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  1. Ay’Lira took her book and snuggled into her bed. It was a complete account move-by-move battles in the Trolloc Wars. And she definitely deserved the time to read it. At least she thought she did. She had written a good thesis about three Amyrlins raised from the Gray. And now, she could enjoy her favorite subject in history…battles. She opened the book to the first page and only read the first two words before her door flung open. She lowered the book and looked up to find Valeri Sedai wearing her shawl. Any questions she had in her mind waited for the Mistress of Novices spoke. “Ay’Lira Sonoran, you are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai. The Light keep you whole and see you safe.” So, she wasn’t in trouble. No, it was something much more grave than that. All the work she had done over the past couple of decades or so was about to be put to the test. No, it was something much worse. Closing her book and setting it down, she stood up and following the Aes Sedai out. Much like when she had gone down to the bowels of the Tower for her test to become Accepted, the room where she would take the test for the shawl was far down a spiraling staircase under the Tower. Every step, every second before they reached the room seemed like a year! She soothed herself, reminding herself that Valeri wouldn’t have summoned her if she wasn’t ready. Finally, the Mistress of Novices stopped at a pair of double doors and opened them with a weave of Air. There were so many details about the room that she couldn’t take them all in before it began. But she did notice all the power going into the slowly spinning in the in the middle of the room. “Attend,” Valeri said in a strong voice. Seven sisters, all in their shawls, one from each Ajah, stood around the Mistress of Novices and Ay’Lira. “You come in ignorance, Ay’Lira Sonoran. How would you depart?” Valeri asked. “In knowledge of myself,” Ay’Lira answered. “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 should you be found worthy?” “To wear the shawl.” After that, Ay’Lira began to disrobe. As she did, the Mistress of Novices continued. “Therefore, I will instruct you. You will see this sign upon the ground.” The Aes Sedai channeled and traced a six-pointed star with her finger in the air. Oddly enough, as she demonstrated, a sister began to channel behind Ay’Lira as she continued to disrobe and lightly touched her head with the weave. Strange, that. She didn’t let any surprise show, though. To become an Aes Sedai, she had to trust them whether or not she knew their reasons. “Remember what must be remembered,” the unseen sister said. “When you see that sign, you will go to it immediately, 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.” “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 give and in perfect composure.” “Remember what must be remembered.” Ay’Lira soaked every word as it was spoken to her, even the “remember what must be remembered” part. The weave the sister was weaving settled in, and the seven sisters surrounding the ring. As she continued to undress, she felt all seven of them begin to channel, and channel complex weaves at that. She didn’t show any hesitation or falter at all as she finished, placing her Great Serpent ring on top of her folded clothes. She waited calmly for the signal from the ring ter’angreal. When she saw the air in it gleam completely white, she stepped through… Looking around, Ay’Lira decided she was in an empty manor. She saw no one, heard no one. The unfamiliar surroundings made her want to hide, but she had to keep perfect composure. She had to keep calm. Walking forward, she wondered why she was nude, and where her clothes might have gone. As she moved through the grand parlor, she spotted a simply cut but elegant silk dress, shift, stockings, and slippers. Not hurrying, but not hesitating either, she walk to the table that had the clothes and dressed at a steady pace. Once she was properly covered, she continued to walk, striding down the hallway connected to the only door in this unusual place. As she walked, she began to hear people move around. Even though she was dressed for this place, she felt very unwelcome, very out-of-place. But she kept her discomfort down. It did not show on her face. She couldn’t let it. The population of this once desolate place grew denser and denser. People cropped up out of nowhere now. Where under the Light were they coming from? As she moved down the hall, they began to cover amused smiles while looking at her. They snickered and murmured. She wondered what they found so amusing about her. But she kept her eyes forward, gliding down the hall until she reached a large ballroom. Lords and ladies flitted about, some dancing, some talking, but most still looking curiously at her. She wanted desperately to stop and demand what amused them so. But she kept walking, weaving through dancing, talking, and amused nobility until she saw it. There was a six-pointed star in the middle of the dance floor. Couples swirled and twirled around and atop it. She kept her shoulders straight and her face bare of any emotions as she made her way through the throngs of people. This time, she didn’t weave, she asserted her unusual authority, and people backed away, embarrassed to be seen with a creature as strange as her. As soon as her feet were planted on the star, she embraced Saidar, and as soon as she began to weave the first required weave, the music she hadn’t noticed before changed tune, and all the party-goers began to dance in a uniform motion. When she saw the immediate uniform movement, she immediately split a weave and made a wall of Air around her, making sure the couples wouldn’t knock her off the star. Once the weave was complete, the music died down again, and the people spread out, paying her no mind whatsoever. She left the star and headed toward the new one now hanging over the door leading out… Ay’Lira’s bare foot stepped on something that made a distinctive squish sound. She kept moving, but also looked down to see what she had stepped in. It was mud. But it wasn’t mud that one simply saw after rain. This was mud that was filled with decades of rotten plant fodder. It was green and black, and it stank of the Blight. Her face did not twist, her nose did not twitch. But she did keep a keen eye on the surroundings. The Blight did not accommodate to anyone. She did wish she had some clothes, though. As she thought that, a pair of trousers, a good shirt, and a coat appeared on some unusually clean branches of trees, some good boots hanging along with them. She dressed steadily and headed out again. The trees were black, not with death, but with decay. The plants were the same, but they seemed to have oddly-colored spots on them. Whenever something made a noise, she followed it with her eyes, but usually found nothing. She walked until she found a six-pointed star marked out in twisted sticks left in the mud. Stepping into the star, she embraced Saidar and began to construct the second weave. As soon as she brought out the barest amount of Air, Fire, and Earth, a Myrdraal appeared in front of her. It smiled at her, but before its smile could reach its eyeless gaze, she split the weave of Fire and burned its head off. The thing thrashed on the ground, scrabbling for its sword as she continued to weave her required second weave. The thing was grotesque and demanded her attention, but she ignored it. She added the Spirit and finished the second weave. The gnarled and decayed branches of the black trees formed the same six-pointed star she had just left. She walked under the branches, and… Her home felt so strange without anyone in it. And she felt stranger standing in her kitchen bare of clothing. She didn’t know where her family had gone, or how she had gotten to the kitchen without a stitch of cloths. But she knew she had to find the six-pointed star, weave the third required weave, and keep a completely calm exterior during all of it. Her simple preferred clothes appeared on her kitchen table: good woolen trousers, simple boots, and a good shirt. She dressed herself and walked through her house. The star was not here, and neither was her family. So, she went outside. She headed from her house toward the Seven Towers. Her father might be at work, or her mother. But more importantly, the star would be likely to be there. But as she walked through the streets, she saw it etched out in stones right in front of the main entrance of the Towers. When she reached it, she began to weave Air, Earth, and Spirit. In the corner of her vision, and in one of the arrow slits of the closest Tower, she saw movement. She split the weave of Air and sent a long weave to her target while keeping the complicated weave in its place. The extra weave of Air grabbed the arrow aimed at her and the bow that was about to shoot it and likely others. The bow and arrow dropped harmlessly to the ground, and a curse came out of the arrow slit. The assassin probably wasn’t done, but she kept weaving. Air, Earth, and Spirit began to look like a circle of lace. Ay’Lira was almost finished when the lone assassin came running out of the tower and rushing at her with a sword. She dispatched of the sword in much the same way she had the bow and arrow, but he kept running, now with a brandished knife. This time, she just tied him in ropes of Air and tied off the weave, finishing the required one. She turned around and saw a six-pointed star above an inn. The assassin shouted curses and obscenities at her as she walked away, saying that he had killed her family, had killed her friends, had killed anyone she loved, screaming her name. His voice sounded familiar, but she didn’t turn around. She didn’t want to confirm that this was her innocent little brother. She walked under the star… Ay’Lira was beginning to feel tired, but she didn’t let her posture or her face show it. She had to be calm, and keep going at a steady pace. Her bare feet hit rocks. Not stepping stones, but large pieces of earth. Looking up, she saw the top of a mountain. But, the tip wasn’t there…was it a volcano? Looking down, she saw nothing but forest. She looked up and saw the six-pointed star up the mountain, not very far away. As she began to climb, she found a simple woolen dress and boots. A dress wasn’t the best thing to climb in, but it was better than her skin. She dressed and headed up again. The vague pathway up the mountain slowly went away during her ascent, and she was forced to climb on all fours, but she still kept her face smooth, and her pace steady. It was hard to keep her breathing steady, but she managed it. When she finally reached the star, she stood on steady feet. She had to keep her feet apart, but she still stood. As she embraced Saidar, the ground moved and the mountain did indeed prove to be a volcano. She began to ready her weave with weaves of Air, Earth, Water, and Spirit. She split the weave of Earth and sent it into the volcano. She raised the earth around her to divert the oncoming lava at a wide angle. She wove the weave, careful to watch the lava, making sure that it didn’t go over the wall. Light, but it was hot! Her breathing became labored, but her face didn’t show the strain. As she expected, the lava did come over the wall of earth, but she sent split weaves of Water and Air at the molten earth until it hardened. Wanting to sigh in relief, she kept it away and finished the weave. When it was done, she looked around and noticed the lava around her was all hardened. There was also a good wide path leading to an opening of a cave with the six-pointed star on it. As she stepped over the hardened lava, she was glad for the boot. It was no longer hot enough to kill, but she could still feel the heat. She stepped off the lava and walked into the cave… Ay’Lira found herself in a small room in the Seven Towers. Next to her was a beautifully cut blue dress, a shift, and slippers to match. She dressed herself, and stepped out of the room. She had to find the last six-pointed star, and weave the hundredth weave. Stepping out of the room, she found herself in the servants quarters. She had spent so many happy days here with Benna. As she scanned the halls, she saw dark residue on the walls. Was it blood? Turning down the hall, she moved toward the main galleries and found that it was dried blood. The fall. She hadn’t been here since the fall. If she had, she would have gone into the Blight. Bodies were scattered everywhere. But not fresh ones. They were all decaying, not quite skeletons, and they all smelled terrible. She did not to look at the faces to see if she knew anyone. She just kept walking, dust and dried blood beginning to collect on her skirt. She was drawn to the throne room where the floor was absolutely littered with bodies. Some of the bodies were Trollocs and Myrdraal, but most of them were human. She tried not to think that her father would likely be one of them. In the middle of the floor, she found a six-pointed star etched out in black tiles against the predominant white. Ay’Lira wove around the bodies, keeping her eyes on the star. As she approached, she heard someone running toward her, shouting her name. Looking back, but not startled, she found her younger brother Teru. He was dirty, had a beard growing, and tears in his eyes. “Lira, you’re back! What are you doing here?” he asked as she continued to walk. “I have a purpose here,” she said simply, still moving to the star. “A purpose? What is it?” “I need to complete something.” “Well…can I help?” “No, this is something only I can do.” “When you’re finished…you can come live with us again. We’re living in Fal Moran now. I’m one of the defenders against the Blight, can you believe it?” There was a touch of excitement in his voice. The same little boy she had played with and taught archery to all those years ago… She bit back the tears. “No, I cannot. Tell mother and Benna that I love them, yourself as well,” she said as she stepped into the star and wove the last weave. When it was done, there was a spray of colors… And she was back in the room of the testing. She stumbled, but didn’t fall as she walked toward Valeri, but she didn’t go very far. She couldn’t believe how different Teru was. Out of all those memories, her brother as a desperate assassin and her brother as a proud defender of Fal Moran…which one had he become? Valeri’s clapping snapped her to attention. “It is done. Let no one ever speak of what has passed here. It is for us to share in silence with she who experienced it. It is done.” She clapped again. “Ay’Lira Sonoran, you will spend the night 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.” With that, she clapped yet again, and left the room. As the seven Sisters crowded her, they asked if she would like a Healing. Looking down, she saw herself covered in scrapes, cuts, and bruises. The Yellow Healed her after she accepted it, and almost let out a shout of the surprise of coldness. She dressed herself in her own clothes, putting on the ring first. The sisters escorted her to her room. It was late at night, and everyone was asleep when she came back to her room. After she ate the food left for her, she tried to pray and contemplate, but she was far too tired. She drifted off to sleep, not bothering to cover herself with her blankets, and not bothering to strip to her shift… Ay’Lira woke up perhaps three hours later, by her guess, and brushed her hair out, smoothing out of skirt. She drank some water, checked herself in the mirror, and sat back down on her bed. A smile crept up on her lips. She had passed the test. She passed! The enormity hadn’t quite hit her last night. But she woke up now, excited for what was to come. But she knew she still had to maintain her calm, so she allowed some of her pent-up giggles to escape. She caught her breath, schooling herself, and waited. A few minutes later, there were three knocks on the door. Standing, she walked to the door and opened it. A Red sister stood with six others, one for each Ajah. They stood in silence, but didn’t have to wait long for her to join them. They left with her and escorted her back to the room where she had tested. The Sitters from each Ajahs were there with one other sister there, holding a shawl. She couldn’t see all of it from where she stood at the doorway, but she knew the ceremony by heart. They were all shawled, and the Amyrlin and Keeper were stoled. “Who comes here?” asked the Amyrlin. “Ay’Lira Sonoran,” she answered. “For what reason do you come?” “To swear the Three Oaths and thereby gain 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 Tower.” “Then enter, if you dare, and bind yourself to the Tower.” Ay’Lira entered, keeping her countenance, serene and confident. She walked through the now still ring, but when she walked through, she was still in the same room. She had halfway expected another test. She found her way to the Amyrlin and knelt. Now with the Oath rod in front of her, she channeled just a bit of Spirit. “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 not make one 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.” Ay’Lira noticed that as she swore each Oath, her skin tightened. But again, she wasn’t surprised with the unexpected effect. She handed the Oath Rod back to the Amyrlin. The Amyrlin said, “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.” Ay’Lira rose, now an Aes Sedai. No longer a “child”, and walked among the rows of sisters. When she had finally chosen her Ajah, she wondered to herself what took her so long to make that decision. But now she knew, no matter what hesitations she may have taken. And now she stood in front of the Greens, awaiting their words.
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