Marion awoke with the first rays of the sun, excitement buzzing in her head. Today was the day she got to join her sister in the White Tower. Alexa had been gone a little over a year now, and Marion missed her dearly. But as was the Caldwin tradition, on their eleventh naming day, each daughter was tested for the ability to channel the One Power, to wield Saidar, perhaps to be Aes Sedai some day.
Marion leapt out of bed and confronted herself in the mirror. She wanted to look grand for the occasion, every bit the daughter of a wealthy merchant and much less the street urchin she normally appeared to be. She got to work disentangling the mat of curls surrounding her face, wincing each time the comb got stuck. It took some doing, but after what seemed like an eternity, her hair hung, glossy around her shoulders. Probably for the first time ever, there wasn’t a single tangle. She left the mirror and regarded her armoire, poring over the dresses therein. Only the finest dress would do for today. The Aes Sedai must be impressed. Soon, she would be seeing her sister again! They would be having grand adventures together in the White Tower. She settled on a royal blue dress that she thought brought out her eyes nicely. After shimmying into it, she took another long look in the mirror, pleased with what she saw.
She took the stairs down two at a time, rushing into the manor house’s main quarters. Everything was quiet save the couple of servants who were going about their morning duties, preparing breakfast, cleaning up odds and ends. The Caldwins were not nobles, but her father had made quite a name for himself as the only cartographer willing to go into the Waste. The King of Cairhien himself had commissioned maps of the barrens, fearing Aiel skirmishes over the Spine and seeking some tactical advantage. Once it became known throughout the city who the King’s cartographer was, the noble houses all felt need to have maps made by Master Caldwin. Many of his maps had been used in noble ploys against each other.
Marion sat anxiously on a stool, wishing time to pass by faster. She took deep breaths. Trying to imitate the Aes Sedai who had tested Alexa, she folded her hands in her lap and made her best serene face. It looked like a grimace. Finally, after what she thought had been hours, her mother strolled down the stairs. Marion jumped up from the stool and accosted the poor woman.
“Mother! When will she be here?” she asked, excitement and impatience exuding from her.
Mistress Caldwin smoothed the girl’s hair. “Soon, Marion, soon. Sit and eat some breakfast.”
The cook had prepared a lavish breakfast for Marion’s naming day. There was even bacon for the event. Marion slumped in her chair and pushed the food about her plate with malcontent. She could only think about the test and the future journey to Tar Valon. She took a bite of the food, but it tasted like ash to her. When would the Aes Sedai arrive?
As if her thoughts made it happen, a knock came at the door. Marion bolted from her chair and threw the door open. She curtseyed gracefully to the newcomer. “Aes Sedai, come in!” She gestured grandly to the house. “May I take your, uh…” Marion looked at the Aes Sedai, cool serenity exuding from her features. She swallowed. “May I take your shawl, Aes Sedai?”
The woman gestured towards Marion dismissively and strode into the room, a commanding presence. “Is this the girl you asked me to test?” she asked of Mistress Caldwin.
“It is, Cyneria Sedai.” Mistress Caldwin looked calm to the uninitiated, but there was a small tremor in her voice as she regarded the powerful woman.
“A pity. She does not have the spark.”
Marion gawked. “Aes Sedai, I’m sure I do, if you will sit with me. I know about the rosebud, I’ve been practicing in --”
The Aes Sedai regarded Marion. “I do not intend to waste my time giving into your childish demands.” She started towards the door.
“But!” Marion cried out. “Girls can be taught how to channel Saidar. I just need to be taught, Aes Sedai.”
The Aes Sedai was already pulling the door closed behind her, unmoved by Marion’s protests. As the door clicked shut, Marion’s knees gave under her and she fell to the ground, sobbing. She pushed her mother’s soothing arms away and sat alone letting her grief roll over her. In that moment, she realized she would never see her sister again.