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A Night in Contemplation (Aureli's testing and Oaths)

Leala Sedai

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Aureli watched her students file out of her classroom and gave a few of them some nods, acknowledging that they had done a good job. Now, they had to go and finish their compositions, and all she had to do was sit back and relax while she wrote the lesson plans for the next class of advanced grammar.  She tucked her notes from this class into her pouch, and made to stand up.  Before she started to walk to the door, however, she saw Valeri standing in her classroom door, her shawl draped over her shoulders, and Aureli's heart jumped into her throat.


"Aureli Yenda, you are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai.  The Light keep you whole and see you safe."


It seemed all at once that the gravity of the situation settled itself onto her shoulders.  Instead of hiding, she stood up straight and glided over to the Mistress of Novices, hiding her anxiety and misgivings.  This woman had seen her go from a scared young girl from Tear to a capable Accepted, and if she had faith that she could pass this test, Aureli did not doubt that she could.  The next time my students see me, I'll be Aes Sedai...  The thought of it gave her courage to follow.


The path they took around the Tower's corridors was only slightly familiar to Aureli, as she had only gone this way once, to pass through the Three Arches.


As she descended the stairs with Valeri, she suddenly felt an urge to start rambling, reminiscing, telling her her fears and anxieties, but she knew that it was looked down upon to speak until her turn came.  And, so she entered the bowels of the White Tower with the guiding light of the sparse lamps and torches showing them each step as they went further and further down.  Valeri stopped in front of the largest doors Aureli had ever seen.  For a moment, her heart started beating faster and faster, but she calmed herself, making herself breathe slowly and readying herself for the moment that they would open.


Valeri embraced Saidar and opened the door with Air, as she had done on Aureli's first day in the White Tower.  The doors, even though they were enormous and ancient, opened silently because of the constant maintenance to the White Tower and every detail of it.


She wanted to take in the whole room, but all she saw was the ring-shaped ter'angreal in the middle of the room, hovering about the gorund, waiting for her.  Before she could admire the complexity of it, the Mistress of Novices said, "Attend."  A group of other sisters  took that as their cue, and made a ring around the both of them.


"You come in ignorance Aureli Yenda," Valeri said.  "How would you depart?"


"In knowledge of myself," she answered calmly.


"For what reason have you been summoned here?"


"To be tried."


"For what reason should you be tried?"


"So that I may learn whether I am worthy."


"For what would you be found worthy?"


"To wear the shawl."


After saying this, Aureli began to disrobe.  She began as she always did, by untying the knot that covered her right shoulder, letting the world know that she was missing an arm.  The Mistress of Novices continued on as she prepared to be clad in the Light.  "Therefore, I will instruct you.  You will see this sign upon the ground."  As she channeled, Valeri drew a six-pointed star in front of Aureli.  


Unexpectedly, a sister began to channel behind her.  She wasn't told that was going to happen, but she wasn't told much besides what to say and when.  The sister behind her sent a small weave into the back of Aureli's head.  She felt unsure for a moment, but these were women who would be her sisters if she could pass this test, so she took this as an exercise in trust, and kept her composure.  The channeling sister said, "Remember what must be remembered."  Remember?  Of course she would remember.  Most of her training in the White Tower had been about memorization.


She let the chanting of the words continue, however, as Valeri continued.


"When you see this sign, you will go to it immediately, and 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."  Aureli burned the image of that star into her consciousness, remembering every detail.  Would there be decoy stars with five points?


"When the weave is complete, you will see that sign again, marking the way you must go, again at a steady pace, without hesitation."


"Remember what must be remembered."


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


"Remember what must be remembered."


The small weaves caressing the back of her head felt strange, but she ignored it, listening to what she heard as she finished disrobing. She felt the weave settled onto her head, and the sisters stood around the ter'angreal in a circle, and knelt down around it.  They embraced Saidar, and began weaving, making the colors in the ring shift and change rapidly.  It was beautiful.  Aureli was finally completely undressed except for her ring.  It hadn't left her finger since the Amyrlin put it there, all those years ago.  With her little finger, and her thumb, she eased it off, and placed it atop the rest of her clothes.  It wasn't until that was gone that she truly felt naked, but she kept her embarrassment tucked down and away from her face.


At this point, the colors of the ring had changed so swiftly that they were a bright white, and the ring began to rotate slowly.  She approached the ring, watching the golden sides as it rotated away from her, and when the opening came back to her, she stepped into the light.






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Aureli stood in the middle of a dank and gray room.  It was unfamiliar, and it was uncomfortable.  She wanted to run, but she knew she must be calm.  She suddenly realized that she was unclothed.  She looked up when she saw a pile of clothes waiting for her that had not been there a moment ago.  She dressed herself in the old, blue woolen clothes.  Instead of running from this place that made her gullet rise, she walked calmly out, and into the rest of the inn.  


The first spot of blood made her realize that her journey to the six-pointed star would not be an easy one.  She did not flinch, did not wince, did not shout, as she made her way down the small hallway to the common room of the inn.  It was covered in the mangled bodies of men and women.  Some were still sitting at the table, their food untouched.  Others looked like they had fought, but died with horrified expressions on what was left of their faces.  She saw trails of blood as men had been dragged away.  Whatever did this was not a man.  She saw claw marks on the walls, and the throats of these people had been gored open.


One thought kept coming to her as she walked through the scene of carnage: Trollocs.  When she came to the door, she heard them.  Bestial creatures who dared walk like humans, muttering to themselves, laughing.  She opened the door calmly, remembering that she must be calm always.  A group of thirteen Trollocs stood around a cookpot, chatting as they prepared their meal.


Aureli spotted the six-pointed star not four feet in front of the Trollocs and their food.


Remembering her duties, she walked to the star, and only then did the beasts take notice of her.  When she stood upon the star, she began the first of one hundred weaves that she knew she must complete before this could be over.  Three Trollocs lunged for her, but she sent a strong stream of Fire at each of them, all the while, keeping her mind on the complicated weave of Air she had in front of her.  


The charred remains of the Trollocs hit the floor, and five more of them dove for her.  She pushed them aside with a strong weave of Air that didn't seem as strong as her Fire had.  She picked off some of the others standing around with her Fire before they could lunge for her.  The other five regained their composure and their fervor one by one, and one by one, Aureli destroyed them with the Fire she had found such a talent in.  With the Trollocs down, she finished the weave and caught the disc it created in her hand before it dissipated into nothingness.


Looking up, she saw the six-pointed star carved into the gates of the town, and she walked under the simple wooden archway...

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Aureli walked through the forest, her feet hitting the brambles and sticks of the forest floor suddenly.  She did not wince at the sudden pain, but continued to walk until she spotted a dress and a set of clothes hanging from the branches of a tree.  She dressed herself in calm composure and looked up when she felt rain hitting her head.  The sky had gone from peaceful and bright to dark and stormy in the matter of a second.  In the back of her head, along with the knowledge that she must remain calm was the knowledge that she could not channel until she found the second six-pointed star, so she became soaked.


She walked through the forest with nothing but the flimsy soles of her shoes between her flesh and the harsh surface of the forest floor.  Her feet crushed sticks, felt stones, pine cones, possibly even insects, but she continued on without stopping or hesitating.  Finally, through the rain, she came to a clearing.  She found the second six-pointed star etched out in the soil at the very center of the clearing.


Hearing a snap and feeling a sudden flush of heat behind her, she knew that a bolt of lightning had struck a tree, but she dare not pause to examine it.  She walked the rest of the distance between her and the star.  As she did, more lightning struck around the clearing.  By the time she arrived at the star, she felt a sharp pain on her right foot.  Looking down, she saw a snake as it reared back from her flesh.  Now in the star, and now able to channel, she first began the second weave as another snake clamped down on her left foot.  With the beginning of that one started, she rounded on the snakes and pushed them away from her with a weave of Air and toward the fire as it made its way across the clearing, pushing the snakes toward her.


As she formed the second weave, forming together the Air, Fire, and Earth, she pushed the snakes away from her with a separate weave of Air, back toward the fire.  The Air served to keep her safe, but it fed the fire, and she erected a shield of Air quickly, but calmly.  She concentrated on the second weave as the fire licked the walls of her shield.


When the weave was almost done, she knew she would need to escape, so she opened the top of her shield and began pouring weaves of Water through the top and down until there was a large circle around her.  The copious amounts of rain aided her as she cleared the fires and the weave was completed.


She had channeled enough Water and Earth to pave a way for her out of the clearing.  Right where her path led, the branches of the trees fit together to form the six-pointed star.  She left the one on the ground and walked with her bleeding feet toward the way to the third star.

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Aureli found herself in lavish settings, the likes of which she had never seen before.  She stood in these richly furnished surroundings without a stitch of clothing.  The room seemed to be a large parlor, decorated like something from Tear, her homeland.  As she looked around, she saw a set of silken clothes on a chaise lounge that had seemingly appeared there.  She dressed herself, sometimes wondering at how to fasten something or wondering how one was supposed to wear what.  As she slipped the soft slippers on her feet that ached for some strange reason, she glanced at her reflection in the floor.  She looked like a high lady, but without jewelry.  But, she didn't have time for jewelry.  She had to find the third star and complete the third weave.


She left the spot where she stood and walked out of the parlor into the rest of the palace.  She heard people speaking, chatting, running around, getting things ready, but for what?


One of the people looked up and spotted her.  The man ran toward her, and a young man beamed down at her.  "Aureli!  I'm so glad you could make it!  Father will be so pleased!"  Her younger brother Tynen had come to greet her, it seemed.  He fell in step with her as she made her way down the hallway.


"It is good to see you, Tynen," she said.  "You have grown so much.  You're tall, just like father."  Even though she was chatting with her brother, she had no idea what the event was that everyone seemed so intent on readying.  Ah, yes.  It was her father's wedding, to a lady of high nobility.  But, she had another task to attend to.  "I am sorry, but I cannot stay."


"What?  No, you must stay!" Tynen stopped in front of her and laid a hand on her shoulder.  She gently moved it away and continued on her way.  "Why can't you stay?" he demanded, a little glumly.  She detected a pout in his voice.


"I have something important to do.  Perhaps I will join you later."


"Aureli!!" her father's booming voice intoned.  She looked up to see her father in full regalia of the man marrying into nobility.  He had a wide smile on his face and stopped her momentarily to embrace her.  "You've grown into such a beautiful young lady!  I'm so happy you could come in time!"


"Aureli will not come to the wedding, father," Tynen said as Aureli continued to walk down the hall.  She glanced into a small room and saw the six-pointed star picked out in red tiles on the otherwise white floor.  She stepped into the room, and her brother closed the door behind himself and their father.


"What?  Why not?"  She still heard laughter in his voice, and offered him an apologetic smile.  "I have other things I must do, father.  I will try to join you later, I promise."


Her father huffed in reply.  She argued with the both of them as she wove the third weave.  By the end of it, they were both in frustrated tears.  Even though she wanted to comfort them and offer that she really wished she could stay, she coldly walked pasted them, her chest feeling the stress and sadness they both emitted as she walked out the door that had another six-pointed star carved into its frame.

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Aureli felt that her breathing was a little labored as she made her way toward the sixty-second star.  She did not remember how her breathing became like this, but she still felt the strength to keep going and maintain her calm.  The backs of both her feet ached, but she continued.  She had found herself, a moment ago, in a desert.  She wondered for a moment if this was the Aiel Waste.  There was nothing ahead of her but sand and sun, and nothing to shield her aching feet and her tired body from the heat of the sand and the sun.  After a step or two, a set of clothes appeared on the sand.  She dressed herself in the thick woolen clothes.  Even though the clothes were thick and made her sweat, it was much better than dying from heat or the searing pain she had felt in her feet from the sand and the unknown source of pain.


She trekked through the sand, looking for the next six-pointed star.  There was nothing, there was nothing, and there was nothing.  Her feet ached the worst out of the rest of her body.  She had inexplicable burns on her arms, and had a cut on her back, and other injuries, but her feet hurt the worst, but they were the most important part of her.  Her feet carried her, and it was her feet that would show how calm she walked toward her next weave.


She made her breathing steady, distributing the air as best she could.  She saw a change in the sand ahead.  As she walked toward it, she recognized the six-pointed star formed with stones.  She saw something move in the corner of her eye and looked toward the movement as she walked.  She saw him for just a moment, but there was a man there.  He was not Aiel, but he was trying his hardest to make himself invisible.  She saw more movement again, and found a similar pursuer, hiding behind a dune of sand.  A few more times this happened, but she continued on.


When she stood in the sign of the six-pointed star, she turned around, and the men sprang from their hiding places.  Aureli began the sixty-second weave, watching as the men made their attack.  She was supposed to act as if she had already taken the Three Oaths, but these men clearly meant her harm.  Once she had gotten a good start on the weave, one man jumped close to her, and she threw him back with a blast of Air, pinning him down.  She wrapped him in the weave and tied it off before repeating the weave with the next man who attacked her.  By the time all the men had been detained, the required weave was finished.  


Aureli turned from the scene and walked toward two large rocks with the six-pointed star carved into both of them.

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It was dark, and Aureli recognized the room where she stood as her own room.  She stood next to her bed, naked as the day she was born, but why was that?  As she wondered, she saw a set of clothes on her bed.  They were her favorites, a green wool dress made of fine cut.  She wore it when a guest of high standing was at the inn.  She dressed and smoothed her skirts out.  A solitary candle sat next to her bed on her night stand.  She picked up the long candle and made her way out.  She knew that she had to find the very last six-pointed star and complete the hundredth weave.  It seemed her whole body ached and cried out for rest, but she ignored it.  She must maintain her calm and make it to the last star.


Aureli moved in a fluid motion that surprised her out of the bedroom and into the fourth floor of the inn where she and her family lived.  She walked to the stairs and descended to the common room.  When she entered, she heard rustling in the kitchen.  Her mother came out and walked up next to her.  "Good evening, Aureli," she said with a tired smile.  Something nagged at the back of her mind.  Something was wrong here, but she couldn't place it.  Ah, yes.  Her mother was dead.  Her face did not reveal her surprise.


"Good evening, Mother," she answered, walking through the common room, her mother at her side.  


"Where are you going?" she asked.


"I have something important to do," Aureli answered.  She couldn't explain exactly what was so important about it, but she knew that she must complete it.  It must be done.


"I see, but--"  Aureli's mother was interrupted and ceased to speak.  She looked and saw a man had stolen into their inn.  The man had wrapped an arm around her mother's shoulders from behind and had cut her throat quickly, but viciously.  The man darted away, ignoring Aureli for whatever reason, and when he left, she saw the six-pointed star situated right in front of her dying mother.  She stepped into the star and began to weave the final and hundredth weave.


As she wove, she had to hear her mother gurgling as she gasped for breath and bled on the floor.  Her helpless figure reached toward Aureli and tried to form her name, but nothing escaped her lips save for her death rattle.  Aureli fought back her tears and her anguish, focusing on the weave.  This weave was a complex one and required a lot of attention that Aureli wished she could afford her mother, but she had to keep her calm, and she had to perform this weave immediately and without hesitation or haste.


When she finished, a blast of bright lights left her hands, and reflected in her mother's eyes as they began to haze over.  The six-pointed star was carved above the door to the kitchen.  "You deserve the rest, Mother," she said as she stepped gracefully away from her mother who still desperately clung to what little air she could.  "Let go and rest," she said gently as she entered the doorway...


...Everything crashed into her as she re-entered the chamber where the seven sisters and the Mistress of Novices waited.  Every scene of anguish and pain, every weave, every scene of carnage...and her mother who had pleaded for her life silently.  She had seen her mother die before her eyes and had done nothing.  Could do nothing but walk away with her head held high.  Rage entered all these new memories that she had forgotten at every exit.  Valeri clapping garnered her attention.  


The Mistress of Novices seemed blurry as tears welled up in Aureli's eyes.  "It is done.  Let no one ever speak of what has happened here.  It is for us to share in silence with she who experienced it.  It is done."  Aureli's body swooned as she began to silently weep for pain both physical and emotional, but she listened to the Mistress of Novices' words.  "Aureli Yenda, 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."


It was done and there was nothing she could do to change it.  She had passed, but she had seen and done so much, but it was what she had not done that caused the tears.  She stood, barely, as sisters gathered around her.  The Yellow in the group sent a strong Healing weave through her, and all her injuries left her body.  Even the poison left by the snakes had left her aching feet.  She breathed a little easier, and even though the Healing had left her tired, she felt refreshed.


As she was led to her clothes and to her own rooms again, she thought of her test.  The very last weave had been the hardest to complete.  She told herself that it was not her mother.  But she also knew now that she had it in her to let her mother die in front of her to accomplish what she set her mind to.  Bitter tears stung her eyes and she thought some more.

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Aureli had come to the conclusion that in the years she had left home and come out of the ter'angreal the night before, she had become a different person.  One who still loved her family, but one who now had an enormous amount of duties to see to.  One who was no longer working for the betterment of her family, but for the betterment of the entire world.  The image of her mother dying at her feet and being helpless to stop it would haunt her for a good long while, perhaps the rest of her life, but she had used the time she had for that night to come to grips with it before she took the next step.


This last night had been her last night as Accepted.  The night was supposed to be filled with prayer and contemplation.  While she had prayed and contemplated, she was also very tired, and sleep took her.  She was jolted awake when she heard a knock at her door.  She took a deep breath to regulate her breathing.  She knew what would happen next.  She took a moment to pause in front of her mirror.  the few hours of sleep she had had not ruined her hair for this occasion, thank the Light.  Before she had fallen asleep, she had also taken a bath and changed into a fresh dress.  She wasn't as fresh as she had wanted, but the excitement and apprehension of this next step had awoken her in a few short moments.


Aureli slipped her feet into her slippers and she met the Aes Sedai at the door, one for each Ajah.  The group walked the corridors of the silent Tower in still more silence.  They took her to the room where she had been tested, but they waited at the door.  Inside, she saw the ter'angreal had been quieted, and the shimmering lights had ceased.  The ring stood still on its end, waiting for her again.  On the other side of the ring, the Amyrlin and Keeper waited for her as well.


"Who comes here?" the Amyrlin demanded.


"Aureli Yenda."


"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."


Just as it had the night before, the ring filled her vision, rather than the whole of the room.  She would take the time to admire it after she had gained her shawl.  She stepped through the ring and approached the Amyrlin and the Keeper with the Oath Rod sitting on a velvet pillow.  Her test now behind her, she knelt before the Amyrlin who took the Oath Rod and placed it into Aureli's hands, and she swore on the Oath Rod, those Three Oaths that would claim her for life.


"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."


As she spoke each Oath, a tightness took hold over her skin.  It felt tight and uncomfortable, but no one made any note of it, so she accepted it as normal.  A peace and happiness settled over her soul, and she knew there was just one thing left to do.  "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."  Upon the Amyrlin's words, Aureli rose and turned toward the waiting sisters, holding a shawl, should she choose any of them.


Aureli started to the right, and came to the first group of sisters, the Yellows.  When they saw she did not choose them, they left.  She passed by the Browns and Grays with the same response.  Finally, she came to the group of Red sisters and stopped, facing them.  She waited in silence with them as the rest of the sisters and Sitters left with the Amyrlin and Keeper.  When they were gone, she waited still, but knew that whatever happened next, she would gain that shawl, no matter what.

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