The Price of Protection

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Once everything was arranged, Katherine packed her things and moved them to the soldiers' quarters. The soldier's quarters was a separate building that was located not too far from the castle. The building was medium-sized and made of stone. It mainly consisted of the rooms where the soldiers slept. There was also a large storage room in the front of the building where the various weapons were located. Katherine was awed by the amount of weapons available. Besides swords, there were bow and arrows, daggers, and spears. Even though she mainly used a sword, Katherine had always wanted to learn archery. She hoped that she could learn how to during her time in the castle.

For the rooms, the soldiers usually shared the rooms they slept in. However, since Katherine was a woman, she was allowed her own room for privacy. When she arrived at the quarters, most of the men stared, some with looks of disgust on their faces. Katherine ignored them as best she could, since she knew that she would be getting those looks often. Other men just went about their business, for which Katherine was grateful.

The day after the king made his decision, Katherine began her training. So, wearing her new soldier's uniform that she had been given, she and Captain Montgomery went out to the training fields with some of the other soldiers.

"Now, normally," the captain began, signaling to another soldier. "You would be practicing on dummies for training. However, since your skills are more advanced, you will be fighting an actual solider."

That was when Katherine saw another soldier approach them. He had olive skin and and short black hair. He wore the same uniform that she did, except that he bore a medal on his shirt. When he reached them, he turned his brown eyes to Katherine, assessing her.

"Katherine, this is Javier Esposito. Javier, this is Katherine Beckett, our newest recruit."

Katherine bowed. "Pleasure to meet you." Javier just nodded in response, his face expressionless. Katherine had to stop herself from frowning, knowing that his reaction was normal.

"Now, you will improve your skills through fighting. You will learn new movements and techniques as you observe what Javier does." The captain handed Katherine and Javier swords. "You would do well to remember everything. The more you learn, the better you will be at fighting. Now, begin dueling!"

Katherine and Javier then began dueling. Katherine found herself trying to move quicker than usual, since Javier was swift. She swung her sword several times, each blocked successfully. Luckily, she was able to block Javier's movements as well. The duel seemed never ending. Each solider successfully blocking and hitting each other. As they fought, Katherine observed some of the dodging techniques Javier used, some that she had not seen before. The way he swung his sword was also slightly different, since it seemed smoother and swifter. Katherine had to admit that she was impressed by the adept skills of the man.

Finally, at a point when their swords were locked together, Captain Montgomery directed them to halt.

"That is enough for now," he said. "Now Katherine, I want you to use the bags we have over yonder in order to build up your strength. You are dismissed, Javier."

Javier nodded and dropped his sword. Before leaving however, he turned to Katherine. "Not bad," he conceded, and Katherine could have sworn his lips twitched into a smile. He then walked away before Katherine could respond.

Katherine sighed and shook off her annoyance, before going to the punching bags.

The next day, Katherine was in the stables after spending several hours training. Captain Montgomery had wanted to see how well she fought on a horse, which unfortunately, was not very well. The one horse she had at home was old. Poor Daisy did not have much stamina, and what she did have was used for chores. Katherine was unable to use the horse for training, so she had never fought on a horse.

The training that had taken place had been embarrassing for the brunette. While on the horse, Aristotle, Katherine was having hard time handling her sword. She often missed the targets that she aimed at. She sometimes was able to have a good aim, but most of the time she was unsuccessful. What had made the session worse was that the soldiers had stopped their own training to watch. When she dismounted the horse, Katherine was greeted with either looks of pity or smirks by her fellow soldiers.

As she closed the stall Aristotle stayed in, she gave the black horse a carrot. The horse bit the carrot and then gently nudged the brunette. Katherine smiled as the horse continued to eat. The horse seemed to take an instant liking to her, since it had playfully nudged her when Captain Montgomery introduced her to the horse.

"How come all men are not like you, Aristotle?" Katherine asked the horse as she stroked it. "You do not judge me because I am a woman. I know I should expect it, but that does not mean that it makes it any easier." The horse licked her hand in response. "I am trying to get them to like me with my skills, but most of the soldiers do not want me here regardless. I wish I could prove to them that I am not a threat to tradition. Well, not too much of a threat," she joked. Aristotle just whinnied. Katherine laughed at the animal's reaction. "It is disappointing that another species agrees with me."

"Your standing would improve if you did not talk to animals. The men might question your sanity," a smooth voice near the entrance spoke.

Katherine whirled around and faced the owner of the voice. At the entrance of the stables stood a man, who looked to be in his early twenties. He had cerulean eyes and short brown hair. His mouth currently formed in a smirk directed at her. He was tall compared to Katherine, and was of medium build. Due to the plain clothing he was wearing, Katherine assumed he was a stable hand.

Katherine scoffed. "They probably already question my sanity."

"Perhaps," the man hummed, walking over to her. He then began to stroke Aristotle's mane. "What do you think, Aristotle? Should her sanity be questioned?" The horse nudged the man harshly in response.

Katherine snickered. "It looks like the horse agrees with me. So tell me, what is your name?" The brunette raised an eyebrow.

"Alexander," the man replied simply.

"Well, Alexander, do you work here?" Katherine prodded.

Alexander's lips curved into a mischievous smile. "You could say that." Katherine scowled at the man's cryptic tone. "So, since you know mine, I have every right to know your name," he joked, his blue eyes dancing.

"Katherine Beckett."

Alexander nodded. "So Katherine Beckett, am I right to assume that you are the woman that is causing quite a stir in the castle?"

"Yes, that would be me," Katherine said dryly. "I seem to be the talk of the castle."

Alexander chuckled. "Well, it is not every day that a woman offers to fight for the king." He gave her a playful smile, winking.

"Yes, indeed," Katherine murmured. "However, I need to help my family."

Alexander's smile turned slightly sad. "Do you miss them already?"

She shrugged. "A little, but I will get used to it." As she spoke, her hand discreetly patted the pocket in her pants that contained her mother's necklace. "Well, I must be off. I need to see what else Captain Montgomery wishes of me," she lied. As she began to walk away, Alexander spoke,

"Wait," he said. Katherine stopped, turned around, and scowled at him. She also raised her eyebrows in waiting. "Fight me."

"What?" Katherine asked incredulously. The man was not seriously asking her that, was he? She was pretty sure that she could beat him. Also, Katherine was tired and was not up for another duel.

"You heard me, fight me," the man said excitedly. "Come on, I will even go easy on you."

Katherine scowled and then smirked. "Ha! It is I that will have to go easy on you!" She exclaimed, grabbing her sword that was leaning up against the pen. "Obtain your weapon so that we may fight." Alexander nodded, before walking to the quarters next door and entering the storage room. Katherine followed him, noticing that the building was empty. She assumed that the other men were still either training or cleaning themselves up. Once Alexander obtained a sword, they walked to a large clearing by the quarters.

"We shall start on the count of three," Alexander declared. Katherine nodded, preparing her weapon. "One, two, three!" The swords then clashed together, creating a loud clink. As they dueled. Katherine could see that Alexander had some experience dueling. However, she seemed to be able to outmatch him. At one point, when their swords were locked together, Alexander spoke.

"Not bad," he chuckled. "For a girl." He separated his sword from hers, preparing to strike again.

Katherine rolled her eyes, before swinging again. She almost struck the man's arm, but he successfully evaded it.

"Not bad, for a stable hand," she shot back.

As she swung again, Katherine managed to hit the man in man in his padded chest, causing him to fall to the ground. She then walked over and smirked, placing her boot covered foot on his chest and playfully pointing her sword a few inches from his chest.

"I win!" She declared gleefully. She was about to help Alexander back up, when she was suddenly pulled off him. Still slightly startled, Katherine looked to see Javier helping the other man up.

"What do you think you are doing?" Javier exclaimed angrily, seeming to check over the man.

"We were just dueling," Katherine explained, confused.

"Dueling?" Javier glared at her. "Do you not know who this man is?"

Katherine was about to ask who; however, her question died in her throat at Javier's next frantic words.

"Are you all right, Your Highness?"

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