That Which Wasn’t, and Won’t Ever Be

Milandra had, prior to coming to the Tower, considered herself a patient person. She could wait the extra week the seamstress needed to make her dress, she could just manage to not berate her few suitors for being (in her mind late), and never harangued her maids for being slow with her things. But once her former room mate, Kate, had been called to the Arches, well… she found herself growing even less patient than that!

“I was always better in my studies than her,” Milla reflected, putting her quill down beside her notes momentarily. She stretched; the long hours of researching points in the Library were getting to her. In some ways, the long years were getting to her. Even if she had made a fundamental acceptance of the fact that her time in the Tower as a student was going to be longer than she expected, this was usually well balanced against all that she was learning in the Power, in self-control, in that which had shaped the world. Still, in moments like this…

As if almost by magic, a presence – “Come child, you are to be tested.” She stood jerkily, feeling all of a sudden that it was too soon, that she wasn’t ready to face… whatever it was… nevermind that she was lamenting being left behind only moments before! And so, abandoning her papers, she proceeded to follow the Mistress of Novices in, out, and down. Down and down they went, lower than Milla had ever been before; she shivered slightly. And then suddenly, a set of doors bigger than the rest, a set fit in size for a palace. It was through these massive doors that, on silent glide, the pair entered.

Inside this cavernous room, a curious structure stood. It was a series of gleaming silver arches connected to a ring at their bottom; at the base of each ring sat an Aes Sedai. All were wearing their shawls, though she suspected it was scant comfort whilst being sat upon bare, cold floor. Another stood by a table which stood supporting three silver chalices; she remember this being mentioned on their way down from the Library. Still, she knew she was stalling at looking at the flicking light that stood in those rounded arches…

Her attention was blessedly diverted as the Mistress of Novices began to speak, “Now that you are here, I will tell you the two things that no woman hears until she stands where you are. Firstly, once you begin the test, you must continue to the end. If you refuse to go on, no matter your potential, you will be put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you for a year; you will never be allowed back. 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. Faltering leads to a failure.”

“This is your last chance, child. You may turn back now, and you will have only mark against you. Twice more will you 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 cannot do it their first time here. Now, you may speak.”

Milandra gulped; she could be freed here, free to go home and marry whomever her parents had in mind for her. But then, she’d never know what she was missing out on. She knew that leaving now would be the worst possible choice to make; why did she spend so many years here to throw it away now? “I accept; I will not refuse,” she said shakily, and upon instruction, began to strip down for the test.

Her skin pebbled quickly in the frigid air as she allowed the Mistress of Novices to guide her forward. The Sister at the table began, “Whom do you bring with you, Sister?” The Mistress of Novices replied, “One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.”

“Is she ready?”

“She is ready to leave behind what was, and, passing through her fears, gain Acceptance.”

“Does she know her fears?”

“She has never faced them, but now is willing.”

“Then let her face what she fears.”

Nudging her forward by the elbow, the Mistress of Novices herded her the remaining distance to the first arch. “The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

‘Be steadfast’

“Did.. did you say something, Mother?” Milandra queried, rubbing her head. She had thought that she had heard something, but…

“I know it’s difficult to hear, little Milla, but I need you to pay attention. We’re broke, we’re out of money. Your father made the mistake of backing the wrong shipping firms, and… all we have left is the house, and we can’t even afford that!” She broke down sobbing, looking the most pained and bewildered that Milandra had ever seen. Awkwardly, she put an arm around her mother’s shoulders, and was drawn into a tight embrace for her efforts. After her mother’s sobs subsided, the girl stepped back and asked quietly, “What.. is.. is there anything I can do, Mother?” Red-rimmed eyes began to water again, and a horrid realization hit home. Light, she felt like crying if it were true…

“Is.. did.. did he, he ask…” She couldn’t even finish the sentence, the prospect was too horrible.

A curt nod was all the answer her mother managed before subsiding into tears again. Milla bit her lip to avoid joining in the sobbing; she had always dreamed of marrying a handsome lordling, but not this one. Jaim Tobai was comely to look upon even at his advanced age of 28, but he was reputed to have a dark temper. His first two wives had died under questionable circumstances, but there was no proof he was behind their deaths either. He had been coming around often to attempt to gets his parents to take him on as an accountancy client, and it had only been the last time that she had realized he was taking a special interest in her…

Milandra shuddered, and took a step backwards. She caught her shoulder on the doorframe, and quickly caught it as she spun around before she could fall to the floor. As her mother’s tortured sobs began to rise louder behind her, she spotted, standing in the middle of the next room, a silver arch. ‘The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.’ a disembodied voice chided her, reminding her of the deadly importance of… something. But what could be more important than her parents; never had she seen her mother more needy, more vulnerable. How could she leave her to that?! Still, she made herself move forward towards the arch, forward and onward…

She stepped out of the same arch she had entered, and was greeted with a cascade of freezing water. “You are washed clean of what sin you may have done and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul.”

Trying to catch her breath, she stood there, fists balled. She was at a loss for words – had she just abandoned her mother? She thought of asking, but knew, just knew, that if she opened her mouth, she would start crying and not stop. Milandra felt more on edge than she ever had in her life, and she didn’t care that it showed.

Wisely, the Mistress of Novices opted to not comment. The Aes Sedai laid a hand on Milandra’s shoulder, and began guiding her towards the next arch. “The second arch is for what is. They way will come but once. Be steadfast.”

Taking a deep breath, she stepped through again…

‘They way will come but once.’

Setting aside the dress she was working on, Milla cracked her knuckles and stood. Her hands often ached since she had taken up this line of work, which was only fitting for an embroideress. She had broken under the pressure of training, and had made mistakes that had ended up with her being put out for life. She knew, knew, that Accepted and Novices were not to take up with Tower Guards, but she had been so distressed that seeking comfort was the only thing that had mattered to her. The unexpected pregnancy had ended her training.

Milandra had told herself that things would work out okay – Dailin loved her very much, and even if he wasn’t weathy, her parents would support her always. Dailin bolted when he found out about the impending child, and her parents disowned her; they thought it was a terrible scandal and reflected poorly upon themselves. It was only her old seamstress taking pity on her that enabled her to eke out a meagre living; she had an undeniable talent at embroidery, and a desperation to please, to survive.

She sighed, and settled back down to her work again. Nothing matter anymore, nothing but taking care of her daughter, Alera. Nobody wanted her or the girl, and where she had failed in everything else, she would not fail her only child, the last of her family. But before she could lean over and pick it back up…

“Momma!” her daughter cried as she ran into the room. Flinging herself at Milla’s legs, the small child wrapped grubby and scratched-up arms tightly around her.

She helped her child back to her feet, and stood up herself. No explanation was needed; there were bullies around who delighted in harassing and attacking her child to get at her, to mock her fall. Milla didn’t know what she was going to do, but she was determined to do something. She knelt, lifting Alera’s head up gently by the chin, “Can you show me where it happened this time?” A snot-laced nod was the reply. Frowning grimly, she stood up, and headed towards the site of the incident.

As she spotted the bullies hanging out down an alley, she spotted a curious sight between them and herself – a silver arch stood unsupported in the street, unconcerned about its locale. Alera yelped that they were coming, and tried to cling to her leg. Milandra gently disengaged her, staring at the arch. ‘The way will come but once,’ she heard from nowhere, reminding her of… something. Something she wanted more than anything, more than her only family. She started towards the arch in almost a trance, her daughter’s cries of distress slowing her steps. “This… this isn’t real,” Milandra told herself as she felt the tears start streaming down her face. As her daughter was slammed ruthlessly to the ground by her tormenters, Milla whispered, “Forgive me,” and stepped through…

The cold water that was dumped over her person did nothing to wash away the feeling of filth upon her. Abandoning her daughter, her daughter, the daughter she would never have should she stay this course… “You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.” She shuddered; it was the only response she could muster.

As the Sister turned to place the now-emptied chalice back upon the table, the Mistress of Novices took her elbow once more, guiding her towards the last Arch. “Horrible, isn’t it? And it only gets worse. But that’s the point – you have to want to be Aes Sedai so badly that it draws you back to safety.” The older woman smiled sadly; her face showed the merest flash of empathy, of shared suffering. It was… something, something enough to know that she could do it… but… but…

“The final arch is for what will be. The way will come but once. Be steadfast.”

She took a deep breath to still her violent shaking, and stepped through…

‘The way will come but once. Be steadfast.’

Be steadfast


…crawling towards the light…

The Light…

On hands and knees, Milla stumbled out onto the hard, frigid floor. Blinking, the Amyrlin waited a moment for her to right herself, before uprighting the remaining chalice over her head, “You are washed clean of Milandra Basene of Tar Valon. 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 Milandra Basene, Accepted of the White Tower. You are sealed to us, now.”

She finally noticed the other Sisters, one from each Ajah, as the Amyrlin Seat placed the gold ring upon her finger, “Welcome Daughter,” she said with some warmth, planting a kiss upon her cheek. Milandra smiled tremulously, and then allowed herself to be herded to where she could dry and dress. She very very carefully focused on these things; she knew that thinking about what she just went through would be… it would be too much for the moment. Better to reflect on these things when there weren’t a dozen other people watching… at least she could do something to prevent a future so bleak, so meaningless, so incomplete…

Home is Never Home, Dear Diary

Milandra was a furious young woman. Never in her life had she imagined that she was signing up for a life of torture, theft, and slave labour… and yet, here she was. And the worst part of it was that she was so ashamed of her lack of forethought that she couldn’t even bring herself to tell her family. Her family, that were so close, yet so far away; for all she had been born and raised in Tar Valon, she wasn’t that confident that she could find her parents’ estate on her own.

Still,” she thought to herself as she flung herself down in front of her desk in exhaustion, “They let me keep my most important possession.” She caressed its leather cover lovingly, taking a moment to pick it up and feel its comforting weight. It was one of many diaries she had filled over the years, and while she had left her old ones in her chambers at her parents’ estate, she had her current one to hand. She resisted the urge to torment herself with posts from happier days, and equipped herself with ink and quill to begin recording her trials.

Day One
Dear Diary,

I am obviously a very stupid person. I’ve, apparently, signed myself up to a life of servitude, as my strange little room-mate has so kindly pointed out.

She took a moment to glare at the other girl’s prone form before bending back to her scribbling.

I’ve been nearly vomited upon, forced into manual labor, and haven’t learned a thing yet. This seems like quite the scam, and I’m not sure I should put up with it. Still, it would never do for one of my stature to give up so easily… perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.

To her dismay, it was some time before she found a moment to write again. Between studies, and chores, she was too exhausted most nights to even consider jotting down anything. She was being broken to this new way of life, and while there was some good to it, so much of it was frightening and strange. And then, a Freeday…

Day 80 (I think)
Dear Diary,

Today is a so-called Freeday. While I don’t have to do any chores or attend any classes, I’m not permitted to leave this prison. I want so badly to see my parents, to tell them of the things I’m learning… but I’m not sure I could find my way to them from here. I’ve thought about trying to sneak into the Mistress of Novices’ storage to get some of my proper clothing and see if I can manage to hire a carriage back to their estate, but I have a feeling that my efforts would fail. These women have eyes in the back of their heads or something, because none of us seem to be able to get away with anything. I’m so tired of being tired, I’m so tired of crying, and I’m so afraid of dying. They go on about how we could kill ourselves on accident; why would any of us want to risk killing ourselves for this power, the Power?!

Grimly she marched, and oh so gingerly, Milandra lowered herself into her chair. She winced, taking a moment to dab at her face again before taking up her quill.

Day 81
Dear Diary,

I broke down and tried to walk out of here last night. I was right; they DO have eyes in the back of their heads. The Aes Sedai must if they saw me trying to leave; I was very clever about it. The Mistress of Novices beat me to within an inch of my life while prating on about how lucky I am to have this honor. What honor is there in getting beaten and forced to work?! Even servants get paid – we truly are slaves here. I’m apparently especially lucky to not be under guard, supposedly. Why would I be, though? I understand now that I’m a prisoner, and the only way out is to fail miserably, or to try and take all this misery with good grace. I don’t know if I’m capable of this… not right now, surely.

Time continued to pass, and Milandra continued to jot her complaints down in her diary. Most were your standard fare – she moaned about chores, she whined about punishments. Several pages were all but illedgible from tear streaking; she was even more indignant about being so upset as to ruin her own words. Many days were noted, at best, with:

Too tired to write. I’m so empty and miserable here. The suffering never ends.

Too tired to write. I’m so empty and miserable here. The suffering never ends.

Too tired to write. I’m so empty and miserable here. The suffering never ends.

Little did she know, it was her own pride and ego that was making the transition so difficult. Like so many of higher upbringing, it was hard to reconcile the noble existence of Aes Sedai with the menial suffering of the rudest servant. Coupled with the fact that, knowing her family were so near by, it made it harder for her to even begin contemplating letting go of the life she had known, to become the person that she must become. It was only in the depth of misery that she was able to surrender to it, much like one learned to surrender to Saidar. Without her even noticing, hints of optimism began to creep into her diary:

Day 200
Dear Diary,

I was at a seminar given by Carina Sedai today. Apparently, some of the Aes Sedai have recently figured out how to create new ter’angrael! It all seems very dangerous to me; so many sisters have died trying to figure out what some of the old ones were supposed to do. Still, it’s neat to see how things can progress so we can improve life. Or those who have the talent for it can, at least; I’m pretty sure I’ll never have enough strength in Earth to be of real use there.


Day 214
Dear Diary,

Apparently, I remember more of the Old Tongue than I thought! Pia Sedai said that I might even be permitted to teach the basic class… when I’m an Accepted. Light, that’s so far away, isn’t it?

And eventually, even a letter:

Dearest Mother,

I hope that this finds you well. I apologise for not writing sooner; life in the Tower is so busy! I am currently a Novice, which is the first step on the road to becoming an Aes Sedai. Apparently, the training takes many years, but I am working hard and trying to do my best. I was surprised at how much there is to learn, and I have a feeling that I’ve not more than scratched the surface. I hope to make you and Father proud. I miss you all very much, and while I do not know when I can see you all, I look forward to when I can.

With love,

It was hard, and would continue to be hard, but at least Milandra was firmly on the pathway now. That didn’t mean that she wouldn’t slip and scream and want to quit anymore, but she found that as the years past, the childish desires and misconceptions of ‘fair’ started to slide away. This, the White Tower, was her home now, and all those dwelling beneath its roof were her family too. She could take comfort and that, and did for years to come.

What’s It Between Roommates?

Milandra Basene was not impressed. She was not impressed with the horrid clothing they’d shoved her in, she was not impressed with the homely girl in stripes they’d passed her over to (“An Accepted”, the Mistress of Novices had offered by way of explanation), and she was not impressed by the theft of her cases. She still didn’t understand why, as a student, she had to dress so wretchedly. Oh, she had her theories about it bringing people down to the same level, or so they didn’t outshine the Aes Sedai, but none of it made her happy. “I bet this creature here thinks that she’s in a ballgown,” Milla thought bitterly as she plodded along behind the other girl.

She was not a unkind girl by nature, but she was finding the whole situation a shock to the system. Millandra didn’t like feeling naive, but realizing that she had been overly idealistic didn’t give any comfort to rags and the threat of beatings for not cooperating. “Really, how is any of this civilized?” she mused to herself as her cow guide opened a sun-framed door and dragged her through. “This is my room?!” she gasped as the Accepted explained the premises, “Why, there isn’t room for anything in here!” Two squalid little cots were thrust against the walls, faced off by some rickety desks and wardrobes. And then it dawned on her – two. Two sets of furniture, and one already had a few odds and ends on it.

“Wait, I have to share this tiny hole with someone else?!” she shouted hysterically, “There’s not room for once, much less two!”

She attempted to storm out to demand better accommodation, but was stopped by the Accepted just outside the door. Before the other woman could do more than draw her lips into a thin slash across her mundane face, another girl stumbled out of the blue. “Wait, this is my room,” the new girl growled, trying to stop her forward momentum by, apparently falling. Milla stepped back lest she be trampled, and was rewarded by not being fallen onto, or vomited upon. She turned to the Accepted and stomped her foot, “I hope you don’t expect me to clean that up!” she harumphed, wondering if her life could get any more tragic. Her righteous ire was met with silence, and she frowned; her eyes drifted to the creature shaking on the floor. “Shouldn’t we at least find someone to tend to her, then? I hope it isn’t catching…”

And that was how, on her very first day, Milandra Basene got to meet the Aes Sedai who work in the infirmary.


19 October 2010 (1:52 pm)

Kate found Milandra sitting in bed, glaring at her hands. Without looking up from said ruined hands, she began to speak to other girl, “I do so hope you’re not going to make a habit of falling over and vomiting on things, even if these dresses are ghastly. It’s not very proper of you, Kate.” She lowered her hands, sighed, and climbed off of her bed to walk over to the other girl. “I’m Milandra… Milla for short,” she offered to her roommate, along with her arm.

“Come on, you look dizzy; sit here.” Milla murmured, guiding the other girl to her bed. She wasn’t feeling particularly charitable, nor fond of the idea of sharing a room with someone potentially so useless, but she didn’t see the need to be antagonistic, either. “The Sisters in the infirmary are quite rude, if I do say so myself,” she grumbled as she backed herself onto a rudely-constructed stool, “I’m not sure what I did to deserve it, but before I knew it, they were forcing me to sweep and scrub! I don’t care what they say, it can’t possibly have anything to do with being an Aes Sedai!” She glared down at her hands again, before saying in a confiding tone, “The only reason I’ve not taken my things and left already is because it would not do for a Basene to give up quite so easily. Though I’m not sure anyone else in my family would put up with this degree of torture, either.”

She sighed, eying around the tiny crevice that was supposed to pass as accommodation. “How is one, much less two, supposed to ‘live’ in this space?” She eyed Kate pointedly, “I mean you no ill, but how is this even fit accommodation for the lowest of servants? You’d think Aes Sedai to be would be treated better.”


19 October 2010 (2:48 pm)

“Aes Sedai does mean Servant of All,” Kate said pointedly, and Milandra’s face fell in response. Even though she was familiar with the Old Tongue (her parents had made sure she learned some of it so she could hobnob with nobility), she hadn’t really thought about the meaning of the phrase ‘Aes Sedai’. She sighed, and muttered ruefully, “I guess this is what I get before leaping before I look.” She shook her head, and offered her hand to Kate, “Thank you. I really should have thought of that before getting into this mess. I just hope that doesn’t mean a lifetime of scrubbing floors; they can’t be doing that in fancy dresses, you would think.”

Kate then went on to explain about channeling sickness. Apparently, her contact with the One Power was what had made her sick. “Does that mean that I’ll get sick too?” she asked, horrified at the prospect. “Are you a wilder?” her roommate offered in reply. Milandra had no idea what one of those was, and upon further explanation, was satisfied that she was unlikely to join in the vomit brigade. “I’m here to learn to channel, so I guess as long as I do it right things will be okay, and I won’t get sick all over your gorgeous self” Kate added with nearly a leer, but Milla decided to let it slide. She wasn’t into girls herself, but that didn’t make it wrong by any stretch. “And besides,” she thought to herself, “She’s sick, so she might not be completely sure of what she’s saying right now.

As for sharing the room, she could agree with respecting each others’ respective spaces. She was also pleased to see that this girl thought that the dresses were also awful, but not quite why this fact was that hilarious. Prudently, Milla decided to also chalk this up to her illness; being sick did tend to put people out of sorts in many ways. And then she caught sight of her own maligned hands again and queried, “I take it you’re off the hook for chores for now, then? I’m only getting to avoid slave labour in the pots because those Aes Sedai in the Infirmary told the Mistress of Novices that I should keep an eye on you.” She paused thoughtfully, and asked, “Did you want something to eat? I should probably see about getting us something before the kitchens close until dinner. I don’t know much about healing the sick, but everyone knows the body needs food to help recover.”


19 October 2010 (4:47 pm)

Milandra’s eyes widened – twenty to thirty years?! Why, she’d be an old lady by then, and a grandmother by most normal standards! She shook off her amazement; no need to punish her sickly companion with more complaining about what should be seen as pure torture. Light, she figured the other girl’s lack of apparent shock was more to do with being sick rather than… could she have accepted such a dire thing? Impossible; how could anyone come to terms with giving away that much of their life to be treated like a child. And yet, people had, did, and would continue to; it was definitely something to contemplate.

She had to bite her lip when Kate insisted she was well enough to come down to get food, and almost drew blood trying to not laugh as the poor thing tried to lever herself out of bed. “There’s something to be said of her tenacity,” she thought admirably as the other girl attempted to feebly rise. Milla couldn’t really understand why something as simple as being brought food annoyed Kate, though; she was so used to having servants tend to her that it never occurred that people took pride in their self-reliance. Truth be told, she was slightly miffed that the other woman wasn’t grateful, but Milandra wasn’t going to let that bother her. Instead, she once again chalked it up to the sickness; Milla knew that she herself tended to be less than gracious to her servants when she was feeling under the weather.

The young woman started questioning the wisdom of her offer as she attempted to find her way to the dining room. She had been given the tour on the way to her room, but not much of it had stuck. “Down is probably a good place to start,” she decided firmly, working her way down towards ground level.

And then even finding her destination didn’t simplify this question; it was difficult to find someone to assist her. Or, to say, she tried to find assistance, but the most she got was a grunt and a gesture towards a pile of trays. She didn’t have the foggiest how to balance a tray so as to not spill broth, so it took her a few tries to just give up and grab some bread for the pair of them. “Bread is no fit meal,” she grumbled; her stomach made its protests known too as she attempted to find her way back to the room. But she did make it back eventually, and Light be praised, even found her roommate in her bed, NOT sprawled on the floor in a pile of vomit. She put the tray down and gestured apologetically to it, “It seems I don’t know how to carry broth, so it’ll just have to be bread… I hope that’s okay.”

Intro to Saidar (with Amadine, pts 1-4)

Nodding distractedly to the woman… Accepted? at the front of the small room, Milandra took the first available desk she could find.  She was still getting used to feeling so… underdressed.  The materials that made up her Novice dress and accessories were fine enough… for a servant.  “Change it for black, and my own parents would mistake me for kitchen staff,” she thought bleakly.  She grimaced at her dishpan hands; she was positive that her family’s servants weren’t forced to work that hard!

Eventually, their teacher stood to introduce herself, and bade everyone else to do the same.  “I am Milandra Basene, most recently of Tar Valon.  Well, always of Tar Valon, seeing how I was born and raised here!”  She decided to leave it at that; she didn’t want to gain any more potential enemies.  She’d already earned herself punishment for being ‘stuck up’, when all she’d said was that nobody had ever dared yell at her quite that way before!

Next came the already dull warnings and chastisements about the dangers of Saidar.  As she’d not touched the One Power yet, it all seemed over cautionary; was it really that dangerous?  Still, she attempted to be mindful of these warnings, and dutifully prepared herself to take notes as instructed.  Milandra had to admit that it was all fascinating, and even frightening; it had never occurred to her that Saidin itself was blameless, or that it was as important as Saidar to keeping the Wheel of Time turning.  The thought of males channeling made her uneasy – if they knew they were destined to go mad, then why would they even dare to try?

She, of course, soon found out.

Milla put her pen down, and closed her eyes as instructed.  She suddenly felt quite nervous – she was finally going to learn how to channel!  ‘Be the rosebud’, they were told, and she’d get so excited that she would try to mentally rush the opening.  Still, the teacher was calm and patient; it was impossible to not surrender to such tranquil instruction.  “Be the rosebud,” Milla thought to herself as she slowly unfurled.  Suddenly, there was an inexplicable warmth; could this be Saidar?  She eagerly reached for the warmth in her mind, only for it to evaporate like the dew before the sun.  Smiling triumphantly, she tried again and again until class was over.  While still not sure how she felt about this whole being a Novice thing, this, at least, had been quite the experience.


09 August 2010 ( 10:30pm)

Milandra muttered to herself as she paused outside the classroom to tuck back an escaped wisp of hair.  Some snotty little thing had stopped her en route to point out that her dress wasn’t pristinely white enough, and she was rather annoyed.  “I did the best I could,” she grumbled, smoothing the slightly dingy fabric over her hips, “It’s not like I have any practical experience in laundering clothing!”

Shaking herself, Milla joined those filing into the classroom.  Amadine was already standing and writing something on the board; it looked to be a list of names.  “Any idea who these people are?” she whispered to the next girl over as she slid into a desk, only to be met with a shrug.  Milla herself shrugged in reply just as Amadine called the class to attention.  “I wonder what we’ll be learning today,” the young woman though to herself as she organized her writing materials.  Her eyes flicked across the board curiously, wondering how it related.

Amadine asked if anyone knew what the list related to.  Unsurprisingly, nobody did, though a few meek voices speculated.  “This list,” the Accepted said while gesturing towards the board, “is the list of White Tower initiates who have burned themselves out.”

Milla felt the color draining from her face; it could have been a palette match for her dress.  “So many!” she exclaimed to nobody in particular before taking hold of herself.  Amadine was taking advantage of the disquiet to ram home the point, of course; she even had an experience of her own to regale them with.  It all made Milla feel cold and vulnerable, and all the more so because some of the other girls had talked her into practicing with them!  She definitely did not want to be a name on that list, only existing to scare future Novices!

Before she could scare herself into running away and never channeling again, Amadine abruptly changed the subject.  She spoke of control, and of pushing and pulling.  It made some initial sense, and even more once put into practice.  Milla became the rosebud again; the warmth of Saidar caressed and comforted her from out of sight.  She wanted it all, this warmth; how had she made it this long without the Power?  So it was… difficult… to manage the cloud analogy.  As Milla attempted to push Saidar back, her connection to Saidar fled.  Or she pushed so gingerly that she might as well have not pushed at all; it took many tries to achieve modest success.  Thankfully, Amadine was able to give a demonstration to her individually, as well as provide comfort, both of which helped breed a tiny bit of confidence.

All too soon, class was over.  Milandra trudged out of the classroom wearily; practicing with Saidar was exhausting, and more blasted dishes were waiting…


06 October 2010 (8:10pm)

Milla walked into the classroom, absurdly grateful for a chance to not be scrubbing floors, or running kettles of water back and forth for the laundry. She knuckled her back, and slid into her accustomed seat grumbling to herself about slave labor, and this being the biggest racket in the world. “They trick you in here by getting you hooked on an addictive substance, promising you more of it, and then put you to work in the kitchens,” she grumped, glaring at her mangled hands. And yet, she knew this ire was futile; she’d already made a conscious decision to stay and learn what she could… but this didn’t make her like the so-called discipline that sweeping a path was supposed to give her!

A random basket at the front of the room caught her eye, but before she could think futher, Amadine addressed the class, “Today we are going to learn more about the nature of Saidar, and what we can do with it.” The Accepted proceeded to explain the relative strengths in elements by gender, as well as commenting on the colors of the elements. Milla took up her pen as instructed, and proceeded to make notes on the colors she saw as Amadine channeled:

Water: Sort of blue-green, like the river
Air: Light blue, a bit like the sky
Spirit: Silvery-white
Earth: Brown
Fire: Red

She had thought she had noticed the hint of color before, so it made her happy to put name to face, as it were.

And then, the basket’s purpose was revealed as a multitude of bowls and kerchiefs were unloaded. A simple-seeming demonstration was to be had, a way to dry said kerchief with the One Power. At least, it looked simple; putting what was shown into action was a different story altogether. Milla still wasn’t especially adept at taking hold of Saidar, nor at making it do what she wanted it to do. At least water was an easy element to call once she did have a hold on Saidar, though it did take a few tries to get the twisting to work just so.

She was idly wondering if she could use the same weave to remove the bits of water that fell onto the desk when Amadine called the class back to attention. “This time I will use air to lift the handkerchief from the table,” she said, before proceeding to demonstrate. This weave looked even easier, as one couldn’t even call it a weave; there was only a single strand of Air involved! The young girl surrendered herself to Saidar, and poked at the bit of fabric with a thread of Air. It didn’t dance exactly; it fell off the table instead. Looking around quickly, she retrieved it from the floor, placed it back on the desk, and tried again. This time, she managed to get the kerchief into the air. It took a few more false starts before she could keep it up there and make it ‘dance’, but it took less time and encouragement than she feared that it would.

Milandra was feeling almost cocky after all that success; perhaps learning channelling wouldn’t be as difficult as they made it out to be. She still refused to believe that she’d have to spend the next several years at her studies, especially since she almost had it all figured out…


06 October 2010 (9:28pm)

Milandra found herself running down the hall tucking her hair into place as best as one could while running. It streamed around her, taunting her attempts to tame it, but she dare not stop and do it properly. She was already late to class, and she didn’t fancy another beating because she wasn’t able to magically transport herself from one place to the next at a whim. If Saidar was able to do such a thing, you’d think they’d teach it first off, considering that they seemed to expect everyone to be everywhere at once. “Hurry, don’t hurry, stop running, you’re late!” she muttered to herself. Or, attempted to – it all came out as gasps and grunts. Stopping herself by expedient of running into the wall, she groaned, gave up on her hair, and dragged herself across the threshold, and to her desk.

Apparently, the day was for flowers. Milandra liked flowers as much as the next girl, but she couldn’t see what was important about making them bloom. She supposed the concept was neat, but putting it into practice wasn’t exactly a bed of roses in and of itself. Earth was nowhere near as easy to raise as Water or Air, and therefore making multiple threads was similarly difficult. Weaving them into the requisite pattern was easier, though she went through more flowers than she cared to admit before Amadine was satisfied. “It will get easier with practice,” the Accepted assured her with a smile at one point, but that didn’t provide a lot of comfort in the now.

The next task was a tiny bit easier, if only just. Fire was even harder for her to muster than Earth; she struggled to raise even the smallest thread. But once she did, it was an easy affair to apply the pure weave to the candle’s virgin wick. It was even easier to snuff it with the prescribed thread of water, though it left the wick a touch damp. “Perhaps it would be better to snuff it with Air, Milla speculated as she pushed the candle to the side of her desk, “At least you’re not left with a damp wick, then.”

The last bit of the lesson was, apparently, primarily talking. The element of Spirit was apparently the go-to for most of the cool things, as was proven by a demonstration of Warding. Her eyes bulged slightly as Amadine wove; it was in that moment that Milandra realized that she might have a lot more to learn than she realized. The way the older woman made such weaving look easy and mundane was rather impressive… even if the other students’ conversation about breakfast wasn’t.

And, to her surprise… “Congratulation ladies,” the Accepted smiled at her students, “this concludes your Introduction to Saidar course…”

She went on, of course, but Milandra barely heard. It was hard realizing that one was woefully unprepared, and only at the beginning of a long road. It was even harder accepting it, but after so many weeks, it was starting to sink in.

A Choice Made (Attn: Mistress of Novices)

Milandra paced back and forth in her chamber, and tried to decide what her course of action would be for the nth time. “Mistress Larindrha said I could channel,” she spoke aloud, pausing momentarily in place, “That doesn’t mean that I have to be an Aes Sedai. I could try to figure it out on myself…”

She trailed off, tapping her foot while her brain processed. Milla had heard the same tales as most people pertaining to those who pretended to be Aes Sedai. The real Sisters didn’t take too kindly to pretenders, she recalled, though she couldn’t believe some of the details of the stories that got around; they didn’t match the image of regality and refinement that filled her head when she thought of the denizens of the White Tower. It just sounded so much more exciting than being a banker; being a banker meant a lot of not going anywhere, and trading correspondence. Not that she knew much about Aes Sedai, other than they could channel the One Power, and stay in palaces, and all sort of exciting things. “Perhaps I could meet a prince instead of a merchant,” she thought with a smile, “At least it would be something more than this life.

Having made up her mind, she called in the servants. She explained that she wanted her things packed up, and her best gown laid out so she could make all haste to depart across town. While Milla was waiting, she crossed the house to her mother’s study, and presented her case, “Mother, as you know, I was tested and it was found that I am able to channel. I think that it is only prudent to go to the Tower and become an Aes Sedai.” Her mother smiled, but acquiesced, “You know that you can do with your life what you see fit to do, little Milla.” She reached over to stroke her daughter’s long hair before continuing, “Not so little any more, though – are you sure about this?” Milandra nodded, feeling more certain about this than anything else in her life to date. “Very well then – I shall make sure that the carriage is ready for you; I presume you’ll be leaving immediately?” “Mmhmm,” the girl nodded.

Her mother gave her another hug, and assured her that there was ever a place for her at home should there need be. Milandra smiled, but barely heard the words – she had the future to face!

Like all things, it took a bit of time to get her things loaded onto the carriage for the trip to the Tower. Milandra tried to not be fussy; it wasn’t the servants’ fault that she had so many things that she had to take with her! After all, everyone knew that Aes Sedai wore the finest gowns and could match the style of royalty, so her lesser silks would hopefully pass muster to start with. In time, however, the carriage was moving, and she stared out the windows at the city that was her home; her eyes tried to drink it all in. “I might have to go far away soon, and I’ll miss home,” Milandra thought to herself, enjoying the slight breeze blowing past. The sound of the crowds, the marvelous buildings; it made her homesick even as she was still home.

Soon, she was dismounting before the Tower; her family’s servants were scurrying to offload her trunks and bring them into the foyer. Leaving them to their tasks, Milandra stood there uncertainly; was she supposed to wait to be greeted, or was she supposed to find her way through this strange place alone? Her answer came in the form of a woman in a white dress asking her what she wanted of the Tower. “I’ve come to be an Aes Sedai,” Milandra explained politely to the woman before her, “Larindrha Sedai tested me and said that I could learn to channel.” Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but it seemed the other woman smirked as she replied, “If you’ll follow me, I can take you to the Mistress of Novices.”

Mistress of Novices? She was here to be an Aes Sedai; what was a Novice? And who was going to get her things for her?!

24 July 2010 (7:40pm)

Bowing politely, Milandra stepped into the room. “Greetings, Pia Sedai. I am called Milandra; my family call me Milla. I’d met Larindhra, erm, Larindhra Sedai at a ball in town recently. In the course of conversation, the Tower naturally came up, and I asked her to test me on a whim.” She chuckled nervously, “Imagine my surprise when she found out that I could learn to channel; I didn’t even know it could be learned!”

She looked around the small room, and spying a chair, Milla closed the door behind herself and sat down. It was a cramped room in her opinion, and there were many items about to invoke her curiosity; why the slipper, and why the placement of the mirror? She shook herself, and turned her attention to the other woman again.

“I hadn’t thought about what I was going to do with myself,” the younger woman confided to the older, wondering if anyone had fetched her things up behind her, “I could have stayed in the banking business like Mother and Father, but… I guess the chance to do something different is hard to turn down.” She stared at her hands; she was feeling a bit uncomfortable with that silent, staring countenance.

Milandra knew she was babbling to fill in the void, but it was better than enduring uncomfortable silence, “So, when do I get to become an Aes Sedai, and is someone going to bring my things up? What is a Novice anyways? Larindhra have time to say much, since there were many people who wanted her attention.” She paused for a moment, suddenly struck by a thought, “Hopefully my garb is good enough for an Aes Sedai; I packed my best silks, even better than this one.” She realized her hands were dancing along her blue-clothed knee, and she willed it to stillness, and her mouth to silence. “Light, she’s going to think me a blathering idiot, whomever she is. Someone important, obviously, but whom?”

08 August 2010 (8:22pm)

“Y-y-years?!” Milandra stammered; incredulity was splashed across her face for a moment. Almost as quickly, it fled with a sigh. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it takes time,” she mumbled downwards towards her lap, “Mother and Father always said that it took time to learn anything, but still…” She trailed off, only to jerk her head upwards in alarm, “I can’t wear any of my silks?” she exclaimed, almost jumping out of her seat, “What am I supposed to wear if I cannot have my silk – am I to wear rags?!”

Milla opened her mouth to issue further complaint on this matter, when the woman before her looked at her. It was the merest lift of the eyebrow above a piercing, questioning stare, but it was enough to quell her desire to complain. “Interesting,” she thought to herself as she issued a wavering smile to the Aes Sedai, “How does an ageless, expressionless face manage to emote so strongly? She could give my parents lessons on conveying only what they want people to see…”

Speaking slowly, Milandra raised her eyes back to where she could respectfully address the older woman, “So, I cannot wear my silks; might I ask why? Why does the training take so long? I’ve already had an education fit for nobility; what is there to learn still?” She picked up speed as she continued on, “What is so great about being an Aes Sedai that I should consider surrendering my things and… Light, what does it even mean to be an Aes Sedai?!” It was all she could do to not throw up her hands in frustration; Milla didn’t want to be rude to this important-seeming woman, but she was totally confused.

14 September 2010 (4:41pm)

Biting her lip, Milla listened intently to what the Mistress of Novices had to say. For one who only knew silks and fine linens, the thought of wearing less was about as appealing as rolling through brambles. “I bet it’s so the poorer girls don’t feel bad about having decent garb,” she speculated, “But why don’t they just give them some proper clothing? Surely there’s no need for us to be in garb of poorer quality than your average household servants wears…”

She had to admit to herself that she was desperately curious as to what could be learned at the Tower besides channeling. Her parents had assured that she had an education as good as any noble could; they had hoped to find suitable marriage prospects for herself and her siblings amongst their numerous social contacts. In fact, she was due to debut after her next naming day, when she would be judged a woman in fact. “Something tells me that wouldn’t happen if I were to become a Novice. Though Samri was able to debut late after coming back from her studies in Illian; I guess I could find out about doing the same when I’m done here in… however long it takes.” Light, she might even manage to snag a prince; being an Aes Sedai should make her marriage prospects just that much more attractive!

Feeling much better about this option, Milandra felt much calmer, and even smiled at Pia. When asked for her details for the other woman’s book, she recited them clearly and at a pace that made for easier copying. She had to suppress a grimace at the bland white clothing she was handed… but a little discomfort would be worth it to see what was on offer.

Milandra Basene (biography)

Name: Milandra Basene
Age: 15
Nationality: None (Tar Valon)

Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Skin: Light
Height: 5’6″
Weight: 130lbs
Voice: Cultured; her tutors did their best to make sure she spoke well

Possessing of extremely long, wavy hair, Milandra is a slender woman with high cheekbones, a pert nose, and a full mouth. Her features could be best described as delicate.

Special Skills: She is fairly disciplined with a good sense of right and wrong.
Knowledge Weakness: A sheltered life leads to a lack of street smarts.
Personality weakness: Naive, idealistic, and a bit sheltered.


She is sweet and somewhat biddable, though she generally won’t do anything that she deems to be bad.


Milandra is the eldest daughter of Edwin Basene of Arad Doman and Merisan Doredin of Cairhein. Her parents are both bankers, and met while working in Tar Valon. Initially rivals, they found they had much in common, and decided to merge their fortunes, wed, and raise a family there in the very town where they met.

Because of this, Milla (as her parents call her) never wanted for anything. She had the finest tutors money could by, and social connections to all the best people in Tar Valon. That is, of course, besides a connection to her parents; outside of learning the trade from them, they had little time for herself and her siblings. Instead, they were brought up by a strict governess, who ensured that they learned how to behave ‘appropriately’. After all, there was a good chance they could marry into noble houses with the right connections, and thereby have ‘real’ power to go with their wealth.

So her life was one of schooling, of balls, of learning the ways of the banker. It was a life behind courtyard walls, and didn’t provide for a lot of life experience. Oh sure, herself and her siblings managed to have some fun and manage minor mischief as children, but their parents and Ishmara, their governess, burnt into their minds the ‘right’ way to act. They were taught to be kindly to all people, but inevitably, some classism embedded itself into Milla’s mind. But when one’s life is spent in the company of bankers, nobles, upper-crust merchants and Aes Sedai, what can be expected?

Milandra hadn’t put much thought into her future. Unlike many, she knew that she actually had one. Whether she chose marriage, or following in her parent’s footsteps, or both, her parents were very supportive of her choosing to lead the life she felt best suited for. But the what to do was the question. She had no qualms with the aforementioned options, and even at the near-womanly age of 15; the world still felt wide-open to her. So it was a bit of a surprise when an option she hadn’t considered reared up – joining the White Tower and becoming an Aes Sedai.

She was attending a ball – whose, it doesn’t matter, when the idea started forming in her mind. Milla had been taught to be especially polite and solicitous of Sisters, as their hefty annual wage needed a home, and not all of them felt like investing it back into the Tower. While conversing with an Aes Sedai and the host of the evening, the subject of looking for girls that could learn to channel came up. Larindhra, the Aes Sedai, was explaining that there were many young girls with the ability to learn to channel, and that they would never know or have the chance unless they came to the Tower to be tested, or happened upon an Aes Sedai. Milla had no idea that it actually could be learned, and the idea dawned in her head – could she herself be taught to channel the One Power?

Ask and ye shall receive – testing revealed that yes, Milandra Basene could learn to channel the One Power. She could be an Aes Sedai.

Thanking Larindhra Sedai for her cooperation, Milla went home with her thoughts. “Be an Aes Sedai,” she thought to herself, “Why not?” She had overly romanticized notions of what it meant to be an Aes Sedai, like most that she knew. To socialize with kings and queens, to mete justice, to wield so much power, the Power… it was all a tempting prospect. A life spent behind walls makes the idea of power and adventures and travel sound like a fun one, and without thinking about what it actually meant to be an Aes Sedai, decided that she would sign up.

Boy, isn’t she in for a surprise.