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Sun Jan 21, 2007 10:39 (XFF:

With an effort not to wince, Zahava stood as straight as she possibly could while her bloodshot brown eyes stared straight ahead. It felt very important to show this midget of a woman that she was, if nothing else, taller. Margaux Sedai, however, did not appear to notice. She stalked around the Novice like a wolf would a trapped rabbit.

"You have a lesson this morning, do you not, child?" the Cairhienin woman snapped. Zahava stifled a yawn behind her tightly pressed lips and nodded. "Very well. Go make yourself presentable and be there on time. However," she said, planting her feet before the Saldaean, "if I catch you out after light's out again, I'll be sure that Madeline doesn't let you out to see the sunshine for a fortnight." She emphasized her words with repeated jabs to Zahava's chest.

It took every ounce of self-control she had not to grab the woman's finger and snap it in two. Instead, she gritted her teeth and muttered, "Yes, Aes Sedai."

"Good. Now get out of here."

Zahava made a barely-passable curtsy, then hurried up out of the dungeons. The knees of her white dress were irreparably smudged with grime, as was her face. She didn't have anyone to blame but herself, but really, she had sneaked out of her rooms three other nights and hadn't gotten caught yet. She had no real reason for doing so, other than the challenge of trying to get away with it. This time, she hadn't, and instead of nicking sweets from one of the pantries, she'd spent the night scrubbing the dungeon floors under the eyes of one very feisty Green sister. Zahava suspected that Margaux was upset that she hadn't tried to make up some lame excuse for her late night roamings, or for her lack of retorts for all of the unpleasant things the Green had threatened her with. No, she had served her penance with a stony silence that said she knew she'd gotten caught and was more than willing to pay the price for it.

Which was entirely true. Zahava had done little in her few weeks in Tar Valon other than get herself into trouble. She tended to ask inappropriate questions or make smart remarks that the sisters and Accepted didn't find amusing, even if her fellow Novices did. She simply couldn't help herself. Zahava had a streak inside her that just had to find a way to annoy people, and whatever payment was demanded of her for that was always worth paying.

She found her room and hurried inside. After casting a brief, longing look at her bed, she stripped off her dirty dress, shift and stockings. She sniffed at seeing the purple bruises that marred her knees from the night spent scrubbing floors, her head shaking at her stupidity. Being obstinate was fine, but when it started leaving marks....

She quickly poured some water into her wash basin, then scrubbed her face, hands, and everything else with the cold water. It certainly wasn't the bath she wanted, but she didn't have time for that, and really the water wasn't any colder than a dip in the river back home. The dirt sloughed off easily, leaving her pale skin pink and clean. She wasn't sure how long ago First had rung since she hadn't been able to hear the bell in the dungeon, but by the amount of light streaming into her room, she knew being on time would be a close thing. She hurried into clean clothes, including a Novice dress that had been (thankfully) divided for riding. She tied her fiery hair back into a ponytail with a white ribbon, threw on her shoes, and launched herself back out of her room.

She was huffing and puffing by the time she reached the stables, but at least she was on time. As the bell rang, she tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and scanned the crowd. A flicker of excitement flared up within her, as she missed riding horses. She didn't care that the lesson had been advertised for beginners - here she might actually get high marks. As a woman dressed in riding gear spoke up at the head of the group, Zahava's eyes widened. She'd forgotten that women trained here as Warders nearly as frequently as men did. If given the choice, she'd rather be out with them, but since she had a greater chance of dying if she didn't learn to control the unwieldy saidar, she supposed she was stuck in Novice whites.

The students were all introducing themselves, and Zahava promised herself she wouldn't say anything stupid to get herself into trouble for this class; Light only knew when else she might get the chance to ride again. When it was her turn, she said, "I'm Zahava Noreed, and as you can probably tell I'm a Novice." She smiled faintly as she modelled her white dress for everyone. It got a few chuckles, which made her smile broaden. "As for horses, it's always important to treat them with respect. Your horse could save your life one day, so treating it as a friend rather than a stupid animal is a wise plan."

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