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Worthy Woman Warrior
“A lady never boasts of her battles.” Bronherrn’s mother scowled at him, head perched high. Her haughty glare challenged him, ready to fight. Thick armor hugged her short figure and reminded Bronherrn that she was more than just a parent.
He prepared to battle it out with her. Many claimed she was as great a warrior as his father at one time, maybe even greater. Bronherrn never expected her to respond so fiercely when he asked her of her battles. She stood planted before him, braids running down her back caressing her shiny protective metal.
“Don’t mind her,” his father said. He tilted his head toward Bronherrn’s mother. “You cannot fool the boy, Mara.”
She growled at him, clenched her blade tight.
His father bellowed. “You are no lady. You are a fierce worthy woman. Don’t confuse the two.”
Bronherrn dared to shift his gaze from his mother and meet his father’s smirk. His little brothers watched nearby with eyes that widened as if too big for their heads. “Get on with it,” the youngest, Druthleer, shouted.
Bronherrn took his stance and swallowed hard.
His mother sneered tauntingly.
He had never witnessed her abilities with sword and shield, nor thought much of it in his thirteen seasons past. She remained a maternal figure and nothing more, the woman who tended him when sick and knocked his bottom when he got out of hand.
All of that melted away when he moved to strike the first blow. She drew her arm up in one movement and deflected his sword. Then she kicked him to the ground.
Wheatgrass grazed his cheek and stunned him for a moment. He rubbed his bottom and sighed.
His other brother, Grimhelden, laughed aloud. “Already bested?”
Angry with embarrassment Bronherrn pushed himself up. He would get back at his brother for taunting him, but his father’s disappointment made his cheeks burn.
He brushed the hair from his face and worked to regain focus. Instead of rushing again, he waited for his mother to make the next move. Her fighting style held an exquisite air. She moved back and forth like a dancer. She ducked low, slid forward, and kicked his legs out from under him. The edge of her sword pressed against his throat before he could move to react.
“Mara, leave the boy a chance,” his father called out.
“I need no mercy.” Bronherrn jumped to his feet and caught his mother’s side with his point.
She smiled at him and grabbed the blade with her bare hand. “Good.” She threw it down. Just as Bronherrn started to regain confidence, she rolled behind him and positioned her steel at the space between his legs. “But not good enough it you want to keep these.” She pressed her blade too close to the fleshy sac tucked inside his pants.
His nostrils flared and he shook with discomfort.
“Holy hell, ma.” Druthleer jumped up and down.
She brushed herself off. “This is how we fight. You men may have more strength of body, but women have more strength of mind. Get creative if you don’t want to be felled by a warrior who squats to relieve herself.”
Bronherrn sucked in a large breath. He glanced at his father who shook his head and eyed them intently. The man’s features glowed with approval. Bronherrn knew his mother offered the truth. Her tactics gave him an opportunity to fight a different kind of warrior. He searched his mind for an idea, a spark of ingenuity that could help him outwit his mother, but not a flash of intelligence came.
She moved on him again, and he did his best to hold her back. Their weapons clanged. The sharp smack of steel quickened and his body grew weary. Hoping to induce some new tactic, he shut his eyes and lunged forward. A ripple of air passed over his skin and offered a new perspective.
He listened to the high sound of the blade cut the air; he spun around, and drove the edge of his sword to meet the base of his mother’s midsection. The loud metallic clank of her armor met his ears before he opened his eyes. She stumbled back at the force of the blow.
He glanced over to his father and brothers before he dared to meet the eyes of his opponent. They all gaped in shock.
“Well done my son.” His mother held out her weapon.
He pressed his blade against hers as a sign of respect. Dazed at having gotten through the fight he said, “I believe you owe me a story.” He nodded and leaned in, but she drew back.
“I promised nothing of the sort. Look to your father for tales of glory. I have some washing to do.” She turned and marched through the field, back to their quaint home.
Bronherrn found himself surrounded by his brothers. He turned to his father. “We’re in need of a tale.”
“You’d have been gifted with it sooner if she held my beliefs. But your mom has her own ways. Everything you hear today has been pieced together from what I’ve heard.”
Bronherrn glanced at his brothers and found their faces fixed on their father as he began,
“I had been cut down long before she was left to patch me up the day of my first battle. Since she has no stomach for telling of her own triumph, I had to find the details myself. As it stands, not only did I march down through the protection of our mountains to my first taste of blood but a girl my own age had earned her right to fight as well.
“When the Zuthans rushed toward us at the sound of our Ultainian battle-cry she didn’t hesitate to race upon the wretched men who looked upon her as a lesser being. They were not prepared to find an equal in such a slight frame, nor any of our other women warriors. But Mara, she could best the lot of them. Your mother found herself engaged with a dog of a brute. The bastard did not know what hit him when she kicked his body to the ground and split him open where he lay. She could have done more damage, but she grew sick at what she had done. All she could do was hold steady and block against anyone who dared come near her.
“Taking a life for the first time never leaves a person. I myself yearn to feel the breath cease from anyone that means my people harm, but your mother…she feels it more deeply. To cut the fabric of another being’s existence is a serious matter for her. Spiritual. She has done it many more times since. But always before and after marching to the kill, she spends a great deal of time venturing to visit with the priests and priestesses who cleanse our suffering minds to right herself.
“They say when the fighting ceased that long ago day, she continued to block against everyone, but she wouldn’t strike. It was not until my father walked up to her, and threw my bloodied body to the ground at her feet once it all ceased, that she would let anyone near her. At the sight of the huge gash in my chest, her senses returned, or so I am told. She scoffed at me. She was offended that anyone would leave a wounded warrior in her hands as if she had not just battled herself. But she tended me.”
Bronherrn cocked his head at his father’s gaze deepening into some distant memory. He felt a flash of understanding and pondered his parents’ bond.
“So why doesn’t she fight anymore?” Druthleer asked with a squeaky voice.
His father shrugged. “A great many reasons. She’s gotten comfortable at home. Feels that she’s seen enough bloodshed for a lifetime. But mainly… for you boys.
“What are you saying father?” Bronherrn asked.
“We cannot abandon you to the possibility of being orphaned, can we now?”
Bronherrn stared at the wood planks that held their one-room house together. A pressing urge overtook him and he started off to thank the woman who had taught him so much.