2nd August - Viseu
Moira rolled out of her makeshift bed, yawning as she stretched the knots from her muscles. She wondered that after so many years on campaign her body still craved the comfort of a proper mattress like she'd known in distant Cagil.
"Are you ready for your breakfast ma'am?" her page Iraen was hovering at the sturdy camp table, arranging a platter of cold meats and goat's cheese and heavy black bread.
"What time is it?" Moira stood up, stretching her arms before her with fingers interlaced, sinews like steel cords above her lightly muscled frame.
"Mid-morning ma'am," Iraen fetched her robe and helped her into it. The young page had long since stopped being embarrassed by her mistress's nudity, but it still bothered her that one of the men might come in with an urgent despatch before she was properly dressed.
"Why did you let me sleep in so late girl? I should have been awake at cock-crow," she raised her hand, stifling a further involuntary yawn, "to read the despatches."
"As you were out with the men all night hunting Confederate stragglers I thought it best not to disturb you," she set the platter just so as Moira sat on her camp stool and studied her breakfast.
"Well bring me the mail bag and I'll dictate some letters whilst I eat," her knife carved a large slice from the cheese, impaled it, and propelled it into her mouth with carefree abandon, "I'm famished."
"There's a slight problem with the despatches ma'am," Iraen shrunk back ever so slightly, clearly expecting an explosion of temper as she continued with her news, "Your sister appears to have taken it upon herself to handle it."
"SHE DID WHAT!!!!" Moira was half-way from her seat, her face burning with the kind of rage only a sibling can inspire.
Iraen rapidly retreated, "It seems that when the messenger arrived this morning she met him on the road, and knowing that you were asleep she..."
"She what? She stuck her nose into my business? You'd think after all these years she'd have changed, but oh no, not darling Brigdha. She's as bad as our bloody mother! Why couldn't she stay in Cagil and stick her nose into their business?"
Moira was already half-way through the flap of the pavilion, her robe flapping as she moved allowing momentary glances of her naked legs and firm bosom. She had always been oblivious to her looks and the power they held over men, and now in her rage she didn't even see the dropped jaws and gaping maws of the Oporto Volunteers.
"BRIGHDHA!!!!" a voice trained in the depths of battle echoed across the small encampment and beyond, "BRIGDHA DUBHAINE GET YOUR SORRY RUMP OUT HERE NOW!!!!"
"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.