The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt: Page 79

"Has Jaem gone and ..." The lantern light fell on the Draghkar; her voice trailed off.
Vandene took Moiraine's hands. "It did not ... ?" She left the question unfinished as, to Moiraine's eyes, a nimbus surrounded her. Feeling strength flowing into her from the other woman, Moiraine wished, not for the first time, that Aes Sedai could do as much for themselves as they could for others.
"It did not," she said gratefully. "See to the Gaidin."
Lan looked at her, mouth tight. "If you had not made me so angry I had to go work forms with Jaem, so angry I gave it up to come back to the house ..."
"But I did," she said. "The Pattern takes everything into the weaving." Jaem was muttering, but still allowing Vandene to see to his shoulder. He was all bone and tendon, yet looked as hard as old roots.
"How," Adeleas demanded, "could any creature of the Shadow come so close without us sensing it?"
"It was warded," Moiraine said.
"Impossible," Adeleas snapped. "Only a sister could -" She stopped, and Vandene turned from Jaem to look at Moiraine.
Moiraine said the words none of them wanted to hear. "The Black Ajah." Shouts drifted from the village. "Best you hide this- "she gestured to the Draghkar, sprawled across a flower bed - "quickly. They will be coming to ask if you need help, but seeing this will start talk you will not like."
"Yes, of course," Adeleas said. "Jaem, go and meet them. Tell them you don't know what made the noise, but all is well here. Slow them down." The grayhaired Warder hurried into the night toward the sound of approaching villagers. Adeleas turned to study the Draghkar as if it were a puzzling passage in one of her books. "Whether Aes Sedai are involved or not, whatever could have brought it here?" Vandene regarded Moiraine silently.
"I fear I must leave you," Moiraine said. "Lan, will you ready the horses?" As he left, she said, "I will leave letters with you to be sent on to the White Tower, if you will arrange it." Adeleas nodded absently, her attention still on the thing on the ground.
"And will you find your answers where you are going?" Vandene asked.
"I may already have found one I did not know I sought. I only hope I am not too late. I will need pen and parchment." She drew Vandene toward the house, leaving Adeleas to deal with the Draghkar.

(FreeBooks.Mobi) Chapter 23
(Flame of Tar Valon)
The Testing
Nynaeve warily eyed the huge chamber, far beneath the White Tower, and eyed Sheriam, at her side, just as warily. The Mistress of Novices seemed expectant, perhaps even a little impatient. In her few days in Tar Valon, Nynaeve had seen only serenity in the Aes Sedai, and a smiling acceptance of events coming in their own time.
om had been carved out of the bedrock of the island; the light of lamps on tall stands reflected from pale, smooth stone walls. Centered under the dome was a thing made of three rounded, silver arches, each just tall enough to walk under, sitting on a thick silver ring with their ends touching each other. Arches and ring were all of one piece. She could not see what lay inside; there the light flickered oddly, and made her stomach flutter with it if she looked too long. Where arch touched ring, an Aes Sedai sat crosslegged on the bare stone of the floor, staring at the silvery construction. Another stood nearby, beside a plain table on which sat three large silver chalices. Each, Nynaeve knew - or at least, she had been told - was filled with clear water. All four Aes Sedai wore their shawls, as Sheriam did; bluefringed for Sheriam, red for the swarthy woman by the table, green, white, and gray for the three around the arches. Nynaeve still wore one of the dresses she had been given in Fal Dara, pale green embroidered with small white flowers.
"First you leave me to stare at my thumbs from morning to night," Nynaeve muttered, "and now it's all in a rush."
"The hour waits on no woman," Sheriam replied. "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and when it wills. Patience is a virtue that must be learned, but we must all be ready for the change of an instant."
Nynaeve tried not to glare. The most irritating thing she had yet discovered about the flamehaired Aes Sedai was that she sometimes sounded as if she were quoting sayings even when she was not. "What is that thing?"
"A ter'angreal."
"Well, that tells me nothing. What does it do?"
"Ter'angreal do many things, child. Like angreal and sa'angreal, they are remnants of the Age of Legends that use the One Power, though they are not quite so rare as the other two. While some ter'angreal must be made to work by Aes Sedai, as this one must, others will do what they do simply with the presence of any woman who can channel. There are even supposed to be some that will function for anyone at all. Unlike angreal and sa'angreal, they were made to do specific things. One other we have in the Tower makes oaths binding. When you are raised to full sisterhood, you will take your final vows holding that ter'angreal. To speak no word that is not true. To make no weapon for one man to kill another. Never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends or Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending your own life, that of your Warder, or that

Nynaeve shook her head. It sounded either like too much to swear or too little, and she said so.
"Once, Aes Sedai were not required to swear oaths. It was known what Aes Sedai were and what they stood for, and there was no need for more. Many of us wish it were so still. But the Wheel turns, and the times change. That we swear these oaths, that we are known to be bound, allows the nations to deal with us without fearing that we will throw up our own power, the One Power, against them. Between the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years we made these choices, and because of them the White Tower still stands, and we can still do what we can against the Shadow." Sheriam drew a deep breath. "Light, child, I am trying to teach you what any other woman standing where you are would have learned over the course of years. It cannot be done. Ter'angreal are what must concern you, now. We don't know why they were made. We dare use only a handful of them, and the ways in which we do dare to use them may be nothing like the purposes the makers intended. Most, we have learned to our cost to avoid. Over the years, no few Aes Sedai have been killed or had their Talent burned out of them, learning that."
Nynaeve shivered. "And you want me to walk into this one?" The light inside the arches flickered less, now, but she could see what lay in it no better.
"We know what this one does. It will bring you facetoface with your greatest fears." Sheriam smiled pleasantly. "No one will ask you what you have faced; you need tell no more than you wish. Every woman's fears are her own property."
Vaguely, Nynaeve thought about her nervousness concerning spiders, especially in the dark, but she did not think that was what Sheriam meant. "I just walk through one arch and out another? Three times through, and it's done?"
The Aes Sedai adjusted her shawl with an irritated hitch of her shoulder. "If you wish to boil it down that far, yes," she said dryly. "I told you on the way here what you must know about the ceremony, as much as anyone is allowed to know beforehand. If you were a novice come to this, you would know it by heart, but don't worry about making mistakes. I will remind you, if necessary. Are you sure you are ready to face it? If you want to stop now, I can still write your name in the novice book."
"Very well, then. Two things I will tell you now that no woman hears until she is in this room. The first is this. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, and no matter your potential, you will be very kindly put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you for a year, and you will never be allowed back." Nynaeve opened her mouth to say she would not refuse, but Sheriam cut her off with a sharp gesture. "Listen, and speak when you know what to say. Second. 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 ..." Her silence was more eloquent than any words. "This is your last chance, child. You may turn back now, right now, and I will put your name in the novice book, and you will have only one mark against you. Twice more you will be allowed to come here, and only at the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. It is no shame to refuse. Many do. I myself could not do it, my first time here. Now you may speak."
Nynaeve gave the silver arches a sidelong look. The light in them no longer flickered; they were filled with a soft, white glow. To learn what she wanted to learn, she needed the freedom of the Accepted to question, to study on her own, with no more guidance than she asked for.

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