The name hit a nerve.
How could Norn Hannah Kappel not recognize one of her children, one of the girls she helped bring into the world? Now she could see it clearly. Jordan's features: her emerald eyes and pale skin. They were those of her mother, just finer due to her elven blood. Whereas her mother had been possessed of long, red hair, Jordan had shorter black hair. Nevertheless, she was her mother's daughter; she had the same soft smile. Her ears were pointed and her eyes deep and full of purpose just like her father. She was the same height as her mother, just a bit taller than Hannah herself, but she was athletic and fit for combat.
The Norn lowered her face and took the girl's hands on her own. "Child, forgive them! I am sorry my dear child, I didn't know."
Jordan looked a bit embarrassed. "It's fine Norn. I understand the people in the region have suffered. I can't really blame them."
"And yet you do, don't you?" Hannah's voice was but a whisper, her eyes still downcast. "You are right to blame us. You were but a child, yet I wager you remember everything. I was not in town when it happened, but that doesn't make it less my fault. I knew I should have preached more tolerance, but once fear and anger mix, it's like wildfire
it burns out of control."
Jordan closed her eyes tightly, her haunting memories were returning in force. To her, the cries of the mob and the heat of the torches were all too real. For a moment she was sure she had heard her name whispered in the cold east wind.
Jordan trembled. She felt like a toddler again. She took her hands from between those of the Norn and embraced the smaller woman. Her eyes were closed and her cheeks warm and moist, still she kept her voice from breaking. "Norn Hannah, you are not to blame for what others did. My father was very thankful for your help and always spoke highly of you." The embrace was tender but it lasted only a few seconds before the girl moved away.
"Dear child, it has been too long. You have grown to become as beautiful as your mother."
Hannah, noticing the sad expression that last statement brought, swiftly changed topics, "Your father, dear, how is his holiness doing these days?"
"He still hates when people call him that. He is do
" Jordan was cut short when a rock struck the side of her head. She fell to one knee, dizzy and surprised.
Norn Kappel turned around," who did that?"
The culprit stood, dressed in rags, not to far from them. Already he was bending to grab another rock. As he stood straight he gave an angry cry that caught the attention of those who were close. "It's the same damn face. Look at her! Can't you see it? Don't you remember her? It's the same witch in different clothes!"
The man's accusations were the ravings of a drunkard, yet still the people stopped and stared. The spectators began to whisper, their memories jogged by the cries. The girl was the living image of the Fenix Witch.
Jordan regained her footing and barely dodged the second rock. She had a nasty cut in her brow and it began to bleed profusely. The blood dripped, down the left side of her face, yet instead of attending to it; she kept her attention on the people, especially the drunk. Her left hand caressed her sword's pommel while the right began moving towards its handle. There was a green fire in the young sword knight's eyes, but she controlled herself.
Hannah tried to intervene, "Child, please stop! She is not who you think!" Still the man continued throwing rocks, insults and cries.
"I know who she is! She is a Fenix! Like the Fenix who practiced witchcraft and abandoned us! They are the ones responsible for my wife's death!"
The man was Veles, the town drunkard. His life had not been the same since his wife had died in childbirth. Hannah had attended the woman, yet her efforts had been in vain.
A crowd as large as the one before started to gather again, only this time it was not merely to watch. Several began picking up stones and other makeshift weapons. Hannah tried to calm them, but her words fell on deaf ears. The angry murmurs grew louder. The drunk's spark was about to ignite a bonfire.
Jordan's instinct told her to prepare for a fight, but her sense of duty told to stay her hand and not hurt these people. With a sigh, Jordan calmed herself, stood up straighter and addressed the crowd.
"You sent us away; so you can't blame my father or his followers after what you people did. We protected you and in return you betrayed us. You took my mother away from us! What did you expect he would do?"
She hoped to convince them to just move on, but somehow all the resentment and sadness she had tried to forget resonated through her words, inciting them to become violent. She didn't hate them, not any longer. She had learned to live with her loss. Still, being here had revived too many feelings the young knight had long kept buried.
The crowd itself didn't care about her loss; they were too focused on their own pain. One stone flew toward her and then several more. Most missed by an inch or more, but a few flew true. She lifted her shield from Argentum's saddle to deflect the stones.
"Tell that to my uncle, you let him die!"One howled.
"My father too!"
"We still mourn my brother, witch!"
Before things came to a bloody resolution, Norn Hannah Kappel chose to act. The Norn, moved herself between the young sword knight and her attackers, and began to pray. Two of the stones intended for Jordan struck her. Still she continued to pray, unheeding of the danger to herself. There was a shimmer and a glow in the air in front of her. A stone struck the glow and bounced away from the divine barrier.
The crowd stopped for a moment. Awareness of what they were doing slowly crept over them. The Norn was much beloved and they had no wish to hurt her. The boldest stepped forward.
"Norn Kappel, please move and let us do what must be done."
Norn Kappel opened her eyes wide. When she spoke it was with all the authority of her office, "No. No, my children! I helped her mother when she was born; she is as much my daughter as any of you. I expect you to treat her as you would do any of my daughters."
Reluctantly the crowd began dispersing; many in silence. Still a few hurled insults against the young knight as they walked of sight.
Jordan lowered her shield and prayed in thanks to her goddess that the crowd was gone. Norn Kappel sighed in pain, "by the Wheel child, let me take care of your wounds."
Jordan shook her head slowly, "Perhaps later Norn, I think it would be better if I head straight for the temple." The girl took Argentum's reigns and turned toward her destination. She advanced, caressing the animal's mane as she guided him along the road. Norn Kappel followed close behind.
The Temple of the Inheritor had seen better days.
Jordan's father had founded it in the name of their goddess more than thirty years earlier as a Temple and a Fortress dedicated to the protection and welfare of the whole region. During his time in Canterwall the place prospered. Now, a decade after their departure, no building in the surrounding region showed more signs of abandonment and neglect that it.
From afar the state of the building was barely perceptible, but as one approached it was all too easy to see the damage and disrepair. Only the garden besides the building was well cared for.
The front door was open wide, as if waiting for followers that would never return. Leaving Argentum outside both women climbed the steps and entered into Iomedae's house. Their steps echoed loudly in the temple's interior. Except for the fact that it was clean of dust and debris, the temple would have been abandoned. And yet, if Jordan focused she could feel the presence of the goddess. It was in the light glistening off the swords guarding the interiors.
As they went further in, Jordan could smell the light aroma of myrrh coming from the back of the chapel. There, praying besides the altar was a lonely young woman dressed in a simple white dress and adorned only with short golden braids.
The young priestess stood when she heard Jordan and Hannah's steps behind her. Despite being in her twenties', the young woman looked tired beyond her years. She began walking, slowly at first, towards the girl in silvery armor as if she could not believe her eyes. Then suddenly she ran sweeping Jordan into a full embrace.
"Jordan? What are you doing here?" There was amazement in the girl's voice, as if she had come to believe she would never see her friend again.
"Mirna, I missed you so!" Jordan cried returned the embrace.
"I thought you would never come back," said the blond priestess. She stepped back and wiped away the tears in her eyes.
"Well, I heard you were having difficulties here, but I promise it will be fine now."
The two looked each other over. Jordan thought Mirna looked so different from the last time they had seen each other, more than ten years ago, but still she recognized her friend's tenderness.
Mirna seemed to notice Hannah then for the first time. "Norn," she said respectfully.
And then she saw Jordan's head wound. "By the Goddess! Are you ok? Norn Kappel, did my friend give you any trouble down there?" Mirna tried to keep her tone casual, but Jordan picked up on the worry.
"None at all child, the problem were my children," said the Norn apologetically.
"Just a case of mistaken identity dear," Jordan shrugged
"You were never a good liar, old friend," said Mirna. She took Jordan by the hand and led her to the kitchen where she had fresh water and some healing implements.
"Please sit down, it's not much but it is all we have." said the young priestess taking the water and cotton to clean Jordan's fresh wound, but to her surprise it had already closed.
"I see the Goddess continues to give her blessings to you," said Mirna playfully.
Jordan smiled slightly, her face blushing. "And I am thankful, for she has kept me alive far longer than I deserve."
"You have to tell me all about it; I was told you traveled a lot. But you must be tired and hungry. Why don't you bath on my quarters while I prepare something for our breakfast?"
Jordan smiled and gave her old friend a kiss on the forehead, barely able to contain her own tears.
"Later, first I need to see her. Help me take this off."
Mirna nodded in understanding, and helped Jordan remove her armor; like she used to when they were mere acolytes, leaving just the chain beneath it.
After cleaning her face, Jordan left the other two women in the kitchen. Carrying her Holy sword, Faina, she used its magic blade to light her descent into the temple's cellar. She walked, guided only by memory until at last she reached a niche in the wall. Jordan caressed tenderly the words in scripted on it.
They read: "Novannia Fenix, beloved mother and wife."
"Mother, I've come home." Jordan hoped her voice didn't sound as hollow as the word home felt for her.