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Arrival In Tar Valon

Chapter 1

A New Beginning

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass leaving memories that become legend, then fade to myth, and are long forgot when that Age comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose across the great Sea of Storms. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

West the wind blew from the Sea of Storms, across the great mountainous island of Tremalking, where the fair-haired Amayar tilled their fields, and produced fine glass and porcelain, and followed the peace of the Water Way. The Amayar ignored the world beyond their scattered islands, for the Water Way taught that this world was only illusion, a mirrored reflection of faith, yet some watched the wind carry dust and deep summer heat where cold winter rains should be falling, and they recalled tales heard from the Atha’an Miere, the Sea Folk, who ruled the Amayar, and traded their goods to the lands beyond the sea. The tales ran with the Wind across the great oceans, even to the Island of Tar Valon surrounded by the mighty waters of the River Erinin.

"The South Harbor of Tar Valon off the port bow, Sailmistress." A voice called from the crow's nest high above the main deck. All hands aboard the Rusty Nail scurried to prepare for docking at Tar Valon. The journey up the Erinin River had not been as long as Jantica remembered it, but then again she had not been there in over 25 years. This was her first trip to Tar Valon as Sailmistress. Jantica paced back and forth in front of her adopted daughter kneeling before her who was staring at her mother’s bear feet.

"Are you certain you want to go through with this, Soutrik?" Jantica's pacing took on new vigor. Soutrik looked up and saw the concern in her adopted mother’s eyes, licked her lips, and then nodded her head. Jantica sniffed hard. "I do not see why this is necessary. Lyndia, why can not you teach her what she needs to know?"

The Windfinder calmly took a breath. Her Sailmistress had asked these questions everyday since the beginning of their journey to Tar Valon. Lyndia sighed and spoke respectfully to her Sailmistress, "She has a block that we can not seem to get past when she is awake. These Aes Sedai may be the only ones that can help her. If she does not learn to control saidar, it could kill her, Jantica." Lyndia's tattooed hand rested upon Jantica's shoulder in a soothing manner, "Soutrik is a grown women and can handle herself. You have nothing to worry about."

"Yes, Sailmistress, I will bring pride to you and to the Clan of Somarin." Soutrik's eyes so unlike her adopted mother's eyes were filled to the brim with tears and she barely contained them as the crew dashed about on deck.

"Shirts women!" Jantica turned to her Windfinder Lyndia, "You best be right."

"She is strong, Jantica. If she does not learn control, we could all find ourselves abandoning the Rusty Nail far out to sea because she accidentally torched it with an uncontrollable Flow of Fire. It puts the crew in danger and they know it. Have you not noticed the change in them since the incident?" Lyndia lowered her voice for Jantica’s ears only, not wanting to upset Soutrik further.

Jantica thought back ten days to a clear night when she had decided to stroll on deck while the crew slept and they were moored at their homeport in Tremalking.

***Jantica’s Flashback***

The ship had just been filled with fine 'Sea Folk' porcelain and was due to set sail for Tear the next morning. Jantica had not noticed Soutrik's approach behind her until the woman spoke.

"Slave, bring the Sh'boan her cloak!"

Jantica had jumped at the sound of Soutrik's voice. It was as if the woman spoke through a device that put the voice inside of Jantica's head the voice was so loud. Soutrik had never spoken so loud that Jantica new of, and certainly, her adopted daughter would never call her slave. Jantica turned around and saw that Soutrik seemed awake yet not, somehow in a daze or trace. Jantica swished gracefully towards Soutrik, her fists planted on her hips.

"Daughter? What are you talking about? Soutrik? Soutrik? Answer me child." Her voice was demanding as a mother’s voice could be when extracting information from an obstinate child.

"A slave will not disobey the Mistress when she speaks!" Soutrik extended her right arm sending out Flows of Spirit and Air.

"Lyndia, Rouste, Hydrem...on deck" Jantica's voice bellowed as she began to feel a vice like grip around her midsection. Breathing became difficult.

"You shall learn your place slave!" Soutrik's voice resounded throughout the entire harbor. People on vessels docked at the next pier began to stare at the Rusty Nail from their own decks. The crew assembled on deck just in time to see their Sailmistress float above the deck and up into the rigging. Soutrik's outstretched arm directed Flows of Spirit and Air lifting Jantica higher and higher, then out over the water.

"Soutrik! What are you doing?" Lyndia attempted to break Soutrik’s Flows with her own and struck out at the woman. Soutrik threw up her left arm and sliced through the net of Air that Lyndia threw taking the Windfinder off guard. She then shielded the Windfinder from the Source. Lyndia's face was pure shock and terror.

Lyndia had felt the girl had the spark within rather strongly and had tried to teach her to open herself to saidar but all attempts had failed due to some block. Lyndia had deduced that the trauma Soutrik had experienced prior to the Rusty Nail finding her in a barrel at sea was most likely the cause of her block. This scenario that was currently being played out had never crossed Lyndia's mind or she would have shielded the woman days ago.

"You dare try and harm the Sh'boan? INFIDEL! You will learn your place." Soutrik raised her left arm again and was about to throw a fireball comprised of Spirit and Fire the size of a pumpkin at Lyndia when another member of the crew tackled her from behind. The fireball missed its target and struck the deck, instantly setting the starboard side a flame. The crew hustled to put the fire out but a fire made of Spirit and Fire does not snuff easily. Thankfully, when Soutrik was tackled, her shield around Lyndia collapsed and Lyndia was able to put out the fire with Air, Water, and Spirit without it causing too much damage to the Rusty Nail's deck. Unfortunately, Jantica was also released from the weave that held her and she plummeted into the water off the port bow of the ship.

Rouste, Jantica’s adopted son Soutrik’s adopted brother, the crewmember that had tackled Soutrik, pummeled her with his fists and the rest of the crew egged him on. Lyndia stopped the scuffle.

"What is going on? Why are you hitting me, Rouste? Brother? Stop, please, stop" Soutrik's tiny voice could barely be heard above the murmur of the crew's angry voices.

Jantica swam to the port side ladder and hauled herself on deck. She staggered a bit regaining her composure then marched straight up to Soutrik, ripped out the nose ring and gold chain that hung from her right nostril, causing a spray of blood to erupt from Soutrik's nose and ear. "Get your barnacle ridden hide off my ship before I slit you from navel to nose you traitor. You are no longer my daughter. Your vile presence disgusts with you now!" Jantica raised her hand to strike at the trembling and crying woman in front of her when Lyndia caught the Sailmistress’ arm. A hush fell over the crew.

"What are you talking about, Mother? What is happening? How did I get on deck?" Soutrik was perplexed and looked around at the angry faces of her fellow crewmembers.

Lyndia turned to Soutrik, "You have no memory of what you have just done?" She had heard tell of people walking in their sleep before, but she had never met anyone who had.

"No." Soutrik spoke plainly but grunts of disbelief circulated among the bewildered crew.

"Jantica, I believe she speaks the truth. She did not know what she was doing. I believe she was sleep walking." Lydia put her tattooed hand on Soutrik’s shoulder. The front of Soutrik’s shift was drenched with blood, and blood still oozed from her torn nostril and ear.

Jantica looked at her Windfinder, assessing the woman’s words, “Release me, Lyndia."

Jantica lowered her arm then grabbed Soutrik's chin, "You swear to me on the strongest oath, that you do not remember." Soutrik swore the strongest oath she could think of and still wondered what had happened. The full story poured forth from Jantica's mouth and Soutrik fainted at her feet. She awoke below decks in her mother's quarters. Lyndia had Healed her nose and ear and all the bruises she had incurred during the struggle with Rouste.

"Soutrik? Can you hear me?" Lyndia patted Soutrik’s cheek softly.

"Yes, Lyndia." Soutrik batted her eyes and slowly opened them to see Lyndia leaning over her.

"I have you shielded child for I do not want a repeat of that performance. Child where did you learn to do all of that? You were handling multiple weaves of various elements all at the same time. That only comes with years of study and practice. Nothing that I have tried to teach you closely resembled the weaves that you used. AND YOU HAVE YET been able to touch the One Power in my presence. Explain this child."

"I can not...I do not remember." Soutrik started to cry again. She had no memories of her life prior to the day that the crew of the Rusty Nail had found her floating inside a barrel on the trade route from Illian to Shara. Soutrik knew she was different but the Atha’an Miere had accepted her and welcomed her as if she were a lost daughter finding her way home. Jantica had taught her all about the running of a ship. Soutrik was Jantica’s right-hand aid for she had excellent penmanship, and a mind for numbers. How to be a good member of a Sea Folk crew, as a leader and a follower were also among Jantica’s lessons. Soutrik was an extremely hard worker and never complained. She seemed born to it as all Atha’an Miere did, and that was one of the reasons Jantica adopted her as her own daughter giving her the name she would have given to her own child if the creator had ever blessed her with one. Rouste was Jantica's other adopted child but her had not been as strong as she had hoped and would never amount to much. Soutrik showed pure potential. She had it within her to command a great ship, of this Jantica was sure. Soutrik had the air of authority about her despite her meek and mild temperament and soft, almost whisper like voice. Nothing at all like the Soutrik of her sleepwalks.

"What did I say again, Lyndia?” Lyndia went over the words again in her head and then spoke them to Soutrik. "But, what is a Sh'boan?" Lyndia asked Soutrik who shook her head.

***End Jantica’s Flashback***

It was only after much debate that Jantica had relented to take Soutrik to Tar Valon. The events of that fateful evening whirled in her mind; she could not shake them.

"I will miss you my daughter." Jantica reached into her pocket, produced a single medallion, and attached it to the nose chain on Soutrik's right nostril adding it to the few that were there already. Soutrik fell to her knees and kissed her mother's bear feet. She rose and without saying a word, picked up her bags and left the Rusty Nail setting foot on the South Harbor's pier number three. She did not turn back. She could not cry. She had no tears left.

Chapter 2

Into the White Tower

Soutrik made her way through the city of Tar Valon to the White Tower. It was most impressive. Many people eyed her as she approached the gates. She wondered if they found her odd looking. Soutrik did not know anyone that looked like she did. Not even among the Atha’an Miere who were so fond of the body art of tattooing had she found someone with tattoos such as hers. Soutrik paused in an alcove to adjust the buckle on her satchel; she stared at her reflection in the glass of the window at the far end of the alcove.

Soutrik stood no taller than most Cairhein women, very petite compared to the Aiel indeed. She had short black tight curly hair cur in an Afro style with designs that had been cut away at her temples to reveal the tattoos that swirled around her ears, eyes and checks and that made their way down her neck. She had thought them unusual yet pretty when she first saw them. Green vines with seven roses on each side of her face and neck. She thought it odd that she had them when nobody else she knew did, nor did they have skin her color. The Sea Folk's skin was much browner than hears which was a mixture of yellow cream and burnt brown. Her eyes were crystal blue and she had a wide mouth with large lips, a wide flat short nose with large nostrils, with high cheekbones and a flat forehead. The one thing she hated most about her face was the space between her mostly straight and white two front teeth on the top. Other than that, the creator had blessed her with a slim body, ample hips, and not too large of a bust. One thing had always caused a great stir whenever she met new people...her bracelets and anklets.

On each arm at the wrist and at each ankle, Soutrik wore seven ivory bracelets that were fitted with various priceless gems. She had tried to remove them, but could not without removing her hand or foot. She did not remember how they got there, but she had spent a great deal of time studying them. They seemed to be made of ivory, but not, and each bracelet had its own unique design, some twisted, some had ridges, some holes straight through them revealing her skin underneath. The bracelets each had different colored gemstones. The ones nearest her hand and foot were blue sapphires, the next green emeralds, the next white diamonds, then gray opals, yellow topaz, red, rubies, and finally brown tiger’s-eye. Apparently, the Atha’an Miere had told her that tiger’s-eye comes only from Shara and was very rare.

These and her tattoos were all she was wearing when the Rusty Nail had found her. She stared at her reflect one last time, straightening her bright yellow blouse and puffy purple colored silk pants she strolled into the Tower to find her future and perhaps her past. Soutrik made her way to the Mistress of Novices office with welcomed help from many gawking strangers. She didn’t mind, as she had grown used to it at every port she had stopped at with the Rusty Nail.

Finally getting into see the Mistress of Novices, Soutrik was very pleased to meet Madeline Sedai who went over all of the rules regarding lessons and classes, and what is expected of a Novice. Soutrik explained the block and the incident and the wilder channeling while asleep, and hoped that the Mistress of Novices did not lose hope in her. Madeline Sedai supplied Soutrik with three Novices dress and slippers, as Soutrik was barefoot. She was not happy about the ivory gem encrusted bracelets and ankle bands though, and it was plan as the nose on her face to Soutrik. Madeline Sedai appeared to be thinking about how to get them off, everyone who first saw them always had that same look on their faces, Soutrik had seen that too a hundred times. The odd thing that Soutrik did not understand was the Madeline Sedai had first jerked her hand away when she touched the bracelets to examine them, then scrutinized each one touching them all over. Soutrik had had this happen before also, the Windfinder on board the Rusty Nail had done the very same thing the first time they had met, but never told her why.

Madeline Sedai had Novice Calin give Soutrik the grand tour of the Tower. They went to the Library, the kitchens, the East Garden, and well, it seemed like a massive maze to Soutrik who was used to her ship, which was considerably smaller than the White Tower. Soutrik was ready for sleep and her Novice companion seemed to sense it. He dropped Soutrik at her room and headed off elsewhere. Soutrik didn’t unpack she wanted to nap. She collapsed on the bed exhausted and sleep soundly for the first time in a long time. Her embracing lesson laid ahead her.

Yet, later that night, the cold winds blew through the Fountain Garden deep within the Tower’s walls as Soutrik’s bare feet slapped the pavement in a dead run. “Chesandra!!!…. L’iheap!!!” Soutrik’s voice was deep and breathy despite its tremendous volume. The sounds of her voice echoed through the motionless White Tower with the majority of its residents tucked snuggly in their beds. “Where are those impertinent slaves?” A deep crease cut itself into her forehead as she frowned decidedly. Her outward conscious asleep, Soutrik’s inner self ruled the sleepwalker's body.

***Dream/Flashback Sequence while Sleepwalking about the Tower***

Aloysha screamed for her handmaids. It was time for her evening bath, and it had not been drawn yet, and she was cranky, to put it mildly. “Chesandra!!! L'iheap!!! Get out here this instant or I will have your hides.”

Aloysha began to search the North Wing of the Sh’boan’s winter palace. Ornate silk wall coverings decorated with fine handcrafted drawings of her favorite birds in snow scenes lined the walls of the main corridor. The carpet beneath her slippered feet afforded her silent movement while she searched for her two missing slave girls. She had bought them not more that two weeks ago and already they were beginning to show the signs she had hopped would not appear. She had purposely picked the homeliest women she could to be her personal servants, but to no avail. Her husbands taste for the flesh did not stop with homely faces or obesity.

“Chesandra!!! L’iheap!!!!!” Aloysha was becoming furious and began to strike out at her lovely Sea Folk china that sat in niches every twenty feet or so down the main corridor. She picked up a vase with a Flow of Air and hurled it at her husband’s portrait that sat upon an easel still wet from the afternoon sitting.

Calming herself in order to gain clarity of thought she opened herself to saidar and listened intently. Her heightened senses picked up many sounds. Sounds of slaves in the lower stables, of the scullery maids finishing with tonight’s dishes, distant sounds of wolves howling in the adjacent forest, and sounds of mice under the floorboards. Most of her staff had retired to their rooms but her personal handmaids, her slaves that slept at the foot of her bed, were her query this evening. Where are they?. Aloysha embraced saidar and pulled it through her four tigers-eye and ivory sa’angreals bound to her skin. She picked up the sound of soft giggling coming from the South wing; her husband’s part of the palace.

***End Dream Flashback***

Soutrik’s voice echoed again as she called for her one time slaves. “Why must he do this to me every time?” The sleepwalker continued through the Fountain Garden yet her voice echoed into the barracks of the Gaidin in Training, and into the dreams of one young Sei’Tar.

***Dreams of Sei’Tar Brazzelle***

The great ballroom was filled with people, their chatter dying into a soft murmur, and their dressed-up appearances bending into curtsies and bows as she passed them. They were mostly nobles, but also high ranking merchants and landowners, all invited to attend this great feast.

Many had asked her for the reason for arranging a banquet right after Bel Tine had been celebrated, and for some reason they had all given her very suspicious looks after she told them that it was just for her own enjoyment. She didn’t want to think about that. She wanted to dance!

Adjusting her hair and smoothing the skirts of her blood-red dress, Brazzelle turned towards the crowd of people admiring her person and spoke in her usual soft honey-voice: “I – the Lady Brazzelle – wish to dance now!” As soon as she had spoken, half a dozen handsome young men stepped forward, all offering her a hand. Taking her time, she eyed them all thoroughly before choosing her dance partner.

He was a young lord, son of one of the mightiest lords in the country. His clothes were cut in the latest fashion, his black hair bound together at the nape of his neck with a green ribbon, and his dark eyes were just… gorgeous!

They danced for what seemed ages, his arms encircling her waist, the rubies in her hair glittering as he swung her around the dance-floor – they were the center of attention! She looked up into his face, wanting to drown herself in his …blue eyes?

Dai happily smiled down at her, and then slowly bent down as if to kiss her. With a startled squeal, she wrung herself out of his arms, and turned just to face … Moriel! He was looking at her, considering… then he smirked. His voice was ice cold; she thought it held amusement.

“Pretending again, are we, little Brazzelle?” She felt a steel-blade against her neck, if she so much as breathed, it would draw blood. She couldn’t see him, but knew he was there, felt his breath against her face as he spat: “You are pathetic!”

***End Brazzelle’s Dream***

Brazzelle opened her eyes, and sat up with a gasp. It had only been a dream! It had only been a dream! Dai? Moriel? Why in the Light should I…The sound of a shout stopped her thoughts. It had been a female voice…she was sure! What would a woman be doing in the gardens at this hour? And shouting!

She got up, and without caring to look in the mirror or getting properly dressed, she put on her woolen cloak and stepped out of her room. The corridor was dark, and she couldn’t hear anything but faint snoring from Riordan’s room. So nobody but she had heard the woman? I could have imagined it, couldn’t I? Thinking that it was better not to wake anybody if it had just been her imagination, she walked out of the barrack and towards the Fountain Garden, where the scream had come from.

Searching as if she actually saw what was before her through her sleepwalkers haze, Soutrik stalked the Fountain Garden still, Aloysha’s temper flaring within Soutrik’s body. Water in certain small fountains began to boil reflecting the heat that burned within her. The ruby ter’angreal was being used by the semi-conscious woman’s inner self and the glow ofsaidar surrounded her body. Through the cloud of her anger and sleep, Alyosha heard the noise of someone approaching from the corridor on the far side of the garden.

“Chesandra, if you are hiding from me you will regret it, slave!” Standing to her full height, which was well below five feet tall, Alyosha took on a regal air of authority. Her face was masked in anger, command, and sheer forcefulness of will. She seemed feet taller than her actual height. Men had cowered before her in her distant past and her memory told her so.

Brazzelle had barely dressed but was in her usual long, wide black trousers with some blue and white embroidery. Unlike most of the men, she did not tuck them into her boots. Her shift hung on her as did her cloak, and they blew gently in the breeze, as did the brazen curls now hanging loose, and reaching halfway to her waist. Brazzelle moved silently towards the female figure striding purposefully around the garden, when she suddenly heard the crushing of a leaf behind her. Before she got to turn around, though, something launched itself at her, pushing her out of balance, and causing both of them to hit the ground and roll a couple of paces. Furiously she reached for the silver dagger in her belt, and just as she felt steel press against her own throat, had it placed at what she by now had figured was a male’s neck. She was frightened to the bone, but the feeling was overwhelmed by the anger of being attacked in what she had thought a safe place, and without her even noticing her attacker’s approach before it was too late!

"What a fine predicament.” the voice… she recognized it! Heaving for breath Mike continued: “I thought you ShadowRunners were supposed to be cowardly." What? The fool! Lousy little creature! Michandrael winced as her knee connected with his groin, and as she rose, she watched him curl into a ball while groaning. Serves him right! "A fine predicament indeed." she said her eyes flashing with anger… and a tad amusement.

Alyosha caught sight of the figure and wove Flows of Spirit and Fire creating a brilliant blue light, which she focused with precision like a beam across the garden as a spotlight around Brazzelle’s person. “I have caught you, harlot! Sleep with my husband will you!” Alyosha stomped across the Fountain Garden towards Brazzelle practically growling under her breath. Spouts of hot water shooting up from the fountains toped thirty feet high as she passed them emitting hissing sounds and steam in every direction.

A warm spray of hot water caught Lyra Sedai unaware, standing on her balcony as she was. Arrogant screams from the garden below had called her attention towards the scene at hand, but to find a Novice, a new Novice at that, channeling up a storm in the middle of the bloody White Tower seemed just a tad unlikely. Upon her first sight of this Soutrik however, one surely was not quite sure what to expect. The power emanating from below seemed too strong in conjunction with the Novice's level of experience.

Sighing, Lyra Sedai quickly wove a platform of Air to descend to the garden, for after all, this would have to be put to an end. She approached the Novice, cool and collected with an eyebrow raised imperiously, and inquired softly yet firmly, "What do you think you are doing, Novice?" And just as quickly, she was slammed into the fountain Soutrik had previously walked through by a simple weave of Air. Now this, this was surely too much!

"Another of my sultry slaves, no doubt returning from my husband's bed, no less. L'iheap, how dare you show your face in my presence any longer?" A commanding voice boomed from what Lyra Sedai had thought to be a meek Novice, an accusing finger pointed at her head. "Now, I want you to..."

Her words were cut off sharply as Lyra Sedai slammed a shield between Soutrik and the Source. The Novice blinked, stood there for a moment, and collapsed in a heap to the ground before her eyes finally opened. Smirking, the Grey asked, "Had enough of dreamwalking, Soutrik? Shall I assist you to the Mistress of Novice’s office for some assistance, perhaps?"

The trembling and terribly frighten Novice blinked, and responded in a voice that could only be described as a whisper, “I don’t know where I am.” Her voice chocked in her throat as a wave of shock rolled through her. Soutrik couldn’t remember how she got to where she was, whatever this place was. The ageless face in front of her just did not register fully, had she met this woman before? Her trembling increased and tears welled into her eyes. “Please, help me,” her voice was just a breath. Her knees started to give under the strain of her shock and her usually mocha skin paled. Brazzelle caught the petite figure in her arms as she started to keel over. Soutrik jumped spasmodically forward at Brazzelle’s touch as if it were molten metal, and regained her balance for a second then started to keel over again. Brazzelle did not reach out to catch the freaked out Novice this time and Soutrik straightened and gripped her arms tightly around her body conscious of her wet nightgown clinging tightly to her.

The two Gaidin in Training, one Sei'Tar and the other Aethan'Tar, both had a rather bewildered expression upon their faces. Brazzelle looked at Mike, who was now standing beside her, then eyed the Novice. The Aes Sedai turned towards them with a smirk. "Brazzelle Sei'Tar, if you would, please escort our lady Soutrik to the Mistress of Novice’s office. We must make sure she does not make any random attempts to sever various limbs of yours. Thank you for your efforts," this said the Grey crossed her arms before her and stared at Novice Soutrik with a quizzical look.

"And Mike..." She idly twisting auburn curls around a finger, smiling icily. "I do believe the Amrilyn sentenced you to punishment with the Aethan'Tar in tow, is that not correct? I do not see him in evidence, however." Another smile. "Siannon Gaidin will not be pleased." He grimaced at that. "I expect you to report to her immediately with the dawn tomorrow. If I hear that you did otherwise, no doubt her punishment will be quite a bit more severe. Hop to it, boy." Lyra Sedai turned on her heel and headed to the staircase that lead to the Grey Ajah’s pie shaped section of the White Tower.

Random attempts to sever various limbs? What have I done? What have I done now? Soutrik attempted to fill in the holes of her memory, but she didn’t know where to begin. She had arrived at the Tower only this morning, napped, and then she had her first embracing lesson with Accepted Aislin. Soutrik then remembered that it was the middle of the night, so then today was now tomorrow? She shook her head dazed and confused. After she had her lesson, she had taken an early dinner and gone to bed, skipping the rest of her tour of the White Tower, as she needed a mental break from the embracing lesson. She had gone to bed early after sweeping and scrubbing the floors of her room, and unpacking the rest of her things. The Last bell had not rung and she was fast asleep. The next thing that she could remember two Gaidin in Training and an Aes Sedai were standing over her as she lay upon the ground in a heap, in her shift, soaking wet and trembling. She looked up at the Gaidin in Training and wondered if she had hurt the woman. She did not know what to say.

Brazzelle left Mike and began to lead the way. Soutrik followed at her heel leaving wet footsteps in her wake. “What have I done, now?” Soutrik’s voice was barely audible but Brazzelle heard it and turned over her shoulder to look at the wet Novice keeping pace behind her. Channelers! And imagine I’m going to be bonded to one sometime Brazzelle collected her thoughts and shook her head, while marching through the corridors of the White Tower.

“Well, let’s just say that you’re in an awful lot of trouble, young woman!” Soutrik must have been at least three years older than herself, but Brazzelle held a higher rank, and she liked to point that out. She actually felt sorry for the Novice, she hadn’t understood much of what had happened in the Fountain Garden, but the Novice had changed from one person to another, and was seemingly unconscious of it.

As they reached the door to the Mistress of Novice’s office, a thought struck Brazzelle, and she felt anger well up inside. “Why in the name of the Creator did you call me a harlot!?” But the other Soutrik did not have the time to respond, because suddenly the door banged open, and out strode Madeline Sedai, looking far from happy about finding a Trainee in the company of a wet Novice in the middle of the night outside her quarters.

Madeline signed her name with a flourish, and folded the parchment carefully, sealing it with a blob of dark green wax. Finally! She thought to herself. The last bit of paperwork was done, and it was high time that she got some sleep. She blew out the candle, and was just about to open her door when she heard the sound of footsteps. Two of them, and they paused right before her office. A voice she didn’t recognize said loudly, “Why in the name of the Creator did you call me a harlot!?” Madeline’s eyes widened in surprise. She didn’t know what to make of this, but she would soon find out.

She flung open the door, and blinked at the sight of one of the newest Novices, Soutrik, dripping wet and looking completely miserable. She was accompanied by one of the Gaidin in Training, a young woman who was glaring at the dripping novice. Madeline put her fists on her hips. “What is the meaning of this?” she demanded. Soutrik dipped a quick curtsy, and glanced at the Gaidin in Training, Brazzelle, if Madeline remembered correctly.

Brazzelle gestured to Soutrik, who was gazing morosely at the floor. “This Novice was wreaking havoc in the courtyard, Aes Sedai,” she said. She went on to describe how Soutrik had caused the fountains to erupt like boiling geysers, attacking with the Power and calling her a harlot. Brazzelle’s voice grew heated at that last part, but she held her temper and finished the story, explaining how another Gaidin in Training had arrived, followed by Lyra Sedai, who had most likely saved Brazzelle from Power-wrought third degree burns and who knows what else.

Madeline listened in astonishment, but her features were smooth and expressionless. She watched Soutrik from the corner of her eye, wishing she could somehow remove those curious bracelets. She believed them to be ter’angreal, but was reluctant to study them while they were still on the woman’s arms. Brazzelle finished her story, and Madeline nodded idly.

“Thank you, Sei’Tar Brazzelle. You seem to have been uninjured, and I apologize that one of my Novices has treated you in such a fashion. I will take care of this unfortunate matter from here, and I thank you for bringing this to my attention. If you don’t mind, I would like to speak with Soutrik alone.” She gave the woman a small smile, and Brazzelle nodded, straightened her cloak, and strode off down the hallway. Madeline’s eyes swung to Soutrik, her finger tapping her lip thoughtfully. There was much more going on here then she knew, and somehow those bracelets were a part of this. The Novice’s actions were gravely serious, but Madeline needed to know more.

“Shall we go for a walk, Soutrik?” she said suddenly. The Novice seemed startled, but nodded. Madeline thought to herself as she walked, wondering exactly how to handle this. Making there way through silent corridors, their footsteps echoing against the stone floor. After some time, Madeline spoke.

“I am nearly lost for words.” Her voice was soft, but hard as steel. “I don’t think I need to tell you that what you did not only broke the rules, you have shattered them beyond recognition. If you didn’t have such potential, I would consider throwing you from the Tower. Since that is not an option, I require an explanation, Novice. What in the Light were you thinking?”

“Madeline Sedai, I was not thinking. I mean it was not I. I was sleepwalking. I honestly do not remember anything that happened. I went to bed and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, wet, with two Gaidin in Training and an Aes Sedai standing over me.” Soutrik spoke in her usual whisper like voice. She ran a hand through her tight Afro like hair. “ I am really frightened. This is not the first time that I have done something like this in my sleep. Actually, it was the cause of my journey here. The Windfinder of the Rusty Nail was very concerned. This has only happened three times since they found me.” Soutrik hung her shoulders, completely distraught. “I don’t know if this is a chronic problem or not, or if it is brought on by stress. I did have an embracing lesson today, well actually considering the time of night, yesterday, with Accepted Aislin. It was stressful. But, I swear to you, I do not know what is going on, and I have no memories of anything I have said or done tonight.” Soutrik was on the verge of tears. She wanted desperately to know how she got the way she was and didn’t know where to begun. She shook her head and brought her hands to her face. Her bracelets clicked when her two arms met, and she started to sob into the palms of her hands.

Soutrik looked up at the Mistress of Novices, she looked up at everyone she was so short, and through the tears in her eyes, and she could not tell what the Aes Sedai was thinking. She started to shiver as she was still soaking wet and barefoot. The drafty corridors were no place for a wet person to be on a cold winter’s night.

“I understand why you are angry. I understand that this body has broken the rules, but I swear to you, I, Soutrik, my mind, did not, and would never do such a thing as has been relayed to you. Not consciously.” Soutrik felt helpless. Madeline nodded sympathetically, and Soutrik looked up at her pleadingly. Madeline found Soutrik to be a striking young woman, noting the beautiful ink work on the sides of her temples and those almond-shaped eyes. Trapped inside was some demon woman that apparently abused people quite readily. Soutrik desperately wanted to know who she really was, but was afraid that when she found out, she might not like the answer. She looked to the Mistress of Novices to help her.

“Is there someway to research my bracelets? Someway to find out where they come from and why I have them attached to me? Is there a Brown Sister that is familiar with history or jewelry, or whatever these might be?” Soutrik knew they were special somehow. Every woman that could channel that she had met had always eyed them in a different way than women who couldn’t channel. She suspected that people knew much more than they told her. That disappointed her, but disappointment was nothing new. The last year of her life that she could remember was full of it. She wondered if her previous life had been disappointing as well. Soutrik waited for some sort of answer, anything that could lead to some sort of piece of mind. Maybe some Brown Sister could find the answer, an answer held within some book deep within the Library of the Tower. What would Madeline Sedai suggest?

Madeline listened with growing astonishment as Soutrik explained the situation. She had never heard of such a thing, but that did not mean it was not possible. She had known that Soutrik knew very little about her past, but this alter ego was something else entirely. There was no question of the woman’s sincerity, for the pain was evident in her eyes. Madeline’s gaze flickered to those bracelets she wore. They had to be objects of the Power, but they could not be studied if she still wore them. Most puzzling indeed.

Madeline tapped her lip thoughtfully, pausing in dimly lit corridor. “May I look at those again?” she asked. Soutrik nodded, holding her arm out for the Mistress of Novices inspection. They each were studded with colored stones, one for each Ajah, as she had noted before. “And you have no idea where these came from?” she asked again, knowing the question was futile. Soutrik shook her head silently. Madeline nodded, and continued.

“I suggest you pay a visit to the Keeper, Aeilla Sedai. She is young, but she has an extraordinary mind. I really don’t know if she has experience with jewelry, but she is a Brown, and Browns have a tendency to know strange and obscure things. She may be able to help you.” It may take a team of Browns to help this troubled novice, but Aeilla would be an excellent place to start. “As for what happened tonight, I understand that it wasn’t your fault. However, I can’t let this happen again, because someone might be hurt. Including you. I’m going to ask Accepted Melanna to stay with you until we can figure this out. She’s close to being raised, and there’s no question she’ll choose the Brown. If you should slip into this alter state, she can be sure that you’re shielded and safe from harm. She might even have some ideas on what purpose these bracelets serve. I’ll also have her keep a close watch on what your other identity, Alyosha, is like, what she says, what she does—-what kind of person she is. Perhaps we can ferret out some clues about your past, so that we can do something to help you.” Madeline wished there was something else that she could do or say, but this was all that could be done for now. She gave Soutrik an encouraging smile. “We will get to the bottom of this, child, I swear it to you. And if there is anything you need of me, please don’t hesitate to ask. I know you don’t remember anything about where you came from, but I want you to try. Pay attention to your dreams, or things that you say...things that might slip out. This cannot be easy, but try not to be discouraged. We will resolve this, one way or another.”