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How badly do you want it? (Aureli's Arches)

Leala Sedai

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Aureli found herself following Valeri down the corridors of the White Tower. The Mistress of Novices had caught her right after she had finished her classes, and was now escorting her to the Three Arches. her heart fluttered as she wondered what awaited her in those things. Would she be able to conquer her fears? Would she be able to resist staying in that place? Well, she'd have to if she ever wanted to be Aes Sedai. She tried to make herself stop thinking about it. There was no use worrying over it. But that's what she had told herself over these last few years. Yet, she still worried. She kept her composure as she walked with Valeri Sedai, all except for her darting eyes as she watched the Tower move away from her. They turned suddenly, and then they were walking down a spiraling staircase into the darkness. Valeri lit their way and said nothing.


Finally, they reached the room where she would take her test. There were the Three Arches waiting for her on a ring. An Aes Sedai sat where each Arch met the ring and concentrated on the ter'angreal. Another Aes Sedai waited next to a table with three chalices.


Valeri's sudden words made her heart skip a beat. "Two things 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 kindly put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you for 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 failure."


As the Mistress of Novices spoke, Aureli felt more and more resolved to see this to the end. She would wear that banded dress and that ring with pride. And she would not fail this test. She could not.


"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."


"I will take the test. I am ready."


The sister beside the table spoke first. "Whom do you bring with you, sister?


Valeri answered, "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 her fears."


Valeri asked Aureli to undress. Aureli reached behind with her left hand and started undoing her buttons. She had to go through the whole process step by step, and now with people watching. It took a while, but when she finished, Valeri took her to the First Arch. "The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast." Aureli breathed in as she stepped through the soft white glow of the First Arch.

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Aureli placed the tray she was carrying on the table tot he side of the room. "Here is your order, Mistress," she said to the mysterious woman. She knew that Eiselle was an Aes Sedai, of course. And the name sitting across from her was her Warder. "I'll have yours out in a bit, sir," she said to the Warder. He kept his head down and sipped his ale. Aureli gave them both a smile and headed toward the door again.




Aureli turned back around to talk to Eiselle. There must have been something wrong with the order. The Aes Sedai looked at her with a grave face, though. "Since I tested you, have you been channeling?" Eiselle tested her when she was thirteen, but she was still too young to go to the Tower quite yet. But...


"I...yes," she said, wriggling under the guilt. "It just comes naturally to me, Eiselle. Sometimes, I don't even know when I'm doing it. I do know it's illegal to channel here, but it's like I can't stop myself."


Eiselle nodded. "I could tell that you had grown a bit in strength. I'm afraid we must flee, now."


"But...my family...I haven't told them about the test yet."


"Child, there are Whitecloaks in the city. If you 'accidentally' channel again, we may well lose our lives."


She agreed that they must go. So, after she served Eiselle's Warder his food, she went to tell her father. He'd been rather distant since her mother died. When she came to see him in the kitchen, he jumped. There were deep bags under his eyes, and he looked so gaunt. "Father, I have to tell you something." He nodded, taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself. "Eiselle Sedai..." She noticed a gleam in his eye when she said the Aes Sedai's name. "She found that I can channel, and..."


Aureli stopped when she saw her father's look of pure hatred. "You know your mother died because of trash like them!" he spat. "If it wasn't for her involvement, she'd still be alive!" Aureli tried to quiet him down. He wasn't using the proper codes, and there was a packed house tonight. "And you're telling me you want to be one of them?!" he yelled.


"Father, please. I have little choice. If I don't go, I could be killed." Before she could say anything, her father flew towards her with a knife in one hand. Behind him was a silver arch. How had that gotten there? A voice filled her head, The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. All this happened in an instant, and she regained her clarity. She wasn't receiving a message. She was remembering advice from Valeri Sedai. And now she had to ward off her father.


She dodged, and her turned on her, pausing to refocus. She was closer to the archway now. He lunged for her, but this time, she splashed some goat's milk in his eyes and dashed for the archway. She heard him curse her with some words she didn't even recognize, and she made it through.


Aureli was very shaky when she re-entered the testing chamber. Her throat was tight as if she would cry. She started to tremble when a chalice of clear water was doused over her head. "You are washed clean of what sin you may have done and of those done against you," said the Red who had been standing by the table. "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."


Valeri was next to her, trying to comfort her. "Is..." Valeri didn't seem to mind that she spoke. "Is that what could have been...if things had been different? Did my father really..."


"No one can say for sure, child," the Mistress of Novices said. "And it is customary not to speak of what happened in the Arches. What I do know, however, is that you came back to us safe from the First Arch. And there are two left."


Aureli nodded. "Yes..." She followed the Mistress of Novices back to the Arches. This time, they stood in front of the Second.


"The second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast." For the second time, Aureli stepped into the soft white light of the ter'angreal.

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Aureli was so tired. She had just finished an entire day's worth of chores. No studying, no classes, no talking with friends...just chores. She collapsed on to her bed and rested there for a while. She knew she'd have to change into a fresh shift for the night, but she was too tired to do even that. Everyone was having dinner now, but she didn't really much care. She just wanted sleep, desperately needed it. She closed her eyes and tried to convince herself to get up and move. It didn't help.


She dozed off and jolted awake when she heard her door open. "Duriya is that you?" she asked. "What was for dinner?"


There was no answer, but there was definitely someone else in the room with her, because the door slowly shut again. Adrenaline pumped through her like blood, and she sat up. She had to see her attacker. They knew where she was, but they hadn't been kind enough to answer her calls. Quickly, she channeled a ball of light. The world seemed to wobble, as if something wasn't right, but she had to know what this person was doing in her room! She saw a man standing over her bed, an axe in his hands, pulled back, ready to strike. He looked suprised that she had channeled the light into being, but he only hesitated for a second. Aureli let out a small yell and dove off her bed. The axe swung and hit the straw mattress. He cursed as he tried to get the weapon free, but it gave her enough time to stand up and run.


She called for help when she got into the hall. She knew that there were no novices and Accepted here. They were all at dinner. Light, how long had this man been following her? She heard his heavy footsteps stomp after her. She tried to run, but it was hard to keep balance with only one arm. he eventually caught up to her and stomped a big boot onto the bottom of her dress. She yelled again and fell to the ground. When she looked up, there was a silver archway right in front of her. "Why are you doing this?" she asked, pulling herself up with her shaking arm.


"You and your mother knew a little too much."


Aureli's eyes widened as far as they could go. "You killed Mother!" Rage and anguish filled her as she reached for Saidar again. As she did, she heard a voice in her head. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. Light, this wasn't where she was! She was taking her test to become Accepted. Yet here she was, trapped by a man who underestimated her. The man that had killed her mother. She could get revenge right now and be done with it. But no. She had to finish this test. That archway wouldn't be there forever. As he swung the axe again, Aureli doubled in on herself and used her teeth and her one hand to rip her skirt out from under the man's boot. Again as the man struggled to pull the axe out, she turned and dove through the archway.


She tumbled onto the stone floor, but picked herself up. It'd be nice to have a Healing before she went back to her quarters. The second chalice of water was poured over her head again as she stood gasping. Another time where she had been attacked. Light, how she still wanted to kill that man! "You are washed clean of false pride," the sister said. "You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul."


Aureli had no questions this time. She understood her anger, although it was ebbing away now. Valeri led her to the last Arch. "The third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast." Aureli nodded and walked into the soft glow of the archway, more sure of herself than she had ever felt.

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"Aureli, could you come here, please?" Aureli answered to her mother's voice and walked into the sitting room. Her two small children were snuggled up to their grandmother, fast asleep. Her mother smiled up at her. "Dear, I have to clean the inn up for tomorrow. Would you take these two to bed?" She smiled and picked up Danna, her three year-old daughter, and her mother took Idain, her four year-old son. Their father had left the small family shortly after Danna was born. But he had died while serving his country as a Defender of the Stone. There had been a bad fight, and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had tried to put a stop to it, but the fight had gotten out of control. Aureli shook her head and put her children to bed.


She came back into the sitting room with her mother, who was old and gray now, but still beautiful. They both walked down the stairs to the inn and began to clean up. She liked these quiet times to stay with her mother and chat while they cleaned. It gave her a sense of pride to be able to help her mother, and it cheered her soul to be able to talk with her. They finished in the common room and moved on to the kitchen. Aureli stopped.


"What is it, dear?" her mother asked.


"It's...something silly. I suddenly had a memory from something that seemed like another life. I was sitting along in a small room, remembering you...like you were dead."


Her mother blinked. "Oh, that is silly," she said with a laugh. "I'll always be here with you, dear. For as long as I can."


Aureli smiled back, but stopped when she saw a silver archway in the kitchen. "I know, Mother." her mother stooped over and picked something up off the floor. "And I'll always love you for it," she told her mother, a tear streaming down her eye as she walked toward the archway. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.


As Aureli stepped back into the chamber, she felt composed, but sad. She had finally gotten closure and was able to tell her mother that she loved her for the last time. Now the Amyrlin and a troupe of sisters stood before her. She knelt in front of the Amyrlin who poured the last chalice of water over her head. "You are washed clean of Aureli Yenda of Tear. 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 Aureli Yenda, Accepted of the White Tower." There was a pause, but Aureli stayed kneeling. "You are sealed to us, now. Welcome, daughter." She handed the chalice to a waiting sister and took out a Great Serpent ring. She put it on Aureli's third finger on her left hand...her only hand...she wondered briefly what would have happened if she had been missing her left arm, and the Amyrlin pulled her to her feet. "Welcome, daughter. Welcome." The Amyrlin kissed both her cheeks as she spoke, and Aureli felt that if her real mother had been here to see this, she would have been proud.

Edited by Leala Gymorraine
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