The clash of swords fills the hot summer air. Bonnie fights valiantly, with the ferocity of a berserker, and the honed skills of a knight. She dances back and forth with her attacker, bare feet nimble over the uneven ground on the river's edge. His breath comes in ragged pants whilst hers slides from her lungs, smooth as silk. Then an opening. She takes it, twisting her sword against his until the wooden sword springs out of his hand and lands with a splash in the river.
Quickly while his guard is down, she raises her sword and points the wooden tip at his neck. "Will you yield?"
Neven's only response is to put a finger in his mouth with a look of pained indignation. "I think you gave me a splinter."
She lowers her sword, feeling the warm rush of victory flood through her. It doesn't last long enough for her to enjoy it. This is what her father called an empty victory. Neven had never been a match for her despite years of her diligent tutoring.
Neven looks despondently at the river, which is little more than a stream really. He sucks at his finger, his untidy mop of brown hair falling over his tanned face. His shoulders slump, making him look even more small and weedy than he already is. "I'll need to make a new sword."
Bonnie parries the air, imagining herself surrounded by enemy warriors. Barbarians, dragons, witches. All of them shy before her sword. No one thinks of her as just a woman. "It'll take you all of five minutes."
Suddenly Neven brightens. "Can I show it to you now? It's really good. I think this will be the one."
A wariness creeps over her. "Is it going to blow up again?"
"No," Neven says, walking through the long grass toward the single old tree that stands by the river. It had been here long before Bonnie came to live here, long before she or Neven were born, and she suspects long before any of their parents were born. It's a gnarled warped thing that has many hidey holes among its twisted roots. "This is something new. I've given up on the idea of flying for now. Da was right, doesn't seem natural."
As he speaks he lifts a pile of wood and iron reverently from a bundle beneath the roots. He pulls back his grubby sleeves to strap what look like manacles around each of his arms. Something bulky is attached to both of them. It contains an impressive amount of iron for a fourteen year old farm boy to get hold of, but Neven has his ways. His gift for making things had long since caught the eye of the village blacksmith. Neven's father hadn't allowed him to become an apprentice, but he works a few hours here and there in return for scrap metal and a place to forge more complicated inventions.
He holds out his arms toward her with a wide grin, and clenches his fists. The bulky things attached to the manacles sit up to attention, making Bonnie jump. They're shaped like long tubes of metal with a thick box extension attached to the manacle at the inner elbow. Already it's looking better than his last invention - the 'make a person fly machine', which Bonnie had tried to rename the 'make a person explode machine' after they tried it with a dummy which is now in various wooden pieces little bigger than the splinter in Neven's finger.
She takes a step back just in case. "What does it do?"
"I call it the 'shoot things really far machine'," Neven says as the things on his arms make an ominous clicking sound. "It shoots things. Wood doesn't work well because it burns up. I made little iron balls that work best, but stone of the right size does the job, at a pinch. I used the explosive material from the last experiment that wasn't supposed to explode. It generates a force that propels the projectile to the target at high speeds."
"Right," Bonnie says, who had only heard that he had strapped explosive material to his arms. "Are you sure you shouldn't use a dummy for this?"
"It'll be fine," Neven says. "Watch."
YOU ARE READING
Sometimes the best knight is a damsel. In a world where women are seen as weak, defenceless creatures for men to protect and own, one orphan girl wants to be different. She dreams of being a knight. Slaying dragons, taking down armies with her fathe...