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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Memories of the future - (Arches of Ellisha Falwein)


Sherper
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And for a second time, the gigantic oaken doors to the dome shaped room that held the silvery white Ter’angreal, swung open to admit the brown haired novice with eyes of emerald green. Valeri Sedai stood beside her as the woman of now twenty-six, stared up at the shimmering shape of the three arches. With hair strands that blew rhythmically to a strange wind in the chamber, Ellisha Falwein; Novice of the White Tower, nodded towards the Mistress of Novices to begin. There was no need to repeat the instructions to her, she knew them off by heart by now and understood what was to come.

 

“This is your last chance, child. Once more you may refuse.” Ellisha knew it was not going to come to that. She would see it through today – whatever happens.
“That won’t be necessary Valeri Sedai. I’ve made my decision.” She stared avidly at the Ter’angreal before her. The woman nodded and the two of them walked forwards so the ceremony may begin.

 

“Whom do you bring with you, Sister?” A golden haired woman wearing a red fringed shawl said, standing to the far left and in an eerie voice that drifted across the entirety of the chamber.
“One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.” Said Valeri as they came to a halt in front of the raised dais.  
“Is she ready?”
Butterflies fluttered in Ellisha’s stomach, but she kept herself calm – willed, herself to be calm. Like a river boat being directed by the current, she thought; her own unique version of the Novice rosebud technique for peace and serenity. Her moods quieted and soon she felt the anxiety leave her body like the river stream. Valeri replied to the other woman in an air that matched the musical ring dictated by the ceremony.
“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.”

The Aes Sedai paused for a second, turning her gaze at Ellisha. This wasn’t part of the ceremony.  
“Then let her face what she fears.” The red said, after a moment.  

 

Was that a smile on her face? Light, what had she done to tick this one off? Aes Sedai have very long memories, and they don’t often forgive being outmanoeuvred or tricked very easily. More than likely, Ellisha had done something a long time ago that had displeased the red, and she still wasn’t being forgiven for it.

 

The fact that whatever happens in those portals was not dependent on the woman holding open the gateway suddenly became a very comforting factor in her head.

The next part of the ceremony was to undress, and she did so when Valeri whispered for her to proceed. She reached for her back and undid all the buttons to her snowy white Novice dress which slid to the ground as soon as the last button was off.

 

She then laid down her woollen shift and stockings on top of her dress, folding them all into one neatly pressed square before placing them on the floor. The mysterious wind still blew though no weaves of air could be seen around the chamber. She was standing stark naked on the grey tiled floor, yet it didn’t seem to bother her as much as she thought it would. Butterflies still fluttered in her stomach and the sense of impending danger loomed over her like the feeling one gets before jumping off a cliff – not knowing where the fall would land. Yet she held to her resolve. She would see this through.

   

She walked towards the first arch, its shimmering white light a mesmerising scene of beauty that seemed to draw her in.
“The first is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Ellisha took a deep breath and stepped forward into the gateway. Angelic white lights filled her vision as something ‘shifted’ in front of her.

 

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***

The crisp smell of salt on the waters was a relief to her nose as Needle danced high above the waves. The craft was light and it only had two main masts instead of the usual three that accompanied heavy sea going vessels. Yet Ellisha Falwein – her Captain, knew her nimble craft could outrun any of the oaken giants on this side of the Arith Ocean. Ok, maybe the Seafolk had some faster ships, but who could really compare with those ashen faced lummox?

 

It was good to be back at sea again she decided. It had seemed an eternity since she had last felt the creaking lull of her deck, and the familiar handing of her craft’s rudder wheel. What had kept her? Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a familiar face on the quarterdeck.

 

“Shane!” she yelled excitedly, as her younger, lighter haired brother climbed atop the ladder to wave at her. She ran towards him and clasped the tall skinny boy in a full embrace.
“Woah, easy there Sis, what’s all this excitement about?”

 

“Shane,” she cried again. “How did you get here?” A wide grin split her brother’s youthful face. Youthful? She herself was only a year older than him. Shane’s almost a man now. His sixteenth, Ellisha remembered, was only a few weeks away.
“Why, I’ve been on board since we set off from Illian, remember?” She did. What was happening to her head? She was forgetting things that were just plain obvious. Her crew and her ship can’t have a forgetful Captain. She shook her head to clear it.

 

“I’ll be glad to finally see mother again.”
Shane nodded. “It has been way too long. Father will be pleased with the profit we made from this trip though.”
Yes, her very first trading mission out on her own had been a huge success.
“With the coin we earned, father will be able to commission another ship.”
Needle was the smaller of the two vessels her father had under him. The other one, a large giant of a river huller named River Ox, was slow compared to Needle and could not sail along the southern coast from Tear to Illian.

 

“Cap’in!” a voice from the bird’s nest set at the top of the main mast called out to her. She looked up and saw her lookout waving frantically to get her attention. The constant wind that blew on the high seas made it difficult to hear words properly, let alone discern entire sentences. But from the pattern of gestures the man was making, it was clear he wanted her to look towards the west at something. Frowning, she pulled out a looking glass from one of the coat pockets on her long waterproof jacket, and used it to gaze the horizon on her port stern.  Her heart sank as a peaked triangle of white tied canvas rose slowly above the water line – about a mile off. How could she not have spotted this earlier?

 

“Baran!” she shouted as loudly as she could make for her midshipman, the howls of the wind drowned it out. She shouted again and saw the stout bold headed Tarian running towards her from amidships. “Sister, what’s wrong?” Shane said beside her, worry evident in the tone of his voice. Ellisha did not answer him; her face wore a mask of stone as her mind worked furiously to work out a solution.
“Captain!” that was Baran. “I heard the lookouts shout something, what do you need?”

 

The man had served faithfully for her father for nearly twenty years, and had personally volunteered to come on Ellisha’s first voyage. He was practically her uncle, for all intent purposes.  She turned and stared at him straight in the eye.
“Master Baran. Beat to quarters. We have a Corsair on our tail.”

 

The air was a cacophony of noise as off duty men were shaken awake and the alarm bell continued its constant ding ding dings, as if in rhythm to all their racing heart beats onboard. Loose rigging were secured and all the canvas lengths thrown open to catch more wind on the sails. Stashes of weapons; longbows, short bows, crossbows, cutlasses and spears were distributed around to the crew – the older looking men bearing them with a sense of familiarity whilst some of the younger ones eyed them wearily.  

 

Needle was a sailing vessel which meant she did not carry any oars but relied solely on the winds to carry her anywhere. The triangular sailed coastal Corsair approaching them did not have such limitations however. It harboured two rows of twenty oars on each side, with more slots to the rear that could be called for on demand.

 

Pirates; brigands of the sea, Raiders, who prayed on the weak and defenceless. The Corsairs fed off single merchant vessels who, caught without winds, could be easily overtaken by a few powerful strokes of their long oars.  Today was such a day and unfortunately the wind was blowing south-west towards them, which meant they were sailing into it instead of with it.

 

“They’re closing in!” a dark haired youth who looked slightly younger than Ellisha yelled from the ship’s bow. As true to those words, the long sleek Corsair lurched forward one oar stroke at a time as the distance between the two ships shrank. Only half a mile separated the two now. Ellisha gritted her teeth, knuckles white from gripping the rudder wheel. Soon the two ships would be in bow shot of one another, and Ellisha’s knowledge of these coastal raiders told her, they would try and pepper her crew full of shafts before coming in to board. Her own men had bows of their own, but a full crew onboard an armed Corsair would have about seventy armed men with bows, discounting those who were rowing. Her own crew might not have to worry too much about ship handling once everything was tied down, but that still left her with only forty men to work with.

 

Her sea senses suddenly told her the winds had shifted. It was now blowing in a south-easterly direction. It still meant they were going against the wind, but it suddenly gave her an idea. It was risky, but it sounded a lot better than staying still and doing nothing whilst the arrows cut them down.

 

“Master Baran!” she yelled, and the stocky man who was showing a young boy how to nock an arrow, looked up and gave her a wave to show he could hear. The midshipman she saw was holding to the side a long bill hock that had a wicked looking spike set at one end – suitable for catching knees on the pullback.  “Prepare the ship to tact to port!”

 

Some of the men closest to her produced startled looks at the command. The Corsair was coming up on their left. If they tacked to port now it would mean…
The midshipman nodded and began shouting orders to begin the rapid turning manoeuvre. To their credit, the crew was an experienced one, and Needle banked sharply left, turning as her sails folded once before going taught again.

 

She held to the ship’s wheel and eyed the Corsair as her own vessel turned to face it. The Captain of the Corsair must have not expected the merchant ship to do such a daring manoeuvre. This was clear attack formation. It was madness to face an armed Man O war with the skeleton crew aboard a trading vessel, yet that was exactly what she did. The Corsair tried turning away from the speeding Needle, but for once, the wind was on Ellisha’s side. The Captain should have turned right instead to face her, she thought as her vessel rapidly closed the distance. It would’ve made the two vessels miss each other. Instead the Corsair turned left, giving Needle plenty of time to build up her full speed – her ramming speed.

 

She squinted and through the distance, she could just make out the activity happening on the other ship. Chaos and confusion reigned aboard the Corsair as extra oars were thrown out on both sides to try and pull away from the approaching Merchant vessel.  
“Archers!” she heard Baran’s voice shout as twenty pairs of arms drew arrows or fingered triggers. “Fire!”

 

The sound of missiles being released from strings was lost to the noise of the crashing waves. Twenty shapes streaked across the clear blue sky towards the other ship. A few of the shafts landed and Ellisha could see raiders falling over the side. “Reload and release at will! Wait for the pitch of the ship.”  

 

She could see returning volleys from the other ship as the two vessels neared each other. She gave the Wheel one last pull before tying it to the post nearby with a stout rope. Perfect, she thought. Needle was sailing straight towards the Corsair’s exposed Starboard flank and was on a direct intercept course with the other vessel.  

 

Grabbing the short spear she had appropriated for herself; it was really more suited for fishing but she liked using it anyway, she jumped down from the quarterdeck and joined the rest of her crew waiting for the inevitable collision. They had one chance to get this right. Hopefully, by ramming the other ship, they would have killed enough of the enemy’s crew to survive the end of this day.

 

A hail of black shafted arrows peppered down and a few of Ellisha’s crew fell as they were hit. She saw with horror as one of them took Shane down his middle as he was working free a ship cutlass from his belt. His body slumped to the ground as her brother let out an agonising grunt of pain.

 

Dodging another flight of arrows that took down even more of her crew, she ran towards him and dragged the body behind the cover of the main mast. “The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

“Shane,” she cried, as her brother looked up towards her. “Eli.”
“Don’t talk you great hairy lummox,” she cut him off before he could say anything else. A pool of crimson was soaking the areas around the arrow and Shane’s face was beginning to grow pale. He was losing too much blood.

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.” The voice rang again in her head, yet she chose to ignore it. Her brother was what’s important right now.

 

“Sixty second to impact!” a voice shouted somewhere to the front as most of Needle’s crew learned to stay behind cover.
“Ellisha,” Shane said again, though this time a lot softer. “Ellisha, I feel cold.”
“You’ll be fine,” she growled down at him. “You have to be fine. You’re going to live through this. I remember it.”

How can she remember it? It hasn’t happened yet.
“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

“Thirty seconds to impact!”

 

Shane coughed blood which dripped down the side of his mouth.
“You have to live. I remembered you living through this. We’re going to beat those Corsairs and father is going to be so prou-”

 

She looked over Shane’s shoulder and saw a silvery white doorway appear to the side of the elevated quarterdeck. “The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.” The voice sounded once again, though this time it felt more urgent.

 

“Ellisha, don’t leave me here.”

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

She took a step towards it.

 

“Ellisha, no!”

 

“Fifteen seconds to impact!”

 

She took another step.

 

“Ellisha, don’t go. Ellisha!”

 

She was running; running towards the gateway with her eyes squeezed completely shut. She couldn’t stand it any longer. The ship, the sea, the waves, the battle and her brother. Oh light, Shane! She ran as fast as her feet would allow, all the while hearing the petrified howls of Shane dying behind her.

 

Her foot caught on something and she fell, her head flying forward as she collapsed into the gapping white hole that was the gateway. The last thing she heard before her entirety was consumed once again by that aura of white light, was the distant and hollow sound of Baran’s voice. “Five seconds to impact!”
No,
she thought. They would lose without me! I nee-

 

She fell back into the domed room with the Ter’Angreal blazing behind her, and felt herself meet the rushing stone tiles below. A wave of icy cold liquid hit her as she lay on the ground.
“You are washed clean of what sin you may have done and of those done against you. 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.”
The water dripped from her now sodden hair, and Ellisha realised she was crying – her body shaking uncontrollably.

 

“Shane.” She moaned as she lay sobbing on the ground. She felt a hand across her shoulder, and turned to see the face of Valeri staring down at her; concern painted across the woman’s features.

 

“I abandoned him,” she sobbed as she curled up beside the woman into a ball on the floor; hugging her legs tightly. “I abandoned my post, my crew. Oh light, I abandoned them all.”

 

“It is against custom to talk about what happened in those rings,” Valeri said, but laid a comforting arm around her.  
“Please tell me it’s not real. That it’s just an illusion” she said, still crying softly, though it was now much subdued.  “– a dream. Shane isn’t dead. He isn’t!”

 

The Mistress of Novices paused for a long moment, and Ellisha felt another burst of tears well up in her eyes. Aes Sedai can’t lie. No one knows for certain what really happens in those rings.
“Everything will be alright, child. Step forward to the next ring.”

 

With considerable effort, Ellisha found herself standing on her feet and walking towards the second ring of the Ter’Angreal. What must be – must be. There was no point changing something that couldn’t be changed. She rubbed her eyes with her right hand; clearing away the last of her tear drops. She would see this through, no matter what. Oh light.

 

“The second arch is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

Be steadfast, the words rang in her ears as she stepped forward once again.

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***

Dark grey clouds covered the sky and thick heavy rain drops fell onto the hood of her travelling cloak. She rode for the dim lights up ahead, somehow knowing she would soon be home again. Aringill. That was where home was. The clatter of hoof beats echoed across the currently empty high way as Ellisha Falwein rode underneath the gatehouse, through to the other side of the town wall. She didn’t pause to question why the gates were open this late at night, or why there were no guards stationed at the entrances. She knew her purpose here, and had known it all along. Now, she just needed to reach it.

 

Aringill was by far not the largest settlement in the world. It was not quite a city like Caemlyn or Tar Valon, but it was too large to be simply called a Town. It held a special geographic significance in the region as it practically facilitated trade between four of the world’s most powerful nations. Andor and Caemlyn were to the west, Cairhien to the north east, Tar Valon to the north-west, and Tear directly south along the river. Aringill saw merchants come from all four and bring goods in for exchange.

 

The houses in Aringill were not lavish, nor were they Ogier built like that of Tar Valon. They were sturdy and neat, like the people that lived there. Aringill might be a culturally diverse place to be, with traditions and people from all over the world coming and leaving through its port and streets. But underneath – the local inhabitants were hard working, and made places in the world through their own enthusiasm and ingenuity.

 

Taverns, Inns, leatherworkers, blacksmiths and warehouses, along with port facilities that made, repaired and outfitted river ships of all descriptions. Ellisha passed them all and made for one building in particular. She dismounted from her grey gelding as she came close to a two storied brick building on the corner of a long line of jewellers. The mare panted as she strode past, patting its sleek slender neck. She had pushed the horse hard the whole journey from Tar Valon, but now she could finally allow it to rest. She herself couldn’t rest however. She had things she needed to attend to.

 

She knocked twice at the front door to the building with the ends of her knuckles, and then waited. When no answer came, she tried again. There were lights coming in from the cracks in between the window shutters, which meant at least someone was in. Upon receiving no reply after the third knock, she tried the door handle itself. The thing was unlocked.

 

She pushed gently at the centre of the door and swung it slowly inward, revealing a familiar looking hallway lit by two stand lamps.
“Hello?” she said uncertainly, stepping forward so she was at least out of the rain. No one answered and the house, along with everything else, seemed eerily quiet for some reason. What’s going on? She remembered there always being at least some noise, this silence just felt wrong to her.

 

Taking off the cloak, she stared down as she noticed the pristine white dress she was wearing. It was made of soft wool and it had seven stripes sewn around its hem and sleaves – each of a different colour – representing a different Ajah.  She set her cloak on a peg on the wall and looked around at the empty corridor. “Hello? Is anybody home?” Silence greeted her once more as Ellisha felt distinctly uneasy. Something was definitely not right here.

 

Walking down the corridor, she peaked around a corner to where she knew the kitchen was. The room here was neatly arrayed, and everything had been carefully moved and placed based on functionality and geometry. Her mother had been very matriculate about such things. But where was she now? This had been the reason for her visit after all. Yet the room she saw was empty. No one sat at the large square table, nor was her mother tending the coals in the oven hearth or washing dishes at the water stand. The coals still burned red with heat, but everything else looked to have been put away.

 

The same thing happened when she checked the sitting room, the bedrooms and a few other places she had once been certain she would find people. She found nothing. It happened over and over again in every room; empty chairs, silent cornices, the strange signs of recent inhabitation yet with no one there to give reason for them being there. She felt more and more like a lost kitchen looking for her litter as she searched on.

 

She came to a stop in front of a single large oaken door. All the other doors she had passed by had been swung wide open. Except for this one it seemed. It was her father’s private study, a place she had often wondered about when she was still a little girl mostly because she had never been allowed inside. Well, she was a girl no longer, and the closed door seemed almost trying to pull her in. Heart pounding in her chest, she turned the door knob and pushed it open to enter.

 

The room inside was dimly lit. She saw flames crackling merrily in the fire hearth, and two oil lamps which gave the large mahogany writing desk at the back of the room just enough illumination for the person using it. Sitting behind that desk, was the sight she had unwillingly been longing for.

 

“Father!” she yelled, breaking all hesitation and running towards him. The man sitting on the simply carved and straight backed chair looked up from his stack of papers.  
“Daughter.” He said, beaming back at her from the top of his glass spectacles. “I’m glad you’re back.” He made to stand up, but was instantly met by Ellisha’s running embrace. Her father nearly stumbled over and she quickly drew herself short, feeling slightly embarrassed by the act.

 

“No longer a little girl I see,” her father chuckled, hugging her back. There were streaks of white running along his otherwise sleek coat of midnight black, yet she knew he was still the same strong, dependable person she had once known. “Yes father, I’ve come back to see you. Where’s Ma and the others?” she asked as the two let go of one another. By the light it felt good to feel those arms again.

 

“Your mother and brothers…” he said, hesitating as if trying to find suitable words to form for the correct sentence. “Are… well, they’re away.”
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. “Away? Away where?”
“I…” her father began, then stopped. “It’s not important.”
Ellisha did not see it that way, but it felt wrong to press for something her father clearly did not wish to talk about at the moment. The last thing she wanted to do was to ruin this happy reunion by turning it sour.  

 

“Tell me daughter. Tell me how you’ve been.” He ushered her towards one of arm chairs nearby the hearth, their arms and backs laden with soft looking cushions. She settled into one whilst her father settled into another.
She smiled as she accepted a large porcelain cup from him which had the sweet aroma of freshly grounded Kaff inside it.

 

“So much has happened father. You won’t believe the things I’m learning at the Tower.”
She then began telling him about all the things that had happened since her departure. The meeting and dealings with the Mistress of Novices – Valeri Sedai, the unexpected friendships she found in Venca and Aril, the lessons about the histories, and of course – Saidar. Sweet, joyous Saidar and how it filled her with life; with exuberance and a new sense of understanding.

 

Her father listened with rapped intensity, a twinkle in those large brown eyes so much like her own, despite being of a different colour. He laughed and shook his head at all the pranks she pulled, saying some things will just never change about her. He was a very good listener; adding insightful comments whenever appropriate, yet in the end letting her do most of the talking.

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

Once she had finished her tale, going over twice the way she had beaten Pavara and her cronies into a bloody pulp, they sat in companionable silence with one another for a while, sipping comfortably at their steaming cups of Kaff. Ellisha frowned. There was something important she was missing here, yet she couldn’t quite place a finger on what.
“Father.” She said again into the silence.
“Where’s mother?”
Silence.

 

Thomas Falwein sighed as he laid down his cup on top of the table stand beside the blazing fire hearth. He wearily stood up. It was the first time Ellisha saw her father looking so old. The movement was slow and she could tell it took him considerable effort just to stay standing.
“Do you remember the first thing I said to you before you left on your first voyage?”
She paused, the frown deepening on her face.
“Trust your heart-”
“-but don’t let it drag you overboard.” He finished for her.
“You have a fierce mind and an even fiercer heart, my dear. Find your purpose Ellisha. Find it and never lose sight of it.”

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

“We don’t have long. I… I’ll always love you.”

 

“Father wha-”

 

A silvery white light appeared and settled into a gateway on the other side of the room.
“Trust your heart Ellisha Falwein. But don’t let it rule you. Now go. There isn’t much time.” He looked straight at the gateway then took her in his arms and hugged her one last time. Tears flowed from his eyes and Ellisha realised she was crying too as she returned her father’s embrace. She remembered now – remembered why she was here – remembered everything.

“Father… how.”
“There isn’t much time, Eli. You must go.”

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

She let go, and stepped towards the portal. Then, hesitating on the last step, she looked back at the solitary figure standing by the hearth.
“Good bye father.” She said, somehow knowing this would be the last time she saw him.

 

“Good bye daughter. May the Light preserve you.”

 

She stepped into the portal and was once again basked in a fountain of light.

 

The chamber materialised in front of her as she stepped out of the portal. No tears were in her eyes this time, nor was she falling flat on her face. She walked down from the dais and sat down on its steps, her eyes staring directly at the ground in front of her.

 

Valeri was beside her in an instant, though her face showed confusion at first when she saw Ellisha’s blank expression.
“Child, are you alright?”
Ellisha opened her mouth to respond, but then closed it again when no sound came out. Was it even possible?
“Valeri…” she began, unsteadily.
“Yes, Child. I’m here.”
“Has it ever occurred when the people inside those portals… ‘Understood’ that you must go?”
“Child, I…” the woman abruptly broke off, as the Mistress of Novices looked up and saw the Red Sister waiting behind her with the goblet of water; a sour expression on the woman’s face. Valeri stepped to one side, evidently having forgotten all about the ceremony when she saw Ellisha exit from the Ter’Angreal.  

 

She did not even blink when the icy cold water was poured over her head. Ellisha simply sat there on the Dias as the Red recited the ancient ritual.
“You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.”

 

When the last of the water had dropped from the cup onto her hair, she stood up, ignoring both her nakedness and the concerned expression on Valeri Sedai’s face. She stepped towards the third and final arch, and stopped just in front of the shimmering gateway. Valeri quickly walked up beside her and spoke her part of the line.

 

“The third time is for what will be. Be steadfast for the way back will come but once.” She recited as Ellisha stared into the open gateway. Her skin felt cold, but that was nothing compared to what she felt inside. She waited for the words to fade from her ears, then putting one leg in front of another, she stepped inside.

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She was running through a long black tiled corridor, the pillars to the side spanning fifty feet into the air. A knot of emotion in her head spoke of pain; unbearable pain that twisted the very strings of her heart. Her divided skirts swished as an unnatural breeze caught her wavy hair, letting it flow freely behind her as she ran. Why – why must he be so stubborn? Shedding tears was beyond her – yet for once – she would have welcomed it, if only to release the sorrow she felt inside. That knot of emotion and pain.  

 

Two Trollocs appeared in front of her, their huge demented torsos holding up the heads of large animals as they spotted her running towards them. The one on the left swung a wicked looking axe as she approached. The head: in the shape of an eagle, snapped its sharp talons whilst those too human eyes stared down at her with lustful vengeance.  She raised her staff and deflected the blow by knocking it to one side, before ramming the other end into the middle of the second Trolloc. She quickly wove weaves of air and fire then sent it hurtling towards her first opponent.  The eagle headed beast screeched in pain as her weaves engulfed it in an aura of flaming death.  She spared no moment to look back at her handy-work however, as she turned and continued running.

 

The corridors twisted and turned in all directions, yet she knew exactly where she had to go. She only had to follow the pain. Light, what were they doing to him? She couldn’t linger on that thought for long. There was that dreadful sinking feeling. No, she told herself, she wasn’t going to give up this easily. Not whilst he still draws breath.

 

The glow of Saidar pulsed in her veins as the sweet source heightened her awareness and sharpened her resolve. She could ­sense the wrongness in this place. Sense the vile discourse and the tainted soil beneath her feet. Yet nothing else mattered to her at that moment – only that desperate knot of pain in her head. Oh light, I hope I’m not too late.

 

She came to a halt as an impending doorway appeared in front of her. It soared all the way to the ceiling; disappearing into a black cloud of mist. The doors were made of wood, but it was a wood she didn’t recognise; black and corrupted like the rest of this place. She drew in more of the One Power, feeling Saidar as it filled her. She then wove thick strands of air and began prying the door open from its centre.

 

Inch by inch it creaked open, sliding on gigantic hinges set on the other side. She gritted her teeth, then when the opening down the middle was wide enough, she released her weaves and quickly squeezed inside. The sight beyond her made her blood freeze.

 

Thirteen figures: all wearing robes of purest midnight black – stood in a large semi-circle around a rectangular stone slabbed table, their faces hidden behind the hoods of cloaks. A single figure lay at the centre of that gathering. Naked like the day he was born, and as unmoving as a statue.  The room itself was in the shape of a circle.  A viewless dome centred directly above the depression where the figures have gathered, and elevated platforms on all sides. Like viewing chambers, she thought as she took a step forward.  

 

Thirteen faces turned as she approached, and Ellisha could feel their eyes bear into her as she walked towards them. They all wore white masks to hide their identities. With moulded eyeholes and slitted mouths that were completely blank; the masks were a mere parody of human expression. She continued her walk forwards, holding her staff with one hand as she smoothed away her own expressions to mirror those of the masks.  Her footsteps halted as she came to a stop twenty paces away from the circle.

 

Despite their garb and the masks they wore, she could tell the figures standing in front of her were all women. Aes Sedai perhaps, though it twisted her stomach to call them that anymore. A tall lean figure standing at the far end of the circle raised her head and Ellisha thought she could see through the mask’s eyeholes and witness the person on the other side.

 

Deep brown spheres met hers as the two of them locked gazes. Ellisha saw a burning inferno of passion and zeal that writhed and twisted on the brink of what could only be madness. Yet as she looked further she saw a sea of calm beneath all that chaos, and beneath even that – a temple of resolute control. Those eyes sent a shiver down her spine the longer she held them. It made her feel like she was staring into the very figment of evil itself. The mask hid all expressions, yet Ellisha thought she could detect the woman smile as she began to speak.  

 

“Ah…” she said, taking an unhurried and relaxed tone.  “We thought you would come.” It wasn’t said very loudly, but the room seemed to echo the words until it boomed in Ellisha’s ears. Her blood chilled further as she listened. Slowly, her eyes drifted down to look at the figure on the table. Light, no.

 

The face was covered in a thin linen cloth of white, and the body bore no visible marks or scars. But oh light, did he hurt! She could feel his pain; feel and share in the agony he had to endure. Why was he not screaming? Why doesn’t he move? She steadied herself, balancing her weight on one hand which held her staff.

 

“What…” she began. “Did you do to him?”
The woman did not immediately answer but Ellisha did not need words to see what was happening. All thirteen were holding on to the One Power; the glow of Saidar surrounding their forms. Tendrils of air and water snaked from a few of the women, along with strands of earth and fire, but at its centre – a massive column of spirit that draped over the limp body like a misty waterfall. It was a weave she had never seen before.

 

“Some of my sisters had doubts that you would come. They said you would not be foolish enough to throw away everything for… a man.” The words came and Ellisha could hear the amusement in it. “Yet here you are. I have to commend you. Few thought you could have made it this far on your own. You really did force our hands.”  The woman raised both her hands as if in demonstration. “But now that you’re here… The Great Lord could use wise and resourceful subjects like you…”

 

A strange sensation over took her as something inside her finally snapped. Something she had not felt in a very long time. Anger. Unrestrained, unbound anger that threaten to break loose into weaves of the One Power. How dare she. How dare this THING even suggest- Ellisha was already holding on to Saidar, but that sweet river of nectar seemed to boil as she let it simmer in her veins; heated by the flames of her inner rage.  

 

“You show promise – a passion and fire that he greatly seeks...”

 

She began preparing weaves of destruction; all five elements of the power that curled into an array of missiles and molten death around her.
“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
The women opposite her began to laugh; hideous rolling laughter that did not sound like they were produced from human throats. Ellisha continued her weaving.

 

“Do you really think that’s going to stop us?”
The woman twisted one of the weaves connecting her to the figure, and a shot of blinding pain raced across the bond towards her. White hot pain, that was both pure and terrifying at the same time. It threatened to collapse the very foundation of her world around her as she fought desperately for self-control. No. She has to concentrate. She Must concentrate!

 

A shield shot towards her just as her eyes fluttered open to refocus on scene in front of her. She cut the weave with a flow of air, but it came closer than she would have otherwise liked. She cut back two more shields and a few clubs of air, along with a few weaves she did not recognise – or wanted to recognise – as they all came for her.

 

“Interesting…” the woman said coolly as Ellisha stoutly stood her ground, “That staff…it’s an Angreal, isn’t it?”  So the woman had guessed, Ellisha thought as she took the chance to draw from the long rod shaped staff that was an object of the One Power. Saidar filled her to a point beyond what she could have otherwise held on her own, and she began her attack; hurling balls of fire, weaves of air and bits of loose stone from around her.

 

Destructive powers collided, some exploding in midair whilst others unravelled before they could find their mark.  The arrayed women cut her weaves down. Even with the Angreal, there were still thirteen of them to her one. There were limits to what she could do, but Ellisha chose to not back down. She fired her barrage. Wave after wave of the One Power, as she pounded them with whatever she could lay her hands on.

 

 “I suggest you stop…” the woman said, as she swiftly cut another flow of fire that had been racing towards her.  “This grows… tiring.” A corner of one of the figure’s robes began smouldering as the fireball that had streaked from Ellisha had not been unravelled fast enough before it exploded next to her.
“If you kill any of us. He – dies too.”  

 

She paused, hesitating – the weaves of air, earth and fire hanging idly in her hand – ready to be thrown.  
“Stop fighting. Surrender yourself.”
“No.” she breathed, feeling the power surge inside her to a point of pain – an indication she was drawing too much to hold.
“You can’t kill us…”
That was true. She couldn’t kill any of them. They were linked to him. But there was still a way…“No, I can’t.” Ellisha said, her voice suddenly turning as cold as brittle ice.
“But I can burn you out of the pattern.” The weaves slowly formed in her hands. The weave for Balefire.
“No!” one of the voices called, “You’re mad! That is forbidden!” but Ellisha was no longer listening as she began her final weave.

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

 

“I don’t care if I don’t come back!” she roared into the air, seemingly at nothing. Half mad.

 

Weaves converged on one another; an awesome sight of benevolent righteousness that twisted all five elements into a single strand; a holy white glow that began shining around a single bar of unstoppable power. She drew in more of the Power, feeling Saidar and the waves sing and destroy in her breath. She was going to kill them all! Kill them forever for having done this to her. They will no longer exist – never have existed.  
No, she thought. It was a voice in her head – a small voice; an insignificant portion that paled against the light of Saidar and the weave in front of her that was to be her revenge.
No, this is not the way it’s meant to be.

 

“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Something was wrong.
She spun and there, sitting against one of the large wooden doors she had come through – was the gateway, its soft natural glow a pale contrast to the wall of blackness surrounding it.
“The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
She could hear shouting behind her, sense movement as the circle of woman tried to back away from the weave of light she still held in her hand.
“The way back…”

 

“Burn you!” She roared as she turned and ran. Amidst the roar of Saidar and the cries of pain surrounding her, she ran. She could still feel the bond tug at her as her legs carried her across the room, feel its cry for help, its agonising scream for mercy. She crashed headlong into the gateway – a last wave of emotion and pain that consumed her as the connection was wrenched from existence. She was floating in it, surrounded by… Light. That basked her in its warm embellishments. Her head warped in between the realms of past, present and future as the world spun.  

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She crashed through from the gateway; hand trembling, her eyes wide with shock and terror. Her feet wobbled, then collapsed as she fell to her knees at the top of the marble dais.

 

A single syllable left her mouth and it was a scream. She screamed until it felt like there was to be no end. Until her throat felt raw and her lungs burned with fire. She screamed until all the sorrow, the emotion, the pain, left her in a torrent of sickness and fear. All in that single syllable that told the world of her despair.

 

The room full of Aes Sedai fell silent. They all stared at the girl; naked, at the top of the marble dais with the Ter’Angreal slowly whirling to a halt behind her. Ellisha sobbed with her head facing the floor, yet no tears ever came to her eyes. She wept, for she could not remember anything of what had happened. All the emotions, the feeling – the pain, she could not remember what she had done to deserve them. Yet she could feel them as vividly as if they were real. Maybe she was there. Maybe it was all real. Oh light, it hurt!  

 

A figure walked beside her and Ellisha saw white slippers peeking out from underneath the hem of a sky blue skirt. She tilted her head to look up. It was Valeri Sedai.
“Light, child.” The woman sighed, but said nothing more.
Ellisha sobbed and finally – blessedly, the tear drops came. She felt the water pour from her eyes, as if there had been a dam holding it all back. But now it had burst, there was nothing she could do to ebb its flows.

 

“The Amyrlin Seat is waiting.” The Mistress of Novices said, as she wrapped an arm around Ellisha’s shoulders and helped her rise to her feet. She did not object or try to resist, and allowed herself to be lifted and led towards the large procession of woman standing in a row. Something curled in her bones at the sight, and she felt herself trembling uncontrollably. “It’ll be alright, Child. It’s almost over.”

 

The Amyrlin seat stood at the head of the procession of representatives from all seven Ajahs. All wore their colour fringed shawls, and the Amyrlin – as always – had over her shoulder the colour stripped stole of her office. She stared down at Ellisha as she approached the head of the procession and knelt. All their faces were blank now; the perfect image of Aes Sedai serenity, though she was sure she saw a few expressions of alarm enter those Aes Sedai features when she exited from the portal. Whatever the case had been, it didn’t matter now. The women showed no emotion on their faces, as they looked across at her brown hair and trembling body.

 

The Amrlin seat raised the silver goblet she held in her hands and tipped it over Ellisha’s head. “You are washed clean of Ellisha Falwein of Aringill. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world.” She said as Ellisha felt – for the third time – the cold surge of icy liquid soak through her hair and run down the length of her body. “You come to us washed clean in heart and soul.” She did not feel clean. She felt dirtied. Like a foul mixture of grime and filth that clogged the back of her mouth. She felt sick. “You are Ellisha Falwein: Accepted of the White Tower.” The woman lowered her cup as the last of the liquid was poured from it. “You are sealed to us now. Welcome, daughter.”

 

The Amyrlin then handed the silver chalice over to one of the Aes Sedai standing beside her, and produced a ring from the folds of her dress – a Great Serpent ring of a snake biting its own tail. She lifted Ellisha’s left hand, which was still trembling, and slipped the ring onto the third finger. She pulled Ellisha to her feet and stared at her straight in the eye. Ellisha raised her head and met those eyes. “Welcome, Daughter.” The Amyrlin said and bent to kiss Ellisha’s left cheek. “Welcome.” She finished by kissing the right, and Ellisha knew the ceremony was over. There was affection in the Amyrlin’s eyes, and her words were said with a degree of warmth. Yet Ellisha could feel only the chill rising from her back as she bowed and curtsied to the other woman.

 

The ceremony was over. She had done it.

 

Yet there was no sense of joy in her heart. No sense of accomplishment or glee at what she had just achieved. All she could think about as she redressed from her clothes pile was the sense of despair; that feeling of dread and sorrow that lingered in the strings of her heart. She finished putting back on her shift and dress, then walked up alone, back to the White Tower. No victory. This didn’t feel like victory.

 

She would have one more day to spend in her old quarters before she had to move up to an Accepted’s room, so she retraced a familiar route that took her back to the East wing.  Night had already fallen in the real world. She must have spent nearly an entire day in that Ter’Angreal. The windows she passed showed a clear evening sky outside, as thousands of stars filled the evening dome with the spectacle of a thousand tiny lights. It was a quiet night; a night for contemplation.

 

She opened the door to her room and found everything was still where she had left them the day before. Pulling aside the single straight backed chair in the room, she sat down and looked at the Serpent ring on her hand. A snake biting its own tail; a symbol of eternity, of the endless turning to the Wheel of Time.

 

The door opened suddenly behind her, and Venca came in.
“Oh thank the Light.” the woman said as she crossed the room to sit on the single poster bed. Ellisha turned to face her friend, and the ring gleamed as it caught the light from outside. Venca smiled when she noticed it. “Congratulations. We were so worried; you were down there for so long!”

 

Ellisha did not change her expression as she stared back at the other woman, and the smile slowly faded from Venca’s lips.
“Eli? Are you alright?”
“Do you still have the letter I gave you?” she cut in, not one bit surprised by the harshness of her own voice.

 

Venca paused, then nodded. She rummaged around at a pouch to the side of her Novice dress and fished out the cream coloured parchment Ellisha had left with her. The room was completely dark; say for the illumination coming from the open doorway outside, so Ellisha wove a small weave of fire and lit the candle stump that was sitting on her desk.  

 

She took the small envelop from Venca’s offered hand; a frown slowly deepening on the other woman cheeks, as she broke the seal holding the paper together. She read.  
I wanted to write this, even if this may never reach you, perhaps both as a goodbye, and – for the last time – as your ship daughter. She continued to scan the document, often reading certain lines twice or more. I am proud to be called your daughter and know this, for whatever happens – your little Eli will continue to live on…

 

Little Eli…

 

She paused, tapping the edge of the letter on her chair’s armrests.  Then, lifting the letter to the candle light, she touched the edge of the paper to the flame. Venca stared in amazement at the burning letter; her mouth open, her expression – speechless. Ellisha held it and watched as the flames took away her past. Her deep emerald eyes, impassive as the fires burned what was. There will be no room for little Eli. Not anymore.

 

“Good-bye father.” She whispered, and knew. That this was their final farewell.

 

~Ellisha Falwein
Accepted of the White Tower.

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