Bryn woke groggily finding herself not in her quarters on the Nomad but in a small stone cell. It had straw on the floor and a bucket in the corner. It was vaguely trapezoid in shape- Firouz would have been so proud she even remembered what trapezoid meant… The outer wall had a definite curve to it, but no window.
There was no door. Bryn blinked. On the smallest wall there was a small barred window. That was all. How had she gotten in here? Where were the boys?
"Hello?" She called out, hoping someone might be able to hear her, provide her with some answers.
"Girls, I think we got a new one!" Someone- a woman said, sounding close by, to Bryn's left.
Bryn moved to the window and looked towards where she thought the sound came from.
"About time too! You, new girl, how powerful are you?" Another voice, another woman, snapped at her.
"Where am I?" Bryn asked, she didn't see anything but darkness.
"We're imprisoned child," yet another voice said, this one with patience in her voice. "A religious zealot, trying to make up for having magical powers himself by collecting what he calls witches. Something about not suffering a witch to live."
"But we're alive…" Bryn said.
"Thou shalt not kill. It's an important one," A fourth woman, directly to Bryn's right said. "I think introductions are in order: to your left is Serendib, next to her Rumina, then Caipra, then me to your right and you finish the circle."
"So back to my question: how powerful are you? None of us can get out of here separately but now that we finally form a circle we have a chance," Rumina snapped.
"You couldn't form one without me?" Bryn asked, too much information was coming at her. She still wasn't convinced that this wasn't all some incredibly weird dream.
"Ever heard of a magic square, you idiot?" Rumina snapped.
"Rumina, lay off! Give her some time to get her bearings." The woman to her right said. "Don't mind Rumy, she's of the evil persuasion. Now what's your name newby?"
"I'm Bryn… Wait, you mean Rumina as in the daughter of Turok? Who plagued Sinbad a while back?" Bryn asked.
"You know Sinbad?" The woman on her right asked, at the same time as Rumina interjected with a: "We never plagued anyone! Sinbad seemed to quite enjoy my attentions actually."
"Oh in your dreams!"
"Cool it ladies! Now is not the time to tear each other a new one! I am getting sick of your bickering. We need to instruct Bryn on her part in the spell," Serendib said.
"That makes you Maeve right?" Bryn asked. She didn't know how she felt about being stuck in the same prison that held the sorceress whose place she had taken but was never told of, whose shoes she was constantly pressed into but never quite filled…
"Didn't I introduce myself?" Maeve wondered.
"No… Sinbad still misses you," Bryn said.
It was quiet for a moment as Maeve took that in and the others waited for her reaction. "How is he?" she finally asked. "How's Dermott?"
"I don't mean to be insensitive or anything, but the update can wait. If we're successful you can see them soon enough and if we're not we have plenty of time to hear every single detail Bryn remembers from the outside world…" Serendib said.
"What about Dim-Dim? Is he here somewhere as well?" Bryn asked, remembering how his voice had come from the air and told them not to worry about Maeve.
"My husband is in another dimension right now child, now please focus, we don't have much time before our jailor comes back," Caipra said.
"Yes ma'am," Bryn automatically said, though she had never in her life- as far as she remembered, called anyone ma'am before.
"Right when it is time- and I say when it is time- we will form a pentagram. Obviously we cannot draw one but we can form power lines between ourselves. So for you Bryn that would mean forming a bond with me and with Rumina. Do you know how to do this?" Caipra asked.
"Not really," Bryn admitted. "I don't really know anything about magic, I just sort of do it."
"Ah hell, we got ourselves a dumbass," Rumina huffed.
"Rumina! Not helping!" Maeve told her.
"Whatever," Rumina just replied.
"Bryn," Caipra started. "Extend your hands through the bars, as far as you can. One pointed towards me, the other towards Rumina. Now open your mind to us. Rumina, please work with us for a moment. Alright Bryn, now feel your way towards us, you should meet us about halfway there."
Bryn did as she was told and suddenly the darkness between the cells lit up as a bright yellow line formed between her and Rumina and a moment later a green one between her and Caipra.
Startled Bryn closed her mind and broke the bonds. Something about the connection with Rumina… it felt so natural, so easy. Could it be that her worst fears were true? That she had been an evil sorceress before her amnesia?
Rumina uncharacteristically didn't have a snide comment at the ready, just a question; "Who are you?"
"Bryn." Bryn just said, because as much as she wanted one, she didn't have a better answer.
"What happened?" Serendib asked.
"She reminds me of someone I used to know, that's all," Rumina answered, clearly shaken.
"Who?" Maeve asked quietly, respectfully.
"My mother," Rumina said. You couldn't be stuck with only a few others for company without forming a bond. They shared the darkness from the barely lit confines of their cells and their anger for their captor.
"I didn't know you had one," Serendib said. "I thought your father had just taken you from some poor woman."
"My father loved my mother!" Rumina angrily snapped, reacting the only way she had been taught how to. "But she betrayed him and took his heart with him. But not me."
It explained a lot about Rumina. Raised by a selfish, narcissistic man who alternately spoiled her and told her how great she was because she was his daughter and put down and insulted because she could never be quite good enough- she reminded him of her mother.
"Oh honey," it was Maeve who sent a warm wave of compassion towards her arch-enemy. Enveloping her in the closest thing to a hug they could manage.
"Whatever, it's ancient history. Now go on and teach the newby the spell," Rumina snapped, unable to accept the care the others were trying to give her.
But before anyone could do as suggested the lights went on in the dark space between their cells. Bryn rushed back to the window and looked upon the faces of the women she'd been talking to. Then a hatch in the floor opened and someone pushed a heavy sack through before coming up himself.
It was a thin, white man, wearing only a loincloth and a LOT of scars, some of them fresh. From the angles and placing of the various wounds Bryn surmised that most of them were self-inflicted. The self-hatred was written all over him.
"I can help you," Bryn said, unprompted, looking into the gaping abyss of that man's pain.
"I will not sell my soul for a few gold coins, devil-worshipper," the man snarled. He started pushing bread, cheese and flagons of water through the bars of the cells.
"That's a good policy to live by," Bryn agreed with him. "I don't want your soul, I just want to relieve your pain."
"Jesus Christ is my lord and saviour, He has shown me the way to redeem myself," the man said.
Bryn was quiet after that, reflecting on how sad it was that a twisted mind could take the teachings of a good man and twist and twist until what was left was a perverse monstrosity of a life.
When he finished distributing the food the man sat down and took a heavy book from his sack. He opened the book at the very first page. "In the beginning…" he read and didn't stop for eight hours, by that time the sorceresses were fast asleep.
"How often does he do that?" Bryn asked when, upon waking she found that the man had finally left.
"Whenever he finds the strength to do so," Caipra answered.
"That poor man," Bryn commiserated.
"Poor man? What a psycho! What a revolting piece of excrement!" Rumina argued.
"Seriously people, can we get on with teaching Bryn the chant now?" Serendib interjected.
"You're right Serendib," Maeve said. "It's a chant we've devised ourselves, it's in Latin, Arabic, Gaelic, Hebrew and Sanskrit, taking the most powerful words from each language and connecting them through rhyme and rhythm. It's chanted not together but as a round, do you understand Bryn?"
Bryn nodded, then realized no one could see her. "Yes," she said aloud. "We start the chant one after the other at regular intervals."
"That's right. Now repeat after me…" as Maeve went through the chant with her Bryn felt the power of the words she didn't know the meaning of for the most part vibrate through her body, building up the power inside her, bursting to get free.
Bryn practiced and practiced, but every time they tried to say them as a round she lost her place and started to chant along with one of the others. It was frustrating and humiliating. She couldn't close herself of from the others to better focus on her own words because she had to be open to them to stay connected and share the power…
She practiced quietly to herself, listening with half an ear to the conversations around her. She listened to Rumina and Maeve tag-teaming to goad and irritate their captor, though it meant they would have to skip one of the scarce meals they were given. She listened to Maeve and Serendib singing songs of home and love, their clear voices mingling beautifully, bringing tears to her eyes. She listened to Caipra tell tall tales of her life that she swore were real, that could bring the other outs in gales of laughter and seas of tears. She listened to endless bickering between Maeve and Rumina, suspecting that it was a source of comfort for them, even as it drove the other tower-occupants crazy. She even listened to the man reading his book, all the while running the chant through her mind until it was as much a part of her as her own heartbeat.
"I think I'm ready," she announced one day.
"Let's practice it a time or two," Caipra said.
It went perfectly, even without the power lines between them the very stones vibrated with undirected power, Bryn found her hair standing on end and the straw was floating in lazy circles around her.
"So what do we do when we're connected and chanting?" Bryn asked finally.
"Leave that up to me dearheart," Caipra said.
"Now? Can we do it now?" Serendib asked, sounding as impatient as a child.
"We only get one shot at this love, I want us all at our best. This means next time we get a meal we're on our best behaviour and we all eat and sleep. Then, if everyone feels hale and healthy, we make our attempt," Caipra said.
"We attempt nothing, we WILL escape," Rumina said, trying to force her determination onto the others.
There was no need; they were as determined as she was to get out of there.
They didn't have to wait long. The brown bag preceded their captor into the little room in between all their cells. Again he handed out their meagre dinners before opening his bible and carrying on where he had left off…
Bryn had a hard time falling asleep, the remaining magic from their earlier practices still hummed inside her, but that wasn't what kept her up… Nerves were. Would she be able to pull her weight in the morning? Would they really escape? And after that, if they escaped, they would do so with a black sorceress in their midst, how could they trust her? And after all of that… How would they get home? Would she even still be welcome on the Nomad when they had their true sorceress back?
Eventually the droning, even tones of her captor lulled her into a fitful sleep…
"It is time, ladies, form the pentagram," Caipra ordered, the authority in her voice brooked no opposition. Not that there was opposition.
Bryn formed the yellow and green lines and watched as Maeve and Rumina easily connected with an orange line and Maeve and Serendib's bond turned purple. Between Caipra and Serendib blue lined formed, making the pentagram complete.
Caipra started the chant, the next line Maeve started, then Bryn, then Serendib and at last Rumina…
Almost immediately the building began shaking but Bryn didn't feel it, the sorceresses all floated an inch above the floor, the walls between them disintegrated first and a protective bubble formed around the five of them even as the tower started collapsing around them. The zealot tried to open the hatch from below but it was forced shut, they could barely make out his screams of anger and desperation above the noise of their chants and the violence going on around them.
Eventually there was clear blue sky visible above them, the tower falling away until it was nothing but a pile of rubble, burying the zealot beneath it. Still they kept chanting- they didn't want to fall and break their necks the moment they'd regained their freedom after all. Caipra carefully manoeuvred them back to the ground and then tied off the spell, enabling them to let go of the bonds they'd formed.
Panting they stood in the circle, looking around at each other. For four of them it was the first time they'd seen daylight in many months. Relief flooded over their features, Serendib started crying which prompted Caipra to pull her into a hug. Even Maeve and Rumina fell into a celebratory hug. Bryn didn't know how to feel. She hadn't been in that prison that long and she still sort of felt sorry for their captor, insane as he had been, she wished she could've helped him somehow… But really, freedom was preferable over captivity any old day and to see two arch-enemies like Maeve and Rumina hugging was a miracle in and of itself.
"Will you come home with me? I don't know if I can make it a full day without one of your insults thrown at my head," Maeve asked Rumina, holding onto her hands- part affection, part caution.
"No you peasant wench," Rumina insulted Maeve but her heart clearly wasn't in it. "I won't join the boring side, too many rules for my liking. And to keep you from pestering me day and night I'll even turn your rat-bag of a brother back into a real boy."
Maeve was speechless, just hugged Rumina again, as tightly as she could. "I'll miss you, you witch."
Rumina awkwardly patted Maeve in the back. "Yeah well, that's because you're a masochist. Now get off, you're staining my dress with your snot."
"Call that a dress?" Maeve joked, wiping her eyes dry.
"You're one to talk! You seemed to have forgotten to put on a skirt!" Rumina ribbed Maeve right back.
Before Rumina could stop her Maeve had the dark sorceress in a headlock and was knuckling her crown.
"Get off you harpy!" Rumina shrieked, trying to pry her head away but unable to break Maeve's hold.
Maeve laughed. "I think this officially makes us sisters." And let Rumina go.
Rumina huffed, combing her hands through her hair to get it back into a semblance of its normal radiance. "That position is taken," she snapped, looking at Bryn for the first time since their descent. Maeve stepped back from Rumina to be able to take in both Bryn and Rumina at the same time.
"There is a resemblance…" Maeve said.
Bryn squirmed under their gazes. "I don't care what you say, I'm not evil," Bryn said.
"For which father would've fed you to the wolves and made mother take you and flee… Leaving me behind.." Rumina shrugged off the caring hand Maeve had put on her shoulder. "Think about that when you next revel in your holier than thou nature. You're not paying the price for it, I am!"
Bryn staggered back. "I don't… I never… I can't remember my life up to a year ago," she stammered.
Rumina grunted, took two steps forward and slapped a hand against Bryn's forehead before mumbling a few harsh phrases.
Bryn's eyes glowed the same yellow as her sister's as the blockade around her memory was violently yanked back. It was too much to take in at once- she fainted dead away.
When Bryn woke up she first thought she was alone, back into that dark, dank cell but she blinked and then she saw the stars above her head. A fireball lit up to her right.
"Bryn?" Maeve asked.
"What happened?" Bryn asked, rubbing her aching head.
"Caipra is escorting Serendib home and Rumina lost patience when you didn't wake up straight away so she left as well… Are you alright?" Maeve asked.
"I will be," Bryn just said, needing more time to sort through her conflicting memories and feelings. "Did she really turn Dermott back?"
Maeve nodded, unable to stop smiling. "I could contact him telepathically so I warned him to land on deck and then she broke the curse… Sinbad and the others are on their way here now, but it would help if we could move towards the coast."
"They were near?" Bryn asked.
"Yes, they were looking for you…" Maeve said, trying very hard not to show the hurt she felt.
"Come on, let's start walking. I'll tell you all about Sinbad's unrelenting search for you on the way," Bryn said, scrambling up from the ground.
Maeve searched for something witty to say, but her heart was too full for her mind and tongue to work properly. So she just jogged after Bryn, eager to hear this tale the brunette was going to tell.