2nd August - Viseu
Sat in her tent on the other side of the impromptu parade ground Brigdha blanched and for the briefest moment she was ten years old with her sister bearing down on her in the apple orchard, a switch in her hand and her face full of righteous indignation.
She took a deep breath to compose herself, carefully setting down the scout reports she'd been studying, and stood calmly. Brigdha was no stranger to battles or conflict, indeed she'd been wounded several times in the war with Falasan and never once had it occurred to her to turn tail and run. But there had always been something about Moira's temper that terrified her to the core.
When they were growing up Brigdha had always been the odd one out, the bookish sister who read the law and mathematics. Not like Moira and Aoifa, they were always getting into trouble, fighting the estate boys and disappearing for days at a time to perform who knew what mischief. She guessed she took more after their mother Sorcha where the other two were like unto their father, whoever he might have been: the Dubhaines had little time for men and the old lady had never bothered to keep track of which of her lovers had sired whom.
"COMING SISTER!" she set her face in its warmest smile.
Their tutors had always found Moira a grave disappointment, possessed as she was of such a keen mind and yet so little willingness to study. Brigdha on the other hand worked hard at her studies and the praise she received had been another barrier between them, and yet for all that she couldn't help but envy her wild and devastating sibling.
She flicked the flap of her tent open and stepped out, steeling herself for the whirlwind. Her leather arming jack might turn a blade or arrow, but against that volcanic temper it was utterly useless. And in that instant as she watched her sister approaching like a magnificent force of nature she wondered how on earth any man could bear to face her in battle. A mischievous thought ran through her mind: perhaps if her sister dressed so informally for war, she might have less need to skewer men with her sword?
"Well then sister, what have you got to say for yourself?" Moira's voice was cold and sharp as the steel of her sword, that cunningly-wrought wolfshead of Asena which was her most treasured and feared possession.
All around the men of the Oporto Volunteers, whether those on her command or under Brigdha's, were shrinking into themselves. None wanted to be the target of that voice and its primordial rage. Perhaps if her friend Yfain was still alive he might have deflected her anger with a bawdy jest, or Carl with an appeal to duty, but none of these men were of that stature. They were brave, but they were not heroic, and who but a hero could stand before such an onslaught.
Perhaps a sister?
"That I've done you a favour, your ungrateful so and so!" Brigdha could feel the small child in her memory telling her to run now whilst there was still a chance of escape, but she was no longer that child. Her body bore a half-dozen scars and she had led a company of the finest archers the world had ever seen to their bloody slaughter at the ramparts of Nazgorn. In the war with Falasan she had seen hell itself, and whilst fear might well inside her it would never again consume her.
"And what the hell do you mean by that?" Moira now stood with her legs apart, hands set squarely on her shapely hips.
"That the Supreme Judge of Fontan should not be wasting her time with the petty bickering of quarrelsome nobles. Would Judge Strider have shown such consideration for a newcomer like Jens who clearly has nothing but contempt for our laws?" Brigdha crossed her arms, face stern and lecturing.
There was a long drawn-out moment of silence, perhaps a second and yet to all watching it could easily have been an hour.
"Well said sister, well said," and Moira's whole demeanour changed, her voice filling with gusty good humour and her face breaking into a warm smile, as if a summer thunderstorm had given way to a beautiful sunny afternoon.
"So what did you tell that horrible little Makarian on my behalf?" she clapped her arm about her sister's shoulder and the two of them strolled into the command tent.
"Oh, just that if he intended on treating your court with contempt that the favour would be returned. You really ought to ban him you know?"
"I know. But justice must not only be just, it must be seen to be just. And how would it look if I treated his case so disproportionally to Lord Tal's when I know damn well they are each as much to blame as the other. Men and their damn egos, eh?"
"Aye, men and their damn egos," they were both so busy laughing they didn't even notice Iraen quietly entering the room with the breakfast platter.