|Full name||Ellisande Calera Alendar|
"You must be joking." Her petulant, rosebud lips twisted at the corners, forming a petite smile. She gave an almost undetectable sniff, brushing a wisp of hair from her face elegantly. The Aes Sedai looked up absently, fixed the girl with a steady stare, and put down her quill. The two were silent for a moment. The girl's deep blue eyes glinted.
"Excuse me, child?"
"Ellisande," the girl corrected neatly. "It means ‘rose of the sun.' Lady Ellisande Alendar, Aes Sedai, of House Alendar of Cairhien." She paused for emphasis, her nose rising slightly. Child, indeed! The nerve of this woman. The Aes Sedai's eyebrows jumped. Ellisande cleared her throat politely and folded her hands in her lap. "I've come to the Grey Tower to become Aes Sedai, Wyndolyn Sedai, and I have every intention of pursuing thi-"
"Child, if I must repeat myself: you cannot channel." The Aes Sedai frowned slightly. A brief expression of muted disgust flickered across Ellisande's features before her regality returned; she was not used to being called a child. She mustered a light, haughty laugh. The sapphire she wore over her brow, the color of her eyes and the fashion of Cairhienian noblewomen, trembled. She drew a deep breath, inhaling the musky scents of dust and lavender.
"Aes Sedai, you must be mistaken. I came from Cairhien to train at the Tower." Ellisande smiled, only a little less self-assuredly. She spoke evenly. "I am to be Aes Sedai. I came from Cairhien. I…" The Aes Sedai simply shook her head. Ellisande Calera Alendar was aware of a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She sat very still, very silent, clinging to her last shreds of dignity.
The office was motionless for a long moment. Ellisande glanced at the long window from the corner of her azure eye, watching the bustling Tower courtyard below. It reminded her of Cairhien. She recalled the elegant, stately mansion near the castle, sitting on the outskirts of a square much like the one this city. Her family was admired throughout Cairhien and the eastern nations. She had been brought up to preserve her family's name and standing, to act the very picture of nobility.
And she had reveled in that life. She thought of her manservant, Rahn, waiting patiently outside the door, following at her elbow. She thought of her well-mannered train of servants, clad in the livery of the House Alendar, and her circle of maids. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad, returning…
Words of failure echoed in her mind. She swallowed the lump in her throat. She remembered vividly explaining to her graying parents that she would journey to the Mountains of Mist to seek admittance to the Tower. Her mother had glowed with a quiet reassurance. Her father had simply smiled. His other daughters had long since married noblemen and respected gentlemen, and his sons had made names for themselves in the Cairhienian society. Nilas Alendar, advisor to the Queen herself, nodded. "You have it in you to be one of the most powerful women in the world, my rose."
They sent their youngest daughter off with pomp and subdued splendor. Ellisande Alendar, second cousin of the Queen herself, the youngest jewel of the House Alendar, was to be Aes Sedai.
She struggled for the words to explain this to the serene Aes Sedai. I am of the House Alendar. I… was to be Aes Sedai. It seemed futile. She envisioned a shameful return to her home. Failure taunted her, dancing about in clouds of ignominy. She was not a woman inclined to being denied, to be thwarted in her plans, to being disgraced.
Ellisande rose gracefully. "Thank you for your time, Aes Sedai." She inclined her head slightly, spread her silk skirts briefly, and swept from the room.
"Rahn." It was a curt order; the burly servant fell behind Ellisande immediately. "We return to the Inn." He nodded mutely, and the two hastened from the Tower. Ellisande was grateful for her servant's silence, allowing her time to think. To plot.
She was Cairhienian born and bred, and as the two made their way through the courtyard and towards the gate, her mind whirled with activity. Excuses flew rapid fire. Ideas blurred together helplessly. She was seventeen years old but was as skilled at Daes Dae'mar as any veteran of the Game.
She glanced up once or twice, and it was then that she saw Rahn watching the Training Yards with dull interest. She opened her irritable mouth to call a reprimand; a family was only as good as their help, it was said in the city. She paused, however, her eyes lingering on the activity in the Yards. She blinked.
She had heard tell of the elusive Warders of the Grey Tower, mostly men shaded in blurred cloaks, the stealthy accomplices of Aes Sedai and Asha'man. Servants, they say. Common soldiers. Her thoughts were riled and condescending. She watched the men and boys leap through sword forms and the graceful dance of combat for a moment, however. She stopped. Her embroidered slippers fell silent against the worn stone.
Two women, both tall and lithe, trained among the others. Ellisande blinked. She had not heard of Gaidar outside of scornful lore. There were none at present within the Tower, she knew; only those who aspired. Her mouth twisted faintly, both in curiosity and disdain. Female warriors. It was unheard of. It was absurd. And yet, as she paraded from the courtyard, her head held high, she couldn't help but steal a stealthy glance over her shoulder. The women danced in the shadow of the Grey Tower.
Ellisande's mood was still cloudy after she retreated to her silent rooms in The Twin Peaks. The classy inn was silent, seeping with scents of age and tasteful spice. She sat down at the ornately carved desk, taking up a quill and parchment. A small wrinkle in her brow betrayed her mood. She dipped the quill into her pot of ink and began to scratch away in her well-educated hand.
Mother and Father, most honorable parents,
I write to you in regards to my training at the Grey Tower. I regret to inform you that-
She paused. She drew a deep breath, and without thinking, she continued to write. Her hand flew across the page.
I regret to inform you that I will be unable to write often. I send this letter to you by way of faithful Rahn; the Tower forbids the keeping of servants by Novices, I have been told. I shall have to carry on without the aid of my entourage, sadly, though I expect that you will find use of them in Cairhien.
I start my training soon, and I expect to do well. The Tower holds opportunities for young women of my class and breeding that should prove beneficial. Unfortunately, I will be unable to return home until further notice. Light's blessing on both of you.
Your loving daughter, Ellisande Calera Alendar
A wry smile creeping across her features, Ellisande blotted and sealed the parchment. She returned her signet ring to her silk pouch; the rose and the sword glimmered in the liquid wax. She had twisted the truth efficiently she decided, drawing a deep breath and letting her lungs swell. She had only to carry out her plans, now.
She rose the next morning, pressed her message into Rahn's hand, and her swirling train of servants bobbed careful curtsies and made graceful bows. They departed silently, moving east, and Ellisande was left alone in the strange city. It was as simple as that. Watching the square below from the large windows in her rooms, she was aware of a growing sense of duty. She had begun, and it looked as though there would be no turning back.
Ellisande sat beside the window running her ivory brush through her wavy golden locks, unusually fair for her nationality. She twisted her thick blonde curls into an elaborate design atop her head, applying a careful amount of power to her translucent skin. She dug around for a long moment in her bag of bottles and creams and frosted vials, dabbing the scent of rose petals on her wrists and coloring her eyes with pale powders. It was an ironic set of preparations for the task she had set for herself.
"A lady must be presented well at all times," Ellisande recited arrogantly.
Gathering up her long silk skirts, a somber shade of blue, she swept from her rooms. She presented a silver coin to the innkeeper with careful instructions; her baggage was to be sent to the Tower in the afternoon. Directions would be given later. Her head held high, Ellisande Calera Alendar stepped from the inn and into the streets.
Silently, deep in thought, she wove through the crowds and towards the imposing Tower gates. Her bearings were weak, but the Tower loomed unmistakably above the city. At first she had trouble maneuvering in the large crowd of petitioners, shopkeepers, and pedestrians. She was used to Rahn's presence, cutting a careful path through the sea of faces. Luckily, the throngs thinned as she neared the Grey Tower, and gradually slowed to a brisk trickle. She nodded to the guards, all bearing the sign of the Tower on their glistening armor.
She smiled imperially and began to weave the tale.
"Lady Ellisande Alendar," she said primly in reply to their formal queries. "I'm to see the Master of Training, if you please." She pursed her mouth slightly and waited. The guards simply nodded roughly and pointed in a vague direction. Ellisande gave a brief sniff and glided off.
After prudishly asking for directions for several others, all wearing pressed livery or neat white dresses, Ellisande found herself at a simple wooden door. She raised a delicate knuckle and knocked twice. A gruff voice called for her to enter. She slipped into the room, her bearing as refined as ever, and she gave the tiniest of all nods. The Warder's stony features showed only the slightest hint of curiosity. He arched an eyebrow and, before he could motion to the chair before his desk, Ellisande took her seat.
"Gaidin." She inclined her head again, her eyelids lowering for a brief moment. She had been raised to face the lowest of the common folk and the kings and queens of her era with proper ceremony. She had been taught the very etiquette of society. And most of all, she had been taught to plot with cunning.
"M'Lady." He returned her courtesy with a brusque shake of the head, waiting for her to speak. Ellisande smoothed her silk skirts and glanced about the office, the notes of disdain in her blue eyes. She observed the rough, simplistic furniture and the bare floorboards. She glanced twice at the weapons that hung on the walls. She drew an imperceptible breath.
"I wish to train to be Gaidar." It was the truth. And it was her plan. The beginning, at least. She could only hope that by staying at the Tower, by remaining with steadfast perseverance, she would preserve what was left of her decorum. She couldn't begin to think much beyond that.
She had expected silence, perhaps a stunned look or two, but the man's deep laughter shattered the stillness of the office. He slapped a hand against his knee and shook his head again. "I'm a busy man… what is this about?" There was something imposing about the man. She could feel his gray eyes boring into her.
She was a small young woman, even for a Cairhienin, barely clearing five feet. She was delicate and frail looking; her bony shoulders were narrow, her wrists were tiny, and her feet were small. Womanhood had given her slight curves, but she was still a diminutive creature. Her stature was not the end of her fragile appearance, however. Her skin was the color of ivory, fair and lucent. Her eyes were too big in a face that was small and childlike. Her hands, especially, were soft and unaccustomed to work or labor. She saw the Warder glance at these hands, tiny and slender. Not more than ninety-five pounds, she was delicate.
She was a lady of the best breeding and upbringing.
Ellisande's brow furrowed slightly. "I wish to be Gaidar. I wish to train with your… soldiers - warriors. Warders." The Master of Training simply fixed her with his stony gaze. "I am Ellisande Calera Alendar, of House Alendar, and I… I will train here. I came to train at the Grey Tower, sir, and I will." Her chin was creeping steadily higher.
"Why?" It was a simple question. She could see the hints of amusement creeping into his face, worn and battle-scarred. She thought idly that scars would be unbecoming on her pristine features. When she didn't answer immediately, the Warder chuckled. "You are not strong enough, girl. Go home to your parents and your life of luxury." There was derision in his voice.
The words stung. She had been beginning to wonder if she had made the right choice, but… I will not go home. With an uncharacteristically ferocious move, Ellisande reached over and snatched the heavy, leather bound book that sat on the desk. She had been eying it knowingly and discreetly since her arrival.
She flipped open the cover, leafed through the yellowed pages, and demanded a quill. She was surprised to see one pass across the table. The Master of Training, she thought, was still laughing under his breath. Her slender finger followed the list carefully, searching for the end of the long manuscript. Most of the names were poorly written, scrawled in the hands of farm boys. Raising the quill, she signed her name at the bottom of the winding list. She added a careful flourish.
The Warder had stopped smiling.
"Not for the Light, or the Tower, or a sister I lost or a brother that fell or a noble cause." Her words dripped with quiet annoyance. "I failed the test, sir. I cannot channel, I will not be Aes Sedai, and I shall not return home a disgrace. This is for dignity." Ellisande looked up, her name sealed in the Book of Trainees. She put down the pen and pursed her lips.
The Rose had entered the Grey Tower.
- Mistress of Arms