Sandry sat in the sun on the deck of her small transport boat reading. A short way away Briar, her foster brother and plant mage, examined some of the sea grass he called up from the deep water. Their foster sisters Daja and Tris argued on the other side of the mast. It didn't sound serious so Sandry paid the smith and weather mages no mind. Instead she reread the information packet representatives of the Crown in Tortall left for them. Either the Tortallans were stuffy and overbearing or the author was.
It was hard to tell.
Aside from the potential stuffiness Tortall seemed to be more progressive than a number of nations Sandry spent time in. They even offered education to the lower classes. Sandry huffed as she turned the last page for the 20th time in the 14 days since they set out from Summersea. Their captain said they'd make landfall either that night or the following morning if they could catch the tide. The introductory booklet was not nearly detailed enough for Sandry's liking.
It didn't even mention fashions! It outlined some of the politics of the area and it sounded like the royal family and most of the court were fairly liberally minded – to build those schools they must have had a solid support system after all – but there were hints of a more conservative faction.
It wasn't much but Sandry had worked with less. She worked on a wardrobe of rich fabrics using bright dyes Briar helped her design and carefully wove, sewed, and embroidered dresses for herself and Tris with altered practical skirt and pant combinations for Daja (along with two new sets of work clothes for Daja and practical riding gear for all four).
Briar was the easiest to clothe, men's fashions were fairly standard throughout Emelan and her neighbours and nothing she learned indicated the Eastern Lands were any different to that, on the whole. Standard trousers and shirts were perfectly acceptable even in places that had striking differences in men's fashions.
As ever, Briar's new wardrobe consisted wholly of plant fibres. During their time at Discipline Briar took to weaving, sewing, and stitching better than Daja or Tris. After spinning their magics together and weaving barriers between them Briar continued to have an affinity with plant fibres. He also complained that wool made him itch.
Sandry dithered about how the court would receive her and her siblings enough that Duke Vedris eventually convinced her to bring supplies enough to make a new outfit for each. The fabric and all her tools were locked in a water tight chest below deck with the rest of their supplies near the top so the stitch witch could access it quickly and easily. Intellectually Sandry knew there was little chance she would have the time to create four full new outfits in a style with which she was unfamiliar. It was a comfort thing. She fingered her thread circle through the velvet bag around her neck.
In an effort to distract herself Sandry set aside the booklet and pulled the sail she was repairing towards herself. Some crews balked at the idea of a noble doing anything more than keeping to themselves during a journey. Those same sailors would grumble about useless nobles taking up perfectly useful space. Sandry, however, liked to keep herself busy. She couldn't spin linen for weaving in the salty air, she'd finished her cotton roving on day 3 and she hadn't packed any wool roving. She was still perfecting summer-weight wool weaving and the constant rocking from the waves wouldn't help her efforts. All her other fibre rovings were too sensitive to the salty air. They stayed locked up in a small chest next to her spare cloth.
So she set about fixing things on the ship instead. The crew was initially hesitant to have her patch their clothing but quickly got over that (if not the mage-fright). Once she finished their major disasters she went to the captain, who sent her to the quartermaster, who gave her the sail and a box of damaged ropes. The ship had heavy cord to stitch the tear and some extra material for patches but Daja had had to make her a strong needle for the sewing. At this rate she'd finish the sail with just enough time to worry herself sick over their arrival.
"Its fine Sandry, leave off." Briar grumbled as Sandry once again tugged on his jacket. The light weight cotton, sleeveless, long, open front, olive green jacket with rich emerald embroideries fell perfectly from his shoulders. As if anything woven by Sandry would do otherwise. Beneath it Briar wore an off-white poet's shirt and three-quarter pants the same colour as the jacket.
"It's not like they expect us to be perfect when we walk off a boat we've been on for 14 days." Tris' exasperated voice whispered into Daja's mind. Even still the sisters submitted to Sandry's ministrations: their sister was nervous and it didn't hurt no matter how Briar fussed.
It wasn't yet full dark but Tris told them confidently it would be within two hours. The boat managed to slip into the Port Legann harbour just before tide went out too far. The crew cast suspicious glances at Tris who simply shrugged and muttered that she didn't want to spend another night on a hammock below decks.
That was three hours ago. In the mean time, Sandry and her siblings pulled out fresh clothes, prepared their various bags and cases, Tris tucked Chime into her sling, and the captain sent rowers out to announce their arrival and hand their papers to the harbour master. When the rowers returned with their berthing the captain brought the small vessel to bare and moored her with practised efficiency.
The local lord gathered where the wharf met the land with seven other people in finery. Sandry could see servants loading their boxes and bags into a waiting cart. She envied her siblings who were able to keep their mage kits with them (though anyone stupid enough to attempt to take Tris' hair deserved what they got!). Sandry could only warn the workers away from her kit and secure it with her magic. It wasn't seemly for a lady to carry a sewing basket after all.
"What are they talking about?" Daja asked, her mind open to all her siblings. Tris gently teased a breeze away from the shore and passed the siblings. The Tortallan wind fought her grip, wriggling against the pull before settling into the path Tris set for it.
The loudest noises on the wind where the creaks and groans from the cart and servants. A voice that was deep for a woman or high for a man grumbled, "I don't know why I have to be here." They sounded exasperated. The only answer was a few quiet chuckles. Tris let the wind go.
"Which one was that?" Briar asked silently.
"The one in the gold mail shirt." Tris said, "He? She? They. They were talking to the giant." She shared an image of a man with a gold trimmed green tunic over a mail shit, a knight. He was a few inches taller than Daja but a good head taller than his gold-clad companion.
"Lady Gwendol, you simply must let me speak to your spinner." Sandry said as dinner wound down. As usual she was seated at the dais away from her siblings. They enjoyed each others' company along with the knight Lady Keladry of Mindelan part way down the hall. Sandry, however, was next to Lady Gwendol of Port Legann on one side and a grumpy Sir Alanna - the gold knight with violet eyes - on the other. After introductions Sir Alanna hadn't said very much to Sandry making conversation with Daja and the page Alan about staff weaponry. Once the dinning room separated them she spoke primarily to the mage on her other side. Numair and Sir Alanna both glowed in Sandry's vision. She carefully dulled her mage sight so she wouldn't have to squint to see them.
"I told you to call me Gwen and why do you want to speak to her?" The lady asked. She tried to keep her face neutral.
"She is very talented. This particular twist here," Sandry indicated where the spinster had deftly combined two colours in a close twist to create a third, "is a difficult spin. And she had to spin counter to the norm to achieve it. Its not often I see work like this and I would like to talk to her." The spin created a unique, shifting colour throughout the weave that was simply gorgeous.
"If you would like I can have my seamstress create a dress for you with this cloth." Gwen offered.
"I would rather speak to the spinner."
"So you can take her with you to court?" The lady's tone was joking but to Sandry it was a slap in the face. A serving girl refilled her glass with fruit juice.
"Not at all," she said carefully keeping her tone even, "It was merely professional curiosity. This is a spin that I would find difficult to replicate and she is clearly proficient enough to create a dress."
"Professional curiosity?" Gwen asked.
"You are aware that my siblings and I are mages, correct?"
"Well, yes." Lord Imrah said from his wife's other side, "Your honoured uncle wrote about your gifts when he announced your eminent arrival." The lord of Legann was a bit stuffy in Sandry's opinion but he seemed nice enough. His page, Alan of Pirates Swoop, hadn't been rebuked when he enthusiastically quizzed Briar on everything under the sun and his servants were well clothed and fed.
"Well my, um, gift is worked through thread and fibre." The Tortallan word for magic felt strange. According to her uncle's researcher Tortallans saw magic as a gift from their gods and referred to it as such. That was fine and easy to understand but the Eastern Common word for 'gift' translated to her birth tongue more closely as 'sacrifice'.
It was a strange concept.
"Is that so?" Sir Alanna asked finally choosing to speak to Sandry. Sandry shared an exasperated shout with her siblings and hid a smile when Briar jumped. She nodded to the knight. "Do you charm the thread? Is it a specialization?" Alanna fingered a pendant at her neck.
"I can, yes, but I don't need to. The thread itself is part of my gift."
"We use some thread magic here, weavers and sewers use it mostly but more and more healers use knotting in their healing." Alanna engaged fully with Sandry. Lady Gwendol turned away from the conversation. Sandry worried her lip about insulting her host but Alanna was a fascinating person.
"You can use it in healing? We must find someone to speak to Briar about that. His medicines are some of the very best in Emelan. Though if we manage to create a knotting spell he can use we might loose him to the hospitals for ever!"
"Does he also work his gift through thread?" Numair asked quietly.
Sandry laughed, "No Briar is a plant mage but he can work with plant fibres, especially if he or I spin them."
"If you don't mind me saying, lady," Numair said, "It is unusual for a noble to spin in Tortall, is it common in Emelan, or other lands you visit?"
"It is not common, Numair, but what would you have me do? My gift works through fibres just as surely as yours works through symbols. I can no more choose my medium than you can choose your tools."
"Would you mind demonstrating?" Numair asked. Sandry smiled at his hopeful tone. He sounded like Pasco begging Yazmin to teach him a new step.
"Not now," Sir Alanna sounded somewhere between alarmed and annoyed. "Didn't your mother teach you it's rude to use the gift at the dinner table?"
"She tried but with the way my magic acted up when I was a child she was lucky to have a table at all." Numair laughed.
Their conversation shifted away from demonstration and into education. Alanna learned her first magics at a young age and would love the opportunity to quiz Briar about healing in the Western Lands. Numair began his formal training at seven but had tutors for as long as he could remember. Both were surprised to learn that Sandry began her schooling at 10 though acknowledged it sometimes happened that way.
Sandry hardly even noticed time passing before Daja interrupted them. At some point Numair's wife Diane joined them and the entire group moved to a large greeting parlour. Tris drifted in and out of conversation with Sandry's group and Lord Imrah's conversation on trade in the area. Briar looked a little too close to Lady Keladry for Sandry's peace of mind but she figured the noble knight could look after her own interests.
"I hate to interrupt," Daja said, "But the four of us are leaving early. We were told the trip to Corus might still take up to a week from here." she said and Sandry realized how tired she felt.
"Quite right," Numair said with a nod as if he had already been planning to head to bed and not as if he had been in the middle of a debate with Alanna about the best woods for ritual fires. "Alanna and I, at least, will be joining you as far as Pirates Swoop if not Corus itself. We should turn in too."