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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

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Quiet amusement on her face, Bennu dipped her pen in her inkwell and jotted down another note on the paper she was reading. I'll have to have a talk with this girl, the Accepted thought, shaking her head at the utterly daft conclusions her student was drawing in her essay on diplomacy. I may not ever totally understand the Great Game myself, but surely --

 

There was a knock on the door. The Tairen blinked, setting her pen on the sponge before she rose to answer the door. “Come, please,” she called, her voice unsure. Who could it be this early in the morning? As an afterthought she channeled a tad more Fire into her light globes, so she could see better, before she opened the door.

 

I can only hope it's my student, so we can get the uncomfortable part of our talk over...oh.

 

 

It was Valeri Sedai, fist raised in mid-knock. Her shawl was spilling over her shoulders, the fringes swaying in the light breeze of the door's opening. For a long moment the two stared at each other before Bennu remembered her manners and curtsied.

 

“I'm sorry, Valeri Sedai,” she said. “It's so very early; how can I -?”

 

“Bennu Abravanel,” The Mistress of Novices said softly, “you are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai. The Light keep you whole and see you safe.”

 

It was amazing how nauseous one small sentence could make a person.

 

-----

 

It's like it was just yesterday, Bennu thought as she trailed behind Valeri into the depths of the Tower once more. The raising to Accepted, that is.

 

Again, like before, she remained silent; it wasn't her place to speak at all until the trial was done. Light, even when she'd asked for a moment to douse her light globes and secure her writing utensils she'd gotten a very sharp glare – as much for daring to hesitate (which she hadn't been!) as well as speaking out of turn.

 

So, she just spent that silent time taking in the path through the Tower. Yet again, it was a section she'd never been to herself; after her time in the Accepted arches, she'd never even considered coming down here to poke around. The route for the most part was familiar from the last time she'd walked here behind the Mistress of Novices...and then it changed. Rather than the left turn at the rather ugly wall sconce she remembered vividly from her previous trip, the older woman now chose the right corridor this time. The path ended in a massive set of double doors.

 

The glow of saidar appeared around Valeri Sedai. She raised a hand as if to push the doors open, but the doors swung inward at her gesture without so much as a squeak.

 

The two stepped forward into a blaze of light and patiently waiting sisters, but Bennu saw nothing but the massive oval ter'angreal sitting in the center of the room. Rather, it floated amidst the ring of Aes Sedai around it, reflecting the lamplight like a large prism.

 

Valeri Sedai raised her head high. “Attend,” she called in a voice as clear as crystal, and as if on strings, a sister from each Ajah walked over to encircle the two. Their faces were all schooled to complete serenity.

 

After a beat, Valeri spoke the words Bennu had been hearing in her sleep for what seemed like years.

 

“You come in ignorance, Bennu Abravanel. How would you depart?”

 

“In knowledge of myself,” Bennu responded, a breath later.

 

“For what reason have you been summoned here?”

 

“To be tried.” Just speaking the words was almost meditative. She could feel her heartbeat slowing from the triphammer it'd been going at earlier. Finally, the day was here.

 

“For what reason should you be tried?”

 

“So that I may learn whether I am worthy.” I am worthy. I know this. I have to be.

 

“For what would you be found worthy?”

 

Bennu's voice brooked no objections. “To wear the shawl.”

 

Nerveless fingers went to the buttons on her dress. Like her Arches so long ago, this trial was done completely Lightclad. Calm. Must keep calm. Serenity is my only defense, here.

 

As she disrobed in complete silence, eyes narrowed in utmost concentration, Valeri Sedai continued.

 

“Therefore I will instruct you. You will see this sign upon the ground.” The Aes Sedai wove, and a six-pointed star flickered into being in front of Bennu's eyes.

 

She sensed another sister embracing saidar, and then felt the weave brushing across the back of her skull. Bennu was startled, but refused to even blink. I wonder what that was? she thought. Did someone weave in error? Clearly, it wasn't part of the ritual, else they would have been taught about that. A quick glance around the room showed that no one was troubled by what had just happened, so clearly it wasn't about to throw a wrench in things. Or if it did, none were speaking up.

 

“Remember what must be remembered,” the sister said, softly.

 

“When you see that sign,” The Mistress of Novices went on, “you will go to it immediately, at a steady pace, neither hurrying nor hanging back, and only then may you embrace the Power. The weaving required must begin immediately, and you may not leave that sign until it is completed.”

 

“Remember what must be remembered,” the sister intoned, again. Unfortunately, Bennu couldn't turn around to see just who that was. That would probably break ritual...

 

“When the weave is complete, “ Valeri Sedai said, “you will see that sign again, marking the way you must go, again at a steady pace, without hesitation.”

 

“Remember what must be remembered.” The sister's voice was like an annoying fly; the Accepted wanted to brush it away. I am trying to remember what Valeri is saying, you don't have to remind me!

 

“One hundred times will you weave, in the order you have been given and in perfect composure.”

 

“Remember what must be remembered.” Little more than a whisper. Bennu felt the weave – whatever it was – settle into her bones. Strange that she couldn't determine what it was, though...

 

The third recital of that phrase, it appeared, was a dismissal; suddenly the circle of sisters broke up , moving in a businesslike way to surround the ter'angreal once more. As if they practiced this drill every day, they knelt as one and embraced saidar.

 

With the Mistress of Novices at her side, Bennu watched in fascination as the group wove one of the most complex weaves she'd ever seen. The weave channeled through the ter'angreal and it reacted, throwing a pattern of color that dazzled the eyes. The Accepted wasn't sure how the sisters sitting so near weren't blinded, as they had to stare directly at the thing to get it done. The complexity ensured that not a head turned in her direction, though.

 

That's actually not a bad thing, she thought as she continued disrobing, dress puddling on the floor as she stepped out of it. Even if we are all women here, the stares during the Arches were rather uncomfortable. The Accepted picked up her dress, folded it neatly, then added her stockings and undergarments to the pile. The very last thing she placed on top was her Serpent ring; she was suddenly very loath to remove that last symbol of who she was. After all, it hadn't left her finger for...Light, how long had it been? Nearly a decade.

 

The room seemed to breathe for a moment; Bennu's attention was drawn back to the ter'angreal once more. The rainbow effect that had filled the oval and spilled into the room suddenly faded, leaving the ring's center completely stark white. And then it started revolving in perfect silence.

 

That's the sign, she thought, remembering the lectures that seemed so long ago. It's time.

 

With a faint nod to Valeri Sedai, she walked to the arch.

 

Either I come back alive, and Aes Sedai – or not at all. Light help me.

Edited by Chikara
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Just keep weaving, Bennu...just keep weaving... she chanted over and over in her mind as she wove the tangled snarl of all five powers. Just a few more strands. She spun in the Spirit and Air, followed by the Earth and Air combo. Now more Air...

 

The largish pool of acid that was currently turning the floor and the legs of the kitchen table she stood on into a foul-smelling mush was a great incentive to weave this insane and utterly useless bit of elemental work faster. The table rocked as one leg dissolved a tad quicker than the others; she backed up just an inch to balance out the table and kept going.

 

The Accepted managed to keep her face iron-calm and refused to look at what it did to the unfortunate housecat that'd wandered in to investigate. The yowls were horrible, though.

 

 

A brass band? Really? Really? she thought, scorn in her mental voice. Her headache grew with each fanfare that roared in her ears as she walked down a cobblestone path in the town, searching for the next star. It was Bel Tine, and the little town had pulled out all the stops, including a marching band that was currently playing an truly awful rendition of “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”.

 

She stepped on the stone carrying the star, and began to make the seventeenth weave. Even then they didn't stop, marching up to surround her on all sides.

 

Just as she began to double the braid of water back on itself and add spirit....That was when she had the unpleasant discovery that their horns were full of angry, hissing centipedes. With wings.

 

 

 

Weave thirty-seven. This star was harder to find in the pleasant garden she was wandering through; Bennu felt like she'd been searching forever until she found it inscribed on a lily pad in the middle of a small pool.

 

She hiked up her skirts and waded into the water, making her way over to the pad and channeling Fire to begin the weave.

 

It was just then that something leaped up and took a bite out of her elbow.

Oh, this is just grand.

 

She'd never studied fish. How was she to know that there was a freshwater version of silverpike?

 

--

 

Weave sixty-two. This one took her through the streets of some village she couldn't recognize. Her ability to channel was known to all and sundry, and the people had taken it upon themselves to cast her out. Rocks, rotten fruit, and some things she couldn't bear to identify were flung at her as she made her way towards the star gleaming softly next to the local well.

 

Perfect composure, Bennu. Perfect composure... the Accepted thought, shutting out the blows and screams. Weave sixty-two.

 

And then she saw the men coming towards her with barbed whips, clearly not happy that the outcast was nearing their only source of water for miles.

 

--

 

Weave eighty-six: what the....?!?!

 

Bennu's blush could have guided Sea Folk rakers into port as she carefully walked across the bordello, the thick air heavily scented with a mix of musk and sandalwood that made her giddier with every breath. All around her on daybeds lounged rather attractive young men; some naked, some so close to unclothed they might as well have been. The scandalously thin fabric of the Domani dress she'd found herself wearing was no defense against their lecherous gazes, and a few made gestures that she would have slapped them for, had she had the time or inclination.

 

This weave was a stretched braid of water, with a twisted skein of air and fire within; performed incorrectly, it would scald your hands.

 

The scalding would have been less red than the flush that flooded Bennu's face anew when one of the men started...dancing, just as she began to weave. If you could call it that. And then more joined in. Oh, Light save me...

Edited by Chikara
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There's just one more to do, Bennu. Just one more.

 

Why that was so important, she didn't know. All she knew was she felt worse than something the cat dragged in. She was really beyond caring that blood was nigh impossible to get out of silk after it set.

 

Tairen court gowns were not proper garb for strolling anywhere; they were stiff, starchy, and the corseting ensured that the woman in it would prefer to stand around and look like a pretty living doll. Moving in the getup only served to aggravate the many injuries she'd received; particularly the deep cut along one hip and the throbbing scratches that went down her back. The high-heeled shoes didn't help matters either. But she'd found nothing else available in the room she'd discovered herself in, and Bennu certainly had no intention of wandering around naked and barefooted, blood streaming from a hundred cuts.

 

All she knew was that she had to weave one more time once she got to the start. Just a handful of useless sparks, and she'd be done. She couldn't remember why, but Bennu knew the star was somewhere this way. And so, she was walking.

 

Despite herself, she remained calm; it was rather important that she stay calm, although she had no idea why. And she must not run. She had to walk at a pace ordered and slow. Which was all one could do, in court garb. She could see the star, which glowed through the dimness high on a wall ahead of her.

 

Bennu's heels clicked against the floor she couldn't see; she had to simply keep moving and trust that the floor would be there on every step. She lifted her skirt slightly as she stepped out - and suddenly the sun burst through the windows high above her head giving her a clear view of the surroundings.

 

It was a Tairen dance floor. She'd been twirled by a lad or two around them once or twice before, although dancing was not one of her favorite pursuits. This one, however, was made of glass, which explained the odd ringing sound she heard as she moved. There was only one or two floors like this back in her homeland; relics of the Age of Legends, she'd read, when there was apparently a dance where the music was all made by the dancers' glass shoes. The end of the Age had warped them, it was said, so the sounds were offkilter, making the floors useless. This one, however, gave off a sweet chime as she made her way across.

 

But there was more to this floor that the burst of sunlight revealed.

 

Now, in her studies, the Accepted had come across quite a few swear words, imprecations, oaths, and maledictions, many long since gone out of use. NONE of those seemed appropriate for what she was seeing before her. What...under the Light....is this? she thought with horror, fighting to keep that serene mask in place. And fighting to keep walking.

 

Although her feet didn't stop, her heart certainly did for a moment. Beneath her feet, imbedded three to four inches under the glass, were the bodies of women. Hundreds of them. Some clothed in finery worthy of queens, others in stout woolens that farmers would nod approvingly at...some naked as the day they were born. Women she recognized. There, gazing endlessly at her bejeweled fan, was her mother. Another....light, was that Elin there? – frozen in the midsts of sleep, brow furrowed as if she was deep in thought. A novice she'd taught, her head thrown back and face stretched in a rictus of pain. Blessedly, her eyes were closed. A few feet ahead, another Accepted, looking as if she was about to run. The scenes continued as far as the eye could see, filling the whole space under the floor.

 

Perfect composure...perfect...composure-- Bennu dragged her gaze away from the scene beneath her and fixed it on the star now shining at the end of the hall. What is weave one hundred? she thought, using it as a distraction, trying to slow her racing heart.

 

Weave one hundred is -

 

There was a sharp crack just behind her, as if a branch had broken...followed by an unwelcome metallic jinglejingle...glass, scattered across the floor. The Accepted kept walking. She couldn't look back.

 

And then the floor erupted in front of her, and a hand rose. The jagged glass edges ripped away chunks of skin and flesh down to the bone along its arm as it reached for Bennu's ankle. The young woman carefully sidestepped it and kept walking, only to have another hand, nails painted pink, lunging for her heel. That one missed as well but sharp nails raked down the back of her thigh, leaving a trail of red. It wasn't a deep scratch, but it burned like fire.

 

More explosions of glass occurred to every side, and much to her horror, it wasn't just hands that were emerging now. Whole bodies were clambering up through the floor on all sides of her, the glass ripping them to shreds as they rose to give chase. Some were cut so badly they could barely crawl, but they made good time trying to catch up to her.

 

Resisting the instinct to sick up, Bennu desperately closed her mind off to what was occurring around her – until her feet touched the spot beneath that star. One hundred.

 

It'd been one of her favorite weaves, but the Tairen had no time for contemplation of it as she swiftly split her weave, cutting away the more determined members of the shambling horde now clutching at her skirts with razors of air and trying to incinerate others with Fire. All the while juggling that necessary weave.

 

Hold the weave, hold it, hold it, hold it....THERE.

 

She slapped the final strand of Spirit in place, a smattering of rainbow sparks erupted from her hands...and blissful silence reigned. Just like that, her assailants were gone, and she was surrounded by shattered glass.

 

A few moments later, she staggered forth, seeing another star painted on the servants' exit from the hall....

 

...and she found herself standing back in the room she'd begun in. In an eyeblink, it all came back. All the scenarios. All the pain.

 

All the blood. She'd never seen herself bleed so much, ever. But she wouldn't faint. No. She would not.

 

Valeri Sedai said firmly, “It is done. Let no one ever speak of what has passed here. It is for us to share in silence with she who experienced it. It is done.” She clapped her hands softly, but to the Accepted's aching head, it felt like harsh peals of thunder. “Bennu Abravanel, you will spend tonight in prayer and contemplation of the burdens you will take up on the morrow, when you don the shawl of an Aes Sedai. It is done.”

 

Bennu saw her hands lift one more time. Oh, Light, a third time? Could you not...

 

Before she could object, Valeri's hands came together, sending waves of pain through the Tairen's skull. For a brief moment, Bennu felt herself toppling over, but thankfully one of the Yellows caught her as she stumbled and gently offered Healing.

 

--

Edited by Chikara
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There was no need to knock at the door to summon Bennu the next morning, as she had remained awake through the night. After she'd eaten the hefty meal that'd been left for her, the remainder had been spent doing her own brand of meditation: cleaning. As she'd swept, dusted, and prepared her room for the next novice to walk its floors, the young woman had thought long and hard about the road ahead of her. She knew what she wanted to do, of course; she'd already been taking steps towards that goal. However, now she'd be able to do it uninterrupted.

 

A lifetime of study and learning about the world was now hers to arrange as she saw fit.

 

When the group arrived, the Amyrlin and Keeper were waiting ready for them. When the Amyrlin spoke the ceremony began and Bennu fell in with the response she knew by heart.

 

"Who comes here?" the Amyrlin asked.

 

“Accepted Bennu Abravanel,” she said, voice low but proud. The last time I give that title, she thought wistfully.

 

The Amyrlin continued. "For what reason do you come?"

 

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

 

"By what right do you claim this burden?"

 

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

 

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

 

Bennu dared, striding into the chamber containing the Amyrlin, who was seated on a dais in the middle of the ter'angreal. Next to her, the Keeper stood bearing a a soft velvet pillow, upon which rested the Oath Rod.

 

As she approached, the Amyrlin took the rod from the pillow and held it out to the Tairen. Bennu took it with hands that trembled only slightly. Not from weakness; from anticipation.

 

Finally, she thought, feeling the delicate fluting of the rod in her grasp. This is the moment. The day I've sweated, cried, and bled for. Now the real work begins.

 

When Bennu had the oath rod in her grasp she took a steadying breath and began to speak the oaths, every word tying her tighter and tighter to the Tower. With every word, she felt the laws sink into her skin, tightening it.

 

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

 

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

 

"Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life, or that of my Warder, or another Sister."

 

The Amyrlin responded, "It is half done, and the White Tower graven on your bones. Rise now, Aes Sedai, and choose your Ajah - and all will be done that may be done under the Light."

 

Bennu bowed in submission to that formidable woman as the Oath Rod was taken from her and replaced on the pillow. She kissed her ring, then turned to face her sisters.

 

There was never any doubt which Ajah Bennu would choose as she rose and turned to face the semicircle of patiently waiting women. It had been her destined place for a lifetime and more.

 

Raising her head, Bennu confidently began her walk toward the sisters of the Brown, her smile growing larger and larger as she stepped across the room. She paid no mind to the representatives of the other Ajahs taking their leave. All she saw were her future sisters, and the shawl they held before them in greeting.

 

No book will ever be closed to me, now, she thought, tears forming as they draped the shawl around her shoulders. Yes. I'm finally home.

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