"You Want to Hear a Good Story?"
by Phyllis Bowen
You want to hear a good story? I’ll tell you a good one. Just pour me another bit of that brew and let me wet my lips. Oh sure they go on and on about Garret and his escapades but let me tell you of one lass who makes him look like a wet nurse.
Yes, a woman. What makes you think that only men can be thieves? You’ve a lot to learn of the world if you dismiss females. Trust me on that. Women are way more trickier than men. Now sit tight and listen…
She was a slight little thing. Most didn’t take notice of her and that was what gave her the backbone to spit in their faces. She didn’t want to be sitting and waiting for some pimple-faced suitor to free her from her boredom. She took off with her own family’s silver and made her place in the world of shadows. She was of quick wit and even quicker tongue. Even if the Hammers managed to find her she could manage her way out by weaving such stories even the most hard-hearted would shed a tear. Weaker sex my left foot.
She wanted recognition. She wanted to be the best. There was only one place for her to go. Aye, the Keepers. But they wouldn’t even consider her. No women allowed. I think it was that more than anything else that goaded her into the idea.
Imagine the thought, breaking into the very lair of the shadows. Course she knew she needed someone with her. And I was more than happy to be of help. She could be most appreciative when the mood struck her.
I supposed I loved her. Or I thought I did.
We snuck past the gates and into the garrison easily. She was a thing of beauty in the darkness. We were going to steal something of value more to make a point rather than make money. It went along perfectly. Too perfect. No one really surprises the Keepers.
No one except her. But I haven’t gotten to that part yet.
Lights flared up on us both. We were surrounded. I felt my knees go weak at the sight of so many arrows knocked back, knowing full well that there were as many I couldn’t see. But my brave girl just smiled.
‘I’ve got a proposition for you,’ her voice steady as she addressed the leader.
‘You’re in no position to bargain.’
‘All the more reason to try.’
‘Very well. Go on.’
‘I want to challenge your best to a duel to the death. If he kills me then your reputation and tender male egos remain intact. If he doesn’t I want our freedom.’
There was a stunned silence followed by whispers. No one had ever spoken to the Keepers like that before. I closed my eyes and waited for the first sting of death. It wasn’t a bowstring I heard it was the chuckle of the master.
‘Very well girl. You’ll have your little dance. It shall prove amusing.’
A bit more ale if you don’t mind. My tongue’s getting a bit worn. Ahh, that’s better. Easy now I’ll be getting on with it.
We gathered in the main courtyard where they held their sparring matches. All the disciples had come to watch the show. I was bound and allowed to sit in the first tier. Two guards stood ready just in case I planned any foolishness. About the only foolishness I could muster was reliving my short life.
My brave girl walked calmly to the center of the ring. Slowly she turned to look upon all that had come to see. Her challenger entered and waited for the Master’s nod.
‘Again I set the terms of our combat. If your champion does not kill me, we will have our freedom?’
The weapons had been decided upon. The challenger chose a long sword while my girl chose a simple dagger. I bit my lip so hard it bled. I could taste blood in my mouth as surely as hers would spill onto the stones of the ring.
Slowly they circled each other. Neither taking the first strike. Then she turned her beautiful face to me and winked. Her hand tightened around the handle of the dagger and she rose it high above her head.
What do you think happened?
There are things that you see in your lifetime. Things that you will never see again. Whether they be miracles or tragedies, all we can do is watch them. I remember the blade catching the sun as it rose high and then slashed down. It struck deep and suddenly all was red.
‘You didn’t kill me,’ she gasped as the dagger twitched in her own chest. She glanced around the ring again, but her eyes were past seeing. Still she smiled. Or I think she did. I couldn’t see to well at the time for tears stained my vision, I’m not too proud to say.
They let me go. The Keepers keep their word, tis true. As I understand it, they took her body and gave her a burial fit for the highest in their order. She was a real stunner, she was.
Now how about another bit of that brew?
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