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Saline's Arches (unfinished)


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lyrics from My Selene - Sonata Arctica


“nocturnal poetry, dressed in the whitest silver you smile at me, every night I wait for my sweet Selene”


“in the end, I’m enslaved by my dreams; in the end there’s no soul who’d bleed for me”


Early morning her roommate Syara had already left for class. Saline retired to their room, too weary to go on much longer. Nobody else would look for her, nor see the article she procured tightly in her fist. Something in her heart turned over at the flowing script of his embroidery. The strong are gentle. It is only the weak that flail at others. In crimson against the backdrop of a golden corona, in that gauntlet of uncertainties, Saline did not doubt that she was cruel, nor could she profess disbelieve of the failings in her being, her avoidant nature that disheartened her with its affected loneliness as one by one the ones she knew closed her off in the mechanism of her greatest follies.


I am old, and sadder than most Novices here. They do not understand the pain, this lonely existence. Don’t leave me. Don’t, she screamed; still he was absent. Just a dream, she told herself fiercely. But was life not a dream too, from which the individual is better off in waking early?


How ungrateful you are, Saline Westrel, a pitiable husk eaten by self-regard and resignation when once you were strong, and brave. Undernourished brown eyes, humid with the familiar itching when the tears welled, widened and fixed, entranced as though pierced into a frozen position on some heathen alter to martyrdom. Grace favoured you in your past endeavours, and Grace that did not abandon you. It bestowed upon this world a thread and on your own you have made it insignificant.


Show me, she cried, and he did. Threads began to unravel, and the words bleed, paled. She laboured for breath as the embroideries dissipated into a grey fog, impenetrable by her tear sodden gaze. The bold letters blurred and became the man in her dream, as though the thought summoned his silence the night before came cascading back to the fore of her consciousness. A dusky gaze steadied hers, and it instructed her not to seek a hastened acquaintance with that inevitable, the never-ending awareness, the eternal rest.


To serve, she smiled wondering where he picked that up from, him a tinker. Rosebud mouth transformed abruptly as her lips pressed, its thinness mirroring her displeasure at the disturbance.


- Come in.


Light, the Mistress of Novices! Saline rose from a respectful curtsey, and bent her head forward to hear.


- Novice, you are summoned to test for the rank of the Accepted, as an initiate of the White Tower. Accept you your summons?


Addressed the woman in that cold tone, and eyed her in a languid manner, as if she only a child had any choice but to be subservient. Saline boggled the woman in panicky horror. The Aes Sedai have always demanded absolute obedience. If there was a line, it was a thin one. Sensibilities coloured her senses, and nodding she turned to follow, permitting her door to lock behind her.


The Mistress of Novices led the paled novice to her summons. A dreadful clambering doom fell upon Saline, who blanched in the silence of the morning. The corridor was empty but for a few unobtrusive servants, whom the Aes Sedai nodded to in greeting. They rounded the corner out of the Novice Quarters, and Saline nearly collided with another novice carrying a tray, who squeaked, but upon seeing the woman in the gown, dipped into a curtsey for the Aes Sedai (who was smiling benignly) before running off on her fortunate errands. Descending down the worn grooves of the paths even the Tower livery were no niche to be glimpsed, Saline carefully lifted her dress so not to trip on the steps, as the woman calmly rustled her way to the front of a Chamber at which a ceremony was to be.


-Is this where they kill me? The inner voice joked, yet nobody chuckled despite, or rather at the comforting remark. The Aes Sedai glanced at Saline, who, despite a worried expression that every girl who stood before these twin doors wore, appeared collected.


-This is the time, before you enter, to say you are not prepared to continue, if you are not ready. If your choice is to wait, there are two other tries available at later appointments. Understand that it is not a shame to refuse, child, some cannot commit themselves to face their summons the first time around.


- No, said the novice, unsettled by her nightly visitor. Thus dismissed, her confession drying her mouth, Saline sought refuge not in slumber, but in memories, impaired by her perceived reality. Even memories must be placed aside, for Syara was expecting her after class, and would be quite worried by now.



“but still, solitude’s upon my skin, a love that’s bound by the chains of reality, won’t you let me be your Endymion? I won’t, break your moonlight and slumber in peace, enchanted by your kiss in forever sleep”


The Mistress of Novices embraced Saidar for a moment and unlatched the doors, and both were struck by the three arches, a ter’angreal of silver that Saline – as had the Accepted before her – must walk through in order to progress further in the Tower, rather than the magnificent impossibly high dome. She nodded at the Aes Sedai seated around the Arches, and felt the women draw on the Source just as she had, preparing to activated the ter’angreal. Another stood apart from the rest, at her position with the water chalices on the small mahogany grained table, out of the child’s sight. The she broke the hushed silence, her soft voice growing stronger, stringent.


-There are two things that no woman hears until she enters this room. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, no matter your potential and you will be put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you a year, and you will never be allowed back. Some women have entered, and never come out. There is still a choice. If you refuse, as you did before, know that once more you will be summoned and given the chance to be an initiative. Do you wish to continue?


- That is my wish. Saline was keen for any judgment in the Aes Sedai’s stern look. She avoided the Mistress of Novices ever since that unhappy day when she refused her summons. Good that her answer was executed with poise, and her composure steadied her nerves as she smoothed her monochrome dress. The Mistress of Novices took a deep breath, and intoned.


- Second. To seek, to strive, is to know danger. You will know danger here.


That was not actually true. Saline barely suppressed a shudder, all the years of training, of learning, all those Novices became Accepted, then Aes Sedai; some succeeded, more failed. She knew enough to be afraid, and too little to be secure in her fear. The Aes Sedai’s words picked up the momentum again.


- After the ter’angreal calmed down, some women never returned from what is within, whether they are in there somewhere or they just were not here. The inside happenings of their Arches, no one really knows. To survive, you must be steadfast. Faltering leads to a failure. The women who failed were not ever seen. You may turn back now, child, you will have only mark against you. Once more will you be allowed to come here, and only at the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. You can a last chance to refuse, if you do not wish to continue.


The White Tower is my home. She remembered telling Perine Sedai that fact. Saline’s eyes burned, pierced by the cold blue fire, and she knew she could not go through with the ceremony. Where would I go? I have no place left to stay.


- I must refuse, Aes Sedai. She cast her gaze in shame, defeated by the Arches that hummed her cowardly act to the women present.



- You have ran away, returned to our folds of your own will, also answered to, and served the penance given to you well. You know what I am asking, child. The Aes Sedai entered the room, and broke her sanctuary since the last time they gathered in this chamber. It was not a question.


- I am ready to accept the summons, Aes Sedai.


It had begun. Saline knew to remove her clothes and lingered there to fold them into a neat pile in the corner of the room where stood another Aes Sedai at a table. She tucked her handkerchief into a pocket very carefully, and patted it before straightening from her crouch. The Mistress of Novices signaled the Novice over and waited for the initiation to proceed. She was committed.


- Whom do you bring with you tonight, Aes Sedai?

- I bring with me the candidate Saline, Sister. The Mistress of Novices replied calmly, the proper rotes flowed smooth as Sharan silk between the two.

- For what reason do you bring her?

- To be tested for Acceptance.

- 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 her fears, the Mistress of Novices’ eyes flinted as she locked looks with Saline, considering the worth of the creature who shivered small and vulnerable in her own nakedness. She answered the last question without trace of suspicion.

- But is now willing to confront them.

- Then let her face her fears.

The Sister propelled the novice toward the first gleaming arch.

- The first one is for what was. The Mistress of Novices beckoned for Saline to step through the arch, which hummed and vibrated when one of the Aes Sedai triggered the ter’angreal.

- The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. This the woman empathised strongly as Saline entered the arch.

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