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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

In the Tower Grounds


Myrenna
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The gardens at Tar Valon were lush and green at this time of year. They were orderly and peaceful, a place of respite from the bustle of Tower life -- but not for those initiates set to tend them. This day, Auriane was counted among that unfortunate number, and luckily there was no rain. She was part of a small group of Novices tending some rosebushes in the west of the grounds. Flimsy shears and ineptitude at the task could cause many a minor injury, and some of the group grumbled while they worked, but for the most part there was idle chatter without a stern cook or maid watching over them, aside from the occasional hiss at a thorn’s scratch.

 

Auriane wondered why the Novices were set to these tasks. It was somewhat illogical: the Tower had enough money to hire as many servants as it pleased, and surely there were weaves for this sort of work. The weave the Accepted taught us, Auriane thought to herself, the one for removing water, it proves that they definitely have weaves for mundane tasks. Surely they can cook food and scrub floors and beat rugs with the Power. Surely. Shaking her head, she smiled pleasantly at a blonde-haired girl working next to her who had just muttered something about “filthy mud and inadequate tools.”

 

“Don’t worry,” she said, “It can’t be worse than getting a cloud of dust or soot in your face working indoors, can it? Fresh air’s always good!” The girl rolled her eyes and went back to her muttering.

 

Auriane tore off a small growth of wildflowers at the base of a short wall, and said to the girl: “Weeds, the Aes Sedai’d call them. It’s a bit silly, they’re lovely, really. Just in the wrong place.” The girl nodded sullenly and Auriane hoped that somebody who might be better company would turn up. She didn’t think this girl appreciated wild things as much as Auriane herself did. She pursed her lips, and paused for a moment, before returning to her work, internally chanting a history lesson as she did so.

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Gera was in a foul mood, a rare occurrence for her. Normally, she kept her emotions in check, especially in regard to what the sisters might do to her... but today's "lesson" had simply been too much.

 

The Aes Sedai had been lecturing about "recent history" in Cairhien, a thinly veiled lesson in The Great Game. The problem? It covered a period of time when Gera herself was playing. The situation the sister described had begun as merely a land-grab between houses, but with the proper motivation from Gera and a few others, it turned into a minor feud. By the end of the situation, the two original Houses had both been subsumed into larger Houses, and neither would cause a fuss again. Gera had earned a tidy profit off that situation. The sister, however, claimed that the entire scheme was orchestrated by the Crown. It was her learned opinion that the royal family had reached out to play against these minor Houses because of a pair of offenses offered to one of the Royal cousins.

 

Of course, the sister was wrong. The offenses had both been manufactured. Gera had created the one as a means to tear down her target, while her opposition mimicked her to attack the other minor House. It was only then that the Royals got involved, Gera was sure. She had dug back into her employer's motivations, their contacts, and every other detail about them. If they had any connection to the Royals it was buried more than seven generations back.

 

She didn't mention this to the Aes Sedai though. It was one thing for other Merchants of Information to know her skill and reputation, but to flaunt it to an Aes Sedai in front of a group of her peers would only get Gera in trouble. One day, she might need to use these women... if she revealed her skill at the Game to them now, it would be more difficult to use them later.

 

That didn't mean she liked letting the Crown take credit for her work.

 

Her schedule was open after the lecture, so she wound her way down to the Tower Gardens. They were a peaceful place, full of growing things and young girls tending them. If she were training these girls to be informants, she would test them... see what they observed while working, and how willing they were to share it. Perhaps she should do that anyway.

 

For now, though, she would sit on a bench and watch the girls. Her eyes half lidded, she settled into a meditation exercise where she was a flower floating on a pond. As her mind settled, her ire at the Aes Sedai waned. When the girls were done with the roses, then she would approach them.

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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Leala pushed her hair back for what seemed like the twentieth time since she had set to work weeding the rose garden with a group of other Novices. Finally, she gave up and straightened her back, taking the white cord off the crown of her head. She untied the small knot and wrapped it around the bulk of her soft golden curls. "Better," she said, continuing to to dig in the ground. She listened to the prattle of the other Novices and her ears tuned in to her roommate, Auriane bemoaning the fate of the wild flowers they collected. She slid her white sleeve up a bit to dig deeper for a stubborn root and when she finally derooted the plant, she decided to add her thoughts to situation. “Weeds, the Aes Sedai’d call them. It’s a bit silly, they’re lovely, really. Just in the wrong place,” Auriane had said.

 

"Don't worry, Auriane," she said, giving her a small smile as she tossed the clump of soil and plant to the side. "These flowers can bloom any where. But if we allow them to bloom here, they'll steal the life of the roses," she explained. "It all makes logical sense in a cyclical way. I'm sure the Aes Sedai wouldn't mind if we asked to replant them elsewhere," she added. Looking up, the young noble smiled again to see a soft yellow rose. "This one looks like the rosebuds in my family's seal," the girl said. "I prefer to imagine my rosebuds as red, though," she said, referring to the rosebud exercise that had been taught to them to embrace Saidar. "Red is so full of life. And while yellow roses remind me of home..." her words trailed off as an image of her brother appeared in her mind. "...Some parts of home are best left forgotten."

 

Realizing she had just rambled, she continued in her chore. She was glad that Auriane had moved into her cramped room with herself and Lyra. She found it much easier to open up around the other girl. She found the good in all things, it seemed. Leala looked for how things worked and how they were connected, rather than how they improved the world. She cleared her throat and decided to speak up, back on the original topic. "Perhaps if we suggest a good place to the Aes Sedai, they'll let us go into the city with an Accepted," she suggested with a shrug.

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Riana chuckled at her friend and shook her head. "They'll be growing elsewhere in the city, or they wouldn't have spread into the Tower Grounds. I'd love to go into the city, I need one of those cords you've got for your hair. Perhaps we could ask the Mistress of Novices if we could have a little trip out on our next freeday, but I doubt we'd be allowed.” She looked the rosebushes up and down, and turned to the other girls, saying: “I think we might need to get to work on that wall.” She worried that they’d run out of time and end up not getting lunch.

 

The wall had dull moss growing up its side, and the flowerbeds in front of it were a little overgrown, but it didn’t look too bad, or it would have been tended earlier. This time of year was always difficult in the grounds -- everything had started growing again, and it sometimes got out of order. Auriane hitched her skirts and plonked onto the ground next to the wall, cross-legged. Hacking with her small trowel, she dislodged the first piece of moss, then started peeling the rest off. Her hair would not stay out of her face, so she just wiped her forehead and smiled up at Leala. She was already muddy and there was no point in trying to stay clean, working in the gardens.

 

“Have you memorised the lesson on the War of the Hundred Years, yet? I can’t remember the dates.” Riana hissed through her teeth when a sharp rock scraped at her hand, and she wiped it on grass-stained skirts before returning to her task.

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Gera watched as most of the girls finished their tasks until there were only two left working. Auriane and Leala. Neither had been in any of her classes yet, but they would still obey her because of the bands on her hems.

 

Climbing to her feet, Gera walked over to the girls, and coughed to get their attention. They scrambled to their feet and curtsied appropriately, and Gera smiled to relieve some of their tension.

 

"Girls, if you are done with your gardening, I have a few tasks I would like you to complete for me." Gera knew she was within her rights as an Accepted to assign tasks to the Novices, but she didn't want to come across as overbearing. "I will be teaching a class this afternoon on basic ciphers, and my students will all need long strips of paper, perhaps five hands long, as well as broom handles. Please go collect enough broom handles for a class of Novices and then cut the strips of paper. I will be waiting for you in my classroom. It is the fourth on the right on the fifth floor."

 

With that, Gera nodded to the girls, and turned to leave. She knew that if the girls did her task, they would miss their lunch. The question was, what would the girls do about it? If they were bright and quick, while searching out broom handles, they would each grab an apple or something else portable. If they were less bright, they would grumble and be bitter toward their Accepted... perhaps try to play a prank on her. Gera wondered which path they would choose. Perhaps a third altogether?

 

She knew that the girls would have to clean up their gardening quickly, before they could do her task, so she had a few moments. Moving as quickly as an Accepted should when in public, Gera went to the kitchens and collected a hearty lunch in a basket. A loaf of crusty bread, spreadable cheese, a jug of cider, and some winter stored fruit. Whatever decision the girls made about their attitude, Gera wanted them to see that she would provide if she took away from them. It was always good for your agents to know that you understood their needs before they even knew they had needs.

 

As she walked up the stairs, basket on one arm, Gera thought about what questions to ask the girls when they arrived with her supplies. How to probe them without being too obvious. They were pleasant thoughts, and she wore a serene smile as she climbed the floors to her classroom.

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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“Please go collect enough broom handles for a class of Novices and then cut the strips of paper. I will be waiting for you in my classroom. It is the fourth on the right on the fifth floor.”

 

Riana dropped her trowel, and with an utterly confused look on her face, glanced at Leala. She seemed totally unaffected by it. Light-blasted nobles and their stony faces… She spun around to look at the half-tidied flowerbeds behind her. No way were they done with the gardening! That Accepted clearly knew nothing about plants! She spun back around again to see the woman sauntering off like a tomcat proud of its latest steal. She had seemed irritatingly self-confident and very aware that she ranked well above the girls. She must have been one of those Accepted who were almost spiteful in their supervision of Novices. The kind who usually turned out to be even more harsh as Aes Sedai. Turning to Leala, she exclaimed, “What under the Light was that about?” Her shoulders slumped and she took on a resigned tone. “We’re clearly nowhere near finished, and it’s lunch soon, and we’ll… we’ll have to go hungry, won’t we? We can’t go and do her task when we’re this messy.” She looked the other girl up and down. “When I’m this messy. We’ll end up missing lunch and our next class… Oh, and I'm on kitchen duty after that. The smells will drive me mad! Light, what a situation! Should we just do the tasks we’re already on, since they were set by an Aes Sedai?”

 

Picking up her tools and smoothing her skirts, she frowned at her incomplete work and turned to Leala. She appeared to be contemplating something.

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Leala's attention was diverted to the Accepted who stepped forward and ordered them to find broom handles for one of her classes. She understood the necessity, however, they had already been charged to this chore. And by an Aes Sedai, no less. But, there were still other Novices hard at work at the same chore. She stood up and curtsied before Accepted Gera left. She took the dirtied cloth that she had hung on her belt and wiped her hands as clean as they could be from the mud. When Auriane seemed to think that she was dirtier than Leala, she offered the cloth to her. With the cloth in the other girl's hands, she thought on the dilemma that she had brought up. "You're right, we would be missing lunch," she confirmed. "Perhaps we can stop by the kitchens on the way to ask for something to eat while we work," she suggested. "And if we're still hungry afterwards, we can get something to eat that was leftover." She pulled her sleeves down again and untied her hair and returned the cord to the crown of her head.

 

She turned to the other girls and explained what had just happened. They seemed rather put off that they would have to clean up their mess, but they also seemed to feel more fortunate that they wouldn't have to miss lunch. Meals were one of the few breaks Novices received throughout the day. Turning back to Auriane, she said, "We've worked throughout the day and missed meals before. It's best to take it one day at a time," the young noble said, turning towards the White Tower with her roommate. They had yet another long day ahead of them. At least it would be another day closer to their next free day.

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The cloth that Leala had handed to her was dirty, but it would do. Auriane scrubbed at her face and arms, then placed the girls’ tools into the hamper lent to the Novices by the gardeners. It must have been full of tools which would otherwise have been discarded. Apologising to the other Novices they left behind working, she started towards the Tower with her roommate, stomping sullenly. She was absolutely filthy; it’d be a wonder if they were allowed anywhere near the dining halls.

 

Approaching the kitchens, they passed more than one Aes Sedai who, receiving curtsies, would raise her eyebrow and ask: “Been working in the gardens, have we?” By the time they reached their destination, Riana’s mood was absolutely foul, so she kept out of sight, arms folded and a scowl on her face, as she listened to Leala negotiating graciously with the kitchen staff. Auriane decided that her presence would not help matters -- she knew from experience that kitchen staff did not appreciate grumpy Novices. Leala managed to acquire two slices of crusty bread, leftover from breakfast, which were about to be thrown in the waste buckets.

 

They trudged to a storeroom on the way to Gera’s classroom, filled with implements in need of repair, and lots and lots of broom handles. Thinking back to the encounter earlier, Riana turned to the other Novice and asked, “How many broom handles exactly were we supposed to bring? I can’t remember her telling us how big the class was, just that we were to bring ‘enough.’ Actually, how are we supposed to carry them? The fifth floor, indeed!” She started sifting through them to find some which were still usable, muttering to herself. She really was in a foul mood, now.

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As Leala and Auriane strode down the corridors, she thought of what she might say to the cooks. A simple explanation would do, surely. And poor Riana seemed to want to be done with this day, which meant she would do the talking. It seemed her time in the Court of Caemlyn was very useful here. When the Aes Sedai took pause to assess their circumstances, Leala curtsied to her and answered, "Yes, Aes Sedai. And we have been charged with another task as well." The Sister seemed not to care but gave them a glance that at least acknowledged their good work before continuing on her way. The girls walked the long hallways until they finally found themselves at the Dining Hall. They were careful to stay out of the servants' way as they set the tables for lunch and slipped into the kitchen. The cooks were busy as ever. The meal smelled nearly done. She wished she could have eaten something like it. But life as a Novice was not nearly so lenient. One of the cooks, a plump older woman approached them and demanded to know what they wanted.

 

"Pardon me, Mistress," she said, bobbing another curtsy. "I know that lunch has not yet been served, but we have been charged with a task to last through lunch." The woman nodded, listening. "Is there anything that we can eat as we work to tide us over before Supper?"

 

"Ah. I may have something." The cook walked over to a counter and scooped up two stale rolls that thad been waiting to be tossed out. She handed one roll each to Leala and Auriane.

 

"Thank you so much, Mistress. May the Light shine on your soul." She gave the cook a polite, political smile, but it was still grateful.

 

The cook nodded, seeming to be in a slightly lighter mood than before and ordered them out.

 

While it was terribly impolite, Leala ate her roll along with Riana as they walked to the supply closet. She looked down at the broom handles and listened to her roommate. "Hm...the average Novice class is perhaps twenty students strong. But a little extra would prove useful, I'm sure. Let's both take twelve," she concluded as she began to sift through the broken implements. After a few moments of looking, they both had found twelve broom handles. She put a hand on her chest and noticed that she was breathing rather heavily. The dust was affecting her. "One moment, Auriane," she said as she stepped out to catch her breath. Leaning against the wall, she waited for the episode to pass. As she did, a Yellow passed her by, but did not offer a Healing. Turning back into the supply closet, Leala took six handles in each arm, using her sleeves as shields from any splinters, even though she could feel them pinching her arms through the material. "I'm sorry, Riana, but we'll have to take a slow pace to the room," she said, dreading the walk up the stairs to the fifth floor.

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Auriane’s scowl faded as she looked worriedly at her friend. “You poor girl. You can’t have experienced much dust and hard work before coming to the Tower. I can’t imagine adjusting to a life so different!” She took four of Leala’s handles -- it wouldn’t seem fair letting her carry twelve in that state. “We’ll walk slowly and explain to the Accepted what happens. There’s no way we’re getting that paper. I hope she has some in the classroom that we can cut up for her, or we’ll have to make two trips. If you need a rest, just say!”

 

The girls trudged up the stairs, chatting together. “You know, this isn’t so bad,” Riana said, “because maybe this Accepted will appreciate our help and be nicer in the future. I hope so, anyway.” She checked that Leala was okay at regular intervals, the Light forbid something happened to her again. “It’s funny, isn’t it, how much we change when we come to the Tower? You should have heard how I used to speak in my village. It’s so strange what an environment does to you,” she said. She felt a bit guilty -- she was really probing for information Leala had hinted at in the gardens. All Riana really knew of the girl was that she was noble-born, and was tested for channelling ability long before she was brought to Tar Valon, but she did not want to press her. She had sounded sad earlier. Maybe it’d be a good thing for her to vent a bit, the girl seemed to mask all emotion. Perhaps that was a skill that Auriane needed to learn. In fact, it definitely was.

 

As they turned a corner, puffing, Riana flashed a grin at Leala, and said, “Not far to go, my friend! We’ll be there in no time, don’t you worry.”

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Before Leala could object, Auriane took four of the broom handles she had been carrying. She blinked as the other Novice seemed to take over to help her. Her mood seemed to change rapidly as well. She smiled and let her fuss over her, thanking her for her efforts. She followed Riana up the stairs and listened to her try to chat her up. Her attention was called when the girl said, “It’s funny, isn’t it, how much we change when we come to the Tower? You should have heard how I used to speak in my village. It’s so strange what an environment does to you.”

 

The Novice smiled and nodded to her friend's statement. "It is strange, yes. Before I came to the Tower, all my life was about politics and the other nobles," she said before taking in a few breaths before speaking again. "I'm the second born, but my elder brother isn't very good at Daes Dae'mar." Again, she paused to gulp in a few lungfuls of air. "When I first came tot he tower, I had never had a friend before. I'm glad I met you and Lyra as my roommates," she said, meaning every word." Finally, the two Novices reached the fifth floor. Leala stared down the hall for a moment, recalling what the Accepted had said. "The fourth on the right," she repeated before moving forward again. When she reached the room, the door was already open and she walked in with Riana. "I apologize for the wait, Accepted," she said, bending her knee and moving her right foot behind the left foot in a half curtsy. She couldn't lift her skirts with her arms full, after all. "We thought that we would need a bite to eat since our chore would go on through lunch." Taking another few breaths, she added, "And I ran out of breath sifting through the dust in the supply closet." Moving the eight broom handles to a small stack in both arms, finished by saying, "Do you have the paper we are to cut here?"

 

Leala looked the Accepted in the eyes after explaining and waited for her reaction.

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"I apologize for the wait, Accepted, We thought that we would need a bite to eat since our chore would go on through lunch. And I ran out of breath sifting through the dust in the supply closet. Do you have the paper we are to cut here?" The novice's speech was broken by pauses and heavy breathing, and Gera simply watched her. She let the silence stretch for a moment, then sighed and gestured to a spot near the desk for the girls to set down the broom handles.

 

"Girls, I knew my chore would interrupt your lunch. In fact, I prepared for it." She pulled the lunch basket from behind the desk. She set the crusty bread, the soft cheese, and the jug of cider out, along with a trio of cups. "You should know that not all Accepted or Aes Sedai are careless with Novices."

 

Sitting down behind the desk, Gera gathered a stack of thin paper that would be well suited to the task she gave the girls. "The two of you should sit and eat. I will cut the paper this time. Next time, when you are given a chore you should simply obey the instructions given and trust that you will be taken care of." Then she smiled. "You might not be, but at least you won't insult whoever gave you the chore."

 

She sliced the bread with a thin bread knife she had brought in the basket, then spread some cheese on a slice for herself. Sitting behind the desk, she began to slice the paper. When she looked up, the girls hadn't moved yet, so she gestured to the simple meal. "If you are not hungry, you could slice the paper?"

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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Riana felt her previous irritation rising up within her once more. This Accepted really was out to get them. She stared hungrily at the food, but tried her best to imitate Leala’s cold and calm face. She knew she didn’t do it as well, but hopefully she was taking the correct course of action, rather than giving into her hunger and snatching the food before her. It really did look -- and smell -- delicious. Her hair started falling in her face again, and she violently pulled it away from her eyes.

 

With as steady a voice as she could manage, Auriane spoke to the woman. “With all due respect, Accepted, it’s quite clear you didn’t need us to do this task for you. What was the real reason you brought us here?” She felt quite proud of herself: a few months ago, she never would have spotted that. The White Tower really did change people.

 

She knew immediately that she should not have spoken. Leala could have handled the situation better, and certainly had spotted it. She had let her mood swing get the better of her. At least it hadn't been an Aes Sedai she'd been rude to. However, the Accepted could still have her punished for impertinence, perhaps not as easily as an Aes Sedai could, but she could. However, she had already said what she had said. There was an awkward silence and the Accepted seemed reluctant to answer, but Auriane held the woman’s stare. She refused to be misled. Light, but there was going to be trouble for her later.

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Such impertinence. Gera respected a bit of fire in an individual, but this girl seemed to think everything was a slight to her, meant to tear her down.

 

"Auriane, can you imagine me carrying all of those broomsticks myself?" The stack of twenty four handles piled up was obviously too much for one person to handle on their own. "I had assumed two young girls like yourselves could handle collecting the sticks for me. Yes, I could easily carry them with the Power, but you know that novices are forbidden to use the Power for chores, and Accepted aren't encouraged to do so either."

 

This one, obviously of a noble family, would be poorly suited to being an informant. She seemed to speak before she thought, and when she did think, she didn't follow those thoughts through to their logical conclusion. That could probably be trained out of her. With time, she might grow to a point where she thought before she spoke and knew that while she was important, other things could happen independently of her.

 

"Before I came to the Tower, I developed some skill in Daes Dae'mar. The Tower is making use of that skill in having me teach to novices, like I am in this ciphering class. Perhaps I thought to see if the two of you would enjoy my classes. I am sure you will take similar classes at some point while you study here in the Tower, likely from an Aes Sedai." She looked at the two girls again. "Or, perhaps I just needed help carrying the broom handles and wanted to make sure that the girls who helped me got a good meal in return."

 

The small Cairhienin woman looked at the two girls, calmly waiting to see their reaction. Would the quiet girl speak up, or let the nobly-born girl dig them deeper into trouble?

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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Leala watched the exchange between the two women, waiting to see what the Accepted said in the end. She had not expected her friend to blurt out her suspicions, but then again, she could not hold everyone else to her own standards. Riana had not been trained in Daes Dae'mar as she had been. She was sure that she was right. This woman seemed to have a hidden agenda that she did not include in her explanation. However, she was careful not to let her suspicions show on her face. The White Tower certainly had a better place for her than a political tool for her brother back home. When she spoke up about offering the class to the two Novices as well, Leala decided to answer as she took a piece of cheese from the offered plate. "I appreciate the offer of your class, Accepted, but I've been trained in the ways of Daes Dae'mar since birth. Although, if you'd like, I can stay and help some of the other Novices who may not grasp the situation," she offered.

 

She silently hoped to leave as soon as possible. It seemed like this woman was holding them under some sort of test, as if she was seeing if she could use them later on for her own purposes. She interupted a chore where she was working with a large group of other Novices, then gave them a task that would cut into their free time. Not to mention, she berated them later for not obeying the task word for word after offering them food. While some Aes Sedai and Accepted would certainly take care of them, she made no mention of this, as if she wanted them to divert from the task. However, if Leala had the opportunity to observe the class, she could see her teaching style and decide for herself what her true intentions were.

 

In an action that she was stil not accustomed to, she took a bite of the cheese as she waited again for her reaction.

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After Riana had blurted out her thoughts, the Accepted looked at her with a measuring stare. That was quite worrying. She decided she’d just stay quiet and let Leala do the talking, as she had in the kitchens earlier. It had worked then. Hopefully this Accepted would just forget that she was there. Hopefully. She glanced furtively to Leala and saw her delicately take a piece of cheese from the offered platter. If Leala did it, there was no point in abstaining from eating some lunch. Auriane snatched a piece of bread and cheese from the platter and gnawed at them hungrily as she watched the exchange between Novice and Accepted.

 

She rather hoped an Aes Sedai would pass and stop this… It couldn’t be proper. She was sure that Accepted weren’t allowed to overrule Aes Sedai when it came to Novices. Logically, that would be the case. She could almost feel the strings being tied to her, one by one, and it made her skin crawl. She hoped and wished that this Accepted was not planning to use them as a tool to gain some sort of advantage over her peers, but she knew it must be the case. It was the only logical solution.

 

There was an apple by the basket the Accepted had brought, and Auriane was still hungry. She was still speaking to Leala, almost civilly, so Auriane grabbed the apple and crunched into it. She really did like apples. She glanced at the door once more, wishing an Aes Sedai could pass, if there was any such thing as luck.

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OOC: I should have pointed this out earlier, but Gera did wait until the chore should have been done... scroll back up. :wink: No worries about how we're playing it, but I wanted to erase the confusion. :smile:

 

IC:

 

"Eat, girls, eat." Gera said with another wave. "Please, stop standing on formality. There is no need to treat this like an inquisition. You've finished my task for you, more or less, so eat your meal and then go on to your next class, or do you have chore section after lunch? There is no need to worry about my class either. If you decide to enroll in it, I would be pleased, but if you don't I am sure you will cover the material at a later date."

 

All in all, this meeting was not going the way Gera had planned. The one girl seemed sure that her pride was being assaulted at every chance, while the other seemed to think herself a master of the Game when she was just in novice white. From what Gera had heard from the other Accepted, she was a noble from Caemlyn. Andorans thought they could play the Game, but few ever rose to the skill one found in most Cairhienin Houses. Andorans, by and large, were simply too blunt for the game... too direct. This child, for instance, came out directly with her claim that she had been trained since birth... and obvious exageration. Gera remembered her boy suckling... there was no possible way he had learned Daes Dae'mar that young. A more subtle player would have accepted the offer, and used the class as an opportunity to measure Gera's skill.

 

Thinking of her son brought a pang. He'd been dead for a short while now. It happened soon after she had earned her banded hem. But, that was not her care for the moment. Now, she was assessing these girls. When her boy was killed, Gera's only loyalty became the Tower, and in her mind, the best way to serve the Tower was to train up the girls around her. Teach them the Game and its uses to the best of her ability. Once she was raised to the Shawl, then she could go about in the world, using her skills again... but for now, for now her only real use was helping to prepare those still within the Tower's walls.

 

Perhaps the Aes Sedai wouldn't appreciate her taking on the well being of the Tower as her personal cause... but as long as she didn't make a point of shoving it in their faces, most wouldn't notice that she cared a bit more than normal about teaching the girls. And if one did, she had the perfect reason that she wanted to share the skills she'd earned in her life from before the Tower to atone for her less than model life. It made sense.

 

Setting her thoughts aside, she waited to hear the girls' responses.

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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"Eat, girls, eat," the Accepted said. As if Auriane had needed any encouragement! She was famished. She was about halfway through her apple, and she peered at the hamper hoping there might be more food. "Please, stop standing on formality. There is no need to treat this like an inquisition. You've finished my task for you, more or less, so eat your meal and then go on to your next class, or do you have chore section after lunch? There is no need to worry about my class either. If you decide to enroll in it, I would be pleased, but if you don't I am sure you will cover the material at a later date."

 

She looked up from her food at the woman and mumbled something inaudible. The Accepted seemed confused, so Auriane repeated herself. “I’ll join your class. I think it’d benefit me… But I’m working in the kitchens after lunch is over.” She lowered her eyes again and waited for the response. Hopefully she hadn’t made another terrible mistake, that certainly would not do. Maybe joining the woman’s class would make up for her previous blunder… It’d certainly help her to stop making such blunders! She was always too free with her tongue, except here it could land her in a lot more trouble than it ever could on a farm. After spending too long thinking, Auriane looked at the woman again and asked: “When is the class, exactly?” She had a feeling Leala wouldn’t be signing up for this class, but maybe she wouldn’t embarrass the girl again with her idiocy this way.

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“I’ll join your class. I think it’d benefit me… But I’m working in the kitchens after lunch is over.” The girl said, her eyes lowered... then a heart beat later, “When is the class, exactly?”

 

Gera smiled, doing her best to be reassuring. The girl was obviously a prickly one, but there was potential there. "I'll look for you on my roster. The class should begin next week, and I requested an afternoon schedule. I want my students awake, not mourning a missed breakfast." She paused, deliberately not looking at the other novice. "The Great Game can be applied to just about every situation, so yes, I think my class will benefit you. A wise man taught me years ago to never stop practicing and learning. He always said 'stop learning, start dying.' While I'm not that bleak, I do agree with his sentiment."

 

The memory of her old Master made Gera smile with real affection. The man had taken her in and treated her like a daughter, taught her every skill he knew. That particular phrase, though, had another layer of meaning. He always claimed that he lived as long as he had because he made sure to study any new player in the Game he came across. He said if he ever stopped learning about the Game, he'd start dying... because newer, better players would remove him.

 

No one would be removing these girls though, for not learning a new style. For now, at least. When they become full sisters, a slip in the Game might cost them.

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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Leala began to think that perhaps she should enroll in this class. The Game of Houses was certainly different here. But perhaps she would learn it from an Aes Sedai, someone who had more experience in how Daes Dae'mar was played in the White Tower. She finished the piece of cheese and took an apple from where she sat. She was rather thirsty at that. Her energy had been replenished, now she needed nutrition. She was glad that Auriane wanted to join the class. The young Andoran knew much about the Game, but applying it in a teaching setting was different. She had her own style of playing. And at this moment, she knew that she had failed whatever test had been put on her, but she did not want to play at anything with this Accepted around.

 

The Novice poured herself a drink of the cider. The one bite of apple had only served to remind her of how thirsty she was. Lifted the cup to her mouth, she was careful not to tilt her head back. She set the cup back on the table and took the apple again. She must have put have the cup of cider in her stomach already. First she was working in the sun, in the dirt, and then she was working in a dark and dusty closet, during meal time. She had had worse days before, after staying in the Tower for so long in this position, but her body seemed unusually grateful for this offering. "Thank you for the meal, Accepted," she said, keeping her face straight, but her tone sprinkled with gratitude. She knew that the topic was still on the class, but her mind had moved past that and on to her next duty.

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Gera smiled at the two girls as the chimes sounded, signalling the end of the lunch hour.

 

"Girls, you should leave now, if you wish to be on time."

 

After they left, Gera packed up the remnants of their meal. The one would probably need to learn from another teacher, but the girl who agreed to take her class could have the seeds of a strong player of the Game. Gera had seen more than one blunt, direct person transform into a skilled manipulator.

 

Setting the basket down behind the desk, Gera gathered the broom handles and the strips of paper. As she distributed them around the room, the first of her novices entered the room looking confused at the broomsticks. It would be an interesting lesson. In her limited dealings with Aes Sedai intrigues, she'd noted that sisters relied heavily on weaves to protect their secrets. The simple technique she would teach the girls today relies only on their memory and having a round stick.

 

If she taught the girls to use their minds before they learned to rely on the Power for everything, perhaps they wouldn't forget.

 

Gera Mondwin

~Accepted

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Auriane continued to glance at the door as she polished off the food before her. Surely the lunch hour must end, soon! She could not bear to be around this detestable woman any longer. Other Novices might think her mad for being excited to go and work in the kitchens, but in the kitchens one wasn’t backed into a corner, weighed and measured and made to feel awkward. She really did need those lessons in Daes Dae’mar, but that didn’t mean she looked forward to them. Any time spent with this Accepted would be hellish.

 

A bell sounded somewhere in the Tower to mark the end of the lunch break. Dropping a quick curtsy, Auriane sped out of the room and towards the kitchens, barely hearing “Girls, you should leave now, if you wish to be on time,” from the horrid Accepted behind her. Why couldn’t she just have left us to work in the gardens? Why did she feel the need to involve us in whatever plan she has going? She can pretend to play innocent, but I’ve been here long enough to suspect otherwise!

 

Dodging yelling servants and stern Aes Sedai, to whom she gave the most gracious curtsies she could manage as quickly as she was going, Auriane scuttled through the corridors and down the stairwells towards the kitchens. There would be a lot of cleaning up to do after lunch. Upon reaching the kitchens, she was met by a plump woman who shooed her inside.

 

“You’re early,” she said, “but if you get to work now, I may let you out before the other girls.” Auriane thanked her and set to work, but she really didn’t mind staying until the end. Better that than be confronted by a certain Accepted sending her to the Mistress of Novices!

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