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A New Novice (Attn MON)


Theodora
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Theodora Thorinden was strolling down the corridors of the White Tower, feeling the happiest woman alive. She was going to become Aes Sedai and yet she was only seventeen. But after all, there were noble people, destined to success like her and… well, others. The lady looked down with despise upon the servant with the Flame of Tar Valon embroidered on her uniform. Then Theodora remembered with pleasure how many Tower Guards looked at her in awe of her beauty when she was entering, clad in whirlwind of rich deep green silk and golden embroidery on almost every inch of the garment. The emeralds and diamonds on her neck and ears matched the gems, spread carefully on golden chains within the silky curls that fell like a reddish-golden waterfall on her back. Some of the Aes Sedai, who she could recognise due to their agelessness, eyed the new girl as well.

 

“Maybe jealous of my gown or beauty. Women are always envious. Aes Sedai or not.”

 

Theodora knew she looked like a queen and despite the fact her aunt – Marga Sedai did not pay any attention to her niece during their travelling from Birch Lake palace to Tar Valon – the young lady read something about the studying for an Aes Sedai. She was going to join as a Novice, then Accepted and after that, a full Aes Sedai. Usually, it took at least ten years of hard work and learning but the girl was sure she could do it in two or even one year – after all she was a Noble, Marga confirmed she could learn to channel, and she has started being educated in geography and politics ever since she learnt to read at 4 years.

 

“Ten years to become an Aes Sedai?! Maybe for a farm girl.”

 

The only moment when Theodora almost lost her royal posture, was when she first saw the city. Tar Valon with its lace-like stone bridges, places that look like waves caught by the mastery of the Ogier Builders. And in the centre of it all her future home stood, the magnificent White Tower, dwarfing every edifice around. Now she was inside and soon she would receive proper apartments and servants.

 

The escorting servant stopped in front of an office – as far as her aunt told her – this had to be the Mistress of Novices’ room and Theodora adjusted her hair, making sure the emeralds highlighted her big green eyes in the best way. She had to impress that woman, so small butterflies appeared in her stomach, but the young lady oppressed that feeling, lifting her chin up. She knocked on the door and held her breath.

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Valeri was in the middle of responding to a missive from a sister about a certain novice when there was a knock on the door.  Valeri used a flow of Air and the door opened to reveal a girl in very stately attire.  She knew right away that this girl, if she was coming to enroll as a novice, would likely be a different kind of problem than the girl she was writing about now.  She would be treated like any other novice, and she probably would not enjoy it.  But, she had taught other girls like her what it was to be novice, then Accepted, and then Aes Sedai.  She would be no different.

 

"Come in, child, please take a seat," she said after giving her a glance from what she was writing.  After the girl seated herself, Valeri closed the door with the same flow of Air and continued to write, giving the sister advice and promising discipline to come for the girl if her accusations proved true.  She wrote on as if the girl was not there, making her wait.  

 

After a long moment, Valeri finished the letter and signed it, folded it, then sealed it.  She set it aside, neatly placed atop others like it.  Only then did she turn to the girl.  "Welcome to the White Tower, child.  My name is Valeri Sedai.  I am the Mistress of Novices, and during your time in training, I will be your mentor, teacher, shoulder to cry on, councilor, what have you.  Please, tell me how it is that you came to the Tower today."  She gave the girl a smile, like she would have for any other prospective novice.  It was unlikely, but she may have misjudged the girl.  She would get the greeting any other girl in her position would get.

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Theodora's heart skipped a beat when the door was opened with the One Power and she faced the dark-haired Aes Sedai with her typical nose and tilted eyes. The Mistress of Novices was a Saldean - the girl has heard of their bad and fiery temper but the woman was writing something calmly, without a sign of agitation. Yet, this display of Saidar. Of course, she was an Aes Sedai.

Theodora sat down, spreading her exquisite garment around her like an open fan and observed the Mistress of Novices for quite some time with the back straighten up. The unblinking stare, the gentle touch of the feather on the paper made the young lady suspect proper up-bringing in the older person. Or was it the Tower which taught women to behave like nobles. Theodora doubted it.
The Aes Sedai took a while before introducing herself but so did Theodora's father in front of minor houses or villagers. This trick was well-known by the girl and she wouldn't bite it. She knew she was inferior but soon that would be changed. Yet, there was a calm, steadfast air around the Saldean, so Dora decided to be as well-behaved as possible and after they escorted her to her private rooms, the fun would start.

"Valeri Sedai" Dora rose and rustled her dress in a perfect deep curtsey "My aunt, Marga Sedai from the White Ajah has just discovered that I could be taught to channel and it is my wish and duty in front of the Light to do so . My aunt has already tested me, but if it is the tradition, I would not mind to be tested again. I come from Birch Lake in Andor, where my dad is the Lord Vassal and I am his heiress. I would love to have you as a mentor and a teacher, Valeri Sedai, but now I just would like to be escorted to my apartments, so I could change and start my lessons, as soon as possible, if I may."

She looked at the Mistress of Novices with an air of far-fetched awe and calmness, emulating the gestures Valeri made. Repeating someone's name more than enough was again a trick her father used with everyone - it brought sense of closeness and understanding.

Edited by Theodora
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"I see," Valeri said, in context to everything Theodora said.  Her original thoughts on the girl seemed to have been proven correct.  "However, what you would like to do will have to wait.  You will be given classes and a new set of novice whites, of course, but I must properly enroll you in the White Tower and explain rules and procedure before I send you off to find your rooms.  Every novice here is beholden to the same set of rules.  You will obey every request given to you by an Aes Sedai or Accepted, Aes Sedai holding precedence over Accepted.  You will be given chores most of the time, to build up discipline.  You will be prompt and courteous to every class you attend.  You will under no circumstances channel the One Power without the direct supervision of a sister or an Accepted.  You will work hard, and only when I see that you have the proper discipline and the proper amount of ability in Saidar will I select you for the test to become Accepted.  On average, young girls such as yourself take about ten years to reach this level."

 

She paused to take a breath and to allow all this to sink in.  This would likely be a hard lesson for her, but she needed to know that what she wanted was not what the Tower demanded of her.  "Further more, if any sister or Accepted finds you breaking a rule or acting disrespectfully to them, you will be sent to me for punishment.  When you have been enrolled and settled into your room, all the belongings you have brought with you will be sent to me for safe keeping until you reach the shawl.  The road to becoming Aes Sedai is certainly not an easy one, but with the tools we give you during your training, you will reach your goal.  Knowing all this, do you will want to enroll as a novice?"

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"I will enroll as a Novice, of course!" Theodora was angried by the woman who implied housework being done "But I shall be no servant. If you need rubbing the floor, I could pay for this" She stood up, her face becoming an angry mask "I am a Noble Lady and I would require proper care and nourishment.  If you can't afford the servants, my Dad can!

 

The voice of the girl went into a slight crescendo  and she smoothed her golden skirts to calm herself down.She had to be calm.

 

"I will follow the discipline, Valeri Sedai, but you have no right over my free time and body, since I do not want to die in exertion. I am very slim and my body is gentle, it cannot handle rubbing floors or .... coooking!" The girl smoothed her hair and tried to sound as sweet as possible:

 

“Of course these are rules for commoners, not for ... us" Theodora extended her neck just as when it has always worked out - gentle beauty, seeking shelter. “I know I would not need that much of a tutoring. When I was young, they told me a thing and I could repeat it, Valeri Sedai. I will not need so many words and teaching, away from my family. ”Her voice trembled in the end, but Dora knew Aes Sedai were not compassionate.

 

She would play by their rules in the beginning of courser. She has no other choice.

 

"I mean, yes, Aes Sedai, please enroll me in the book” her voice trembled.

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Valeri sat coolly and patiently as Theodora demanded all sorts of things that she would not know for years.  Whatever remained of her smile had disappeared, and she gave the girl a cold, emotionless stare.  She waited until the girl had finished with her tirade, and seemed to relent, if a little nervously.  This was usually the hardest lesson for girls who came here from noble backgrounds.  "Child, I will let that go this time, because you have not grown to know how things work around the White Tower," she said coolly and evenly.  "While you are a novice here, you are on the same level as every other woman in a white dress, and if I ever here that you claimed to be on the same level as a sister, before you are one, either directly or indirectly, there will be severe punishment.  While you are a novice, you are a child as far as the One Power is concerned, and that is how you will be treated.  You will follow the rules, and you will complete every chore without complaint, and you will grow to know women from every background here.  If that woman wears novice whites, she is your equal.  If she wears a banded dress or a shawl, you are below her, no matter where she came from to arrive at the White Tower."

 

"I will not repeat myself on this matter."

 

With that, Valeri stood up and took down the enormous Book of Novices.  "In this book, the name, age, and place of birth of every novice to come into the White Tower have been written down.  Now," she said as she took her feather and inkwell, "I will need your own name, age, and place of birth."  She opened the book and turned the ancient pages until she found the next blank spot and waited patiently for the girl to give her the information to write down.

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Theodora’s spirit sank when she heard the cold icy voice of the Mistress of Novices. So now what? To consider the daughter of a pig farmer as an equal, or Light, superior to her. The girl felt a ball of nerves, nausea and sharp pain in her stomach, while listening to the rules and ranks the Aes Sedai was explaining. She had to leave all her jewelry and dresses and wear only white. This was ridiculous – she came with 5 trunks of gorgeous garments which would be outdated the next year if she did not wear them. Maybe this was to scare her as a newcomer and after that the natural ways of the world would rule again: a noble is always superior to anyone else. Dora could not imagine her aunt – the dignified Marga Thorinden to be on her knees, scrubbing floors. Nor she could see Valeri in this role.

 

“I understand, Valeri Sedai.“ Her voice sounded a lot more stable than before. “I will respect the rules.”

 

The Mistress of Novices opened a huge book which probably weighted as much as the chair, the girl was sitting on. There was a moment when Theodora thought that if she could just rush out of the room, she could be home, safe and happy very soon, treated like she should be. However, no Saidar power then. The girl raised her chin up and grasped her skirts tightly.

 

“My name is Theodora.” It sounded awkward to have to omit the title and her family name but until she learnt the real rules of this game, she would play as this cold woman required. “I am seventeen years of age and I was born in the town of Birch Lake, Andor.”

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Valeri took the girl's information and made her own entry into the Book of Novices.  Closing the book, she replaced it on the shelf and turned to the cabinet next to the bookshelf that was home to the giant tome.  She opened the door and selected a set of novice whites that looked like they would fit the girl.  She set the clothes on the desk in front of Theodora and sat down once more.  "These are your novice whites.  Everything you wear at this point will be nothing but white.  If these do not fit you, you may take them to the Tower seamstresses to have them altered.  You'll find all the clothes you need in here: a shift, a dress, a pair of shoes, a belt, a pouch, stockings...  It is the uniform of a novice.  Every time I see you in these, I want to see them spotless and free of wrinkles."

 

She paused for a moment before adding something.  "I don't want you to think that I was being especially cruel to you because you are a noble, child.  When anyone enters the White Tower as an initiate, they are stripped of everything: home, family, titles.  You become a novice, wholly and completely.  Some take it better than others.  I just wanted to be sure that you knew the rules and what will be expected of you before you left my office.  Do you have any further questions?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Theodora listened carefully about the rules and requirements that Valeri was enumerating with her voice, voided of any feelings. Just things that the Novice Theodora (“the lowest step of the White Tower hierarchy”) had to understand and follow. No wonder why to the young girl they felt like hammered nails in her coffin. Of course she had tons of questions but something in the Mistress of Novices suggested to the girl to refrain from further confrontation which could lead to trouble.

 

“But honestly, I cannot wear even my gorgeous white dress with diamonds and silver” Dora though irritated but pursed her lips.

 

Luckily, her natural talent to exceed in whatever she had tried, would help receive more freedom earlier than the commoners. Theodora had to be just polite and play the game. So the sooner, she learnt all the rules and weaves, the better.

 

When The Mistress of Novices asked if she had more questions, the girl immediately knew what to say but surprisingly the Aes Sedai unblinking eyes make her less decisive:

 

“Valeri Sedai, maybe my aunt Marga Sedai from the White Ajah could be my guide, so in the first days, I do not cross a rule unintentionally.”

 

Theodora knew in this way she could learn more than the common Novices an it was a plus, the whole White Tower would see Marga – an Aes Sedai – following like a puppy the new beautiful Novice and the girl could regain some of her stolen dignity.

 

“I suppose, every new girl, needs some guidance at first, am I not right, Valeri Sedai?”

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