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A New Tar Valon Spring
By Aerows



A Long Day

Moiraine barely restrained a sigh of relief that her session with Meilyn Sedai was over, and instead merely smoothed her skirt. It wouldn't do to express anything remotely indicating tiredness, or the White sister would keep her there longer just to push her even harder. Meilyn Sedai had not forgotten Moiraine's hot temper nor the Mistress of Novices' instructions to root it out of her.

The tall sister stood, seeming to pause for a minute, scrutinizing her with her startling blue eyes. They were the only thing that was likely ever considered lovely on the woman, as her thrusting chin nearly dominated over her eyes. She loomed over Moiraine, who was still seated, and even standing would have barely come to the woman's bosom. It was not that Meilyn Sedai was extraordinarily tall, it was that Moiraine's Caerhienin frame was both slender and short.

Irritation might have been the response of another woman, but Moiraine Damodred had come to the Tower with an advantage that many women did not have - she grew up in the Sun Palace, and had been schooled since childhood in regality. She merely remained seated, perfectly poised, waiting for Meilyn to back away before she rose. It would not do to be shoved into awkwardness or to back up. Even in Moiraine's most temper driven fits, or near to dropping in exhaustion, she kept her grace. The White sister stared hard at her for a few moments, then turned and walked a few paces toward her desk. Moiraine rose gracefully.

"I expect you to have learned the weaves and be able to recite arithmetic at the same time. Logic will be your guide and you must be able to think on your feet and be able to channel nearly on instinct." Meilyn admonished her. This time, Moiraine nearly groaned, but she was able to mask it by clearing her throat.

Arithmetic was far from her favorite subject. Siuan could do strings of sums with barely a glance, and have the right answer before Moiraine had finished the first column. Moiraine would arrive at the right answer, it merely took her much longer. It would have pierced her dignity had other sisters not remarked that her blue-eyed friend had an uncanny ability for mathematics. Siuan had tried to explain how she did it, and had certainly helped Moiraine become much quicker at it - Moiraine was considered the best student at it after Siuan - but Moiraine would never even come close to matching Siuan. Not that she wanted to study arithmetic enough to do so, or any further than was necessary. Siuan didn't seem to particularly care about going much further in it, either, despite her extraordinary ability at the subject.

As she was collecting her things, Meilyn suddenly said, "Moiraine, how is Siuan doing with her lessons in the weaves with Elaida? I know the two of you are friends, and she has a fine mind for logic. I hope she is living up to her potential, as you are." Moiraine hoped she wasn't blushing from the compliment, because coming from Meilyn a simple statement that she was at least doing as well as expected was a compliment indeed. Moiraine's dark eyes flitted to the gray haired sister's blue eyes, and something about their intensity tipped her that there was more to this question than an attempt to compliment her.

Elaida pushed Siuan mercilessly, and Siuan had a penance no less than once a week for some infraction that she had committed during her lessons with the newly-raised Red sister. Compared to Elaida, even Meilyn's relentless pushing and often seemingly pointless lectures were mild, in Moiraine's opinion. Siuan was incredibly stubborn, though, and determined to endure whatever was necessary to become Aes Sedai. Moiraine admired her friend for her tenacity, though occasionally she wondered if she would receive news that Siuan had managed to kill Elaida. It was a testament to Siuan's inner strength that she hadn't. Moiraine herself had entertained that thought, she admitted to herself privately.

Still, it would not due to imply to a Sister that Siuan had difficulties with Elaida. Siuan would never want that admitted, and Moiraine wouldn't break that confidence. "She is doing well, Meilyn Sedai, and in my opinion she grows stronger and wiser each day." Her voice was like cool air floating through chimes, but she could not keep a hint of pride out of her voice. She was proud of her Siuan. Her Siuan. Interesting.

She thought of a question that had been plaguing her. She had read of it in the Library, and she had considered which sister to ask it of, however of all of them, it was a question of cold logic. It would be Meilyn she asked it of. "Meilyn Sedai, if I might as a question, it deviates from study, but I am puzzled by it."

Meilyn unconsciously smiled; the Accepted had flawless logic, and shrewd grasp of which questions to ask. If anything, she had thought Moiraine's mind more suited for the Gray, with her grasp of politics, or the Yellow with her grasp of Healing. Uninitiated questioning showed a tendency to a girl's Ajah. It would please Meilyn very much to have one who came to her hall uninterested flower into a White. If any should, she thought, it would be Siuan. Moiraine's interest could be an extension of the other girl's interest, too. She smiled to herself; both had fine minds for logic, and great potential.

"Certainly, Accepted, in these halls, questions are valued. We strive for answers." Meilyn's blue eyes never shifted from the stack of papers on her desk. She waited impassively as she flipped to the pages into files. She waited for Moiraine to speak.

"Meilyn Sedai, I would know, that if one who can channel could be turned from the light by thirteen Dreadlords and thirteen Myrdraal, if a woman could be turned to the light by thirteen Aes Sedai and thirteen Warders?"

Meilyn made only the sound of bumping into her desk, and knocking three tomes off of it. She did not notice. "Where did you get this information about turning women away from the Light, child!" There was sharpness in her voice.

Moiraine kept her face smooth. She was in company as wary as any in Caerhienin; she had been mildly curious, and wanted to know if the Black Ajah existed after the rumors. She had thought it a logical assumption, but more importantly, the sister's outrage spoke that the Black Ajah did exist. Moiraine Demodred filed shock away as yet another victory. She canted her head minutely, feigning an intimidation that she did not feel. "I read some things in the Library of the Sun Palace, Meilyn Sedai. They were fiction and fancies, but I wanted to know if they were truth." She bowed her head to stare at her fingers for a moment, then surged her eyes upward. She hoped they seemed shy to meet the clear, cold logic of the Aes Sedai before her.

Meilyn Sedai held a face that stone would envy for it's lack of movement. Her blue eyes darted over the slim form, and knew in her heart that this woman would be Aes Sedai. She was too powerful not to be, and too perceptive by half. She modulated her answers. "Logic states that we must have concrete evidence, Accepted. More, as Aes Sedai you must exercise restraint in your beliefs, and remain able to assess all situations logically. Some things are not spoken of, though, simply because we are already dangerous with who we are and what we know."

Meilyn Sedai firmed her upper lip. The Accepted's eyes had not wavered, nor had they displayed even the slightest hint of emotion. The child could be a White today with her ability to coolly assess any situation without deviating.

"You must refrain from mentioning what you read and use your discipline, Accepted." She willed her voice to be sharp, that it would get this young woman that she cared very much for to obey. "The White Tower will not be broken from without, nor will it be broken from within." She declared it with a stern tone.

Moiraine allowed a chastened twitch of her lips to intimate that she understood. She understood that no one wanted to be involved. Still, it wasn't her place to challenge an Aes Sedai, not right now. "I will desist, immediately, Meilyn Sedai."

Meilyn Sedai eyed her and abruptly turned away. "Well, that is good news, child, see that you do. You are dismissed." Moiraine might have thought the brusqueness of her dismissal odd, but she was still mulling her thoughts about the blue-eyed Accepted. The thoughts stayed with her as she went to her quarters, nodding to one person or another, but lost deeply in thought.

When had she began thinking of the tall, charismatic Accepted in such possessive terms? They did spend nearly every moment together when possible, studying, laughing and as Novices had rarely visited the Mistress of Novices separately. Except for the penances she incurred during lessons with Elaida, that trend had continued as Accepted. Perhaps the possessiveness stemmed from the fact that Siuan was the first true friend Moiraine had ever really had. Growing up in the palace, there were many that cultivated friendship with Moiraine Damodred, the niece of King Laman, but none that wanted the friendship of just Moiraine. That was an important distinction, and one for which she would always be grateful. The daughter of a Tairen fisherman, Siuan had in the beginning sought to tease her about it, and still on occasion needled her about it, but it was difficult to think another a noble when they were as deep in their elbows doing dishes and scrubbing pots as you were.

Yes, Siuan was her best friend, and she supposed that it was not strange at all to feel a bit of possessiveness and protectiveness toward her. Settling that in her mind, Moiraine continued to her quarters, beginning to think of her next lesson. She, too, had a lesson with Elaida, after her session with Yuan, and she was not looking forward to it. With the door closed, she did sigh, thinking of the haughty, demanding Red sister. It would be a long day.



A Flash of Insight

Siuan was fit to be tied, an irony not lost on her considering that was how she had spent the last hour. Elaida had wrapped her in flows of air the moment she had entered her study, and she had not been able to move a muscle for the entire time. She had been grilled on everything from the flows, to etiquette, down to even her relationships with Novices and other Accepted. Had she not known better, she would have thought Elaida was fishing for something. In fact, now that she thought on it, she was certain of it. One day, she thought to herself, you are going to catch a lionfish when you thought you were netting minnows, Elaida.

Elaida had offered no explanation as to what she was looking for, and each question had been pulled as though from random, trying to keep her off-balance. If she took too long in answering, Elaida switched her with Air and accused her of attempting to dissemble. How the woman expected her to change subjects like oars in a calm to knots in a storm, she had no idea. She wondered if being raised to the Shawl had unhinged the woman.

She snorted loudly to herself, startling a Novice so badly as she stalked through the hallway that the young woman dropped the tray she was carrying. Elaida had always been as mean as a silverpike with a bent fin. The clatter of the tray brought her from her reverie. The Novice looked mortified that she had dropped the tray, and seemed worried that Siuan would punish her. As Accepted, Siuan certainly out-ranked a Novice, but glancing at the tears beginning to flow from the eyes of the very young, and obviously new Novice, pity flared in her. Just because Elaida had put the scowl on her face was no reason to frighten a Novice. She smoothed her face and approached the Novice.

"There's no call for tears, girl. If you fall out of the boat, the only thing to do is get right back in. I'm Siuan, what's your name?" The short, stocky girl replied in a shaky voice, "Setsuko, Accepted. I'm sorry I splashed your dress, I'll clean it up right away." Siuan looked down, not even having noticed that tea was splashed all over her white Accepted's dress. Setsuko looked terrified and unsure what to do.

Siuan, having been sent for tea herself more times than she could count, gruffly inquired who the tea had been for. "Sierin Sedai, Accepted." In reminder, the stocky girl fairly quivered. Thinking of the hard-eyed Gray sister, Siuan could sympathize with the girl's reaction. The elder sister was a harsh disciplinarian, and had shocked many when she chose the Gray instead of the Red. Siuan herself had been late with tea for the pinch-faced sister, and had received a lash for every minute she had been late. Thankfully she had only been two minutes late; Sierin had a very strong arm and wasn't afraid to use it.

"Go back to the kitchen and get another pot of tea; I have a moment, and I'll take care of this mess." The Novice looked incredibly grateful and hurried off to the kitchen as though her dress was on fire. Siuan thought it just might be after she got back to Sierin, but at least it wouldn't be as bad as if she had taken the time to clean up the mess, nor as bad as it might have turned out had she left the mess in the hall to serve Sierin Sedai.

It seemed to Siuan that it was wrong for anyone to put a Novice in such a position; forcing the poor girl to choose between the larger transgression of leaving a mess in the hall that could cause someone to slip due to negligence, or be late with tea and be switched. She understood that making excuses could lead to lax discipline, but everyone, even Aes Sedai, made mistakes and had accidents on occasion. It was impossible to avoid it and still be human. As she knelt to lift the tray and right the silver pot, a harsh bark of laughter sounded behind her.

"Ever the heroine, ready to save the day, aren't you Siuan? Some days I think you'd prefer to be a Warder than an Aes Sedai." The harsh voice of Elaida sounded behind her. How did the woman always appear at the worst of times? "You are an Accepted, and should leave a Novice to learn from her own mistakes, not clean up after them. Since you insist on doing so, however, you can finish cleaning that up and then visit the kitchens every night this week since you enjoy it so." Siuan's face flushed in anger, but she calmly continued picking up the tray. How she controlled the rage she felt inside was a mystery, but she had made a decision to help the young Novice and she would face the consequences of it. "I'll see to that Novice, as well. What was her name, child?"

Resigned, Siuan decided not to make things worse. Poor Setsuko. She opened her mouth to answer but was forestalled by the approach of another sister. The White sister, Meilyn was the logic and arithmetic teacher who had been teaching Moiraine the first ten weaves. While she was a stern taskmaster and didn't tolerate failure, she had always been fair in Siuan's opinion. Moiraine despised arithmetic, she knew, but she never complained about lessons with Meilyn.

"Elaida, Siuan won't be available for kitchen duty. I am assigning her to some students. As for the novice she was just speaking with, she is behind on her studies. These children are here to learn to be Aes Sedai, not to be trained as scullery maids." Meilyn's tone brooked no argument, and though she drew herself up haughtily, Elaida relented.

Malice glittered in her dark eyes, and the look Siuan received nearly took the breath out of her, but Elaida merely replied "Well I hope this girl is sufficient at it. I'll expect to hear that this Novice becomes much better at mathematics if that is how she will be spending her evenings." It was said with an air that Siuan had better make certain and that she would suffer if the Novice did not suddenly become a superior student. She glided away, her scarlet dress rippling, giving every impression of a menacing, blood red swan.

Siuan had the tray in her hands and turned to retrieve a linen to mop up the mess, but Meilyn channeled and in an instant the floor was dry, and the tea was safely back in the silver pot. She caught a clerk that was passing by, and ordered Siuan to pass it to the obviously insulted clerk. Meilyn being who she was, however, was promptly obeyed and the clerk headed away in the direction of the kitchen. "Change your dress and get cleaned up, then come to my office Siuan." Meilyn ordered.

"Yes, Meilyn Sedai." Siuan said with a curtsy, uncertain whether she should be relieved at being spared a week in the kitchens or cursing herself for getting caught up in spending time tutoring Novices. She didn't mind it, and genuinely enjoyed helping others to learn, but she also had plenty of work to do herself. The last thing that she needed to do was allow herself to slack and give Elaida more opportunity to harass her. She barely was in the door to her quarters, and throwing her shift and the stained dress over her head before a knock sounded at her door.

A genuine thrill of fear went through her; certainly it wouldn't be Elaida come to berate her. Fear wasn't an emotion Siuan was accustomed to, but Elaida had been purely murderous at Siuan getting out of the penance she had imposed. If the boat takes on water, best to start bailing before it sinks, she thought.

"Come." She said hurriedly, facing the door, waiting for the dressing down she was certain would come from Elaida. Instead, a short dark head ducked in and turned to greet her. The dark eyes sparkled with mischief, then delicate eyebrows arched over them. Moiraine ran her eyes down her body, and for just an instant, a chill passed through Siuan. With a start she realized that she stood there naked except for her small clothes. Moiraine's eyes toured her body upwards to her face in a way that was almost unhurried.

Blushing, she approached the door that was still in Moiraine's hands and closed it. She passed close enough that she could swear she felt the petite woman's breath caress her naked breast. Her face was flaming red, and it was impossible to say if it was irritation, embarrassment or any of the other emotions that were dragging her back to the present. Moiraine's presence, and the look she gave her was like being plunged into icy water after a very hot bath. Or maybe it was the other way around.

"Expecting someone, Siuan?" Moiraine's voice was laced with amusement, and while the Cairheinen woman was as regal and reserved as any queen in public, she continued to let her gaze flicker over Siuan before settling it on her face. When Siuan turned to gather another dress to cover herself, Moiraine gasped. Bruises were forming on Siuan's back, along with welts. Moiraine stopped her with a cool, soft hand on her shoulder. Siuan stopped as though frozen. She and Moiraine had gone to the baths together and seen each other in various states of undress, but this was somehow...different. The cool air puckered her nipples, and Moiraine's hand on her naked torso, even just her shoulder, was affecting her.

"Siuan, what happened to your back? Did you get into trouble again?" The high, soft chimes of Moiraine's voice echoed concern. The hand lightly stroked her back, and Siuan belatedly remembered the blows she had received from Elaida for not answering quickly enough. Even the soft touch made her gasp in pain. Just as suddenly, Siuan felt as though she had been plunged into icy water, and her gasp shifted even louder. She spun to face Moiraine, shocked at being Delved then immediately Healed. Moiraine had barely moved her hands away, otherwise Siuan's entire bosom would have been heaving in her hands. As it was, it was close enough to heaving in the shorter woman's face.

Moiraine's face was laced with shock. It was forbidden for Accepted to channel, and doubly so to Heal. Healing could be as dangerous to the patient as to the Aes Sedai if done incorrectly. The shock on her face, however, and the way her dark eyes met blue ones told Siuan that Moiraine had not intended to do that. Siuan had heard it happened like that on occasion, and Moiraine had been studying Healing since she arrived at the tower. Moiraine had privately confided in Siuan that she did not want to become a Yellow, nearly certain when would become either Blue or Gray, but her aptitude with Healing was easily enough that she was continuously courted by Yellow sisters, hoping that she would join their Ajah. "Siuan are you alright?" Seeing that pale, beautiful face, painted with fear and those dark eyes glittering with tears caused a surge of tenderness to go through Siuan.

She pulled Moiraine to her hugging her close. She was surprised to feel tears in her own eyes. So much pressure, so many ways to break the rules and do the wrong things. Now the most precious person she knew was afraid that she had harmed her. Siuan couldn't bear to have Moiraine of all people think she was mad at her. "It's alright Moiraine. It's alright." She smoothed the dark hair that was never mussed, so glossy and impossibly fine. She felt tears on her chest, and Moiraine's warm breath. It abruptly reminded her that she was nearly naked, but something about those small hands on her back, and the petite, gentle curves pressed into her would not allow her to let go. Elaida's words flashed in her mind, "Sometimes I think you would prefer to be a Warder than an Aes Sedai", and it occurred to Siuan what she had implied. Her nipples tightened even further at the thought, and there was a distinct wetness in her small clothes. She had to get away from Moiraine before she did something they both would regret.

Abruptly she released her and turned around, back facing her friend. Moiraine's voice was painted with concern and once again she felt the small hand on her back. It was warm now, warmed on Siuan's own flesh. Siuan tried not to think about that and rushed to her wardrobe, practically hurling a shift on and getting her white Accepted's dress on. Moiraine looked puzzled, and not a little bit hurt, but Siuan's body was burning.

She had to go. She had to be in Meilyn's office. She had to be away from this inferno racing through her body. "I'm sorry, Moiraine but I have to go meet Meilyn. I'll tell you about it later." At least she was clothed this time, and didn't feel quite so exposed to the searching dark eyes that missed nothing, and were quite unreadable just now. Siuan stopped for a moment and brushed a tear from Moiraine's cheek with her knuckles. The skin was as smooth and porcelain as Siuan knew it would be. She did her best to offer Moiraine a smile, and reassure her. "It will all be okay, Moiraine. I promise you."

For one that had an appearance of such a petite, fragile doll, Moiraine was as resilient as steel. She gripped the wrist of the hand to her cheek and smiled at Siuan. This wasn't the reserved smile of a Caerhienin noble. This was the full, glorious smile of a beautiful woman. Siuan could not help but return it, and they both laughed both in relief and in joy. Even as she went to Meilyn's office to see how much trouble she was in now, a grin escaped onto Siuan's face.

The smile on Moiraine's face had lit her with joy, and Moiraine's healing must have also removed her fatigue. Her step was lighter than it had been in days, and her stomach was growling. Perhaps she had needed relief from pain more than she thought, and that was the cause of her reaction of arousal. Her body still burned thinking of that smile and the warm breath on her chest. Her own reaction to her hands on the gentle curves of the Cairhienen's body, however, told her that it was more than just Healing of her body. Moiraine's smile had a way of Healing her heart and her soul.

That was an insight she was going to have to deal with, but for now, she allowed herself to enjoy a moment of peace and joy.



A Little Rest

Moiraine left Siuan's quarters in a daze, feeling a weakness that she knew came from Healing. She hadn't expected to do that, but the pain in Siuan's body had been palpable. That, and the utter shock of Siuan standing there in nothing but her small clothes. Siuan had been facing her, with the rosy tips of her full breasts peeping at her. Siuan had a fuller, more womanly body than she herself had; the Tairen was all feminine curves mixed with wiry muscles. Moiraine couldn't stop herself from looking. She had wanted to look. She had found herself wanting to touch. That was a most unexpected development.

Perhaps it was not completely unexpected that it was another woman that she was attracted to; it was more of an unexpected development that it would be Siuan who induced such longings. Right after Moiraine's sixteenth birthday and a week before she was leaving for Tar Valon, she attended the Feast of Lights. Normally restrained Caerhienin became much less restrained and it was a time of dancing and wild abandon. Even Moiraine became less reserved that year, and a pretty noblewoman had tried to lure Moiraine to her bed. Moiraine had kissed her several times that night, and allowed her body to be touched, but she did not go to Nelody's bed. It was too rushed for Moiraine's taste, despite how impetuous she cold be.

Certainly Moiraine was aware of other girls in the Tower that were "close", but Moiraine hadn't considered finding a "close" friend of her own. She had come to the Tower driven to learn, and Siuan was just as driven. While they were as close as any friends, they were too busy making mischief, studying or doing penances to have even many moments for rest, let alone other types of recreation. They were driven hard because of their abilities, and the two of them drove themselves just as hard. Moiraine couldn't deny it though; in that one instant when she walked in to see her Siuan, standing there in her womanhood, Moiraine's body had reacted and swiftly. She had nearly lost her reserve when Siuan approached the door. She was so close Moiraine could smell her scent.

When Moiraine saw the welts on her back, she had melted. Surrendered to the emotion of concern and yes, she admitted, love, for the proud Tairen with the kind heart, strong will and the courage of a lion. Her Siuan was in pain, and exhausted. It had flown out of her in a rush, and for a moment she Knew Siuan's body, the places where she ached, and the places where she needed relief. She couldn't have stopped herself. Moiraine also discovered that Siuan was in need of a different kind of relief, the sort of relief she herself now needed. Siuan was aroused. She wondered if that was because of her, or because of someone or something else. Then she feared that she had done something in her healing to transfer her own arousal to Siuan, or that she had harmed her. She would end her own life before she would intentionally harmed her Siuan.

There it was again. Her Siuan. She arrived at her quarters and rested herself on her bed. It was entirely inappropriate in her view, to lie in a bed in the broad of the day, but she was tired. Her body was also protesting in a way that said she would be worthless to concentrate on anything else until she was able to right herself. Meditating was out of the question; behind her closed eyes she saw that beautiful smile, those kind, sparkling blue eyes, and felt the warm, naked flesh beneath her hands. She imagined her hands touching those beautiful breasts, even taking them into her mouth. Arousal bloomed in her to the point of pain. She imagined Siuan's strong, sure hands, soft on her body, caressing her everywhere. Siuan's mouth on her own breasts. She touched herself as she imagined Siuan would.

When she slid her fingers into her small clothes, she imagined they were Siuan's hands. A mere touch had her swelling and soaked, aching for release. Rarely did she do this, but the urgency was too great to deny. As she caressed her own folds, she imagined, quite scandalously, that Siuan's beautiful mouth and tongue were pleasuring her. At the thought of Siuan's tongue caressing her, and her fingers entering her, Moiraine exploded. She may have cried out Siuan's name. She felt tears on her face, the pleasure had been so intense. She removed her hands and allowed herself to recover. She fell asleep, jerking awake at the knock on her door.

She quickly arose, washing her hands in the basin, hoping the scent would not carry. "Enter," she said, and shame crept into her cheeks when it was Yuan Sedai that entered. The slim Yellow sister with large gray eyes looked angry that she had to come looking for her student. It was a measure of how well Moiraine had performed at her lessons that the Aes Sedai had even bothered to find her; many other Aes Sedai would have sent for the Mistress of Novices to find her. She had slept through part of her lesson! She struggled for her reserve, and deeply curtsied. As she did, weakness in her knees caused her to stagger. Before she could hit the floor, the slim Yellow caught her by her arm and moved her to the bed.

"Child, what is the matter?" Yuan was delving her as she spoke and Moiraine silently hoped that what she had been doing earlier wasn't obvious. She would tell Yuan about healing Siuan, it was certainly necessary to be honest with her teacher, but the other was her own business. She spoke, attempting to struggle to sitting. The Yellow nearly prevented it but relented to let her sit on the edge of the bed.

"My apologies, Yuan Sedai, for missing my lesson. You will be angry with me." She spoke quietly, her voice still cool chimes, and more steady than she thought it would be. "You may wish to discontinue instructing me." Moiraine's dark eyes were troubled. She knew that what she had done was dangerous, and was frightened that she could not control herself. What if she accidentally healed someone at the wrong time and harmed them? A thousand consequences for her action raced through her mind, but for a moment, Moiraine thought what Siuan would do. Siuan would face it directly, and accept what came. Moiraine knew she could do no less.

The sister's gray eyes, sparkled, "Child, I'm not going to stop instructing you because you were late for a lesson! Discipline is certainly necessary, but not to the point where Accepted are dropping of exhaustion." She sat down on the bed next to Moiraine and put a kindly hand to her shoulder. Merean Sedai, the Mistress of Novices may have been where many initiates went to confide or when troubled, but Yuan was kind in a straight-forward way that Moiraine genuinely appreciated. It was a natural warmth that flowed from her.

"I fear I've done something worse. I Healed another Accepted of discipline she had received." She had tried to keep her voice even, but with the soft gray eyes looking at her in sympathy, she broke. Tears streamed from her dark eyes. Crying in front of others was something Moiraine simply did not do, and here in the space of a day she had broken first in front of Siuan and now here in front of Yuan Sedai. Perhaps she didn't have the strength to be Aes Sedai, after all. "It wasn't something I intended to do, it just happened. What if I had harmed her?" At that, the tears rushed out. She expected Yuan Sedai to head straight for the door for the Mistress of the Novices. She didn't expect the slender woman to pull her into a hug.

"It's alright, child. It's hardly the first time that has ever happened, and honestly, I may have been moving too slow with you. The Accepted you healed, I'm going to guess it was Siuan Sanche, was it not?" Moiraine moved from her embrace and glanced at the gray-eyed sister in shock.

"How did you know?" The look of surprise on Moiraine's face must have been quite a shock, but not as shocking as the rich laughter that pealed from the Yellow sister.

"The first time that many women learning the Art do a complete Healing, it is usually someone that they care deeply for. Siuan is, of course, someone that you are close to, and I am not surprised that she is the recipient of your healing. Was there some, she appeared to search for the right word, emotional moment that coincided with this Healing?" The way she chose her words made Moiraine decide that she really didn't want to know how much the Yellow knew. Kindly as Yuan may be, Moiraine was Caerhienin to her toenails and one simply did not discuss certain things. She merely said, "Yes, Aes Sedai."

"Well, you are certainly alright, but I am not going to remove your weariness right now. You and Siuan are both going to eat three times this evening to counteract the effects of the Healing, and you will be taking the rest of the day off from studies. I will see to it that the Mistress of Novices is informed." Moiraine was shocked that not only was she not getting put out of the Tower, she was taking the rest of the day off! "Do not assume that you are being rewarded, Accepted," an iron determination crept into the tone of Yuan Sedai, and Moiraine waited, knowing that her punishment was then coming. "I have obviously not been pushing you to your full potential and in the coming weeks, you will begin Healing in earnest. You clearly have a greater aptitude than I suspected, and you will fulfill it!" It was spoken like an oath, and Moiraine knew that she would, indeed be pushed.

Yuan got up to leave, but before she did, she turned to Moiraine. "Do you happen to know what Siuan was disciplined for, child?" Moiraine looked up. The calm, casual way that Yuan asked told one who had been raised with Daes Dae'mar in her cradle that it was not a casual question at all. Revealing nothing in her tone that she knew the question was anything more than casual, she merely stated, "No, Yuan Sedai, she was in a rush to go to Meilyn's study, so I am not certain. She had come to her quarters to change her clothes and then left again." Moiraine suspected it was Elaida, but it was better for the Yellow sister to find out for herself without Moiraine's assumptions clouding things. The slender

sister nodded thoughtfully, and admonished her to rest until someone came for her. When the door was closed, Moiraine sighed, grateful that if nothing else, she would get a little rest. Her eyes closed and she was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.



Nothing is Ever Easy

Yuan knocked on the door to Merean's study. The gray-haired Mistress of the Novices was alone leafing through a stack of papers, and didn't look up as she said, "Come in." Yuan took a seat in the chair, not so long an Aes Sedai that being in the study of the Mistress of Novices failed to bring back memories. She, too, had been bent over the leather surface and switched, as had likely every woman who had ever gained the shawl had, as well. She idly wondered if there had ever been a woman in the Tower, gaining the shawl or not that hadn't.

Merean looked up in surprise to see her, but she smiled all the same. The woman had a motherly smile that could instantly put a person at ease, unless one were a Novice or an Accepted sent for penance. Then Merean's motherly face became implacable. Today, however, she politely offered Yuan a cup of tea, a courtesy of one sister to another.

"Merean," Yuan started, "I may have made a mistake with Moiraine." That caught her attention immediately. As Mistress of the Novices, Merean was entirely responsible for ensuring that the initiates under her care were properly trained to their potential. "I believe I have been moving too slow with her. She Healed Siuan Sanche today of her own accord, as opposed to in a controlled setting. She is ready to begin Healing, and my reluctance to push her possibly contributed to the risk." Merean tapped her lips with her forefinger thoughtfully.

"What was the result of this Healing, Yuan? I assume that both are unharmed otherwise I expect you would be coming in here with a very different attitude." She said this pointedly, as if urging Yuan to get to the point. Nothing surprised her with those two novices; their potential was stronger than had been seen in the White Tower this generation.

Phaedra Pran, a Brown from Haddon Mirk, had repeatedly attempted to explain it to her. Something about Haddon Mirk bred sisters willing to speak their minds. With ink on her nose, her fingers so tainted, Merean had despaired of her touching anything in her office, Phaedra had offered the theory of culling. They were culling the ability to channel out of themselves, as though the spark was a product of lineage rather than will, combined with education. Yuan had studied the human body for too long, felt the weaves of it, to believe that genius could be predicted or confined to such a narrow study as mere bloodlines.

Something occurred in the women that came to the Tower. Something about them, some indefineable character trait surfaced in all of them; there could be no disparate group of women, however, in genetics, than made up those who arrived at the Tower. She may have made it her life's work to prove whether the Culling existed or not, what she denied was that it could not be explained. Something could explain it, she just was not certain what it was.

"They are both fine, Merean, though Moiraine is exhausted. I have ordered her to take the rest of the day off, and would like for both of them to eat three meals between this afternoon and this evening. Moiraine fell asleep and missed her lesson, and when she curtsied, she would have collapsed had I not caught her." Yuan let that sink in a moment. "Whatever she had Healed that was ailing Siuan apparently was significant enough to drain her."

That caught Merean's full attention and Yuan forestalled the question before the gray-haired woman could ask it. "She does not know what Siuan had been punished for, and I have not spoken to Siuan yet to ask. She is apparently with Meilyn, and if there is anything wrong with her, I have no doubt Meilyn can handle it adequately. I will, of course, thoroughly delve her when she is done with Meilyn. I didn't want to make too much of it, if there is no cause for concern."

A knock at the door forestalled whatever answer the Mistress of Novices was going to offer. She wasn't expecting anyone, but she also didn't want to be interrupted. Yuan rose opening the door, preparing to send all but emergencies away. Instead, she was surprised to see Meilyn at the door. Opening it wide, the tall, silver haired sister swept in. Anxiety flooded Yuan's face. Merean held up a hand and waved her back to her seat.

"Meilyn," Merean started, "what can I help you with?" Meilyn looked pointedly at Yuan, clearly not going to continue with her present. Merean said, off handedly, "I assume this has something to do with the Accepted Siuan." That clearly surprised Meilyn, so she took a seat, looking again at Yuan and then at Merean.

"Yes, it does, as a matter of fact. I take it that it isn't a coincidence that Yuan and the Mistresses of Novices are discussing this Accepted." Meilyn surmised. "I am concerned, Merean, about the young woman." Yuan's gasp caught Meilyn's attention and she clarified, "Not her health, Yuan, she was in my office not two minutes ago and she was right as spring rain." Yuan looked infinitely relieved. "Why would you think that she isn't alright, exactly? She's an extremely promising young woman."

Merean answered, however, instead of Yuan. "Moiraine Damodred Healed her this afternoon. Apparently, Siuan had taken a penance of some sort and had been rather fiercely punished. Moiraine is well, but exhausted and in need of some meals. I suspect Siuan is in the same state."

Meilyn could be a grave woman, but she nodded her head and offered a tight smile. "I sent her to the dining hall after her stomach growled so loudly I could barely talk over it. That explains things – I was concerned there was a reason that she wasn't getting enough to eat. When I saw her in the hall earlier before I instructed her to come to my office, she looked extremely pale and tired. I wondered why she looked so recovered after I sent her to change her clothes."

"Was it you that gave her the penance, Meilyn?" Merean asked, clearly informing both women that it was not she who had ordered it. Meilyn looked offended. "I instruct minds, and require discipline, but I don't drive students to exhaustion unless there is clear reason to require it. Siuan is an extraordinary student, as you know, and while she and Moiraine get into trouble for pranks, neither are indolent or completely undisciplined. I may have a guess, however, at who is behind her penance."

"I came across Siuan in the hall – there was a Novice that had dropped a tea tray. Siuan stopped to help her as the young woman was serving for Sierin." She twisted her mouth. Sierin was even older than she was, and she knew what a stickler Sierin could be for discipline. She wasn't intentionally cruel, but she wasn't given to overlooking the slightest diversion from her instructions. "I believe that had Siuan not stopped Setsuko would have gone to the kitchen and left the mess with the state the child was in." Merean and Yuan nodded.

"Rather than Siuan stopped to help, and Elaida came up behind her, ranting about letting a Novice suffer for their own mistakes, and ordering her a week in the kitchens. She also made," she paused, "a rather inflammatory remark." Merean nodded, expecting that Siuan had suffered an outburst and that is why Elaida administered the penance. Meilyn continued on. "Siuan's face as I said was pale, but she went read. Still, she was ready to calmly accept a penance for something that was hardly a crime." The last she ended with anger.

"I informed Elaida that Siuan was not available for the kitchens, and reminded her that we are here to train Aes Sedai, not to beat down Novices and Accepted into scullery maids! It is illogical to waste a fine mind on the kitchens for no reason. She needs to be able to avail herself of all the Tower can offer, and all that she can offer to the Tower." There was true heat in that statement. Meilyn was tough as old roots, but she was White to her bones, and if she saw something as illogical, such as unduly punishing an Accepted, she would not stand for it. In this case, Merean agreed.

"Normally, I would not have interfered, but Siuan stopped to help a Novice that could very well have left a hazard in the Tower. It is not logical to punish an Accepted for helping to solve a problem. It is also not logical for a sister, a full Aes Sedai, to lose control of her emotions over an Accepted's behavior." Meilyn's last point was the one that concerned Merean the most. She flicked her eyes to the Yellow sister, and anger flared in the large gray eyes. "I informed Elaida that Siuan would be working with some of my students and did not have time for a tour of the kitchens."

In a cold voice, Yuan spoke up. "If Elaida is not able to control her emotions around Siuan, she shouldn't be teacher her, in my opinion. There are not so many Accepted that come along with Siuan's abilities that we can afford to throw them away." Merean looked at her hard, but Yuan just glared back defiantly. It was Merean's decision on how to handle this situation, though Yuan could certainly speak with the Amyrlin about it. Not that Merean doubted that Tamra would override her decision.

She decided to let the situation, and Yuan, cool off before making a final decision. She wanted to consult the Amyrlin, but she was inclined to agree with both women that the situation could not continue as it had. "Moiraine and Siuan will both have today and tomorrow to rest. Yuan, check on both of them with a fine toothed comb to ensure that there is no harm, and make certain that Moiraine is trained to the degree that she cannot do this accidentally again. It is too dangerous to have Accepted running around channeling when they do not mean to do so." Yuan caught the hint; train her as hard as necessary because if she does it again, Yuan would face consequences along with Moiraine. She blushed and nodded.

"Yuan, tell Siuan and then make arrangements for Moiraine to eat once she has rested. I suspect that she is likely sleeping. I will make arrangements with their instructors." The pointed look she gave Yuan clearly made it a dismissal, and Yuan was in no mood to argue considering her own part in this. She rose, feeling for all the world a Novice dismissed from the Mistresses study. The only thing missing was the burning in her backside from the beating, and she didn't miss that at all.

Waiting until Yuan left, Merean directed a question to Meilyn. "I'm curious, Meilyn, what was the "inflammatory comment" Elaida made to Siuan?" Merean asked quietly.

"She implied that Siuan was overly masculine. I believe her exact words were "Some days I think you'd prefer to be a Warder than an Aes Sedai." Meilyn snorted after she said it. "As though Elaida has never dandled a female on her own knee, or been dandled on a female's knee herself!" Meilyn included that information with Aes Sedai aplomb, allowing Merean to interpret it as she would. Meilyn suspected the root of Elaida's behavior toward Siuan, but she wouldn't be the one to voice it unless asked.

Merean arched an inquiring eyebrow, and of course, asked. "Do you think Elaida is jealous toward her because of Moiraine, Meilyn? It wouldn't be the first time we've had a jealous pillow friend in the Tower, but an Aes Sedai chasing after an Accepted is a serious offense." Merean watched Meilyn's face flicker thoughtful.

"I will leave that for you to decipher, Merean. It could just as easily be that she wants Siuan for herself and doesn't realize it, or it could be something else entirely." Meilyn said this to make an end of it. The last things she wanted to get involved in was something as illogical as a pillow friend triangle. Merean sighed and nodded. After Meilyn left, she sighed. Nothing was ever easy.



A Leisurely Bath

Moiraine had been dreaming of Siuan. Not of Siuan, her best friend, or at least not only as her best friend. Siuan was standing naked in the dark of the room, illuminated by the moonlight. The blue eyes turned to her, and a stunning smile warmed her. It was not a smile designed to offer comfort, it was a smile designed to inspire desire. It worked. Moiraine held out a hand to her, inviting her to join her.

Just as things were about to get interesting, a knock on her door jolted her awake for the second time in one day. It was Yuan Sedai come to check on her. Yuan Sedai had decided to remove her fatigue, but admonished her that she would eat everything she was told to eat. Upon learning that she would also have the next day to rest and reflect, she felt the urge to smile. As Yuan Sedai was leaving, Siuan arrived with a large tray. The smell of fried potatoes, soup and savory meats hit her nose, and she couldn't help but smile. She was starving, and as if upon command, the person she most wanted to see arrived bearing food.

"Siuan!" Moiraine was rarely exuberant in public, but this was the privacy of her room. It would not be untoward to show her delight at Siuan's arrival. Siuan smiled back, her devastating smile lighting up her handsome face into one that was as close to beautiful as one could be without being a classical beauty. She was beautiful enough, though, for Moiraine. Siuan's true beauty did, and always would, shine from within.

Siuan's mood was light, as well. They hadn't sat down and eaten a leisurely meal in their quarters since Bel Tine, and that had been quite some time ago. It seemed almost like a holiday; she couldn't remember the last time she hadn't had a class to rush off to, a penance to be served or a Novice to teach. For the first time in a while, Moiraine genuinely believed that Siuan was right; everything was going to be alright.

She and Siuan stuffed themselves, and then sat eating sweet, sticky fruits with their fingers for dessert. Moiraine glanced over at Siuan, eying the curves of her body. Siuan was sitting close, and she could hear her breathing, and smell the scent that was uniquely Siuan. Siuan had been aroused when she'd Healed her. It was as clear as a bell, but Siuan was taking pains to avoid looking at her too long, and kept the conversation light. Could it be that someone else was who she was expecting? Siuan had gone straight to Meilyn's from what she could gather, but it was entirely possible that Siuan had been in that state for another reason.

Moiraine wanted to know, but of course, as a Caerhienin, she certainly wasn't going to be so tactless and forward as the ask plainly. An elegant solution occurred to her, and elegant solutions were always what Moiraine would choose if she could. "Siuan, since neither of us have classes to go to, would you like to go and have a long, relaxing bath?" Her voice had the tingle of chimes in the wind, but she let her tone warm more than usual.

Siuan's face didn't change, nor did she answer, but she did clear her throat. That could mean anything, of course, so Moiraine decided to continue on as though Siuan had agreed. She pulled out fresh clothes and linens, and stacked them neatly, handing them to Siuan. Siuan looked slightly startled to suddenly be holding Moiraine's undergarments and clothing, but she rose. Moiraine indicated the tray, "I'll take this to the kitchens and meet you at the baths, go get your clothes." If the blue eyes narrowed in the slightest, Moiraine was not certain, but Siuan's willingness to do as she bid bode well. With a bright smile for Siuan, she then turned and left the room with the tray.

Siuan wasn't certain how she had gotten to her quarters, but she was suddenly standing there in front of her own wardrobe, staring at the shift and dress she had discarded so hastily this morning, Moiraine's clothes and undergarments in her hands. Suddenly, it seemed warm in the room, but she forced herself to movement. She put the dirty laundry in the wash bag, and got her own change of clothes.

She was going to take a bath with Moiraine. She was going to get completely nude with Moiraine, and Moiraine was going to be nude, as well. Was there something in Moiraine's smile that hadn't been there before their fateful encounter in her quarters earlier? Was her voice a shade warmer, more alluring? She shook her head trying to clear it. She certainly felt quite well after Moiraine's healing, better than she had in weeks. Elaida's penance had weakened her more than she had known; the beating Moiraine had seen on her back was only from today. Elaida had also switched her on her legs, and she doubted Moiraine had seen those. Still, her Healing had been thorough and had searched out the condition of her body completely. She nearly dropped the clothing in the hall. A thorough check of the condition of her body. Had Moiraine been aware of her intense arousal?

She would have to be careful. The last thing that she wanted was to hurt the Cairhienin woman she adored. Moiraine had never given her any indication that she found her attractive, though honestly, Siuan had never thought about it beyond the fact that the slender Caerhienin was impossibly beautiful. As she entered the bath, she headed for the private chambers, to find Moiraine. It was likely she was not back from the kitchen yet. Hopefully, she could get in the tub and … The thought trailed off.

Standing with her back to the door, Moiraine's smooth back was bare and more of her bared itself as the shift slid down over creamy buttocks, and slender legs. Her waist was impossibly small, but everything on her was perfectly formed. Seeming to sense Siuan, she turned. Siuan nearly dropped the clothing when the lovely globes of the dark haired woman's breasts came into view. She hoped that she had not stared too long, and fumbled to get the clothes on the stand. She turned around, to glance, and Moiraine was standing in the water of the deep, circular tub. Moiraine was smiling at her.

Moiraine had waited until she was certain Siuan was coming to undress. She wanted to test her reaction. Siuan had swallowed, hard, when she turned around, with no indication that she planned on looking away. Moiraine arched her back a little, with just enough of a gesture to appear as though she were offering her breasts to Siuan for inspection. The expression on Siuan's face answered her question.

"Come on Siuan, shut the door and come in. We don't want the water to get cold." She swirled her feet in the water, taking her time before submerging herself. Siuan's hands were trembling when she undid the buttons of her Accepted dress, but she was thankful to have something else to look down at, something that forced her to stop staring at Moiraine's body. She finally got the dress over her head, and worked to pull off her shift. She had been wearing these same dresses for six months now, but she seemed to have more trouble getting them off than she did even the first time wearing it.

Thankfully, Moiraine was in the water, with very little exposed to her cursedly wandering eyes. As she climbed into the tub, she was struck by the bold stare Moiraine offered her body. She had never expected a Caerhienin to look at another person's body like that, and certainly never Moiraine. Her nipples tightened in reflex; she had felt Moiraine's gaze nearly as a caress. Moiraine let her gaze trail off and smiled as Siuan entered the water. Once again, she arched her back a little and the delicious globes came into view, deep pink nipples peeping out of the water. Siuan could not look away.

"It's okay to look, Siuan, when we are alone." Moiraine murmured quietly. "In fact, I like that you look." Her expression would have been mischievous to anyone but Siuan; to Siuan, she looked inviting. A ghost of a smile crossed Moiraine's delicate features, "You really are quite lovely Siuan." Moiraine met her blue eyes with her own, dark sparkling ones. Siuan felt herself blushing at the compliment, but she couldn't speak.

The tub seemed, smaller. Smaller than it ever had, though this was a tub that could easily allow three to bathe at one time, four if they were the size of petite Moiraine. Siuan closed her eyes and leaned her head back, hoping to get her composure back. Her nipples were aching to be touched; there was no way to hide it and it certainly wouldn't escape the notice of the woman sitting across from her. Moiraine had already flashed her dark eyes over Siuan's body, and it felt like a Delving. Other significant places begged for attention, and Siuan wondered how she was going to manage spending much more time with the gorgeous woman across from her without revealing just how Moiraine affected her.

She felt the water around her swirl, and opened her eyes to gaze into deep dark ones. She couldn't have torn her gaze away if her life depended on it. Her heart hammered in her chest. Moiraine reached a hand out of the water and touched her forehead and her cheek gently. With a gentle voice, this time a voice nearly like the light touch on her cheek, Moiraine asked, "Are you alright Siuan? You've been quiet. How do you feel?"

The first thought that popped into her mind was aroused beyond all that's reasonable. She certainly couldn't say that so she looked for another answer. Moiraine's eyes darkened even further, and Siuan suddenly realized that Moiraine was every bit as aroused as she was. Moiraine smiled as though she knew the realization was dawning on Siuan and drew closer to her so that their bodies nearly touched in the water. She whispered in Siuan's ear. "If you can't tell me how you feel, Siuan," she brushed her hand again down Siuan's cheek, breath tickling Siuan's ear, "Can you tell me how you want to feel, Siuan?" Siuan closed her eyes and leaned into the palm cupping her cheek, her own hand reaching out to stroke Moiraine's side feeling each of the delicate rib bones beneath her fingers. She heard Moiraine's intake of breath and knew.

"Can you tell me what you need to feel Siuan?" The answer to all of those questions was the same. Moiraine, she wanted Moiraine and right now, she needed Moiraine. Siuan answered by capturing the pert mouth, caressing the lips with her tongue. Siuan had never kissed anyone before, and did not know how she was doing, but when Moiraine's tongue sensuously and deeply explored her mouth, it no longer mattered. She felt Moiraine's nipples, every bit as hard as her own, pressed into her flesh.

The kisses became a torrent, and the warmth of the bath became almost too much to bear. She had closed the door, but still anyone could walk right in at any time as there was no lock on it. The fear of getting caught lent a heightening effect, if there was anything that could have possibly elevated the moment. None of the Accepted or the Novices would have been that bold, but certainly there were sisters that yielded to no customs or need for privacy. Siuan murmured a reminder in her ear, and a soft, resigned sigh was the reply. Moiraine pulled apart from her, going to the other side of the circle. She looked every bit as flushed as Siuan.

Siuan finally spoke. "Let's get this bath over, and go somewhere more private to...discuss this." Moiraine's laugh was like crystal chimes, beautiful, and joyful. "Alright, Siuan, just so you understand that we will be discussing this to completion, and to both of our satisfaction." Siuan blushed. She wondered if Moiraine had ever done this before. She hadn't thought she had in the Tower but perhaps in the Sun Palace. She was extremely sophisticated for her age, and perhaps more sophisticated than most women at any age.

As they were finishing their baths in earnest, the door popped open, and Moiraine sank deeper into the tub, clearly offended at being intruded upon. Siuan turned to see exactly the last person she wanted to see, scowling at her from the door. "Well, look at this. You two layabouts taking a leisurely bath. I'd expect it of you Moiraine, since you seem to believe your noble blood entitles you to anything, but you Siuan? Tsk, tsk, if you get put out of the Tower, your highest prospect will be marriage to a fishmonger like your poor father." Siuan's face colored, laced with a mixture of shame, hatred and anger of being reminded how low in stature she was compared to Moiraine and Elaida herself.

She felt Moiraine at her back, surprised with the normally reserved woman stood facing Elaida. "Elaida, Siuan won't be put out of the Tower because she will succeed. She is stronger by far in will than any other person I have ever known. She doesn't need noble blood to be noble or even to be Aes Sedai; she already is as noble a woman as any queen or Aes Sedai." Elaida's face reddened. Moiraine's message had been clear – Siuan was more noble than Elaida would ever be, despite Elaida being both Aes Sedai and a minor noble.

Siuan felt tears burn in her eyes. She never imagined Moiraine felt that way about her, had never imagined that anyone of an ancient lineage such as Moiraine's would stand up for her like that. An ache that she had carried around her heart lifted. If she was good enough for Moiraine, her blood was good enough for anyone, including Elaida. Elaida's face was carved from rage when Siuan looked her in the eye.

"How dare an Accepted speak to me that way? Moiraine Damodred you come out here this very moment, you and this fishmonger's daughter, and you apologize! I will march you naked through the hall to the Mistress of the Novice's myself!" Her voice thundered throughout the bath echoing against the tiles.

A chill ran through Moiraine's blood. Elaida was so angry she was perfectly capable of trying. A glacial anger rose in her. She's capable of trying, Moiraine thought darkly, but we will see if she is capable of succeeding.

A stern voice echoed in reply to Elaida's tirade. "Give over Elaida. If you would have burst in on me in the bath and said all of that to me, I'd have been a lot less polite." Tamra Ospenya said dryly. Watcher of the Seals. The Flame of Tar Valon. The Amyrlin Seat. She turned to look at both Moiraine and Siuan with her square, determined face, "I certainly couldn't have answered any more honestly." Elaida looked vaguely ill, and well she should, thought Moiraine. The very first thing she had been repeatedly told even on the way to Tar Valon, was that initiates of the Tower put aside their old lives for their new. The Amyrlin looked at Elaida directly, but quietly and firmly said, "Accepted, finish up your baths and rest. I understand from Merean that is what you were supposed to be doing before your interruption."

Moiraine wanted to laugh in delight at the look on Elaida's face, but she knew that would doom her were she to do it in front of the Amyrlin Seat. Who would have guessed she used the regular baths? Siuan was in such a hurry to be away from there she was halfway in her clothes before Moiraine could even finish drying off, and she was being quick about it.

Moiraine and Siuan barely made it to Moiraine's quarters, and they weren't far at all from the baths, before the collapsed into laughter that had Moiraine crying and Siuan howling. Every time one stopped, all that it took was a look from the other and they were off again. Everything was going to be alright.



A Delicious Dish

The laughter finally died down, and Siuan reached out to take Moiraine's delicate small one in her own. They sat there looking at one another, smiling, hand in hand. The late evening bell rang, and Siuan remembered that they had to have one more meal. It was well that Yuan Sedai had ordered it, because what had reminded her was her stomach rumbling. Moiraine laughed again, and Siuan blushed. "I'll go get the tray" Siuan said, softly, rising to do just that. Moiraine rose with her, cupped Siuan's face with a hand and kissed Siuan tenderly, that grew in ardency to leave them both breathless. Siuan's lips looked like they had been kissed to Moiraine, and she had wanted to see them that way.

Siuan smiled. "I'm just going to the kitchen, I'm not going to go out hunting it myself." The gentle teasing made Moiraine's eyes sparkle. With her voice like chimes in the wind she answered, "I wanted to make sure you remembered who you were supposed to be bringing that tray back to. Some lovely little Accepted might come by and decide that she wants the delicious dish herself." The adianoeta was not lost on Siuan, who smiled widely. "I assure you Moiraine, I intend to let no one but you eat the dish, and I want you to have as much as you desire." Moiraine smiled slyly. Siuan was perhaps a little more heavy handed than some, but she was getting better all the time. She suspected Siuan would, in time, be a master of The Great Game, Daes Dae'mar.

Smiling, and on her way to the kitchens, Siuan encountered Yuan Sedai in the hallway, evidently headed to Moiraine's quarters from her own. She curtsied to Yuan Sedai when she stopped her with, "Ah, there you are." Siuan was thankful that she and Moiraine had the sense to wait until later in the evening. It would be awfully embarrassing to be interrupted with Moiraine, not to mention that Siuan wanted nothing to spoil this time together with her. She knew that in a few days, they would both be back to busy schedules with little time for themselves or each other.

"I am on the way to the Kitchens Aes Sedai to get the remaining meal for both myself and Moiraine. She is in her quarters, and I plan to bring it to her." She answered.

"Good, I'm glad that you are looking after her Siuan. She is impetuous at times, and certainly the Healing may have made her more tired than she believes that she is." She smiled what could only be described as an Aes Sedai smile. "A bath was likely exactly what both of you needed to help you relax."

Siuan knew from the twinkle in her eye that she knew more than she was letting on, so she decided to play along. "Well, it was quite relaxing until Elaida came by. She was in quite a temper, however, interestingly enough," she lowered her voice conspiratorially. "The Amyrlin herself came to the baths. She also advised us that a bath was a good idea, and that we needed to get our rest. Who would have thought she uses the communal baths, though? I've never seen her or the Keeper in there before."

Yuan smiled the mysterious Aes Sedai smile, her ageless face saying little and giving away less. "Oh, she doesn't usually, as she and the Keeper have their own private baths. You never know, though, when the Amyrlin will take it upon herself to do an inspection of the hall. She does a different part every day, so you never know where she might turn up."

Siuan smiled and nodded. Yuan bid her to eat and get rest, sending her on her way after a curtsy. She was nearly all the way back to Moiraine's room when it occurred to her that Yuan had told her to get rest twice, but had never specified that she return to her own room. She smiled at her luck. She knew exactly where she was going to "rest", though she hoped that there was considerably less "resting" than perhaps the Yellow sister had intended for her.

The late hour bell rang, and Siuan was on her way back to the kitchen with the tray. It had occurred to Moiraine while Siuan was retrieving the tray that there was something she could do to make this more special. It touched her that she was Siuan's first kiss. She hoped she would be more for Siuan, and that if there was anyone she wanted to have a first with, it was her Siuan. Moiraine hurriedly changed out of her shift and into something she had been sent by her cousin Caroline. Technically, it was contraband, but for this occasion, Moiraine decided it was worth it.

She turned down the wick of her desk reading lamp until it was dim, placed a candle by the bedside and drew a blanket around her. She held a second candle in her hand. She was taking a risk as it was, so there was no reason not to up the ante a little.

Siuan entered the darkened room, it was illuminated only a faint glow of the desk lamp. She wondered if Moiraine was asleep, and felt her heart sink a little. Perhaps she had changed her mind. Moiraine's voice called out softly in the darkness of the small room. "Come inside, and lock the door Siuan." Her voice was it's usual light pitch and clear, but it was warm, and incredibly alluring. She nearly opened her mouth to ask what was going on, but she trusted Moiraine. She trusted her with her life, and with her heart.

She did as Moiraine bade, and when the door was locked, two candles flared to life – one on the nightstand, bathing her in a glow, and the other in Moiraine's hand. Moiraine was wrapped in a blanket, and meeting Siuan's eyes, the candlelight reflecting in the dark pools clear even from where Siuan stood, she let the blanket fall from her shoulders.

Deep blue silk. Moiraine stood a vision in deep blue silk, a color that Siuan would not have chosen for her, but suited her beauty in ways that Siuan would not have anticipated. Her skin seemed fairer, her lips redder, her hair even darker against the lovely color. The woman herself was every inch a High Lady in a dressing gown. She had a feeling that Moiraine was very much aware of how well the color suited her. She had never seen Moiraine in anything but white, but she was certain Moiraine would forever haunt her dreams wearing the deep blue silk. Moiraine placed the candle on the bookshelf so that both points of the room were lit – not harshly, but enough to see by.

Siuan's mouth went dry as the petite woman approached her. She no longer looked the delicate noble; she stalked toward her like a lion. The stark lust that shown in her eyes sent shards of need piercing through Siuan's body. Everything south went liquid and she ached. She ached for Moiraine to touch and possess her.

Placing her arms about Siuan's neck, she kissed her. Though neither of the other kisses they had shared were anything that could be called chaste, this kiss was a kiss that burned Siuan to her very soul. The silk was smooth beneath her fingers, and while Moiraine was dressed, she could feel every curve and indentation in her body as though she was pressed against her naked. It was profoundly erotic. She pulled Siuan's head down more forcefully, the kiss not so much roughening as intensifying with need. Moiraine pulled away long enough to whisper in her ear.

"Make love to me Siuan. I need you to make love to me." Siuan melted. She wasn't exactly certain what it was that she needed to do, but she suspected that Moiraine had several ideas. Moiraine had had a shockingly well-rounded education in the Sun Palace, she suspected. "I'm not exactly certain what to do Moiraine, but I know that I want to please you, and to make love to you."

"I'll show you what I want Siuan." She began undoing the button on Siuan's Accepted dress. One by one, she released them then swept it away from Siuan's body. Moiraine eased down onto the bed, Siuan following her in her shift. Moiraine reached out and caressed the back of Siuan's thigh, prompting her to climb onto the bed beside her. Moiraine seemed so fragile next to her, but Moiraine's hands began exploring, coaxing responses from places Siuan had never dreamed were so sensitive.

"You are beautiful Siuan, so strong, so utterly feminine at the same time." She was kissing her at the base of her throat, and her hands were seeking the buttons on the shift. Siuan's clothes practically melted away under Moiraine's ministrations. Siuan's hands had been busy as well, though Moiraine's robe was held on by only a few buttons and draped across her body. Moiraine kissed her way down Siuan's chest, kissing her breast, and then kissing her nipple. Siuan's body arched in the bed with need. It seemed that there was a line of fire that directly connected Moiraine's lips on her nipple to the center of her desire.

Moiraine kissed her way down, and drew off the final barrier of Siuan's clothing. Siuan was utterly naked, and it was clear that she was quivering with need. Moiraine had never done this before, either, but she reasoned that if she desired a certain touch, that Siuan would likely enjoy it, as well. She kissed the inside of Siuan's thigh, then the other, working her way to the place she was looking for.

Parting the wet folds, Siuan moaned but Moiraine had not even started. Siuan vaguely wondered if Moiraine was using the Power on her, but when she felt the soft pressure of a tongue on the place that was the center of her desire, Siuan no longer cared. It felt wonderful, and she knew she was close. This certainly felt much better than anything she had ever been able to coax out of her body. And then she felt something else.

Moiraine stopped working her with her tongue briefly, and Siuan whimpered. Surely she couldn't just leave here there on the edge. Moiraine slid her fingers inside of her gently, allowing her to savor the feeling of fullness. She pulled them out and slid them back in, establishing a rhythm that was maddeningly pleasurable, but didn't quite touch what she needed to have touched. And then Moiraine slowed, pressing her fingers deeply inside of Siuan, touching deeply inside where no one had ever touched before and brought her mouth back down on the center of the inferno. Suddenly, she was exploding, gripping Moiraine inside of her, feeling Moiraine's mouth on her, and caught in a torrent of pleasure that took her away.

Siuan could not say how long she dwelt there, caught in the spell Moiraine had put her under. She realized that she had tears in her eyes, the pleasure had been so intense. She pulled Moiraine up to her, kissing her, tasting herself on Moiraine's lips. "That was incredible."

"That is the first time I have ever done that Siuan, so as that was your first time, it was also mine." Dark eyes sparkled, and Siuan's face was painted with shock. "How did you know..."

Laughter like chimes, soft chimes greeted her question. "I read a book once in the Royal Library. I don't think anyone was aware what it contained, but it was surely enlightening. I also imagined what I would like, and simply touched you how I wanted to be touched, reasoning that if it brought me pleasure, there was a good chance it would do so for you, as well."

"So you have never done this, or had this done, Moiraine, I am your first?" Siuan asked with wonder. She never imagined that Moiraine could offer her this treasure. Moiraine smiled in the dark. "You are not my first kiss, Siuan, but you are the first I desperately wanted to kiss. As for the other," she kissed Siuan's cheek, "you haven't done anything, yet. Please rectify that, Siuan." That was spoken like a command, and it thrilled Siuan. The amusement in Moiraine's eyes told her that the petite woman knew that it would.

"As you command, My Lady Damodred." She leaned in to kiss Moiraine, but Moiraine stopped her with a finger to her lips. "To you Siuan, I will be glad to be your Lady Moiraine, your Lady, or just your Moiraine, but never my House. I left that life for a reason, and in our bed, between us, I do not want that here." Then she delivered a melting kiss that aroused Siuan again. "Yes, my Moiraine, I promise you." She murmured when she was able to speak.

Slowly, thoroughly and sensually, she set about exploring every part of Moiraine's body – determined to find every spot on the petite body capable of eliciting the soft gasps, and quiet moans that elicited from Moiraine. Taking the small breasts in her mouth, flicking the nipples with her tongue seemed to particularly enthrall her petite partner. Kissing her way down, skipping to the backs of her knees to caress her way up the creamy thighs eventually ended in a forceful gasp of "Siuan, please!"

Reverently, she parted Moiraine's thighs, reveling in her delicate scent. As she ran her tongue into the folds, the small woman's back arched off of the bed, thrusting herself deeper into Siuan's mouth. Siuan didn't need to wonder if she was doing it right, Moiraine's body and her reactions were telling her very loudly that she was. "Go inside of me, Siuan, fill me." Moiraine's voice was husky with need, and burned in Siuan's ear.

When she slid a finger into the tight passage, she was nearly afraid she had hurt the small woman, but as Moiraine started wiggling her hips, writhing and working them against her finger it became clear to Siuan that she was in ecstasy. Pressing in deeply and pulling her finger out, she added a second, and Moiraine moaned loudly. Moiraine was driving herself onto her fingers. Liquid, a well of pleasure was gushing from the petite woman. Siuan took a moment to gaze at her lover's face. Eyes closed, lips parted to reveal white teeth. Hands gripped the side of her head. So much need, need for her.

Moiraine pushed forward, moaning, possessing Siuan's fingers. She could deny her no further. Taking the small bud in her mouth, flicking her tongue over it produced a grip so tight on her fingers that it amazed her. Moiraine was shuddering against her tongue, pulling her head and her mouth against her.

Moiraine finally released her and pulled her up to her. She delivered another soul-searing kiss, and wrapped her arms and her legs around Siuan, holding her close. "Siuan, that was amazing." Siuan basked in the glow of holding her close, love for her spilling out in every caress, every tiny kiss, and it seemed from her very soul. "My Siuan, I love you. You are the best friend that I have ever had, and there is no one I would rather share that with."

Siuan felt tears come into her blue eyes, choked up she could only say, "Moiraine, I love you, too."

The sun rose over Tar Valon, it's first rays caressing the skin of two women who slept with limbs intertwined. Blue eyes opened, and the first thing that they saw was a dark head, sleeping next to her, a small smile on pert lips. As she lay there, listening to Moiraine breathing, Siuan Sanche felt two things; love and hope. She had an odd feeling that morning, one that had felt before, but this morning it was especially strong. She had a destiny, and she had a role to play in this world. It went beyond just becoming Siuan Sedai, though she knew that was an important part of it.

Moiraine, she knew with a certainty, would become Moiraine Sedai. It took no foretelling to see that; Moiraine was determined, kind, and beneath her Caerhienin reserve one of the warmest people Siuan had ever known. Beyond that, Moiraine had a destiny, as well. Moiraine would settle for nothing less. Whether that destiny was one they would share, and would see them fulfill it side by side, or apart, Siuan was certain of something. Moiraine and she would always be united by the Tower, and their desire to make a difference in this world. No matter what lay ahead for them, they would always be bound together in spirit, in purpose and in friendship.

Siuan smiled more brightly. Today they would be united in love, and tomorrow would just have to wait. Sparkling dark eyes opened, and kissed her on the neck. It wasn't time to get out of bed just yet, but it was certainly a waste to spend it sleeping.

The End

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