The Pirate Apprentice, Chapter 23: A waiting game

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Seji pounded on the snow-beaten door of the isolated monastery. She couldn’t feel her hand hitting the wood anymore, and she wondered if the noise could be heard over the howling wind. She was not entirely sure she could hear much of anything either, except the wind. Even properly prepared for the elements, she was reasonably sure she had died at least twice on her way here. Between the numbing cold, and the blinding wind, it was hard to tell anymore.

There was the muffled noise that she hoped was the sound of the door being unbarred. It was followed by more silence. Then a slight woman, bundled in furs, managed to wrestle open the massive wooden door without the wind bowling her over and peeked out through a narrow crack. She eyed Seji warily with the one eye that would fit in the narrow gap. Seji supposed it was a not a time or place to be expecting visitors, so caution was to be expected. Seji opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out, everything too cold to work right.

“You must be Seji,” the small woman shouted over the wind. She let the door open further, trying to make the gap big enough for a person while avoiding the full brunt of the wind. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Seji slipped through the open door, out of the bitter weather into a much warmer cold. With the wind so aggressively demanding admittance, it took both of them to close the door again.

Her mother had not been entirely honest with her. She had claimed she wanted to talk to someone as soon as they landed in Shuri. If she did, there was no way to know. Shortly after they had set foot in the city, she gave Seji the slip. It took a week to be sure her mother was not in the city. This bothered her, because it meant her mother had been planning things. That was always a bad sign, It took another month to pick up her trail. And that trail was a wild goose chase that took the better part of a year to unravel.

Now, she finally knew where her mother was. She was in an ancient monastery, on the remote island of Usesi in the middle of the Kril. The one she now stood within. It was an isolated monastery, caught in the middle of a bitter northern winter, on the edge of an active volcano, in a place that wasn’t fit for human habitation in the best of times. Though, in what passed for the warm season, the hot springs were supposed to be wonderful, if one could get to them.

Seji was ushered in to comfortably warm great room. There was a dining table running the length of it, lined with benches. There was a large fire in the hearth at the far end. She made her way to it, wondering where they acquired that much wood before she noticed that the heat wasn’t coming from the fire. It was a bit of wyrding, an illusion to provide visual comfort. The heat was radiating from the floor.

Other women arrived to assist. They silently offered her warm furs in exchange for her weather-beaten clothes, which she declined. Being swaddled in furs seemed unbecoming to her. Though she did take a pile of them to sit on the floor before the fire and working on thawing herself out.

The women appeared intermittently and offered warm tea and broth, both of which she graciously accepted. She used the time to relax, to clear her mind, and to get to a state where she would ask calm, reasonable questions before trying to do her mother bodily harm.

After perhaps an hour, when she could feel all her fingers and toes were back to their normal selves, she felt the air in the room change with the approach of her mother. Seji could feel that aura her mother put on when she was planning a grand entrance. She didn’t have to turn around to know the exact moment her mother swept, silently, into the room with the grandeur of a queen on a bender. Seji made ready to break the mood with a snide comment when her mother caught her off guard and broke the mood with a sincere one, “Where were you dear? I was expecting you to get here months ago, or at least before the worst of the winter.”

Seji grunted. “Following false leads you managed to plant most everywhere.”

“Oh, child, those weren’t for you. They were for anyone else who might try to find me. You really shouldn’t let yourself sink to their level.”

Seji reconsidered the idea of leading with bodily harm. Not that it would do any good. Her mother came up next to her and rearranged the pile of furs to find a comfortable perch for herself.

“Well, I am sincerely glad you made it anyway. It would hate having to hunt you down and thaw you out of a block of something or another.”

“You abandoned me without notice.”

“Yes, child. Didn’t you notice there were some people unusually interested in us when we made port? Uncomfortably so. I am reasonably certain that my hunch was right in the wrong way and instead of finding information, I found co-conspirators. So I let them follow you for a bit while I made good my escape. Did any of them follow you here?”

Seji was reasonably certain her mother had found nothing more than self-important fantasies to cover for a sinking sense of being on a wild goose chase. She sighed with annoyance. “Mother, I couldn’t have followed me here. Though if they had, I would have hitched a lift and saved myself some time.”

“Well, no worries then. If anyone else shows up, these young ladies know what to do with them.”

Seji had no doubts on that point. The Sisters of Kril were known to be formidable wyrds, passing down between the generations forgotten arts of martial magick that many would die to get their hand on. Many had done just that. Which is why the now lived on the remote archipelago of intimidating volcanic islands from which they took their name. In their own way, the Sisters of Kril might also call Madame Flattery their mother, though not, perhaps, in so direct a way.

“So beyond that, how was the trip,” Madame Flattery asked cheerfully.

Seji let herself fall backwards onto the furs with s heartfelt scream of rage.

“Sounds just like mine,” Madame Flattery said, without losing an ounce of her cheer.

Seji looked at her through eyes slitted in annoyance. She had managed to get quite a bit of practice in squinting bitterly recently. “Did you at least get to talk to whoever it was you wanted to talk to?”

“Of course not, child. I am quite certain they are not due to run into me for some time yet. But this seemed like a nice place to wait. Nothing to do but meditate, clear one’s mind and let the threads of the future flow through me. It is a uniquely refreshing experience after all that time spent in self indulgence. I never thought waiting could be so pleasant. Though the girls here do tend to scurry off and hide when I start to Speak. Apparently, my Speakings tend to involve things they don’t want to hear.”

“Mother, you are not a Speaker.”

“Well, not since you were born, no. But I do firmly believe that it is never to late to dust off an old talent. Don’t you agree?”

Seji looked at her with eyes no longer quite so slitted. For the first time in centuries her mother had successfully surprised her.

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