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The Art of Floundering
Sat Sep 23, 2006 16:22 (XFF:

OOC: This is just a bit of development I'm doing on my own, so please don't jump in....

Sonja Meranes yawned, leaning her head against the glass to gaze out the window to the city below. The view that her window afforded her was nearly enough to make the rank of Accepted worth the trouble it gave her. Despite nearly five years of looking out the same window at the same view every morning, Sonja always felt a sense of awe at the majesty of the landscape beneath her. Of course Aes Sedai thought they ruled the world, with a view like this to greet them every day. A slice of gold gleamed at the eastern horizon, casting a soft orangey glow across the city. The river was a sparkling ribbon in the distance, and if the sun caught it right, one could see the winking light of the glassy bridges that spanned the water.

She stood, knuckling the small of her back, and turned to survey her room. It was as tidy as it was going to get, she decided. Her bed was mostly made, the thin white blanket tossed hastily across it, and the mirror only had a few smudges. Sonja tucked a thumb in her sleeve, wiping absently at the glass. She avoided her reflection—some girls spent hours gazing in the mirror, fixing their hair, poking at their cheeks, plucking brows and stray hairs, but Sonja couldn’t be bothered. She knew she was never going to be pretty, and she also knew it really didn’t matter in the scheme of things. At least, she thought, she wasn’t so scrawny and horsey-looking as she used to be. Her cheeks had filled out, and the spray of freckles across her nose had faded. Her hair was trimmed as neatly as she could manage, but it would never be the gleaming gold that other girls with pale hair possessed.

“Whatever,” she muttered, turning away from the mirror. Not only did she not care what she looked like, no one else did either.

She squatted down to the messy pile of books in the corner, pulling out the titles she’d need for the day. Language and Perception, for Benna Sedai. (Boring) The Bloodlines of the Royal House of Andor, for her studies with Aviv Sedai. (Also boring) Just two lessons to get through—the rest of her day was free, save for an hour with some new novice that Madeline wanted her to mentor. At least that was in the morning, so she could get it over with. Sonja couldn’t imagine why Madeline kept trying to pair up with novices to mentor. She was bloody terrible at it, she didn’t have any interest in it, and she didn’t seem to be showing any signs of improvement. But, of course, once the Mistress of Novices got a bone in her mouth, she couldn’t stop chewing it until it was a mangled mess. That’s me, she thought. Maddy’s Chew Toy. She stuffed the books into her satchel, along with a few rolls of parchment and a quill carefully tucked in a pocket sewn in the side.

The bells began to ring, tolling out the hour, and Sonja’s day began.


Breakfast was egg whites with peppers and mushrooms, with yellow melon on the side. Sonja took her meal and scuttled out of the cafeteria, eyeing the clusters of Accepted sitting and chatting over breakfast. A few nodded in greeting, and Sonja nodded back, but none made any efforts at an overture, and neither did Sonja. She had no real friends among the Accepted, despite several who she at least felt acquainted with. Those few whom she had begun to form feeble bonds with had only ended up being raised to the shawl, and after that they were too good to be friends with a lowly Accepted.

Unlike her appearance, her solitude was something that Sonja did mind, sometimes. Most times, she was content to live in her head, minding her own business, but sometimes, she just wanted someone to talk to. She hated feeling lonely, but it was pointless to be too proud to admit it. How could she not feel lonely? She was surrounded by hundres of people with their own agendas and opinions of what she should be, and not a single one could be considered a true kindred spirit. Here she was, in a place that claimed to be her family, and she felt like there was no one here who cared to know her. Besides, of course, Madeline, but that was different. That didn’t count.

So she ate alone, as usual. Breakfast was hastily consumed out in the courtyard, beneath a fountain shaped like two fishes. She finished the last of the chapters that Benna Sedai had assigned, which would have been easier if the text hadn’t been so mind-numbingly boring. She found herself reading the same line over and over again, her thoughts drifting off to capers of imagination, dreams of sailing across blue waves with a laughing, smiling man who thought she was just the most interesting person in the entire world, a man who couldn’t care less about how language and perception were interconnected in one’s mind…

“Hello, Sonja.”

Sonja looked up, annoyed. An Accepted stood staring at her, tilted dark eyes wide and serene in what looked like an ultra-practiced air of Aes Sedai demeanor. Sonja knew the girl by name, Hetrina Murisk, and that she was a suck-up to the White Ajah—but that was about all she knew. Sonja also knew immediately that she did not like the girl.

“What do you want?” she asked.

Hetrina arched a brow, then settled herself beside Sonja, arranging her pristine skirts with care.

“Did I say you could sit here?”

“This is a public area,” the other Accepted said, curling her lips in a self-amused smile.

“But this is my personal space,” Sonja retorted.

Hetrina’s eyes fell to the space between them on the edge of the fountain, and then returned her gaze to Sonja.

“I did not sit here to debate with you, but if the subject of kinesics interests you…”

“The subject of what?” Sonja interrupted.

“Kinesics. The study of body language. Personal space would fall under that category, I believe. Different cultures have different norms for what we refer to as…”

Sonja cut her off again. “Whatever. I’ll ask again, what do you want?”

Hetrina folded her hands in her lap. “I see that you are reading one of only two copies of Caster’s Language and Perception. Corenne Sedai has one copy, and the one you’ve got has been overdue for nearly two weeks from the library. I’m surprised the Browns haven’t come after you with their book bloodhounds.”

“And how is that your business?”

“I need the book for a paper I’m writing.”

“Well, you’ll have to wait,” Sonja said, sniffing. She rose to her feet, balancing her breakfast tray and the book in her arms carefully. Hetrina quickly rose as well, standing a good half a head beneath her, staring up with narrowing dark eyes.

“I need that book, Sonja,” she said, her voice losing some if it’s perfect calm. “I need it more than you do. It’s not as if you’re going to be a White.”

Sonja shrugged. “Maybe I will be. You don’t know that. You could be talking to the future head of the White Ajah, for all you know. No one knows everything, right?”

“You, a White Sister? I hardly think so. You’ll be lucky if you reach the shawl at all, much less be accepted into the White Ajah.”

“Psh. Shows what you know. Now if you’ll excuse me—“

Hetrina reached out and grabbed Sonja’s arm. “I need that book, Sonja!”

Sonja ripped her arm away, and her breakfast tray spilled from her arms. Dishes crashed to the ground, and juice sprayed everywhere. Hetrina shrieked and jumped back, but not in time to stop orange juice from soaking the front of her dress.

“You little—“ Her face turned red, and she advanced on Sonja, fists curled. Sonja jumped lithely away, wagging the book in front of Hetrina’s face.

“Where’s your White Ajah patience now?” she mocked. “Don’t seem so calm and cool now, do you? If you’d asked nicely for the book, I might have given it to you, but now you’ll have to wait till I get around to returning it. And it might be awhile, I think.””

She whirled and stormed off, leaving the other Accepted spluttering. Sonja peered at the book before tucking it back in her satchel. Orange juice had splashed on it, but it only looked to have got a few of the pages wet. The Browns would never notice, once she channeled it out.

Leave it to some uppity Accepted to ruin her morning, she thought, kicking her skirts as she climbed a flight of wide stairs. Novices were bad enough, but Accepted could be so much worse.

She thought of her meeting after the novice bit, a boring hour-long lecture with Benna Sedai, of the White Ajah. Of course Sonja would never be a White, she knew that, but none of the other Ajahs looked any more promising. Her method of study was what she referred to as “aimless floundering.” Cast about long enough, and a fish would bite. Studying bits and pieces of everything was the only thing she could think to do, and it kept her busy enough that Madeline let her be. Most of the time. Some of the time.

Sonja sighed. It was going to be a long day.

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