Name: Abigail Veldman
Age: About sixty
Abigail was born into a strongly religious family. She had three sisters, one brother—every one an older sibling. In her younger years she found life to be a joy. Her parents doted on her, her siblings while distant, were not cruel or malicious. She might not have existed at all to them. Life was good. This changed the day womanhood began to make itself known upon her then boyish limbs.
She would always remember her first ‘night of punishment’ as the first time she had ever truly been close to her sisters. She did not remember the minor infraction she had committed, or whether or not there had been one, but that night her father came to her bed, as he would do many times. She was accused of being a wicked girl, shameful and filthy and in need of punishment. Afterwards her sisters held her as she cried throughout the night. Finally they had something in common.
The invasive punishments were degrading and humiliating but she knew she deserved them; if she did not deserve them then why would her loving parents inflict them upon her? Why would her sisters and brothers be punished in the same manner, although less and less frequently as they grew older. The frequent stains on her bedding became symbolic of her own wickedness. She prayed each night that the Creator would make her a better daughter.
Her father never scared her more than while he was punishing. His expression, his voice, it was like he was no longer her father but someone else, someone terrifying. She would close her eyes so that she would not have to look; grab fistfuls of blanket to distract her mind. But as she grew older and they came less frequently her body betrayed her. She began to realise that even as she dreaded and feared those times, they were not without physical pleasure and comfort. They were becoming enjoyable. Again, she prayed to the Creator, this time to curb her wicked thoughts.
Abigail had no understanding of the perverse nature of her family unit; she could not understand the mounting agitation and rage her older brother began to display. It was, unusual, unnatural and it frightened her. His emotions became erratic, he began to enjoy . . . hurting her and her sisters. And time only made it worse.
It was just like any other day when it happened, without warning and without anyone quite understanding why. Her brother, in a rage, attacked his mother with his father’s wood-axe. He killed her. Then he killed his father, and then he stalked his sisters throughout their large house. Abigail did not know what was wrong, only that something was, and that her sisters were screaming and crying. And that she needed to get outside.
She saw her sisters, dead; caught a glimpse of her brother’s back retreating, bloodied axe in hand. Instinct took over. Reality became as unrealistic as fantasy, as often it does during these moments. She crept throughout the house gather flint and oil and set the house on fire, escaping amidst the smoke.
She was found by the Children of the Light, some of them, anyway. One in particular: handsome, charming; manipulative. She was his cook and his cleaner and his lover. But she was a wicked girl, and when he punished her by giving her to his friends, maybe one at a time, maybe several at once, she did not complain. Who better to punish her sins than those whose snowy cloaks bespoke of their righteousness and piety?
To be punished was to be loved. That is what she was always taught. She did not like it; that did not matter. It was enough that they cared enough about her to attempt to bring her back to the light. Their methods were humiliating and cruel but they knew what was best for her. They were Children of the Light.
Her sinful body rebelled again in the form of an unwanted pregnancy. Her lover refused to let an object of pure sin be birthed into the world. She objected. This baby was hers and she wanted to raise it. In response he beat her, kicking her in the abdomen and bruising her face. She was tossed into the streets, and she lost her baby.
She turned to prostitution for survival. Men, females, it didn’t matter. Her body was wicked and sinful and deserved punishment. It meant they loved her. If they didn’t why would they have paid her after they lay sweating beside her? She no longer fought it. She was a sinner, a filthy girl, a bad daughter, terrible lover and a bad sister. Who would have her now, after all these years of punishment failed; what did she deserve, if not this?
A woman found her, an Aes Sedai — a witch. Abigail smiled then for her faith was reaffirmed. The Creator was real. In his final act, casting her from the light and from his sight it was if he said, “I am still here for my children.” Only she was no longer one of them. She was heading to where all wicked sinners were cast and she knew she deserved it.
The White Tower of Tar Valon was an exotic and decadent place. They would not punish her, she was disciplined. Her sins were not cleansed. Instead, they burned her, weighed her down and festered like open sores. In the beginning she did everything she was told, waiting for the righteous inflictions. They never came. In secret she began to punish herself. Cutting the tender flesh of her legs and body helped to ease the pain and wait.
In time this was not enough. She ached for the absolution only a punishment from others could bring. The physical pain that meant she was cherished, adored and that someone loved her enough to turn her from her wicked path. She felt the heaviness of her sins crushing the life out of her. The resolve of the insane gripped her.
Naked and alone she stood before the door of her mentor, Darienna Sedai. Her dress and shift lay crumpled on the floor. She would not need them. What she needed lay on the other side of that door. She knocked. Louder, and louder, her desperation mounted into frenzy. She begged for punishment. Pleaded. Demanded. She knew that if she could not receive her punishment here and now she would lose her soul to the sin inside her.
Darienna’s response was first to heal her, those outwards manifestations of her inward corruption. With each mark healed she sense the pressure building, with each scar cleansed its sin was forced back inside. She was suffocating in her own body, chaffing inside her own skin and there was no way to end her torment.
Darienna commanded her to write out those reasons she deserved punishment. Abigail moaned, babbled, tried vainly to express the horrible sensations running through her own mind, but nothing came. And so she wrote, each black word dripping like poison from her very soul. And as she bled her sins onto the parchment her suffocation eased and the pressure relented, lurking far behind her eyes.
Darienna Sedai set her a goal. Each time Abigail longed for punishment she was qualified to administer itself in the form of running. Running until she collapsed into exhaustion. At other times, during a lesson, her punishment would be to bear the guilt of her sins, which was much harder. Because of this, Abigail was to become very, very fit.
The difficulty of this challenge cannot be over-stated. Her basic craving for punishment was, at times, too powerful to ignore and she would give into the compulsion. Every time she hurt herself, Darienna Sedai would mention it, but without the reproach that would further fuel Abigail’s beliefs. Strangely, and without realising it, Abigail began to feel guilty when she gave into the temptation and not when she withheld it.
But again the sinfulness of her body intervened. She was running, something she had made into an art by now, and smiling and being happy, when she suddenly became aware of it. She was buying their lie. The Creator no longer had a place for her in his heart and had sent her to dwell with the witches. Rather than triumph and be absolved through the fires of holiness she was embracing their infectious evil. Rather than stay true to her spirit she conducted the will of her flesh, shredding any chance of redemption. She did not deserve forgiveness.
The urge returned, knocking her down. Nausea boiled up from inside her and she vomited. She ran. Not away but towards the tower, drawn by the most basic of her needs: satiation. She burst into the kitchens, heedless of anyone or anything save her goal. In a draw she found a knife. One hand pulled her skirts out of the way, the other plunged the knife into her thigh, a hypodermic needle against her sickness.
With the release of her blood came relief, like the lancing of a boil. Her skirts were damp with blood and she felt giddy. She looked down at herself, her white skirts stained as her bed sheets, blood dribbling from the hem and down her legs. Too much blood. Abigail staggered banging her head on a counter; slumping to the ground. Her legs were light, she could breathe through them. Her hands tingled. Her mouth was filled with the buzzing in her ears, and her vision blanked . . .
When she came to she was in her quarters and her leg was tender. She rolled the blankets back. Someone had replaced her shift. Inspecting her leg revealed a new scar on her inner thigh. Her fingers traced it gently. There were many others; this was but the newest and the longer she lived the more she would collect. Death would have been a release. Someone healed her . . . why?
She spent an eternity arguing with herself, before Darienna Sedai entered the room. Abigail felt sick and very sorry for herself. It had been an accident. The moment the thought was completed a new one emerged to trod upon it. She deserved punishment. How dare she feel ashamed for doing what was right? She closed her eyes and pictured her body attacking herself and almost made that picture reality.
Darienna said one word: “why?” and Abigail answered. She was imperfect, a flawed creation, wicked and deserving of punishment. Without punishment her wickedness could not be corrected, her soul would remain unclean and The Creator would never accept her into his light. She could not fall to the machinations of the witches; she could not believe herself worthy, or anything more than filth. To do this was to reject the obvious truth: That she was nothing.
Darienna said two more words: “prove it” and then walked out of the room. Abigail tried to, for months on end. When not in class, when not running and thinking, she was in the library or discussing ideas with various other people. Each argument she brought forward was refuted and in the end her study did little more than distract her from doing anything else foolish to her body.
After a year of unsatisfactory explanations she realised that explaining to Darienna what she knew to be truth on the outside would be impossible. The lack of corroboration opened a crack in the corner of her awareness. One that the following months nurtured and widened: what if her father was wrong? What if the only men she had ever loved were wrong? What if . . . she were wrong? Was it possible that The Creator never intended to punish her, to violate and humiliate her? Then who had done these things, and had she really deserved them?
A yawning cavern of the unknown swallowed her and Abigail became lost. Everything she believed was gone. Her entire world disappeared and turn as she might it would never rise around her again. She was empty: a hollow mind within a violated shell with a lonely soul. Darienna was there every step of the way, encouraging, leading; to lean on, cry on, or simply talk to. And after several more years . . . Abigail was learning how to live again.
Never again did she mark her body, there was no need. She did, however, continue to run, and this exercise washed her body clean of its tired, abused appearance. Her mind, freed from all but the shadow of her former beliefs was sharp. Each day she marveled at her clarity of thought, as though her brain had been doused by a cool, invigorating glass of water. She was alive, and for the first time in memory she truly appreciated what this meant.
The call came . . . and she was led to the Arches. For the first time in many years she found herself naked in front of another person. This made her nervous. Her scars were prominent, including the one that almost ended her life. Her newly developed sense of modesty pleased her. Valuing herself was really quite nice now that she was getting the idea.
Darienna was there and Abigail was thankful. Part of her believed she should no longer require her to lean on, but the other parts didn’t care. There was something reassuring about Darienna Sedai that was somewhere between ethereal and unexplainable. This was a big occasion and she needed all the encouragement she could get. Her time as a Novice was extremely long and not from any lack of ability with saidar, but it placed added pressure upon her to succeed. There was no turning back, after everything, how could she turn back now?
She stepped through the Arch . . .
The house was dark; silent. It was night time. Abigail took a step and bumped into a table. She used to do that all the time. She knew where she was—home. Her sisters’ room was to the left. Abigail knew she ought to have been in bed but she wasn’t tired and she thought she could hear her sisters talking. No one would know. She wouldn’t get in trouble.
Her bare feet made but a whisper of sound as she stepped carefully down the hallway. There was something inherently frightening about the dark down this hallway. It always scared her, even though she was getting to be too old to be afraid of such things. The sooner she got to her sisters’ room, the better.
She entered the room; it was separated from the hallway by a curtain on a string. Her eyes adjusted to the shadows and she saw one of her sisters sitting up in bed. Her eyes were fixed on the twin bed belonging to their thread sister, from which came strange movements, and small whimpers of pain. Abigail stood confused for a moment while she tried to understand the scene.
Her sister cried out and Abigail heard the rough voice of her father, warning her to be silent; it was obvious to both girls that their sister was crying but their father was heedless. He seemed not to care. Abigail waited for her father to register, for him to understand that he was causing his daughter pain and to leave him alone, but her father never did. The crying became louder and louder in her ears, until all she wanted was for it to stop.
She strode forward and began to shake her father’s shoulders, “Stop it. Stop it! You’re hurting her!” Her father growled but she continued, refusing to let her sister’s cries go unanswered. Her father struck her, his large hand drawing a flushed line across her jaw as she backwards against the wall. She sprang back up, adrenaline taking over and began to slap him around the head. She was small and weak and her blows did nothing but anger him.
She persisted until he tried to strike her again; she moved out of the way and then continued. He became so enraged that he left his daughter’s bed, his naked body advancing upon her. Suddenly realising her own predicament she began to step backwards until the wall was firmly against her back. He pressed against her, his rough hands attempting to find purchase where they once would. Anger flared, anger repressed and internalised since she came to understand she was innocent. A muscular knee sprang up and thudded into his groin. Then another, and another, and at the same time she batted with her hands.
Her father struck her again, a large paw across her cheek. Her entire body rocked to one side and her legs wobbled beneath her. Again his hands sought for her body. She heard shouting, and her sister was suddenly on her father’s back, she was pulling his hair and attempting to pull him backwards. She noticed without really appreciating it that her other sister was slowly making her way out of her bed to help.
Abigail realised then that she hated him, hated him more than she had ever hated her own body. What he had done to her and her sister’s was more than inexcusable, it was evil. Her sister was dislodged from her back and he turned to strike her. Abigail threw all of her weight into his back to distract him.
She could not stop him and he lashed out at his unprotected daughter, she crumpled without a struggle. He turned back towards her, only to find his third daughter, the one he had just finished punishing upon his back and pulling against his throat. Abigail took a step forward with murderous intent.
Her sister’s needed her. Needed her as she had needed aid and she would not allow them to be left to deal with it alone, as she was. Never would she abandon anyone to the same throw of the dice she had; and never would she allow such an injustice as her ‘father’ to walk freely while she had the ability to fight against them. Never!
She came forward again and punched that thing that has once been her father in the face. It felt good. Very Good. She did it again. She heard screaming and did not realise it was her. She struck out with every weapon she possessed, even biting. Anything she could lift was also a weapon, lamps, candles, books. It didn’t matter. Somehow her father managed to dislodge his daughter and shoved Abigail with all of his impressive size. She stumbled backwards, clutching at her sister on the way past. She fell and watched with horror as her father advanced upon the one remaining sister, eyes begging for her help.
An archway appeared. She froze. It was unexpected, yet familiar and it drew her attention from the dire situation. The arch was important but so was her sister. How could she abandon her sister, whose only crime was to defend her? What horrible fate awaited her sister if she left, she knew well; something in the gentle insistence of the archway called to her. Something greater, something important lay on the other side but she could not say what.
Abigail was ashamed for even considering the archway over her sister. That was not right, this whole situation was not right. If she were quick enough she could go through and come back, bring help, bring her father to justice! She wanted him to die, she knew that, but she knew that was wrong, that she could not make that decision; here and now, though, no one would know what she did.
No, she couldn’t kill him, couldn’t live with any more guilt. Too many years she spent shedding the layers of misplayed guilt to replace it with layers of the more deserved kind. No, she would go through the portal and she would return to save her sister; her family. Her sister would not understand and she did not have the time to explain. She closed her eyes so that she would not see the look of terror on her sister’s face and sprang through the arch.
Abigail gasped, sucking in huge mouthfuls of air. She heard a sound behind her in the silent chamber. She shrieked; adrenaline and anger still in complete control. A chalice was knocked from startled fingers. Abigail felt cool water spray her face but didn’t care she swung at that thing in front of her, her hand connecting with flesh. A shape loomed up to the side grabbing her tightly; she kicked out but could not find purchase. She stumbled and fell but still that wait was there. Her heartbeat roared and she felt her blood sear.
From a distance she heard Darienna’s soothing tone. It was coming nearer and nearer. Her struggles began to lessen as she focused. Darienna was here, everything would be okay . . . but her sister . . . what of her sister? Abigail looked up and saw Darienna’s face, her arms, the ones encircling her shoulders; eyes filled with concern. She made a sound, a horrible crying scream and then broke. Her sobs were loud, echoing throughout the chamber, her hands gripping Darienna fiercely.
Finally her blood cooled and her crying ceased. Her fingers were cramped from the continual exertion of pressure and she felt drained. She was also terribly frightened, unsure if she could face another arch. She wanted to quit. To quit and run away, maybe even hide. She would not face him again, never again. And she had betrayed her sister, her sister who had only been helping her. These things she kept repeating, a litany against further participation. She didn’t care if she was a coward, or if she was to be removed from the tower . . .
. . . She did, she really did. She would have to continue, there was no way of avoiding this but her body was paralyzed by fear and Darienna was here and wouldn’t be where she was going. She was going to go on, they both knew it. Darienna’s comments were having an effect and she felt her courage growing.
She released Darienna’s shoulders and was aided to stand. Wiping her eyes with her forearm she took a deep shuddering breath and resigned herself to continue.
The other two arches passed with neither one as difficult as the first, she felt very bad about striking an aes sedai and wasn’t even sure which one it was. The entire experience had been very subduing and disturbing and there were definitely some things she would have to discuss with Darienna. They would wait, for now was supposed to be a happy occasion.
To become an Accepted . . . this was supposed to be a relief, or some kind of milestone, but she found herself preoccupied with other thoughts. There was much work to be done, much to be sorted out. This new found anger for one thing. Preferable to self-loathing though it was she needed no more ill-feelings controlling her life. It would have to go.
Life as an Accepted had several well-known perks: she could surrender to saidar whenever she chose as well as tell Novices what to do. Neither of these found particularly large use from Abigail who had more important things to learn. Surrendering was always something she had been good at. That part was easy and this fact had made her somewhat nonchalant as to her ability to wield the power. She focused her attention elsewhere.
Those issues of her personal life: the anger and the shame. She no longer considered herself a sinner, at least no more than any other woman. Those things forced upon her by circumstances beyond her control were not her responsibility. This she finally admitted to herself, and to Darienna. The sudden explosion of anger towards her father was a different story altogether. It had surprised her, but not Darienna and was easier to deal with that she thought in the beginning.
Her anger was natural and it was also warranted, at least that is what she believed. The struggle came in keeping it from colouring her thoughts and actions. At times this was hard. At other times it was easy. Above all she kept sight of what she wished to achieve, a life ruled by her and not her emotions.
Time passed and her personal struggles were in hand, allowing her more time to pursue whatever studies she preferred. From time to time she would seek Darienna out so that she might talk in such a relaxed and comfortable manner that it they hardly seemed a burden now at all, except occasionally, but this was only natural.
Understanding the dynamic of her family was the key to stopping what happened to her from happening to others. She promised her sister that she would return for her, bring help and make everything okay. This was a promise she intended to keep, even though they were little more than memories in her mind.
Why had her father abused her and her sisters; why had their mother allowed it; why had her brother murdered them all; what had gone wrong in their family and why; why had each member of her family played their part, why had she carried the guilt and blame for so long? These questions became her core focus of study.
And as the answers slowly came she found new ones; why did one man steal and another man not; why do some people take the lives of others and others do not; why did anyone do anything that they did? The answers were out there and she knew that if she could only understand then she could take steps to prevent it.
Running became a labour of love. A form of meditation where her thoughts rang clear and her mind soared. The only urge she satisfied now was that to feel the wind against her face and the city of Tar Valon passing beneath her feet. It was also a perfectly good opportunity to get away from everyone. She could truthfully boast that there was no one she knew of in the tower who could keep up with her. Forty years of gut-busting runs will do that for a person.
The scars on her body were symbols, a map of the places she had passed through on her journey to truth. She neither extolled them, nor regretted them. They were and that was all that mattered. She had many scars. Some were visible, some weren’t. The one thing they all had in common was that they were healed, and those places touched by wounds had grown stronger and more resilient.
Years had a way of instilling objectivity into the features of the past and Abigail had the benefit of this. Her past, while unfortunate and not altogether productive, had brought her to this point and she embraced it. Embraced everything, for to do otherwise to deny herself important aspects of who she was. Her sisters would never be forgotten.
One day, without warning, she was brought into the chamber of testing. Again she was asked to disrobe and this time she was not nervous. She was strong in body and strong in mind. Here was a woman who would not be easily taken advantage of. She looked good, and not even her scars could diminish that. She felt good, too. Great. It was an indescribable feeling to pass from the lowest state to the highest, to burst through the canopy and feel the sun for the first time. It was like flying, yes, flying; only you never had to move.
Her testing was not easy, nor did she believe it would be, but Abigail had, with the aid of Darienna for which she was most eternally grateful, defeated Gods and Demons of her own invention; she had been washed clean of the past and born anew. There was nothing, nothing that would stand in her way now.
This time the distractions of her own mind did not faze her. Those chapters had been dealt with and were closed forever, all save one. The child she might have had, the daughter or son she might have raised. But she knew inside, even though it hurt to admit it, that she could never have given a child what it needed, not at the time. To have tried would have been selfish folly, and she may way have perpetuated her family’s legacy of violence and abuse. No, better, in hindsight, that that child be taken into the cradling embrace of the Creator. She would have destroyed the greatest gift that could be bestowed upon anyone: life.
She passed her test, and became an Aes Sedai of the White Ajah. I mention this only briefly for it is the least important thing about her.
And now I feel, at the end, as though I may do justice to her description, to somehow attempt to capture Abigail in looks and feel and personality, although I believe much of what she is you have already discovered. Perhaps I can shed some light on some grey areas, perhaps I don’t need to, but I shall try. After carrying me through almost five thousand words, she has earnt it.
I would beg you not to focus too much on the physical aspect of her being; again, this is least important although I assure you it is damn good to look at. What is better, I think, is that you focus on her presence, on the well of life bubbling up from inside her, gentle, endless stream that splashes everything around her with infectious life. And I honestly don’t think I could do any better at that at conveying what she is and what she feels.
For everyone else who pays more attention to the little things: Abigail Sedai has black hair, brown eyes; she is of average height and is muscular in that very attractive feminine way. She also has very pretty hands.
Also, she hates the game of stones, because it’s devilishly hard and she keeps losing.