Cooperative Fiction

Skip to content


Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Hear her concerns he would do, and hear them he did. No interruptions, no challenges, though sight of sorrow on her face moved Sir Aorle deeply. Part of him wanted to reach out to her, comfort her, set at ease, but that would not do as she had declared the heart of a warrior and would far from welcome coddling.

For his part, the Sword of Heaven had only a narrow schooling of faith. As son of a noble family, he was expected to bow the supremacist cult of the Empire. All else he had encountered were variants of the worship of Theogios, for the message of peace and harmony had been spread throughout the land at the point of a sword. Even the Teachings of Angels were such a sect, for Theogios was the First Saint.

Gradually, he nodded in thought. "So we must show them a better way. They know naught of Heaven or souls, best they learn the truth." At the very least, this would serve to shatter illusions regarding the fae. More likely, this would attend to the heart of the matter. "Either what we hold to be right and good and true, is right and good and true for all the world before Heaven, or our deeds become meaningless. The Heathen and the Infidel is not the one who fails in prayers, 'tis the one who has others suffer for their gain, 'tis the one who offers children to the horrors of war, who subjects women to lives of slavery, the one who kills for conquest and greed alone, the one who does a wrong deed and calls 't right."

Feeling something stir within his heart, he followed on smoothly. "Whether I need the saints and angels matters not. There are those whose need is great, who need for kindness and justice to be more than mere words, who need for right and honour to rule in their lives. More than one mere mortal can offer. Yet Heaven is just that. When a saint or an angel touches a life, then Virtue becomes a true force in this world." Each word passionate, clear and sincere. "By carrying their blessings, and bringing them to those in need of them, what I carry is the substance, the tactile proof of Hope." Raising one gloved hand before him, he closed the hand into a fist while speaking as if grasping some unseen object. "There are those in need of saints and angels, and I shall not deny them."

Opening his hand again, he gazed into the palm for a long moment before looking back towards Thetta. "With every woman you saved this past day, you supported the work of saints. With every villain you slain, you fought on the side of angels. I follow their cause because I deem it worthy. And for at least a day... you did too."

Expecting her to be suitably shocked by that revelation, he used the following moment to ask a question. "You spoke of what gods told you and your people, is divine intervention truly so common in your homeland?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Even as Aorle started speaking, Thetta had already decided how he would answer her concerns. He’d tell her that his goddess was better, stronger, and more worthy of worship than the gods she’d seen in other lands. He’d tell her it was only the lack of piety shown by unbelievers that caused trouble. He’d tell her that once his goddess had defeated all others, the world would become a paradise. That was the sort of answer she usually got from religious types -- at least, from the rare few still willing to talk to her after she’d made her views clear.

But Aorle didn’t even mention his goddess. Instead, he spoke about correcting the misconceptions which caused people to judge Uluki so unfairly. Thetta was a big fan of correcting misconceptions -- she liked to do it aggressively and often. Intrigued, Thetta actually began listening to Aorle’s words, although she struggled with the many of the concepts. His ideas were very different from the religion followed by the Northlanders.

“I understand that Amaranda grants you certain abilities.” Thetta clearly remembered the golden light surrounding Aorle when he healed Cherie, and again when he helped Uluki. “But there are plenty of ‘mere mortals’ who can do as much without divine intervention. All that you spoke of -- kindness, justice, honor, and hope -- these were in your heart from the moment of your birth. You brought them to those around you long before Amaranda kissed your brow. All that I have seen you accomplish, you would have accomplished anyway, with or without her patronage.”

“I assume you wish to preach the teaching of angels because you think it will help others. But learning to kneel doesn’t make anyone strong. You must teach them to think for themselves. You must teach them to stand on their own two feet. Only then will you have truly helped them.”

Thetta raised an eyebrow when Aorle suggested that her participation in the previous day’s efforts demonstrated some sort of religious alliance. “I did not fight to ingratiate myself with saints and angels. I fought because my sisters needed my aid.” And because you asked me to. That thought, however, remained unspoken. Thetta was not one to vocalize her loyalty. “I would have done exactly the same thing if the Heavens were empty. And I believe that you would have, too.”

A moment’s thought followed Aorle’s question about the gods of her homeland. “The chieftains and priests claim that the Northern gods are very active in our lives. My brother, too, believes this. He sees signs and portents wherever he looks. But until I witnessed your knighting, I never saw a god, nor heard one speak to me.” Thetta shrugged. “Perhaps it’s because I’m too filled with bitterness and doubt to be worthy of divine attention. Or maybe it’s because most gods simply don’t care about the mortals who try so hard to appease them.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Ironically, Thetta was right in her presumptions of what the Shining One would believe. For indeed, he felt that saints and angels were the most worthy of reverence, as they existed as extensions of the Sacred Virtues rather than mere spirits of great power. True again that the lack of piety shown by unbelievers was behind so many wrongs in the world; each cruelty, each theft, each betrayal was a blasphemy against Heaven. And were saints and angels to ultimately triumph, there would be, if not paradise, Heaven on Earth - a world in which the inherent rights of justice, fairness and dignity would be witheld from none. That would be a perfect world... and Aorle would have no place in it.

"Seek great stature of character holding true to the Sacred Virtues, for though ideals may remain unreached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards Heaven." Words taken directly from the Teachings, and with them shared, he made his point. "Many saints were once mortals. I know of no god who would bid you become their equal." So much for learning to kneel.

"Do you see wrong to kill someone because we disagree with their beliefs?" This was an easy question to raise in challenge to a holy knight. Fortunately, Aorle had an easy answer. "In the past day there were many thugs who believed the oppression and mistreatment of defenceless women to be acceptable behaviour. We disagreed."

Perhaps he could speak of his ancestry, and why kindness, justice, honour and hope were in his heart from the moment of his birth. Perhaps. True indeed, in his case, being descended from angels brought good into his heart, as much a part of his being as his own flesh and blood. Yet claiming all good as the work of angels was presumptuous and inhumble, for to do so would discount the worth of Uluki, Rollick, and others who had demonstrated great virtue of their own merit.

Of course, Thetta was right that Aorle would fight for the same cause regardless of aid, and yet that fact changed nothing. The cause remained just as worthy with or without divine patronage... yet Heaven made that cause more real, more possible. "'Tis as you say. Your sisters were in need of aid, and that alone was cause to act. 'Tis a major tenet right there. Your plans for Sasha are grounded in the knowledge that strength and honour are one. Another tenet, that for whatever reason, you deem worthy." By now, Thetta had proven herself a woman of honour, strong and true. Heaven would not begrudge her caution, and nor would Aorle. "What we do here; protecting these people, acting with honour, aiding those in need. All of these are deeds of Right. And Right we can share. Integrity is not the exclusive property of warriors alone." Right held value beyond measure, and thus had no business being hoarded. "My church seeks this not be witheld."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Thetta was far from being stupid. However, like many who harbor beliefs that are constantly under attack, she’d turned her mind into a fortress, designed to repel arguments as efficiently as enemy soldiers. It was a testament to Aorle’s persuasiveness -- not to mention his persistence -- that a few of his points actually managed to slip through.

“It’s true that the Northern gods do not seek to increase their number,” Thetta conceded. “If you bring them glory, you will be honored in the afterlife. But you will not become one of them.” So maybe saints and angels were different from gods. In this respect, at least.

But Thetta felt that Aorle had misunderstood one of her comments. “I do not object to fighting over disagreements. I myself have disagreed with many men.” This was said with a satisfied grin, and accompanied by a ripple of minor echoes -- most of which sounded like men getting punched, kicked, or otherwise struck in a particularly sensitive region. “But it depends on the nature of the disagreement. Men who oppress women deserve to die. Men who wear blue ceremonial robes, despite your insistence that your god favors yellow, are not clinging to a belief worth spilling blood over.”

Still, most of what Aorle said impressed Thetta. “So, these tenets....these teaching of angels...they help to give people warrior hearts? Even when the people are not warriors?” In Thetta’s ideal world, every woman would own a weapon and know how to use it. But she’d resigned herself to the impossibility of that goal. Some women were too young, some too old, and some simply lacked the skill or discipline required. If this religion of Aorle’s could grant them the same fierce spirit, then that was a good thing.

“You said that you intend to build a chapel and conduct services. When this happens, will Sigvard and I be expected to convert? Will we be dismissed if we do not?” Despite her brother’s general desire to please his new chieftain, Thetta was not sure he would be willing to abandon the Northern gods. Sigvard still longed for a place in the Hall of Warriors after his death. The chance to become a saint couldn’t compete with the chance to spend eternity boasting, drinking, and testing his skills against legendary opponents. As for Thetta, she welcomed an opportunity to turn her back on the Northern gods. But there was still much wariness in her heart. She was not sure she could put her trust in anything the way that men put their trust in religion. She was not sure she could risk being betrayed once more.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

So many matters needed addressing. This constant, almost mechanical antipithy towards men, the seeming satisfaction she took in humiliating or injuring men on the crime of their gender, her insistance on painting hallowed teachings as fighting over meaningless trivialities.

All of these began to tie in. "Women are not the only victims of oppression, and men are not the only oppressors." Eye contact was made. "What then?" A question in need of asking, for so far she had gave no indication of the possibility that men could face similar hardships. Rather than permit her continued blindness, Sir Aorle sought to bring the matter into her vision, force her to face the subject. Either she would choose to treat men fairly and justly, or not... One hand traced the three lines of black scarring on the left side of his face. Now thin and cleanly healed channels cut into the skin, one running from the ear down the edge of his face, another across the edge of his jaw, and one from temple to brow. "The woman who first gave me these years back, she felt entitled to spend above an hour beating a nine-year old child. You can ask why, and the truth was one reason alone, because she knew I would not hurt her."

"There are many ways women are oppressed, one example is sending them to battlefields where most of their foes are larger and stronger than they, which invites brutality upon the women." Rather than a philosophical point, this was a personal judgement, the violence and cruelty so often a part of combat was horrific, and exposing women to that was hardly doing them a favour. Cursedly, brutality often came whether invited or not. "Yet we have learned that those without swords can still die by them. Each choice bears a price."

With these thoughts placed in Thetta's hands, the Shining One answered her wary concern. "Actively strive to do good, and you will always be welcome with me." That was what mattered most to him. Mostly he felt conversion would be the right choice because being a Lightsword was closely tied to the Sacred Virtues and Strictures. "Live an honest and virtuous life, and oppose the workers of cruelty, that is what I ask of you." Then he shrugged. "My church will ask the same. For the rest of these people, a virtuous life brings manifold courage. Courage to stand by right. Courage to perservere. Courage to thrive after all they have endured." Marching onto the battlefield was courage in one and only one aspect. To live by the Sacred Virtues each day was a demonstration of constant bravery.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Thetta stared into Aorle’s golden eyes without flinching, like a contest between sunlight and ice. “I believe that many women who do wrong are driven to it by the circumstances of their oppression. This is unfortunate. However, I do not recall advocating that women should be absolved of all blame for their crimes. When we learned that Cherie betrayed you, I stood ready to strike her down, if that had been your wish. Sasha’s spirit holds a spark that shouldn’t be wasted. But if it’s too late, if she’s been corrupted past the point of redemption, then I will be the last person to make excuses for her.” Thetta’s gaze flicked to the scars on Aorle’s face, and then went back. “If I were to meet the woman who did that to you, she would soon learn what it means to strike someone able to fight back.”

“How could I demand that you treat us as equals if I also insisted we’re not responsible for anything we do? That would be playing into the hands of men who wish to see us as children, in need of special treatment and coddling. No, my sisters and I are not infants. We know right from wrong. And, although our situations may often make it harder for us, we must still hold ourselves to the highest standard. That is our struggle.”

Up until this point, the conversation had been fairly calm and rational -- at least, by Thetta’s standards for such things. However, when Aorle made his comment about women on the battlefield, that all changed in an instant. “Oppressed?!” Thetta bellowed. “Was my brother oppressing me when he taught me to defend myself with sword and spear? Were you oppressing me when you chose me to fight by your side yesterday?”

“Someone will always be bigger and stronger than someone else. Humans are smaller than orcs, gnomes are smaller than humans. So what? The size of the body does not reflect the size of the heart. Courage is not weighed in pounds; skill is not measured in inches. If we need to defend a village from trolls, will you tell the farmer to remain behind, because you don’t want to ‘oppress’ him by asking him to fight creatures capable of ripping his arm from its socket?” Thetta could have chosen any of the Lightswords for her example. But she’d noticed the particular friendship that existed between Aorle and Julen.

“Yes, the battlefield is a gruesome place. I know it as well as you do. But ask yourself this -- are women safer when we leave our defense in the hands of others? Are we safer when we wait shivering in our homes, until the enemy arrives, and we can offer no better resistance than kicking and screaming? Are we safer when those who should protect us turn us into their slaves because we have no way to resist them? The likes of Kaydee and Tulip never set foot on a battlefield, but they know brutality all too well.”

Bitterness and disappointment threatened to overwhelm Thetta. “I thought you were different, but you’re just like all the rest. You were only humoring me. Poor silly Thetta -- we’ll let her pretend to be a man, since she’s obviously unfit to be a woman.” Thetta shook her head. “If you truly believe that women have no place on the battlefield, tell me, and I will stop wasting your time.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

For a long moment, Aorle answered with only a level gaze. Flat, even, unperturbed. As if this outburst had done nothing to disrupt his balance. By this lack of reaction, one could wonder if he was surprised or insulted, one could wonder if this touched him at all.

"Bringing a fighter into battle for the sake of humouring them endangers innocent people and fellow warriors. None are so important to spare their feelings at such cost." The presumption of claiming persecution was oft immense, and monumentally annoying. This was not all about her. Gender was not so all-important for the angelic knight. "I ordered Hatton stay behind when I brought you, so all fighters knew each other and none who fought that day were strangers to being Lightswords." Knowledge of one's comrades produced better results in battle, as each could aid each other more, knowing how to act and when, fighting as a unit rather than individuals.

Personally, being yelled at was of no matter to Sir Aorle. Still, raising her voice to her commander was undermining his leadership, and this needed dealing with. "You have ceased speaking with me and have begun feuding with memories. Enough." The simplest defence against her accusations was the fact they were utterly groundless. Rather than sputter and wonder Aorle merely accepted that she was now arguing with someone else. "You fight well, Thetta, that does not make every woman alive a warrior-born. Many will prefer to live out their lives without blood, and death, and violence. Permit them that right."

In the back of Sir Aorle's mind lurked a scathing thought; if most women who did wrong were driven by the oppression of men, what was the cause for men who did wrong? Would men be accused on innate flaws? Claims of innate superiority irritated him, the Shining One having heard enough of them used by aristocracy to justify acts of wickedness.

"We covered this two minutes ago when I stated 'those without swords can still die by them.' We covered this before that when I agreed the refugees be given training to defend themselves. To defend themselves, not to crusade." Allowing Thetta's bitterness towards men to be passed on to women who had suffered awful horrors as these had would likely lead to one gang being traded for another, a pack of armed and vengeful ruffians infected with the plague of purposeless vengeance. "Find a small group in sufficient health and you are welcome to begin today. Choose only those willing, none from the group which suggested harming Uluki, so they do not pose her true peril, and not Rosemary." A hot temper and an edged weapon were a poor combination. Bearing arms was a sacred trust, not to be given lightly.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Despite her problems with authority -- especially male authority -- Thetta possessed a great deal of discipline. She knew that hollering at her chieftain had crossed the line. Besides, her rage did not live close to the surface. It simmered deep inside, like a molten core, only truly released during the furious heat of battle. As Aorle remained impassive, Thetta’s own face resumed its usual icy mask.

Thetta had encountered men like this before. Men who were so sure of themselves that they never doubted, never questioned. They were like great rocks, and Thetta had long ago learned the futility of breaking herself against them. So, although there were still arguments which could be made (she remained unconvinced that being sent onto the battlefield oppressed women any more than it oppressed men), and further issues which could still be raised (she knew of at least one Lightsword who would have preferred to live his life untouched by blood, death, and violence), Thetta fell silent.

Instead of speaking, Thetta considered the man who stood before her, weighing things in her mind. On one hand, his attitude irritated her immensely. On the other hand, he was a strong leader, as well as a courageous and capable fighter. He’d always given her and Sigvard a fair share of the plunder. Most importantly, he did seem dedicated to opposing those who committed the worst crimes against women. Much good had already done, and more would doubtlessly follow it -- she could stay and be a part of that, or she could storm off, just because he was obstinate and condescending. Thetta had her pride. But she also had her sacred cause, and that was what finally decided her.

“You asked to hear my concerns, now you have heard them. You need not hear them ever again if you do not wish to.”

With that put to rest, Thetta focused on the practical matters Aorle had mentioned. “I will go now, to find those that are willing to train. And, since you forbid it, I will not include any lessons about crusading. But increased capability often leads to an increased desire to act. As they grow stronger, do not be surprised if some of those women discover a cause other than their own defense that they believe is worth fighting for. Perhaps some of them will eventually battle by your side.”

Mostly, Thetta agreed with Aorle’s criteria for choosing those that she would teach. The group persecuting Uluki hadn’t shown enough sense to be trusted with wooden spoons. But the farmer’s wife was another matter. “I heard that when you were attacked on your way out of Shim, Rosemary slit one of the mercenary’s throats herself. That shows some promise. Many civilians would have frozen or panicked under similar circumstances.” Thetta paused, and then added. “She already wears a dagger tucked in her skirt. Either teach her to use it or take it away.”

“Besides, if Snyde ever learns who she is, she may have more need to defend herself than any woman here.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"Stop. Now."

Alone, an outburst was merely an outburst, one he had no need to begrudge. Immediately followed by such a sudden show of aloofness, this was a sign of bad things to come, and demanded a more lasting solution. Giving the matter a moment's thought, the show of aloofness really felt like a show, as though a covering of some sort.

"I have heard your concerns. Now you hear mine. You have made a clear insult to me." A pause, allowing the gravity of that to sink in. Among many, even most warrior societies, the appropriate answer to any seriously intended insult was immediate and lethal force. Granted, no such action would be taken, but Thetta needed reminding that she had gone too far and was being held accountable for that. "You have thrown bizarre accusations at me which go against all you have seen me do, and have attempted to force false words into my mouth." What he saw was her replacing his claims with her own, then attacking him for such a view. "As a man I forgive, as commander I must see action taken."

Empty words made for poor weapons. Still, no weapon, no matter how poor, should be raised between them. Until the point when Thetta sought to continue on as if such conduct was acceptable, he was prepared to forget the matter.

"Do you truly believe your accusations? You have made your attack on my character and have been refuted with past deeds. So now I ask you, as a warrior and as a woman, to take responsibility for yourself." In Aorle's mind, animals were male or female, men and women were far more. "Either stand by your accusations and demonstrate worth, or withdraw such claims. Do neither, and special treatment is exactly what you ask for. Any less than special treatment and I must stand ready to answer the charges laid against me with my body. Which will mean gathering the Lightswords to bear witness my acceptance of your challenge-at-arms." This custom served a purpose, to redress a wrong by pledging one's life to a case. In this case, a man entering harm's way for the sake of his good name.

Even now, he could not allow the ideals of the white knight to be forgotten. "I raised this matter for a reason. A man who seeks to shield women from harm is far from an oppressor. 'Tis the duty of any man worthy of the name." Protectiveness towards women was a worthy impulse, one which no man should apologise for. "Women warriors only change that for themselves. As for every other woman, she has no need of a blade in hand to deserve respect. Remember that."

A fourfold choice was offered to Thetta. Either provide evidence for her insults and accusations, renounce her claims as wrongful, request special treatment, or discuss the terms of a duel.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Thetta looked at Aorle with an expression that was closer to bafflement than anger. She’d been attempting to move beyond their philosophical differences, to address the practical matters which they both agreed on. But instead of changing focus, he was now ranting about his personal honor, like it mattered more than training the refugees to protect themselves -- like it mattered more than the safety of his best friend’s wife. Was the man insane? Was he deliberately trying to provoke her?

Ironically, Thetta possessed a great capacity for loyalty. But she needed to feel like she was giving it freely. The more it was demanded of her, the more she rebelled, like a dog maddened by each strike of its master’s rod. Aorle’s decision to pull rank filled her with an urge to turn around and storm off, just on principle.

But Thetta was also honorable. The things she said, she said because she believed they were true. If she had spoken a falsehood, if she had insulted without justification, then that did demand correction. Carefully, Thetta reviewed their conversation. “I accused you of just humoring me,” she conceded. “You explained why doing so would put lives at risk. Since I know you would not deliberately endanger people, I must accept that I was wrong. I spoke in anger, without proper reflection, so I retract my statement.” And that was about as close to an apology as anyone had ever gotten from Thetta.

“If you have gleaned other insults from my words, please elaborate. I will either defend or withdraw them.”

Thetta wasn’t, however, just going to leave it there. If Aorle wanted to get touchy about personal honor, two could play at that game. “And while we’re on the subject, perhaps we can address some of the ‘bizarre accusations’ you continue to throw at me. When did I say that shielding women from harm was the act of an oppressor? I myself have sworn an oath to protect Dash and Zee with my life, if those that created them ever return to claim what they made. And what gave you the impression that I have no respect for women who do not wield weapons? Have I scorned Uluki? Have you ever witnessed me mock or belittle any woman?”

“I believe that women will only have true equality when we stand alongside men, sharing in their responsibilities as well as their privileges. And I believe that women will only be truly safe when we take action to ensure our own protection. But, more than either of those, I believe that women deserve to choose. If a woman decides to live her life without ever touching a weapon, I’ll tell her why I think she’s making a mistake. But I will do no more than that. It would be just as wrong for me to force a sword into a woman’s hand as it would be for a man to yank it out.”

Thetta gazed at Aorle without fear. If it did come down to a duel, she harbored no illusions about who would win. But death didn’t scare Thetta. While it would be regrettable to leave Sasha without a mentor, and many other women without a protector, she would die for a greater cause -- a cause which, in the long run, would bring them more benefit than any individual ever could.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Slowly Aorle's head inclined in a respectful bow from the neck. "Thank you. And as you wish. Very well. I spoke against sending women into battle when they face a disadvantage against men. I did not claim they should be left helpless with no way to protect themselves, the view you appear to have condemned me for. As for your other point, no accusation was intended. My apologies." A pause, partly to search for her reaction, partly to draw attention to his apology. "No man in my service is known to have mocked or belittled any woman either. When you speak of how women are oppressed by men, myself, your brother Sigvard, and the Lightswords who fight beside you are all men."

"There are men who have mistreated you, belittled you, abandoned you. 'All the rest'. I am not those men." Spoken firmly, with feeling. "This matter needs dealing with now for a reason. I ask each of the Lightswords to give both you and me their full support. 'Twill not be possible with an ongoing power struggle. Loyalty will be weakened between everyone if yelling at the commander becomes acceptable. I would not permit any speak to you in such fashion."

For the briefest instant his gaze flickered as he come to terms with something. "And if I am truly honest with myself, I want to deal with this now because I value your opinion and 'tis distressing that you think so low of me." From the moment he began speaking of this he mentioned the fact openly and freely, without further hesitation beyond the moment of recognising the fact itself.

Alas, this was not to last. "I will look into the matter of Rosemary myself. I have some caution in this. A few short combat lessons are too little to make the refugees less vulnerable, yet may cause them to take risks believing they are safer than they are. Rosemary has appeared particularly vulnerable to that." Something troubled dwelled within his eyes just then, like dark clouds beneath the blazing sun.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Listening to Aorle clarify the perceived insult, Thetta’s eyes narrowed, as if they were peeking through the slits of a great helm. But when he’d finished, she returned his nod. “When you said women should not be sent onto the battlefield, I assumed you meant that we had no business fighting at all -- it is an argument I’ve heard many times, and I suppose I can be too quick to hear it again. I should have had more faith in your judgment. So far, you’ve given me no reason to doubt it.”

“But the comment still confuses me. Were you speaking about all women? I fully intend to be sent into battle alongside my comrades, and rather than being oppressed, fighting with them will further my empowerment. Perhaps you only meant women who are unwilling? Or women who are ill-equipped and ill-prepared?” Now that her temper had cooled, Thetta was willing to give Aorle the benefit of the doubt. “Perhaps you did not mean women warriors?”

Aorle’s apology was met with another nod. “If no accusation was intended, no offense is taken.” Thetta was surprisingly quick to forgive a slight when the person seemed genuinely repentant. She already carried too many grudges -- too many slurs, spoken by too many people who would never retract them. She did not need to add to their number.

And, to be fair, Aorle did have a point about her fellow Lightswords. The farmer couldn’t oppress his own wife. Sometimes Hatton behaved a little oddly, but he hadn’t yet said anything which could be construed as mocking or belittling. As for Sigvard, he was positively progressive by Northlander standards, other than his unfortunate insistence on wenching. Thetta failed to be impressed by her brother’s habit of reducing women to trophies and warm bodies. She’d worried that being surrounded by former prostitutes might encourage bad behavior. But instead of indulging, he seemed to spend an increasing amount of his free time with Jenny and her daughter, both of whom he treated in a decidedly “un-wench-like” fashion. So maybe being a Lightsword was a good influence.

“It’s true,” Thetta conceded, “that when I talk about women being oppressed by men, I’m speaking in general terms. There are exceptions. Everyone here has behaved very honorably.”

Both of Thetta’s eyebrows shot up when Aorle admitted that he valued her opinion. No one had ever said such a thing to her. Even Sigvard, who did respect her intelligence, never spoke openly about it. “I do not think lowly of you. And I hope...I hope you do not think lowly of me.” Thetta met honesty with honesty. “When you made the comment about women on the battlefield, I reacted with particular anger because I thought I had done something to make you doubt my skills. You have put much trust in me. I did not want to have disappointed you.”

Thetta accepted Aorle’s judgment regarding Rosemary. After all, he’d known the woman for longer than she had. And it was true that a few lessons did not make a warrior -- as deeply as Thetta understood anything, she understood the discipline and the long hours of practice needed for such a transformation. She did not want to endanger any of the women by giving them too much confidence too soon. “As you wish. For now, I will choose others for my lessons.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Almost immediately, the dark clouds lifted, and golden eyes resumed their shine like rays of distilled sunlight once more. "Again, my thanks, Thetta." He clasped her forearm in a warrior's grip, mostly seeking to reinforce that he viewed her as a warrior.

"Unwilling. Unready. Unknowing of the true perils face them. Ill-prepared for hard fights with larger foes, or the threat of being taken prisoner. I suspect few women welcome such further dangers. Where many women march to war I expect they are deceived as to the path ahead." Only now did he remember to release his warm clasp on her forearm, the warmth of his hand still lingering. Perhaps unnoticed through her armour, perhaps not. "As a woman warrior, you have already chosen with knowledge of the matter."

"I have no doubt in your skills Thetta, and I trust you. You have far from disappointed me, I consider you one of my best." Voice, sincere. Posture, steady. Expression, as clear and firm in purpose as ever. "In my travels, many men behaved honourably, and fair treatment of women is standard. Much of my homeland, and Kreylask where I first taught Thalnawr and Hergot, stand out in my mind. Our battles will show us the worst aspects of humanity, we all do well to seek reminders of the best."

"Which brings me to another matter. Many of us, myself included, come from warrior traditions where the measure of a man is marked in part by how he treats women. You may witness gestures which appear as special treatment. Opening doors, offering seats. These will be intended purely with courtesy in mind." For a moment some refugees working the edges of the compound drew his glance, there was nothing unusual occuring, simply a warrior's trained habit of taking in his surroundings. A slight smile played on his face as he saw the improvement in the conditions of the refugees, and how they took to their days with fresh hope. "I want you to know that so you see no affront in such things as they occur. And I think 'twill be good for the refugees to witness such shows of respect."

For a moment his breath slowed, and his arms crossed over his waist. Peeking out from beneath one leather vambrace was an embroidered kerchief, which a closer glance would reveal was marked with the bloom of a rose. "Too long has passed since I have spoken with Kaydee, and I have yet to meet with Tulip since she joined us. Unless you wish anything of me, I will see to that now."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Where many women march to war I expect they are deceived as to the path ahead. Thetta had never seen such a thing, so she didn’t know if Aorle’s words were true. Perhaps they were. Then again, perhaps they were also true for many men. Thetta came from a warrior culture -- fighting was duty, fighting was honour, fighting was life. Mothers turned the glories of war into lullabies for their newborns, and every young boy was trained for combat from the moment he could hold a toy sword. Yet, even with all that, Thetta wondered if any of them were ever truly prepared for what awaited them on the battlefield.

“And you, Shining One? When you first tasted war, was it all that you expected it to be?” This wasn’t spoken as a challenge, but with genuine curiosity. Aorle was not like other men. His experience might not be like theirs.

Thetta didn’t exactly beam when Aorle called her ‘one of his best’, but she drew back her shoulders, and thrust her chin upward, while her eyes shone with icy pride. The rest of what he said also pleased her. “I am glad that lands exist where women are treated as true equals, even if I have yet to see them. Perhaps, one day, I will be able to visit these places you speak about.”

But Aorle’s remarks regarding the courteous treatment of women caused her to hesitate. Thetta believed that women deserved respect. And, certainly, holding a chair for a woman was better than striking her with it. Still, Thetta couldn’t quite stifle her conflicted feelings. “If these gestures truly reflect nothing other than respect, I will not protest them. But it seems to me that they are based on assumptions about the weakness of women. You respect Krarug, but you do not open the door for him. Why is it different for women? And why do you address a woman as ‘My Lady’? How is it respectful to speak to her as if she is your possession?” Again, none of this was said with belligerence. Thetta truly wanted to know. If these things were not insults, she would be happy to spend her energy battling things which were.

“I am sorry to keep you when you have other matters to attend to, but I would like to have this explained further.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Upon observing the change in Thetta's posture, Aorle could do no less than smile. Seeing such brought forth in others always brightened his mood to match his heart. "No apology is needed, Thetta. None of my tasks are urgent, and you have as much claim to my time as any other."

"Many, oft total strangers, call me 'My Lord' yet I am no possession. By the same token, the words 'My Lady' carry no assumption of ownership. 'Tis an indication of mild allegiance, specifically being mindful of her rights." A shrug of his fur-clad arms showed Aorle was at ease with this belief. "We treat all differently in ways. I respect you, I respect Krarug, and I will respect a kindly old abbot. My behaviour towards each will not be the same. Nor should it. Each is unlike the other."

"Rather than weakness, consider this. I was taught duty to women, that service towards ladies is part of being a man. 'Tis not something I have ever deemed in need of justification. All I can say is no male ethic will be complete without a standard of behaviour towards women."

"Armed combat felt no different for me than when I fought as a boy to defend other children from bullies. I remember being disappointed by that. All to change since then is the bullies are now fought with swords." Thinking back, Aorle struggled to consider which fight was his first true battle. The one against the captain which became the cause of his exile? Against the bailiffs? The bounty hunters hired by the corrupt priest?

These were hard questions for the Shining One, who turned thoughtful and suddenly silent, having struggled lately with enough in the privacy of his own heart as was.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.


Return to Industrial District