"The battlefield's hardly a place for a woman, milady, and especially not one as comely as you," a Norse raider called to Maeryn, the 'milady' of whom he spoke. He had a menacing grip on the wrist of her sword arm, standing behind her so that his bloody, battle grime covered body was pressed up against hers. His face was buried in her blonde hair.

Reining her urge to retch, the warrior twisted her arm free, as she had done in training many times before, and drove her sword across her body, into the Norseman's groin. "The battlefield's no place for a woman as repulsive as you," she spat, drawing her sword free of his body.

Maeryn was usually a quiet, demure person, but she was transformed during battle. Her tongue became like a silver dagger, and her petite body was that of a rampaging bull. All traces of her usual demeanor were hidden, and that, some thought, made her a better warrior. She was a respected swordswoman because of her skill, but also because of her position in their rath. She was the aiccid, heir apparent, to the rath of the Cairthan. Her father now ruled, her mother having passed on in a battle, but it was not his place to fight, great warrior though he was.

Maeryn herself refused to take innocent blood in raids and plundering. She fought only to defend her rath, though if that meant invading another rath before they could attack her own, she would join with the men. Her father never said anything about her only fighting in defense, so she assumed he didn't object to it, at least enough to order her to join in a raid.

"Milady!" A voice rang out clearly over the battlefield. Maeryn turned to see who had called, but her eyes were met instead with a Norseman charging at her, sword pointed at where her back had been only seconds before, his blade reflecting the pale light of the sunset.

Her own sword was barely up in time to thwart his blow, and she had to fight to keep her grip as he hit it with astonishing strength. Maeryn met the raider's twist toward her side with another block, then added a quick thrust of her own, making a gash across his leather breastplate. It wasn't mortally deep, yet it was enough to draw blood.

The man swung at Maeryn with fury evident on his face, and their blades met and locked just above the hilts. He was far stronger than she, and both knew it. He could hold on longer, he could force her to the ground.

And force her down he did, what seemed like minutes later. Then he drew his sword up, readying himself for a fatal blow, not doubt. His short tunic flapped in the air, and red was oozing out of the gash his opponent had inflicted. The paint on his face had lines running down it from the sweat of battle.

Maeryn was paralyzed, her strength all ebbed away like the sun's brilliance from midday to sundown. She wouldn't be able to move quickly enough to dodge his blow. So she would stay kneeling on the ground, as she had fallen, and face death with as much composure as a warrior was taught to have.

She could see the muscles in his arm rippling as he started to swing down the blade, see the sword falling, in slow motion it seemed, falling down to take her life. Out of nowhere, another blade, dripping crimson blood, met it with a force loud enough to be heard over the noise of the battle. With one more skillful swipe, the new blade was poking through the front of the Norseman's armor, then back in its sheath as Maeryn's rescuer reached out a hand to help her up.

"Milady, are you all right?" he asked. No, she wasn't, but she couldn't admit that to the tall, muscular man who had just saved her life. She was sickened by the whole battle, this foul Norse raid in her beloved Erin. Taking the hand he had offered, she pulled herself up from the ground and swung her emerald inlaid sword above her head in an arc.

"For Erin!" she cried as she charged toward a group of raiders.

"For Erin!" the man echoed.

A/N: I haven't been able to find anything much to read about ancient Ireland. This takes place before 1000 a.d., but I don't have all the historical facts down correctly. If you by some chance know anything about Ireland around this time period and notice anything wrong, please correct me about it. All reviews are appreciated!