“Child of Ice, Child of Flame”
There’s always a price to pay for breaking the rules.
Unbinding her waist-length hair, the startling color of scraped carrots, she lowered herself into the bath.
“Three times, I attended her,” the girl said, pouring thick soap into Casilda’s upturned palm. “Three times before this, since I’ve been old enough to remember, her challenge was accepted. She always won, before. I thought she would always win.”
The regret was almost too faint to be heard beneath the simple statement of fact.
The girl scooped up water in a wooden cup and poured it over the warrior’s back-tilted head, then worked soap into the bright hair.
“She told me if she ever lost, it wouldn’t be for lack of will. She said I should attend the winner as I attended her, if the fight was won with honor.”
Casilda ducked into the water to rinse. When she came up, the girl had raised her head and Casilda looked into her eyes–proud eyes–blue eyes–deeply blue, the living eyes of the dead champion.
In our village, female warriors are chaste.
And if one fails in her vow…. If she carries her “shame” to term and gives birth to a living reminder … the child is taken and used as a servant? The warrior becomes a village champion, forced to challenge all comers to mortal combat? She looked into those eyes and understood she had just been bathed by the daughter of the woman she had killed. And the child knew it.