Elisa was thought a fop at the courts of any of the Three Realms.
To the Queens she was a worry. They feared another ambitious noble would try for her fief, and take it probably.
The woman had no record in war, no honour. Just a very pretty, scarless, white-as-snow complexion, kissable triangle of a mouth, and long black curls that spread and reached from the woman’s tiny head. And such a big body. She had broader shoulders than any man, and unlike men who trained their muscles for leanness and bulk both, she had abundances of muscles in tight packages where they counted most for striking, and getting struck. That was what warriors said of her body–tentmates, surgeons, lovers.
Such a purebred body for war, and the white elephant in the room every time she neared a conversation with nobles or common warriors alike: “Was she a virgin to murder? Had she killed? More than her dinner?
Fop. And most intolerably, she promoted commoners to officers in her army! Commoners. And once promoted, they gained a small fief in her duchy with hereditary title! She was enormously popular with the commons. But she was making the other lords look like slavers.
But Pam had to admit, women of the farms who couldn’t easily be taught to read. Or learn to play music. She had farmers wearing the maroon and blue of her ridiculous army.
Her own blue and maroon armour mixed plate and mail. A ridiculous design, said other fighters and armourers alike, mixing plate with mail in the way she was, opening risk for the sake of unnecessary movement in battle. “Do you want armour for a dancer?” Pam with no name, former thief, and First Sword of her army, asked. “I hope the audience you’re dancing for isn’t going to require armour. Just hoping. Being a good friend.”
Elisa worked joyously, collaboratively, with the armourer, explaining some of her thrusts, commons sequences of parries, and sought creative compromises that let her fight like an animal of some kind–half a cobra, and half a wolverine. A new fighting art, Elisa called it. Elisa of Change. As if fighting had anything to do with art. The ideas the woman had. Where did a person come by such ideas? It had to be coming from the poets she patronized. Paid to flatter her wet.
“Why the costumes?” asked Pam?
“Noble relations, commoner relations. You wouldn’t understand yet, old friend,” the 39-year-old woman said, her curls as moving as she always was, ever pacing as she talked or thought. Even when she fought, in the pauses, which unnerved warriors on both sides of the ongoing battle.
“Try me,” asked Pam. Boot resting on the stool next to her friend at their living space in the townhouse, next to the kegs and kitchen table covered with a half an uneaten ham and some bread still.
“People have to believe in things. There must be on object in which people can find what they are looking for in dark times.”
“What are they looking for in dark times?”
“Light.” She paused. “I have no better answer.”
“You mean hope.”
“To me, the one is the other. That’s working with symbols. People believe in symbols, follow them. You may appreciate that one day. I see it coming for you, eventually!” Elisa shook Pam playfully, pam not moving very much, but enjoying it.
“Why don’t I think the other lords are going to be impressed with our new colours?”
“They admire the style, the individuality. They hate themselves for loving it. That’s why they act so ungraciously towards my investments in the arts, in becoming a more artistic person to guide my subjects lives in new ways. Don’t you think that’s wise?”
“I think they’ll see you putting your whole army in the same dressup costumes you wear half the time you go to court at the Realms. Treating them with same disrespect, as though they were commoners. Outshining them with pretty clothes and pretty weapons you design yourself. And all this with maybe no blood on your hands?” Pam eyed her. “I have a point, as have they” her eyes said.
There was a moment that opened at the question. The question. Pam had watched and thought and slept on it. Was she a murder virgin? There were easy tells, and hard to see tells. Elisa gave no tells either way. Except you could feel she was angry, could find rage, and she was a talented fighter in training. One of the best, but hard to tutor. So diverging and questing in her hand-to-hand forms.
Elisa leaned back in her olive leather armchair and smirked at Pam. Her little triangle mouth closed up like a button, and her eyes laughing. Her jet black curls danced on her forehead as her delight grew in her eyes.
“Keep your secret. I would have kept it, too,” Pam said.
“Old friend, the truth is, I can’t wait to kill. I think it’s performance art and atheleticsm at once. And I yearn to practice what you’ve taught.”
“Have you at least executed someone?”
“Granted mercy every time. Made them learn music or then die. They’ve all become good enough to make livings. Not to my taste, though. But then I have Miss Raula Stonley to sing for us right here in town. Aren’t the other lords envious!” She said, grinning. Her teeth were almost perfect, and white as her skin.
“I love how you never really answer a question. Just pose more questions with your answer. It’s like you’re a hydra. Knock off one question, six more take it’s place,” Pam said.
“I feel I know from another life that I will enjoy killing. Too much. Keep my secret for me? I fear I may suck at peace. Ruling, I mean. I just like fun and parties too much to be a serious peacetime ruler. And changing things.”
“The nobles won’t accept you unless you at least try to honour their ways.”
“What ways? They only war with each other for more land once a decade when they’re rich and can afford mercenaries to take the risk and fun out of war!” Elisa said.
“These uniforms will open the doors to the castles of their hearts and let all Thrane in.”
“If we win.”
“No, it’s enough to bloody them. Show our troops we can change and win. Make victory for ourselves before the battle begins!”
“You’ve been listening too too many philosophers far too late into the night. Even when you’re fucking women, for fuck’s sake.”
Pam had been wrong to worry. Elisa had killed first and often in Thane’s first fight with the Imperial 14th Host. They had retreated having made each man and woman in the Host fear for their lives, not for losing the day only. Elisa’s new opening tactic had worked. It just needed to be practiced. And practiced. In theory, it could not be stopped. Elisa said.
She’d drilled the army in a new offensive tactic to open the armoured Imperial beast and let her warriors inside to try a new cooperative style of fighting that left their formal educations in battlefield tactics behind. The Nobles forgot when the costume began to stand for victory. Elisa’s first battles had been three losses, but near things.
Hope had been born, and respect from the lords. The uniform stood for resistance then, not victory. Then, on a frosty 1235 October morning in the lowlands of Varley fief (the date is unknown; it was a Sunday), Elisa ran into battle, just as she had three other times. Ran first. Ahead of everyone, even her bodyguard, Pam a half-stride behind and reading how Elisa’s first clash would happen. And the next scenarios spanning several heartbeats–as far as you could map, or plan, to fight. Silvery white light lept from her skin, and she killed a young blonde woman, bypassing her huge gold-painted shield. Three pikes struck Elisa in the chest and gut and were wrenched into her as she lay, light pouring from her. Pam swung, and the head came off the leftmost woman. The other two women fell too. Unwounded. Dead. Pam realized then that the gods were with Elisa and anyone her light shone on.
“FUCK ME, are you wounded?” Pam screeched at her friend, not knowing whether to move her, kneeling and feeling the three gouged holes in her mail and leather as wide as bottles. Her milk-white skin showed, long thin blue veins coursing her belly and chest.
“I’m just winded. That knocked the fuck out of me!”
Pam looked at her. Almost feared to touch her friend’s glowing hand to help her up. Would she be burned. Would the gods see her, punish her for raping that woman and killing her so many years ago? She took her friend’s hand, whose eyes widened in wonder at the light she now saw pouring from her skin, even through her armour and overclothes. They chased the enemy down, fleeing, butchering them to a woman. Speaking with the poetry of action, as Elisa would say.
That was the ridiculous beginning of the miracles. Of Elisa of Thrane as the ruler, in effect, of all the Three kingdoms.
Elisa had thought the old school of arms needed to grow up. Divide and specialize. And this is the story of her armour. Armour that would inspire her women with her duchy’s colours and let her fight in her strange style, so deadly, but so reckless at once. Elisa of Change. For its own sake. She worked with Kim Trala, armourer, and father of two boys, from Jappas, of the Realm of Poros. a fief famous for its armourers and other metalworkers. They made many armours that would not let her move as she wished, or while giving her freedom of movement, left her too vulnerable to a stroke.
Elisa still remembered laughing with Pam when she dropped by the smithy in Fortbrook, her “Town of Philosophers and Plays” where she lived in the largest townhouse abutting a row of merchants’ homes. “I fucking love it. The cunt prays to a god she really believes in, who makes her invincible, and she’s worrying about getting her armour battle right. Fucking love it. How many times did a bolt go right though plate or mail you were wearing but not your skin?”
“I may be religious, old friend, but I’m not that crazy! Fucking yes, I’ll get this armour right!”
Pam doubled over.
Read about Pam’s story in “Light,” a short story on this blog. The post has the same title. This post has been extended background material from that short story. My Instagram account teems with stories and art builds and is updated, God, daily. I welcome you all to follow my work there. Plenty of fresh new stuff to you.
Also, please patronize my art! Buy at my Gallea page. I intend to make Elisa available for purchase for around $225 Can. Here’s where to look for her in a few days.