by James Beattie Morison
© 2010 James Beattie Morison
Life in a lawless medieval society is hard. It is harder for a woman alone.
The Young Mother
The blood seeped from between her fingers as she held her cheek. No one would call her beautiful again. The defiance in her eyes had faded away to fear. She knelt on the ground in the middle of the side street. She still clutched her young daughter in her arms.
The Warlord towered above her with his sword, her blood still dripped from it. His sycophants and lackeys stood behind him and smiled.
He had laughed as he told her how he had killed her husband. He cut him bit by bit into pieces as he begged for mercy. The Warlord spared no detail as he savoured the memory of his cruelty. Then he kicked her in the face and knocked her to the ground.
Her daughter knelt and held her mother. “Don’t worry”, she said, “I will protect you.”
The Warlord looked at the woman’s daughter and said, “She will bring a good price.”
He motioned to one of his lackeys, who grabbed the young girl by the arm and pulled her away from her mother.
He looked at her now and said, “Who will protect you now?”
The warlord gave one last sneer at the woman on the ground, then turned on his heel and strode away down the road. His sycophants and lackeys trailed along after him. As the lackey pulled her along, the woman’s daughter looked at her mother.
“I;ll come back”, she cried out. They turned onto the main road and then they were gone.
The young mother lay on the ground where her tears mixed with the blood on the ground. Empathetic eyes peered from the shadows in the homes along the road, but none dared to help her.
The Old Woman
The old woman stood in the middle of the side street. As always, no one dared stand near her. Down by the main road the other residents of the side street waited by the main road.
The Warlord was dead. The Rebel Leader had cut him bit by bit into pieces as he begged for mercy. He got none. No one in the crowd, and especially not the old woman, was sad for him.
The Warlord was gone, but not the fear. The old women still felt the terror that had ruled her life. She felt no optimism about life under another cruel despot.
She reached up touched her cheek. She felt the scar still marred her face. The memories of that day rushed back to her. She glanced at the ground where she could still see the bloodstain, although others could not.
Her years of silence had marked as much as the Warlord’s sword. She was thankful for the small packages of food that arrived in the night, but she longed for the company of others.
The old woman looked down toward the main road. She was curious, but she could not go down to watch with the others. A man turned to look at her, and then away again.
The Rebel Leader
The rebel army lined the main road now. The Rebel Leader was coming soon.
Rumours raced through the people. The Rebel Leader was an orphan. The Rebel Leader had been a slave. The Rebel Leader was a noble.
The crowd went quiet as the Rebel Leader’s personal guard marched past. The excitement of the crowd rose up in the silence.
There was gasp of surprise as the Rebel Leader came into view.
They saw e magnificent horse the Rebel Leader rode. They saw the bright armour that shone in the sunlight. They saw the swords, still stained with the blood of the Warlord. These sights were impressive, but that was not what caused the gasp of surprise.
It was her beauty.
Many wondered how a woman, especially one so beautiful, could have raised the rebel army and led it to victory. The Rebel Leader rode along slowly. Her eyes searched the faces of each of the townsfolk in turn. Her alabaster face showed no emotion.
She stopped her horse and fixed her gaze on one person. Quickly and elegantly, she dismounted her horse. She moved quickly forward as the rebels and people stepped aside.
She strode up to the old woman. She her hand gently on the old woman’s shoulder, and then she smiled.
“I told you I would come back.”