My name is Faith Winterfields.† I am from Covington, England, which is ruled by Lord Carver.† I was born in the year 1279 AD to Adaline Winterfields, my mother, who is from the same place.† Three years before I was born Mother had been expecting her first child when she lost her husband in battle defending Lord Carverís lands and people.† At the same time Lady Carver was with child, and arrangements were then made for Mother to become the wetnurse for Lord and Lady Carverís first child.† A month later Mother lost her child while in childbirth, just days before Lady Carver gave birth to a son.† Lady Carverís son was given the name Luke, and for a year and few months Mother took care of him.† Then Lady Carver gave birth to another son, who was named Jason, and Mother became his wetnurse as well.† Just about two years later Mother discovered she was with child, but tried to hide it because she was not married.† Very soon after, Lady Carver also discovered she was again with child.† Mother then decided to tell Lady Carver of her pregnancy and ask not to be severely punished, but she refused to reveal who was my father.† Lady and Lord Carver decided since the boys liked Mother so much, and she had served faithfully and extremely well, that she would be allowed to keep her child when born as well as become the wetnurse for Lord and Lady Carverís third child.† When I was born a third a year later, a new nursemaid was brought in to take care of the boys, and Mother was allowed time away from her duties to be with me until Lady Carver gave birth to a daughter a few weeks later, who was named Cornelia.† Mother raised both Cornelia and I until Luke was six.† Then the boys nursemaid became very ill and was eventually sent home.† Mother then became the nursemaid for all of Lord and Lady Carverís children.† She was therefore raising four children, including myself, when I was two and a half.
All this I do not remember from experience but from what Mother has told me.† Still, it is important to know.† What I do remember from my own life is this:
Growing up with Mother caring for Lord and Lady Carverís children meant that I was raised along side them.† I found this to be great fun at times because Luke and Jason treated me as their younger sister, more so than Cornelia who they pretty much ignored.† I would have done the same, had I been given the chance, but neither Cornelia nor Mother gave me the option.† Mother found it easier to look after us girls when the boys were busy with their lessons if we were together most of the time.† And she wanted me to learn as much as possible, which meant I also accompanied Cornelia to most of her lessons when we were young.† Together we learned first the alphabet and numbers, and later how to read, write, and basic math skills.† When we were of appropriate age we were also taught to sing, but Cornelia alone learned how to play instruments, embroider, and Latin.† I instead learned how to sew and mend clothing as part of my duties, cook meals from the cooks while working in the kitchen, and speck French from the hired maids I befriended.† I also learned to use a sword and bows, but that will come later.† As we grew older we were kept together less and less.†
When we were young, and Mother kept us together most of the time, Cornelia loved to treat me as her servant.† Unlike Luke and Jason, who I believe would have preferred me as their sister because I would play with them, Cornelia did not want me as her sister.† She frequently let me know that I was NOT her, nor anyoneís, sister.† She was constantly trying to make me do things for her, which I enjoyed refusing to do because it made her angry.† But my enjoyment never lasted long.† As a child I was always smaller than the other children, it wasnít until I was ten years old that I really began to grow and was finally as tall as others my age.† So since Cornelia was bigger than me she had an advantage over me, and she always used every advantage she had over me against me.† She would try to punish me for not obeying her.† Most of the time she couldnít catch me for I was always faster than anyone, even the adults and the boys, but when she did corner me she would hit or kick me.† And when I retaliated she would begin to scream.† Soon Mother would come and Cornelia would run to her and say she only asked me to do something and I hit her for no reason.† Mother never gave me a chance to tell my side of the story, but she never punished me either.† I think she knew what really happened every time.† Still, she made me do the task Cornelia had tried to order me to do, and for that I felt punished.
One day I remember quite clearly, when we were seven or eight, Cornelia ordered me to go get her a drink from the kitchen, and I, of course, refused.† As usual she came after me, but I was able to avoid her for a few minutes.† I expected her to either give up and call me names or yell for Mother and make up some story, as usual.† But to my shock, she instead sat down on the floor and began crying.† I wasnít sure what to do.† I remember that as I stared at her, dumbfounded, I couldnít help but think how small, helpless, and pathetic she looked.† After a moment I left her crying on the floor and went to the kitchen.† When I returned with the drink she had wanted I found her standing in the doorway of our study room with silent tears streaming down her face.† At first she didnít see me, but as I approached the room she did and ran back inside.† When I entered, she was sitting in a chair, tears dried as best she was able, as if nothing had happened, except she was glaring at me.† I sat the drink down on the desk in front of her, wondering what had ever possessed me to get it for her when all she could do was be horrible to me.† But when she saw the drink her expression changed to surprise and confusion.† She was obviously also trying to figure out why I got it for her.† We both sat in quiet for a while, thinking about what had occurred.† I finally realized that what I witnessed when I first saw her standing in the doorway was a fear of being alone.† But that didnít seem to make sense to me because she slept alone in the room next to the one Mother and I shared.
Little did I know at the time that she also had figured something out about me.† It took several weeks, but I soon came to notice that I was doing a lot of the tasks she demanded of me.† Once I discovered this I stopped to find out why.† I found that every time she ordered me to do something and I refused she would begin to cry.† Then I would feel bad for her and so do the task.† When I figured this out, I was so mad at her that I wanted to hurt her for manipulating and using me.† The next time it happened I refused to let myself feel for her.† I told myself that it was an act to get me to do what she wanted, that she was not actually small or helpless.† So that time I did intentionally what I had unintentionally done before, I simply walked out of the room.† I walked once around the castle before returning, to let her be alone.† When I returned she was standing in the doorway just as before. †But this time when I approached she did not see me.† When I reached her I discovered she was frozen with fear.† It took a few minutes before I was able to pull her out of it, and after I did she was trembling in my arms.† I then realized that she was not afraid of being alone, but of being left alone and unsure if anyone would return to her.† Then she did something she had never done to me before.† She didnít yell at me, give me a dirty look, or hit me.† She simply and quietly asked me: ďPlease Faith, please donít ever do that to me again.† Please...Ē† That was the first, and only, time I have ever seen her truly vulnerable.† I knew I had finally found something I could hold over her, to use against her or threaten her with to keep her from doing anything to me ever again.† I promised her what she asked.† After that day she never gave me another order.† She would politely ask me to do something, and I would go do it.† A truce had been called between us.† We knew each otherís weaknesses and how to manipulate them, but had agreed not to.† We finally began being civil with each other.
As I said before, Luke and Jason were fun to grow up with because they treated me as their sister.† Of course that also included the occasional fight between one of the boys and I, but whenever one of them was fighting with, or picking on me the other would stick up for me and protect me (not that I needed protecting since they had a harder time catching me than Cornelia ever did).† That was part of having older brothers, as was the fact that they never joined together to outnumber me, I was always on the winning side in an argument or anything else with them.† Except after I became eight years of age and it came to what game we would play together.† Luke was eleven and Jason ten.† Jason had started lessons on using a sword.† Luke had already learned the sword so Lord Carverís weapon master had begun teaching him to use other weapons.† They began wanting to play battles with real weapons, instead of pretend as we had before.† I would have loved to do so, but the weapon master would not allow me to even hold a weapon.† So the boys decided they would play fight each other or imaginary foes, and I would be the one they would fight over, had to defend or had to rescue.† The game came to be called Damsel.† At first I liked it, especially when I played a princess.† After a while it seemed to become very repetitive to me and I became bored with it.† Eventually I grew to dislike it.† But I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.† I was getting older and more responsible, so I was also receiving more chores.† Instead of just washing dishes and keeping the kitchen clean, the cooks were allowing me to help them cook meals.† I was learning to sew clothes instead of just mend or hem them.† And Mother began sending me to accompany the women to town to buy the groceries or other necessities, since they always complained there was too much to carry themselves.† By the time I was nine, all this meant less time for me to spend with the boys, especially since they were also busy most of the time I was not.†
Still, I enjoyed watching them practice fighting and learning to use weapons.† When the boys had lessons I would try to have my chores done or talk whoever was supervising me into letting me go for a couple hours, without telling where I was going, so I could watch them.† The first time I ever saw a bow was when Luke and Jason began lessons on using it.† I was immediately intrigued by it.† When I finally saw Luke shoot his first bullís eye I wanted to learn to use a bow more than anything.† I loved how it looked, how the arrow fit into it, how the arrow flew when released, and how easy it seemed to be when Luke pulled back the string and let his arrow fly into that bullís eye (even though I knew how long it had actually taken him to make that shoot!).† I was only ten years of age and I had discovered my first love.† I began trying to figure how I was going to be allowed to learn it.† The Weapon Master had made it quite clear he would not let me near any weapons because I was female.† I thought long and hard about how I could learn to use a bow.† I spent many nights laying awake, plotting and planning.† But nothing became of all my plans.† After around three months of finding flaws in my plans and having failed attempts with plans I thought would work, I began to loose my determination.† After another month passed of watching the boys continue lessons on the bow and begin lessons on the crossbow (which I loved the first time I saw it) while longing to join them in their lessons, my hope also began fading.† I began feeling depressed.† To deal with it, and try to keep myself from thinking about it, I threw myself into my chores and work.† I made extra efforts to do anything asked of me as soon as I could and correctly the first time.† My overseers quickly became impressed with my new attitude towards work.† Only four people knew me well enough to realize something was wrong, but of those I did not allow two of them around me enough to notice.† I had begun to avoid playing the games with Luke and Jason, especially Damsel because it most reminded me I could not learn what I really wanted to do.† I was keeping myself so busy with jobs and chores that they took away the time I could have spent with the boys.† The only two who I allowed close enough to me to realize I had a problem was Mother and Doctor Limir.† Iím sure Mother worried about me but she never pushed me for a reason for my actions.† Occasionally she would ask me if something was wrong or if I was feeling well.† I always said nothing was wrong and I felt fine.† Then I would flash a smile or give her a hug to let her know I was sincere, which I wasnít.† She would be satisfied for a while before checking with me again, asking ďFaith, you know you can talk with me about anything, right?Ē† ďYes Mother,ĒI would reply as happily as I could.† Once I thought I saw disappointment or hurt in her eyes before she turned away from me.† That was when I not only knew she knew something was wrong, I knew she was upset that she thought I felt I couldnít turn to her.† But it wasnít that I felt I couldnít turn to Mother for help with my problem, it was that I felt no one could help me achieve what I wanted, not even myself.† After about two months of overworking myself, Doctor Limir figured this out and confronted me.
First let me explain who Doctor Limir is and how I know him.† Everyone agrees he is the most unorthodox doctor, mostly because he does not believe in using leaches on people.† In fact he believes that taking blood out of a man will cause more harm than good in any case.† Yet he charges the most reasonable for his services of any of the doctors in the town or the villages surrounding it.† For this reason most of the poorest visit or call upon him, and for the reason before those who can afford the more expensive doctors do not visit Doctor Limir.† The first time I met him was during one of my earliest visits to the town while accompanying the women sent to the market to buy supplies.† Even though I tried to hide it, most anyone could tell I was new to the marketplace and had no idea how to barter correctly.† Doctor Limir saved me from being cheated by a vender.† Even though I was grateful for the outcome, I was upset that he thought I needed help without my asking for it.† When I turned and truly saw the man who had aided me, my anger vanished.† I immediately saw he was not just a normal towns person who decided to be nice to a young girl.† He seemed to be a man everyone thought was strange and who enjoyed having them think that about him.† He seemed like a very different kind of person than I had ever known, one who didnít care whether someone was male or female as long as he or she did what pleased him or her.† I wanted to learn more about him.† It began slowly, but over the two years after I first met him when I was eight, our friendship grew.† I looked forward to the trips to the town and market, and always found a way to slip away for a while to visit Doctor Limir at his office or home.† He obviously looked forward to my visits as well for he would always have something new to show or tell me.† Iím sure I am one of his very few number of friends.† Sometimes we would talk about my life, sometimes about his current or past life, sometimes about life in general, and sometimes about nothing particular at all.† But other times he would tell me about being a doctor and how he practices medicine.† This is how I learned to treat minor things like a cold, fever, or cut, and how to stop a wound from bleeding.
I was ten and a half years when Doctor Limir asked me what was so important that I couldnít do and was therefore making my life miserable for myself.† I asked him what he meant.† He pointed out I had stopped doing the things I most enjoyed, for example my visits to him had become infrequent, and I was working harder than anyone he knew.† He said it was as if I had forgotten how to have fun.† I denied his claims, but when he asked me to name one thing I had done recently and really enjoyed, besides visiting him, I couldnít.† He then asked me what it was that I really enjoyed doing.† I said I liked cooking large meals with the chefs, sewing, playing with Luke and Jason, talking with Doctor Limir, and watching the boys learn and practice their fighting skills.† When Doctor Limir asked me why I stopped doing these things, I said I didnít really want to anymore.† Our conversation went around in circles until I finally told him that I had wanted to learn to fight, especially shoot a bow, but wasnít able to.† He said it seemed pretty unfair to give up doing the things I enjoyed just because I couldnít do one thing I wanted and suggested I start doing those things again.† After a couple days of thinking over what he said, I finally took his advice and asked the head chef if I could help with dinner.† I had forgotten how much I loved creating foods which smelled so wonderful and tasted so good!† I quickly began doing the other things I enjoyed.† When I asked the boys when was a good time for us to play Damsel they were surprised.† ďWe thought you were mad at us,Ē Luke said.† ďI thought you were sick of playing that game,Ē Jason said.† I replied I was sorry for avoiding them, I was not mad, and I didnít mind what we played as long as we could spend time together.† Jason gave me a hug and Luke said ďwe missed you, little sister.Ē† It was then I realized how much I had missed them too.† I felt better than I had in months when the boys and I tracked down a dragon and they defeated it.† Soon I began to go watch their weapon lessons again, and found myself enjoying it even though I was still sad I couldnít learn myself.
Even after all that, I believe the worst time of my life was my eleventh birthday.† Only two people remembered it, but no one really had any time to celebrate with me.† The reason being that the week before my birthday friends of Lord Carver, Lord and Lady Brashers from northern England, came to visit, and brought their children and part of their household with them. So for a week beforehand preparations were being made for the Brashersí visit.† The family was of noble blood, as the Carvers, and they had four children.† One of which was a girl named Elizabeth.† She was about to turn fourteen, which made her a little under a year younger than Luke.† The other children were all boys of sixteen, thirteen and twelve years of age.† The youngest was named Phillip.† It was obvious Elizabethís birthday was to be celebrated here, and that both families were hoping she and Luke would get along well.† Jason and I thought it really didnít matter wether or not Elizabeth and Luke got along with each other.† Luke said he didnít know if his parents had arranged for him to marry her, but Jason and I agreed that had to be the plan.† Cornelia was hoping her parents would arrange a marriage for her with Phillip, whom she found very handsome and charming.† So between Cornelia fussing and gushing over Phillip, Luke having to spend time entertaining his likely betrothed and future in-laws, Jason having to stay with his family and also entertain the Brashers, and Mother and everyone else in the castle working as fast and hard as possible to make sure everything was perfect, almost no one noticed my eleventh birthday.† All Mother was able to do was wake me up with her sunny smile, a hug, and then an apology as she gave me a dress she made me for my birthday and left to do her work.† When I finally made it to the kitchen the head chef asked me to help cook the evening meal, instead of handing me the special personal size birthday bread I had received every other year.† I didnít see Luke or Cornelia the entire day, and I couldnít get out to the town to see Doctor Limir either.† Instead I had to work the day away.† The only saving grace of the whole day happened just before I went to bed.† I was alone and feeling sorry for myself while watching the water in the moat from the window in the room Mother and I shared.† Suddenly I heard a quiet ďHappy BirthdayĒ being sung behind me.† I turned to see Jason standing with a flower and singing to me.† I was so happy someone remembered!† I gave him a hug and thanked him.† He said he was sorry he hadnít seen me all day and gave me the flower to make up for it.† I told him that after the day I had all I wanted was for someone to remember, and his song and gift were simply perfect.† We would have talked more but he said he had to get back to his family.† After what I had thought was his successful attempt to make my birthday seem special, that last comment before he left was the perfect end to a horrible day.† It was that comment, at that moment, after all that had been happening the past week, which made me truly realize I was not a member of Luke, Jason, and Corneliaís family.† They were nobility and I was just a commoner.† As such they were, and would be, busy spending time with other nobility and living their lives while I was, and would be, spending time away from them and working most of my life.† I cried myself to sleep that night.
The next week Elizabethís birthday was celebrated with a huge feast.† The Brashers stayed for three more weeks afterwards, long enough to be here for Corneliaís eleventh birthday and celebration.† Between the two birthdays life settled down a little and I was again able to spend time with the boys, of course the three Brashers boys were generally with them.† I was also able to watch the boys during their fighting lessons, and I mean all the boys.† Not too long after the Brashers arrived, the three sons began going to lessons along with Luke and Jason.† It was amazing, and fun, to watch the five of them practice on each other.† I had never seen more than two fight at a time before then.† Even the Weapon Master joined them in their practice fighting from time to time to make six because the sixteen-year-old was so much better than the other four that he needed the challenge.† This, of course, lead to five of us playing Damsel (the sixteen-year-old refused to participate in ďsuch childish gamesĒ).† We all found it great fun though.† I loved watching the four.† Luke and Jason enjoyed having two new people to play fight against.† Phillip and his brother thought the game was much more fun than when they had played at home because there was an real girl to play the damsel in distress.† The best game, for me, was the one we played the day before Corneliaís birthday.† We were lucky to find the time to actually get together, and when we did the four boys were so excited about the events to happen the next day (they were going to be able to show off their fighting skills to a crowd of people) that not much playing was done.† Then Mother came and said both sets of parents wanted to see their sons and the head chief needed me to help cook the birthday feast.† The boys all said goodbye to me and ran off after Mother, talking and laughing.† In their excitement one of them left the sword he had been using lying in the grass.† I checked to be sure no one was around before grabbing it and running inside the castle.† I hid it under some hay in the stables, because that was the first good hiding place I came to and I didnít want to risk anyone seeing me with the sword and taking it away.† Then I went to the kitchen as Mother had told me.† That night I waited until I was sure Mother was asleep, and everyone else would be too, before leaving my room to go get the sword.† Excitement and nervousness had kept me up so long.† I didnít light a candle to help me see my way because I was afraid one of the night guards might see it, plus I knew the way without needing to see.† I made it to the stables and back with the sword without any problems. I hid it under my bed and then when right to sleep.†
For days the sword stayed there.† I didnít want to do anything with it, and risk losing it, while so many people were around and so much was going on.† Once the Brashers left with their children and servants, I began thinking about what I would do.† I decided I would not be able to find anyone to teach me how to use the sword.† Instead I watched Luke and Jason during their lessons more carefully than I had before.† I believed I had studied them so much over the years that I could probably teach myself to use the sword.† I had finally begun really growing when I was nine, so at eleven I had the height to be able to weld it properly.† Therefore the only two problems I had were where and when could I practice?† The only time I could come up with was late at night after most everyone was asleep.† Since I shared a room with Mother, I soon came to find out how quiet I could be when I really wanted to be, even when carrying a sword.† The places I practiced changed regularly.† Sometimes it would be in the stables when there werenít many horses, sometimes in the dining hall, kitchen, or any other large room I thought no one would be using in the middle of the night.† I had problems with the weight of the sword at first and had to use two hands to hold it.† I also had problems using the sword in a dress, which was all I had to wear to my practices.† So I asked one of the seamstresses to show me how to sew pants and if I could have some material so I could make an outfit for Jason for his birthday.† She thought it was a sweet idea and agreed to help me.† I then decided to tell Doctor Limir about my sword and self lessons, because I knew he would be the one person who would be happy for me and not tell me it was wrong for a girl to use a sword.† Also, I needed material to make my practice outfit out of now that I was learning to sew pants.† As I expected, Doctor Limir was very happy I was finally able to learn to fight because it was what I wanted.† He agreed to get the material for me and took me that very day to buy it.† After my outfit was done I hid it with my sword and put Jasonís outfit in front of them under my bed in case Mother looked under there while cleaning.†
Gradually I grew accustomed to the weight of the sword and was able to swing it with only one hand.† I also found myself able to lift heavier items.† But my late night practices meant I was not sleeping enough.† I eventually began falling asleep during the day while doing my chores and work.† When Mother began worrying I might be sick I knew I had to do something, but I loved my nightly practices!† I decided the best thing to do was to practice every other night.† I did so and soon was able to work without feeling tired and falling asleep.† I had more energy at night to practice with too.† Then, a week before Lukeís fifteenth birthday Lord and Lady Carver took Luke, Jason, Cornelia, and about one third the household, including Mother, and left for a month.† I didnít know where they were until they came back and the boys told me they went to northern England to visit the Brashers.† It was the first time I missed one of the boys birthday, and I felt strange about it.† It was also the first time I had ever been away from Mother.† The nights were lonely without her sleeping in the bed on the other side of the room, and I missed seeing her when I woke up in the morning, which meant I didnít sleep well.† I needed someone to share my room with.† If it hadnít been for that I would have been getting more sleep than I would have known what to do with.† Since I hadnít been able to play with the boys or watch their lessons and practices, I used that time to practice myself.† I quickly discovered Corneliaís room, which was adjoined to mine, was large enough and set up well for me to practice in.† I was sure no one would think anyone would be in there while she was gone, and I was right.† It was great!† I was able to practice enough that I didnít need to go in the middle of the night, which was good because I was too sad to want to practice at night.† Of course once everyone returned I went back to my practices every other night. The boys filled me in on all that happened on their visit and how Lukeís birthday was celebrated, which made me feel better.† Next Luke told me all about Elizabeth.† The look Jason gave me while Luke was going on about her confirmed my suspicion that she and Luke were getting along extremely well.† Then later Cornelia filled me in on how Phillip was doing, how much more handsome and taller he had gotten, and every other detail about how perfect he was.
I kept my sword and self lessons secret for many months.† I was having more fun than I had in a long time.† Jasonís fourteenth birthday came and went, and soon I began to feel as if something was missing.† After watching the boys lessons one day I realized what it was: an opponent.† I wanted someone to test myself against.† So far a wall, a chair or my imagination was not providing enough of a challenge.† I knew I couldnít become really good unless I could practice against at least one other person to find out how I was really doing and what I needed to work on.† As weeks passed I wanted more and more to be able to practice with the boys, but I knew the Weapon Master wouldnít allow it.† He would probably even be mad if he knew I had a sword, let alone taught myself how to use it.† Then, almost nine months after I first found the sword, my chance for a real opponent came in the form of a visiting noble family.
The family consisted of one girl, her three younger brothers, and her father.† The two youngest boys were twins.† Apparently their mother had died in childbirth with them.† Therefore the girl ran the household for her father.† This explained, but did not excuse, her attitude of superiority over all of us, including Luke, Jason, and Cornelia, and her expectation of having all her orders obeyed.† It was obvious soon after the arrival of the family that a marriage had been arranged between her and Jason.† From the first time I saw her I didnít like her, but I couldnít explain why.† Then I saw how she acted, how she began to treat everyone in the castle as if they were part of her household and she was at home.† When she began ordering Jason around, and then Luke, I knew she could not be allowed to marry Jason.† He would be miserable!† I had no idea how I could keep the arrangement from being fulfilled, but Cornelia did.† Still, I didnít know that the day that girl and I finally went at each other.
It had been coming ever since the day she arrived and began ordering me around as if I was her servant.† The only reason I did as she told me was because Cornelia asked me to do so.† But when she ordered Cornelia to do something, while I was standing right in the room with them, I finally couldnít take it from her anymore.† I told her that Cornelia was nobility just like she was, so she didnít have any right to order Cornelia about .† I told her that this was Corneliaís home, not hers, and therefore if anyone was to order anyone else about then it should be Cornelia ordering her.† Finally, I told her that if she wanted something done then to tell me to do it, not Cornelia.† At first she was surprised by my outburst and the fact that I would actually say something like that to her (she obviously didnít know me very well), but she never expected what came next.† She quickly overcame her surprise and ordered me to do what she had just told Cornelia to do, and I refused.† As I expected, she didnít know what to make of that.† She ordered me again, and again I refused.† I said she was not a member of the Carver family and therefore I had no obligation to do anything she said.† Cornelia did not say otherwise, or remind me that she had already asked me to do as the girl said.† She turned to Cornelia and told her to order me to obey her.† Cornelia refused just as I loudly repeated to her not to order Cornelia about.† The girl turned to me and smacked me across the face for raising my voice at her.† I wanted so much to hit her back, but I knew what the response would be, not only from the Carvers but Mother as well, so I restrained myself.† Cornelia, on the other hand, saw the opportunity she had been waiting for and grabbed it.† She began to yell at the girl for punishing me when she had no right to do so because I was not from her household.† The girl told Cornelia that if Cornelia kept me in line then she would not have had to slap me.† She then said that Cornelia had better not raise her voice at her again or she would do the same to Cornelia.† I was about to prevent her from doing that when I realized what Cornelia was doing.† Sure enough, Cornelia continued to yell at the girl about how she was bossy and full of herself and the girl went over to Cornelia and hit her across the face.† At that moment Cornelia and I screamed together to bring the adults.† In the meantime I pulled the girl away from Cornelia and was about to hit her when Cornelia motioned me not to.† It took a lot of restraint, but I stepped back from the girl, who was now yelling at both of us, and just stood between her and the still screaming Cornelia until the adults came.†
The first to show up were some guards who seemed to be expecting something more threatening than one crying, one yelling, and one fuming girl.† I yelled over the other two girls at the guards to get the girlsí parents.† When the Carvers, Mother and the other father showed up I was the first to see.† As soon as I saw them I pointed to the girl and said with as much fear and anger as I could: ďShe hit Cornelia!Ē† Mother immediately went to Cornelia to see how badly she was hurt, and Lady Carver was right behind with her.† The other girlís father went right to her and she began explaining her version of what had happened.† Lord Carver stood near the door watching us all while waiting for everyone to calm down.† I stood silently, taking it all in, knowing eventually someone would think to talk to me.† Then I saw that Lord Carver was coming towards me.† I waited, not sure of what to expect.† He stopped and looked down on me as I looked up at him.† Then he took my chin in his hand and turned my face to see the side the girl had slapped me on.† ďYou were hit also,Ē he said.† It was a statement, not a question, but I answered anyway with a simple ďYes.Ē† ďSilence!Ē Lord Carver yelled, and immediately everyone fell quiet and looked at him.† He dropped his hand and asked me what had happened.† I looked around the room at Cornelia and the girl before answering.† When I did begin speaking I calmly told him all that happened and was said.† When I was done, both Cornelia and the girl agreed that my description was accurate enough.† Still, the girl protested that she had done nothing wrong in slapping me.† Cornelia disagreed and I said she was wrong for hitting Cornelia.† Another fight was about to break out but Lord Carver stopped it by sending me to my chores, Cornelia to her room, and the girl to hers.† Lady Carver went with Cornelia and Mother went with the girl.† Only the two Lords remained as I left and heard them begin to discuss what had happened.† I stopped in the hall just outside the door to listen to them.† When I heard what I was listening for I headed off to my duties.† On my way I encountered Luke, Jason, and the three brothers.† They quickly surrounded me and began asking questions all at once.† They had heard something had happened and what to know what occurred.† Then Luke noticed part of my face had turned red and swollen slightly where the girl had slapped me.† Jason became very angry and demanded to know who had done that to me.† Luke was also mad and demanded to know exactly what had happened.† I knew I didnít have the time to tell them everything.† So I said I would tell them later but the good news was that Jason was not going to be marrying that girl.† All five boys were surprised, but as I left I thought I saw Jason smiling.† I know I was.
The only downside to all of this was that the three brothers left very soon afterwards.† The reason I was sad to see them go was because I had finally been able to practice my fighting against someone else, them!† Of course they didnít know it was me they were fighting, neither did Luke or Jason.† Shortly after the family came to visit I decided it was time to have a real opponent.† A week later I sneaked down to the stables with my sword hidden in my practice outfit and some other clothes, just in case.† Once there I changed into my practice outfit and put on a cloth mask I made just for this occasion.† I then went outside and around to where the five boys were play fighting.† At nearly twelve years old I was able to successfully make them think I was a boy from one of the villages who had taught himself to sword fight and who came to practice with them when he discovered there were five young sword fighters at the castle.† I met them as this boy eight or nine times during their stay.† I even talked with a lower voice so that Luke and Jason would not recognize me.† I learned a lot from fighting with them, especially that both Luke and Jason were better than me.† But the twins were about my level, and the older boy who was my age, was a fun challenge for me.† At our last practice together I told them that I would not be returning for a while, and I didnít.† I took what I had learned about fighting against a live opponent and practiced harder during my night sessions.† I wanted to get to be at least as good as Jason was before I practiced again with them.†
When I did finally return as the village boy it was when the Brashers had come again to visit and celebrate Elizabeth and Corneliaís birthdays.† But they hadnít come alone, they brought along a friend of Elizabethís.† She was an only child about Jasonís age.† She was vain and demanded constant attention.† She was obviously brought to meet the Carvers so that it could be decided if she and Jason would be betrothed.† I canít say I disliked her because I didnít spend enough time around her to get to know her.† Neither did Jason, which made her mad.† She expected him to be constantly with her.† In the end she refused to be betrothed to him because he spent hardly any time paying attention to her.† Apparently she always got her way because they were not betrothed, which suited me just fine.† In fact I was the cause of this, of his absence around her, unintentionally.
During one of my practices as the village boy with the boys, I decided I wanted to face off against Jason to test my skills.† He agreed and we started fighting.† Unfortunately for me when he began a full force swing against me and I tried to bring my sword up from my last swing to block him, I missed and he didnít.† My sword was just a little too low and his caught me in my right fore-arm.† It was a straight and deep cut, I would later discover how deep, but it caused me to drop my sword and end the fight.† All of us were surprised and were unsure of what to do.† I knew I had to stop the bleeding so I tore off my sleeve and tied it tightly around the wound, with some help from one of the boys.† I then left them, all of us a little in shock, and went to another side of the castle.† I washed the blood off myself in the moat and then discovered that my cut had already bled through the fabric I had tied around it.† I wasnít sure what to do.† I had never felt pain like that before.† And I knew if I told Mother or someone else how I received the wound I would be in big trouble.† For what seemed like hours to me I sat by the moat trying to stop the bleeding and bear the pain.† Then I heard Jason call out from behind me.† I turned and saw him carrying my sword which I had left behind.† As he approached I stood up and immediately became extremely dizzy.† So much in fact that I fell to the ground.† He ran over to me and asked if I was alright.† I replied no and that I needed his help.† I then made him swear never to tell anyone what I was about to tell him.† He swore on his honor.† I then told him who I really was and took off my mask to show him.† He was surprised beyond words at first.† Then he asked what he could do to help.† I said that I needed to get back to my room without anyone noticing my arm or clothes.† But first he went to get Luke, and I had Luke swear the same as Jason had.† Somehow the two of them were able to get me to my room without anyone seeing us and without my leaving a bloody trail behind.† Which was especially difficult because I had a terrible time trying to walk by myself.† When we got there I changed my wrapping on the wound for the second time and cleaned up some by using the wash basin.† I was still thinking of how to handle it all when Cornelia walked in looking for me.† She wasnít expecting what she found.† Before she had a chance to express in words what her facial expression was saying Luke told her to keep quiet, and he closed the door she had just come in.† Then he and Jason both told her she could not tell anyone about what she was seeing.† She began to protest that I needed to have someone tend to my arm when I figured out how to close the wound.† I told her that we did not need anyone else to tend to my arm because she was going to.† I told her to get my needle and thread from the table.† All three looked at me with different emotions of surprise, confusion, and horror.† I said that the only way to stop the bleeding was to close the wound, and the only way I could think to do that was to sew it closed.† Cornelia asked who had told me such a thing and I replied Dr. Limir had explained it to me before.† It took a little convincing of the three.† In the end Luke and Jason figured there was no other way they could think of without an adult getting involved, and getting us all in trouble, and they told Cornelia she had no choice.† They all also were very worried over me since I was feeling worse every minute.† I thought the pain I was feeling would make me numb to that of Corneliaís needle, but I was wrong.† Still, I bore the pain until she was done.† Then I felt very sick and weaker than before.† Jason washed my arm off and dressed the wound while Cornelia found something for me to change into.† She helped me change and then into bed while the boys also changed and hid mine and their bloody clothes.† Then it was decided that our story would be that I had passed out (which I felt like doing) in a hall and the boys had found me and brought me to my room.† When Mother heard she came immediately to see me.† I kept my arm hidden and didnít have to play at being sick because I truly felt so.† For four days Mother kept me confined to my bed, believing that I had fallen extremely ill.† And for much of the time I was not sleeping Jason was with me, along with either or both of Luke and Cornelia, to keep me company.† Even Elizabeth visited a few times to see how I was doing, and even keep me company.† It was then I came to know her personally.† I liked her and felt she would be good for Luke.† The only time Elizabethís friend came was to find Jason and demand to know why I was so much more important than her that he was spending his time with me.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
---The rest of this story can be read here---