The child stands at the door of the castle chamber, almost shaking with fear. Speaking to the large, dark-skinned man always makes her feel sick to her tummy, even though he is always very nice to her. She likes talking to the red-haired priestess and dark-haired acolyte more, they make her feel safe and warm. But she hadn’t been able to figure out why the two women didn’t like each other, and she worries that it is something she has done wrong.
Biting her lip, the girl quickly knocks on the door before she can chicken out again, then waits for what seems like forever before hearing sounds from within. As heavy footsteps approach from inside the room, she fights the urge to run away, but still feels her stomach flop as the door swings open to reveal the holy man in his white robes.
The man drops to one knee and gives a smile, which always helps her feel a little less scared. His deep voice always sounds a bit too loud for her.
“Greetings, nur’eyni. I am honoured to have you visit.”
The girl gives him a shy smile and follows quietly into the room, not daring to speak yet. She sits on the simple stool that is offered, and fidgets for a moment as she tries to feel brave enough to speak.
“Would you like some tea?”, asks the big man, pulling out some cups and gesturing to a pot on his desk.
She nods, too nervous to dare say no, even though the black drink usually makes her feel sick and dizzy. As the man pours, her eyes are drawn to the two massive, curved swords that hang from the walls. The girl feels the same interest and fear every time she looks at the blades, thinking about how they kill things, but also protect everyone at the same time. She remembers the time she dared touch one of them, when the warrior was away, and remembers the terrifying, yet exciting, feeling of power in the sword. She had also touched the armor that stands on a rack nearby, but didn’t get the same feeling from the cold metal suit.
As the warrior hands her the cup of yucky tea and sits, she is once again forced to focus on why she came, and what she wants to ask.
“Well, nur’enyi?", he prompts, after a moment. "What would you like to discuss?”
The girl swallows the massive lump in her throat and tries to keep the teacup from shaking.
“… Mualim… “, she begins, now sure that she should have stayed at home. Swallowing again, she blurts out her request.
“It’s going to be my birthday next month and I want to learn how to be a warrior like you but my brother says that girls can’t be soldiers and that we’re too weak and should stay home because we can’t even lift a sword but you told me that girls can be warriors where you come from and the books say that too but it tried to lift your sword and I can’t even get the handle off the hook on the wall and I know I shouldn’t touch it but I wanted to know if I could do it so I tried anyway but I don’t know if I could hurt someone anyway because they would cry but I want to be able to protect people and make sure they don’t get hurt and I don’t know what to do….” Her speech trails off into the tears she was trying to stop.
The man smiles at her again, this time the sad smile that adults sometime use when they are about to say ‘no’ when they kind of want to say ‘yes’ but can’t. Her tears threaten to worsen in anticipation of his response as he stands and walks over to his desk to get something. When he returns to sit, he is holding a scabbard with one of the small curved blades that she has seen on his belt sometimes. Her fear rises again and fresh tears come out.
“Your brother is wrong”, the warrior says, his voice firm but not angry. “Being strong is not about what how much you can lift or push or bend. It is not about the force of your muscles, but the power of your resolve. The edge of this small blade draws blood just as easily as that of a massive sword. It can kill just as efficiently with a tiny flick of the wrist. It is not the size of the weapon that determines its power, but the will of the wielder.
“In my land, we do not have barbaric notions of what females ‘cannot’ do. Nor are they limited in their choices, as they are in more backward cultures. Rather, it is the men who are limited, their greater physical strength and aggressive drives reserved for those tasks for which they are suited, and banned from roles where these traits are wasted or problematic. Men are welcome to join and can even lead the Feda-Ghazi, the Order of Holy Warriors, but cannot rise to the highest ranks of the Dawnbrethren and are even banned from membership in the Isha-Ghazi, the Night Warriors.
“You have shown that you have great strength, and in coming here today you have confirmed what I have already known. You would be a fine warrior, and I would be honoured to continue your training and guide you to become a feda-ghazi.
“It is traditional that a mentor provide the new talib-ghazi with her first weapon, and I would be honoured if you would accept this blade from my hands. It was given to me by someone very special, when I first entered the Order, and I would be most pleased if you were to take your first steps toward warriorhood with her gift to guide you.”
As the dark-skinned man holds out the kukri, the girl is nearly paralyzed with surprise. She had been expecting a ‘no’, or at least the usual ‘we’ll see’ that adults usually reserved for such things. She wasn’t ready to actually get what she wanted. Slowly a smile spreads across her face as she begins to realize what is happening, and she quickly grabs the blade from his hands, afraid that he might change his mind any second.
She sets aside the forgotten tea, clutching the knife with both hands and again beams at the tall man.
“Thank you, mualim! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”
The warrior gives her an indulgent smile and dismisses her with a nod. She skips from the room, holding the weapon as if it were the most valuable object in the entire world.
Just wait till my brother sees . He’s going to be soooooooo jealous.