I'd wanted to be a warrior for as long as I could remember. I could picture the soldiers walking through town with their swords, and shields, and horses, but they weren't nearly as impressive as the hired guards. They walked with a smirk and heavy swagger. Their job was a game to them, their life the trophy. When my mother caught me staring she'd cuff my ear, and tell me to get the idea out of my head.
I had the idea in my head for years.
When I first saw, what I thought was a parade, travel through my town, I was about eight years old. Old enough to be unafraid, and young enough to not know I should have been.
I thought the King's court was coming to town. Of course, when I voiced this thought the other children called me 'stupid' and said it was only the King's Company, but they were 'stupid' too because that was also incorrect. It was a different company all together. They didn't have a name. They were only a group called together when certain skills were needed for their task at hand.
There were six of them riding through the main road in town. All atop horses, I thought they struck a fierce image. Tall backs, sneering faces, and snapping teeth in bridles. In reality, they were probably second or third-rate horses, tired muscles, and beaten animals, but once again beside the point. It was all very alluring and attractive to a young child who had never seen anything other than the old draft horses pulling the field plows. Anything else was magical, and new, and completely worth a fancy.
I was never allowed to get close to them. No one who had any sense got very close to them, but then not many people in my town had much sense. It was mostly the young boys pretending to be tough men, the men pretending to be tough warriors, and the drunks not even pretending to be uninterested in the battle-hardened women that sometimes frequented the group.
I was interested in the women warriors too, but for completely different reasons. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. My mother protected me as best she could, but I saw the way I was looked at. The roving eyes would worsen and soon turn to hands the older I became. I wanted to protect myself. I wanted to be independent and fierce!
One day I was staring so hard, a woman from the company began to make her way towards me. My heart was pounding in my chest both from fear and excitement. I could barely contain myself. I was in the center of town, when I was supposed to be off doing chores for my mother, rooted to my spot across from the pub I knew the company frequented. At the time, I felt like I knew everything about them just from watching.
When the woman didn't change course, I knew she was headed for me. I rocked on my heels and bit my lip to keep from smiling. This was it! I could finally meet one of my heroes!
She arrived in front of me and knelt down in a way that I wasn't terribly fond of, but let her get away with nonetheless. She stared me in the eyes for so long I thought I would burst. My lip was almost bloody from trying to bite my smile down. I think she knew. She had to have. I wasn't a terribly difficult child to read.
She knew, and yet she waited another ten heartbeats, her heartbeats, to say something.
"You know, it's not nice to stare at a lady. That works both ways."
I was so excited I couldn't do anything to stop myself. Impulse control is already non existent in a kid, but what I did could only be described as impulsive. I dove forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, and sent both of us tumbling towards the ground. Thankfully, the store I was in front of didn't have a very high step for us to fall off of.
As mortified as I was, and as surprised as she was, I was elated that I got to at least touch my hero. Even if I died an early death for assaulting a warrior, I thought it was completely worth it. I remember hearing a loud rush of laughter from several men. Deep, gut filled laughter from several baritone voices. My face felt like fire as I threw myself up, off of the woman, and ran in the opposite direction of the men and my home.
"Looks like you were beaten by a little girl!"
"I think she won that fight!"
I couldn't hear the rest of what was said because I was running so fast. By the time I made it back home, I was exhausted both mentally and physically. I slouched through the door of my small home, and tried to sneak upstairs before my mother saw me, but she always saw me.
"Kella? Kella, where are you going? Did you get the things I asked you to?"
Of course I didn't. Well I did, but I think I dropped them when I hugged the company woman, but I wasn't going to tell my mother I wasted her hard-earned money because I couldn't control myself in front of someone she specifically told me to stay away from. No that would not be a wise plan. What I thought was a better idea was bold face lying.
"Umm, they didn't have what you wanted… at the store," said Kella.
"Ohh you're telling me they didn't have any salt in the store? In the trade store where they always have items of trade. Kella, where are my things?"
My mother put a hand on her hip, and blocked my path to the stairs. She was a beautiful young woman, and I could tell this even when I was a child, but her youth granted her to certain passions. Passions usually meaning hot anger that seemed very easy to access. Most times it wasn't directed at me, but oh boy when it was I knew to run for cover.
When she began winding herself up I knew there was no escape, so I tried another plan. Another lie, but this one might be more convincing.
I put forth my lip, and let my frustrations on full display. I could feel my eyes burning as I started to sniffle, and when my eyes began to blur I knew I had her. My mother loved me dearly. She wanted to do everything in her power to make me feel happy and loved, and she did. I felt terrible for lying to her like this, but I was more afraid of her temper when she found out I lost her goods than of being dishonest to her.
I had to make sure I timed the sniffles right to make it believable, that part was important.
"I-I-" sniffle, "I l-lost the coin on the s-ide of the road when I went to town." Big sniffle here. "I looked and looked, but I cou-c-c-couldn't find it anywhere." I ran to hug her waist because at this point the tears were real. I was mortified that I lost her goods, her money, all because I couldn't control myself.
I'd find a way to make it up to her, but at that moment I just wanted her security.
"Aww baby, it's all right." She heaved a big sigh and wrapped her arms around me. "We'll make due without them. We'll be all right." She started stroking my hair to relax me, but I could feel her body go tense. I went every month to get her things, and she always told me what an important job I was doing. I couldn't help but feel I let her down more than I could know. I didn't know how much I let her down until years later.
The next day I was determined to be the best child I could be. I had to make it up to my mother. I tended the garden, weeded the mounds, fed and watered our milk goat, and was in the middle of sweeping our tiny porch when someone cleared their throat. Except it wasn't just someone, it was the warrior woman from the day before. Terrified, I dropped the broom in my hands and ran into the house. I wasn't watching where I was going though, and I slammed directly into my mother.
I almost knocked another woman off of her feet, but thankfully my mother was able to catch herself on the kitchen chair.
"What on earth are you doing? You could have broken my back!"
I could practically feel my mother's temper flaring, but once again fear overrode my decisions. I pointed out the now wide open door, and backed away slowly. My mother narrowed her eyes in understanding, and pulled out the dagger she kept strapped to her thigh. She, to my terror, walked through the door towards the woman.
I peeked through the door as best I could from the stairs, but I couldn't see or hear anything. After a moment with no yelling, I decided it was relatively safe for me to come out.
I should have stayed inside because it was not safe at all. My mother was leaned against the porch post with her arms crossed. Her dagger was stabbed into the wood railing beside her, and her face was downright murderous. The scariest thing about mother when she got like this wasn't the yelling. She never yelled. Her voice became icy and cut into you like knives.
"Have something to tell me Kella?"
My jaw dropped. This was the beginning of the end. I wouldn't live past eight years old. I would have loved to say that the warrior woman helped bail me out of the situation, but she just watched with a slight twitch on her lips. My mother pointed inside and I dragged my feet like I was on my way to my own funeral. Hopefully my death would be swift, that was all I was hoping for.
My mother roughly sat me in the chair she caught herself on not a moment before, and towered over me. I knew she was waiting for the truth, but she would have to drag it out. I couldn't stand to look her in the face.
"Kella," she warned.
I snuck a glance at her face and almost melted into my chair, but I decided to get it over with because I was sure the warrior woman was still outside.
"I saw the company," my mother huffed at this part, "and I was staring. The woman came to speak to me, but I got excited and we both fell to the ground. "
My mother was about to start in on me so I spat out the rest as fast as I could.
"What do you mean you got excited?"
A bark of laughter saved me from answering. I didn't notice it before but the woman came inside while I was telling my story. The twitch on her lips had become a fully lilted smirk as she leaned against the door frame with crossed arms.
"She hugged me so hard we both tumbled to the ground. Knocked me right off my feet," said the woman.
"What kind of warrior lets a child knock them off their feet? How does that even happen? Especially this child?" my mother asked.
My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe my own mother would speak to such a dangerous woman in that way. In that moment I decided she was crazy. My mother needed to be committed. I began fantasizing about how I would be adopted into the warrior company when I was interrupted.
The warrior let out another laugh. "I was kneeling to talk to her. It could have happened to anyone. Now, Kella," She said my name like she was tasting how it felt on her mouth. "Why are so interested in me? You've been staring for over a week."
To list all of the reasons would have taken hours, but I tried my best. I didn't think I could finish until the sun had well fallen below the horizon. They let me talk myself breathless. When I finally felt I got my point across I looked over the table at both women. My mother had her eyebrow arched at me looking incredulous, she'd heard my speech well over a hundred times by now. The woman on the other hand was studying me closely. She stared deep into my eyes, like she had yesterday, before she spoke.
"I believe you." Was all she said at first. This time my mother turned her arched brow in the woman's direction. "And I think, if your mother says yes, I could teach you a few things. I think it's important for a young girl to be able to defend herself."
My eyes became saucers and I knew my mother would have a rebuttal soon formed. This time I sat on my hands to contain my excitement and practically rocked the chair on its feet. My mother caught my gaze and held it for a long time while I screamed 'please' inside my mind in a million different fashions. I knew I had her when her face melted and her brow released its arch.
"Fine." I squealed in only the way a young child could, and ripped around the table to hug her waist. She raised her chin towards the ceiling in a final question of her sanity then kissed the crown of my head.
"But I am going to attend all of these teachings. I don't know this woman well enough to trust her with my only child."
She could have said anything after the word "fine" and I would have still been the happiest child on Earth in that moment. I had to pry my eyes open because every time I thought on my prime luck I was reduced to smiling so hard my cheeks obscured my vision.
I looked past my mother's blouse towards the woman who would teach me to become a warrior. She had a wry smile on her face as she tucked a strand of errant hair behind her ear. I had a feeling she really didn't realize what she had gotten herself into.
My mother pushed my back towards the warrior and said, "Well, you had better introduce yourself and ask her name if you want to have her train you."
"But she already kno-" I stopped midsentence because of the look my mother gave me. When I tell you this woman was a dragon in human form, I do not exaggerate. I thought better of myself, and walked up to the warrioress. I held out my hand and mumbled something incoherent in her direction. This wasn't good enough, and I knew it, but I figured I would try at a pass anyways.
"You tackled me in the street and spoke at me for an hour, and now you decide to become shy?"
"I said my name is Kella!" I flushed because I hadn't meant to yell, but once again I forgot myself. "It is very nice to meet your ack-, your ack-" I looked to my mother for help because I had just learned this word recently.
"It is nice to meet your acquaintance."
"Wonderful to meet yours as well, Kella. My name is Aceline." She shook my hand, and I will never to this day forget that feeling. She shook it both firmly and gently at the same time, while looking me in the eyes the entire way through. Most women I were introduced to didn't even bother to give me the time of day, let alone remember my name. Granted, this probably had to do with my mother's low social standing as well as the breed of farmers wife who thought themselves princesses who we sometimes mingled with. I would go on to meet a real princess, and even she was not as stuck up as these pig wives.
Aceline seemed pleased with my hand's response and released me from her grasp. My body was practically vibrating with energy. I couldn't believe what was happening to me. I thought that maybe I should begin staring at the extravagant cakes in the bakery windows, and maybe they would apparate into my life as well.
"I will have to leave soon. I go where my company demands."
My heart sunk, and all of the elation and energy I had building inside of me turned into a brick that landed square on my chest. Aceline chuckled nervously and put her hand on my shoulder. She didn't squat this time, but instead bent at the waist to look me in the eye.
"My time is not my own, I believe your mother understands that, but that doesn't mean I cannot be flexible. I'll ride through town when I can, and teach you what I can."
I could feel my eyes begin to burn with tears. They weren't there yet, but the flood was coming. Aceline looked like she was going to be uncomfortable but steeled her resolve.
"Hey," She lifted my chin, which I hadn't even realized had sunk towards the floor, and spoke to me. "I will still teach you, but I can't live here with you. Where would I stay?"
I had recently gotten my own bed and was quite proud of the state of my room. I volunteered it naturally, but was met with a soft laugh. "You keep your bed." Aceline rose and addressed my mother. "I'll be here before dawn. I have to leave tomorrow, but that should give us plenty of time to start."
"Oh jeeze. You can wake her up then."
"Gladly." The ever present smirk I became familiar with slipped back into place and Aceline was once again the warrior goddess of my obsession. She winked at me, to my delight, and departed through my front door with the grace of a lioness.
My Mother and I held in the thick silence left after her departure, each stuck in our own thoughts. She still sat at our wooden table with her head in palm and a thoughtful expression on her face. My mother was always doing something. It seemed to me as a child, that she never had to think long to have her feelings in order. Me on the other hand could think for days about absolutely nothing and still not know which was up. She turned her head slowly to look at me.
"How you got that woman to teach you her skills is beyond me, Kella. You have a very special heart to have people welcome you so quickly."
I wasn't sure what to say to that so I just sat on her lap and thought about all the adventures morning would bring, and boy did the adventures flow.