Chapter 9: A New Name

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Standing in the courtyard behind the weaver's shop, the two cousins faced each other with swords raised. Adso must have grown a foot over the months that they had been practicing. And if not a foot, at least five fingers, Hildegund thought.

While Hildegund had spent most of her time learning to fight and perfecting her disguise, the men had other priorities to worry about. Grimbert was busy negotiating who would care for his mother while he was away.  Richart was working feverishly to help one of his journeymen receive master status so he could temporarily take over responsibilities at the shop. Supplies were gathered, horses were purchased and stabled, a route was decided upon. The men met regularly to discuss their progress, and Hildegund spent her time with Adso.

Both of their thirteenth birthdays were approaching, although Hildegund's would come first.  Adso was beginning to take on the size and shape of a man, and Hildegund was very aware of how their appearances were quickly beginning to differ. 

They tapped blades as a sign to begin, and Hildegund was the first to swing her sword. Adso parried easily, stepping to the side. He returned a blow, but Hildegund met his blade and quickly pressed on. The two moved with speed and fluidity, striking forward and blocking back. They danced around the confined space, avoiding the piles of trash and trying not to get backed into a wall. As they spared they laughed and slung silly insults at each other.

After several minutes Adso made a small mistake, Hildegund took advantage of the opening, and with a quick flick of her wrist was able to disarm her opponent. "That's the third time in a row!" the boy moaned as he went over to pick up his sword.

"Well, good thing I'm the one who will be going out to face real dangers, and not you!" she laughed triumphantly.

He grimaced with the reminder. Hildegund immediately felt guilty. Even though she knew they were set to leave in two days time, it didn't seem real yet.

A loud clap echoed and Richart stepped out from the rear door of the shop. "I can see you've been practicing."

Hildegund immediately straightened. She felt a flicker of unease. After so many years of arguments about her behavior she couldn't help but feel she had been caught doing something forbidden.

"Yes Uncle Richart, we've been practicing non stop!" Adso replied helpfully.

"Good, good!" There was a hesitancy in Richart's expression. His smile didn't quite reach his eyes, but Hildegund could tell that he was trying to be encouraging.

It was definitely an improvement over the first time he watched Hildegund wield her practice sword.

She had been with Adso, as usual. They were just working on blocking each other's swings, delighting in the loud clunk that their wooden blades made when they clashed. "Pants?" Richart has asked, interrupting their joy.

Hildegund had turned to face her father. "That's what I'll be wearing when we are out on the road. Do you want me to practice in a skirt?"

"Well, you're in no danger now. No reason for a disguise," his discomfort was obvious.

"So, are you demanding that I go change, father?" Her voice was sarcastic, her eyes defiant.

He had stared at her hard. A war of emotions taking place behind his dark nut-brown eyes. "Carry on!" he barked, finally, and then turned on his heel and disappeared back inside.

And now here he was clapping and with a fake smile plastered across his lips.

Hildegund relaxed her shoulders and did her best to smile back at him, "How long were you watching?"

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