My dear sister Arenya has asked me to write a little about myself, for her anthology. The Light knows what she intends to do with it, but nevertheless I agreed to submit something. Arenya in a sweet, coddling mood is hard to resist.
My name is Taya Gille and I have been an inhabitant of this Tower since before my 16th birthday. I am now 224, and almost feeling my age. I had siblings, Jaida, Emisrin and Calya, but they are long gone by now. I have many other siblings, however, my true family, within this Tower. I suppose that is one of the most important things in keeping me alive, besides my cause: the Green Ajah’s cause.
Before I get into the present too heavily, I will tell you of the past. I came to the Tower an arrogant nobleman’s daughter, though I had higher opinions of my House than most other people in this great land – I only realised upon arriving at the Tower that most people had never heard of House Andevaar, and that even if they had, it wouldn’t mean anything in my new surroundings. In the Tower the highest royalty was treated just the same as the lowliest innkeeper’s daughter, and girls from greatly variant backgrounds were thrown heedlessly into the mix together as novices. It was a great shock to me, a revelation that took a long time to sink in.
Upon arrival at the Tower I was a striking girl, and I knew it. My pale blonde hair was a family trait passed down through the generations, and the hazel-brown eyes, glinting gold in the sunlight, were a gift from my stunning mother. My skin glowed with a faint natural tan, and was flawless. Yet my beauty was marred by my insolent and disrespectful nature. I alienated everyone with whom I came into contact, though at first I didn’t much care – I didn’t belong here after all. My family had abandoned me to a bunch of hateful old codgers who did not care a whit about me. My family had sent me off as unwanted garbage, only worthy now to scrub out filthy pots and run around each day carrying out errands for my mean-spirited overseers. That I was just as mean-spirited myself in those days only occurred to me much later, when I had cause to reflect back.
On my first day in the Tower I was pulled out of my room and along a corridor by an Accepted, Eidheann Merida, whom I’d angered with my haughty rudeness. I’d treated her like a servant, where novices were always to approach Accepted with as much respect as they’d show an Aes Sedai. My problem was that I failed to show Aes Sedai that respect also, at least during the first few days before I learned the hard way what it meant to neglect that duty. The importance of humility before my superiors was a lesson I learned very quickly after arriving at the Tower.
At first it seemed like everyone hated me, and eventually my anger and disgust turned to sadness, for I realised that I was truly alone. It was only when I had made my first real friend, a girl named Tania Ramsey, that I also realised I had never known real friendship before. I had had plenty of associates and admirers as a girl in Tarabon, but those hardly lived up to the standards Tania was setting. In spite of my poor treatment of Tania, she reached out to me, apparently sensing that beneath the hostility was someone perhaps worth getting to know. Tania was, in a sense, my saviour.
I still recall that frightfully exciting day when we leapt around Accepted Tierney’s room, splattering the walls and furniture – even the ceiling! – with paint, not caring an ounce about our own wellbeing. By the time we realised what trouble we would be in, it was too late. The damage had been done, and somehow, in spite of our fear of the consequences we’d face, we both sensed it had been worth it. I believe to this day that it was.
As older girls Tania and I became bloodbound sisters, and even when I discovered that my younger sister Calya had arrived at the Tower, intent on training to become my Warder, I needed Tania. She was an accessible ally in the challenges I faced during my training within the Tower. Tania was always there when I needed her, and I had the privilege of being able to be there for her also, returning her friendship.
Not long after I met Tania, I stumbled across a beautiful, striking young man named Eos. I met him on a forbidden tryst to the kitchens late at night, a night when Tania had rescued me from my room and my misery. I felt an unusual change coming over me as I stared at Eos and he stared back, with those hypnotising blue eyes that would become my favourites. In spite of the changes roiling within me, I managed to hold onto my outward composure – to a degree most flighty young girls would have failed at – as I beheld him. He was to become my love and Warder, and even pledged his life to me that very night, bending on his knee and swearing to always protect me, however he could.
That evening was one of the most memorable of all my training years. I drank in the kitchens, and spilt flour everywhere. Knowing full well I’d get into trouble, I helped formulate a plan to frame one of my most despised enemies, Leonora Tremaine, a fellow novice with whom I’d fought in the kitchens weeks earlier. She and I had rolled around on the floor striking at each other, while a crowd swelled around us to watch. I’d behaved like just the kind of ruffian she was on that day, to my shame. Leonora hated me, and I her, so she was the logical choice for me when seeking someone to frame for the kitchen crimes. If the plan had worked, it would’ve topped off a wonderful evening, but of course we were found out in the end. At least Leonora got some trouble of her own as a result, too. That was some small satisfaction.
Leonora wasn’t one of those to be sent to the farm as punishment a few years later, however. That was mine and Tania’s achievement alone. As much as I had grown to love the rebellious lifestyle I’d made for myself with Tania’s help, I felt miserable that day as we rode off in the care of Ferne Sedai, the Aes Sedai daughter of the Mistress of Novices Phrygiana. Tania too felt the melancholy sweep over her, and on the first night in the farmhouse she and I wept into one another’s arms, rueing the day the Tower had abandoned us.
The months we spent at the farm, ‘building our character’, felt like long years, and in spite of a visit by Elessar Gaidin, one of the most formidable Warders ever to walk the earth, and his mentee Doman Starwind (Tania’s first true love), I found myself miserable most of the time: missing Eos, missing my other friends in the Tower, even missing my training! I knew for sure by now that I wanted to be Aes Sedai, and I was determined to achieve that goal. Yet the longer I stayed on the farm, the less I believed I’d ever earn the shawl. It was infuriating and heartbreaking, particularly as I knew it was all my fault.
Eventually I did return home, with Tania in tow, to resume my studies. I came to believe I’d be Yellow Ajah, as I wanted to help people, venture out into the world and physically help them. With this thought in mind I was faced with a dilemma that preceded my Accepted’s test: still a novice, I realised that my sister Calya believed she would become my Warder, and was certain I’d stay loyal to her. As a Yellow aspirant I had intended to bond only one Warder, and because I couldn’t bring myself to break her heart, I had to break someone else’s – my beloved Eos.
I left it until the cruellest moment possible, although that wasn’t my intention at all. He and I enjoyed a wonderfully romantic evening together, at the Masquerade Ball where I dressed in a wondrous gown of silver, taking his breath away with my very presence. He took mine away in turn, and both of us were well and truly under the spell of love. I wanted to marry him and keep him by my side forever, fighting the darkness with him as my companion. I wanted him to be there for all my triumphs, and to soothe my frayed nerves in the wake of my failures. I wanted him to share everything with me, and I wanted to know all I could about him in turn. I knew that turning from him was wrong, but I couldn’t bear to destroy Calya.
The moment came when I broke the news to Eos – he couldn’t be my Warder, and I couldn’t see him anymore – and I ran from him, devastated. No sooner had I reached my rooms to fling myself on my bed and sob, than Phrygiana Sedai knocked on my door and summoned me to be tested for Acceptance. I could hardly believe the irony of it, but I had no chance to reflect upon it and laugh bitterly, for I had to go with her right away, to face the hardest test I’d yet endured.
I will not say much about my arches, which remain sharp as ever in my memory, even if they now pale in comparison to other tests I’ve endured. I will, however, say that I came out of the arches a transformed woman. I was no longer a Yellow aspirant, but destined for the Green, that greatest of Ajahs. Another thing I was sure I’d learned, though perhaps it was my tortured mind making me believe what I wanted to, was that I could not take Calya as my Gaidin, even though as a Green I’d be entitled to bond more than one. If I Bonded Calya, I’d witness her death with my own eyes, and that was something I wasn’t willing to sign up for. I’d be left alone, a gaping wound inside me where the bond had once stretched between us. No, Calya would not be my Gaidin. I had made a grave mistake in rejecting Eos, and I had to rectify matters if I could.
I returned to my room following the test, now with a Great Serpent ring on my finger, an utterly different girl to the one who had first been summoned by Phrygiana. There I found my sister Calya, her glowing expression soon fading into grim sadness. As she looked at me she knew, even before I broke it to her, that she wouldn’t be my Gaidin. She even said so aloud before I’d had a chance to speak. She told me to seek out Eos right at that moment, to tell him how things had changed. I could tell how it pained her to give me up, but she insisted upon walking with me out into the Tower grounds, at least a short way. I accepted the offer, and after Calya had departed got the barracks, I found Eos.
He accepted me back almost immediately, although that initial expression I’d seen on his face had squeezed painfully at my heart, and I’d felt sure I had ruined things forever. Oh how dramatic things seemed then, when I was but a girl of twenty, with countless lifetimes stretched ahead of me. But I still remember the intensity of those feelings, perhaps because they were comparatively innocent. I think of myself back then as a child, alive with life’s wonders and held in their thrall.
Things were good again, but as an Accepted now, and with my first tough experience behind me ready to haunt me forever, I had a lot on my plate. My training increased what felt like tenfold and I now had to adjust myself to the knowledge that I would be a Green sister.
I approached several Greens, though I was almost too awed by them to speak to them, and asked for their guidance. Some were gruff and dismissive with me – one even told me I’d never be a Green, I was far too soft and pretty looking – and others were glad to give me what they considered to be proper guidance. One of the most frightening sisters, Ryell Jagad of Shienar, first taught me how to punch properly. I even managed to punch her once, and leave a sizeable bruise there. It was one bruise to match the plenty she’d given me.
Another formidable Green, whose ageless face I just knew hid details of countless harrowing experiences she had endured, was Lanfir Marithsen. She took me under her wing in an authoritarian kind of way, making me start with just one word, raising her voice to me frequently, sending me on countless errands, yet teaching me something about the Green Ajah with every action she took, every mannerism she displayed, every different twinkle I saw in her eye. For preparing me the most thoroughly to be a sister of the Green, I thank my great forebear Lanfir Marithsen, whom I still consider to be Mightiest of the Greens.
I worked hard during my Accepted years, although I admit I still had the tendency to run riot whenever I had a chance. I enjoyed the rare free days when I ventured out into Tar Valon, usually with two or three friends. My friendship with Tania grew stronger, and I gained other close friends also, women who would become my sisters down the road. I even mended fences with the likes of Leonora, who would years later endure horrendous hardships that all but ruined her. It saddens me to think of such women facing such nightmares. Another was Xenia, who died midway through my Acceptedhood. I still miss Xenia, her beautiful blonde ringlets, her sharp blue eyes and her friendly smile.
I once went out of Tar Valon with Lanfir and another fellow Green aspirant, Mandi Mubrylla, who is now my Captain General. Lanfir furthered our training out there in the wilderness, introducing us to one aspect of Green Ajahhood that neither of us had had much experience with. As part of our education Lanfir recounted haunting stories of legendary Greens, and as she spoke we tried not to look too long at the grave faces of her fearsome Warders, who also sat about the fire with eyes glinting. At all times at least one of them was out scouting, so at least we didn’t have to face them all at once. I was still fairly timid in those days, though by comparison with others of my rank I was feisty and strong. It was simply that compared to the most gutless Green, I was a quivering little girl who’d rather go and hide in her room than face the world.
I had been a sister about a year when I bonded Eos. Taking my first Gaidin was a celebrated moment that I wanted all my friends to share, and so the gathering out there in the beautiful garden was a festive event, beautiful and entertaining all at once. The part I remember most clearly, besides the bonding itself and the look in Eos’s eyes as the weave settled, was the duel between my new Gaidin and his former mentor. The great Shoar Daemor, bonded to my Ajah sister Ryell Jagad, was perfectly willing to contribute to the day’s entertainment, and as Mandi and I used slicing Air weaves to remove his and Eos’s shirts, our other sisters were more than grateful.
This was a wonderful moment during my life as a Green sister, but I have to say that many of the memories I made thereafter were of a less joyous kind. One of those that stick out was the Borderlands expedition, in which I faced my first great battle, a tempering experience that nearly broke me. I had faced other battles before and proven myself, but none of those past experiences equated to the grave situation that confronted me now. The land was under attack, and as a Green sister I was responsible for defending it. I had been called along with the rest of my brethren to Shienar, to face the Shadow head on and in greater force than I’d ever had to contemplate. This was the life I had chosen, and yet in the face of war I felt so helpless. I had waited a long time for this kind of chance, to prove my worth as a Battle Sister, but now that I had the opportunity I wasn’t sure I wanted it. I was certain I’d make a fool of myself and end up dead.
My encounter with my greatly admired sister Ryell, before our departure for the Borderlands, was quite devastating. Ryell cut me down and made me feel as a little girl, far from prepared for what lay ahead. Her derisive words did little to reassure me, but I managed not to cry as her onslaught hit me. Inside, of course, I was shrieking with despair. Yet when it comes down to it, I thank Ryell for helping to harden me, for enabling me to face the coming challenge with greater determination. I believe that Ryell’s treatment of me preceding our departure was one of the things that helped me to survive the ordeal.
As we travelled to Shienar I instructed my fellow Greens, and the odd other sister who had joined the company, including a Blue, a Grey and even a Red, in the art of battle weaves. I’d become rather proficient at it myself during my training, and for this reason Lanfir was happy to hand the reigns to me, though I did ask her and Ryell to contribute. At that time Ryell destroyed any hopes I’d had that she’d stand as one of us during the battle. Anyone with eyes could see she was fast losing her wits, and my greatest fear was that the pending battle could affect her so badly she wouldn’t take part in it at all.
Even before battle began, we had other problems. In the halls of Shienar tension ran high, and my former mentee, the newly raised Green sister Querida Farene, was one of its early victims. She suffered from a breakdown, and had to be sent home ahead of battle. In a sense, that was her first real test, and she failed it dismally, but it taught her a valuable lesson she’d heed for the rest of her life. The fact that such a strong woman, or one I’d seen as strong, could be so affected by the mere idea of battle, was quite significant.
Sapphos Trelaney was another early victim, although she suffered a worse fate by far than Querida. It wasn’t the idea of battle that destroyed her, but a sense of guilt that ate away at her. She was a young Red, the only sister of that Ajah to accompany us, and I had grown rather fond of her in the time I’d spent with her. I was wandering through the halls of the Keep in which the Aes Sedai were stationed, when I sensed an immense amount of saidar being channelled. I knew it could only mean trouble, and I raced for the source, realising partway there that I was heading for Sapphos’s room. In the grip of pungent fear I approached her door even as the heat of saidar winked out suddenly. I threw the door open and found her lying there, dead. She had burnt herself out. I discovered something else about her there, but I do not feel at liberty to write it here. Should you wish to investigate further, you may go and badger Tania about it.
In light of these devastating events, first Querida’s breakdown and next Sapphos’s death, I approached the coming battle in a far more fragile state than I had been already. I entered the hall in which all sisters had been asked to gather, and my gaze leapt from sister to sister, some of whose faces I didn’t recognise. I understood the absurdity of this, as I did know each Green present. The stress I was under had clouded my vision.
Lanfir, I saw, had cut her hair short, and I immediately decided that I could show my dedication to her right here and now, in an action that was symbolic of it. I asked her to cut off my hair too, that I might befit battle more easily. I could see how moved she was, even to behold the likes of me, a relatively untried sister, stepping up beside her. My hair had grown very long by this time, almost to my waist, but what good would it do me once I was dead? So I cut it off, and with cool air around my neck and jaws I met Lanfir’s gaze with an intense one of my own, a gaze that spoke volumes.
Lyanna al’Elisande stood beside me, in full battle attire and looking wondrous, and I felt for once that perhaps there was a chance for us. Perhaps we’d manage somehow to pull through. Then sounds changed, and our ears pricked, and we knew: it was coming. War was upon us; the enemy had begun its advance. That roar we heard outside was our first sign that we couldn’t run and hide anymore. The time had come to enter the fray, and prove our dedication to our sisters and to the world.
I wasn’t the only Green who had numerous tests to face during that battle. Lyanna met her Dreadlord sister, Lilliana; Lanfir lost her Warder, but only because he ran from her. He didn’t die; he abandoned her. Mandi’s bond to Bezus was broken, snapped right there in the midst of battle. I became a cold killing machine, and in retrospect I hardly recognised myself. Our sister of the Grey, Gytta Tarkene, died on the field burning out. My sister Mierin Sa’hr begged me to return to battle, but I knew I could not channel, and I was convinced I’d burnt myself out too. All I could do now was lie there on the sidelines, while my sisters and brother Gaidin died without.
Eos was with me the entire time, of course, for that was the duty of a Gaidin. Yet most of the time I was unconscious, tormented by horrific dreams in which things I’d seen in those days were repeated ad nauseum. It was overall a horrible affair, one I was glad to leave behind as I returned with my bedraggled sisters to Tar Valon.
Back in the Tower again I discovered I was not in fact burnt out. Others still sensed the ability in me; it had all been in my mind. After a breakdown in front of Phrygiana Sedai, I was made to realise this, and I slowly began my recovery. The shock wore off and I sensed the Source once more. Then I focused on moving forward again.
It was many years until I saw Querida, and at that time she was scared to approach me because of the way she had let me, and the rest of the Green Ajah, down. I informed her that she had let herself down most of all, and that I was not angry with her. Although she asked, I refused to speak to her of all the terrible things I had seen and done during the Borderlands battle, for she hadn’t been a part of it, and at that time, as a relatively young sister myself, I could only bring myself to talk of it with those who had seen what I’d seen.
Life moved on, and I had another mentee, a young woman named Aya Renae who was also destined for the Green. Aya showed a great deal of promise, and helped me to realise that the horrors of the past could fade with time, when there were things to look forward to in the future. In those years without great battles the Green Ajah had many pleasant times, including the gathering in Rashima’s Garden, to which novices and Accepted were invited (along with Gaidin of course), and also the River Cruise, which spanned an entire evening and gave my beloved Lanfir the opportunity to bond her latest acquisition, a talented and renowned Gaidin named Tria Mint.
It was moments like those that kept our spirits up. It also helped me to keep in mind that other Greens, women older than myself, had faced many more battles than I had. I had only just begun my career as a Green. Others had known far greater hardship in their time. I was nothing special amongst this group of extraordinary women I called my sisters. I eventually stopped feeling sorry for myself in moments I had alone, and started growing into a woman determined to face the future with as much gusto and strength as I could muster. I began finally to grow into a true Green sister.
I have faced many battles since then, one in rather recent years when a hoard of Trollocs swarmed towards Tar Valon. We didn’t have enough warning of that, and I still cannot understand how it came about. Usually we are warned well ahead of time of any threat. Not this time, however. The battle against the Trollocs is a rather fresh wound for me, and I still have trouble passing by the now empty rooms of sisters I loved dearly, sisters whose lives ended during that terrible battle. Yet slowly, slowly the wound is healing, and I am once again turning my eyes toward the future, with strength that was difficult to muster in the initial aftermath.
That battle was trying for reasons other than death and destruction – one case of what I consider to be terribly misplaced affection has greatly strained my once steadfast friendship with Tania. As the fighting died down and I stumbled over dismembered body parts, slipped and slid on spilt guts, I witnessed something that haunts me to this day: Tania was Healing a Trolloc, one of those creatures that had helped to wreak the destruction that lay all around us. While there had been distance between Tania and myself ever since the Borderlands battle and Sapphos’s strange death, the sight of her Healing the Trolloc made things far worse than they had ever been before. It was a sight that infuriated me, and also broke my heart. Tania, once my ally in all things, had betrayed what it meant to be Aes Sedai.
I calmed down in the days after we all returned to Tar Valon, but even all these years later I haven’t got my head around what I saw Tania do that day. In spite of our efforts to mend things between us, there is still a great distance between us that I cannot bridge. Nor am I sure I want to, and that is probably the main problem – my unwillingness to try. Her actions that day amounted to a grave sin in my eyes, even if they had been born out of a warped sense of compassion. I could almost see her point of view as she desperately tried to explain it to me afterwards, while she lay in the Infirmary recovering. Yet I couldn’t justify her actions, or admire them then; nor can I today. Things will never be the same with the two of us.
Other things have changed irrevocably also. Since that day I petitioned Lanfir and was temporarily rejected from my Ajah of choice, I have become a very different woman to the one I once was. I am in some ways similar to those women I used to observe with awe, yet even at my age I still do not feel completely confident. I still have moments in which I feel young and scared, fearing what lies ahead. Tarmon Gai’don is coming, and I must be ready. Not only that, but I must help the rest of my Ajah prepare also.
I have been a Sitter for many years, since my Ajah continues to hold me worthy of it. Sometimes lately I find myself entirely sick of the petty squabbling that goes on within the Hall, but I am determined to remain there so that other sisters’ foolishness is not allowed to run rampant. Even if I have to tolerate listening to that foolishness, it is worth the chances I might have to curb it. Yet sometimes when I think of all that I have seen – deaths of friends and family, grave betrayals, the like – I find it particularly difficult to tolerate other women’s ridiculous whims. In the end I always remind myself that the duties of an Aes Sedai vary greatly, and whether they are small or gargantuan in significance, they must all be attended to with equal care.
None of my doubts about the present and future show on the surface, as I keep myself busy with the duties I’ve taken on. Most of the time I keep them under control. I know that in the end, what must be done, will be done.