Although Portia could have reduced their return journey by magical means, a combination of inexperience and mistrust kept the long trip just that, long and mundane. They had stayed in Waverney for the Solsticefest and soon after, with the Seneschal for company, had departed for the distant Pendenick estate.

It has to be said that for the most part their journey was uneventful, the weather ran through most possibilities and the terrain had plenty of variety, going from desert to lush forest to high mountains to swamp. Their route took them first northwards through the mountains and then into the arid J'soup Desert. The crossing of the wastelands took four days during which the only sign of life they saw were high soaring buzzards.

They continued in a generally northern heading until they could smell the sea then changed to an easterly bearing taking them parallel to the coast. Although they were headed generally toward what Piotr called ‘The Orient', it was a region that Agnetha for one, wanted to avoid at this time. They had decided instead to find passage on a vessel headed north directly to the northern continent from the port of Samara-Japoor, a long voyage but hopefully a safe one.

Samara-Japoor, when they reached it, was a surprise. Much larger than even Waverney, the harbour could easily hold twenty merchantmen at its quays in addition to accommodating the myriad small boats used for fishing or lighting. The town itself was a strange mixture, the buildings influenced by distant cultures, a variety of masters and the passage of time. Sujiwaran bathhouses stood shoulder to shoulder with a northern style inn, ornate pillars contrasted with plain plaster. Somehow the place managed to congeal into a whole that for the most part worked. If there was a ship bound directly to the north, this is where it would be from.

Up to now they had been on the road for seven weeks, so in anticipation of several weeks at sea they decided to break the journey with a few days in the port, fates allowing. The Gods or someone certainly did intervene on their behalf, the one ship sailing direct to the northern continent would not leave for a seven day and yes it could take three passengers, particularly if they could handle weapons, piracy was running rife in these waters.

With Samarajapoor well behind them, the long voyage continued to pass by without incident until three weeks out another sail appeared on the horizon. The good news was that it would take several hours to overtake them, the bad, it was definitely pirates.

Portia had been filling her spare time brushing up on her majistry and had several tricks up her sleeve, so to speak. Non-combatants could be a liability in a fight so she secretly worked on a spell to safeguard her sister. Unfortunately it needed a little help and Agnetha was in a need of a bit more than little persuasion. Eventually with the pirates less than an hour astern, she agreed to the strange request and allowed herself to be trussed like a chicken before being tied below the bowsprit. That was all she could remember till much later, Portia cast her spell and little sis was now carved of wood and part of the boat.

The ensuing chase and subsequent shipboard battle lasted two days in all. The merchantman's crew were no slouches and with their additional help from Piotr and Portia were equal to the marauders. Someone had to win and eventually, with more than a little magical assistance, the pirate vessel was scuppered, its crew beaten into submission and the survivors put into the brig.

However before Agnetha could be recovered, the weather turned, a squall set in and they were once more imperilled. The non-sailors became quickly cabin bound and remained that way for a little over three days. At least the youngest Pendenick was spared seasickness. The weather eased enough that on the fourth day Portia with Piotr assistance recovered Agnetha from her inanimate state and brought her back on board ship. Magic in the northlands is rare, rarer than tattooed women or pierced bodies. Which of course meant that northlanders were more than a little wary of magic users and despite her previous experience, Agnetha was now a little afraid of her sister. A sister who could turn her to timber was a person to be exceedingly wary of.

Apart from another squall a week later, the rest of their voyage passed without significant incident, but all three travellers were not sorry to sight land.

Of the three, only Piotr was inconspicuous in the crowds of Feliston, Portia's dress caused more than a few comments and Agnetha's foreign features drew plenty of attention too. Ironic indeed that the northlanders stood out so amongst their own people.

A quick bit of mage craft solved Portia's problem, no need to buy or carry clothing when you can magic a new wardrobe. The spell that had transformed her was very much active and Portia could not even mask her sister's appearance, instead they settled on a deeply hooded cloak. The rescuer arranged a pigeon message to Pendenick Manor, so they wouldn't arrive unannounced and they set out on the final leg of the journey.

They were within two days journey of the manor when a rider came to them and was revealed as Aethelfrida. For the first time since the day of the ambush, the girls were united. Frida had come, without her parent's knowledge so they were not too shocked when they did arrive. Their father was still in decline and had not really comprehended the message Agnetha had sent. Mother too thought it unlikely that her third daughter had been found and was just as unbelieving.

Surprisingly, Frida had no trouble with her sisters changed appearance, Portia was almost her own double but the Oriental appearance of the youngest girl too was seemingly unnoticed. Piotr was introduced and they resumed the journey to the manor.

Word had reached the house of their imminent arrival and as they rode side by side through the gate, Piotr bringing up the rear, they could see the Pendenick household waiting. Frida made quick identification of the riders to her parents and the scene that followed was not something that words could do justice. Hugging, kissing, crying, a full gamut of emotion, soon other members of the household and even Piotr were taken into the scene. It was however still a little strained for some, Portia still hadn't much recollection of these people and Agnetha's transformation was obviously affecting her parents, they wept anew each time they looked at her.

Agnetha, or at least the young woman who says she is Agnetha, and Portia and her companion arrived two days ago. I think it was the saving of Harald and Katja, Frida has tried to keep their spirits up, but having heard no word from Aggie for so long I know made them think that they had regained one daughter and lost another.

Portia claims to be a mage, her friend from the Southland confirms that but that has only served to bring some disquiet to the house. I get the feeling that those two won't remain at the manor for long. The other girl is a bit of an enigma, I am beginning to be more convinced that it is Agnetha but I must admit to some doubt still. She claims that in her travels to find her sister she fell foul of some sorcery, she won't divulge just what, I guess I may find out some time but this sorcery seems to have changed more than just her appearance. I can't see why an impostor, least not one so different in appearance, would bring Portia back here.

It is now just over ten years since their abduction, Harald is organising a small household celebration tomorrow, in a week or so a more formal celebration will take place with around a hundred guests. The girls have spent much time with their parents these last days and my liege is looking better than I have seen for many a year.

They have all changed so much, from the mischievous trio I knew so long ago, certainly they are the most exotic women in the northland, two of them wear much jewellery in piercings of which I had not seen the like until Frida returned. In fact the maids whisper of others that gentlemen of casual acquaintance would be unlikely to view! The youngest keeps herself covered more than modesty demands, her strange features continue to cause mumblings in the servants quarters, not her black hair or even the faint yellow tone of her skin but rather her slanted eyes combined with high cheeks, I certainly have not seen her like before. She has however promised to tell me her full tale when time allows, I look forward to that.

I must go now and help with the preparations; perhaps sometime I will be able to recount the full tale of the Pendenicks.

Lionel Eurbarton

Maddy Bell ©1995

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