|Sisters: In the Tower
“I don’t know,” Kianna said for the third or fourth time. “I just do it.”
“Again.” Shataya shifted her brown-fringed shawl irritably. The Brown was rapidly becoming Kianna and Kerena’s least favourite Ajah. “Your sister is in the room opposite this. Call her in.”
“Yes, Shataya Sedai.” Kianna suppressed a sigh. She already knew where Kerena was, and that she was sick of waiting. C’mon in, Ker.
In a moment, the door swung open and Kerena came in. “See? It worked.”
“It shouldn’t,” Shataya frowned. “There’s nothing I can see. It isn’t the Power.”
“Of course it isn’t,” Kianna said tartly. “We only started channeling last month. We’ve been doing this all our lives.”
“Don’t take that tone with me, child.” Shataya’s frown sharpened. She was motherly with most novices, but Kianna and Kerena seemed to bring out the worst in her. The effect was mutual.
“Sorry, Shataya Sedai,” she replied perfunctorily, while sending an image of a woman in a brown shawl and a dunce cap to her sister.
It suits her, Kerena’s thought came back.
It does, doesn’t it? At least we’re doing this instead of chores. Surrounded by so many people in the Tower, they had started to make the effort to send actual thoughts as well as feelings so they could talk without being heard. It was easy enough when they were together, but not over a distance. I hate scrubbing pots!
“May we go, Shataya Sedai?” Kerena asked sweetly. “Evette Sedai said she wanted to talk to us, too.” Evette ranked higher than Shataya; they had picked that up watching the two.
Shataya waved a dismissive hand. “Yes, go.” She picked up a pen and started writing in her notebook. “I will want to see you both again later, though.”
“Yes, Shataya Sedai,” they chorused, their curtsies as brief as novices could get away with, and left.
“What a -” Kianna left her sentence hanging, unable to think of a strong enough word to use. “‘Kianna, call your sister. Kianna, call your sister again.’ Light!” she groaned. “At least Evette can’t be any worse.”
“Cheer up. We don’t have to scrub pots.” They turned down the passage to the Tower library. “Evette said she’d meet us here. I think some of the other Browns are coming, too.”
“Oh, joy. The entire Brown Ajah studying us.” Kianna sighed. “Well, let’s get it over with.”
As it happened, there were only two sisters waiting with Evette; Sharane, copper-skinned and elegant, and Taire with her red-gold hair even fierier than Kerena’s. “Sit down,” dusky Evette told them crisply, and picked up a notebook. “Now, you two have been channeling for how long?”
“Nearly a month, Evette Sedai,” Kerena replied.
“And you started by yourselves? Your teachers say you learn quickly.”
“Yes, Evette Sedai.”
“And do you enjoy your lessons?” Taire asked with a smile.
“Some of them, Taire Sedai.” The ones that Shataya doesn’t teach. Taire’s smile widened as if she had guessed the silent add-on.
“We’ll try something new today,” Sharane said calmly. She stood, picking up a leather-bound book. “Kianna, come with me. Kerena stay here.” She led the way up a flight of stairs to the second level of the library, where a table was set up out of view of the others. “Sit down. Now, your sister has a picture in front of her. I want you to describe that picture to me, in as much detail as you can.”
“It’s -” Kianna closed her eyes, concentrating. “It’s the White Tower. With seven - no, eight flags on the roof, one higher than the others. The highest is the White Flame. The others are in a circle around it.”
“In what order?” Sharane was writing her words down.
“From the front clockwise - Green, Blue, Brown, Yellow, White, Red, Gray. The sun is gleaming on the Tower. It’s -” she paused - “about mid-morning. The square in front of the Tower is mostly empty, but there are two people on the steps.”
“Two women in white, with red hair, one darker than the other -” Her eyes flew open in startlement. “It’s us! Kerena and me!”
“Kerena and I,” Sharane corrected, but she was smiling. “Very good. Now, your turn.” She opened the book and turned it to face Kianna. “Send your sister that picture. No words, only the image.”
An ocean, sparkling in the light of the crescent moon, ruffled by a breeze. Gulls, white-winged in the moonlight, hovering above the water. The sky is clear but for a few wisps of cloud high up. Far away on the horizon, little more than a speck, a full-rigged ship. Kianna felt the picture manifest itself in Kerena’s mind.
“Well?” Sharane asked. “Does she have it?”
“Then let’s go back down.”
Back downstairs, the three Browns talked quietly among themselves, comparing the pictures with the notes they had written down. “ - even got the time of day right,” she heard Sharane say. They’re impressed.
Kerena looked at her and smiled. They can’t work out how we do it. More time off chores, do you think?
Oh, I do hope so.
“Can you do it with anyone else?” Taire turned to them. “What am I thinking now?”
“You’re thinking that I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Kianna said, grinning, and Taire laughed. “I don’t know, Taire Sedai. We can tell each other’s thoughts, but no one else’s.”
“Well, that’s reassuring.” Taire’s dark eyes sparkled in amusement. “My conscience isn’t so clear I’d want someone constantly looking into it. Even for the sake of knowledge. You say you’ve always been able to do this?”
“Ever since we can remember.”
“At three? Two?”
“I think so, Taire Sedai. I can’t remember much back that far.” Kianna thought. “At least that long, I think. I don’t remember suddenly being able to do it. We’ve always taken it for granted.”
“Are there other twins in your family? On either side?”
“Our great-grandmother - our mother’s mother’s mother - was a twin. We don’t know much about our father’s family.”
“Interesting.” Evette and Sharane were writing; Browns seemed to carry notebooks around all the time. Taire was the only one of the three without one. “Now, let me see if I have this right; you always know how the other is feeling, you can send images if you think about it, but it takes an effort to send words?”
“Yes, Taire Sedai.”
“What about physical feeling? Heat or cold? Tiredness?”
“Well,” Kerena paused, “we almost always do things together, so we’re hot or cold or tired at the same time anyway. If Kianna cuts her finger or something I can feel it, but not as if I cut myself. I just know the cut’s there.”
“And you can sense the One Power through each other?”
Taire nodded. “Embrace the Power, Kianna.”
Kianna reached for saidar, feeling the light race through her and feeling the faint echo in Kerena. She saw nothing, of course, but both Sharane and Evette looked up in the closest she had ever seen Aes Sedai come to astonishment. What was puzzling was that they were both looking at Kerena, not her.
Taire’s face was still calm. “Kerena, can you see anything around your sister?”
“Of course, Aes Sedai. The glow.” Kerena was as confused as Kianna. What was the point of such an obvious question?
“Of course - and you, Kianna? What do you see?”
What kind of a question is that? “Nothing, Aes Sedai.” No one saw a glow when they were channeling; that was one of the first things they’d learned. It was only others who could see it.
“Nothing around Kerena? Are you sure?”
“Odd. I do.” Taire tilted her head to study the two. “You’re glowing very faintly, Kerena - it’s hard to see, but definitely there. You can let go now, Kianna.”
She turned into a huddle with Evette and Sharane as Kianna released the Power. How is that possible? Kerena wasn’t channeling: I was! Kerena was equally startled. I felt it, but I didn’t see myself glowing, only you. I didn’t know that could happen!
I think they didn’t know, either. It must be just us two.
“Like an echo,” Sharane murmured, “or as if the glow was through a filter. It reflected back somehow. And she didn’t see it because it was still her channeling.”
“But that doesn’t explain why Kerena didn’t see it,” Evette pointed out.
Taire shrugged. “It’s new. None of us has ever seen this before, so we don’t know what should happen. It might be perfectly normal for twins linked like that, but since we don’t know any others...” She looked back at Kianna and Kerena. “You can go now, girls. If you walk slowly, the rest of your group will have finished the pots before you get there.” Her eyes twinkled as she turned back to the other Browns.
“Well,” Kerena commented drily once they were outside, “we learn something new every day.” They started walking down toward the novice quarters - slowly, as Taire had suggested. “When you channel I glow. I wonder why no one else noticed that before?”
“They weren’t looking for it, I suppose. They were concentrating on whichever of us was actually channeling. And Taire said it was only faint.” They turned down a corridor. “Besides, do you know what I think? Aes Sedai don’t think there’s anything about channeling they don’t know, so when something happens they don’t understand, they don’t see it because they don’t believe in it. Those three only noticed because they were looking for something new.”
“And found it.” Kerena opened the door to her room, the typical tiny space allotted to all novices. “Come on in. There’s only half an hour until dinner.” She took the only chair, and Kianna the bed, propping herself up on one elbow. “Good. I’m hungry. They don’t give us much room, do they? And with all those empty rooms in the Aes Sedai’s quarters.”
“Don’t take that tone with me, child.” Kerena’s voice was a perfect imitation of Shataya’s, and Kianna giggled. “A novice is not Aes Sedai,” Kerena continued in Shataya’s voice. “Aes Sedai quarters are not for novices to set foot in. What would the world come to, if a mere novice dared trespass upon the domain of the great and glorious Aes Sedai - Silly woman,” she added in her own voice. “The image of ‘great and glorious Aes Sedai’ becomes tarnished rather after a few weeks in the Tower, doesn’t it?”
“Let’s not choose the Brown Ajah.” Kerena twisted a strand of copper hair idly around her finger. “I suppose Sharane and Evette aren’t so bad, and I like Taire. But would you want to be Shataya’s Ajah sister?”
“Light, no!” Kianna sat up against the pillow. “Besides, spending all day reading dusty old books? No thanks... What Ajah shall we pick, then?”
“Not White. Not Gray. They’re even more boring.” Kerena ticked them off on her fingers. “Not Red. Absolutely not Red.”
“The shawl would clash so dreadfully with our hair.” They both laughed.
“Blue, Yellow, Green. Take your pick.”
“Mamma wanted to be Yellow, remember? I’m not sure it would suit us, though, even if we have the Talent. And I still haven’t figured out exactly what the Blues do.”
“Green, then.” Kerena grinned. “Lots of Warders. Lots of excitement. Fight all day and flirt all night.”
“Sounds just fine to me.”
“C’mon then, Kianna Soon-to-be Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. It’s just about time for dinner.” Kerena jumped up. “Let’s go past the training yards. I’ll wager you’ve a Warder in mind already - I picked out one or two myself.”
“The tall boy with curly dark hair and a cute -”
“Watch your tongue,” Kerena chided. “Have you ever heard Aes Sedai talk like that?”
“Like what?” Kianna assumed an expression of injured dignity. “He has a cute face, I was going to say. Don’t you think so?”
“Oh, in that case -” Kerena laughed. “He does have a cute face. And the other, too.”
“That’s what I thought. Come on. We’ll be late.”