Eris' Handmaiden, Page 3

Based on roleplay in Company of the Black Rose guild chat.

The sun shone down as Sinaedh climbed the hills toward Cornwall, sending a trickle of perspiration down her back. She paused a moment, wiping a hand across her forehead, then shifted the pack on her back. Turning, she looked back down into the mists rising from the swamp. Braden had been left in good hands. She needed to move on, to find a way to get to Sanders. The twinge of guilt she felt each step she took farther from the injured paladin diminished as she remembered her lost love.

A horse raced toward her on the road, carrying an armsman wearing gleaming plate. Sinaedh stepped back, the dust curling around her, squinting as she tried to recognize the man. His cloak showed the colors of the Hand of Retribution, and her heart lifted briefly. Sanders had been friendly with many of them! She waved, but the horse’s hooves beating strong on the road and his speed kept the man from even noticing her. Sighing, she turned her steps to the hill again.

The haze grew again as she walked over the hills toward Lyonesse. Each night she stopped briefly, building a small fire to warm her. Once or twice, other travelers joined her in the night, their voices hushed in quiet conversation. She rolled into a blanket on the soft ground, the mournful sound of wolves singing her to sleep. Each morning she rose, turning her steps again to the west, to Lyonesse, where there was hope of finding a boatman to aid her in her journey.

“Sinaedh!” a familiar voice hailed her as she trudged down the hill toward the foggy coast. She paused, looking toward the trees where the man’s voice had originated. “Sister Sinaedh, where have you been?”

“I..,” Sinaedh looked down as Randon approached. The mercenary had always been able to see things in her face, to read her feelings, but now she needed to keep what she meant to do secret. “I’ve been traveling, and thinking,” she paused, unsure how much he knew about her harsh words to Christiana.

“Sinaedh,” Randon placed a large weathered hand on her shoulder, but she resisted the urge to look up at him. “Chris told me... about what happened. She feels…”

“Brother Randon,” she answered softly. “I was at fault. I..,” Sinaedh frowned down at the stubbly grass where they stood. “When Feyonne and Weyn came into the tavern, all I could feel was how badly I missed Sanders. It was if each laugh, each word, each touch drove a knife into me. I couldn’t stay. I was rude to them, and I’m sorry for it. Then when Christiana ran after me, I was… I was angry. She’s suffered, and I know it, but there was someone… someone for her, too.” Tears threatened, and she lifted a hand to wipe them away. “I miss him so,” she said softly.

Without speaking, Randon pulled her close, folding her into a hug. Stiff for a moment, feeling guilty still about her treatment of Christiana and the young couple, Sinaedh finally sighed, tentatively returning the hug. “You know we’re all family,” Randon said gently.

“I know,” Sinaedh nodded, then looked up at him. “I got lost in the marsh. It was God guiding me, even though I didn’t know it. I found a man washed up in a boat. It was Brother Braden!”

“Braden? Good God, he’s been missing a long time! How was he?”

“Not well. But I left him in capable hands, with a couple nearby to Adribard’s.” She smiled briefly, then looked up into the mercenary’s face. “Brother Randon, how long do you think it would take to travel by boat to Jotunheim?”

Randon simply stared at her for a moment. Sinaedh saw confusion at first in his eyes, then slowly his brows drew together. “I think that it matters little. We won’t be traveling there.”

Sinaedh shook her head resolutely. “But I must!”

“No,” he answered, frowning now. “No, you must not.” He sighed, and she saw the confusion return.

She knew that his hesitation was due to his dislike of Sanders. From the moment the man had begun courting her, Randon and others had suspected him of treachery, infidelity and worse. A flushed heat swept through her. “I know that you… that many… don’t like Sanders. But I have to find him and bring him home.”

“Sister, there is something I must speak to you about.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder, and she felt some of the anger seeping away. How could she think Randon would try to harm her? He’d been a friend for most of her life! “What, Brother Randon?” She looked up into his face.

“Sister, I have found the murderer of your husband,” the man said softly. He gently squeezed her shoulder. “And I have slain the fiend.”

A chill ran down her spine. Slain? Murderer? “But he’s not… not in Midgard?” She felt tears well into her eyes as she looked up at Randon. The man silently shook his head. She frowned, considering. No! That couldn’t be! She’d seen him, not long ago.

“He has departed this world,” Randon said softly. She could only stare at him, a flush of anger once again building. “My blades could not bring Sanders back, but they have brought justice.”

Sinaedh was staring up at the man now. Why was he lying to her? “No,” she murmured. “I don’t understand.” How could her oldest friend try to hurt her like this? First Christiana, now Randon was betraying her, denying her love.

“Sister, this is going to be difficult to hear and accept, I’m afraid. But…,” he looked down, avoiding her tear-filled gaze.

“I don’t understand. What are you trying to tell me?” Sinaedh blinked back tears.

“According to the information I received, Sanders was not…,” Randon shook his head, staring out at the mist, then finally looking back to her. “He was not faithful to you.”

“No,” she said softly. She knew now. He hated her. He hated her because he hated Sanders. He wouldn’t help her find him. Christiana and he were in league, both trying to keep her from her love. “Lies!” she cried out, swinging a fist at him. “Lies! Why are you lying to me?” Angrily, she struck at him again.

Without thinking, Randon reached to grasp Sinaedh’s hands, preventing her from striking him again. “Sister!” He pulled her up close to him, encircling her with his arms. “Stop this!”

Furious, Sinaedh struggled. “You hated him! It was you!” She thrashed wildly, elbowing the mercenary and twisting out of his grasp. “You killed him!”

Randon backhanded the hysterical woman, knocking her to the ground. “You will never say such things again!” His voice grated as he stepped forward while she scuttled back on her hands and knees. “You are lashing out at others for the pain done to you, but his death has already been avenged. I did that for you!”

“Liar!” she screamed, crawling away from the man. “LIAR!”

“You speak madness, Sinaedh. Sanders was bedding another man’s wife! That man found out and hired someone to kill him.”

“Liar! I’ll make you pay for your lies! Do you hear me?” Sinaedh staggered to her feet, glaring at Randon, a red haze blotting all but his face. “I’ll make you all pay!”

“I have letters Sanders wrote to the lass,” Randon growled. “In his own hand. Look at them!”

“No!” Sinaedh clapped her hands over her ears, turning away to make his words stop. “I thought you were my friend. I thought you all were my friends!” Tears streaming down her face, she stumbled away.

“I am more than a friend to you, Sinaedh. You know that I wouldn’t lie. It’s your grief blinding you.”

“LIAR!” Screaming out her pain, Sinaedh turned and ran, tearing into the low brush of the forest. Tears blinded her to the darkness, to the ravines and roots that tripped her. Again and again she rose, stumbling away from the confrontation with the man who’d been a brother to her since she was very young.

One last root snagged her, sending her tumbling down into a low gully. With a thud, she smacked against a rock. As she curled up, knees to her chest and arms wrapped around them, all her fears and anguish were released as wracking sobs, all the pains’ aches diminished, drowned by that in her heart. “Oh Sanders,” she moaned. “Oh my love.”

A swirling fog lay over the land, beading every surface it touched with water. Sinaedh woke to the slow drip from an overhanging branch. She sat up, wiping water from her face with her hand. The day was as bleak as her heart.

A soft rustle of leaves drew her attention. As she looked in that direction, the fog swirled, seeming to be a living thing. Slowly, a form darkened within it. Shivering, she rose slowly to her feet.

“Love,” the wind whispered to her. “Love, come for me.”

“Sanders?” Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, Sinaedh stumbled toward the gray form. Slowly it resolved into the shape of a man, still distant, still shrouded with fog. One arm lifted, then beckoned to her. “Sanders?”

“Come,” she heard breathed on the wind, then no more. The form took a step back, fading into the mist.

“Wait!” She scrambled up the hillside, pulling herself up with branches and roots. “Wait, my love!”

“Come.” The voice was more distant. Sinaedh plunged into the fog, ignoring whipping branches and tripping roots. Sanders! Her hear pounded with renewed hope. He was leading her to him.

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Archer image from Graphic Knights

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