clare_dragonfly: A cartoon eight-year-old boy holds up a book and looks at it with shock and anger. (Calvin & Hobbes: angry book)
[personal profile] clare_dragonfly
Title: Fists and Faces
World: Ursulan Cycle
Word count: 1,166
Rating: PG for mild violence
Prompt: [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam, "It is difficult to be the first of your kind."
Notes: This prompt immediately brought to mind the first female knights in Uthyr's court. This story immediately follows Recruitment Day.


The other hirelings edged away when they saw Electra and Brandigen walking into the hall.

Electra had seen those looks before. Half of them were just trying to be polite, because there were ladies entering the room—even if those men were baffled by the militaristic clothing the ladies wore. The other half knew Electra and Brandigen for what they were, women knights, and did not want to touch them for fear their disobedience to the laws of the sexes should rub off and make them weak.

Electra ignored them and walked right up to the table to dip herself a horn of mead. Then she saw that Brandigen was nervous, hanging back. Electra had been in this business for more than ten years; she knew what the life was like. Brandigen was younger, and couldn’t have been fighting for quite as long. Perhaps she had never seen quite such a group of fighting men before.

Electra walked back to Brandigen and handed her the horn of mead. “Don’t let them get to you,” she said, her voice low. “You’re worth any two or three of them.”

Brandigen still looked nervous, but she took a swallow of the mead. “How can you possibly know that?”

Electra smiled, showing her teeth in the fierce manner that had done her so well on the battlefield. “You had to fight twice as hard as any man just to be considered, didn’t you? Or how else did you get to be a fighting woman?”

Brandigen nodded, fortified, and took a bigger swallow of mead. “You’re right. I had to sneak my practices in, then knock my father’s chief armsman on his arse.”

Electra laughed and clapped Brandigen on the shoulder. “There, you see? I’m getting some mead for myself.”

Now some of the men had had the time to get used to her presence. This time when she turned to the table to dip her meat, she felt a hand on the inside of her thigh.

She whirled, her elbow aimed right at where the offender’s nose should be, but he’d ducked back in time. The mead slopped on the floor. “I wouldn’t do that again, if I were you,” she said to the young man, probably a decade her junior. Not much experience yet. But plenty of arrogance, she could see that.

Was he anyone? He couldn’t be any relation of the king’s, for Uthyr had none, save his little daughter and his wife. He might be a child of a lesser king, but Electra didn’t fear them, now that she was in King Uther’s band. Half of those lesser kings were those Uthyr and Ursula needed protection against.

The young man sneered, not bothering to take a further step back from her. “And why not? You aren’t a real lady if you come in here dressed like that.”

Electra shrugged, surreptitiously loosening her muscles. “What difference does it make what kind of lady I am or am not? Would you do that to one of your fellow fighting men? Without his permission, I mean.”

There were a few snickers. She didn’t like to make the implication—plenty of fine fighters sought the beds of their own sex—but she thought it would sting this arrogant young man, who was so bound to defend the differentiation of the sexes. She was right; the color rose in his cheeks.

“You’re neither here nor there,” he spat, drawing himself up taller. “Not man nor woman, and I’ll treat you as I see fit.”

“No, you’ll treat me as I see fit.” She cracked her knuckles.

“Or what?”

He wasn’t looking for the punch. He must have been stupid as well as arrogant. He didn’t see it coming until it was halfway through the air at him, and by then it was too late. It connected with his jaw, a satisfying crack, and he was sprawling backward into the arms of another one of the men who’d backed away from Electra. The men around him laughed, and the man who’d caught him threw him away with a slur.

“No call for that kind of language,” said an older man. “There’s ladies present.”

“My name is Sir Electra,” Electra called to all of them, “and my companion is Sir Brandigen.”

“You’re a woman,” shouted the hothead, “and I’ll teach you to act like one.”

He came at her swinging. She ducked his arm and threw a punch of her own. This time he was ready for it and caught it in his hand, but she was too fast to let him pull her down that way. His next hit caught her in her gut, but she was already swinging and clipped him in the jaw again.

“Stand down, Ned,” said the same older man who had complained of the language. “Can’t you see she’s a fighter? She’s sworn to serve King Uthyr, the same as the rest of us.”

“Aye,” shouted another man, a hulk with a scar on his face that looked as though it had barely missed taking an eye. “She’s one of us if King Uthyr says so.”

“She doesn’t belong,” growled Ned, and rushed her.

She was grateful to the other men for riling him up, helping his head get too full of anger to let him think straight. Not that she didn’t think she could defeat him in a fair fight, but this made it quicker; it meant she could make her point that much more clearly.

Her fist connected with his nose. Blood spurted. He staggered back, his eyes wide, then fell on his arse. He clutched his hands to his nose as though that could stop the bleeding or fix the break. There were shouts, then silence.

Electra put her fists on her hips, widening her stance, looking—but for her greater delicacy of features and the extra padded curve in her leather breastplate—like any one of them. “I’ll fight any man, sword on sword, in honest combat,” she called. “But I hope I won’t have to. I hope, as you said, sir, that we’re all on the same side. I’m here to defend King Uthyr and Princess Ursula, and I’d rather not have to fight my way through my fellow defenders.”

“Well said,” the older man said, marching up—she thought to her, but he grabbed Ned by his armpits and hauled him to his feet. Ned whimpered. “Let me fix your damn nose, boy, and if I hear of you do any more discourtesy to Sir Electra—or Sir Brandigen, for that matter—I’ll let her do as she will to you and then I’ll beat you all over again for good measure. I’m Steon,” he added over his shoulder.

“A pleasure, Sir Steon,” Electra said with a nod. She surveyed the company. They weren’t all convinced, and she hadn’t expected them to be, but she and Brandigen would fit in, with time.

For now, at least, she could finally get her mead.

Thanks for reading this story! If you enjoyed it, visit my main page for all stories I've posted at Dreamwidth, or the tag for this world for more stories with this setting or characters. You can also pledge at my Patreon for exclusive patron-only stories and prompt posts.

Yay!

Date: 2016-03-20 11:11 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I'm so happy to see another installment in this series. You do an amazing job with it. And of course, I never get tired of seeing a strong woman punch the lights out of some sexist pig. \o/

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Clare-Dragonfly

August 2018

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