Well Met Sister

The soaring spires and towers of Waverney Castle stood above the city of that name and despite herself, the young woman was impressed at the sight. The cool of late autumn kept her muffled and cowled, only blue eyes showing between the wraps, strange eyes though, almond shaped, tilted slightly upward at the outer end, her dark brows mimicking their slant. It was about a week after leaving Sujiwara that she realised that the events at the teahouse were further reaching than she had thought.

Not used to magic, she had believed the tattoos were the result of handwork, not so, their perfection was the result of arcane means. And it became quickly apparent that the mage responsible had made some other changes too, her hair that she had dyed black, now grew that colour and her eyes no longer needed cosmetics to mimic a native of Sujiwara. She didn't believe it at first but her skin had taken on the yellowish cast of the Sujiwarans too, her own mother would no longer recognise her!

Still, that was done and this is now. The trail of the tall blonde woman had at length brought her here to Waverney, high in the mountains. Four months had passed since she left her friends in Sujiwara, the trail by turns fresh and hopeful, then cold and hopeless but nevertheless she was now here.

The exotic young woman rode on into the town, pausing only to ask directions for a hostelry and by turns ‘The Speckled Hen was arrived at. Her appearance both of face and clothing caused some curiosity but she was greeted well and soon she was able to bathe before retiring early for a sleep of exhaustion.

Agnetha awoke in the strange room, her breath hovering visible before her in the cold. The small panes of the window were iced and the air in the chamber on the cold side of freezing. She rose and dressed quickly, not today in riding gear but in attire more fitting a young lady of some standing. Checking her appearance in the looking glass she realised for the first time how strange she must appear to others.

Her coal like hair reached her shoulders but it was without any curl and hung straight, a fringe too of straight ebon, the cut of her bodice although not immodest did however reveal a glimpse of tattoo and her almond eyes gave her a slightly quizzical look. Well she had no other dress so that was that, she experimented with pinning her hair up but gave in after ten minutes and her features? Well nothing to do.

If she didn't locate her sister soon she would have to give up, at least for now, her resources since Sujiwara were always strained and it was a long way back to Pendenick manor. She donned her riding habit to keep out the cold, which had the benefit of covering her chest, and set about her enquiries.

Leaving the ‘Speckled Hen' she went into the town proper, the market place, the covered streets of Alte Waverney, the taverns of Via Divanna, even the merchant halls on the Postulants Way. That in turn took her to the Nunnery and the Cathedral beside it, but she drew a blank at all points. If they knew a tall blonde, it was a man; tall women had hair of every other hue although from personal experience she didn't discount those out of hand. Considering the information, the warm trail, that had brought her here, she was disappointed.

About the only place that she hadn't made enquiries of, apart from the castle that is, was the ‘Speckled Hen'. She returned to the inn in the twilight and gathering cold of the evening. It wasn't until sometime later, after she was fed and warmed that she thought to ask the innkeep, with little optimism it must be said.

His reply astounded her, yes a tall blonde woman often stayed here, the Lady Portia, even the right name, but she wouldn't allow herself too much hope. No she hadn't stayed for some months but with the Solstice Fest in two weeks she was expected. A lady of the court, aged maybe twenty summers, could it really be? He suggested a visit to the castle that would be sure to tell her more. Her hopes at once soared but she was determined not to be too hopeful but maybe, just maybe, her journeying was to reach a climax.

Tioga knew his time was getting short, there was no magical cure for old age, the best he could hope for was perhaps a few more months. A man of tidy habits, he did not want to leave his home or his ware's fate to chance and so, had formulated a plan, hatched these several years past and hopefully soon to come to fruition.

He had selected one of his servants to whom his arcane powers would pass, fully learnt without a troublesome period of apprenticeship. Preparations were well advanced and his chosen acolyte was responding well to his early ministrations. That successor was to be his female assassin Portia. She still resided largely in her flask but now it was time for her to be released and prepared for her full potential.

Of course that day came sooner than he had hoped and the Tower of Gouron changed ownership on a damp autumn morning. Appraised of the Mage's demise by his own shade, the young woman was at first distressed then bewildered. Suddenly finding oneself in control of arcane powers and the responsibilities that go with that, the young woman settled on a course of nil action. So it was that the visits to court and her adventuring continued, perhaps a little more intensely than had previously been the case but she needed to feel her way into her powers.

From servile assassin to a woman in control of her own destiny was a big leap but Portia was, if not fully prepared, up for the job and in a remarkably short time she realised that she was ready. The transfer of Tioga's mage craft was not his only providence for he had also released her memory from his thrall. It was however some weeks after his death that she realised that she had access to thoughts and a past before her incarceration. Up to present that only extended her knowledge to her purchase by Tioga, previous to that was still lost in a vague mist of information.

The seneschal identified the woman as an oriental, he had travelled extensively in his youth, the dark hair and tilted eyes were obvious even from this distance although she wore clothing of more local style giving her a strange appearance. Of course, word had reached him the previous evening that just such a woman had been about the town asking after a person who vaguely answered the description of the mage Tioga's ‘daughter'. So it was that Piotr Defeldt was half expecting the woman's visit.

Minutes later and the woman was seated in his office. Her name, she claimed, was Agnetha Pendenick, a name of the far north rather than oriental origin as he would have expected. She was looking for a woman, the description of the Lady Portia, who was some sort of relative. This Agnetha woman was fairly vague on details, claiming she had not met this ‘relative' for nigh on ten summers.

Unsure of her motives, Piotr confirmed the possibility that the Lady Portia might be the quested individual. The woman's eyes lit up at this and he allowed her the boon of directions to Tioga's tower. Lady Portia was much liked hereabouts and barely had she left his rooms that he set about following this Pendenick person

Agnetha was no fool, the Seneschal didn't trust her and she wasn't sure that the directions to this Tower of Gouron were correct. He had claimed it to be a fair journey and with the winter solstice fast approaching, her deadline to return home, she made haste to depart. Soon after midday she was ahorse and on the road away from the city, she couldn't swear it but she had a feeling of being followed. Not that any casual glance had revealed her pursuer but she'd lay egg to a groate that the seneschal had set men to watch her. She made her weapons accessible just in case they had more than a watching brief. The city was soon lost to sight; the castle spires the last vestige to pass from view. Her hopes, despite herself, soared and she felt more confident of success than she had in a year or more.

Portia wore her ‘adventuring' garb on the trail, it was a bit more practical than the wardrobe favoured by the ‘lady' Portia at court, there would be ample time later for frills and petticoats. The countryside hereabouts was rather desolate in nature and the population for the most part consisted of marmots, assorted antelope and the occasional predator. Man was notable by his absence.

There were occasional travellers on this route but the pickings for a thief would be thin. Portia had on occasion come across vagabonds and the like who couldn't resist the opportunity when they saw a single girl travelling. They were of course completely outclassed by her skills but on one occasion she came in second best due to sheer force of numbers. That time her masters mage craft had saved her, his protective wards removed her from the conflict to deposit her in her bottle. That wouldn't happen now, there is no master, but her arsenal of arcane skill more than compensated.

The trail, although little travelled was clear enough that her mount could find his own way, so she sat daydreaming in the unseasonally bright and even warm afternoon sunshine. At this rate she would make her destination two days before the solstice, she looked forward to the week of festivities that would follow, maybe a liaison or two, the seneschal maybe?

Agnetha made good time up the trail and was confident of meeting the woman she sought sooner rather than later. She still couldn't shake the feeling of being pursued but there was still no sight of the pursuit even when the trail crossed several miles of open plateau. She had even tried to set an ambush at one point but if anyone was following, they were good, or perhaps she was just paranoid. She had seen few people; villages were few and far between, farmsteads just as rare. Apart from some hay making plots adjacent to the sparse habitation, sheep and goats seemed to be the main opportunity to scratch a living in this desolate landscape.

As she rode, Agnetha reflected on the last few years, her searching and travels. She recalled when she had located Frida, would Portia be changed so much? it seemed likely. How had her sister become ‘Lady Portia', if indeed it was she and would she believe that this strange oriental woman was her sister? After all, she mused, I'm the least likely northerner I've ever come across, and that's just with my clothes on. She chuckled to herself but deep down she was anguished and nervous of the expected and hoped for meeting.

The trail had taken her into more open but inhospitable country above the tree line, her way wound about mountainsides with occasional detours to avoid the numerous deep ravines. The hillsides were dotted with boulders, some as large as houses and it was while she negotiated a difficult piece of trail in the shadow of one such rock that trouble reared its ugly head. From seemingly nowhere four men leaped from cover intent on robbery and murder. Travelling had done little to make Agnetha ladylike and her katana was in her hand before the first assailant reached her.

Closer than she could have imagined possible, Piotr heard the shouting and urged his own mount forward, by a quirk of fate, a scantily clad adventurer heard the same and likewise urged her mount toward the conflict. Both of Agnetha's would be rescuers arrived simultaneously and the fight was brought to a more equal footing. The attackers however were essentially cowards and in the face of a real conflict took flight in short order but not before they had incurred some serious damage at little cost but sweat to the other parties.

That's not to say they escaped injury, Agnetha took a gash to her sword arm and on seeing the attackers flee, upped and passed out. Her rescuers sized each other up, Piotr didn't recognise Portia so garbed, the opposite was not the case, Portia recognised the handsome seneschal immediately. At this juncture there was little point in exchanging niceties, that would open up a can of worms best concealed.

Whilst Piotr attended their mounts, Portia tended to the young woman. Her gashed arm a cause of some concern, the young mage, for indeed she truly now was, ripped the sleeve open to reveal the extent of the damage. The wound itself kept Portia occupied for but moments, this was an area of magery that Tioga had been at pains to instil in his protégé. The wound, whilst not healed completely would at least not fester and the scar would be minimal. What actually detained Portia's attention longer was the decoration under the skin of the young woman's arm. In short, whilst she had seen tattoos before, never had she seen such art nor on any woman.

The patient remained unconscious and when the seneschal joined her she started to question the man.

“What do you know about the girl Seneschal?”

“Too little I fear. She arrived in Waverney a few days past and started to make enquiries of a ‘distant' relative, around your height and age. There is one such at court, the Lady Portia of whom she sought directions to. She claims to be from the northlands and gave a name of Agnetha Pen something, a northern name for certain. But look at her, she is obviously of the orient.”


“Well I decided to give her directions to the Lady's home at Gouron but to follow in case she meant mischief. I admit to having used most of my skills to remain undetected, I am sure that she guessed of some pursuit as she even tried to set an ambush. The rest you know as well as I. What of you?”

Portia's mind had caught and held on to the girl's name, Agnetha. It rang some distant bell of memory, just beyond reach but doggedly lodging there none the less.

“I was myself on my way to Waverney for the solstice and like you heard the fighting. I believe in an equal fight and assault on a single woman is very unequal. I fear your reservations have some grounding, when I attended her wound, I have some small mage craft in that area, I noticed that she is tattooed on that limb, the like I have never seen.”

“A woman tattooed? Let me see.”

On seeing the girls arm Piotr had to search his memory for where he had certainly seen similar work.

“I have on my travels seen the like before, but only rarely this fine. It surely is of the orient, they have bath houses attended by young women each decorated in this fashion across their whole person, see it extends onto her shoulder.” He blushed slightly at admitting this knowledge.

The girl stirred.

“The mystery would seem to deepen”

Agnetha regained her wits with a start; the first thing she saw was Portia's face.


The mage was suddenly lost for words. She knew that name.

“Portia” she affirmed, “how did you know my name?”

“Well it's a long story but I'm pretty sure you're my sister, I'm little Agii, Agnetha that is.”

“How can you be this woman's sister?” Piotr queried as he recognised the magelet as Lady Portia, on a better look it was obviously the woman he knew at court. “You are plainly not related, you are from the orient no?”

“Lets eat first, I will explain to you both.”

They agreed on that and after dining on Coney and road bread Agnetha started her tale.

“I come from the northlands in truth, I'll explain my looks later. Nearly ten turns of the seasons ago we, that is my mother, sisters and I, were journeying from our home to spend time with relatives. I'll try to keep it brief, we were waylaid by what I now believe to be slave traders, I hid in a wagon base but my sisters and a maid were taken, sorry I have two sisters Frida and Portia.”

Again thought Portia, that connection to this girl.

“Father was of course distraught and searched the countryside for many a month to no avail. When his health started to fail him I took over the mantle of searcher. I found Frida nearly three turns ago, a slave remembering nothing of her family, I'm certain magery was involved. I had to buy my sisters freedom and I feared my other sibling would be similarly placed.

I set out once again to find you and travelled far and wide including as you noted, the orients. At that time you would not doubt my story as I see in you a mirror of how I looked at that time. I was the victim of a kidnap myself but was rescued and spent an extended period travelling in disguise, still searching for my sister. I was tricked into visiting a bathhouse, a life of servitude awaited me there but a good friend rescued me, not before I was indelibly marked. And yes seneschal, I have extensive decoration. It was some time later that I discovered my decorations were the result of magery that is seemingly unbreakable. See, I still have blue eyes.

I decided to have one last look for you before taking a break at home, I arrived in Waverney and I'm sure the seneschal here has told you the rest.”

Portia was stunned, amazed and sceptical, Piotr too voiced his doubts but who would make up such a tale?

The two rescuers asked the girl many questions and the more answers they got, the more they believed the tale. Indeed Portia's vague memories came unbidden at certain replies and she realised that she could well be this missing Pendenick child.

Piotr suggested they all return to Waverney before discussing things any further and so the strange group headed back towards civilisation.

To be continued.

Maddy Bell ©1995

Want to Comment? click here Email me to Email me

Back to The Library