Maidens Of The Silver: Bloodlines - #07

by Jersey D Gibson

      Crois sat in the small room with benches, the first time she had ever been in that room. The walls were plain; the only relief was a small portrait of a young woman receiving the Silver from the Goddess of Time. Arya had been the first Maiden, being charged with the holy mission of saving Mankind from Himself. Arya had foraged forward into what was for her an unknown world, since Arya had lived in a small sleepy hamlet until the Goddess of Time visited her on her twentieth birthday. The first gun hadn’t been made for another twenty years; Arya had forged her way with words and her rapier. Crois couldn’t imagine what it had been like then, making the first musket, the arbequist, a large, and heavy, monopod weapon with a matchlock and a tendency to not hit what you were aiming at. Crois had trained on one briefly, as Maidens taught Acolytes about their history, and gave them a touch of what Maidens in the past did. Crois was the best shot in her class, and she wasn’t able to hit anything with the old weapon. The past two hundred years had brought Man further from the darkness of barbarianism. At least, in the areas most friendly to the Maidens.

      Two other women walked into the room that Crois occupied, and sat on the benches, talking to each other. Crois listened politely, but didn’t add to the conversation. She didn’t know the two women, but they did address each other, and Crois knew the women by names only.

      Sister Bertrix was an older woman with graying brown hair, whose bureaucratic skills had helped her advance in the years. She was good at going to others and telling them of the Maidens, or settling disputes. Supposedly, she had stopped a small war between two lords with nothing but a smile and a kind word.

      Sister Cynthia was a tall blond woman, who mostly dealt with problems. Oathbreakers, criminals, and such, the Temple would send Cynthia to deal with it. There were many bandits out in the various lands that the Maidens called their own, and Sisters had to marshal their own forces to capture people that broke the laws that the Maidens had set for them. Maidens like Cynthia were often called Trackers, and took pride in their skills of wood lore, trapping, and tracking down by trail and word of mouth.

      “So did you finally get that treaty signed, Bertrix? Seems like you were in the Sunderlunds for a long time.” Cynthia asked the older woman.

      “Yes, it was finally implemented.” Bertrix added a sigh. “I swear there was to be no end of concessions, added points, or old hates remembered or imagined.”

      Cynthia laughed at that. “All of it, two hundred years of them fighting each other, breaking trade routes, and at each others throats for one miserable town that happens to have a small river right by it. The dock that they had there was destroyed and never replaced!”

      “But I bet they wanted that town for the river access.” Cynthia was awarded with a nod. Bertrix had her eyes closed. The older woman had been there for almost a year, thinking of all the meetings, the messages that had to be sent, points defined and redefined. It seemed the treaty would be torn away over the littlest misgiving, or the simplest of things. Two lords had almost called the whole thing off over a small parcel of land that contained wild sheep. Bertrix knew that if the two of them went off, the whole thing would slowly or rapidly unravel. She didn’t want to deal with all that work, all the late nights sending and receiving messages be for naught. Finally, after many revisions, amendments, and clauses, the treaty was finished. It had been rewritten multiple times to make everyone happy. Finally signed, the treaty was now in effect, sponsored by the Maidens of the Silver. Whoever broke the treaty would have to deal with them now. Bertrix didn’t want to think what a war would do to them, since the Sunderlunds were closer to the Temple at Rosenda than she’d like.

      “Well, now it’s done and over with, Bertrix. You need not fret about it anymore.” Cynthia said to comfort the older woman.

      “Don’t be surprised if you get sent up there for a little reinforcing, Cynthia. They’ve been fighting for a long time, and I didn’t have the feeling that they were done with each other quite yet.”

      “No worries, Bertrix. My posse can more than handle a few disgruntled farmers with pitchforks, or a lord swinging a decorative sword.” Cynthia said with a smile. The younger of the two women pulled out what seemed to be a small block of wood and a knife. To Crois surprise, she started whittling it, shaving off little pieces into her lap. Crois saw that Cynthia did it with surprising grace and finesse. It seemed so strange that someone who was so good at her profession at tracking people down and bringing them to various authorities would do something so… simplistic. Crois watched as the woman began to shape the piece of wood shaving by shaving. It was obvious that the Maiden had started on the block of wood before, and that the shape was somewhat defined, some sort of four-legged animal, Crois guessed.

      “It’s for my daughter.” Cynthia said suddenly. It took Crois a moment to realize that the woman was talking to her.

      “Oh, sorry, Sister. I was just merely watching.” Crois said weakly. It sounded like something a normal woman would do for their child, carve or make a toy for a little one. It seemed so strange that a Maiden would do the same. Crois always heard that most Maidens who gave birth would take off the Silver to be a mother, or leave the child with someone who would raise them, sometimes with other Sisters who took off the Silver. Or leave them with the Temples. Like me, Crois thought to herself. Would Silvia have done something like this for her when she was a child? The thought was answered by the weight of the Lord’s Fingers resting at her back. Not a toy, indeed, but then again, Crois wasn’t a child, anymore.

      “It’s ok, Sister. I get looks all the time about it. But I am more than happy to do it for her.” Cynthia explained as she worked on the portion that the head would be at. It seemed that the creature would have something attached to its’ head. Antlers, maybe? Crois thought it might be a deer, or a stag, but as Cynthia worked it more, Crois realized she was wrong.

      “It’s good to know she has a mother that thinks and cares for her.” Crois thought out loud. Crois had long ago lost the moroseness of not knowing her parents, of being abandoned. “How old is she, Sister?”

      “Ayriana will be thirteen this Greener’s Moon. She is thinking of following her mother’s footsteps.” Cynthia looked up from the wood to Crois. Recognition came to her face. “Ah, you are Crois, are you not?”

      “Yes, Sister Cynthia.”

      “She definitely sounds like a woman who just gained the Silver.” Bertrix smiled a warm smile at Crois. Crois thought that Bertrix was easily three times her age, though you could tell in her eyes that it didn’t even affect her. Bertrix never had any children, but she treated young Maidens like they were her own, pulling them in under her wing, and teaching them lessons that the Temples could never hope to teach a young woman; experience, wisdom, and knowledge. “We were both there last night. It’s always good to see young women on their Second Naming day.”

      “I could always use some more firepower.” Cynthia said while shaving more wood. “I can have you become a good Tracker inside a year. No dreary paperwork, everyday an adventure, go places you won’t even see in your dreams.” Cynthia looked up from her work. “Not a bad start, if you’d like. Santera speaks very highly of you, Crois. A hard woman to impress, and a very good judge of character. If you’re interested, just let me know. I’ll make it happen.”

      Crois’ head swam from the offer. Become one of Sister Cynthia’s women? Sister Santera had been a Tracker for years, and often wished she could do so again. She’d gotten too old, Crois often heard Sister Santera lament.

      “Recruiting her before her first mission, Cynthia?” Bertrix gave off a small chuckle. “That’s not like you, Sister. I thought you liked them with a little more worldliness to them.”

      “I do.” Cynthia said, going back to her whittling. “Santera was my mentor as a Tracker. Any woman she says has the potential, I’ll take her word for it.”

      Wow, Crois thought to herself. Indeed, Trackers had exciting lives, often out on missions, scouting parties, prisoner duties, and such. While all Maidens were armed, Trackers were one of the few groups who were the enforcers for the Temples. There were other groups, as well. The Silver Hand, who was the Maiden’s standing army, was another. The last group that Crois knew of was a shunned group, not talked about but in whispers and pointed fingers. They were known by one name, distrusted and shied away by all; Inquisitors.

      “Thank you for your offer, Sister Cynthia. I will think about your offer properly.” Crois promised. Crois had wanted to live an exciting life as a Maiden. The Trackers were a group of women that Crois both admired and respected. The more Crois thought about it, the more is appealed to her. It occurred to her that she didn’t know what Path Sylvia followed. She didn’t think her mother was a Tracker, though. All she knew of her mother was from stories, and the little bit of information Sylvia told her. It was depressingly too little.

      Another Maiden came into the room, this one carrying what seemed to be a large ledger. The glasses she wore were of a new type, something called ‘bifocals’. Crois didn’t know much about them, except that administrative types enjoyed them for some reason.

      “Sister Bertrix Maynama. Sister Cynthia McAllistor. Sister Crois Deliquiox.” The woman asked. The Maidens named identified themselves.

      “Good, please come with me.” The woman responded, never looking up from her ledger. Crois found this interesting, and rose from the bench along with Bertrix and Cynthia, who regretted putting away her whittled wood and knife. They left the room with the benches, and followed the ledger-wielding woman to another room. When the Sisters entered the room, Crois saw four desks, with other Sisters working on them, sheets of papers filed, stacked, and recorded, inkbottles and quills lined in rows. Crois had never seen this room, but immediately guessed it. The Records Room. This was where Maidens got their missions. This would be where Crois would get her first mission, Crois thought with some excitement and nervousness. Would she be going with the two Sisters next to her? Crois certainly hoped so.

      “Sisters, here is your mission.” The Sister with the ledger said when she sat down. “You are to report to the Temple of Time in Galee with this document.” She pulled out a cylinder document case, which was empty. The Sister pulled out the document and read it to them. Crois did her best to hide her shock and uneasiness about its’ contents at the Sister explained the contents. The Sister continued with the Mission. “Take this to the Mother Maiden in Galee, and follow her instructions pertaining to this sensitive matter.”

      The Sister rolled up the document, and slid it into the document case, closing and sealing it. She handed it to Sister Bertrix, who was the most senior Sister of the three. The Admin Sister continued. “Report to Sister Ann in Supply for your necessary equipment. Here is the request forms for her. That is all.”

      Sister Bertrix and Cynthia touched their Symbols in response, and Crois quickly did the same. Crois had never really thought what her first mission would have been, but this certainly blew away all expectations she might have had. Crois had a dozen questions, but she held her peace, waiting for a better time to ask Sister Cynthia, or Bertrix. The two older Sisters turned to leave, and Crois followed behind them. It was obvious that the mission was of some small surprise to them as well, though Bertrix seemed to handle the information with grace. Cynthia’s face was dark and clouded. It was apparent that she wasn’t happy about something. Crois felt uneasy, apprehensive. Her first mission shouldn’t have to be something like this, should it? Not something of this magnitude, especially when it involved another Sister.

      The three Sisters walked down the hall and down the stairs. They passed the Acolyte’s Hall, and Crois took a quick glance down it. She saw young women in white robes, scurrying about for classes, training, errands, and such. Not a care in the world, not in the way that Crois had. Simple worries of an Acolyte. They hadn’t seemed simple to Crois when she was in white, but now she thought briefly, Acolytes were blessed with the simple worries of taking care of themselves, learning, and staying out of trouble.

      They continued down the hall into a large supply room, where Crois could see weapons, armor, ball and powder, and all sorts of other oddments stacked and hanging. There was a Sister with a limp there organizing a series of muskets, pistols, leather straps, and other travel necessities.

      “Sister Ann?” Bertrix asked the limping woman. The Sister turned to face her three newcomers. Crois could instantly see why the woman limped around. The lower half of her left leg was missing. In place was a peg leg, which curved at the bottom. Crois saw that the curve was there to mimic a person’s walking motion, and thought it a clever addition. Crois looked up at the Sister’s face, not wanting to shame the injured Maiden or herself by staring. Sister Bertrix and Ann greeted each other by touching their Symbols.

      “Ah,” The injured Maiden said. “Are you the three going out?”

      “That’s correct, Sister. Here’s the list of what we need.” Bertrix handed her the sheaf of paper with the notations on it. Ann looked through the crisp writing at the things the three Sisters needed.

      “This shouldn’t be too hard to pull up for you. I can give it to you in about two hours. Anything else with that?” Sister Ann asked.

      “Yes, I need a Tracker’s Guide, some extra flint and steel, and some rope and tackles.” Sister Cynthia said. Ann looked at he with some mild surprise and amusement.

      “Planning to have someone new on your Path?” Ann said with a wiry smile. Cynthia gave a quick nod to Crois, who did her best not to blush from all the attention by seeming to study something on the wall. Ann gave a knowing nod.

      “Our newest Sister. Congratulations.” Ann said to the fire-haired woman, offering her hand. Crois felt the blush coming on stronger. She imagined her face was as red as her hair.

      “Thank you, Sister.” Crois took the offered hand and shook it. Crois noticed the woman’s grip was strong and firm.

      “Just call me Ann. I’ve only had my Silver for more than a year myself.” The injured woman explained. “I remember you from when I was an Acolyte myself. I remember how you outshot Sister Geraldine. Not bad for an Acolyte to beat one of her Instructors.”

      “I merely got lucky, Ann. I only just beat her by a point.” Crois tried explaining, feeling the two sets of eyes of Bertrix and Cynthia on her.

      “Yes, and that still equals a perfect. Only a few dozen Sisters have gotten that. I don’t know of any Acolytes that have even gotten close.” Ann exclaimed. “Not just because of that, you were granted the Silver earlier. Most women are just good enough to do what is needed. You’ve excelled in many tasks, especially when that young girl’s pistol backfired on her because she used too much powder. She would have been blinded for life if you haven’t done the right thing so quickly. The Lord’s know we could always use women only half as good as you, Crois.”

      “An extraordinary woman indeed.” Bertrix quietly commented. Cynthia only nodded. This was the Acolyte that Santera praised so much? Outshot an Instructor, and got a perfect? That was damn unheard of. Geraldine was Cynthia bunkmate when they were Acolytes. Geraldine had received the Silver earlier because of her marksmanship. She had shot a perfect only twice, and that was years after her Second Naming day. Like Ann, Cynthia had never heard of an Acolyte shooting so well, not even half as much. She also remembered a particular incident when a young girl had her first firing training, a few years back. As Ann said, she had put too much powder in the pistol, and it exploded in her hand. She heard that because of an Acolyte, the girl’s sight was saved, if not back to its’ original perspective, and that her most serious wounds were treated on the spot. Some of them would have been very concerning had it not been for that one girl who had done the right thing. So this was she? Cynthia could see what Santera saw in her. She wasn’t the youngest Maiden granted the Silver, but she was damn close. Only a woman so extraordinary could have come up so fast, and done so well.

      Cynthia’s thoughts continued along that path, thinking of the youngest Maiden Named, Sylvia Silverhair, a woman who seemed to walk with the grace of the Lords themselves. Cynthia had just put on the Acolyte Whites when Sylvia was about to be granted the Silver. She still remembered the talk and gossip among not only the Acolytes, but the Teachers as well. She had been twenty points shy of a perfect in Training. Geraldine had wanted to beat that score, only missing it by five. This young woman not only beat them, but gotten a perfect. That was amazing, indeed. Cynthia never shot a perfect, knowing that target practice were just standing, unarmed wooden dummies. Anyone could shoot those well. Moving, armed, screaming targets were another thing entirely. Mettle wasn’t something you learned in a Temple, as Ann probably knew well. She hadn’t lost that leg in a supply room or behind a desk. The Path Mark on her shoulder said Supply, but there was one over her breast, where her heart laid. That Mark was of a silver fist, pointing to the side. The Silver Hand, Cynthia recognized.

      “The Aulklands Campaign?” Cynthia asked. She didn’t have to say more than that. The Silver Hand and Trackers were often hand-in-hand, and were Sisters who got along best. Trackers often worked as scouts for a regiment of the Silver Hand, finding good paths, setting traps for those who might follow. Trackers were also often there during a battle. No, Cynthia need no more words than that. They spoke everything Ann needed to hear, and understand.

      “Up until the fifth day, upon that Rook they wanted so badly. I still consider myself lucky.” Ann said. Bertrix and Crois knew nothing of what Cynthia and Ann were talking about, thought Bertrix knew well enough to stay out of the conversation. The older woman motioned Crois to stay out of it, as well. Crois had guessed they were talking about something only to themselves, something about Ann’s injury, she guessed.

      “Far too many weren’t. On both sides of the lines.” Cynthia was quiet after that, as was Ann.

      “Anyhow, your equipment will be ready soon. Be back here before lunch, and I will have your things ready. May you walk with the Lords.” Ann said while touching her Symbol. The three Sisters did the same, and one by one, they filed out of the room, with Crois last. Ann called out to her before she left. Crois looked at the injured Maiden while standing in the doorway.

      “Good luck, Sister Crois. I know you’ll do good things for the Silver.”


Posted on 06/05/2006
Copyright © 2024 Jersey D Gibson

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