salandrian to survey the room, having to turn on her bottom to see the whole room, and when she finished she deduced it to be some kind of dungeon. There was a huge oaken door, barred with several locks. In the corner, albeit shadowed, was a human-sized shape, and Salandrian wondered if she was not alone after all.


The locks on the door began to move, and hope fluttered inside of her. Am I being rescued? Thank the Light! Finally, some answers.


Salandrian would have jumped if not tied up when Eqwina Sedai opened the door. “Eqwina Sedai! Thank the Light! What is going on?” Her mentor lowered her gaze, then shoved someone into the room. Saline. She had welts over her arms and her face, and she too had her hands tied behind her back and she would not look Salandrian in the eye. Two more Aes Sedai appeared behind Eqwina. Eqwina embrace the Source, then channeled and set a Ward around the room. “No wait! What’s going on? Please! Help-mmph!” Her mentor stuffed a gag of Air into her mouth. Eqwina inclined her head to her left, the two Aes Sedai from behind her stepped forward. All three were dressed in black. One, a bony Cairhienien, walked over to the human-sized shape in the corner and picked it up. Zaire. She too, was gagged with Air and Salandrian saw several nasty welts on her neck and arms. Zaire squirmed under the Aes Sedai’s harsh grip, but her eyebrows were raised when she saw Salandrian. A silent plea passed between them.


Eqwina held her hand out to the other Aes Sedai, a Domani by her complexion. The Domani handed her a book. It was Taya Gille’s diary. “Now, Salandrian, can you tell me about this…book, you found?” Eqwina sounded every bit the sweet woman she had been when they first met, though now this sweet was like an over ripened pear-much too sweet. “Eqwina! What are you DOING?! Explain to me?”  A firm wallop of Air and Fire hit Salandrian’s face, and it stung. What was Eqwina doing?


“Tell me about Taya Gille’s diary, child and I will not kill her.” Her voice was full of vehemence and anger. A side of Eqwina that Salandrian had never seen. “If you try and fight, they both die, and you as well. Now, tell…me!” As she said this, the Cairhienien and Domani untied Saline and Zaire. Eqwina used Fire to slash Salandrian’s and her hands burned, but she could now use her hands to stand up, though she trembled.


“Aes Sedai,” she bowed, half-mocking, “I-erm…Zaire… we both found the diary in the library. What is so special about it?” Wasn’t it just a woman’s diary? “I have never read it.” But Saline had. She looked over at her and realized what had happened. “Saline!”


“What about Saline?” Eqwina demanded. “Did she… put you up to it? Or was it someone else? Tell me! Tell me or they die!” The Domani used Air to lift Zaire up, and Salandrian saw her turn purple, unable to breath. “TELL ME NOW!” Her former mentor screamed as she channeled fire around Saline. Salandrian looked between them, both silently pleading to help them. Then she saw something between them. The Second Arch. She looked at Zaire, struggling to stay alive, Saline, her hair scorched, eyes full of fear, yet unable to speak. Why? The way back will come but once. How could she choose? Stay and rescue them, or die trying, or turn back on them. The way back will come but once. This was it. She must leave them. “Salandrian!” Zaire screamed, and Eqwina sent a ball of Fire after her. She closed her eyes and ran, not able to see her friends killed and tortured. She dove at the glowing arch…


… and landed, belly first on the cold floor. She convulsed, hardly able to live with her decision. It was not real. Or was it? The thought raced over and over again in her mind, until the thin Blue offered her hand 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.” Cold water from the chalice again gave her gooseflesh, though she was sweating from the thoughts of the second arch.


The Mistress of Novices intoned and she was more scared then ever. “The third time is for what will be. Be steadfast for the way back will come but once.” What will happen? I have come this far. I must go on now. The fear shook her hands, and she shivered. The third, and final arch awaited her. No more dying, she thought as she stepped through the final arch…


…and into the cold Saldean sea air. The Great Serpent ring around her middle finger felt cool against her skin. The full moon reflected on the sea water, shimmering, and she felt as lonely as it was. The cliffs below her echoed with the crash of the waves against them, and she felt as numb as the were. Ever since they all died, nothing could touch her. Wave after wave of emotion hit her, and she felt nothing.


Zaire. Saline. Sial. Estel. Eqwina. Dovaen. Masarian. Masarian most of all. Nothing would stop the pain. Not all the wine, nor the blood, nor the revenge. Salandrian had tried those all, and yet nothing soothed it. So she stood here, on the edge of the sea, to end her life. The moon called to her, a corridor of it’s reflection leading her home. Only this will end it. She took a deep breath. “The bounding sea is calling me home. Home to you,” she lowered her voice, “Masarian.” The old ways are lost. His voice still made her weep, even in her thoughts. The thundering waves are calling me home to you. The pounding sea is calling me home to you. The waves crashed. She was about to jump, when another light shone to her left. The pain of his death could be ended here and now. Or she could go back. The way back will come but once.


If I go back, will I have to relive it all? She thought. Perhaps I could save him. And with that, she made up her mind, and turned toward the new way…


… and so Salandrian walked out of the final arch, a man’s voice still singing the song. She was colder than she had ever felt in her life. Yet she had done it. She had passed her Arches. More Aes Sedai were in the room now, and the Amyrlin Seat stood there, with her seven-striped stole. Salandrian kneeled before her as she poured water over her head.


“You are washed clean of Salandrian Faerhind of Ebou Dar. 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 Salandrian Faerhind, Accepted of the White Tower.” She had done it. Eight years had passed, and she was now an Accepted. “You are sealed to us, now. Welcome, daughter,” The Amyrlin then handed the chalice to a Yellow and produced a Great Serpent ring. Salandrian offered her left hand, and the Amyrlin slipped the ring onto her third figer. “Welcome, Daughter”, she said kissing both cheeks. “Welcome.”


She was now Salandrian Faerhind, in Acceptance.


OoC: DONE!!!!!!!

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