“You must let me fight!” She raged.
“No. I will not allow it.” William dismissed her with a gesture.
Gwen didn’t move. She stood there, her balled fists hanging at her side. Her eyes burned, her raven hair cascading down her back.
“Why?” she sputtered.
“Why? You are a girl! Not meant to fight! You barely know how to use a sword and it would take years to teach you properly.”
“So I’m supposed to sit in the castle listening to the cries of the courtiers wives as they bid their husbands and sons farewell? Am I supposed to cook and knit while there are men dying?” She crossed her arms.
“Preposterous!” She exclaimed. “I have just as much right to defend my home as any man. It is my country too. It doesn’t belong only to the men at arms. The other three kingdoms allow their women to fight. Why not here in Valdiel?”
“You can’t fight because no Valian women have ever done so before.”
“William, I’m better with a bow and arrow than even you. I know how to use a sword because you taught me! And why am I not allowed because other women in past times didn’t have the skill?”
“It’s not that they didn’t have skill. They didn’t need to fight. If you go, you will go up against seasoned warriors and you are naught but a beginner.” He shook his head.
“Then teach me, brother. We need as many fighters as are willing to protect the land they love! Let me fight among them. I can hold my own!”
“No.” He scowled at her.
Her face turned white with fury. She opened her mouth to say something, but thought better and shut it.
She stood up as tall as she could and looked up at him, the anger in her green eyes replaced by determination.
“Very well, then.” And turning on her heal, Gwen walked doggedly out of the room.
William’s eyes followed her out, then looked back to the battle plans he was given by the King.
“That girl,” he said to himself, “Could end the war before it happened, if she was given the chance.”
No matter how hard William tried to forget the matter, it kept coming back to mind. He slowly started to realize the truth and wisdom in what his sister had said. He then started to wonder if he should relay the information to the elders, to see if they thought the same.
Maybe this is the chance she has! He realized. I will bring this matter before the king and his advisors. Gwen, you might have saved us all.
Walking into the hall, Gwen didn’t notice the person leaning against the wall until he called her.
“Lady Gwen!” the silver haired warrior ran to her.
“Bayder! I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you.” she stopped.
“It’s fine Lady. I only meant to ask how your discussion went.”
“Please, just call me Gwen for I am no lady.”
“But you are a lady! Any woman willing to fight an army for her homeland is nobler than if you were born into royalty.” He looked down at her.
“Thank you, Bayder. I needed that.” She looked up and smiled at him, then frowned slightly. “You asked how my debate with my brother went. It went badly. I will not be allowed to fight. Nor any women willing to take up arms.”
“Might I ask why?”
“It would wound the pride of the men, I fear. No women in Valian history have ever fought because they never had too. But this is different. We, the four kingdoms united, are still too few in number to match the rebellion. The idea that we need women to fight bruises the pride and moral of the men at arms.”
“What a sad turn of events!” Bayder exclaimed. Then he clapped his hands. “Unless!” he laughed, “unless you can make the men see that it doesn’t say they are weak and that it might add the extra boost we need to end all this!”
Gwen wrapped her arms around her friend in a massive hug.
“Bayder! You are a genius! Come, I have an idea.” She released him and started running.
“Where are we going?” he asked her, chasing after her.
“The training field!” She yelled, looking behind at him, grinning broadly.
Getting to the officers’ quarters outside the training barracks, Gwen stopped and requested that she see the Battle master.
“I’m sorry miss,” Said the guard at the door, “The battle master is in the middle of a very important meeting and will be seeing no one. I could, however, give him a message if you’d like.”
“Thank you so much! Yes, tell him that Gwen requested to see him. Please inform him that Bayder and I will be at the archery range and if we are already gone we upon his going, that we will talk with him at supper.”
“Yes miss.” He bowed his head. “Sir.”
Gwen curtsied and turned to leave, when she had thought of another thing.
“Sir guard? Do you think we would be allowed to borrow a few bow and arrows for practicing? And possibly two swords as well?”
The man looked surprised. “I don’t see why not. Only, the guard on duty at the armory might question your ability to use them, as you are a lady.”
“I can use them well enough.” She assured him. “And if he questions me, I will ask him to face me as his opponent. Being a lady is merely a disguise to my ability.”
“I believe you miss. You seem like you could face quite a bit of danger without consequence.”
“She could, take my word for it! I was privileged to see her in action once or twice myself.” Bayder laughed, patting Gwen’s shoulder. “She beat me in a fair fight and I’m not ashamed to tell the world.”
When they reached the armory Gwen made her request for the weapons.
The two men on guard laughed at her and told her to run along.
“But you don’t understand! I know how to use them. I want to go and practice so I don’t go soft. Please, give them to us and let us go.”
“You know how to use them do you? Highly unlikely.” one man jeered. “Go home you little scullery maid. Leave us to our work.”
“Scullery maid?!” Gwen croaked.
“Scullery maid. Now be off with ye!” the other guard said with a dismissive gesture.
“Gentlemen!” Bayder cried, ”Do you have any idea of whom you’re talking to?”
The men looked at each other.
He crossed his arms. “This is Lady Gwen, who is sister to the knight, Sir William Greenfall, who is best friend to the royal family. You have been honored with the company of a personage higher than yourselves and yet you have the gall to insult her? Do you know what I could have done to you for this?”
Both guards blanched and ducked their heads. It was silent in the yard, all eyes watching them curiously.
“Well? I’m waiting.” Bayder said darkly.
“Well sir-“one started, his voice faltering.
“We-We didn’t know, sir, honest we didn’t. We just thought-“ The other guard tried to finish for his friend, but was interrupted by Bayders yell.
“You really thought she was a kitchen maid? Does she look anything like one? Is she wearing the royal staff uniform? How you could mistake Lady Gwen for a maid is beyond me.”
The men kept their heads down.
“And to think that warriors in the Kings army have reduced to bullying the people weaker than them, it’s shocking!”“We are sorry sir.” One mumbled.
"I should hope so." a voice boomed behind them. Gwen and Bayder whirled around.