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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
Taymist

Hitting Rock Bottom (ATTN Carina)

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The only word to describe her mood was dejected. Nynaeve Sedai had released her from her tasks early, the Sister’s attention taken up with some important matter in the Infirmary that could not wait and so, Kiyi had been able to leave the wards and take some time just for herself.

 

She wandered the gardens slowly, looking for a secluded spot to think and regain some composure, hoping that the peace and beauty of the grounds would restore her sense of well-being. She felt little these days other than tired, ground down and depressed. Things were not going at all according to plan and she had no idea why that should be.

 

Finding a bench nestled in the lee of some bushes covered in pretty purple flowers, Kiyi dropped exhausted onto the wood and stared morosely at the Tower. She’d had such hopes in coming here, such dreams. She was no closer to attaining them than she had been on arrival though and that was baffling to her.

 

Kiyi’s fingers picked distractedly at a loose thread on the sleeve of her novice dress as her thoughts turned to Esther and Deanne. The girls had been absent from the Tower for some time, returning only recently, though Kiyi did not know why and when they had come back everything had changed. In truth, things had changed even before that, the friendship she’d begun to form with Esther seeming to dissipate overnight.

 

Where did it all go so wrong? the thought snaked through the young girl’s mind as her shoulders slumped. She felt as though a huge weight was pressing her down and suddenly, everything was just too much to cope with. She didn’t sob and howl as Deanne was wont to do; even in distress Kiyi was too reserved for such an outpouring of emotion, but the tears flowed just the same, obscuring her vision and tracking their way down her cheeks in an unstoppable stream of sadness.

 

Entangled in her own concerns, she was oblivious to the approaching footsteps until it was too late to hide.

 

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Carina walked purposefully through the halls, seeming for all in her path on her way to perform some task or obligation for a Sister as Accepteds were known to be. Novices didn't even consider stopping her and Sisters didn't stop her, thank the Light. She just hoped she'd make it out the door before the Mistress of Novices would spot her. 'I swear, that woman! Sometimes I think she has it in mind to force feed me to the Reds.' Carina sighed inwardly as she turned yet another corner and almost walked straight into Leyla. Mumbling an appology, Carina hurried along, not even registering that she failed to curtsey towards the woman. The Gray didn't call her back on it though, which was most likely due to her having just been raised to the Shawl yesterday.

 

She made it out the door without further incident and all but ran towards that part of the garden where she knew she would not be disturbed. Several novices made as to approach her, but thought the better of it looking at her face and Carina marched straight into a pair of bushes and out of them on the other side again. 'Damn' she thought, noticing she wasn't going to have the place to herself after all. Frowning lightly, she watched the young woman sitting on the bench, her head down, her shoulders shaking softly. 'Kiyi?' Carina stopped dead and wondered what the novice was doing here and more disturbingly, what had happened to have her in such a state. Kiyi wasnt the type to give over to dramatics, so the Accepted was on alert instantly. She'd always liked the girl, who was both caring and gentle, yet intelligent and fast witted. Shy too, but Carina never did see that as a fault. She herself was not exactly open and bubbly, like Selene who'd hug a stray King if he let her and call him her new best friend on the spot.

 

Carina walked towards the girl, bit awkward as to how to help. She never quite knew how to handle such situations, mostly as she herself usually likes to be left alone herself when she was having them. But she couldn't turn her back on Kiyi, that much was certain. Taking a seat a few inches from the girl, she waited patiently and silently for the sobs to stop and wordlessly handed the girl her handkerchief.

 

"Want to talk about it, Kiyi?" Was all she said. For once she understood, Selene. She wanted to take the girl in her arms, but now the weight of her new found duties and responsibilities already came down on her. She was Accepted and Kiyi a Novice, the line may be thin but it was there nevertheless. 'How on earth do Sisters do this without becoming too friendly?' She wondered and hoped with all her heart she'd be able to help her friend. For say what they may, Kiyi was dear to her and no ring on her finger would change that.

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Kiyi was distantly aware of someone sitting down beside her but initially was just too distraught to prevent them from seeing her in such a state. The shuddering sobs racking her slight frame finally subsided though the tears continued to flow freely and it was a few moments before her vision cleared enough to recognise Carina, calmly offering her a handkerchief to use.

 

Accepting it gratefully, Kiyi was hesitant to spoil the pretty piece of material but eventually she mended her appearance as best she could, embarrassment at being caught this way adding a tinge of pink to her pale cheeks. What must Carina think of me making such a scene and losing control? her shamed thoughts whirled uselessly, adding to her conviction that she would not make Accepted, let alone Sister, any time soon.

 

"Want to talk about it, Kiyi?" Carina’s voice interjected quietly.

 

Normally Kiyi would have politely declined, with hurried assurances that she was perfectly alright but somehow, the warmth in Carina’s eyes stopped her, reflecting as it did a genuine concern that was comforting.

 

Kiyi gave her friend a watery smile that didn’t reach her eyes and dashed away the remaining tears on her face with the back of her hand. A long settling breath finally allowed her to reply somewhat haltingly, “Everything... got on top of me for a moment. This place... it is so different to what I expected. I don’t know if I belong here…and I’m just so very very tired... ” she stopped, hearing the roughness in her voice made worse by her crying fit and cringed at the ugly sound.

 

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She nodded at the words, for they sounded all too familiar to her. How many times had she wondered the exact same thing? She lost count. Her mind raced over the possible responses she could give and finally decided on a lighthearted one, to allow Kiyi to gain hold of herself again.

 

'They don't give us that pretty shawl for lulling about, that's for sure.' It wasn't like Carina to joke about this topic, but laughter had it's own way of healing the soul, even if it was a watery smile.

 

'Often I wondered, and still do, the exact same thing Kiyi. The Sisters put us through some really tough times during our training years, yet I don't need to tell you that it is for a good reason. You know that they can not, must not, lower their standards. But tell me, what exactly troubles you in this? You are not a bad student and I have seen your aptitude with the One Power, you are far from unskilled.' She had a pretty good idea what troubled the girl, yet it was also part of a healing process to have her speak the words out loud. Hear them in sound, instead of the droning inside her skull. Sound made thoughts appear more cohesive, organised. Helped to put things in perspective.

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Kiyi looked silently back at Carina, the somewhat wan smile fading from her lips. The words were there, inside her head, but they wouldn’t come out and the more she thought about it, the sillier it sounded.

 

“..not a bad student… far from unskilled…” Carina’s comments echoed inside her skull, mocking her and intensifying her own doubts on the matter.

 

Frustration built as she wrestled with what to say and finally burst from her in a scatter of stilted sentences.

 

“Esther doesn’t talk to me any more. I thought we were becoming good friends. She spends all her time with Deanne!! But they hated each other! I don’t know what I did wrong,” she ended on a gasp, gulping in air to ease the new constriction in her throat. “They both got raised… and I didn’t. I’m not doing well enough. I’ve tried so hard. My parents… they’d be so disappointed...” The sentence tailed off, desperation and confusion threading clearly through her voice as her gaze dropped once more to her hands. “It sounds so stupid to say it out loud but I’ve worked so hard and I don’t know what more I can do.”

 

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She listened without interrupting, allowing the silences as they occurred and then locked her eyes with the girl.

 

"You know, as every other novice does, that once one of us is raised to Accepted we must uphold a certain level of distance from the Novices. I know that it is hard, Kiyi, trust me. But it has nothing to do with not liking you any longer. In fact, in case of Ester and myself it's quite the opposit. We keep our distance because we do not wish to put you in a situation where you would be seen as favored. This would not help you in any way or form and would make you the center of pranks and resentment for the other novices."

 

Her voice was hard, harder than she intended and she took a breath, trying to calm herself. That Kiyi, of all people, would doubt herself so! The girl really does have no clue of her own abilities. Much as it was a trait that she so much admired in her, it also was part of what held her back. To be Aes Sedai one must be sure of the road to follow and resolved to take it no matter what. Carina thought back at her time spent in the Arches and couldn't stop a wince from sneaking through. The following weeks were almost as bad. The Tower didn't allow for anyone to slip between the cracks and so the first few weeks as Accepted were hard beyond words. 'To weed out those that made it through the Arches that shouldn't have' the Mistress of Novices had explained afterwards. She hated to think this sweet girl having to go through that and yet, the Tower could not, must not lower it's standards.

 

"You speak of your parents and how they'll be dissapointed but it doesn't work that way, Kiyi. You need to want this path of life for yourself, not for anyone else. Not your parents or anyone. When you become Aes Sedai you will outlive everyone you have ever known, their children and their grandchildren and possibly their grandchildren as well. The Tower is your family now, my friend. We are your family. You may, and probably will, give your love to those that gave you birth and raised you for the rest of their lives, but they need to live their life as you need to live yours." Carina hesitated. She didn't usually speak this much but Kiyi needed it and she never forgot how she took care of Carina when she first came to the Tower.

 

"Focuss on your studies instead of who is being raised ahead of you, Kiyi. You may not feel it that way, but you àre good enough to make it all the way to the shawl! I know that for a fact! That you take longer than others is no shame. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and not as we would have it. We must accept the turnings of the Wheel as beyond our controle and do the best we can with the turns we get." She grabbed the girl's hand in hers and squeezed it and lowered her voice to a conspiracy murmer, "Did you know that Minola Sedai spent fifteen years as a novice and eighteen as an Accepted?" grinning she nodded as Kiyi looked at her with disbelieving eyes, staring widely. "She did! She told me so herself! Now she is one of the most skilled and honored Sisters the Tower has seen in hundreds of years. No one would dare hold that against her." Laughing slightly she put her arm around the girl and hugged her close. It wasn't something she, nore Kiyi, would normally do but Carina felt she needed it and to be quite honest, she didn't oppose some human warmth either. Life as Accepted could be really lonely. More so than as a novice.

 

 

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Initially, Kiyi kept her eyes fixed on her hands, feeling shamed as she listened intently to Carina’s response, picking out what the Accepted did not say as much as what she did in her calm measured tones. Kiyi could hear the warmth and the kindness behind the harsh realities of the sentences and that reassured her perhaps more than the words themselves. It had not occurred to her to think in terms of playing favourites but she acknowledged the wisdom behind avoiding such appearances and, at last, managed to raise her gaze and look Carina in the eye.

 

“When you become Aes Sedai you will outlive everyone you have ever known, their children and their grandchildren and possibly their grandchildren as well.”

 

Kiyi tried to ignore the heavy weight that felt like lead in her stomach at that assurance. It was one thing to be aware of a fact at the farthest reaches of your mind and quite another to have it laid out bare in the cold light of day. To be without her parents somewhere in her life was not a thing she wanted to contemplate but nor was she so cowardly as to try and ignore reality once faced with it.

 

Her shame intensified as she realised how little she had truly considered the consequences of her actions when she’d left the comfort of home, pushed on by her thirst for knowledge, to come to the Tower. How innocent she had been, how uninformed despite all of her learning. Too eager by half to leap without thought after the dream she aspired to.

 

"Did you know that Minola Sedai spent fifteen years as a novice and eighteen as an Accepted?"

 

Kiyi’s eyes widened in startlement, an uncertain smile tugging at her mouth as she took in Carina’s grin. That is hard to believe! Perhaps things are not so bad as I thought then... the possibility was reinforced by Carina’s sudden, unexpected hug.

 

Kiyi was not one for touching, tending to respect both her own space and that of others. At a time when girls were forced to be in such close proximity, every inch of space was prized. On this occasion however, Kiyi found herself spontaneously returning the affectionate pressure, filled with gratitude and finding some measure of comfort in the contact. A moment out of time when the distance between a Novice and Accepted could be put aside. A very brief moment.

 

The girls separated once more, immediately back in their respective roles. Maybe one day, when they were both full Sisters, the friendship would have time to grow, but for now, Kiyi understood, the distance was necessary.

 

Sitting up straighter, determination was writ large across her face, her eyes now bright and clear. “Thank you.” The words seemed insufficient to express all she felt but at the same time were all that was needed. For the first time in months, her path seemed arrow straight. She had set her feet to it many moons ago... and on it they would stay to completion.

 

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Carina smiled at Kiyi's 'thank you' and nodded. She knew the girl would have more of these moments, but hopefully she'll have something to hold on to that will see her through it. It wasn't uncommon for Accepteds to maintain a relationship with Novices, but  Carina still found it hard to walk that fine line and so she opted to maintain a certain distance. More for the novice's sake than her own, for she had seen first hand how certain girls were outcasted by the other novices because they even suspected preferential treatment. She thought Kiyi would be raised soon, but didn't say anything. She didn't want to raise the girl's hopes up in case it didn't happen soon (or soon enough to her liking).

 

Her mind drifted to her own situation again and her eyes took on a dreamy look. She had been struggling with her new situation a lot. They say that the first weeks of Accepted are exceptionally tought to weed out the ones that would fall through the cracks, but by the Light, tough didn't really seem to describe it properly. She slept maybe four hours a day, if that much, and was on her feet from dawn till long past dusk and still got scolded for not working hard enough. The Aes Sedai pushed her, pulled her, shoved her, poked her, did everything and anything to make her fail. The Mistress of Novices has turned to outright disdain and almost hatred overnight and it was all Carina could do to keep going. Even the library, that always provided a calm and serene haven for her in the past, was now buzzing with a hostile atmosphere it seems. The Brown Sisters were constantly on her case for infractions to books she never committed, or for reading books they thought all wrong for her. She's spent more time in the kitchen scrubbing pots already than during her whole novice time and she still didn't know what for. They sneered at her work with the One Power and let her believe at every opportunity that she would never make it to the shawl.

 

'Maybe this isn't the life for me' she thought and was surprised to feel detached from the implication of those thoughts. Weighing them and examining them as though pondering over whether to buy a piece of cloth or not, her emotions were all flat. She wondered if she was turning into a White. No, she dismissed that almost immediately. She couldn't spend the rest of her life discussing philosphy and logic. Besides, she had a wide range of emotions, even if she managed to keep them in check most of the time. One of them started to surface as she was pondering these things. Determination, stubborness, the image of a man dead to save her life. Her head jerked at that. It had been weeks since she last thought of him. This image that had become her rock during the turmoil of her novice days, that had provided her the courage to see it through the Arches. And here it was, again when she needed it. And with it came the promise she made herself so many years ago. To honor his sacrifice and to become Aes Sedai so that his death would not have been in vain.

 

'I will become Aes Sedai' she thought furiously to herself. 'I will!'

 

Her determination back to full strength, Carina stood. Feeling a lot lighter to when she arrived here she once again smiled down at Kiyi and with a nod turned and walked calmly and serenely back to the Tower. Perryan Sedai would be expecting her for her lessons with Spirit.

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