Four and a half years Meijina had walked these halls. In four and a half years, she had become more at home in these halls than any place she had ever been. Well, maybe not her father’s home. Her father had been a good man and loved her very much. The memory of her father always made her smile.
Meijina hugged the books to her chest as she remembered the days with her father. It had just been the two of them. Her mother had died when she was born, so she grew up in Lugard with her father. For seven great years, Meijina had her ideal life. Every luxury her father could afford, the best tutors in Lugard, the finest dresses. Everything for his little angel, Jinie.
Seven years that were abruptly ended. Meijina would never forget the day, only three days after her seventh naming day. She remembered little seven-year-old Jinie, studying all the time. She was a great lover of books. She sat in her home waiting for her father to return. She fell asleep, pale hair spilling all over her texts. A man burst into the small home Meijina shared with her father and woke her from her stolen nap. Informing her that something had happened to her father, she hurried after the man, pushing her pale hair behind her ears and marking her place in a book.
She followed the man into the street where she saw her father lying in the dirt, a knife protruding from his chest. Blood colouring the sand beneath the body. Meijina took a step back from the scene. It wasn’t the sort of thing a seven-year-old girl should be seeing. She came to herself, pain stabbing herself in the heart. She ran to her father’s side. His eyes were open, but he was unable to say anything. He reached for her hands and gave them a squeeze before his body become limp, eyes glazing and looking up to the sky. Meijina knew her father was gone. She wailed and tried to shake her father. He should wake. She needed him. “Father,” she wailed. No answer. He was gone. Never again would he hug her. Never again would he call her angel.
Emotions ripped to shreds, Meijina bolted. She ran and ran. Where she ran, she had no idea. She only knew that she couldn’t bear to view her father that way.
Meijina had stopped in the hall. A couple tears leaking down her cheeks. A passing Accepted gave her a curious look as Meijina brushed the tears off her face. She didn’t need to lose control over her emotion here in the hall. By a force of will, Meijina continued briskly to her room. She had moved in with her aunt and uncle after that day. They were the only relatives she had from then on. The old woman seemed to blame everything bad on Meijina. The poor girl was reduced to a scullery maid. Many of her beautiful dresses were turned into cleaning rags. It was obvious that Meijina was not wanted in the home. Meijina had no more schooling. She found herself sneaking books into her attic room and reading. She spent all the evening hours there, pouring over books and hiding from her drunk uncle when he came home from work. He would beat on her aunt and herself. She preferred to remain out of sight.
Meijina arrived at her small novice room. She set the books on the small bedside table. The White Tower was definitely more of a home than the one her aunt provided her. Here Meijina had privacy, respect and friends. She smiled at the last. Meijina had found good friends at the tower. She leaned back on the bed and compared how much more comfortable and quiet it was than the small cot on the floor of the attic in her aunt’s house. This bed was soft, not lumpy and the coverings were clean and well kept. In the tower, most Aes Sedai seemed to announce their entry with a knock, but her aunt and uncle often wandered into her room unannounced. Even though Meijina was at the bottom of the ranking in the tower, she held position and even earned respect from the newer novices.
And here, unlike her home she could and did have friends, one of her best friends being Nicavia Kyren, her neighbor. Meijina whispered in the hole that linked the two rooms and received no response. Nicavia must be in a class, or doing some boring task for an Aes Sedai or watching the Siswai train. Meijina smiled at the last. Watching Siswai was entertaining.
Lying flat on her back, Meijina recalled the first time she met Nicavia. She had seen a gleeman entertaining a group of young people. Interested in the gleeman’s tricks, She had watched until the dark-haired novice had pulled the gleeman away, as well as the others and offered to sneak into the city for some fun or something. They had fun all right. Drank themselves out of their minds, got attacked by some hoodlums, and wandered back to the tower only to be found by Jaserah Sedai. The punishments for that day kept Meijina from sitting for weeks.
That day and also a meeting in the gardens of the White Tower cemented their friendship. That meeting had the two girls telling their histories and troubles. Such secrets should only be shared among good friends.
Meijina and Nicavia were the novices most likely to be seen sneaking out of the Tower. Well, perhaps not. Many novices did that, but the two of them did it often, also with Saelos Maolin, another friend. A young Siswai who liked to drink often. The three of them were often into some kind of trouble in or out of the Tower sometimes pulling another unsuspecting victim into their mischief. Like Saxon Rynalle, or Maytiana, or Klatinja… Meijina grinned. She had truly gathered an interesting group of friends.
Rolling on her side, Meijina grabbed one of the leather bound books and leafed through it. One would think, with all the reading she did, she would aspire to the Brown Ajah. Meijina enjoyed books, but her true desire was power. She read books having to do with the abilities of Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends. Which fit nicely into her aspiration, Red Ajah. The Red Ajah studies what Aes Sedai could do with Ashaman, at least now, among other things giving Meijina great freedom.
At that moment, the noon bell rang. Meijina got up and checked her refection. Rolling on her bed had messed up her hair a bit. She located her hairbrush and put her hair back in perfect order. One last look before heading down to lunch, she smiled satisfactorily and spun on her heal and headed out.
Entering the dining hall, Meijina located Nicavia before heading in to get her food, some mysterious unappetizing meat, potato, and a salad. Taking the food and a cup of juice, Meijina headed back to the table she saw Nicavia sitting.
Setting her tray down, Meijina smiled at the other novice. “G’afternoon, Nic,” sitting down, she poked at her meat. “How are your classes?” Nicavia shared the smile and said her classes had been fine.
“We are up for Accepted testing soon, though.” Nicavia added. Meijina nodded. Her classes had gotten repetitive and even more advanced. She knew any day they would be calling her to the arches. It was with mixed feelings she looked forward to the test. On one hand, this is the chance to move on, choose her studies, and many more things. The learning advantages of being an Accepted were innumerable. Not to mention that she would be one step closer to becoming Aes Sedai. But on the other hand, she had heard that the Accepted testings, the Three Arches, were something to be feared. Many Aes Sedai even looked back on it and shuddered. They say you face your worst most deep set fears.
Meijina and Nicavia talked of many subjects over their unappealing lunch, but Meijina’s thoughts remained on the up coming test. She had faced many things that most people would consider frightening, but Meijina’s own fears not others, was what she must face.
The afterlunch bell rang reminding Meijina that she had dish duty today. She polished off her plate with a bit of bread and looked up at Nicavia as she popped it in her mouth. “I have to clean the dishes today!” she said jovially. She grinned at the sneer from Nicavia. Nic didn’t care for dishes, but Meijina didn’t mind them much. There were much worse things to do and often her good attitude got her the easy nice jobs.
Walking into the kitchen she smiled, “Hello, cook. What shall I do first?”
“Jinie, start over there with the dishes.” The cook said, pointing with a spoon at the large tub of hot bubbly water. The only thing Meijina disliked about doing dishes was the fact that it often got her dress wet and dirty. But these plates were not too bad and she could be careful and not get anything on her dress.
After an hour or so, Meijina finished the dishes and went back to her room. She had no more responsibilities for the afternoon. Not wanting to get her novice dresses all wrinkled, she took her dress off and pulled on the short shift and short breaches she often wore to bed. Meijina curled up on her bed to read some more. She summoned a small globe of light with the Power. She still felt a stab of pain reaching for the One Power. It was because of the way she got rid of her block. She remembered back to the painful way Fiona Sedai had forced her to channel. She had seen the source the first time, but Fiona had grasped it before Meijina had a chance to try. She had begged that the Aes Sedai repeat the procedure. Perhaps the first time she asked anything of the Black Ajah. The procedure had been a success; Meijina could channel without her block, freely and openly. She had told the tower that she had gotten rid of her block by fighting an illusionary man. She said the fear had brought it out of her, but that was not the truth.
Meijina must have read for a candlemark or two when there was a knock at the door. Not sure who it is, she called to the door. It couldn’t be Nicavia; she usually called through the wall, perhaps Klatinja or one of her classmates with a question. She lay on her bed and looked up from her book to see the visitor, when she noticed it was an Accepted. Jumping to her feet, Meijina managed a quick curtsey just the right depth for the Accepted.
“The Mistress of Novices has summoned you to the Arches.” Giving a critical eye on Meijina’s clothes, she added, “Please hurry and dress properly.” Meijina dressed again in her novice dress and smoothed it down kind of nervously and looked in the mirror. The last time she would see herself in a novice dress. Her hair had gotten a bit messed up while sleeping. Grabbing her brush, she moved to brush her hair when the Accepted grabbed her arm. “We don’t have time for your silly primping, we are not going down to stare at the Siswai.” Meijina opened her mouth in protest as she was pulled from the room hairbrush falling from her hand. She gave one last look at the small novice room that had been her home for these four and a half years still in near perfect order with only the brush on the center of the plain carpet.
In moments she was hustling down the hall in the wake of the impatient Accepted. Despite the fact that she was making an effort to keep up and preoccupied with the fact that her hair was a bit messy, which she was still trying to fix while hurling down the hall after the Accepted. She couldn’t help feeling a stab of nervousness on the upcoming testing. She tried to remember everything she was told about the testing. She knew she could refuse before the testing three times, but refusing after it starts would put her out of the tower. She would enter three rings naked and face her worst fears. She couldn’t help the nervousness she felt. Meijina put on a brave face and entered the bowels of the tower.
Meijina thought back, the arches were some of the biggest and oldest ter’angreal in the tower. She wondered if the Aes Sedai today even knew how to move them. The Accepted knocked briskly on the door and opened it. Meijina saw first the large arches. Three arches joined at the ends to form one large piece. Meijina then noticed Jaserah Sedai. The Mistress of Novices was a woman that Meijina might consider pretty, if it weren’t for the fact that she was a hard stern woman who had punished Meijina on many occasions. She noticed that Jaserah Sedai was bulging with pregnancy. This wasn’t a surprise to Meijina, she had heard the rumor that she was expecting, but as Jaserah Sedai was one that most novices usually avoided if they didn’t have to see her, Meijina hadn’t noticed much before this. Turning her eyes to the other occupants of the room, Meijina saw three Aes Sedai controlling the arches. Eiara Sedai, the Yellow Sister that had taught her how to heal, Daea Sedai, an Arafellen Brown that Meijina often saw in the library, bells in her hair silent as she sat in a meditative state, and a White Sister Meijina only knew on reputation, Mira Sedai. The White Aes Sedai glanced at Meijina almost seeming to measure her. Perhaps she like some others thought four and a half years wasn't enough time to arrive here. Standing near a basin of water she saw Tamira Sedai, the sitter for the Reds, the Ajah Meijina was interested in.
Jaserah Sedai approached Meijina drawing the novice’s attention. She offered Meijina a chance to refuse. The novice knew she had three chances to refuse at this point. “I will not refuse.”
Nodding, Jaserah Sedai continued. “I will tell you two things no woman hears until she stands where you are now. One, once you begin, you must continue to the end. If you refuse to go on, you will be put out of the tower and cannot return. Two, to seek, to strive, is to know danger. You will know danger here. Some women have entered and never come out. When the ter’angreal was allowed to grow quiet, they – were – not – there. And they were never seen again. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail, and...” she paused giving the novice a look. Meijina nodded. “This is your last chance to refuse.”
“I will not refuse,” Meijina repeated a bit more firmly.
“Make yourself ready then.” The novice nodded and turned to take off her novice dress off and folded it neatly over her shoes in a corner of the room. Shutting her eyes she didn’t completely hear the words as the ceremony began. “Whom do you bring with you?” She wasn’t sure who said that as she drowned out the voices to calm the fear within her.
Jaserah Sedai turned to her grabbing her arm and looked at her intently, pulling her attention to the Mistress of Novices. “The first is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Nodding solemnly, Meijina walked into arch like embracing light. A cart rolled in front of the pale haired girl with her clothes in rags. Meijina felt the urge to run, looking behind her she saw her uncle. He cannot catch me, she thought desperately. Breaking into a run as soon as the cart passed she ran as fast as her worn shoes could carry her. He will beat me if he gets me… or worse, images flooding her mind. Her uncle’s belt raised to strike her. Him slapping her, kicking her, … Tears flooded her eyes as she remembered. Things had gotten worse since she turned 12. As Meijina’s body began to mature, her uncle seemed to take a more active interest in the girl. Meijina’s dress caught a nail as she took a tight curve ripping the material. The ripping sound reminding her of her uncle’s attacks. Ripping her dress, scratching her, she remembered, he… But, he is dead! a voice said in her head. She looked back, if he were dead, he wouldn’t be following her. THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT ONCE, BE STEADFAST. Meijina stopped and looked for the voice, then looked back. Seeing her uncle, she resumed running. Meijina hit a dead end. She turned to find her uncle coming at her. “I’ll teach you to run, you ungrateful wench,” he was taking off his belt and raised it. Meijina backed into the wall as if she were trying to go through it. A cruel smile spread across his lips as he saw she was cornered. He hit her with the belt and she crumpled into a ball. Maybe he wouldn’t do anything if he can’t… She was unable to complete the thought as something caught her eye. It didn’t seem to belong on a street in Lugard, a solitary arch with a white light shining through it. A thought pulled at the back of her mind. Meijina’s uncle continued to beat on her, but one solitary thought burrowed through. I must make it to that arch. Meijina stood up as her uncle grabbed her dress. The arch. I must make it to the arch, she thought as she ran from her uncle the piece of dress he held ripping off, as she winced at the sound. She heard him growl from behind as he ran to follow her. “You dirty wench. You cannot run from me!” she heard him roar. Meijina leapt and embraced the light in the arch.
She landed on the cold stone floor and fell immediately on her hands and knees. She was shaking. She gasped as cold water was poured over her head. “You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed and those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure.” Clean?!? She could not believe they had the ability to wash what really happened to her. She remembered now much clearer than before. Meijina often remembered her drunk uncle beating her, but what she had forgotten is what else he did. The ripping sound still in her head. The man had raped her on a few occasions. She winced her eyes closed as the memories came back. That was what he was doing when he died. He had come into her room one-night drunk. Meijina felt the fear as usual, but something else. She had wanted all this to stop. Her uncle grabbed for her dress. Meijina remembered it now, much clearer than ever before. An energy filled her as it never did before and it some how released and her uncle collapsed on the floor. Meijina bolted from the room and ran away from her aunt’s home. When she returned, her aunt was in a foul mood. She blamed the death on Meijina, but the blonde girl swore she didn’t and her aunt kept on insisting. The same energy filled Meijina as she yelled, “I DID NOT!” To Meijina’s surprise, her aunt agreed with her and said she didn’t. In a state of shock she returned to her room.
Meijina understood now. She was to blame for her uncle’s death. She had killed him with the One Power. She never understood why her aunt cried. She was treated as poorly as Meijina but she seemed truly sad. Meijina attended the funeral and wore black, but her eyes were as dry as the Aiel Waste.
This new information was just an interesting bit to her. She felt no remorse in the act that she had committed years ago. Meijina only felt… dirty. Violated… Meijina shuttered as she stood. Jaserah walked over. “Do you wish to continue? If you quit now, you will be put out of the tower.”
Meijina squared her shoulders and turned to the arches. A wave of fear washed over her as she looked at the second arch. Shutting her eyes to push down the fear and stated in a voice much steadier than she felt, “I will continue.”
“Very well, the next is for what is. The way will come back but once. Be steadfast.”
Meijina breathed deeply once to settle the fluttery feeling in her chest, then strode briskly into the light. The pale-haired girl returned to her hometown. She had hoped to see some of her old friends. Of course the only friends she really had were the peacekeepers. They were the ones she always used the Power on and duped them to blame her crimes on some other stupid victim. She knew one way to get the peacekeepers to come…
Grinning widely at the idea, she spotted a victim. Almost nonchalantly, Meijina walked by the man snagging him to follow her with the Power. Loosening her knife, she tossed it from hand to hand grinning at the man in front of her. She wove air around him loosely. The man could move on his own but only in the one place. She wanted him to scream. Meijina desired the peacekeepers to come. For old times sake, Meijina grinned. She lashed out and cut the man’s arm. “Scream for me,” she said. The man’s eyes were wide with shock. He turned to run and ran into the wall she had erected from the Power. His back against the invisible wall, he breathed heavily and yelled for help. “That’s better,” she smiled as she sunk the blade home, “Now you die.” He crumpled up against the invisible wall just before she released it.
Almost on cue, the Peacekeeper, Aiyatoe, one that knew Meijina best, came around the corner. “Meijina!” he exclaimed. “Did you do this?”
“Of course not, Aiyatoe. You know I would never,” she grinned her winning smile.
Aiyatoe’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Meijina. “Body warm and you holding the knife? I am not stupid.”
“It was that man!” Meijina pointed to a man crossing the alley channeling coercion at the two of them. Aiyatoe looked at the man and returned his gaze on Meijina. It wasn’t working.
“I know it was you.”
THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT ONCE. BE STEADFAST.
“Who said that?” she said, looking up.
“You will not distract me, Jinie. You have fooled us long enough. You know what the punishment for murder is, Meijina?”
She did know. She had sent many innocents to that fate. Death. Meijina saw beyond Aiyatoe an arch filled with a pearly light. I must make it there, she thought. I must train. Taking a swipe at Aiyatoe, Meijina broke into a run as the peacekeeper swung out of the way of the knife.
“It’s not that easy, girl, I’ll get you!” Aiyatoe yelled as she continued to run to the arch. She ran into the light.
She was still running as she re-entered the room with the arches and stopped moments before hitting a wall. Water was poured again over her head as the Red Sitter recited, “You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul.”
Meijina looked from Tamira Sedai, who finished pouring water over her head, and Jaserah Sedai and muttered, “It can’t get worse.”
“Yes, it can and will. The last is always the worst,” Jaserah Sedai answered. Meijina gaped at her for a few moments and nodded and strode wordlessly to the third arch.
Standing before the last she muttered, “Let’s get this over with then.”
“The third is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Determined, Meijina strode through the last arch. Meijina strode back to her chair and sat fingering the red fringe on her shawl. She looked at the pile of papers on her desk. She certainly had a lot of paperwork, but it was to be expected for one so high in the Red Ajah. The numbers in the Red Ajah had swollen and they were once again one of the strongest Ajahs in the tower. Meijina Sedai looked at the box on the corner of her desk. It contained papers that may incriminate her. The box was trapped of course. If any but her opened it, the papers and the wooden box itself would burst in flames.
She pulled out a paper and examined it. Meijina knew, this paper alone could sentence her to stilling. She shuttered despite the warm summer day. A knock on the door and Meijina answered it, placing the paper back in the box. Looking up at the door, she saw Nicavia. “Hello, Nic.” Meijina greeted as the dark-haired Aes Sedai strode over to the desk, red shawl surrounding her shoulders as well.
“Jinie, what are you up...” The question went unfinished as Nicavia’s eyes fell downward. Meijina looked to see what her friend was looking at and saw.
Meijina hadn’t closed the box with the papers. Nicavia was already reading the first, blood running from her face as her skin became as pale as Meijina’s. “And, I never guessed.” Nicavia croaked as she looked up from the paper. Meijina didn’t know what to say to her friend. Nicavia turned on her heel and left the room as Meijina shouted for her to wait.
Meijina sunk into her chair. It would be moments until they came for her. She would be stilled and put out of the Tower. Perhaps she could find an Ashaman who could heal stilling. She had heard of such. It would work, if she wasn’t killed as part of the punishment.
Nicavia must have run. In moments, her friend walked into the room, flanked by Saelos and Saxon and followed by half a dozen Aes Sedai. “Wait. You must understand!” she pleaded with those she thought her friends. Saxon and Saelos were there in moments as if the space between her and them were not there.
“How could you?” Saelos asked, an incredulous look. “My father and now you.” Saxon just stared as if he couldn’t believe it. The Aes Sedai came in the room making their presence felt more than seen for Meijina. She couldn’t reach for the Source.
Meijina just stared at Nicavia. They were friends! How could she do this to her?
THE WAY BACK WILL COME BUT ONCE. BE STEADFAST.
Meijina’s head whipped around as she heard those words and a pale arch appeared to her right. Turning in that direction, she was stopped by the Warders who took a tighter grip on her. Meijina squirmed and tried to pull the men in the direction of the arch. She turned to Saelos, “Let me go!” she looked pleadingly from Saelos to Saxon. “I just want to go over there!” Meijina pointed at the arch. She was sure the others couldn’t see it. Finally, like cutting a taunt string, Meijina was released and lurched forward toward the arch. Falling into the light, she landed on her knees on the cold hard floor. The look of betrayal on Nicavia’s face when she saw that paper haunted her behind her eyes. She swore to never let Nicavia find out in that way.
Tears leaked down her face that soon became mingled with the water being poured over her head again. “You are washed clean of Meijina from Lugard.” It wasn’t Tamira Sedai’s voice this time. Looking up, Meijina saw, Qirien Dhaela, the Amyrlin Seat herself. “You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul. You are Meijina, Accepted of the White Tower. You are sealed to us now.”
Hearing these words eased the pain a bit. She had done it. Meijina had now become Accepted. She was one step closer to attaining the power she desired. Turning from the mixed glances of the various Aes Sedai Meijina pulled on her new dress.