Janie had stayed in the Sanctuary for a month until it felt simply too vast and too depressing to be there. It was large and too quiet with none of her Sisters around. So, she had gone to the office of the town clerk to obtain the proper paperwork, then to the Rhydin Post and posted an occupancy add. The Sanctuary, the once proud home of the Scathachians of Rhydin was now a rental. Janie took up residence in the Temple next door and aided in the duties of the Keeper, Kai, who had not been around for longer than Janie could remember. She saw the upkeep of the Temple as her duty to not only Scathach and to Isuelt, but to Kai and Edora, who was the Keeper before her. Janie had grown up much during her sojourn in Rhydin and her maturity was well-placed. No longer the sleep around, devil may care Scathachian, but she now found herself with the sober duty of being the single representative of a millennia-old religion.
Seaside Beach was the perfect place for her today; the sun was hot, the breeze was gentle and the waves were generous. It had been a long time since Janie had been out on the water and she was fully appreciative of what she had missed. Janie was seated on a small towel with her board across her cross-legged lap. She had let the board sit in the sun long enough and had now begun the task of scraping off the old wax now that it had sufficiently softened. She found it was more therapeutic than she’d counted on: working the wax, the wind lifting her blonde hair, sunshine heating the sand beneath her, the sound of the waves. It was the miracle cure she’d been waiting for.
Janie had been at it for about thirty minutes and had now applied new wax in her signature circular motion. She was waxing the front foot area on the deck of her board when she heard a man’s voice close to her. She blinked, and looked up as the sun glinted; she wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there.
“I know you,” he was smirking.
Janie looked him over and decided she’d never seen him before in her life. At least, not that she remembered. She continued to work on her board, she was nearly done with the sides now.
He waited a bit and seemed to look out to admire the waves. After a few moments he decided to try again. He looked back to the bikini-clad blonde and nodded. “Yeah, I definitely remember you.”
"No, you don’t know me.” But her accent provided the last bit of evidence that he needed.
“Yeah, I do.” He sneered and looked her over. If he were a cartoon he would have been salivating. “You’re that Scathachian tart.” He smirked and pushed his hair back over his shoulder.
Janie said nothing. Instead of replying to him or his insult, she looked back to the water before concentrating again on her board, now grabbing the comb. “Just a surfer with a day at the beach.”
“From Terra Australis. Can’t deny that accent.” He smiled at her and sat down beside her, mindful to keep to the side of the board. He leaned back, his hands reaching behind him for support. The sun was getting warmer and if not for the light breeze that had come in off the water, one would swear they could feel themselves tanning. “Uh…Janie was it?”
She stopped combing. In her years here in Rhydin, Janie knew that she had never been a saint. In fact, she knew that her past habits of drugs and alcohol use created an uncanny trail of half-forgotten stupors and one night stands. She’d passed out a plethora of proverbial leis around these parts in the past, and she knew she didn’t remember each and every one of them. Janie put the comb down on the scraped wax and looked over at the man. Sandy blonde hair, just past his shoulders, a tan, moderately well-developed physique, one dimple, brown eyes and an easy smile. He looked exactly her type. She deduced that she’d probably slept with him at one time or another. Still, she took particular offense to being called a ‘tart’.
“Yeah,” she sighed, resigning her past self. “And you are?”
“Vaughn. Walt Vaughn. But Walt’s fine. Or Vaughn actually.” He paused, not sure if he should still be insulted or not. And maybe that was the reason he’d flung the first insult. She’d obviously not remembered him. “It’s fine. It was a while ago.”
Janie looked him over and nodded. Then she returned her focus to her board. The two continued in mostly silence for a while. It was only interrupted when Vaughan asked here and there about her waxing techniques and why she loaded up the front foot area so heavily. After feeling mostly off-put by his questions and his initially leering nature, she relaxed and talked to him. It seemed that was all he was after. They talked for a bit and while he said he wasn’t much of a surfer, he appreciated that she was. He said he’d always wanted to learn and before she could stop herself Janie offered to help teach him.
“Really? I mean, uh…yeah, that would be great. I’m sure you’re a pretty good teacher.” He cleared his throat and smiled at her.
“Yeah, well,” she shrugged.
“How about tomorrow?” All he wanted was a chance to know her. Properly this time.
“Noon?” He stood up.
“Yeah, noon’s about spot on.”
“Okay then. I’ll see you tomorrow, Janie.” His hands were on his hips. No move to go in for a hug or even shake hands.
Something about that made Janie feel better. She was used to men thinking they could use her, even when it was her who was using them most of the time. “Tomorrow, Vaughn. See ya then.”
He smiled to her and turned to go, brushing a bit of sand from his backside. Janie watched him walk for a while, thinking that that encounter ended much better than it started. She looked back to the waves and stood up, board under her arm. It was time to get back on this horse. With a smile on her lips, she headed into the water and started paddling out, eager for the cure that the ocean held.
Vaughn stood on the bluff for a long time after he walked away, watching her as he grinned. She was good. Damn good. And he decided to thank his lucky stars that he ran into her again.
There was no answer.
Unlike when Isuelt had been in residence at the Scathachian general, now there was not an entire garrison manning the Sanctuary. It was Janie alone who had volunteered (much to the disapproval of the High Circle and her commanding officer) to stay behind when the rest of the Scathachians quit Rhydin. Isuelt had found herself deeply touched that Janie would risk her own reputation for her; and she would never forget it. She felt she owed it to Janie to warn her about Renna, not that Janie didn't already know what the woman was capable of, but Isuelt didn't want Janie to go through with it. She pounded on the doors again. "JANIE! ARE YOU IN THERE?" Isuelt tried the doors and they were locked. She placed her palm against the door and then her forehead against the back of her hand. What if Janie had already been killed by Renna? Or worse...spoiled.
Isuelt turned around and leaned against the double doors and looked back toward the gates on the street. She winced lightly, her head was aching from the frequency changes of the device in her ear that Batten had outfitted her with. It was indeed working to keep the Renna side of Isuelt from taking over, but the pain every once in a while had been what he had said. She forced herself to take a deep breath and think clearly. Janie could have been on the beach, she could have been out. She could have been in the Temple next-door. Isuelt closed her eyes and caught her breath. She would start there. She pushed off of the doors and headed around the side of the Sanctuary toward the pathway that led to the Temple of Scathach. It was there that she spotted Janie. In the distance, by the small orchard on the property was a singular blonde figure with a wicker trug.
"Oh thank you." Isuelt sighed as she turned from the Temple's path and headed that way, waving a hand over her head. "Janie!" Isuelt jogged over to the garden area behind the Sanctuary and make short work of the meager distance.
Janie had been gathering some citrus and pears and didn't readily hear Isuelt calling her. No one ever really came by the Sanctuary any more. The city had quieted down so that most citizens didn't have to rush there for help or aid. And to be honest, most of the visitors at the Sanctuary were there for business with Isuelt. So Janie had had an easy time of keeping things running since the Scathachians had left the city, she had been keeping to herself and had slowed her wild ways. Part of her thought of it as a tribute to her ex-General; Isuelt had always disapproved of Janie's loose morals and licentious lifestyle. Seeing Isuelt stripped of not only her rank, but her membership in their Order had been just the tonic to straighten out Janie's racy ways.
The blonde heard her name and looked up from the half-full trug. She spotted Isuelt and grinned widely. She had missed her Sister. They obviously didn't live together any longer, Janie knew that Isuelt had gotten a position at Batten Tower, where she presumed that Isuelt now spent the bulk of her time. In fact, this was the first time since her expulsion that Isuelt had put her feet back on hallowed Scathachian soil.
"Oy! Issy!" Janie put down the harvest and hurried over to Isuelt and wrapped her in a tight hug. "Ah! It's good to see you!"
Isuelt returned Janie's embrace, more than relieved to see that she was all right. "It's better to see you! You okay?" Isuelt pulled back suddenly and cupped Janie's face in her hands to look at her.
Janie chuckled. "Right as rain. You? You've not been here for ages."
Isuelt had composed herself thoroughly and exhaled forcefully. "Janie, I need to talk with you about something very serious."
"Yeh?" Old habits die hard. Janie immediately tried to think if she'd done anything wrong lately.
"You were auctioned off at the date auction?"
"Renna bought you?"
"Yeh." Oh, that.
Another sigh from Isuelt. "Look, Janie. You...you can't go through with that. Don't do it."
The blonde reached up and scratched her head. "Yeh, I know she's a right mental that one, but it's money for the charity and all."
"Fuck the charity, Janie! Don't go! Renna's more than a mental! She's a fucking certifiable killer!" Isuelt was raising her voice a bit more than was perhaps necessary.
Janie took a breath and looked at her. "Look, Iz, I don't have the money to cover the donation. You don't have the money to cover the donation. Besides, I'm not a damned welp; I'm no ankle biter. I'll be okay."
"Don't you remember what she did to Lexia!? She killed her and then made her a...a...goddessdamned doppelgänger of herself!"
It was Janie's turn to raise her voice. "I was on that damnable ship, too, remember Iz? I know exactly what she did to Lex! You don't think I have nightmares about that? I was there!"
The warriors stood facing each other in a moment's silence. Janie was the first one to break it.
"Right, Iz. I know the history between you two. I know she's a right devil. I know she's capable of nearly whatever her fancy's got her. But I'm not the same kid you trained back on the Island. I can handle m'self. You think I'm not going to meet her in a public place? You think I'm not bringing my weapons? You think I'm not ready for her to try and kill me a the drop of a bloomin' hat?"
Isuelt assessed Janie. She was right. She wasn't the spoiled teen from the Island or even the partying Sister that had first arrived in this city. And besides, who had trained her but Isuelt. That had to count for something.
"I wanna see why she bought me. I wanna see what her angle is." Janie lowered her voice.
"And what if it's to get to me?" Isuelt asked what she thought was a fair question.
"Then she'll be sorely disappointed won't she?" Janie smirked a bit. "I'm not stupid, Illea. I'll be okay." Janie knew that using Isuelt's Scathachian name on Scathachian soil still had to hold some meaning for her. Hopefully.
Isuelt sighed. "Just promise me you'll tell me where and when this 'date' is supposed to happen? I want to be near."
Janie nodded, "Ripper. Promise." She smiled to Isuelt and hugged her tightly. "I'll be fine. I promise."
Isuelt closed her eyes as she hugged her younger Sister, praying that she was right.
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