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  1. It's over. It's finally over. Over twenty years of work, countless hours of study, countless days scrubbing pots, and all of it leading to this one night and day. Janine sat nude on her bed in the Accepted's quarters, legs folded up underneath her, elbows resting on her knees. Her eyes were locked on the door in front of her, though she really didn't see it. In her mind, Janine was replaying the events of the night, seeing every moment unfold in her imagination. The fire had long burned down to embers, but Janine did not notice the slight chill in the air. She simply sat and remembered... One hundred weaves, one final testing... The list of weaves seemed oppressively massive, but Janine had committed every evening from the day she got the list to learning and memorizing every single weave on the list. None of the weaves were hard, per se, but they were unusual. It was no easy task to memorize them because of their odd nature. Of course, there was the second part of the test: utterly calm serenity. That one would be more difficult than the weaves. Janine's temper was well-known throughout the Accepted's quarters; she always seemed to be on the edge of exploding, as if something was always at the back of her mind, making her angry with the world. If any of them had cared to ask Janine about it, they would have found out they were absolutely right, though they would not have liked the resulting answer... Voices in the hallway brought Janine out of her silent contemplation. From the sound of it, there were two novices out there, sneaking into the quarters of a despised Accepted, likely with something squirmy to liven her evening. Janine remembered doing that on more than one occasion, though it wasn't very original. She had much preferred something more shocking than having her victims wake up with a 'friend' in their bed. For a moment, she considered leaving her room to catch the two in the act. However, it was likely that she didn't like the targeted Accepted, either, and in a few hours, she wouldn't be able to do it herself. Settling back, Janine allowed her mind to return to its contemplations... Meals in the cafeteria were filling, if a bit bland, but Janine didn't mind. A full stomach kept her from being too cranky with whatever obnoxious novices she was stuck teaching. She did not have the patience for it at any time, much less with all these recent raisings and... "Janine Alastarn." Not again... This was probably over assigning a chore to some novice simply for getting on her nerves and... Turning, Janine saw that this was not the case. It was the Mistress of Novices. She was in her shawl. Oh, Light... "You are summoned to be tested for the shawl of an Aes Sedai. May the Light keep you whole and see you safe." Janine could have died in that moment. After the Accepted test, she'd thought that there would never be such a fear again, but that familiar cold began creeping up her spine, chilling her in an all-too-familiar manner... "Here we go again," Janine muttered. Another shiver racked Janine's body, causing her to wrap her arms tightly around herself. The walk down to the testing had passed in silence. She remembered her mind, how it had roiled and ran through the list of weaves. She knew them all, but they had been gone from her mind as if they'd never been. It had worried her, but she'd been able to force a calm over her mind as the walk had progressed. To the door... The silence was deafening, oppressive, yet Janine had to allow it. Once in the passages below the White Tower, silence was required. Even if that silence seemed to stretch forever as she descended lower and lower into the bowels of the Tower. Only upon reaching the lowest level, the last door, did they stop. It took no time for Janine to see the difference between this door and the other doors that they had passed. It was huge. There was no other way to say it. The size reminded Janine of the doors on fortresses or defensive towers. A simple weave of Air pushed the doors open, revealing... Janine gasped. Lamplight reflected off the white walls of the room, arching up to the domed ceiling. In the center of the room, an oval stood on edge, the light reflecting various colors off of it, never staying the same for a moment. With a sinking certainty, Janine knew that she was to be tested within the thing. However, this was not the Arches. This was different. Janine knew she was capable of doing this. The shattered girl that had come out of that bloody ter'angreal so long ago was dead and gone, replaced with a woman who knew what she was about. Failure was not an option. "Attend," the Mistress of Novices said formally. At the word, the seven Aes Sedai in the room stood around her in a ring. It was time to be done with it. "You come in ignorance, Janine Alastarn. How would you depart?" I would depart with the knowledge I need to be free of the restraints you've put upon me. The fiery thought was no reflection of Janine's tone as she calmly said, "In knowledge of myself." "For what reason have you been summoned here?" "To be tried." And not just my patience. "For what reason should you be tried?" A sudden realization hit Janine. This was one of the last steps in becoming Aes Sedai. She was almost done. Twenty-some years to get to this point, and it was almost over. "So that I may learn whether I am worthy." "For what would you be found worthy?" Serenity could not help the small smile that blossomed on Janine's face for a moment. "To wear the shawl..." Light, it had been terrible. A hundred memories had cascaded upon her all at once at the end of that testing. She felt tears beginning to form at the corners of her eyes at some of them. She'd seen her brothers thrust into Trolloc cookpots. She'd been thrown to starved lions. There'd been Inquisitors with their needles and hot pokers and worse things. She'd been beaten, scratched, nearly mauled, nearly raped, nearly dead in dozens of ways that she'd never expected. She'd fought Trollocs and Fades and all kinds of Shadowspawned filth. And she'd come out at the end. Janine had done it all without the failure she'd expected. She'd succeeded. The sounds from the hall seemed to indicate that the day would be starting soon. Rising from the bed, Janine quickly dressed, laying her few belongings on the bed. They'd be here for her soon. Almost on cue, there came three clear knocks at the door. Looking into the mirror one last time, Janine took a steadying breath and opened the door. It was no surprise that there were seven Aes Sedai awaiting her, one from each Ajah and all wearing their shawls. Stepping into the silent circle, Janine allowed them to lead her once again through the corridors of the Tower, down the familiar tunnels of the previous night, and to the doors of the previous night. There would be no need for knocking, she saw; the doors stood wide open, waiting for her arrival. However, the circle around her stopped, halting her progress. Ah, yes, traditions, precedence, propriety, Janine thought for a moment. She was anxious to gain the shawl, to finally be free of all these restrictions! "Who comes here?" The voice was familiar in a vague sort of way. Janine had heard the Amyrlin speak on a few occasions, but that was all the interaction she'd had with the woman. Just as well; her temper could have very well caused her trouble. "Janine Alastarn," she answered clearly, her voice ringing through the room. "For what reason do you come?" "To swear the Three Oaths and thereby claim the shawl of an Aes Sedai." "By what right do you claim this burden?" By twenty years of my life being poured into this one moment, she thought. However, that's not the answer they wanted. "By right of having made the passage, submitting myself to the will of the White Tower." "Then enter, if you dare, and bind yourself to the White Tower." Janine dared. The Amyrlin stood framed within the oval ter'angreal, the seven-striped stole on her shoulders, her Keeper by her side with a black cushion in hand. Janine knew what would be on that cushion. Knowing what would be there, knowing that it would be there made Janine realize that she'd truly made it. They were really going to do this. Stepping through the oval, she went to her knees before the Amyrlin, her hands held before her. It seemed as if the smooth rod, not quite like ivory, not quite like glass, weighed more than it should have. There was no sound in the room. The only thing that seemed out of place was the glow around the Amyrlin as she channeled a thin flow of Spirit into the white rod in her hand. "Under the Light, and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I swear that I will never speak a word that is untrue." The sensation of the air seeming to press against her was... unnerving. Janine felt as if the words that she'd spoken were literally settling into her. "Under the Light, and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I swear that I will never make any weapon for one man to kill another." The feeling redoubled, making Janine feel as if she'd been sealed within a silk wrapping that was far too tight, leaving her hardly able to breathe. It was not comfortable, to say the least. "Under the Light, and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I swear 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." A gasp escaped from Janine's lips as the oath settled into her along with the other two, sealing her as surely as a stone sealed a tomb. Her breathing was ragged, pressured. How long was this going to last? "It is half done, and the White Tower is graven on your bones," the Amyrlin said, her voice carrying the same dull tone as it had before. "Rise now, Aes Sedai, and choose your Ajah, and all will be done that may be done under the Light." If Janine had thought that kneeling was awkwardly uncomfortable, standing proved to be downright agony. The oaths seemed to keep her stiff and unbending, hardly able to move at all as she curtseyed to the Amyrlin and kissed her Great Serpent ring. With that formality out of the way, Janine looked to each Ajah in turn. The Yellows: healers and curers of diseases. They were the best healers known to the world. However, Janine had never shown any promise in Healing, nor had she ever shown any interest in it. The Blues: Seekers after Causes, with the capital letters audible. They sought to right wrongs and meddle with the affairs of thrones and nations. Not her cup of brandy in the least. The Reds: hunters of male channelers, defending the world from another Breaking. An admirable cause, to be sure, but not very high up on Janine's priority list. The Grays: mediators, arbiters, and negotiators. They sought to create peace and make groups work together. A good member to have in a party, but very far from Janine's nature. The Whites: philosophers, seekers of wisdom. Which meant that they sat around all day thinking deep thoughts. No. The Browns: archivers, librarians, and liable to know the most random things. Useful, but Janine had no desire to spend her entire life with her nose in a book. That only left one option. Her eyes traced the line back to the Ajah she'd long known she was meant for, and they'd known she was meant for them, too. Slowly, the rest of the Ajahs parted, leaving Janine with her choice. Always, she'd been the fighter, the one who refused to quit. She'd been the one who was more likely to lash out. She'd been destined for the Green Ajah since the day she'd strode into the Tower gardens and insulted Lavinya Sedai. Her steps made her choice clearer than any words could have.
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