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Nenen's Arches: Steel, Will and Strength

Arani Lepenque Aes Sedai

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Nenen was looking out of the window in her room when it happened.


The door slammed open with a rsounding crack, and Nenen jumped, as the Mistress of Novices, clad in a formal red gown, with a red shawl, stood framed in the doorway, her hair flying in the wind that was howling down the corridors of the White Tower, her dress stirring and flapping, giving her the form of some emphermal queen in her room.  Nenen curtisied as Larindha spoke.


"Nenen Kailadel Aravell ti Shiwar, you are summoned to take your test for Acceptance.  You must follow me with haste, and speak to no one in passing."


Nenen's heart stopped right there and then, for a second, then Larindha was down the ocrridor, sweeping down past the stunned Novices, who stared at Nenen with envy.  Nenen followed, her face pale and frightened, despite her bravery.  Wilemi smiled through tears.  She had been like that ever since her first rejection of the Test for Acceptance.  Nenen gave her a wan smile in response as she nearly ran down the corridor to catch up with the Mistress of Novices, causing a Servant to trip and fall in the process.


They made steady progress down all the way to the very deepest basement of the White Tower.  Nenen shivered.  The atmosphere here was chilled and cold, having never been graced with the touch of sunlight for years uncounted.  A chill breeze sweeped down the corridor, rattling doors, and Nenen followed Larindha Sedai into a room.


What immediately caught Nenen's attention was the Ter'Angreal right in the middle of the room.  Three perfect arches, each exactly the same as the other, shining a bright white.


Larindhra Sedai stepped in front of Nenen, blocking her view of the Ter'Angreal and spoke,  “Two things shall I tell you now that no woman hears until she enters this room. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on and, no matter your potential, 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.”


A pause in which Nenen nodded her understanding of the rules and the Mistress of Novices continued.


“This is your last chance, child. You may turn back now, and you will have only one mark against you. Twice more will you be allowed to come here, and only at the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. It is no shame to refuse. Many cannot do it their first time here. Now you may speak.”


Nenen took one last deep breath and answered in a clear voice, “I am ready, Aes Sedai.”


Larindhra nodded and turned towards the Ter’Angreal which indicated the start of the canon as was done for each of these ceremonies.


A green sister immediately started to speak.  “Whom do you bring with you, Sister?”  Her voice was challenging, questioning.


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


“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.”


Larindha Sedai turned up to Nenen, sympathy written all over her usually calm and stoic face, as Nenen went, bare to the skin, her hair seeming to fly as she walked slowly but steadly towards the Ter'Angreal, which hummed expectantly.


“The first time is for what was.  The way back will come but once.  Be steadfast.  Come back to us.”

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Nenen jumped as realized that she was walking suddenly right into the middle of the road.  Looking around, Nenen realized that if she didn't move, she would be run down right there and then by an approaching wagon.  The driver was screaming curses at her while gesturing frantically and trying to move his horse at the same time.  Nenen ran one way, but unfortunately the horse swerved into the same time.  Nenen then rushed the other way, but the horse swerved there as well, it was almost on her.  With only a second or so to spare, Nenen dived forward, just as the horse trampled on the spot where she had been a second before.


The wagon driver rolled past, shouting and yelling curses and threats at her.  Whilst Nenen at first felt apologetic, the driver's yells and shouts angered her, until she was matching him shout for yell, curse for insult, until both of them walked away, feeling somewhat satisfied with themselves, having shouted themselves until they were hoarse.  This was the life she knew and liked.  She didn't want anything else.  She felt at home in the streets, with the cursing and the swearing, with the hustle and bustle and what not.


"Nenen!  Nenen!" a voice called.  Nenen turned.  Wilemi stood there, hands on hips, her eyebrows raised.  Nenen blushed sheepishly, but all Wilemi said was, "Estean wants you in the house now, supper's ready!"


Wilemi then turned and walked back towards the direction of their house.  Nenen started to run.  It would never do to be late for supper.  Turning a corner, she just turned around in time to see in horror, a galloping horse that had gotten free of its holder run straight into her and knock her, stepping on her.  Wilemi screamed in anguish and pain.  Nenen ran forward, cradling Wilemi in her arms.  Wilemi was holding her side, and when Nenen touched it, Wilemi cried out in pain.


Immediately, despite Wilemi's groans of agony, Nenen immediately did the only thing she could think of.  She gathered Wilemi up in her arms, and ran towards the mansion, with Wilemi in her arms.  She had just ran past the gate and was nearly at the door, when Nenen heard the voice in her head.


The way will come back but once, be steadfast.


Nenen turned, Wilemi still in her arms.  A glittering arch formed, right where the gate had been previously.




But she had no choice.  Looking at Wilemi, she put her down at the doorstep, and kicked open the door before she ran over towards the arch.




That sigh of pain and anguish tore at Nenen's heart as she ran into the arch with a sob, and the light from it swallowed her up and her sob with it.

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The light swallowed her sob that turned into a scream.  The light burned into her very soul as Nenen screamed on and on and on.


She was still screaming as she ran out of the arch.


A sudden splash of cold water shocked her to her senses.  “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.”


Nenen wiped the water from her face, glad it concealed her tears.  Larindhra stood next to her and helped her onto unsteady feet.  "Did I really just ... Was that ..."


"Was it real?  Almost every girl who comes out of that arch asks the same thing.  But we do not know.  It may be.  It may only be a reflection of what could have been.  It is impossible to say.  But it can be endured.  It must be endured."


Nenen blinked more tears from her eyes and looked back at the ter'angreal.  "I left her alone, to die.  She ..."


"It will pass in time child.  Are you ready to go on."  Nenen nodded numbly.  "The second time is for what is.  The way will come but once.  Be steadfast.”


Nenen stepped forward and let the light burn her to ash.

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Nenen was practicing swordplay with her uncle, Abello, and beside her, Wilemi her small stomach full and contentedly reading one of the books she had taken out of Estean's library in the house.  The metallic rings of the swords however, were as distant as that of the everyday noises issuing from out of the window.  They were Wilders, having manefested the spark not too long ago, and was being trained by Estean in secret, guided till today, where they now could channel.


Suddenly, the main door burst open, and her grandfather stood in the doorway, looking half-mad as his eyes spun round the room, and settled on Estean, who met his gaze with cool defiance.  Nenen looked from between her grandfather, to Estean, who sat, arms folded, looking at him with an expression of deepest contempt.  "So, the moment has finally come, Namell.  What are you going to do now?  Are you going to kill me?  Darkfriend."  She said that last with a sneer.


Nenen's eyes widened, and everybody else stared at Namell.  He snarled in anger and fustration, and his hand shot out as Estean embraced the source.  With surprising agility, Estean dived away as the chair spun and hit the wall, its legs broken off.


As Abello charged Namell, the door was torn off its hinges and flew towards him and Nenen.  Immediately, Wilemi channelled, her book falling from her lap, and the door crashed against the shield she wove around Abello with a force so great the chimes reverberated around the whole house.  Namell howled again in anger and locked eyes with Estean, who channeled at him, and lashed back, as she cut at something, and he jerked.


But it became all too apparent that he was too powerful.  As Nenen watched, her eyes wide with terror, Even the combined forces of Wilemi and Estean could not combat the power of Namell.  He picked off everybody one by one, with great explosions and fireballs.  Seyneru was a charred heap of the floor, and Nesyer was draped over him like a limp cushion, her eyes blank and unseeing.  Abello was pinned to the wall by his own sword in his stomach, his eyes already glazing over.


Everywhere was a scene of chaos and explosions and screams.  Nenen had to do something.  She could channel, she had to help.  She was the fighter of the family.  She had to do something


But even as she embraced the source and started to weave, a voice chimed in her head.


The way will come back but once.  Be steadfast.


Nenen looked at Wilemi and Estean, who gazed at her, their eyes desperate.  She had to do something.  She had to


With a scream of loss, and despair at her betrayal, she hurled herself into the arch.  Her scream was swallowed up in the whiteness, and went on, and on, and on

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When Nenen came hurling out of the arch, she tumbled over a sister who was sitting on the floor.  Nenen squeaked and fell on the floor, body hitting the bare cold floor with a loud thump.  Footsteps came close, and water drenched her hair and wet the floor as the Green Sister spoke in musical chimes.  "You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul."


"I left her again.  Why.  Why?"


Shrugging her shoulders up, she straightened them, and looking at the third arch again, ran forward and threw herself into the arch.  Behind her, she heard Larindha's voice fading into the distance.  “The third time is for what will be. Be steadfast for the way back will come but once.  Come back to us.”

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Nenen stumbled and stopped, almost crashing into a thick tree trunk.  The she shook herself and started to run again, through bushes and leaping over hidden tree roots.  There was a buzzing sound, and a stick, sharpened until it resembled a lance, came whistling out of nowhere.  Nenen ducked in time, and embracing Saidar, threw a shield of Air that was not very strong over herself.  She and Wilemi had been in the region when the White Tower had sent a message by pigeon, that there was a renegrade Wilder nearby who was using the Power to terrorize a nearby village, who could channel conciously, without a block.  She had been an Accepted who had been put out of the Tower quite a whilst back.


Thus Nenen and Wilemi were tasked to capture this renegrade Wilder.  They had split up in a pincer movement, and would corner the Wilder.  However, they had underestimated the guile of the Wilder.  She had sensed them and had long sinced prepared for such a happening.  The Wilder was also aurprisingly clever.  She had learned the weave of throwing lightning by herself.  Nenen had nearly been killed, and would have been had it not been for Wilemi sensing the weave and throwing up a far stronger shield than the Wilder could not penetrate.


And so, the Wilder was now on the run, and without any Aes Sedai nearby, they were on their own.


They was another whirring, and a thump as several odd spears clattered against her invisible barrier.  Nenen spun around, seeing a skirt disappear around the corner.  Running towards the spot, Nenen heard a scream, and emerged back onto the main square of the village.  Wilemi was lying, hair all over her face, her skin a pasty white.  The Wilder was standing over her, a triumphant smile on her twisted face.  She turned to Nenen.  Gesturing, she wove Air, bringing the anvil from a nearby forge.  She had Wilemi shielded and bound on the centre of the square.


The Wilder stood on one end of the square, and Nenen on the other side.  On Nenen's side, the villagers gathered, eyes wide with horror.  The Wilder had beaten the Aes Sedai.  She had captured one and was holding her hostage.


"Give it up Aes Sedai, or she dies where she stands."


Nenen looked at Wilemi, who shook her head.  "Don't give in Nenen, take her.  Do it."


"Are you willing to sacrifice your sister, in rank and blood?"


"No.  Nenen!  Don't"


Nenen gathered herself, and embraced the Power and immediately channeled a complicated weave of Spirit, Earth and Fire.  Unconciously, she was a bit surprised, because she had actually never seen this weave before.  But then, she suddenly saw the anvil move back, and something stirred in her memory.  Earth for metal, Fire for energy, Spirit for usage of personal strength of mind, body and pure will.  Then Nenen focused her concentration and channeled the Power she wielded into the weave, and the anvil moved back towards the Wilder, with a whir in the air.


The Wilder raised her arms, and her weave glowed stronger.  The anvil moved back as Nenen realized that the anvil was stopping, now moving back.  Drawing on all the power she could muster, Nenen poured it all into her weave.  The anvil hovered in the air halfway between Wilemi and started to look crushed, between two powerful forces that it could not stand holding out against.  Years of more experience and practice however, allowed Nenen an edge.  She had more stamina, and Nenen slowly wore her down.


Suddenly, the shield around Wilemi dissolved as Wilemi broke through the shield that the Wilder could no longer hold.  Hope stirred in Nenen's breast as they face the Wilder.  The Wilder's green eyes were pale, and she was sweating furiously.


The way will come back but once.  Be steadfast.


Nenen jumped, and wavered.  The anvil shot back as the weave that she held faltered, and hit Wilemi hard on the chest as the glow around the Wilder simultaneously winked out, her strength gone.  Nenen immediately slammed a shield onto the Wilder and tied it off, as hard as she could, then turned to Wilemi.  She was bleeding from her nostrils, and coughing painfully.


The way will come back but once.  Be steadfast.


A glittering arch appeared, right beside her.  Nenen looked at it, then at Wilemi, who was stirring painfully.  Nenen needed a few seconds to heal her.  She needed...


With a scream of anger and pain, she threw herself through the Arch and into the whiteness.

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Nenen's scream seemed to echo in the whiteness with sorrow, loss and betrayal.


When Nenen came flying out of the arch, her eyes wide and her face contorted.  Her skin was pasty white, and when she collapsed on the floor and her sobs died, The Mistress of Novices, Larindha Sedai, bent down and clasped her on the head, and Nenen felt the chill of being delved, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last.  Nenen lifted her head, her head slightly cleared with the chill on her head.  "I'll ...  I'll be all right."  Grasping the floor, she pushed herself up with her remaining strength, and somehow stood upright.


Looking around, she moved slowly towards the Amrylin Seat, not so much from the pomp needed for ceremony, but more from tiredness then from tiredness.  Seven sisters stood in a row behind her with expressionless faces, measuring, weighing.  The Amrylin Seat took a chalice from behind her, and poured cold water over her head, and dripped from her chin and trickled down her body, onto the floor, mingling with the tears on her face.


“You are washed clean of Nenen Kailadel Aravell ti Shiwar from Caemlyn, Andor. 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 Nenen Kailadel Aravell ti Shiwar, Accepted of the White Tower.”


She paused a moment and smiled the most kindly, benevolent smile that Nenen had ever seen.  That smile was hope.


“You are sealed to us, now.”


“Welcome, Daughter.”


She kissed first one of Nenen's cheeks, then the other.



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