As fate would have it, but unbeknown to those concerned, this would be the last time for more than a decade that the Pendenick girls would all be resident in the family's modest abode, a rambling place that Harald Pendenick had inherited in his turn from Æthelfrick, the first Baron Pendenick some 420 years previous.

There was nothing unusual about the occasion, on the morrow Katja, their mother, was to take the three of them to her cousins farm, there to spend a vacation in the rolling hills of Aramar.

But I digress; let us meet these charming young things. Barely twenty months separated their births, Æthelfrida arrived first, Portia hard on her heels then the babe of the bunch, Agnetha, brought up the rear. Mischief would have been name enough for all three! If there was trouble to be had, a Pendenick girl would be there, tadpoles in the well, waxed floors under loose rugs, green dyed milk and horse leavings in the grooms boots, just a small selection from many each week. With the elder pair both sharing their tenth year, albeit opposite ends of such, Agnetha was just into her ninth. In the cycle of birthing days, two girls always shared the same age, it often seems that they are really twins or perhaps triplets!

Apart from their mischief, they are surely some of the most pleasant children I have come across, obedient, tidy, and attentive in their classes. Oh by the way, I am or should I say was, their tutor, Lionel Eurbarton. That as they say was then, this is now and I've much more to tell so lets go back to that early summer eve.

Yes indeed, I recall being in the Great Hall when they came in; Katja dressed as usual in a simple frock, the girls in less restrictive garb. Hose or trews topped off with tunics or blouse, no different to the garb of your average page or any of their peers. There was to be no hookah or fanciness, just a quiet household dinner, in fact there were by recollection only ten or maybe a dozen seats occupied that e'en, just the family and senior members of the household including yours truly.

Other than musing on the closeness of the family, I recall little else of that meal, ensuing events displacing those memories.

The journey to the farm would take several days; the nights spent variously at inns and camped upon the road. The country being passed through was not known for banditry but reasonable precaution was called for. As I mentioned afore, I am but a tutor but e'en I have trained in certain amounts of swordsmanship, I was to make an extra hand if the need arose. Six men at arms, one of Harald's wardens, Waggoner's, two maids and the four family members brought the party to just short of twenty.

We bade our farewells around seven of the clock, the sun already high, the normal bustle of the household interrupted but shortly as we departed. I don't know who was in most comfort, those ahorse or those riding the wagon. My liege at least kept up with the times using heavy horses to pull the vehicle rather than oxen which allowed a slightly quicker progress. I remember thinking that it looked much like a loaf but part risen with the wheels, flat biscuits. As it was to be used as a carriage, the vehicle had recently received painted embellishments to wheel and body with a new awning completing the refurbishment.

So it was that we left Pendenick Manor behind, it soon disappeared as we started our trip. Our first night out was on the road; we camped on vassal land at the edge of the family holdings having made excellent progress over the dusty and rutted roadways.

The weather remained clement through the following day; we halted early so to make use of the inn at Zoltenfeld. To be kind to the proprietor, the place is at least homely even as it lacks some of the niceties of our manor home. Still the food was ample if plain and the bedding free of wildlife.

With another night under the stars to look forward to, it was with a degree of regret that the softer amongst us left Zoltenfeld. Still, the weather kept its warm hue for a third day although by eve a degree of cloud speckled the heavens, portend of what we might expect on the morrow. However our fourth day arrived as bright and warm as those preceding it.

This day and most of the next would see us to the farm with only another roadside camp to separate the two. The weather was becoming cloudier, if no cooler and in early afternoon the first of several showers of varying intensity hit our party. The day cooled with the increased cloud cover, the occasional peeks of sunshine however revealed a more vibrant covering to the land, the flora drinking deep of the precipitation.

We halted well before dark, the atmosphere quite muggy, our company in good spirits as we were due to arrive at our destination by mid afternoon next day. Weary from our travels, all but the watch bedded down soon after sun down, the hill country we were now in cutting the evening light off earlier than we are used.

My account of what followed I have put together from various sources, I myself being too involved to have noticed much beyond my own next breath. I was woken in the light of pre dawn by shouting and the clash of swords. By the time I had gotten to my feet, sword drawn, the campsite was awash with swordplay and an unknown quantity of assailants.

A large fellow, who as luck would have it, was not much of a swordsman himself, engaged me almost immediately. It was clear quickly enough that we were heavily outnumbered, our assailants continually tried to draw us from our positions defending our liege lords family. The fighting was intense and close, the frightened females of our charge adding to the confusion with screams and cries. A shout went up, I heard not the words, or language but the invaders joined with us with greater gusto and suddenly several were past our guard. At this point I received a blow to the temple that rendered me unconscious and maybe saved my life. Others recall much confusion and more shouting, within minutes it was over.

Our party was in turmoil, beside myself, one waggoner and two men at arms were down along with my lady Katja. One of our party lay mortally injured and most everyone else involved bore some injury. When I was finally roused it was too much wailing and groaning, worse than the loss to the reaper of a comrade and friend, one handmaiden and all three Pendenick kinder were missing.

We were in no condition to mount any chase and a torrential downpour seemed determined to remove any possible trail at any rate. My lady Katja was back afoot long before I regained my senses as a shout of relief went out. Agnetha at least was found having somehow escaped detection under some tarps in a corner of the wagon. Of the kidnap victims there was no trace nor clue and it was more from necessity than will that we broke camp and continued toward the farm and help.

Within an hour of our arrival messengers had been despatched to Pendenick Manor and a search party was set to try to pick up any trail from our ambushers. The next several days at the farm went by in a whirl of activity, all however to no avail. Some tracks were found but were lost at a river crossing, the trackers unable to find an exit from the waters suggesting flight by boat.

Harald himself arrived and with his distraught wife and remaining daughter at his side, vowed to search until his daughters, and the maid Ensinor's, fate could be determined. It was to be a long search, the quarry dissipate, when ill health restricted my liege, his remaining daughter, Agnetha took up the gauntlet and it was she who finally unravelled the mystery and reunited the Pendenick dynasty.

The slavers had been trailing the Pendenick wagon all day and were just as weary as their prey. A classic pre dawn strike should get them their quarry, several, three, perhaps four young maids of some import and likely to return an excellent price in the markets.

The defenders were more zealous than expected but otherwise the snatch went as planned. In the limited time before the defenders better sword skills could mark a turn of affairs three girls were located and their leader decided to retreat with that bounty rather than search longer. The captives were quickly gagged, trussed and sedated; the long haul to the slave markets could begin anew.

“Wake up old man! Get up, come earn your keep.”


“Come on you old fraud, there's work for you.”

“What time is it?”

“What matter is that? Benthor wants you now.”

“Other mages are not treated thus”

“Other mages keep themselves out of trouble.”

“I concede the point. Tell his lordship I'm coming, what's the hurry anyway?”

“New consignment, all women.”

“I'll be there momentarily!”

Harod got himself off the camp bed and watched as Yamjo and Octrex departed from sight. He was too old for all this roughing it, but he'd got into debt and Benthor had paid off his creditors. That left him, Harod Lamella, mage of no small water in his thrall and effectively his tame magi. That wouldn't be so odious if it were not for Benthor's stock in trade, being beholden to a slaver was not something to relish.

He hurried himself to collect what he needed and was soon following Octrex and Yamjo to Benthor's tent. With women in camp his lordship had his tent sealed and it's contents hid from his band of merry, lustful men. After all, damaged goods were of little value in the slave pens of Baghara.

The mage was admitted and greeted by his benefactor.

“Ah, there you are Mage, what took you?”

“I came as quickly as provident”

“Well I suppose you are here now, we have three this time, here”

He handed the mage a bag of silk.

“No bungling this time Mage. These three'll make a tidy profit in Baghara.” He motioned to a screen and Harod, bag in hand crossed to the barrier and passed from Benthor's sight.

He found the new captives gagged and trussed by foot and wrist, lying close by each other but cognisant. None could have been over ten summers, two blondes and a brunette and quite pretty from what he could see in the dim lamp light. Six petrified eyes followed his every move as he made his preparations. Up here in the northland, he knew, mage craft was rare and usually not a good thing to be involved with. Back in Baghara both the arcane arts and slavery were common, the girls hearing was free and even with their captors accents must have by now realised their fate.

At last he was ready and began by laying a charm of protection on each girl, the two blondes he noted were likely sisters, their features quite similar. Next he opened the bag and removed the contents, three strips of base metal, this was where his arts really came into play. A few hand passes and more chants were the preparation then taking the first strip in hand he placed it about the neck of one of the blondes. As the ends met, they joined seamlessly together into a single hoop and from the appearance of base metal it's true form became apparent changing at once to gold. A further hand pass completed the spelling and the necklet grew first a nub and then a ring to which a tether could be attached.

As the rest of the spell would take time to ‘develop', so he repeated the process with the other captives. When the second blondes collar reformed it had a string of precious stones affixed within it and the dark girls neckpiece widened to stand four fingers high around her throat.

The rest of the spell was now taking effect and the girls each in turn lost their visage of abject terror and took on more serene expression. The neckpieces continued to change, merging to become one with their flesh, the spell so powerful that removal was impossible even unto death.

To check the effectiveness of his magery, Harod questioned the girls.

“How do they name each of you?”



“Ensa” they replied calmly.

“And from where do you hail?”

Only blank looks.

“Your ages? How many years have you?”

“Sorry sir,” the one calling herself Frida replied, “ but I don't remember.”

The others voiced their agreement with that.

Well old he might be, thought Harod, but I can still lay a mean spell of slavery! By now the neckpieces were finished changing and it was safe to release the girls bonds. With a snap of his fingers the ropes fell away and in their stead a chain appeared and seamlessly attached each girl to the tent pole against which they were now sat. Instead of the frightened looks he had received on his arrival a scant hour before, they now bore almost imbecilic expressions. He collected his tools in trade and taking the silken bag, returned to the main tent.

“All done Benthor”

“Ah good” the other man noted motioning Harod to sit. “I think they will be the last this trip, the scouts report that we are hunted by many men, its getting a little warm eh?”

“I did say we were pushing our luck last seven day.”

“Well we have you to thank for not being discovered, but tomorrow, yes, we leave for home, for Baghara. You can prepare all our goods in time?”

“Of course, not a problem, I have already made some preparations. I'll set to it straight away.”

Harod stood and took his leave of Master Slaver Benthor of Baghara.

Although in seeming plain sight, the almost two hundred captives were well hidden as the trade caravan moved out next morning. Bolts of cloth and sacks of grain could, if you observed carefully, be seen to rise and fall as if breathing. For indeed they were, magery disguised the new slaves as mundane materials allowing them to be moved in clear view. The newest, the three young maids, rode behind Harod, two bolts of white silk and one of dark taffeta. It would take another mage of no little skill to see through the illusion but this was a Northland that eschewed magi!

To be continued.

Maddy Bell ©1995

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