Andrea Novis Episode 10
Copyright © 2015 by Michael Litzky
“Defend yourself!” Sandia Belin cried.
The next second her sword clashed against Jippy’s, tried to push it aside. Jippy was young but he fought well and he was the only one of the trainees who could give Sandia Belin a real workout. His eyes sparkled at hers as they fought. Happy thoughts of taking him to bed someday soon mixed with her physical pleasure at the fight.
“Keep your eyes on mine, not on my breasts!” she called out. As she expected his eyes, which had only been watching hers, flicked for an instant to her breasts and she made the move which nearly whipped his sword from his hand before he recovered and danced back out of her reach.
“The actual lesson there,” she snapped, “is not to let anything distract you. Not sights, nor words of your opponent!” The seven other trainees laughed pleasantly.
She pressed the attack, reveling in the way their bodies moved. All the while, the image of her little sister sitting in Markul’s dungeon for nine months played at the edge of her mind. Imbecile! Helpless little rabbit!
How could she, Sandia Belin, someday to be commander of the army, how could she not have known? If some ordinary cheesemaker or blackberry presser had been held captive for two weeks, she would have led a team to the rescue. How could she have not realized her own sister had been gone for months too long? Not that it would have been straight-forward, her father would not have allowed her to foment a war with Markul but even so…
And now Andrea Novis was gone again on a mist-chasing quest to bring back an old time-wasting place that danced on the edge of legend. Well, goddess rising, like it or not, if the fool didn’t come back or send word soon she would go follow with an army!
Jippy’s bated sword whacked her wrist. “A touch!” she cried, hiding her chagrin. “Well done. My mind wandered for an instant and this is the result.” She nearly threw herself into the fight with fury to humiliate him as payback, but checked herself. That would set a bad example and was unworthy.
Instead, she let the fight go on for a few more minutes, then held up her sword to stop it and shook his hand. “Well fought,” she announced.
“Come to me later for a private lesson, if you wish,” she said quietly, looking full into his eyes, which lit up. He had heard from other young men, and a few of the women, that when Sandia Belin invited you to her rooms for a private lesson, it was an experience not to be missed. He knew his arms and face gleamed healthily as he nodded and said, “It will be my great pleasure.” As indeed he had every reason to expect it to be.
Her loins pleasantly aglow, Sandia Belin dismissed the class with a hearty, “Well done, all.” She stopped herself from saying, “You’ll be ready to rescue my fool of a sister if she needs it.” Irritated with herself, she stomped back to her rooms to change clothes, seeing the face of Andrea Novis gleaming with mocking, wry disapproval. Jumping into bed with yet another paramour? You must have something in your head which might require deep thought and you certainly cannot allow that!
She stopped in front of her mirror and considered her own face. A few freckles, curly brown hair. Perhaps her eyes did not purse in thought but she was no horse-faced moron either. Was she plunging into another affair rather than think about something distasteful?
Because the truth was that until Andrea Novis returned she hadn’t thought about her sister, not once for nine months. She racked her brains, deliberately sitting still instead of running off to the next task, and looked back over those busy months. She’d had sweaty, demanding work every day. But for nine months, she had not thought of Andrea Novis. Or if she had thought of her sister, it was only to know that she was off somewhere and was fine.
The more she followed this train of thought, the more confused her mind grew. Andrea Novis had always been a loner and would often be gone. Sometimes on walks in the woods, which was a safe thing even for nobility in Jerrold’s happy land. Sometimes on pilgrimages to that old man’s cottage for “instruction in meditation,” at which Sandia Belin had chortled. But the Blackberry Festival and the Winter Sleep had come and gone and Andrea Novis who loved both holy days dearly had not been there and nobody had thought on it.
Now that the illusion was pierced, it was impossible not to see that magic must have been at work. It was like looking at a picture which was supposedly of a forest scene but which had the face of a monkey hidden in a tree or a goddess in the mist. Once you saw it, you couldn’t see anything else.
Who would cast such a magic? And for that matter, was she herself magicked again? Did she only think that Andrea Novis was off on some adventure to restore Elemar?
As if her thoughts had indeed pierced an illusion, a messenger rapped on her door that moment with news of her sister.
“Is she well??” Sandia Belin demanded. “She remains free and in the light, does she not?”
At the shadow on the messenger’s tired face, she grasped the collar of his shirt. “Is she well???” she demanded, then instantly released him. “My apologies, you do not deserve such treatment.”
“My lady!” he gasped, nodding, not refuting what she’d just said but trying to hide his own anger.
“I am truly sorry, Timothy,” Sandia Belin forced herself to say humbly to this man who she herself had helped train. Her father would have been coldly livid to know that she’d laid hands on her sister’s messenger.
The messenger nodded, adjusted his collar and, clearly making an effort to swallow his own feelings, reported, “Your sister is launched on the salvation of the land of Elemar. At the moment she is, of her own volition, within the tiny ring of mountains which surrounds the lost land.”
Sandia Belin controlled her impatience and kept her twitching hands at her sides. “Your words make no sense to me, Timothy.”
Timothy explained what he could, hindered by the fact that he himself didn’t really understand what was happening with Andrea Novis.
Sandia Belin swept him aside with no apology this time. “I’ll see for myself!” she roared. “Follow me!” Gathering up soldiers by eye and a snapped word, she mounted and stormed out with an army for the land of Elemar.
To be continued…