Dark Magic Rising - Book One in the Sisterhood Trilogy

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Chapter 2 - History

Lynwen looked around, the height of the small deck giving her a good view of the vessel. It appeared to have been created for the sole purpose of watching the land sail by. Cushions, rugs and covers were laid conveniently about. A wooden tray filled with beverages sat on a low table close by. The railings were short but solid; no gaps between meaning lounging could be done without the wind being too much of a problem. Lynwen knew the temperature in the desert could drop at night and wondered how Kendrich justified her being left out side. He had known who she was so did he know she practised ice magic? She determined to ask him later.

The sound of heavy fabric flapping caught her attention. Looking back towards the vessel she found the source, a gasp escaping her parted lips. Three masts held sails that were billowing in the wind. Ropes and beams hung from the tall structure. On the decks the crew busied themselves as several scruffy looking adolescents scrubbed at the wooden boards. She approached the edge of the deck, which was forward facing and close to the bowsprit. A metallic hiss added to the flapping of the sails. Looking over the side she was once again awed at the sight, though not entirely sure what she was looking at.

The vessel moved on immense steel wheels, travelling along tracks which were hardly visible as it churned the sand. Each wheel must have been at least two hands in width and taller than her. The sun caught the huge contraption, forcing her to look away as the bright light flashed with brilliance. If they travelled on tracks then the boat could only go two ways.

Lynwen wondered if it was a city or the temple they were headed for. A thought occurred to her; Kendrich had said it was his vessel. How could he afford such a thing? Yet another question to be asked later.

~~~

After a steaming bath Lynwen donned clean clothes, brushed her hair until it shone and felt significantly more grounded. The last two days had taken their toll and Kendrich’s hospitality had been more welcome than she would easily admit. Each morning a maid had prepared a tub and laid out clean gowns. She had seen nothing of her host during that time, messages that he was ‘busy’ had her concluding she was avoided. How was she to work with such a man? As she dressed she thought of the books he had indulged her with, scrolls, rubbing’s; all had been laid out for her inspection. A few prophecy crystals, maps and charts had also added to her pile of knowledge; she had to admit they had her captivated; held in a world of her own curiosity. A small cabin had been provided to her and after her daily bath in his cabin; hers being too small for the copper tub, these things would appear on her return. Now, she had an understanding of Kendrich’s work and his planned trip to the northern islands; it was fascinating. He had also indulged her with lavish meals and exquisite desserts leaving her feeling thoroughly spoilt, distracted and avoided.

During those days she met other guests, some who were travelling to different destinations, others who would not disclose why they were aboard and some she was happy to avoid for their enthusiasm to find out about her; the mysterious stranger who was receiving so much attention from their absent host.

A beautiful, dark blue, woollen gown had been placed on the bed that morning. The neckline draped from her shoulders, lowered to show the white lace of her undergarments, clinging to her figure until it passed her hips, dropping to the floor in a heavy, full skirt. The maid had fastened a silver cord around her waist and the sleeves hugged her arms from the shoulder, matching the ribbon criss-crossing to her cuffs. Inspecting her reflection in a nearby mirror, she grimaced at the image of femininity scowling back at her.

With curly brown hair framing her heart shaped face, the mass of tiny ringlets had been held back with a cord that matched her belt, leaving her hair to cascade between her shoulder blades. Her chestnut eyes looked tired and she frowned at the dusting of freckles across her nose. Her lips were full and red complementing her creamed coffee coloured skin. She was pleased with the appearance the Goddess had blessed her with but was unaccustomed to seeing herself such a picture of femininity. She was built lean and the toned muscle hidden by the gown was proof she could handle a sword, staff and crossbow as well as use her magic with deadly force.

The Order required all the sisters to be more than adequate in defending the sanctuary. It hadn’t happened in her life time but in the past there had been the odd Leian queen that tried to deny the Torian queen entry. The resulting skirmishes had been won by neither side as the Clar’han Order stepped in to bring them to heel. Bodelia’s sanctuary may be situated in Leilan but the Most High Goddess had deemed her garden as mutual ground, neither queen and heir had the right to restrict entry for the other. Whether or not Bodelia would enlighten them was another thing altogether.

Tidying away her night clothes Lynwen sighed, wishing she was back with her sisters, guarding the rampart surrounding the sanctuary or even in their vast library. It had grown over the centuries; from a small fort and farm land to a busy community. Mostly self sufficient and wholly inhabited by women, each cottage was clean and well kept with a matron overseeing the day to day running. An adviser, four fully fledged sisters and their shadows made up a group of ten to each home. Shadowing was how the younger sisters learnt their role and after taking the trials to prove their worth they would swear their loyalty to the sisterhood through a ritual. Lynwen currently had no shadow; her last had taken the trials shortly before her departure. Life was much simpler when all her responsibilities were directed at a young apprentice.

“Will that be all Sister Lynwen?” A quiet voice broke her reverie.

“Yes, thank you.”

“I can clean those and take them back to your cabin.” The maid gestured to the laundry. “Master Kendrich will be waiting for you in the dining room.”

“Oh really?” Lynwen frowned, the sarcasm in her voice caused the maid to take a step back and Lynwen sighed. It wasn’t the young girls fault Kendrich had been illusive over the past few days.

“Yes, ma’am. Would you like me to show you the way?”

“No, thank you. I think I can find my way by now.” She left and headed for the lavish eatery, a smile spreading over her face as she saw Kendrich sat at the head of the table. Others sat quietly talking and the table was full aside for the seat next to Kendrich, opposite a Torian baroness. Lynwen didn’t hurry despite the fact that they seemed to be waiting for her.

~~~

“Well, well, here she is. Sister Lynwen, please join us.” Kendrich and the two other men at the table rose and gave her a brief nod. One she had met, a merchant from the Torian capital of Alhan’enna. “You have met Colbon, but not priest Moseh; a shadow acolyte heading for the Imbhane temple.” He paused to let Lynwen nod in acknowledgement. “Baroness Sorhenson you have met but not our newest guest. This is Lady Yvonne Stoneholme, daughter of Baroness Stoneholme. She seeks her brother with the hopes to entice him to join her in the Torian militia. All very exciting stuff.” Kendrich returned to his chair and looked at Lynwen, who was still standing, even though a servant was holding her chair out. Kendrich turned to the young woman at the table and continued. “By late afternoon; is the answer to your question Lady Yvonne. You will go to the temple and be taken care of.”

Lynwen knew she must have arrived mid conversation, she let his words wash over her as she was served with fresh berry juice and scrambled eggs, thanking the server without thought. A light touch on her arm and the silence around the table had her believing she had missed something.

“My dear, are you well?” The avuncular priest next to her smiled.

“Yes, I am well; thank you. I was distracted thinking about Kendrich’s work.” She pasted a smile on her face and hoped it was enough.

“Oh yes, the prophecies, very interesting. And you, Sister, do you believe them?” Priest Moseh sounded sceptical.

“That depends on what prophecies we are talking of.” She had not studied the crystals and felt they had been left out to tease her curiosity.

“I beg your forgiveness, Lynwen. Do you not have the ability to read prophecy crystals?” Kendrich raised a condescending eye brow.

“No, only a few Clar’han sisters have that ability. The prophecy keepers reside on Clar’han Island. Those priestesses whole lives are devoted to such things.” Anger bubbled under the surface. Was she being tested? “If the monoliths we study prove prolific I will take you to the island and we will each have the opportunity to see our work transformed into crystal.”

“Isn’t the Clar’han Island magically hidden?” Lady Yvonne asked with a mouthful of fish; hardly the manners expected of a noble.

“Yes it is however, as I’m a sister of the Clar’han Order I gain entry.” Her voice dripped with impatience; a child should know this.

“Of course, how silly of me!” The lady returned; her words full of mockery. Some Lady!

“What prophecies do your crystals hold. If I may inquire?” The merchant’s deep voice caressed Lynwen’s senses like velvet. His handsome face was bearded. His curly hair and scruffy look was appealing on some base level.

“Of course Colbon, one crystal is pertaining to a darkness rising from the north, the other...” Kendrich paused, his brow creased in concentration. After a few moments he looked at Lynwen. “Maybe you would like to tell them?”

Silence reigned as all eyes fell on her. What he was playing at, she had no idea. Fair enough; if he wanted her to guess, it wouldn’t be that difficult. “Well, you have shared some of your work with me, so from that, I would say the prophecy is regarding the one that will bring about the rejoining of Alhanassii magic. A woman of great power and influence. One who will govern all the magic of one moon. Something that has not happened since the two queens fought many hundreds of sil’hna ago.”

“Well over a thousand sil’hna, my dear. Yes, you are right. The prophecy crystals have been vague, to say the least. However, this island I found; the monoliths, from what I can gather, could enlighten us much more on the subject of The One.”

She had been right; the study of his work had Lynwen believing he had uncovered something of great importance. A rush of excitement passed through her. Her mission to procure the information for all people and not just a select few had truly begun. “I’m sure you’re all aware of the Clar’han Order’s origins and mandates.”

“That we are Sister but never have we heard its tale from a member of its ranks. Would you indulge us?”

Lynwen looked around the table. Everyone’s attention was on her, except Baroness Sorhenson, who rose from her chair.

“Please forgive me, the journey comes to an end soon and I must check my acquisitions and prepare myself to depart.” The three men rose as she passed by Kendrich. She chuckled to herself and patted him fondly on the shoulder. “I look forward to borrowing this vessel of yours. I hope the price you charged helps with your expedition.” Turning to the table she added. “May the light of the Lithna Moon bless your travels.”

Lynwen sat back in her chair, absorbing this new information and placed her cup on the table. She watched as Kendrich kissed the Baroness’s hand like a puppy begging for attention, she wouldn’t be surprised if he pissed up her leg next. Something didn’t sit right about him and it angered her that she couldn’t pinpoint it. Once the men were seated, all eyes returned to her. Really! They wanted her to explain the Clar’han Order’s origins? When no one spoke she cleared her throat and begun.

“As you are all aware, Clar’ha was the most trusted of Queen Leila’s bodyguards. After their arrival on the eastern hemisphere they began to build a new life. Scouts were sent out to look for good locations that would be easy to defend. Their first settlement had been hard to secure.”

“That’s when Leila found the sanctuary.” Moseh interjected.

“No, it was a while after. Clar’ha was sent on a quest, at the same time Leila got word that Torlia was expecting twins. There had been a race to be the first sister to conceive. Leila was tormented with her sister’s emotions, though thousands of miles separated them.”

“The link between magical twins is now the thing of fables and fairy stories young mothers tell their children.”

“Not fables Kendrich, the princesses were the last twins born that shared magical abilities. None have been since.”

“That’s ridiculous; I know at least two sets of twins.” Lady Yvonne pointed with a chunk of bread to make her point.

“Really? Are those twins magical? I think not. Listen to what I’m saying. They were the last to share magic. Female twins where both survive are a rarity.

“Leila felt her distress and couldn’t cope with it. She flamed to the sanctuary for some time alone. Bodelia appeared to her in the sanctuary and encouraged Leila to go to Torlia, to comfort her. Bodelia knew she could never let two sisters be that powerful again, so she took them and that power away.”

“I always thought that they didn’t know the magic was split until children in the newly formed kingdoms couldn’t use magic like their parents?” Sat on the edge of his chair as if taking every word, Moseh’s eyes lit up like a child’s. Lynwen smiled at him and continued.

“No one was sure what would happen. After Bodelia appeared to Leila, she did indeed go to her sister and held her in her arms as Torlia’s twins were born dead. When she returned, she told her council what had transpired. No one knew for sure what was going to take place.” Lynwen lost her focus as she thought of Leila trying to comfort Torlia, feeling her pain and loss. It was the most tragic time in all of Alhanassii history. A reverent silence fell over the table until Colbon tried to encourage the story be finished.

“So that’s when Clar’ha was ordered to, what? Secure the sanctuary for Leila and her people.”

“No, you all have a very one sided version of this part in our history. Not at all. Leila gave Clar’ha the job of protecting the sanctuary. And also protecting those of Torlia’s people who wished to visit and read of the markings that appeared around the main altar. It stated that the sanctuary was a place for the queens of Alhanassa to come for council. Once scholars and such had had their chance to study at the sanctuary, a wall was erected and the Sisterhood established. From that day only the queens and their heirs are admitted.”

Kendrich rose from his chair, moving behind Lynwen. His hands rested on her shoulders and worked at the knot that had formed there. Lynwen stilled at his touch wondering if she should stop him. Did she want him to stop? He picked up the story as he worked. “The great council that followed consisted of leaders from all nations; they asked the Order to be the protectors of the great library in Alhan’enna and any other knowledge that was for the benefit of all.”

“Yeah but what no one expected was that they would move the library to a secret island and hide it along with everything else. I bet Leila got to use all this whenever she wanted.” The spite in Lady Yvonne’s voice was not missed by those at the table. A gasp or two and shaking heads proved her remark was out of line.

“Do you think Clar’ha clicked her fingers and the island and its people came into existence? Your childish attitude is very uncharacteristic of warrior.” Lynwen shrugged Kendrich’s hands from her shoulders, no longer enjoying their soothing touch. “It took many sil’hna to do such a thing, by the time it was functional, neither Leila or Torlia lived, their daughters too were passed their prime.”

“The free islands had also come into existence as the proclamation from Bodelia was made law.” Colbon was referring to the law that protected the islands between Leilan and Torlan, no queen could rule them. “The people were afraid of what more Bodelia could take from them so stuck to the ruling.”

“Our history constantly shows that we cannot work together, we should be taking this opportunity to prove to Alhanassa that it’s time for a change.” Moseh sounded sincere; he flushed as if embarrassed.

“It matters not to the Clar’han Order who could use what magic. What we find on this island we are heading to, it will be for all.” That, for now seemed to satisfy the others and Lynwen relaxed a little.

~~~

“Eager to get on with it, I see.” Kendrich sat down and noted that Lynwen’s whole demeanour had changed. Her deep, brown eyes were filled with anticipation and something else; obsession. It was a feeling he had, all too often; the search for the unknown drove him onward. A chance to visit the secret location of the Clar’han Island had his pulse racing. He wondered whether Lynwen felt the same. She was beautiful to him. That first time he had seen her, his heart had quickened. With his past misleadings he didn’t want to anger her anymore, they were necessary and he regretted them, in this instance but they couldn’t be helped. He hoped that by nightfall, they were aboard a sailing ship; heading north. “Once at the temple I have a few errands. Perhaps I can put you in charge of our necessities and such? Our team will help you prepare.”

“Wait, our team?” Lynwen looked around before fixing her scowl on him.

“Yes; our team. The ship we have chartered belongs to Colbon’s organisation. Lady Yvonne and her brother will be our protection…”

“NO! Since when do you need any other protection than me?” Lynwen’s cheeks reddened with anger, why did they need that mouthy elitist with them; she was warrior enough. Her fist clenched on the table, her spine straight. Kendrich scratched his head. Oh dear, he had done it again.

“I do not wish to undermine your abilities but you need to understand, the island we will be heading to is so far north it passes the magical void that surrounds the Burning Isles.” He watched as a flurry of emotions washed over her face; confusion, fear, determination. “I have been there once and do feel we need these extra swords.” He hated his awkwardness around women, especially Lynwen. He had this unusual feeling when it came to her, a need to protect her; not only physically but mentally too.

“THE Burning Isles?” Her fist relaxed and she slumped back in her seat. “The Baroness and Priest Moseh, are they joining us too?”

“No, my dear, not the Baroness. And I do not know Moseh’s orders but he could be one of the two healers that will aid us. We do need one of each, shadow and light. With Moseh along, we will only need Light for our company to be complete.” He kept his expression light and hoped she would understand.

“If we will be beyond the void then why the need for two healers?” It was a valid question.

“Good question, Sister Lynwen.” Priest Moseh turned to face her, his head to one side in question. “My orders are sealed but I surely pray to the Ostar Moon that I will accompany you. I have a vast knowledge of herb medicine and alternate ways to treat wounds that do not include magic. It would appear I have the needed qualifications to be on your team.” He looked at Kendrich, meeting his gaze. “Did you know of this? Surely our journey could have been more productive if we had all known what part we had to play?”

Kendrich didn’t like the truth in that statement. A solitary man, he often failed to understand others needs and, therefore, underestimated their intelligence and need for honesty. “I do apologise. My people skills are found lacking, at times.” He looked around the room at the uncertain expressions.

“Am I to believe, after your admission, that you are to be our leader in this venture into the void?” Lynwen’s voice held a hint of panic. He couldn’t find the will power to lift his eyes to her. He shook his head. “Then, who?”

“That would be my mandate.” Lady Yvonne spoke. Kendrich had picked her up in the sand dunes. Hired for her abilities in tracking and leading, she was employed, along with her brother, as their leaders. From what he had read about her and seen, she was well worth the price.

“My brother and I have been hired to oversee this endeavour. I understand your position in the Clar’han Order however, your role on this trip is that of a researcher. See it as a chance to indulge in your passion, Sister. Leave the hard work to us.” The blonde rose and gracefully made her way to the door. “Fear not, Sister. As a serving militia we can more than handle this endeavour. Do not let the gown deceive you.” With a swish of hair and fabric she left the group around the dining table, a silence thick with disbelief and dismay in her wake.

Kendrich had hoped for a friendship between his guests to naturally flourish however, it seemed the forced proximity had only driven them all apart. Inwardly he cringed, another mistake on his behalf. He would pay for that later. He really should work on his social niceties.

“Why would you put me in charge if Lady Yvonne thinks she is?” The question held a hint of anger. It was so easy to rile the Sister; Kendrich found a perverse amusement from this.

“You will need to check our equipment and such. Please, Lynwen. I never meant to deceive you. I had hoped that friendships would be established by now.” He pleaded with his eyes and watched as her anger diminished, a reluctant smile spreading over her face.

“Alright, Kendrich but no more surprises. I’m sure Priest Moseh would like to view your work. He would have been a welcome companion while you have been hiding.”

“I wanted you to absorb the books and scrolls objectively without outside influence. I simply cannot wait until we can share theories. Your work with ancient text is renowned and it thrills me that you to be on this adventure, with me.” He held his hand out to her which she reluctantly took, the warm from her fingers whispered to his senses, of a hidden softness and passion. The men rose from the table and began to leave. It would seem breakfast was over.

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