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She closed her eyes and rested her head against the wall. It was still difficult to believe she was nearly at the culmination of her entire life’s purpose for the past fifteen or so years, and that she had come out of it as well as she did. She had come out of it – that was the most important thing. Of course this was dangerous, of course there were horror stories – there always were. And even though Rossa had done her utmost to avoid such talk, she still heard the odd story. After all, forewarned was forearmed. It had been one of the hardest experiences of her life, with the possible exception of fleeing her burning home and leaving her family to the fiery flames, or her arches when she was raised to Accepted. The knock at her door, heralding the arrival of the day’s destiny, and the inevitable walk towards the testing chamber, had made her nervous but she did not show it. She was Altaran. She was High Seat of her House. She was to be Aes Sedai. The chamber was smaller than she thought it would be. Somehow, Rossa had imagined it would be a stately hall rather than the room it was in, deep in the heart of the White Tower. A large ter’angreal was the focus of the room, oval in shape, and the place where her hundred practised weaves would be carried out. Would this be similar to the test for the ring? No, Rossa somehow doubted it would be. It would be hard work and this was not the time for questions. She stepped confidently into the room, embracing the future and what may come of it. An Aes Sedai from each of the seven Ajahs stood in a circle dotted around the room, and the Mistress of Novices stepped forward and turned to face Rossa, beginning the ceremony. She was ready, she could do this – she just had to keep her nerve. “You come in ignorance, Rossa Venye, how would you depart?” “In knowledge of myself.” “For what reason have you been summoned here?” Rossa paused. She knew the wording that would have to follow this question but she was seized by a sudden uncertainty. Who would carry out her vengeance if she were destined to not pass this test? She would be a failure and an example – an utterly humiliated try-hard. She could not let that happen, and her chin came up sharply. “To be tried.” “For what reason should you be tried?” “So that I may learn whether I am worthy.” “For what would you be found worthy?” “To wear the shawl.” That was the aim of this, after all. The next words Rossa heard instructed her to remove her clothes and begin the test by entering the ter’angreal. She would be strong. Clad in the light, Rossa walked forward proudly. …flicker… She opened her eyes to see a small room with some clothes neatly laid out on a single cot. They looked to be her size as well, which was nice. Rossa dressed quickly and walked to a spot that looked meaningful; at least, to her it looked meaningful. A loud banging at the door heralded the first of the tests; accompanied by angry shouts that she couldn’t hide, that she would be found and the men would enjoy her soon enough. Disdain. It hadn’t helped. The door exploded inwards in a mass of splinters and large men walked in the room before she could do anything about beginning the first weave. One of them grabbed her arm roughly and it was all Rossa could do to wrench it free as she whirled to face him. Another was coming at her from behind and she panicked, running to the other side of the room. She had no weapons, no dignity, no nothing! A chair stood close to the bed, and Rossa took the initiative and lifted it in front of her, stepping on it. At least she could kick them in the face now. That’s not the point of all this. It was an odd epiphany of realities meeting, and the realisation of her situation. Rossa quickly embraced Saidar and wove the first weave she had practised so hard at. She knew them all by rote, but performing them under this kind of duress would be difficult indeed. As she completed the first weave, the men vanished and Rossa looked around, startled. Nothing had happened except that she had accomplished the first part of her test. Gathering herself, she left the small room and went on to the next challenge. And challenged she had been. Spiders, rivals that tried to strip her and make her sing in front of a figure that looked like the Queen of Altara naked, Trollocs attempting to overrun her … lots of trials that somehow, miraculously, Rossa managed to overcome. There had been a moment when she thought of giving up, but ruthlessly she suppressed it. At the time she had been covered with choking vines, her hands only just able to make tiny gestures to weave Saidar to the requisite form. With her success, she had dropped to the floor, gasping for breath and shivering. Names could not hurt her; she scarcely felt the abrasions on her body or the parts that would bruise. Her eyebrow was half singed at one point by one of the Trollocs she had thrown a fireball at – it had charged her and was almost on top of her when Rossa had been able to finish the weave and momentum carried the thing forward. A hasty hand batted out flames, but not before half her eyebrow had burnt off. Oddly it was seeing her rivals that forced Rossa to calmness. The real reasons of becoming an Aes Sedai to help people and discover as much as she could of what was lost or in danger of being lost made Rossa realise these Court butterflies were useless creatures, and it rekindled her dignity. Imagining she was being prepared for a presentation to the Queen, or worse yet, her mother’s inspecting eye, made Rossa focus harder on her task. It had done the trick. The final parts of the one hundredth weave fell into place, and Rossa knew she could return. She had been grazed, dazed and was completely amazed that she had succeeded this part. She stepped back into the chamber. …flicker…