Torianin sat in front of the Grey Aes Sedai, who was reviewing her notes quietly. She had spoken with the woman for what seemed like the entire day, although perhaps it was two hours. She answered questions about her past and thoughts that she didn’t even think to speak with her bondmate about. The chaos from the Seanchan siege had died down, and now the children were back at the House of Hope. Torianin had finally decided that she would like to adopt one of them. Siran of the Grey Ajah was called in to screen her, in order to make sure that she would be suitable to take in a child. The other sister’s silence seemed to stretch these hours into days as she waited, Aes Sedai mask in place.
“It seems that you have overcome the abuses of your past successfully, sister,” Siran finally said. “You work well with the citizens of Hama Valon, and most importantly…it seems Arendrin has taken a liking to you. The caretakers and even her mentors describe her as withdrawn, unwilling to speak, but willing to obey. Yet, by all accounts, she’ll rush to your side when you visit the Mar a’Mael. She seems more animated, more eager to make conversation in your presence.”
Torianin smiled faintly at that. That made her feel much better about this decision.
“Please understand that those in the Yellow Ajah say that her road to recovery from her abuses will be a long one,” Siran said, changing the tone in her voice. “Are you still willing to take on a child still suffering from past trauma?”
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation. “I think my experiences in overcoming what I’ve gone through will give me empathy for her case, and will help in her recovery.”
Siran Sedai looked straight at her and held her eyes for a moment. Finally, she nodded, scribbling something down on her notes. “I think you are correct, Torianin Sedai.” She paused for a moment to smile as she finished writing. “I’ll recommend you suitable to adopt Arendrin…er…Abby.”
Standing, the Red and the Grey left the private interview room and headed out into the House of Hope. A caretaker took the recommendation, and Siran wished Torianin luck before leaving.
“Oh, our little Abby’s found a home…” The man gave a smile and thanked her. He took more paperwork and had her sign a few pages. “Will she be taking your surname?” he asked.
Torianin blinked at that, looking at the papers. Abby’s full name was Arendrin Soulane. “No, I’ve actually stopped using my surname. For now, we’ll leave her name as it is…I’ll speak with her later.”
The man nodded and stacked the papers, sorting out a few for her. “Here we have medical notes that you may need, notes about her behavior…” He trailed off at the second bit. It seemed it was unusual for children to have behavior notes. As he sorted and filed, Torianin tugged on her shawl, watching the children run around. She didn’t see Abby in their midst. They would be seeing much more of each other very soon. After the caretaker finished compiling the documents he felt he needed, he looked up at her with a smile. “Well, I’ll have someone gather her things. In the meantime, I think she is about to eat her lunch in the mess hall. You can give her the good news, and by the time you’re done, she’ll be ready to go.”
Torianin thought it was strange that children would still be running around if food was being served, but she knew where the mess hall was. As she passed children going about their business, a few of the older ones noticed the folio that she carried. They didn’t dare ask a shawled Aes Sedai who she was adopting, but she could tell they wanted to know.
She made her way to the basement and opened the doors to the dining hall. She saw a few children assigned to setting the tables who had been assigned there. And, at the back of the room was a small girl in a deep blue dress, her black hair pulled back into a bun, away from her face. Abby was currently scrubbing the table legs.
The Aes Sedai walked past the other children, gliding past the tables to the blue-eyed girl, cleaning to forget her troubles. “Abby?”
The girl stopped what she was doing, her arm freezing on the leg of the table. Carefully, she pulled herself out from under the table. She shook her head to gather herself. Blinking her bright blue eyes, she looked at Torianin in wonder. “T-Torianin Sedai…you usually don’t come at meal time…” she said, setting the rag on the floor. Even in a dress of deep blue, she could still see the stains from her incessant cleaning.
Torianin couldn’t help but beam at the girl as she looked her over. She didn’t know exactly when she realized that she loved this child, but it was there, and it was real. Any guilt she may have felt for killing Lumanin had been swallowed up by knowing that she had kept Abby safe. “Abby, I’ve been at the Mar siolin’an all day. I’ve adopted you.”
Abby’s expression didn’t change, but it seemed like she froze again. “You…I’m sorry…” Her voice sounded tight, like she was becoming emotional. “I…what?” She stared up at Torianin again, imploringly.
“I was in an interview with Siran Sedai. She recommended that I’m suitable to adopt you. I signed some forms…this is your folio,” she said, showing the child the packet of documents that had been given to her. “You’ll be living with me in the Grey Tower now.”
The blue-eyed girl began to look around her, breathing heavily from disbelief. “This…this isn’t a dream…” She looked at the ground between her feet and Torianin’s. For a long moment, Torianin felt unsure of what to do, but Abby finally lunged forward and threw her arms around the Aes Sedai’s waist, beginning to cry. “I’m…sorry for crying,” she said in her small voice.
Wrapping her arms around her new child, Torianin assured her that she could cry without feeling guilt. It was emotional for her too. Slowly, she coaxed her to swallow her tears for now. Her things were waiting for her, and there would be some preparations to make. Pulling back, Abby wiped her nose and her eyes. She had a smile on her face.
All of Abby’s belongings fit in a small bag, except for a small stack of books. They walked out of the Mar siolin’an hand in hand, despite what they carried. Torianin wasn’t sure she could let go if she wanted to. The girl’s grip was rather tight.
Abby was quiet as they walked. There was a peaceful, dreamy smile on her face. Torianin shared in her happiness. A part of her still couldn’t believe that she had a daughter, now. Much less one nearing her twelfth naming day. Well before the two of them reached the chaos of the Grey Tower’s gates, the Aes Sedai turned a corner to find a secluded alleyway. She stopped, informing Abby not to move until she told her to. She embraced Saidar and wove the complex column of Spirit to make a gateway. When it opened, her rooms in the Tower’s basement became visible, if rather dark. She wove a light from the One Power and guided Abby through the gateway. Making sure the girl was well out of the way, she closed it.
“Abby, the caretaker asked if you would be taking my surname.” The girl stared up at her, smile still in place, but an open expression nonetheless. Torianin lit the lanterns and lamps in her room with Fire. “I’ll explain why later, but I no longer use mine.”
Blinking, the child nodded. “I think I may know why.” Well, she had met Lumanin, after all. Abby would make a wonderful addition to the White Ajah, if it was found she could channel…
“But, even if I did use my surname, you may yet like to keep yours, yes?”
Abby looked at the stack of books that Torianin carried. “Those books…were my mother’s. And…my father had a necklace made for me before he was dispatched.” Her eyes began to cloud over for a moment before she shook her head, then squeezed Torianin’s hand. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “What I mean is, my parents are still dear to me. I…I would like to keep my name.”
“Well…since you are part of my family now…” the Red began with a smile as she guided the girl to a plush chair, close to another that she used, “…and I am part of yours, would you mind if I used your surname?”
There was a longer pause than she had anticipated. Abby simply stared at her, blinking. After a moment, she began to sniff, and tears welled up in her eyes. “Oh…” she said, as if she just realized that she was crying. “I didn’t…before, I…” Taking a deep breath only seemed to make the tears flow faster as she covered her face to catch the liquid. “What I mean…” What had sounded like a cough at first turned out to be a choked laugh. “Yes, I would love you…to use the Soulane…name…”
Torianin stood from her chair and wrapped her arms around Abby’s shoulders, who returned the embrace. They stayed like this for a long time, until her daughter spoke again. “May I call you Mother?”