Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, 5)(10)

By: K.F. Breene



The room fell silent. Rohnan shifted uncomfortably.

“Please explain,” Eloise said in a level voice.

A shiver raced up Shanti’s spine. She now realized why Sanders gave these women a wide berth. An enemy running at her with a knife was much more appealing than this near-silent threat.

Shanti matched Eloise’s tone. “We will only train those with potential. Just like with the men in the army, those who don’t have sufficient ability to learn will be given a different task.”

“But your Honor Guard, as you call them, were nearly sent to the mines.” Eloise sipped her tea calmly. “If it hadn’t been for you, we would never have seen their skill. Yet you are not training the women. What if they are passed over because a blind man judged their worth? Or worse, a man who only saw a woman…”

“Sanders doesn’t just see women.” Shanti sipped her tea. Then grimaced. It was awful stuff. “But since he is too easily pushed around by your city’s women, I’ve put my people on it. They are great judges of talent.”

“Why are you training them out in the middle of nowhere?” Valencia asked.

“We need to pick those who have potential, train them to a reasonable level, then move them over to the larger army. I didn’t want grown women learning beside boys. That would reflect poorly on the women.”

“Most of the army is okay with women learning to fight,” Rohnan said in his musical voice. It had the pleasing benefit of defusing the growing tension. “They understand that they need as much help as possible to protect the city. Those that object are doing so loudly, however. It’s best to bring the women into the fold only when they can make the loudest statement.”

“What about when you leave?” Tabby asked from the back of the room. “What happens to us?”

Shanti kicked at her dress again. “We’re not sure who’s going yet, but a few commanders as well as some of the Shadow will be left behind. As Rohnan said, everyone understands how valuable capable fighters are when it comes to defending the city. Women as well as men. When needed, the women will be used. I guarantee it.”

“Fine, fine.” Eloise stretched out her leg with a pained expression. She settled back and took a sip of her tea. “Let’s move on to other matters. We’ve had some problems with nudity in the city.” Eloise looked at Shanti over the rim of her cup.

“I apologize.” Shanti shook her head at Molly’s proffered piece of pie. “They know the rules, but occasionally they forget.”

“Now, I don’t mind an attractive, nude male body—let’s get that right,” Fabienne said. “The issue is, we have to maintain some sort of decorum or else everyone will think nudity is the way to go. And we have more unattractive bodies in this city than attractive ones…”

“I think you’re focusing on the wrong part of this problem,” Eloise said.

“The problem is, the men are going to be standing around, gawking, and grabbing themselves,” Molly offered. “You know, if it’s a woman who’s naked.”

“No— Well, partially, yes, but that still isn’t exactly…” Eloise scratched her head.

“Young girls don’t need to see saggy balls.” Fabienne nodded at Shanti. “It could traumatize them.”

“That’s not—” Eloise stared at Fabienne.

“It’s just not our custom, is that what you’re trying to say, Eloise?” Tabby asked.

“Having women in the army isn’t our custom, but we’re pushing for that,” someone in the rear of the living room said. “I say let the attractive young men be naked. Old farts like my mister wouldn’t wander around with his tackle out. I don’t think we need to worry about that.”

“It isn’t just the men who go around with their bits uncovered, though.” Valencia turned on the couch to look back at the speaker.

“I don’t mind getting a little air under my dress,” someone else said quietly. “I’d try going nude. It would be liberating.”

“You’d sag to the floor!”

“So?”

“Think of the children!” someone else shouted.

“Ladies, ladies!” Eloise rolled her eyes. “You are completely missing the point.”

“Until you resolve this, I’ll have a word with them,” Shanti said, trying to hide her smile. She would laugh in Sanders’ face if these women decided nudity should be more freely expressed.

“Fine—”

“Put this on the table for discussion, though,” someone cut off Eloise.

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