They Call Her Lady Warrior Ch.1
She stood in the darkness of a tavern corner, watching the man at the bar, a knight, reveling in drunken stupor with his men. She looked again, searching her memory. It was him. She was sure of it.
She approached the bar. "Good sir, I need a word with you."
The man slowly turned from his drink to look at her, a young woman in an old and tattered cloak, a hat worn low upon her brow. He smiled at the cat calls coming from his men. He looked her over, head to foot, slowly, lingeringly, enjoying every moment of her discomfiture. His men laughed.
"And what can I do for you, miss," he said, winking. "I haven't much time, but I'm at your disposal, nonetheless."
The cat calls got louder. It was all she could do to keep her temper in check. But it would not do to ruin her moment, not when it had been so long in coming.
"I must speak with you in private, sir. It's a...a personal matter." She forced herself to look him in the eyes, bringing a small smile to her lips. "Please. It's important."
With his men jeering and laughing, the knight stood, bowing to her with mock courtesy. "After you, milady."
She turned, and led the way from the tavern, hearing him stumble behind her, but not stopping to help. He would follow. They always did.
She led him across the road to the stables and heard him chuckle when he realized where they were going. "Good thinking. There will be a bed of soft hay in there for our merry-making, to be sure."
She stepped into the dim light of the stable, then turned to watch him enter the building. He closed the door behind him, still leering.
She removed the hat she was wearing so that her eyes were no longer shrouded.
"Hello, Sir Kenton."
The knight peered at her in the darkness, confusion written on his face.
"How do you know my name? Do I know you?"
"You worked for my father some years back," she said, an icy tone creeping into her voice. "When he was married to my mother, the Lady Valandra."
He took a step closer but stopped when she withdrew a blade that had been hidden in her cloak. He searched her face.
"My God, it's Cianna, isn't it? I thought you were dead. You should have died along with your...."
"Mother?" She finished the sentence for him. "You only got half of your dirty work done, Kenton. My mother died. I survived."
In spite of her blade, he was unafraid.
"Well, well. The brat still lives. Your father will be so disappointed when I inform him."
"You won't have the chance, I'm afraid. That's an honor I prefer to reserve for myself."
"Look, I have to get back to my men. You have something to say to me, little girl, get on with it. I'm an important man and I don't have time for the likes of you, you half-bred daughter of a whore."
He turned as if to leave but, faster than lightning, she struck him with the hilt of her weapon. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
"Don't you dare speak of my mother like that, you miserable cur," she said. "You shall pay a forfeit for her death: your life for hers. It's fitting, and one of many debts I plan to collect."
He sneered at her words, then stopped as her blade came to rest just above his heart. "Go on, then," he taunted her. "Do it. Let's see what you're made of, little girl."
She didn't move.
"You're nothing like your father, are you. You're weak and undisciplined, just like your mother. Foolish woman. She was married to the most powerful elf in the kingdom, barring the High King himself, and she threw it all away for love." He spat the word out.
"My father is an evil man," she said, "and he's hurt too many people that I love. Once, I merely hoped to avoid him for the rest of my life. Now, I wish to see him pay a price for all he's done. To me, to my mother, to everyone I've ever loved. And the penance starts with you."
Still she made no move.
"You're a fool, not a warrior," he laughed. "You've got the weak heart of a woman. Your words are brave, but not your will."
"Beneath this bravado beats the heart of a woman, yes. Sometimes I wish it were not so," she said, sighing.
At her words, the knight looked up quickly, sensing victory. "You can't do it, can you." He rose to his knees, her blade still hovering over his heart. "Put that away, stupid girl. You know you're going to let me live."
She looked away for a moment, as if lost in thought, then turned back to the figure before her.
"No," she said, driving her sword home. "I'm not."
She looked down at the body bleeding out before her. "Never mistake compassion for cowardice," she whispered.
Wiping her blade clean, she mentally checked a name off the list she kept in her head. Then, with a sad smile on her face, she slipped into the cover of night, and was gone.