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In for the Long Haul [attn: Lani & Mistress of Novices]


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The sun had heaved its palely blazing mass into sight, its light flashing filtered through a forest of firs standing dark on the bank, and a sharp breeze swelled sails by the time the ship’s most famous passenger graced them with her presence on deck. Its light fell on her no different to any other, a tiny dark-haired woman in drab skirts, frowning over some papers in her grasp, but all the same a warning flashed between the crew like lightning: a look there, a gesture here, a drawing aside in reverence. In some ways anyone might have overlooked this woman small and plain looking as she was, but in other ways … in the cool grey glance she cut the crew, something old and hard as iron behind the timeless face that marked out her kind … it would take a good deal of ignorance not to recognise this one.


Borderlander courts had always extended the hand of friendship to the likes of her and the missive that occupied Sirayn Damodred at present bore some interesting news indeed. Movement along the border rose and fell in cycles, something that unfortunately people failed to put in proper perspective when they lived less than two hundred years, yet a rise in danger sometimes signified something more important. She had a suitable respect for the other side – as was only to be expected when one had won, and indeed lost, her fair share of battles with them in her time – and a rise in skirmishes along the border did not inspire her with confidence. At least she knew that if the enemy got enough courage to attack the Borderlands again the Green Ajah would be there in defence, as they always had been and always would be until the Last Battle … excepting Malkier, of course, the one story no Aes Sedai ever told.


Malkier. Now there was a topic to set any Aes Sedai to brooding. Moving swiftly to dispel those memories she crumpled the letter into her pocket, discarding as she did so all the great significance that the Borderlands had for people like her. Saldaea was behind her now. She clasped her hands on the rail, sunlight winking off a ring twisted into the likeness of a golden serpent, and distracted herself with the swiftly passing scenery while the ship inched ever onward toward Tar Valon. Most likely she would never go by river again without remembering another journey: suspicion and fear, the tremendous pressure of knowing that the Black Ajah had been one step ahead of them all the way, waiting tensely for the trap to spring: and how it had … but the sun blazed brightly now, not hiding behind clouds in a mirror of the terror they had all felt, and if she couldn’t forget now she never would.


“Aes Sedai? That is Tar Valon coming into sight.â€


Borderlanders did not fear her sort like many did, which had its drawbacks, such as their tendency to assume that they were being courteous rather than pointing out the blindingly obvious. She suppressed the desire to say that she had needed that clarification, there being more than one huge white city next to Dragonmount, and instead turned, dismissing the helpful crew member with a brief nod. Just as she had been warned, the great strength of Dragonmount loomed before them casting its deep shadow across the river, and there beneath the glittering sun lay Tar Valon: the axis round which the world turned. All white and brilliant, the city spoke power and grace in every line. From its midst rose the Tower itself – a citadel so great that it was said that, upon first seeing it, queens had fallen silent in reverence.


Her interest in it was rather more practical at this point. Having been busy out in the world these past few years she had fallen out of touch with her sisters and needed to renew political ties before she continued her work; no sense in letting that solid foundation she had worked so hard to assure fall into disuse. Her name opened some important doors and it was necessary for her future plans that it remain that way. Not to mention that she ought to collect the usual suspects from the Order of the Rose and direct their joint work together … it sometimes she thought that convincing a dozen strong-willed sisters to illegally swear fealty to her had been the easy part, the Order was demanding and required all her attention to repay their loyalty. They had earned such rewards.


Leaving the crew to go about their labour, as the ship swept serenely through bright waters toward the dock, Sirayn went in search of the most valuable prize she had brought back from her journeys in the north. A child scarce out of the cradle, yet possessing that seed inside her that meant she too might one day gain the shawl; it took more than simple channelling to be Aes Sedai, of course, it required a phenomenal level of commitment, sacrifice and an iron will, but she had judged it less than wise to impart any disheartening news at this stage of proceedings. She tracked down her quarry eventually. Something seemed to have been troubling the child during their river trip, but the romantic progress of Borderlander youngsters did not interest her and she had asked no questions. Soon enough Lani Cordragoran would learn to put aside her childhood.


A shudder ran through the broad dec beneath their feet as the ship docked. Crew scattered to yards and sheets. “Once we enter the city you will follow some simple rules,†Sirayn addressed her young charge in crisp tones. “Stay with me and do not speak unless spoken to. That goes double around Aes Sedai.†Perfectly serene she straightened her skirts, the very image of businesslike composure, though inwardly she was preparing herself for the different and far more hostile atmosphere inside the Tower … and finally inquired: “Nervous?â€


Sirayn Damodred

Retro Aes Sedai

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Nervous? Lani repeated Sirayn Sedai’s question to herself. Not really. In truth she was numb. Oh, she felt the chill of the river breeze that whipped tendrils of her hair across her face. She felt the warmth of the early morning sun that didn’t do much to ward off the nip of the breeze. But they were all physical sensations. Inside, deep within her being she felt...almost nothing.


She had been feeling this numbness since the day she left Kayacun behind. Yet her mind was clear. She recalled everything that happened on that last day in the place that had been her home town for the past four years. Remembered Sirayn Sedai testing her for the ability to Channel in the Aes Sedai’s room at the Three Leaves Inn. Remembered the echo of something within her – which Sirayn had later claimed to be saidar – when she had concentrated on the small flame that the Aes Sedai made with the Power. She remembered the elation that she had felt when Sirayn asked her to come to the Tower to train to be Aes Sedai, and the sadness she felt at the thought of leaving her family and Tal. And she clearly remembered the sight of Tal, lying in the hay in his father’s stable with Bendra in his arms, when she had finally tracked him down to tell him her news.


But the picture didn’t bring tears to her eyes or a pang of hurt to her heart anymore. Oh, it had at the beginning. During those first few weeks she had not been able to think back without breaking down and weeping, though she was too proud to let anyone see. Her pillow had been damp every morning at rising. But she had crushed down the hurt little by little, and had slowly begun to build a wall where her love had once thrived before the nettle of betrayal covered it. And behind the safety of that wall she hid away her broken heart, safe from emotions.


All except determination.


The one feeling that remained was her determination to attain the shawl of Aes Sedai one day. It was the only anchor she could find right now, when her life seemed to be cast adrift with no purpose; no bonds. And she grabbed at it and held tight with both hands.


Lani came out of her reverie when the Aes Sedai repeated her question – this time a little sharply. She had found Sirayn Sedai to be kind at times yet firm when needed, like right now, when she ought to have been paying attention. Sirayn didn’t like repeating herself, Lani had noticed.


“No, Sirayn Sedai,†she replied quietly, looking down into the eyes of the tiny woman who commandeered so much respect from everyone despite her petite stature.


Lani had noticed how the big, strong sailors stepped lightly around her. It wasn’t just Sirayn’s ageless face, which proclaimed what she was, that made people defer to her. It was her whole bearing. She was regal and dignified, with an air of utter serenity that had snared Lani’s attention from the beginning. This impressive self control had been gained along Sirayn’s own path to the shawl in the White Tower, Lani had deducted from their past conversations. Yes, this was definitely what she wanted.


Looking beyond Sirayn Sedai, the famous snow-white bridges of Tar Valon caught Lani’s eye. And beyond that, she could see what must surely be the White Tower rising like an inverted bolt of lightening to the sky, dazzling the eyes with its brilliance. At one time she would have stared in awe. Now her only reaction was a quick glance at the Aes Sedai. They were coming to the end of their voyage, but Lani knew that she herself was only just beginning her true journey.


She heard Sirayn Sedai speak to her: “Come, it’s time for us to get off.†Two crewmen were already carrying their packs to the dock. And Sirayn was already walking down the gangway. Lani hurried behind the Aes Sedai, her eyes as much on the gleaming snowy Tower as the way she was treading.


The walk to the Tower was brisk, within a small space that moved with them as the crowd parted when they recognized an Aes Sedai face. Lani had never seen so many people in one place before. Tar Valon seemed so full as to be about to burst at the seams. And she could spot at least one Aes Sedai face wherever she looked. Many of them were accompanied by men wearing color-shifting cloaks. Lani had seen Aes Sedai before Sirayn, and a Warder or two, but she had been too young for them to make much of an impression on her mind then. To her, Tar Valon seemed to be positively teeming with them. Of course, this place was the heart of Aes Sedai power, so it was only natural, she reflected dispassionately.


They were approaching what looked to be the center of the town, and she could see the gleaming white wall surrounding the White Tower now. Here, the crowd was almost non-existent compared to elsewhere in Tar Valon. Up close, the Tower was even more imposing that at a distance. Sirayn Sedai led her through a huge gate which led into the Tower premises, and for the first time the whole structure of the White Tower came into Lani’s sight.


For the first time since leaving home, Lani felt another shred of emotion grip her mind along with the ever present determination – anticipation.


In here, within the hallowed portals of the White Tower, she would begin her quest to find herself, and the purpose of her life.



Lani Cordragoran

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  • 2 weeks later...

Countless times Faerzyne Grigory had glanced at the sun already, and before the day had ended, countless more times would be added to that. She sighed softly, and inclined her head a little, causing the little bells attached to her braids to tingle softly. Yet even the bells sounded a bit weary, as if they too suffered from a lack of sleep. The Mistress of Novices stifled a yawn, and turned her attention on the book of Novices again. Everything was recorded in there, after all. Everything that mattered at least. Last night another Accepted had ventured into the rings, and passed through them free of everything she had been before she became who she was now. In her fine handwriting Faerzyne made a note of the raising in the book of Novices. Today the girl would choose her Ajah, and her fate would become truly entwined with that of the Tower. Her choice was no secret to Faerzyne, the way very little that happened among the novices and accepted of the White Tower was a secret to her.


She closed the big book after she was done. The book looked a little old, but the preservation wards that were set on it worked well. It seemed as though it would never get full. Faerzyne had once paged through it, and found her own name, as well as that of the Mistress of Novices before her. It was interesting to learn how long some of her sisters had been here, and how long they had taken to get themselves raised. Wistfully Faerzyne peered at the sun again, only to find that it hadn’t moved a bit. The day was still young, and she would be tired and aching by the time it was done. Not that the work of the Mistress of Novices ever truly ended. There were wards on the door to the office that told her people were waiting in front of it. The wards would wake her, even if someone tried to sneak in when the night was at it’s darkest.


Just as she thought of the wards, a tingling sensation crept over her skin, telling her that someone was about to knock on her door. Soon enough the sound of knocking followed. The sound of a knock often told her a lot about who wished to enter. This was not the hesitant knock of someome who came to her with a request, but rather a bold, affirmative knock. An Aes Sedai, surely. Faerzyne took a moment to school her expression into something a little less depressing than the look of fatigue she had had. “Enter.†She said, her voice calm and low as usual. The door opened as she channelled a thread of air to it. To whomever entered it might seem as magic. Sirayn Sedai, a Green met her gaze, though she accompanied a young woman Faerzyne had not laid eyes on before. The young woman was dressed in clothing that suggested she was not of the Tower. Yet. Things might change soon.


Waving the pair in, Faerzyne nodded, greeting Sirayn Sedai as appropriate, before turning her hazel gaze on the young woman accompanying the sister. “My name is Faerzyne Sedai. I am the Mistress of Novices at the White Tower. How may I help you?â€


~Faerzyne Grigory

Mistress of Novices


OOC: Many apologies for the late reply!

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The murmured response, the casting down of those blue eyes only served to confirm what Sirayn had already suspected about this child simply from her origins. It was common in northerly regions that they raised their children in a certain style: to hold the common good as their goal, to speak with courtesy to their elders, to do as they were commanded: all qualities which she had a particular liking for. Yes, this was why she came to the Borderlands so often … because they recognised Aes Sedai as worthy of obedience. It had not all been sunshine; she had once bonded a Saldaean, who had turned out to be lacking in certain essential qualities, such as whatever strength of character led people not to burn themselves to death. But on the whole she liked Borderlanders far better than others.


Of course there were certain other traits the north’s people were famous for and she liked those less well. It seemed less than prudent to assign them to the child straight away, since she had not the slightest knowledge of the girl Lani Cordragoran other than what her observations had yielded, and she had not yet been given cause to think that the child was a halfwit with no greater understanding of the Great Game than a block of wood. Unfortunately many people lacked the essential cunning and distrust that marked a good political player and therefore, in these dark times particularly Sirayn kept a wary vigil to seek out the clever and the sly around her; not only as possible threats to her, hurdles to be cleared in her schemes, but for other reasons …


Not that she would mention that secret name as they crossed into the shadow of Tar Valon. The white city was a place of riches and unrivalled splendour, but it also housed some of the sharpest minds in the world, and she had no desire to be caught speaking that name: nor caught having knowledge she had no good explanation for acquiring. People had a deplorable habit of ignoring the most obvious evidence of their own eyes, but even they could scarcely fail to sit up and take notice if she were so indiscreet as to mention that illegal and most secret of organisations … the Order of the Rose. The slightest of chills swept through her at the name: a scatter of images, a memory, fierce triumph: and she smoothed over her composure rather than show any satisfaction.


Steady now the ship lay silent beneath their feet, moving only a little, in the even rise and fall of the river below. The crew were already scattering to bring their belongings; she reminded them sharply to take care with her pack, not that she would mention why, but it contained various items she would not care to see damaged or lost. Half of them she could replace easily enough … but it would scarcely reflect well on her if she was so careless as to consign a finely crafted emerald shawl to the depths of Tar Valon harbour. She descended the gangplank swift as a spider, with a similar lack of care for the precipitous drop to either side, and behind her Lani Cordragoran came equally quiet; the child possessed a surprising amount of composure for one so young. Somebody to keep a close watch on no doubt.


Tar Valon bustled in its usual fashion. The city had lost much of its original novelty for her, but only the stoniest of heart could gaze upon the sweeping and majestic lines crafted by the finest Ogier stoneworkers in times long gone and not feel moved: all bright and sharp Tar Valon looked like the pictorial equivalent of the highest note struck on a harp, something so pure it cut through everything else. For the longest time it had never been home for her, not truly, while she still belonged to the green fields and quiet, shady woods of Andor. Now she had given up all the trappings of that other time, put aside her childhood and this cold stone cage was the only place she kept in her heart.


Dark thoughts for a sunny morning. Drawing rank and dignity about her like a cloak Sirayn headed deeper into the city keeping a guarded part of her attention on the child at her side; it would be also careless of her to lose a future novice in the white city itself. The crowds fell back before her. It was her bearing as much as the ageless cast of her face, the first sign warning of an Aes Sedai in all the books and gleemen’s tales, that gained that immediate reverence from Tar Valon folk. Living so long in the shadow of the White Tower itself taught one never to question women of that much obvious rank. Thus with little trouble they crossed through the broad white streets and into the citadel’s dark shadow, trailed about now by cooler air, where the frenzied shouts of the market fell in muffled silence; and hence by quiet ways to the Mistress of Novices’ Office.


Not being her own Mistress of Novices, Faerzyne Grigory was a woman she had only the barest passing acquaintance with, and all she remembered was that this one was Grey Ajah and hailed from the Borderlands. As was common within these white walls Faerzyne Sedai turned out to be tall, regal and startlingly good-looking; what more did one need to know? Younger than her by a considerable margin though, and at least polite and well-spoken, so unlikely to give her any insolence. Sirayn exchanged a nod with her counterpart, her impassive face showing nothing of her thoughts: “The Light shine upon you, Faerzyne Sedai. I found this child in the Borderlands. Since she tested true I brought her to you.†Briefly she turned a cool glance on her charge: “You may speak as you see fit to the Mistress of Novices.â€


Sirayn Damodred

Retro Aes Sedai

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