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  1. Viviane paced across the cold stone floor. She exhaled before casting her gaze across the room. It was simply furnished, something she was used to. Back in Camelyn, before her family had grown poor, she was spoiled by her parents. All the finer things in life were hers if only she asked for them. Beautiful silk gowns, hot spiced chocolate from Sea Folk traders, gold gilded books from every corner of the continent, all of this was hers. Then the hardship came. Father died during the Aiel war, and the shop’s once loyal customers started to buy their garments elsewhere. Mother had to sell off most of their finer possessions just to put meat on the table. Oh, they had savings, but Mother wanted to save that for when things grew especially tough. Viviane was lucky her Mother thought the way she did. Things did get tough, and their savings was the only thing that had kept them alive. Viviane should be more grateful for the Tower. Since coming here, Mother wouldn’t have to worry about spending the coin on food for the two of them; she only had to focus on herself. Here, Viviane had no worry of food on the table or a warm place to sleep. Then why is it so hard? Why do I feel so empty inside? Life in the Tower wasn’t an easy one to adjust to. Not only was she suffering from homesickness, but she was also made to scour soup pots, scrub the floors, and even empty out chamber pots. Things here were horrible. The mattress was hard, and she always had to be up before sunrise. Viviane hadn’t really slept well back home, but sleeping here was comparable to sleeping upside down. As soon as Viviane’s head hit the pillow, she was right back up on her feet doing a chore or attending to some Aes Sedai or another. Yes. Viviane had learned some of the Power, but not enough to make up for all of the backbreaking stress she was under. Light! How do any of them survive this! The Accepted say that things only get harder! I cannot imagine… The truth was that she had no other choice. If she went home, she could never come back. Viviane would be a failure, just like every Accylon woman before her. She could not give up. She would become Aes Sedai. Returning home with nothing short of the shawl and the ring would spell doom for Mother and her. Without the title and accolades that came with it, there would be no coin to put food on the table. If Viviane became Aes Sedai, she could send her mother coin every month, and things would be right. That notion did nothing for the emptiness inside of her. Viviane strode over to her bed. It was a small thing built into the wall. When Viviane first saw it, she thought of the beds in a ship’s cabin. True to the thought, the bed in her room was a cramped little hole. Viviane could find no comfort in it, but it was the only thing here willing to offer a supporting embrace. She had done her best to make it feel cozy, arranging the pillows and the blanket just so. With an exasperated sigh, Viviane sunk down onto the hard mattress, pulling the woolen blankets tight around her. She practiced the calming exercises, the ones that opened you to Saidar. This time she didn’t reach for the Source. The only point to this was to calm herself. Viviane’s heart had been pounding, tears had threated to burst forth from her eyes… The thought of her mother in utter poverty was just too much to bear. The blanket and the mattress were a poor substitute for a Mother’s love. Here in the silence, she was truly alone. It struck her that she might never see her Mother again. Even if Viviane attained the Ring and the Shawl, Mother might pass away from starvation or homelessness. The road to Ase Sedai was a long one. If the others were to be believed, Viviane might not be able to leave the Tower for another twenty years! Mother would surely be old and grey by then. The thoughts did nothing to comfort Viviane. She pulled her pillow over her head and screamed into it. She screamed for all the worries, the fear, the loneliness. Pulling the pillow back, she felt a little better; but not by much. Perhaps if I just write her a letter. Surely Novices are allowed to write home… Viviane rose from the bed and moved to the pitiful desk allocated to her. Pulling the stool over, she sunk down and stared at the wall. What to tell her? I doubt she wants to hear how bad things are here… Mother always spoke glowingly about the Tower. One of the Aes Sedai might even read my letter. No. Better to only speak well of the Sisters and Tar’Valon. Grabbing a clean sheet of paper, Viviane began writing in a flowing hand… Mother, Things are well here. I do wish you could see it. The shining white walls of Tar’Valon are breathtaking. That is not to mention the bridges, which I have heard must have been wrought with the One Power. They are precious things, looking as if someone draped lace across the water and froze it in place. There is a delicacy to this place, Mother. I can only begin to guess at what marvelous creations you could design after visiting here. It does wonders for the imagination. My studies are going well, of course. I have not learned anything too advanced yet, but I can touch the True Source. A few months ago, I didn’t even know it was there within my grasp. Thank you for pushing me to come here, Mother. I do think things are turning around for the Accylon women. All My Love, Viv Viviane signed the letter with a flourish. She gasped as she noticed a watermark at the bottom of the page. Her cheeks were wet too. With a wail, Viviane broke down into a torrent of tears. She pushed the letter out of the way, and sunk her head into her arms, muffling her cries. None of the other Novices heard Viviane as she cried herself to sleep.
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