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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Reconciliation and Determination (Attn Carina)


Taymist
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My darling child,

 

Never have I written harder words than I do this day.

 

So began the letter that trembled between Kiyi’s fingers, the thin parchment covered in her mother’s flowing script. She had always admired her mother’s handwriting. It had an elegance that she’d never been able to match, hard as she tried. She didn’t want to look at it now though.

 

...may not have long... hope that you may be able to come... time to say goodbye…

 

The words blurred, melding together on the page, seen through tears that came despite Kiyi’s wish to be strong and regardless of her attempts to mimic the calm that seemed to live permanently on the faces of Aes Sedai. They were so unflappable, so unaffected by events that made lesser beings into emotional wrecks. She reminded herself that there was still time for her father’s health to improve, that it did not have to be as bad as it sounded, but she knew also that her mother wouldn’t have penned such a missive had there been room for doubt.

 

There was certainly little chance that an Accepted would be allowed to leave, even for something as serious as this. Her life and duty were bound to the White Tower now, normal daily life an insignificant concern in the grand scheme of things. Kiyi had debated the wisdom of asking the Mistress of Novices for permission to go just the same. She thought of her mother, left to deal with grief and a too early widowhood alone, and her insides shrivelled. She would never forgive herself for doing such a thing but the matter was out of her control.

 

"Perhaps father will recover," she muttered despondently to herself, scrubbing a hand across her eyes. It could happen yet. Kiyi could not imagine life without either of her parents. They were a constant and they would live forever. A foolish belief of course, but a common one nevertheless. She was far from being the only child who thought her parents invincible.

 

Rousing herself from her reverie, Kiyi gasped in dismay. She should have been attending Carina already. Tardiness was not tolerated from an Accepted any more than from a Novice and there was a pile of work to be done. Hastily, she brushed hands over her dress, tucked strands of loose hair behind an ear and left the room with as much speed as possible, slipping the letter into a pocket as she walked and hoping her face was not too blotchy from crying.

 

The door to Carina’s work room stood ajar when she arrived, slightly out of breath, but Kiyi knew better than to attempt to enter even so. Her friendship with the Brown Sister did not extend to ignoring protocol even after many years. The gap between Accepted and Aes Sedai was, at least in public, even more strictly observed than that between a Novice and a Sister if that was possible. Kiyi rapped her knuckles lightly against the burnished wood and waited apprehensively for the invitation to enter before stepping a foot over the threshold.

 

“I apologise for my lateness, Carina Sedai,” she said quietly to the dark haired woman seated behind a large desk, bobbing a curtsy and keeping her eyes glued to the floor. “I received a letter from home and lost track of time.” Kiyi had been sent to the Mistress of Novices for punishment only once since becoming Accepted, a blot on her record that she still felt keenly, and she wondered with an inward sigh whether this was to be a second.

 

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Carina stood in front of her window, looking down over Tar Valon. The Brown quarters were up on the twenty-second floor and the view she had was breath taking, even without balcony which was a privelege only Sitters received. The height never bothered her, could not bother her. This was the White Tower. Which had stood for millenia and would stand for all time. Her home. The room was elegantly dressed, for a Brown. Most of her Ajah sisters didn't pay much attention to esthetics, wrapped up in the importance of their various studies as they were, but Carina did. Being so high up it was even more important to her to keep a link to her beloved forrests. The furniture was all sober, yet elegant, fluently carved woods with subtle scenery of various aspects of nature. She'd found these treasures in the Tower store room where all the Tower furniture stock was kept that was not currently in use and from which Sisters could choose what items they wanted to use for their rooms. Once an item was picked, it became the Sister's property untill such time that she chooses to relinquish it. The walls were decorated with just the right amount of wildlife and views from various outdoor sceneries that you automatically gained a sence of calm and serenity just by being in the room. Not too overwhelming and yet subtly overpowering. Her desk, chair and the two visitor's chairs in front of it where all made of sungwood. Flowing fluently from top to bottom, in one piece. She couldn't believe her luck to have found that in the storeroom. Probably that most of the Sisters hadn't even realised it was there. She'd spent days in that storeroom, happy as a child in a candy store.

 

She turned and walked over to the fireplace where a pot of tea hung and she poored herself another cup, heating it slightly with Fire rather than firing up the fireplace. It was a lovely day, with the sun full out and the wind's breeze offering just the right amount of relief from the heat. A fire would kill the feel of it. There stood four comfortable couches in front of the fireplace, each one meant for one person. The backs where made to look like intertwining tree trunks which flowed down to make up the four legs and the arm rests. The wood was a dark brown in several hues, enhancing the natural look of the items and the cushions on them were of a collection of colors that matched the autumn leaves. All around the room plants of various styles and sizes were positioned such that you really did have a feel of being outdoors. There were no animals here, though. Carina didn't believe in caging creatures the Creator had meant to roam free. She didn't need to, really. For soon after she had taken up residence here she found that birds would come to her of their own. Fluttering in through her window and settling themselves for a while, to keep her company. At first she had been apprehensive that their droppings would damage these fine things, but for some reason they never dropped anything. They simply flew out and returned a short time later. Very odd that. It wasn't in the nature of birds to care about such things. She'd have to study that sometime.

 

Her eyes moved towards the clock on the mantlepiece and she frowned. Where was that girl? It wasn't like her to be late at all, let alone this late. Putting down her cup she moved towards the door as suddenly a knock came. "Come" She said and Kiyi entered, looking flustered and clearly upset. Her face was torn in pain and her eyes swollen from shed tears. What in the Light?

 

“I apologise for my lateness, Carina Sedai,” she said quietly to the dark haired woman seated behind a large desk, bobbing a curtsy and keeping her eyes glued to the floor. “I received a letter from home and lost track of time.”

 

"A blind man can see your distress, child. Come in and sit yourself. Your lesson can wait a while longer. Tell me what is troubling you so." Carina led the girl to one of the couches and seated herself opposit to her. Curios what this was all about.

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Trying to hide her relief at Carina’s words and the kind concern behind them, Kiyi perched precariously on the edge of a comfortable looking couch, holding herself stiffly as her fingers nervously pleated the folds of her white dress. Had it been anyone else asking, she would have denied that anything was wrong at all but this was not the first time she had confided in the Brown.

 

“My mother writes to tell me that my father is seriously ill, Carina Sedai. They think that he will not... survive much longer,” Kiyi’s voice had a ragged edge and she took a deep breath, attempting to calm herself. It would not do to start crying again now. “He took a fever some months ago and though it seemed like he was recovering from it, it came back twice as strongly. The Wise Woman says there is nothing more she can do for him. My mother wishes me to go home as soon as possible but... but I can’t leave the Tower.” She shook her head, dismay and worry written clearly on her face.

 

Normally, the room itself would have calmed Kiyi. She appreciated the subtlety in the décor, approving of Carina’s taste and the deft touch she had shown in her choice of furniture. It was homely yet retained an elegance and richness that spoke of quality. Right at that moment, however, Kiyi’s mind was far from prepared to be soothed.

 

“I don’t know what to do Carina,” in her distress, she clean forgot to add the respectful title the other woman was due, looking at her with beseeching eyes. “My mother needs me. She will be lost without my father if... if the worst happens. There’s nobody else to help.”

 

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Carina would have disciplined anyone else for the omission of the honorifix. She hadn't yet forgotten her talk with Loraine, where the Green had strengthened her backbone and made her accept herself as an Aes Sedia and, maybe more importantly, made her expect others to accept her as such. Especially the novices and accepteds. But this was Kiyi. The girl that never stepped an inch out of line and beat herself up far worse than any punishment ever did.

 

"That is indeed grave news, Kiyi" She replied, her voice warm and gentle. "But despair not yet, child. There may yet be time to help your father." She quickly added "Don't get your hopes up too far. Even if we leave today and travel as fast as we can, we may yet be too late. But at the very least we can give your mother some comfort." Rising from her chair, she spoke in a matter of fact voice, pulling the girl out of her grief and into action. "Go to your room and clean yourself up. Then wait there untill I send for you." She was halfway through the door by then, guiding Kiyi along with her. "if anyone asks you will tell them that you are following my instructions." she pushed the girl out and immediately went to her bedroom to change into her riding dress and take out her cloak. There was no time to waste. In a moment she herself was leaving her room, weaving a ward against intrusion and headed briskly towards the office of the Mistress of Novices.

 

Five minutes later she left the office and sent a novice to tell Kiyi to grab her coat and meet her at the stables.

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Kiyi’s eyes were wide with disbelief as Carina pushed her out of the office and sent her in the direction of the Accepted quarters. She had never dreamed that the Sister would actually offer to take her home! Walking as quickly as possible without breaking into a run, Kiyi reached her room in a matter of minutes and feverishly packed a small bag with essential items for the journey.

 

Light! Please don’t let it be too late, please don’t, she prayed silently as she lifted her plain brown cloak and settled it round her shoulders. A quick look in the mirror to check her appearance showed that she was presentable enough. The blotchiness caused by her earlier tears was beginning to fade now much to her relief.

 

A knock at the door heralded a novice, a much younger girl whom Kiyi didn’t recognise. The novice gave a minimal curtsy and delivered Carina’s message in a thin reedy voice with an accent that sounded strange, “Carina Sedai says to meet her in the stables when you’re ready Kiyissalle.”

 

“Very well, thank you, you may go,” Kiyi picked up her belongings, herded the girl out of the room ahead of herself and pulled the door closed behind them. Anxious to be on the road, she fairly flew along the maze of empty hallways, all caution forgotten and was exceedingly lucky not to pass any Sisters before she found the door that would take her out towards the stables.

 

Finally recalling some sense of decorum, she clamped down on her fears and walked at a more sedate pace through the gardens to the stable yard. As she rounded the corner of the largest building, she could see that Carina had already arrived and was being attended by a groom leading two saddled horses. Kiyi was momentarily distracted by the delight of seeing her own mount before curtsying to the Brown, a frown of concern on her face. “Thank you, Carina Sedai. I had not thought to put you to such trouble when I told you of the letter nor meant to take you away from your research.”

 

The Sister inclined her head graciously but added a warning, “Do not thank me too soon, Child. The journey will take time and there are no guarantees. Now, we had best get started while there is yet daylight.”

 

Needing no further prompting, Kiyi secured her bag behind the saddle and mounted easily, pausing only for Carina to do likewise and then they were on their way. A lightness settled over Kiyi, stemming from relief at actually doing something positive and she gradually regained some of her normal calm as the horses walked at a brisk pace through the main gates and out into the city.

 

 

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They walked through the city of Tar Valon, forcing people to get out of their way. Here and there some would shout something or start to shout something only to be instantly pummeled on by one of the locals. No one even thought about shouting at a Sister in this city. The citizens of Tar Valon were even stickier for the proper protocols to be observed than the Sisters where themselves. Carina paid it all no mind and nodded briefly to the Guard as she and the girl crossed the bridge. They broke into a trot and left the nearest village behind them quickly as well and then there were the plains. Open fields of grassland that stretched far into the horizon with Dragonmount looming overhead at their backs as they moved West.

 

"How good are you at riding, Child?" Carina asked after some time. She nodded at the reply that Kiyi was a fairly good horsewoman. Motioning the girl to stop her horse, she dismounted and went up to the animals, taking each bridle in hand and started whispering under her breath to them. Their ears flopped up right at first and as she was done both heads came up, nostrils flaring and there was a tension visible in their bodies that showed of a horse ready for flight at top speed. Carina mounted again.

 

"Hold on tight and whatever you do, do not let go, do not try to guide the horse, just focus on staying on top of it. Lean forward fully, put your head on it's neck and your arms around it. Make sure the reigns are draped across his shoulders, so they are pinned down by your body and don't risk sliding off and entangling her feet." She noticed Kiyi's wide eyes, staring at her in shock and fear. "Trust the horse, Kiyi. It knows what it's doing. And I will be right there with you. Get in position." With that, Carina herself demonstrated what she wanted Kiyi to do on her own horse and as the girl hesitantly followed Carina gave a faint hum and the two horses sped off at incredible speed. Side by side they crossed the grassland as two arrows flying towards their target. Carina hadn't enhanced their ability or anything of the sort, whatever some people thought she did. All horses had a speed within them that they usually only bring out during mortal distress. It took a lot out of them, but she would support their recovery though she didn't like doing it. For now, time was of the essence. The Light alone knew how long that message had taken to get to Tar Valon and how long Kiyi had had it in her possession before speaking of it. The girl could be decidingly foolish in her wish not to disturb anyone.

 

She glanced over at the other horse and saw Kiyi clamping down hard on the horse's neck, head burried in it's neck, eyes closed. It was a freightening thing to experience the first few times. Even that Warder had looked out of contenance that time they had to do this in another situation similar to this. That time, however, it had been the Warder's Aes Sedai that needed Healing of a level that was far beyond Carina's ability and so she had asked the horses to speed them to Tar Valon with all haste. And they had. The Sister still lived today and her Warder, a stocky man, had since shown Carina slightly more respect than any other Sister except his own.

 

They flew over the grass, the distant horizon closing in fast. They would rest once they reached that forrest. There was a good spot there that had a remnant of the healing grace of a stedding but without the disturbing loss of the Source.

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As the initial surprise at the extraordinary spurt of speed passed, Kiyi relaxed, moving with the natural rhythm of the stallion’s gait. She tried opening her eyes once, only to hastily close them as the landscape passed by in a blur and her coppery curls whipped across her face. Taking Carina at her word, she made no attempt to guide her mount at all however, instead taking refuge in her own thoughts.

 

She could not have dreamed that she would be on her way home so swiftly after receiving the letter that morning, expecting that if there were any chance at all of making the journey, it’d take weeks to organise and undertake. The worry was how long the letter had been in transit prior to reaching her and she prayed over and over to the Creator to hasten them on their way.

 

The road from Tar Valon to Cairhien was well travelled and predominantly safe... safer than many trading routes at least... but Carina had chosen to follow the most direct route, parallel to the main thoroughfare but cutting cross country away from curious eyes.

 

They did not stop on their way south until the light in the sky was fading to dusk and Carina announced, much to Kiyi’s relief, that they could not push the horses any further that day. Not only was the effort taking a lot out of them, even if it was not apparent yet, but the risk of accident and injury to both riders and mounts was increasing by the minute.

 

Their campsite for the night was a clearing in an otherwise dense forest but secluded, and sheltered enough to provide protection from the wind that had sprung up. Kiyi dismounted, stretching tired muscles gracefully, smoothing her rumpled dress and anticipating the aching she would feel come morning. It had been many years since she’d ridden last, not a luxury that Novices or Accepted were generally allowed.

 

Their first priority was to take care of the horses, removing their tack and rubbing them down with handfuls of grass, removing the worst of the sweat and covering them with warm blankets before seeing that they were fed. Kiyi knew that Rahien would not need to be hobbled, he’d been trained not to wander and a quick glance proved that Carina’s mount had been left to its own devices too. The women worked quickly, in silence until Kiyi broke it hesitantly, looking decidedly uncomfortable.

 

“I... I do not know how to make a fire Carina Sedai,” her voice was tight with reluctance but she made no further explanation. Her experience with fire was something she preferred to avoid mentioning.

 

 

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Carina errected their tent that she had packed away with a wave of her hand. A little trick she'd learned from one of the Greens which came in quite handy when camping out. The tent snapped into place and she fastened the lines into the ground with the pins. This she did by hand, she loved to get her hands in the eart, feeling the dirt between her fingers. There was something special about turned up soil. So much life and vitality in such a seemingly common thing. Her head whipped around as she heard Kiyi's stammered confession. Eyebrows rising, she stood up and considered the young woman. Now, how did a novice make it to Accepted without being able to weave Fire? There was something fishy about this. Without a word she walked over and a breath later a cheerful fire was heating the surrounding and casting their campsite in a nice glow of light. Carina noticed Kiyi quickly jumping back as soon as the fire sprung up, her face struggling to hide the horror in her eyes.

 

"Come," She said walking towards the log of wood a few paces away from the fire. "Sit with me and tell me where this fear of fire comes from." As always she kept her voice matter of fact when talking to this girl, which seems to have the best results. Warm, inviting, open, nonjudgemental, yet no nonsense. Those seemed to be the things Kiyi repsonded to best.

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Kiyi tried hard not to fidget as Carina regarded her with raised eyebrows, as close as a Sister would come to showing surprise, but she could not prevent the flush that covered her pale cheeks nor the shamefaced expression.

 

It had proven remarkably easy to avoid laying and lighting fires in the Tower. The biggest one, in the kitchens, was almost always lit already and, other than Nynaeve Sedai and Carina herself, Kiyi had not spent much time with individual Sisters. On the sparse occasions when she had, it had been in company with other Novices and Accepted, when chores could be divided and Kiyi had deftly managed to leave any firemaking to the others.

 

Strangely, it hadn’t occurred to her to use the Power to complete the task. It was such an obvious thing to do and yet… they were not encouraged to use it for mundane, daily jobs, much to Kiyi’s personal disgust when she’d been up to her elbows in hot water scrubbing pots!

 

She edged slowly, step by reluctant step, closer to the fire, eyeing it sidelong and nervously measuring the distance between it and the log where Carina sat at ease. By the time she finally perched next to the woman, Kiyi’s fingers were tightly entangled in her skirts, knuckles showing even whiter than the material they clung to and a matching pallor edging her lips at the feel of the heat against her skin.

 

Silence reigned for long minutes until Kiyi dragged her gaze from the flames with a start, realising that she was keeping the Sister waiting for an answer and cleared her throat self consciously. “Umm… there was a fire… a big fire,” she began, closing her eyes against the memories. “When I was a child. It started by accident in one of the barn lofts at home… a torch that got knocked over. My friend ran for help but by the time one of the grooms got to me… well, I wasn’t badly injured, the burns healed…the serious damage was to my throat… from the smoke. It was months before I could speak easily again and…and when I could, it was difficult. I don’t like fire Carina Sedai… it’s dangerous… wild… uncontrollable,” the disjointed words tumbled out, ending in a panic-edged whisper.

 

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Carina sat patiently and silently, waiting for the girl to join her and then waiting for her to battle the demons she was facing. The Brown already knew the nature of that demon, even if the details of it were unknown. Only a traumatic event would create such a fear in a person. She listened carefully as Kiyi finally spoke the words she must speak and nodded in acknowledgement.

"Every person, if they live long enough, meets their biggest fear at some point, child." She said in a calming, soothing voice. "You went through the Arches and came out of them. A feat only few novices manage to do the first time. I don't know what happened there and it is not for me to know or for any to speak of, but it is, in a way, the same for each woman going through. We all face our deepest fears in there and we all are forced to confront them. You came through it, which means you have the strength to take controle over your fears. You will have to, if you are to make it to Aes Sedai. The Testing for the Shawl demands no less." Carina took a moment to shake off her own memories of that day. It had been several years now but they still unnerved her. She looked at Kiyi, concern driving away all her other feelings. The girl would have to get over this if she were to stand a chance of surviving her testing. And Carina would be damned if she let this one slip from the Tower's grasp. She had too much potential!

 

"I will help you with this, if you let me, Kiyi" She said. "It will be hard and painfull, but I promise you that whatever can be done to see you through this will be done. However, and this is important for you to understand, the Tower can not and will not lower it's standards for anyone that would wear the shawl. We can not have a Sister that would freeze at crucial moments, when the safety of others or the survival of the Light itself might be at stake. The Greens may be the ones that show their battle spirit the most, but every Sister must be ready to face whatever comes. Whatever!" She emphasized the word, hoping it would sink in. She knew Kiyi had what it took, but it was up to her to bring it out. Carina would help where she could though that helping may, and probably would, be felt as torture to the girl, but in the end Kiyi would not be helped by coddling but by being prepared for what came.

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  • 10 months later...

The Sister’s calmly spoken words made complete sense to Kiyi... in her head. The trouble was that they had little impact on the panic and fear that surged through her every time she looked sidelong at the nearby flames. Her backbone stiffened a little at the mention of her Arches, however, and she acknowledged the truth of Carina’s statement. They had been difficult, more than difficult. She would go so far as to say they had been deeply harrowing. Surely Carina was correct? If it was possible to face that experience, she could face this fear head on. Couldn’t she?

 

“.... every Sister must be ready to face whatever comes. Whatever!"

 

The emphasis Carina placed on the final word, had Kiyi nodding reluctantly. She couldn’t fail now. She had to gain the Shawl and she was hardly the first, nor the last, girl to face deep seated fears. She turned her gaze on the Sister, almost clinging to the woman’s eyes as if safety lay within them and barely daring to hope. The Brown had been a great support in the past, was being so again by taking her home. Kiyi trusted her and in the face of that there was only one response to give.

 

“If... if you will help me Carina Sedai, then I shall do my best not to let you down. I understand that I must overcome this... it is just so hard after all these years,” her voice hitched with the strain of forcing the promise out. “But I will do this,” she finished fiercely.

 

 

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Carina followed the girl's emotions on her face and smiled reassuringly as she saw determination settle in. 'Yes, my friend' she thought, for she had not forgotten the many times they had comforted each other when she herself was still an Accepted and how Kiyi had been the first to show her true kindness upon arriving at the Tower, 'you will get there.' She showed none of that on her face, of course, maintaining a friendly and warm expression yet proper for Aes Sedai to Accepted. When she spoke next, her voice continued to be matter-of-fact.

 

"At the current speed that we are going, we are a little less than three weeks from our destination. From now on, you are in charge of the fires for cooking and warming. I will show you how to make them so there is no smoke or danger for spreading and I will be right alongside you as you make them until I judge you ready for the next step." She noted the look of panick in the girl's eyes but knew it was necessary. The only way to take on a fear like this was to face it full front. Controlled and guided, of course.

 

"I can not let the horses move at the speed we've been going every day, for that will damage them beyond repair, so we'll alternate between regular speed and super speed every other day. We will be in Caemlyn in fifteen days. There we will catch up on some decent sleep in a proper bed, a nice bath and stock up on our food supplies and other necessities for the next part of our journey."

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