“Your territory is rather small, very bountiful, though. I see your people working very hard. It is always good to see good work being done,” King Henry said.
“I do see some women out there as well. So you make all of them work? That sits very well with me. Able hands are best used where they are needed most,” Duke Claude said.
“I do not make any person work. They work so we have food for this winter,” Cormack said.
“Do you pay them?” Claude asked.
“We do not really worry about money,” he said.
“Very interesting,” Henry said.
“I do not find that interesting. I do not understand how he can be king and not worry about money,” Phillip said.
“Phillip, you speak out of hand on matters you do not understand,” his father said. “King Cormack, your daughter excused herself from dinner early. Will she join us later?”
“She is busy now. It is Tuesday,” he said, as the idea popped into his head. “Come. I will show you around.” They followed him as he showed them around the castle and told them of its history.
“We should get her to wear the helmet all the time; she is quite vulnerable,” Coyle said, swinging the sword.
Morgan countered before it could hit her. “Let me give it a try,” Grady said.
“I am having too much fun to let it stop now,” he said.
“I do not like this helmet,” she said.
“Do not remove it yet,” Ryan said.
“I will get you both for this,” she said.
“We know,” he said.
“Out here is the training area,” Cormack said, opening the old wooden door and walking onto a small wooden platform. They all looked down, watching the two fighting in the ring.
“King Cormack, your man is fighting in a dress,” Prince Phillip said, stunned.
“Watch,” he said, as Morgan threw the helmet from her head.
“I will make you wear it, Ryan,” she said, angrily. She spun in a blur, sword hitting against Coyle’s.
The women gasped and the men stared in shocked silence. The guards and Morgan all went still, looking up. Ryan took her sword, and they all bowed, except for Morgan; she gave a slight nod of her head.
“Hello, Father, will you join us?”
“No. You know I do not fancy the sword as much as you do. And do not let us stop you,” he said.
“You let her play with the men?” King Henry asked, not holding the shock from his voice.
“She is my second,” he said.
“Because she is your heir?”
“Because she is the best sword fighter ever seen,” he said, smiling down at his daughter. She gave him a small salute with the sword, to thank him for his praise.
“But she is a woman,” Henry said.
“A girl? And you say she is the best of all your men? That does not make them seem very good, does it? I mean, a woman cannot be better than a man at many things, other than music and sewing,” Phillip said.
“You can ask all my men. They are all very good with a sword, but they will tell you she can beat any of them. She has been fighting since she was a child.”
“You let your daughter fight?” Queen Jaylene said, stunned.
“I gave her a wooden sword. It was carved by my great-grandfather and passed down from father to child since.”
“I have never been beaten by a girl. And will never, for the sake of our sex, let it be said that a girl can beat a man,” Phillip said.
“I should have died if I were to have a girl and find her fighting,” Jaylene said.
“She does carry herself very well,” Cormack said.
Prince Phillip looked down at the woman with curly, auburn hair. She watched them with dark emerald eyes that sparkled like jewels. He saw a fire in those eyes he did not agree with. He felt a need to tame her like a horse. She would make a wonderful trophy; even if, perhaps, she was not as beautiful as some of the other women in his circle. It would mean more land to add to his Father’s, one that produced very well.
“I challenge the princess,” he said. “I wish to see if she is really as good as the praise.”
The guards all murmured below. Coyle nudged her. “You have been challenged,” he whispered. “Will you accept?”
“Have I ever turned down a challenge?”
“I accept your challenge, Prince Phillip.”
He took the wooden stairs down to the practice ring. Coyle handed him the long wooden sword. Phillip held it up and swung it in front of him a few times. “No wonder she is good, this sword weighs nothing. Let us fight with real metal.”
She handed the sword to Grady and withdrew her own sword from its leather sheath. “That is fine.”
He withdrew his own and stepped into the ring. The men around the circle had amused looks on their faces. Morgan stood, sword pointed to the ground.
“Do you already wish to give up?” he asked.
“How can I give up if we have not started yet,” she said, and laughed. “I am not a fool. That is Ryan’s title.” The men around them laughed.
“Because you are a girl, I will take it easy on you.”
She gave him an angry look. “And I will pretend you did not say that.”
The two started circling each other.
“This is rather entertaining. My daughter and your son,” Morgan heard her father tell King Henry.
“I do hope you know the danger your daughter is facing. My son has had practice with the best sword fighters in my entire kingdom.”
“I do not fear for Morgan. She knows her limits.” That made her smile inward, most flattery her father gave her did. She tried her best to be a good daughter, and make him proud. She worried that perhaps he wished for a son, but he never brought it up.
“Why do you not strike at me?” Phillip asked her.
“I am weighing you, and cowards make the first move.” She smiled, eyes watching him lazily.
“I am not a coward,” he said.
“Prove it,” she said.
He came at her, swinging his sword, his face twisted in anger. She moved out of the way easily. She swirled, her dress moving with her, their swords clacking against each other. She smiled and walked away. He stood there stupidly for a few seconds. He came for her. Their swords clanked. He used power to push his sword towards her. She pushed him away and swung her sword, cutting his arm.
He looked down at it and touched the cut. He raised his hand, looking at his own blood. “You dare cut me.”
“Consider it a love scratch,” Coyle said. The men laughed.
“I will give you one, too,” she said, in a small threatening tone.
He put out his hand. “I mean nothing.”
“I will hurt you for this!” Phillip shouted and came at her with a roar. She dodged him, and he turned, sword glinting in the setting sun. Their metal struck hard as they connected. Phillip struggled to take control as Morgan danced about, her sword constantly moving. His sword came, and she blocked it hard, making him lose his grip his sword flew from his hands.
The men cheered. Hector picked up the prince’s sword. “Do not worry, she bests us all,” he said, bowing to the prince.
Morgan gave him a small bow and turned. She sheathed her sword. She exchanged glances with Grady; he gave her a small nod. She nodded back as Ryan moved by.
“I will get you later,” she told him.
“I cannot wait,” he said, sarcastically.
The other men paid no attention to the prince as they talked amongst themselves. “I cannot be beaten by a girl,” he said to himself. His pride was bruised, and he burned with anger.
Hector turned back to the prince. “Like I said, do not worry ” he said, and stopped. His dark eyes widened. He watched the prince go for Morgan’s back with his silver dagger. His lips formed to call out to her.
She swirled quickly as something left her hand before anyone could tell what it was, pinning the prince’s arm against a wooden beam. “You could not just let it be, could you?” She said, as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Again, I am no fool. Your anger is very childish.”
Grady stalked over to the prince. His hand closed around Morgan’s knife handle, but before he pulled it out, he gave the prince a very frightening look.
“You are lucky you are a guest in this house. For that stunt, I would have killed you myself.” He pulled the knife out of the beam.