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Nobody’s Fool [attn: Aramina – Order of the Rose RP]


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As someone had once wisely stated, there was no rest for the wicked, and these days she never had a moment to spare. Her new and deeply illegal project, the Order of the Rose, demanded time she could scarcely afford; its schemes required her frequent attention, woven smoothly as they were into her own interests and those of her Green Ajah, and of course she had to closely observe the performance of those working under her. Their competence was not in question but she had promised much and intended to give it. Once she had set the stone rolling on this plan she could not take it back: not that she regretted it, that would be madness. Even now new intelligence came to her every week, names and numbers she would never have laid eyes on if she had not taken this chance, and all across this shadowed city and beyond people worked for her interests. Now there was a satisfying thought.


Not to mention, she reflected while clearing her desk in preparation for a meeting, she still had much to learn about being Ajah Head. Never had she suspected that so much sheer work went on to keep this Ajah running smoothly. It seemed that the simplest trip to Caemlyn required her individual permission, every week she had to be updated on classes and teaching, sometimes proud mentors wanted her blessing to guide their little darling toward the Battle Ajah and, naturally, promotions went through her office first. Dealing with the occasional disciplinary matter did lighten her mood on occasion but, on the whole, many aspects of this job were stupefyingly dull. She had never had much tolerance for other people, not until she learned how to use them for her own purposes and sometimes being Ajah Head taxed her patience greatly.


Nevertheless, this morning at least heralded an interesting little encounter. Previously she had sent a note to her quarry requesting a meeting at this hour; the message had disclosed none of her intentions, she put nothing down on paper these days which might raise questions if noticed, yet she suspected that Aramina sur Dulciena … exquisitely talented as she was … might already be expecting a summons one of these days. Only days ago the young woman had passed her second petition in customary composed style; receiving at last the green shawl draped about her shoulders from Sirayn herself. And the memory of herself standing where legends had previously been before her still filled her with uncertain pride.


Right on time the young sister entered her office. Sirayn acknowledged her with a brief nod; she had come to have considerable respect for this one’s intelligence, enough so that she already had great plans should Aramina Sedai prove biddable enough. “Take a seat, sister. You and I have much to discuss.†Feigning great interest in the report scattered across her desk, one of sufficient lack of importance that it would not matter over much if it were read, Sirayn put her signature to a terse response demanding further proof before she took any of the contents as truth. Unfortunately a significant problem with the intelligence now coming into these office was that half of it was a brew of rumours, gossip and half truths, peppered by malice and spiced up by spectacular scandal mongering.


“It is a week since your second petition now, is it not? How have you found your first days as a full sister of the Battle Ajah? I trust you are keeping yourself busy.â€

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Aramina sighed as she looked at the mirror one last time before stepping out of it's reflection. The dark green dress she wore was dark green, almost to the point of black, with lighter green slashed across the chest. Her elaborate curls hung perfectly down her back. Her shawl hung elegantly across her shoulders. Her Shawl. She had barely earned it and the pride she had in it was beyond anything she had ever achieved before. She wasn't like most new Sisters though. She didn't wear it all the time as some did. She had worn it, afterwards for a day or so, and then when she had visited with Jaydena, who had worked so hard to help her get the thing. Now, preparing to see the Captain General, it seemed appropriate to wear it.


She had no idea what the summons was about. Oh, she had been expecting it certainly. There were things happening around the Ajah, around the White Tower, that seemed to have an air of mystery to them. Aramina suspected if anyone knew of the mysteries, it would be Sirayn Sedai. She took one last look at her quarters and smiled. She had never known such luxury before. It was huge, especially for her by herself. It had been built for a Sister to keep up to 3 Gaidin with her, but Aramina had not found an interest in bonding yet. The place had an air of emptyness that a week of living in had yet to fill. Her latest studies lay on the table, a stack of books and papers, essays. Ink neatly stoppered and sand bottled for drying sat within easy reach for her to make her own notes. She smiled one last time, then set her face to the neutral that she needed to maintain at her meeting.


Aramina arrived on time. She was very aware of how arriving early could upset someone's planning and she had little desire to stir up trouble with Sirayn Sedai. A week in the shawl was not enough time to feel confident enough to consciously try to unsettle the woman. Yet. Perhaps in time she would be ready, but for now, there was so much to learn from Sirayn. As she knocked she heard permission to enter. Moving surely into the room she found Sirayn behind her desk with a mound of paperwork. Curiosity ran rampant in her, but she knew better than to attempt anything.


“Take a seat, sister. You and I have much to discuss.


As she said it, Sirayn began writing again. Aramina took a seat as requested and wondered exactly how long it would be before the woman deigned to pay her attention. She had called the meeting for this time after all, not Aramina. She pushed such thoughts down as soon as Sirayn looked back up at her.


It is a week since your second petition now, is it not? How have you found your first days as a full sister of the Battle Ajah? I trust you are keeping yourself busy.â€


She had no idea how the Captain General would feel about how she had spent her time, but Aramina had tried to take the best of what she could from other Ajahs and she had learned much from the Grey about preparation. Aramina might consider herself more than a beginner in the Great Game, but she would be a fool if she thought she could play it without understanding the rest of the world around her. In truth, Aramina hoped that beyond her studies of politics, she would soon get out of the Tower and visit the places she had only read about. She was young enough that there was no Agelessness about her. She could visit the world at large without anyone knowing she was Aes Sedai, unless reason came to show who she was. Seeing the people, getting a feel for them and their lives, that was what Aramina wanted more than anything at the moment. And she wanted to learn what was happening. Years with no news of the outside, except what Aes Sedai managed to leak in their presence had grated on Aramina. She had a woman from a village just outside Tar Valon that wrote her of anything she heard. It was a small start, but Aramina's other reason for wanting to visit the world was to establish her own network of eyes and ears. Knowledge was power and she refused to stand weak before the world because she had not taken the time to set her boards correctly.


"The week has indeed been full. I have been making attempts at getting to know my Sisters." Aramina said, extending Sirayn a small smile. "And I have been continuing on the studies that I had only begun as an Accepted. The lack of interruption for chores and such has been very welcome. My studies have been going much quicker than I had expected."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Continuing her studies: now there was a catch-all phrase to cover everything, above board or illicit, including those activities a young sister might not wish to bring to her Ajah Head's notice. It interested her greatly to wonder which sisters in particular Aramina had approached, what tentative bridges were being built in these halls, but it would be unseemly not to mention a trifle obvious to inquire along those lines. Besides, sometimes children had to learn on their own ... had to take those first few steps without an elder there to guide them. Nevertheless, she intended to pay very close attention to everything she heard about Aramina sur Dulciena.


"I see you are spending your time in constructive pursuits." Unlike some others also new to the shawl; she permitted herself a brief moment of bitterness and irritation. Already she was getting complaints about the behaviour of a certain compatriot of this child's although, fortunate for everyone, the likelihood of Aramina ever picking up such unbecoming habits was minimal. "Most excellent. I take an interest in your work, as with that of all new sisters ... unfortunately some, naming no names, do not take so swiftly to life as Aes Sedai ... but it is good to have my information confirmed." Not that she had ever had any doubts.


It was difficult to trust anyone these days, particularly cool and scheming Cairhienin, but in so far as she could place her faith in any stranger she placed it in this one. Aramina Sedai certainly had enough wit and skill for ten women and, a point of no little interest to her, kept whatever ambition she possessed sufficiently under wraps not to pose an overt threat ... although truly she ought to be more suspicious of women clever enough to keep quiet about their intentions, but in comparison to, for example, Halvie Sedai and her outright malice and scheming, this one was nothing short of a relief to keep around: somebody smart enough to work for her and discreet enough not to cause any trouble. If, that was, this morning's meeting went well.


"Another question." She kept her approach deliberately oblique, touching only lightly on the edges of the matter that concerned her most of all, and though her countenance remained nothing but composed her grey gaze sought out the smallest hint of a response. "You are not the only sister to be raised of late. In fact, the Green Ajah has been busy with raisings and recruitment. Some would argue that the standard has become, how shall I put this, rather mixed? So I am curious. What measure have you made of your contemporaries? You may, of course, speak freely. This does not go beyond us."

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"I see you are spending your time in constructive pursuits. Most excellent. I take an interest in your work, as with that of all new sisters ... unfortunately some, naming no names, do not take so swiftly to life as Aes Sedai ... but it is good to have my information confirmed."


Aramina wondered briefly what Sirayn was hinting at about other sisters. There would always be people that took to change badly. Certainly the testing that the Green Ajah put it's new recruits to was not an easy thing. The training was hard and the Sisters expected much more from a newly raised Aes Sedai than from any Novice or Accepted. And after years of scrapping and bowing she was sure she had not been the only one to have her freedom thrown away with no warning.


The fact that Sirayn had called her here at all was proof that the other woman was watching her, and from so skilled a player, she would obviously be watching them all. Was she hiding something in that statment? Was she watching Aramina for something specific? Or was she just trying to throw her into confusion by saying it? There were moments when Aramina wished the Game had never been introduced to her. Sitting with Sirayn Sedai however, listening to the words and what was being said around and underneath them, was not one of them though.


"Another question. You are not the only sister to be raised of late. In fact, the Green Ajah has been busy with raisings and recruitment. Some would argue that the standard has become, how shall I put this, rather mixed? So I am curious. What measure have you made of your contemporaries? You may, of course, speak freely. This does not go beyond us."

A raise of her eyebrows was the only show of surprise Aramina allowed herself to show. What did she think of her contemporaries? That was surely a loaded question. It wasn't, however, completely unexpected. Just the openess of it was. Aramina thought for a moment before answering. There was more to this than a simple meeting but she was aware Sirayn wouldn't show her hand before it was time. She felt the edge of anticipation growing and she had to force herself to speak. Something was happening, something was moving and whatever it was, Sirayn Sedai was going to include her.


"My contemporaries?" She asked in a polite voice. "I have not taken the time to get to know my contemporaries too much." She wanted to learn and move through the world and the Tower better so she had made herself known to those older than herself, those with something to teach her. Those that were close to her age... there were stumbling over blocks that she herseflw as reaching to surpass. "Though I find... most have little in the way of subtlety. The Ajah will be stronger for their straight forward ways, I am sure, but it is good that the Ajah has others, strong in the social arts, for the battles that take place far from a battle field."

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  • 3 weeks later...

A fractional lift of a brow acknowledged how rich with meaning the question Sirayn had put to her was. No immediate response, of course; Aramina sur Dulciena was one of those rare folk who considered their answer before speaking and the information thus revealed was all the more calculated for it. Nevertheless, the reply when it came confirmed what she had already suspected … that certain of those contemporaries lacked the skills she was searching for right now; most of them, to be frank; that she needed somebody of a little more cunning, a little more subtlety. Any fool could swing a sword, though it took proper soldiers to serve on the field as she intended, but courts and intrigue provided a different sort of battle: one for which many were wretchedly unprepared.


Briefly it occurred to her what an irony all this was. Once she had been something of a firebrand, always quickest to the insult, ready with fierce word and fiercer weave for every occasion. And back then the field of war had been her home … knowing nothing outside discipline and tactics, wanting nothing else, entirely at home amid the harsh truths of the Borderlands and those other campaigns far from home. Now, of course, the ruins of her old life waited about her. She still kept a knife under her pillow and armour in her closet as though she would ever need it again. Books on culture and court ways had filled up the shelves where volumes on strategy and warfare had once been, but she kept those old military works, put away where nobody could see. And she cursed young sisters for being exactly as she had been.


She needed folk to be less like her and more like those subtle and skilful old legends in whose image she had fashioned herself. Memories were always troublesome. She was beyond that now; no more flaws, no more weakness. “I have need of soldiers, of course. Strong women who can follow orders immediately and without questioning.†Idly she sorted papers, affixed seals to letters aimed like arrows far from here. “It takes discipline and courage to choose that path … the path of the blade, perhaps, but there are more blades than one.†Fixing her companion with a cool grey gaze Sirayn discarded her sideways approach: "It's not often that I commend anyone, Aramina Sedai, but I will be frank with you this morning. You have some rare skills which, to my dismay, I am finding increasingly hard to locate among your peers.


“You are intelligent, you possess a good measure of discretion, you are willing to learn; you do not make a practice of offending people,†not a hint of anything showed in her controlled tones, but a glint in her eyes warned that she had not forgotten a certain incident earlier in this very office, “or at least you never make the same mistake twice. I have need of skills like yours. You work for me anyway, of course, as you will some day work for my successor as Ajah Head, but sometimes Ajah business is … how shall I put this … constrained? By certain limitations. By the meddling, not to put too fine a point on it, of people who think they know better than the Battle Ajah how to defend the Tower. I do not generally tolerate interference, but there are some who do not need to fear my wrath … and, therefore, everything I do as Ajah Head must be very correct and proper and above board. Something of a hindrance.â€


If she put her opinion of a certain governing body any more bluntly and this all went wrong she was going to get dragged before the Hall of the Tower to explain herself. That was as direct as she could be; someone with the wit her companion appeared to possess would fill in the gaps. This was delicate work … skirting the edges of what she truly meant, sketching the outline of her intent, while avoiding anything she could get into trouble over. “In my private affairs I exercise a little more discretion. I would never recommend breaking the law, of course, but sometimes one must choose between priorities … the artificial constraints of legalities concocted by dead folk gone to ashes centuries ago, or the pride and even the survival of the Tower? I choose the Tower; I have always chosen the Tower. One wonders, truly, where people’s loyalties lie if they would rather observe the letter of tradition.


“But enough explanation. I have affairs you have no knowledge of as yet; I am involved in a hundred dealings up and down the land from the Spine of the World to the Aryth Ocean. As a new sister, you will not yet know the half of which I speak, but you may take my word for it when I say that I and others like me defend the Tower in a thousand ways every year … some ways being, shall we say, best kept secret. I have no need of cowards or questioners or anyone who is not entirely committed to the Tower. I require people of enough wit and discretion to work for these causes. I require people who know the meaning of sacrifice, who who will never falter when I have need of them, and who will serve the Tower when everything else is gone.


“It will not be easy work. I bring adventure and excitement; I can teach you new skills and show you foreign countries and scenes you never even dreamed of. I need not point out that as your Ajah Head, I am well placed to reward any service you give me. I also bring hardship and danger, I will not fool you on that score. There are always risks, of course, but until everyone around you has been slaughtered and you have lost everything you ever relied on you do not know the meaning of suffering. I can show you the truth in this world. If you turn over a stone, you will find tiny little things wriggling in the dirt, and it is much the same here … if you know where to look, if you have the skills, you can uncover darkness beyond your imaginings. Doubtless you will wish you had never seen it.


“I cannot offer you glory, nor the cheap acclaim of crowds, but I can promise you that you will be working with the Tower’s finest -- and you and your companions will be the only ones who truly know the way this world is turning. And when the Last Battle comes, as it will in our lifetime, I will have you by my side.†It was not the first time she had made this speech or one along these lines, nor would it be the last … but she got the same strange thrill from it every time. That she the unwanted child, the commoner, who had barely even reached the shawl, should sit as Captain General offering to induct young sisters into her darkest schemes seemed surreal. It remained to be seen whether Aramina Sedai would take her up on her offer … but she rather thought she had the measure of this one from the beginning. “Consider it long and hard, sister. If you decide to join me you can never turn back.â€

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A beautiful speech, Aramina thought as she listened to Sirayn Sedai. A speech meant to entice and embroil. Aramina liked to think that she was above the call of glory, that her instincts had been trained enough to see what was really offered behind the words but her eyes stung in a way they hadn't in years at her mention of sacrafice.


...until everyone around you has been slaughtered and you have lost everything you ever relied on you do not know the meaning of suffering...


Sirayn had no idea of what Aramina had been like before she had chosen the Green Ajah. No one in the tower now remembered her as a novice, clinging to her roommate. No one remembered because the girl was dead and few had known the link they two had held, the bonds of friendship that had claimed them. Once the other had become Aes Sedai, their friendship had been secret so that no one could fault the new Aes Sedai for not leaving her old friendships behind. Outwardly, no one had seen Aramina grieve for her friend and none had put together the death of an Aes Sedai with the slowing progress of one Accepted. No one had remembered the two had once whispered in their beds at night about what it would be like to fight for the White Tower, to stand at the Last Battle and defend mankind. No one understood when Aramina's grieving had taken new form and why her studies, so long postponed and her progress so long stunted had finally given way to speedy progress. No one understood that Aramina had lost everything she had ever held dear in that one girl and that she had vowed to never let anything close enough to suffer for it again. No one understood that Aramina had never stopped grieving, but that she had dedicated her life to making their dreams happen. Sirayn might not reach her with talk of far off lands and hidden intrigue, but she had reached her with talk of sacrafice and the right to stand beside her at the Last Battle.


There was much to consider of course. She did not say that her work would be unlawful, but that was often up to interpretation and some laws were made to be broken. She would be in a position to learn from Sirayn, to work directly with her and understand they way she worked. That intrigued her and as she took a moment to put her thoughts together she knew her mind had been made before she had been called into this room. She had known forces were moving and had suspected Sirayn was a part of it. Now, she was being offered a part of it.


"Your words are good. You speak, I think, as openly as you can and protect yourself in some measure." A thin measure, considering what she had said, but it was great protection from one so skilled in words. "You intrigue me with this. You offer a chance to work with you towards the good of the Tower and through it, all of mankind. Pretty words with little to back them up. You cannot lie, but you make the truth dance on the head of a pin and most miss the fact that you were pulling their strings as well. I would learn this from you." She said with a small smile. "I would learn from you and work with you if you deem me worthy, but I will not be a puppet." It was a matter of pride now. "I would die to protect the Tower and see it whole for the Last Battle. I would die to protect mankind from the Shadow. What you offer seems to support that but I must make this clear. People tend to see my, detachment, as a lack of passion. What they don't understand is that I choose not to show my heart to the world. I have stated it now to you. If you can promise me that we work towards the same goals then I will follow you."

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Ooc: Wow! Nice post.


It had been so long since anyone spoke so honestly to her that it startled her. No, the simple minded and the fools spoke like that all the time; maybe, and her own thoughts betrayed her now, the startling part was that anyone of any intelligence and value had deemed her worthy of their confidence. That thought rose unwelcome from memories she had done her best to forget. Yet no matter how she fooled herself, and she played such hard games these days that she often convinced herself she had accepted the past, part of her had never stopped being that unwanted child. Partly she still had so much to prove and nobody left to prove it to.


Sometimes she let herself forget … had her Ajah Head truly told her she was minded to refuse her second petition? Had she truly been moments from being the first person ever to be refused at her second petition? No, surely her memories had coloured the past harsher than it had ever been. No Tower Guard would ever come after a novice with a knife, not a tiny novice of such feeble strength, she would never have been expected to defend herself. Nor would such a Tower Guard be permitted to stay in the Yards with a mere slap on the wrist. And when she went distraught and looking for comfort, still only fifteen, she would never have been mocked for it … and the night of her raising twenty years on …


Old memories still had so much strength. She had never truly come to terms with everything that had happened. Those strong and brilliant women had departed this earth before they had ever accepted her as she had wanted so desperately. There was just no recovering from some wounds; being an illiterate commoner, being small and stupid and careless; being so feeble with saidar that her class mates had laughed at her powerlessness to perform the most simple weaves; wanting love and warmth where there had never been any for the likes of her. And where she had been hurt the injuries had healed all twisted and there was only scarring now.


Thinking these thoughts so many years later genuinely disturbed her. She had not remembered the past so bluntly in what seemed like forever. Some quality about this relative stranger, about her words, had unnerved her on some fundamental level … and for one dreadful moment, in the silence of her own mind, she nearly called this woman by another name. A secret name: a name both forbidden and marvellous. She nearly said Jehanine. And in that moment she was rendered speechless, silent, caught by the ghosts of the past.


She had been a child; she had been a fool, a nobody, knowing nothing. And Jehanine had been so brilliant … Jehanine, Jehanine, she had seen a wooden coffin lowered into the ground, equally as elegant and flawless as its inhabitant … Jehanine had clutched at her when she died, a single bloody handprint on her wall and she hadn’t remembered that in months, hadn’t wanted to, had never even framed the name in her thoughts. Jehanine. She wanted to put her head in her hands and weep for all the losses she had never known how to mourn. She wanted to trade in all the friends she had never loved half so much: a cold thought, a traitor’s thought, but for a tiny part of her nobody had ever measured up to Jehanine in her darkness and her beauty and her brilliance.


She had counted Jehanine her closest and only friend for some years. They had quarrelled the night she was raised; just one night before Jehanine, twenty-four hours, that was all it took to break a friendship. They had both lived some hundred and fifty years after that and they had never once spoken again as friends. Jehanine had died in her arms.


“Aramina sur Dulciena.†She spoke the name, slowly, and chased away those ghosts. “You have been honest with me and I will be honest with you; I owe you that much. If you can trust me with what’s in your heart, I,†and now this was getting a fraction disjointed, just a touch of reluctance to speak these words heralding what might become serious difficulty; she couldn’t even remember the last time she had spoken freely, “I will do the same for you.†This was going to be all right. If she spoke as smooth and as calculated as she always did, and concentrated hard on feeling nothing, it would not disturb her even an inch; this slight stirring of warning was merely the touch of something else brushing against her. She had decided long ago that she would never let anyone see her falter.


Smooth and easy and holding an iron control. “You are right to question; I am a schemer and a deceiver and a teller of tales. I never speak a word that could be used against me.†It had not always been like this. Nearly two hundred years ago she had been thoughtless, speaking the first thought that came into her mind, and Light how she had had that beaten out of her. “I have sinned as well. I am a friend to nobody and nothing besides the Tower, but … I came to this Tower with nothing. I was nothing. I am nobody today; I would be nothing if I were not Aes Sedai; if I ever betrayed the Tower I might as well be dead.†The words sounded hollow even to her, lacking the vividness she depended on … lacking because she did not dare put enough feeling in to convince anyone.


Blood and ashes! She had promised to be honest. Enough of these half truths. She knew words to light the world on fire, she had tricked and lied and schemed herself crazy, a silver tongue could get her further than she had ever imagined and it was somehow not enough. That small part of her that remained a child feared that by opening this door to the past she had forgotten the present; and she was visited by a sudden, superstitious fear that she would never again sway somebody through the sheer power of words; without that, rank and status meant nothing, she was as good as failed already.


“I have faced horrors beyond imagining. I’ve seen a familiar world corrupted, I watch as everything goes spinning toward the Last Battle. The enemies I’ve faced … I can’t even speak of them because of the secrecy and the danger. Once I thought myself untouchable, as children do, and I never imagined I would lose everything … but I have. I’ve lost everything and everyone I ever cared about. There is nothing left for me but ashes. I don’t care about law or honour or anything else; those are constructs made by people I keep safe, though they will never know it.†Sometimes words seemed so useless. How could anything sum up the whole of what she had lived through, her unwavering, total commitment to the Tower? How she had given up inch by inch her pride and her self respect and everything that made her who she was? How nothing and nobody meant anything besides the Tower?


And still she found herself speaking: confessing truths she had kept secret all these years. She had not talked so freely to anyone in a hundred years. And it hurt like a hand clenched tight on her heart; hurt to think, hurt to speak. The words still so steady, so controlled. “I live for the Tower, I would die for the Tower. If it falls, I fall too. This one cause is all I’ve ever needed. As long as the sun rises in the east, that is how long I will defend the Tower … and even when the long night comes and all falls dark, I will be there on the front lines. And I will still be devoted to the Tower.â€


Finish: all her words run dry. Sirayn had not drunk anything stronger than tea in decades, but in this moment she desperately needed a drink. Look at them both, she thought bitterly, look how they broke. Tai’shar Battle Ajah.

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Truth was only a friend of the innocent, Aramina thought as she listened to Sirayn Sedai. To people like them, the truth was both poison and pestilence, something to slip into people's lives when it would destroy the most and gain them the most. The telling of her truth though seemed freeing with this woman, the letting of blood to remove the taint of her heritage.


“I live for the Tower, I would die for the Tower. If it falls, I fall too. This one cause is all I’ve ever needed. As long as the sun rises in the east, that is how long I will defend the Tower … and even when the long night comes and all falls dark, I will be there on the front lines. And I will still be devoted to the Tower.â€


In her last words, Aramina found what she had been looking for. Aramina smiled then, not the smile that normally graced her converstations, but an honest smile that held warmth and compassion. "Then we are truely Sisters, you and I, and the Tower the only family we know." The only family Aramina had let close. Her mother had trained her to want more from life, to the point that there was no warmth between them, anymore than there had been warmth between her siblings. "I will follow you Sister. I will follow you until the Tower is safe and the Last Battle has taken the last breath from our bodies."

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  • 1 month later...

A smile so bright it was blinding reminded her, briefly and intensely, of something she could not quite identify; something lost and passed from this world many years ago. Aramina sur Dulciena had unsettled her in some obscure way. Her whole life was based on certain fundamental beliefs and to have to describe the most central one, her dedication to the Tower, in plain words for the benefit of another listener was a bizarre and strangely intimate experience … as though she had discarded, just for a moment, one of the layers of secrecy that kept her safe from all comers and let somebody glimpse what lay inside. It was a gamble and perhaps a dangerous one, she knew so little of the other woman, the Light only knew that a maliciously intentioned person might do with such information.


Usually words were her favoured tools. She had learnt to employ them with such fluency that it daunted people, served to create further distance between herself and others, fashioned images that she could use in turn to bend people to her will. Yet such skill had its drawbacks; speaking was an act of war in itself, the equivalent of a swordsman’s first cut, and words the steel with which she fought these days; so guarded her manner was that it was near impossible to articulate anything of significance to her. She had never even attempted to explain how much certain people, certain concepts, meant to her. So many reasons why: she was no good at feeling, it was too close to her heart, it gave her opponents another opening: but as well as that she simply could not find the words. Having got past this stage without making a fool of herself, the words that came so easily to her had all run out. She needed to put that armour back together. Needed to make more distance. Needed security.


Difficult though when somebody seemed so determined, either by accident or design, to touch on everything that meant a lot to her. Truly sisters: the words twisted at her a bit, a disconcerting echo of memory, she could not remember the last time somebody had said that to her. It would be easy to spend hours analysing the smallest intonation there, as if somehow to decipher the other woman’s intention but that was pointless. She was never going to know for certain. This composed mask covered a wealth of confusion, remembrance and sentiment she had thought long consigned to history, and she could not afford to show the slightest glimpse of weakness to anyone … truly sisters or no. She needed to stop being feeble, stop being the child who never found a family, and remember that the Order of the Rose waited.


If anyone came to hear this story, though the Light send that it remain secret, it would seem so very different to the truth. Looking at them now, two proud sisters together, one an Ajah Head and the other a bright star about to pledge herself, one might take this for another great act in the Battle Ajah’s history … and nobody but her knew anything of the truth. Nobody knew that she feared, that she had been a coward, that she had never deserved to be Aes Sedai. Only a handful remembered anything. It was a brief and dizzying thought: that for all intents and purposes, if she let it be, the past might be entirely divorced from the present: that she might not have to carry this guilt any longer, this shame and loneliness … Too far a step for one morning. But something to consider.


“Sisters then.†Another woman had knelt before her to seal their bargain, even touched her hand, in a gesture so symbolic she had yet to properly comprehend what it meant. She deemed that possibly a step too far for this stage. “If you will follow me, then swear. Swear that from this day onward, you put no other’s business above my own; that you obey my orders and defend my interests where you can; that you will never speak so much as a word of my business to anyone.†This was always the most dangerous part of her business, where she had disclosed her entire and spectacularly illegal intent, and the other not yet completely bound to obey her; but she had great and possibly unfounded faith in her companion … This speech gave her power in a strange way, armoured her against the dark. And she finished with the final words, the last step of the ritual: “Swear to me that I can trust you.â€


Sirayn Damodred

Head of the Green Ajah

Order of the Rose

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The words that followed nearly took Aramina's breath away.


“Sisters then. If you will follow me, then swear. Swear that from this day onward, you put no other’s business above my own; that you obey my orders and defend my interests where you can; that you will never speak so much as a word of my business to anyone. Swear to me that I can trust you.â€


A newly raised sister, sitting with her Ajah Head, and yet if another sister had walked in and witnessed these words they would both be in trouble greater than Aramina would like to think about. There was nothing hidden in these words. If she swore this oath to Sirayn there was no going back. Having heard what she already had, was there any going back anyway? Was Sirayn the type that would send her off to find a knife in her back or an arrow through the heart is she walked away completely? Did Aramina dare to say no? She took a deep breath, thinking about the implications of this, of these words.


Did she dare say no? The thought ran around her head like a tornado blowing old memories around like dust to be cleared. Memories of Natalie, of her mother's teachings and her disassociation with her siblings, of her own inability to make any connections with the Accepted she took lessons with and who she used to help where she needed it, offering only vague smiles and vaguer words. When was the last time she had truely smiled, as she had for Sirayn moments ago?


Sirayn brought something out of Aramina, something a little more daring and a little more dangerous than she had ever been before. Something that made Aramina feel more alive than she had in years. Did she dare say no? No. She believed in what Sirayn said. She believed the Tower must come before all, including the often narrow minded people that worked in it and for it. She believed that this Sister truely worked for those goals and would allow Aramina to do the same. And, above all else, she believe in Sirayn in a way she hadn't believed in anyone else before, and wanted to understand and learn from her. No, it wasn't a question of if she dared say no. Did she dare say yes?


Analysing was something Aramina was good at. Words and situations, she saw connections where others didn't, put together rumors that others didn't hear. Today, her analysis was leaving her bling and groping. It was her heart that she had to trust today, a cold thought as it had left her empty and alone for all but a brief time in her life, but it was her only sight today. And before she could stop herself and try to see any clearer than she already had, she said the words that would damn her.


"I swear from this day forward to put no other business before yours; to obey your orders and defend your interests where I can; that I will speak no word of your business, to anyone. Put your trust in me, for I swear that I will be trustworthy."


Her heart beat so fast she could hear the blood rushing through her ears, her hands trembled with the magnitude of what she had just done. She was bound now, bound by more than oaths and words. Bound by love of the Tower and a passion that no other living person had ever witnessed from her. To Sirayn Sedai, she was bound.



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