It was dusty in the store rooms, and not the pleasant kind of dusty one finds in a bakery, where the dust is mostly flour. Here is was simply a lack of presence. Wherever people spend time, the place takes on a feel... conversely, where people are not allowed, where people refuse to go... there is an absence. The storerooms were such a place.
It had been seventy years since she was raised to the Shawl, almost eighty-five since she left that small village in Amadicia. Over the years, she had gained a reputation as level headed, and several of the women who had served as Highest had recognized her for it. Now there was a new woman in the position, one who wanted to utilize that Elin. No, she wasn’t abnormally strong, but she was truly gifted with weaves of Spirit. Somehow, the Highest heard of this, and set Elin a task. It was rarely pleasant to be given a task by the Highest, but this one wasn’t looking to be all that bad.
Recently, the Yellow Ajah had been winning support among the other Ajahs, not just in the Hall, but for their efforts in the world. The Highest was working to find a way to counter the Yellow’s influence by raising the profile of the Red. That was why Elin was down here in the storerooms. Her strength in Spirit, the Highest hoped, would help the ter’angreal in the Tower’s keeping speak to her. Yes, it was dangerous, but she had worn the shawl long enough to be trusted with such a task.
The ter’angreal were so varied it was hard to imagine that they all were objects of the Power. Sitting there, staring at a small statue of a woman fighting against a driving wind, a golden mask, and a bell without a clapper, Elin began to think that their makers must have been either mad or artists... which were often the same thing. These three ter’angreal were all known to be connected to Spirit, and their effects had already been studied.
By examining these known ter’angreal, Elin hoped to get a feel for what a Spirit focused ter’angreal felt like.
It wasn’t doing her much good.
They all had a “feel” to them, much the same “feel” that all ter’angreal had. Everything in this room had the same feel. Sitting in the room was like sitting in the middle of an apiary, the constant buzzing grating on her nerves.
She was beginning to develop a headache from it.
With a sigh, Elin rose out of the chair and began to walk down the aisle of shelves. Item after item caught her eye, but after further examination, none seemed worth the effort of actually taking off the shelf. Rings, bowls, statues, knives, books, birds... they all sat there, waiting to be explained. Unfortunately, Elin was sure that she did not have the Talent of detecting the purpose of ter’angreal.
As her head pounded, Elin decided that today was done. She had worked enough for the day.
She climbed the floors of the Tower, leaving behind the basements, and stopped at the kitchen long enough to pull aside a novice. The girl bobbed a quick curtsy, and looked obviously torn between listening to the Aes Sedai and finishing her assigned task. The Kitchen Cooks could be merciless if a novice ruined a dish due to poor attention or lollygagging. Elin gave the girl her dinner order, including a hearty soup, some ham, roasted potatoes, and a small salad. Headaches from One Power related activities needed to be countered with either strong support with nutrients or Healing.
Back in her room, Elin brushed her black hair as she stared out her window over the city. The ogier had designed the city to be seen from every angle. From above, it seemed to flow and welcome the eye. Elin always found it soothing to look over the city, letting her eyes wander from one graceful building to the next soaring edifice. Her first years with the shawl on her shoulders had been spent learning the traditions of her Ajah. Once she had the shawl, sisters began to tell her an old saying that Accepted never hear... “When you join an Ajah you have as much to learn as your first four years in the Tower.”
After she’d learnt all there was to learn from her sisters and the Highest, Elin’s feet began to itch. She spent some time traveling around Caemlyn, Cairhien, and even Illian, before she gathered her courage and did what she’d been hoping to do for some time. She put away her shawl, hid her Great Serpent ring, and road up into Amadicia, back to her home village. By that time, she had been away from home for more than twenty years, but her village was much the same as it had been when she left.
The old miller, the one who had labeled her brother tainted by the One Power, had died. His mill sat empty, and Elin felt a strong satisfaction knowing that in the end, he had not won. One new addition was an inn, where she stayed the night. On the next day, she sought out her family’s bakery.
There were children working there... children who looked painfully like her brothers... little girls who looked much like Elin had years ago. Of course, as she stood there, the children giggled and blushed, and an elderly woman came out from the back room. Her iron gray hair hung in waves, just like Elin’s did. It was her mother.
They stood there, staring at each other for a long moment, both knowing who the other was. Then, Elin felt a pain in her chest as her mother put on a mask.
“Good morning, my Lady, how may we serve you?”
Elin bought a small set of sweet buns and left. Her mother knew she was alive, knew that she had made something of herself. She knew that her family thrived after she left. It was enough.
As she brushed her hair and remembered those painful memories, Elin came back to herself when the novice knocked on her door. At her call, the novice opened the door and brought her tray in. After eating, Elin laid down and thought long thoughts about the way her mother had aged, and how it would be decades yet before Elin even had a single gray hair.
The next morning, she dressed in a simple black dress, and for the first time in many years, she put on a small bonnet. This one wasn’t very traditional, it lacked the deep front that hid a woman’s face, but it reminded her of where she came from. If anyone asked, she would say she was dressing so plainly to avoid getting her better clothing dusty.
After a quick breakfast of fruit, stewed in milk and honey, Elin went back to the storeroom.
She knew that a weave of Air, Earth and Water could suppress all the dust... but there were so many ter’angreal that could accidentally be activated by a stray flow of the Power. Today, she didn’t bother with the known ter’angreal. It hadn’t helped before, it wouldn’t help today. As she worked, lifting items off their shelves, manipulating them, turning them, the room grew hot and stuff, and her head began to itch under the bonnet she had decided to wear on a maudlin whim.
After four hours of itching at her scalp through the material and mounds of hair, Elin finally ripped it off her head.
“It’s the past... my past, but still the past. Wearing a bonnet today won’t change the fact that I left Amadicia far behind.” Her voice echoed in the mostly empty room.
It took her another hour to get sick of having her hair hanging about loose down her back. Her pride wouldn’t let her put the bonnet back on, and she didn’t have anything at hand to hold her hair back. Something on the shelf caught her eye. It was eye level, but at the back of a shelf. Like every other item in the room, it wore a small tag that gave its details.
Hair Caul; metallic from unknown source material; serves unknown purpose.
Whatever purpose its creator had intended, Elin needed a caul. She piled her hair into a neat coil, and slipped the caul on over it. It seemed right. The metal net kept her hair off her shoulders, but didn’t trap the heat on her scalp like the bonnet had. Though, that didn’t entirely explain the coolness she now felt.
Hours later, nothing had leapt out at her, declaring its purpose. It frustrated her. A lot. She hadn’t failed at anything in some time. Another novice took her dinner order this time, and when she went to her room, Elin simply reclined in a chair waiting for her food to be brought. After she ate, she slipped out of her dress and directly into bed. She could brush her hair in the morning.
As she sank into sleep, something felt different. Not enough to keep her awake, but enough that her mind kept running even as she sank into sleep.
She knew she wasn’t awake yet... but she found herself aware. She was sitting in her room, wearing her favorite dress and that caul from the ter’angreal storeroom. The sky outside was an odd mix of midday blue, but with visible stars. It was disconcerting.
Her room was well lit... despite the odd external lighting and the fact that none of her lamps were burning.
Standing, Elin walked around her room, then out into the Red Ajah halls. It felt like there were eyes boring into the small of her back, no matter where she went. She visited the rooms of women she knew, some she liked, other she barely stood because of their shared Ajah. Eventually, she even visited the Highest’s rooms. There were no other people here. She did do a little rifling through papers, confirming a few ideas she had about her sisters. Though, letters seemed to appear and disappear with an alarming frequency. Books were more stable... even personal journals.
Elin wandered the halls of the Tower, exploring different rooms... places she hadn’t visited since she was an Accepted... places she still wasn’t allowed to go. It was exillerating.
Suddenly the world was shaking... and her eyes sprang open.
Standing over her was a wide eyed novice and one of her least favorite sisters.
“Good morning, Airen. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Elin did her best to put a few inches of frost on every surface in the room.
“This girl said she came to bring you your breakfast, per the instructions you left with the kitchen, but she found you still asleep. She tried to wake you, but could not. She came into the hallway, and almost ran into me. I of course came to see if I could be of any assistance.” Airen’s voice was just as icy. “You see, Child, with some deep sleepers, you just need to shake them hard enough.”
On that line, the other Red left, and Elin dismissed the novice. What happened to her? Where had she gone? The only logical conclusion was that the silvery caul she still wore had caused whatever happened. She kept it on, though... she hadn’t come to any harm, so why take it off?
She spent weeks working in the storerooms, but nothing else caught her eye. For the same weeks, Elin explored this new world. After a trip to the Library to confirm her growing suspicion, Elin had a name for her new world. Tel’aran’rhiod. The unseen world. The world of dreams. Aes Sedai had studied it before, so it wasn’t brand new... but no one recently had explored this world. Her discoveries would be hers alone, for now.
It took a small procedure to get approval to keep the silver caul, but the Tower was lenient with ter’angreal that seemed insignificant. She, of course, had to promise to report her discoveries to share with the Tower... but the promise was carefully worded to exclude a deadline for that report.
Elin knew the Highest wasn’t pleased that she hadn’t discovered anything monumental. Someone else would have to do something to elevate the Red Ajah. Elin knew that if she revealed her explorations in the World of Dreams, the Red would gain significant prestige, but she didn’t want to share it just yet. If she told the Highest, it wouldn’t be her explorations anymore. The Highest would have the caul taken from her, and the Red Ajah would explore the world of Dreams. Elin might be allowed to visit, but older sisters, women who had paid their dues and earned the Highest’s favor would be given that honor.
For now, the caul was hers. The World of Dreams was hers.
Edited by Phelix, 20 February 2011 - 02:20 AM.