Broadsword

Rachel Melnikoff had been to her first Renaissance Faire as a freshman in college. By the time she was a sophomore she was volunteering at every one that came her way. Now she was three years out of school and working the faires was her primary source of income. She was living the best life she could think to live. Her mother kept asking her when she was going to get a job.

She led workshops at the faires, sometimes in fencing, sometimes in archery or jousting. But in her heart there was no room for foil or bow or lance. She was a sword-maiden. She taught combat as it had been taught to knights. She would duel when there was a worthy opponent. There rarely was.

She was one of the best masters-at-arms that the world had ever seen. Not that the world was really looking.

The big Maryland faire had closed its gates and Rachel was heading home. She’d been on the bus since noon and now it was close to midnight. Her eyes hurt and her muscles were tough as baked clay. All she wanted was a hot shower and some stretching and a glass of wine. Not necessarily in that order. Preferably all at once.

She took her bags from beneath the bus and went to the public bathroom to freshen up. It didn’t take long. She put on deodorant, combed her hair, threw her scabbard over her shoulder, and started for home.

It was a risk, she knew, walking the streets with her sword. Boston law prohibited carrying a knife longer than two and a half inches. She was five foot four and her broadsword wasn’t much shorter. Strapped to her back, hidden from tip to pommel by her cloak, she’d never had a problem. It was worth the risk to carry it. Without her sword, Rachel felt incomplete.

She emerged from South Station into a heavy Boston summer night. She couldn’t really afford a cab, and the thought of getting back on a bus made her want to head-butt a wall. She decided to walk home. She needed to stretch her legs anyway.

It was too dark for her to feel safe crossing the Common. She stayed on Boylston until the Prudential before cutting north to Newbury. She’d make her way across the Mass Ave Bridge, through MIT, up into the student ghetto which she still called home. Only an hour before she had to figure out a way to take a glass of wine into the shower.

She’d just crossed Newbury Street when she felt something move behind her. A couple somethings, actually. She was tired enough that she just did what came naturally, which was to turn on her heel like a sword-dancer and let her feet fall into en garde. For all of a second she cursed herself. Then she realized it was good that she had.

There were three men in front of her. Two were tall and two were tattooed and all three were thin and all three were young. More to the point, two of them were holding knives. They weren’t trying to hide this fact either.

One of the tall ones stumbled for a moment. Clearly they weren’t expecting her to turn. The short one didn’t falter. “Yo bitch!” he said, gesticulating with his knife as he talked, “give me your purse and your phone.”

Rachel just stared at them. They were about five paces away. Then they were within a pace of her. Still she stared at them.

The short one stuck his knife in her face. “Move, bitch!” he said, sounding more exasperated than menacing.

Rachel just stared at him.

“Look,” he said, and then Rachel’s brain caught up with the situation. She blinked, once. Then felt a smile bloom across her face.

“Fucking move!” the kid shouted, letting his voice get as loud as he dared. He didn’t like it when they cried. He’d never see one smile.

Rachel reached up and untied the knot at her throat. Her cloak fell to the ground. Before her assailants could react she took a lunging step backwards, making sure they were out of easy striking distance. Then in one smooth motion, one she had practiced a thousand times before, she reached behind her head, grabbed her sword by the hilt, and drew it up and over her head like a new moon rising in the sky.

She brought it down in front of her, the tip at a level with the short one’s throat. The expressions on their faces satisfied her deeply.

“Run away,” she said, when she saw that they needed prompting. After which the two taller boys promptly turned and ran.

She tilted her head at the one who remained. Her sword tilted too.

“Crazy bitch!” the short one managed to stammer, and then he took to his heels.

She stood there, sword in hand, watching them run off into the night. The two tall ones turned a corner, then the short one too, and then she was alone.

She looked around her but saw only empty streets. The life of a modern swordfighter affords many ironies, of a female master-at-arms many more. Still Rachel could not help but note that she had just been threatened by three knife-wielding punks, and yet here she was looking around to make sure there weren’t any police.

She forced herself to fall out of a fighter’s stance and sheath her sword. She turned, then, and made her way over to Mass Ave. As she crossed the Charles, its waters sparkling in the moonlight, all she could think was that she couldn’t wait to get home and stretch and have a shower. Maybe even a glass of wine. But then, she felt pretty good without it.


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~ by davekov on 11 May 2011.

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