The night was long and dark for the Lady Elissa as she struggled with Lord Mourningblade’s request. Never would she have imagined that she’d be placed with such a dilemma – follow the path of the knights and do her utmost in a fair competition, showing respect for her opponent and the value of fair play and honorable combat; or else honor the request of someone who was like family to her and abstain from the battle. Even when the sun broke through her window in the early hours of predawn, Elissa hadn’t made her decision, and then she realized that the decision had already been made for her.
One of the Lord Mourningblade’s requests was that she become sick before the competition – and that was exactly what she’d accomplished with all her worries and indecision. Missing supper, forsaking her sleep, and wrestling with her choices, Elissa was already tired and weary almost beyond belief. Only her heart was at ease, as her body and mind suffered from the mistreatment of her actions and worry the night before.
Exhausted, but with a light heart, Elissa resolutely began to dress and prepare for the contest. She’d fulfilled her uncle’s request already and was entering into the competition with a heavy handicap to begin with. Now, she could fight to the utmost of her abilities and fulfill her duty as a knight as well. Laughing lightly, she recited some of the adages she’d heard as a child. “Fortune favors the just.” “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Both seemed to suit her mood this morning.
“Perhaps it should be, ‘Where’s there a will, there’s a way; Fortune willing.’”, Elissa laughed lightly as she stripped and began to wipe clean with the water from the nearby basin beside her bed. Examining her own body, she couldn’t help but frown slightly. Long, silken blonde hair draped down her back and caressed the curves of her knees. Herbed and enchanted, it actually required very little maintenance and was the one luxury she allowed herself to keep as a woman. Smiling, there was nothing that she could find at all wrong with her hair. Fine, naturally smooth, with no split or damaged ends, its soft yellow shade resembled the shade of a daisy in the morning dew.
Her hair was perfect, she thought, as she ran her fingers through it indulgingly. The problem was the rest of her body.
Breasts which were too large to fit comfortably in the standard knight’s armor. Large and round, they were more than a handful – and were larger than most of the other girl’s at her youthful age of sixteen – which meant she had to wrap and bind them tightly any time she wanted to don the armor the knights wore for practice. They were her first disappointment.
Her general build and frame was the second. No matter how hard she worked now, she couldn’t seem to overcome the softness that thirteen years of pampering in her father’s home had created in her. The herbs and lotions she had been exposed to daily had permanently softened and altered her skin, making it almost impossible for her hands to take on the callouses of a blademaster. No matter how often she walked barefoot, the soles of her feet never developed the callouses which would help toughen them against the ground. She was smooth – hairless from the neck down like a new-born babe, thanks to the herbs she had bathed in while at her father’s estate – and soft. Her body hardly looked at all suitable for fighting or combat.
Unfortunately, for better or worse, she was always going to be cursed with the physique of a ‘High Lady’, and not a ‘True Knight’ – and that was why she had to work twice as hard, try twice as much, have twice the determination of all the others. She had half the body of a true knight, so she had to overcome her weakness with twice the will and focus of all others.
Fighting back her tired yawn, she determinedly began to focus her thoughts on the upcoming battles of the day as she started to dress in the common cotton underpants and undershirt which helped protect against the cold metallic plate which was worn over it. Her exhaustion and hunger was her handicap which she was giving the others, to honor the Lord Mourningblade’s wishes.
Now, it was just up to fate and determination to see if she could overcome her weakness and still emerge on top.