A Rogue By Any Other Name
Written by @Wayril This is my original work Back to Index
Content Warning: Includes scenes of violence and nudity, mentions of blood, and mild language.
1. Best Laid Plans
Serafina watched her mark from the rooftop, carefully tracking the woman in the street below her. “Come on, just take the turn.” Serafina muttered to herself. As if on cue, the woman cut abruptly to the right and began heading towards the alleyway. Serafina gave a short whistle to signal her accomplices below. It was time to begin their performance.
In the alleyway, three men in dark cloaks moved from their shadowy hiding places. The woman stopped short, noticing the emerging figures now surrounding her. “What's the meaning of this? Let me pass!” the woman shouted in a commanding voice. “Afraid not Ma'am,” said the lead figure, pulling back his hood to reveal a grizzled face and several missing teeth. “Not till you give us our due.”
The trio advanced on the woman, drawing clubs from beneath their cloaks. That was Serafina's cue. She gave a clear, sharp whistle and stepped off the rooftop. Plummeting down into the alleyway, she dropped right onto the lead assailant, landing on his shoulders. She felt the man's weight shift underneath her, absorbing the impact and taking a practiced dive. The man grunted and collapsed to the ground as Serafina tumbled forward and sprang up right in front of her target.
Serafina took in the woman’s appearance up close for the first time. She was smartly dressed in well-made riding attire, her boots still caked with mud from the stable. Her long auburn hair was tied back into a tight bun and a golden pendant outlined her pronounced collarbones. Serafina's gaze lingered the longest on the woman's eyes; a piercing blue abyss, like staring into deep water unable to see the bottom. “Need some assistance, my lady?” Serafina asked, flashing her a smile.
The woman stood in a moment of shock as Serafina drew her rapier and turned to face the two men behind her. The one she had landed on earlier was picking himself up out of the mud. He made eye contact with her, giving a smile and a nod. Serafina returned the acknowledgement with a wink and moved to intercept the other attacker's swinging club.
“What's your name, my lady?” Serafina called, parrying a series of blows before returning a swipe of her own. “Uhh, Mirabelle!” the woman cried. She turned around to see the third man advancing from behind. “And yours?” “Portia!” Serafina replied, disarming the man in front of her with a clever flick of her blade. The man yowled and grabbed his finger and Serafina winced as she saw a trickle of blood. The man glared at her and she returned an apologetic grin. Accidents happen, but Serafina was trying her best not to hurt them.
She retreated a few steps and found herself back-to-back with Mirabelle. They both turned their heads to face one another. “Not to worry,” Serafina said cheerily, “I'll handle them!” Mirabelle scowled and replied, “I can handle myself well enough, thank you!” Serafina watched in surprise as Mirabelle produced an ornate dagger from some unknown compartment and promptly thrust it through the outstretched hand of the man in front of her.
Serafina and her accomplices stopped dead as their compatriot screamed, dropping his club and clutching his skewered hand. Mirabelle responded by planting her sturdy boot into his chest, sending him sprawling to the ground. She turned back to Serafina and flashed a wicked smile. Serafina found herself smiling back until she heard the man next to her yell “You damned wench, you'll pay for that!”
Raising his club, the cloaked man surged forward to strike Mirabelle. This was not part of their plan! Serafina reacted with a swift sweep of her leg, knocking the man to the ground and catching his club in her open hand. She turned back to Mirabelle and grinned, offering her the wooden stave. Mirabelle accepted it, took a step forward and swung it directly towards Serafina's head. With a yelp, she ducked to avoid the blow and heard a dull crack. Looking up she saw that Mirabelle had intercepted the grizzled man's attempt to bludgeon Serafina from behind. She watched with a newfound respect as Mirabelle deftly pressed the man, stave to stave.
“I must admit, you're a sight to behold my lady!” Serafina said with admiration, watching Mirabelle spar against her (former?) companion with dangerous precision. “People always seem to think,” Mirabelle grunted between blows, “That I am incapable of taking care of myself!” “I must admit I thought similarly when I first saw your plight,” Serafina replied, “but I must now extend to you an apology. You are as clever and capable as anyone I've ever met!”. Mirabelle dodged a heavy swing from her assailant and responded by driving her club into the man's jaw, sending him reeling to the ground. “Apology accepted.” she said, standing triumphantly over her opponent.
Despite her plans to fleece this woman of her wealth, Serafina couldn't help but feel captivated as she stared at Mirabelle. Her presence and confidence were like nothing she had encountered before. As Mirabelle turned to face her once more, Serafina immediately became aware of the slack-jawed expression plastered across her face. She quickly straightened up, checking her surroundings. A flash of movement in her peripheral vision made Serafina panic. She lunged forward like a striking viper, rapier outstretched towards Mirabelle. Mirabelle's face contorted in fear, raising the club to defend herself. With a ringing and a burst of sparks, Serafina barely managed to intercept the flying dagger before it struck Mirabelle. She felt a stinging sensation as the deflected blade cut across her left arm.
Serafina turned and glared towards the man who had thrown it. He looked back at her fearfully, still clutching his bleeding palm where he had removed Mirabelle’s dagger a moment ago; a last ditch effort for revenge, now foiled. The man took off running, out of the alleyway and into the crowded streets of Windmere.
Serafina lowered her rapier and turned back to Mirabelle who was staring at her wide-eyed. “I- uh, thank you, Portia.” Mirabelle stammered. “Just returning the favor from earlier!” Serafina said with a wink before wincing in pain from the laceration on her arm. “Oh, damn that stings!” Serafina reached down and picked up Mirabelle’s ornate dagger, offering it back to her hilt first. With a smile, Mirabelle said “Why don't you keep that? A little memory of an interesting time.” Serafina blushed and carefully tucked the blade into her belt as Mirabelle continued, “I don't have anything to staunch that wound myself, but if you would accompany me to my estate, I'm sure I could provide bandages or a suture.”
The pair left the alleyway together, Serafina resting more weight than she needed to on Mirabelle's shoulder. “Where exactly did you learn to move and fight like that anyway?” Mirabelle asked. “Ohh, I'm a circus performer!” Serafina laughed. “You should see my act sometime!”
Soft rays of sunlight snuck unwelcome through the slits in the window shutters. Serafina groaned and rolled over, nestling herself into her lover's shoulder. She willed the sun not to rise quite yet. The sun, of course, refused her request. Slowly, the sounds of city life rose to greet another morning in Windmere. “One day I shall put an end to that damnable glowing bastard,” Serafina muttered to herself. The other figure in bed stirred. “Uhff, Portia? What's the time?” “Still too early, Mira dear.” Serafina replied softly. “I recommend you remain in bed and simply lounge away the morning with me.”
The bed chamber was small but very well appointed. A white sheer canopy hung from the four-post bed frame and thick carpeting covered the wooden floorboards. Small plants sprouted from pots atop the cabinets and a large painting of a fox hunt adorned the wall opposite the bed. Serafina thought she could get used to living with this level of luxury. So far she’d stayed a week with Mirabelle, which was longer than she usually remained in any one place.
Serafina savored a few blissful minutes as her partner returned her embrace. But all too soon she felt Mirabelle shifting in bed, sitting upright. She placed her head in Mirabelle's lap, looking upwards and admiring her nude figure. Of course a Duke's Niece could afford whatever she needed to maintain appearances, but Mirabelle was something different. Her frame was built and toned from years spent in a saddle, her movements sure and precise. She was nothing like other noblewomen Serafina had met, their hands doughy and soft as if they had never carried even a pail of water in their lifetimes.
Mirabelle Embermane yawned and stretched awkwardly, working out the stiffness from last night's sleep – as well last night’s other activities. She reached towards a hook on the bed frame, grabbing a dressing gown and pulled herself up out of bed. Serafina's hand lingered on her thigh as she stood, willing her to return to the comfortable mattress. “No Portia,” Mirabelle sighed, “Unlike you, some of us have responsibilities to attend to.”
“Pfft, I have responsibilities as well!” Serafina retorted. With a lithe twist she rolled backwards out of bed, landing deftly on her feet. She adopted a striking pose, her bare body framed in the morning sunlight. Mirabelle smirked and replied “Oh is that so? And pray tell, what pressing duties does the performer have today? Walking a tightrope? Taming some wild beast?” “Sword swallowing, obviously!” Serafina retorted with a playful scowl, “Really Mirabelle, a woman of your intellect ought to recognize my many talents!” “Believe me, Portia, I have a very healthy respect for your... talents.” Mirabelle's inflection and the look in her eye took Serafina by surprise, spreading a mild blush across her cheeks.
The two dressed on opposite sides of the room, exchanging quips and compliments throughout. Mirabelle's silk robe, crown sandals, and hair ribbons contrasted sharply with Serafina's tight fitting clothes, worn leather boots, and sporty half-coat. It was a striking dichotomy, as if they were from two different worlds – which, to be fair, they were. Serafina finished her last few accouterments; the sword belt supporting her Rapier, a pair of silver earrings, and a strand of leather thong around her throat. She sauntered over to the vanity where Mirabelle was making some final adjustments in the mirror. “Shall I call upon you again soon, my lady?” Serafina asked longingly, draping her arms over Mirabelle's shoulders and catching her gaze in the reflection of the mirror. “That would be lovely,” Mirabelle replied, “though council meetings will of course take- Good Gods, are those my mother's earrings?”
Serafina Froze, turning her attention to her own reflection in the vanity. To her horror, she saw that Mirabelle was indeed correct. Through some twist of ill fate she had reached into the wrong pocket while she dressed and grabbed some of the estate's pilfered jewelry instead of her usual adornments. A soft panic set in as Serafina began racking her brain for a way out of this mess. Mirabelle was an incredibly astute woman, how had she made such an obvious blunder?
“I, uhh, are you sure?” Serafina asked anxiously. “Jewelers often create multiple pieces, perhaps they are just similar, from a local craftsman, or-” “They were a gift to my mother, second duchess of Windmere – Gods rest her soul.” Mirabelle replied coldly. “I even see the tarnish on the left side of that one where a servant scuffed them when I was young.” In an instant her disposition shifted. The soft playful demeanor evaporated. Serafina found herself gazing into the reflection of icy blue eyes, now devoid of their previous compassion.
Serafina stepped back as Mirabelle rose from her seat and turned to face her. “Return them.” Mirabelle said sternly, “Now!” Serafina complied, removing the jeweled silver pieces and placing them on a nearby table. She watched Mirabelle's face, trying to suss out her intentions; whether she should try to talk to her more or dive out the nearest window and flee. The woman who stood before her was stone faced, glaring back at her.
“Well?” Mirabelle asked. Serafina swore the words caught in her throat a little. “Just a thief then? Nothing else to say for yourself?” Serafina paused, a few seconds felt like an eternity. “A thief, yes.” She replied slowly. “A traveler and a vagabond. But despite my initial intentions, I found a passion with you that I did not expect. One that I- I found more compelling than my desire to burgle or swindle. I figured you wouldn't notice a few missing baubles. I miscalculated, and for that I apologize.”
Mirabelle shook her head. “You apologize? For your miscalculation?” She asked, incredulous. “Portia, you have done me wrong and in your apology you still center yourself as the injured party? If your passion truly diverged from your intentions then you would not have stolen from me in the first place! I would have even given you some coin if you needed it! But now?”
Serafina bit her lip in frustration, cursing her ill-chosen words, wallowing in her defeat. Mirabelle reigned in her emotions once more and spoke very matter-of-factly. “Leave. Now. My one last courtesy to you. And should we cross paths again I will have you apprehended at the point of a blade and thrown in a cell. Do I make myself clear?”
Serafina nodded and walked slowly to the window. Opening the shutters, the bright light of the morning greeted her like a slap across the face. She turned back once more to see Mirabelle glaring at her, the sunlight reflected off her face in tears she could no longer contain. With that final gut punch, Serafina straddled the windowsill and said, “Farewell, Mirabelle Embermane.” before dropping herself down to the awning below.
Glumly, Serafina walked the streets of Windmere. A wonderful morning crumbled to ash before her. Her mouth felt dry and an uncharacteristic lump in her chest accompanied her dismal mood. “You did it again, Serafina,” she muttered to herself. “You fell for a mark and look what it's gotten you.”
3. What's in a Name
“Esmerelda, uhh, Devonshire?” the page called, looking up from the letter. “Over here, boy!” Serafina shouted, waving the messenger over to her. The young boy started making his way through the crowded morning tavern towards her, bumping awkwardly into patrons and tables alike. “Soo, it's Esmerelda now, is it?” asked the man seated across from her. “It is now.” Serafina replied smartly, turning to face the page as he approached her. “Come now boy, you have a message for me?”
The page held up a sealed letter with 'Esmerelda Devonshire' written on it in a fine scrawling handwriting. Serafina took it and tossed the messenger two silver coins. The boy's eyes went wide at the sizable tip and he promptly bowed. “Thank you kindly, Miss Devonshire!” the page said excitedly before making his way out of the Tavern. Serafina smiled and turned back to her companion.
“What was all that about, Talia?” her companion asked. “Or should I call you Esmerelda now?” Daven was a stern man, with a short black beard and large calloused hands. He may have been the town's blacksmith, but it hadn't taken much to start him talking to Serafina about his own little heists and exploits. They’d been swapping stories for two days since she arrived in Feldip. “Relax, just a bit of business, Daven.” Serafina replied, opening the letter with a quick flick of her knife. She paused for a moment, staring wistfully at the ornate handle of the blade as she held it. A little memory of an interesting time.
Serafina scanned the letter, and with a grin she folded it back up and tucked it into her coat. “Well, it appears I have a job waiting for me! I'll see you later, Daven.” “Wait just a blasted second!” Daven interrupted, grabbing her wrist as she stood up. “First of all, you owe me for the drinks!” “Unfortunately, my last two coins went to that page...” Serafina replied coyly, “But I'll be happy to pay you back once I do a little work!” Daven gritted his teeth and his grip on her wrist tightened. “Not a good answer, girl.” He snarled. “You also owe me for two nights in your room. And your fresh pair of boots! Now you’re a charming lass and all but my patience does have its limits. So, you’ll at least tell me about this job and who Esmerelda Devonshire is.”
Daven was quite strong, and Serafina gingerly pressured his hand from her wrist. As he slowly released his grip, Serafina sat back down at the table. “Esmerelda Devonshire,” Serafina began in a hushed voice, “is an accomplished and renowned swordswoman, whom I actually met on my way here to Feldip. Had I known who she was, I wouldn't have attempted to accost the woman for her coin purse. Blades crossed and I found myself bested, though the contest was hard won. Afterwards we got to talking – well, more than talking, actually – but afterwards we parted ways as friends.”
Daven let out a huff and replied, “That still doesn't explain why you're getting her mail.” “Ahh, but that's the thing!” Serafina continued, “I may be a nobody, but Miss Devonshire's name carries weight around these parts! So when I see a flier in town looking for a sword instructor, why shouldn't it be Esmerelda who responds?”
Daven sat glowering as he eyed Serafina's beaming expression. Finally, he leaned backwards in his chair and said “I don't know if you're an idiot or a genius, Talia. Guess that all depends on whether your little schemes make you rich or make you dead.” Serafina began to reply but Daven cut her off. “Ten Gold Orens.” “I'm sorry, what?” Serafina asked. “That's my price.” Daven said with a smug expression. “To pay me back for the drinks, the rent, the boots, and to keep my mouth shut about your little plan.”
Serafina scowled, “You're a right old bastard, Daven, do you know that?” “I do,” the man chuckled, “I surely do. Come back and see me again when you've earned your coin!” Serafina stuck out her tongue mockingly before rising from her seat and heading towards the door.
Feldip was nothing special. The little town sat on the outskirts of the country, surrounded by woods and mountains. Serafina took her time meandering through the streets. She checked out the vendors and their wares, palmed an apple for herself from an old woman’s cart, and simply enjoyed the early autumn air. It had been a while since she’d left her old stomping ground in the city streets of Windmere and the change of pace felt calm and refreshing. She made her way down the central thoroughfare – well, the only thoroughfare – until she stood outside the gatehouse of the keep.
Serafina looked up at the old stonework and wooden beams before her, the central fortified structure around which the rest of this town was built. Nothing fancy, but still impressive! Hard work was never Serafina's forte, but she could admire the end result of so many people working towards a common goal. “Like tiny little ants, we are...” she murmured, watching the long blue and white banners flapping in the afternoon breeze.
Tossing the finished apple core aside, she approached the gatehouse with a confident air. A guard moved to intercept her, blocking her path with the haft of his spear. “Ma'am, the keep is off limits to common folk. Please, turn around.” Serafina gave a haughty snort and looked the guard up and down. His armor was well kept but his stubble and the lingering scent of alcohol on his breath told her the man was still recovering from the previous night.
“Good sir, I have an invitation from Lord Paxton himself!” Serafina declared loudly, producing the letter she'd received that morning. “I have been invited to instruct the young lord Walter Paxton in the ways of swordsmanship. Esmerelda Devonshire, at your service!” She finished with a low bow before rising to meet the guard’s gaze.
The guard’s face contorted into an unsettling grin which Serafina didn’t quite understand. He fumbled the papers, handing them back to her. “Sorry ma’am, I understand, please go on into the courtyard yonder.” Serafina took back the papers and strode past the guard. Inside, she talked with the Sergeant, an old-hand warrior who seemed to be in charge of the watch. “Yep, you’ll do just fine.” the Sergeant said. “Wait out in the courtyard and I’ll return with the young lord. If you’re able to teach him a thing or two, I’ve got 50 Orens for your trouble.”
Serafina sat in the grass under an old oak tree for nearly an hour. The shade was relaxing and the sun climbed lower in the sky, signaling early afternoon. She watched as a group of riders saddled up in the courtyard, men and women with bows and hounds. With a yell, the group rode forth through the gatehouse to conduct whatever hunt they had planned for the afternoon. Finally, a small group emerged from the keep, led by a well built man wearing padded leathers. He was accompanied by a young squire, two household servants carrying equipment, and the Sergeant she had spoken to earlier.
“Well, guess it’s time to get to work.” Serafina smiled.
4. The Dance
“Now then, how's your footwork?” Serafina called out. The young lord Walter Paxton stood across the small dirt ring, gripping a wooden practice sword. The tiny arena was perhaps 15 feet across and surrounded by a fence of lashed wooden spars. Serafina kept a casual confidence about herself, watching the young man's movements carefully. “I move well enough.” Walter shot back, taking a step towards her. “We'll see, won't we then?” Serafina replied with a smirk. This boy's confidence would be his undoing. “Come on, show me how you fight!” Serafina shouted.
Walter lunged forward, raising his sword before bringing it down in a wide arc. Serafina moved forward under the blow, turning around his right side. “Poor.” She remarked. With a snarl, Walter pivoted and sent a thrust backwards towards her. It was too quick to dodge but she caught it with the hilt of her own practice sword and directed the attack to her side. “Better!” She cried.
This game went on a few minutes, with Walter doing his best to land a proper hit on her. The onlookers watched intently as the two fought, the young lord's squire shouting encouragement before being hushed by the servants. Serafina put her focus into dodging and weaving, avoiding swings and parrying blows. She was too quick for him. Not that he was a bad swordsman – he was well trained – but he was used to fighting armored opponents, using his strength to wear them down.
Finally, Serafina intercepted a blow with her sword and directed it into the dirt, hoping to create a pause. “Good!” she said, “very good, you do know what you're doing. But I'm not like your usual opponents, correct?” Walter smiled, relaxing his grip on the sword. “Quite right.” he replied, “Reputation deserved, Miss Devonshire.”
Serafina spent the next hour explaining how she positioned herself during a fight, how she exploited her opponent’s reach, and her technique of speed over strength. She drilled the young lord in quick motions, feints, and pirouettes. “It really doesn't take much to draw blood from an opponent,” she lectured, “and small cuts add up. Pain and blood loss slow your adversary, giving you more openings to find a decisive blow.” Walter listened intently. She was impressed by how quickly he was internalizing what had taken her years to learn.
Finally, Serafina asked Walter to face off against her again, using what she'd taught him to try beating her. “The rules of the bout are,” she explained, “Use your training sword to land as many blows as you can on your opponent before they are rendered helpless or surrender. If either opponent leaves or is forced out of the ring, they also lose. Understand?” “Absolutely.” replied Walter with a smirk.
They stood on opposite sides of the ring once again, and immediately she noticed a change in Walter's stance. She adjusted hers in kind. “Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to teach this boy how to beat me.” She thought with a pang of hindsight. The sun was hanging lower in the sky as she swallowed hard and said “Begin!”
Walter rushed forward, mimicking the same strike he used the first time they sparred. Instinctually she moved towards the strike, then thought better of it and spun to the opposite side instead. Just in time too, as Walter revealed a feint which would have caught her had she moved like before. She responded with a quick thrust to keep him at bay which he avoided with a half step backwards. The two stood still, sizing each other up, while the Sergeant chuckled and said “Ooh, look out Miss, the young lord is a quick learner.”
The bout resumed and Serafina avoided Walter's thrust with a half turn, sweeping her blade towards his legs and dealing a hearty blow with the wooden sword. Walter yelped and shifted back to regain his stance. Serafina went on the offensive, dealing swift rapid strikes to keep pressure on the man’s now-injured leg. She feinted high and instead raked her blade across her opponent’s hand, eliciting a snarl and another half-turn backwards from the young lord. She pressed forward and attempted to land another strike to slow his movements but he managed to keep up with her impressive speed. What small strikes she could land were lessened by the practice sword. Without a steel edge her style wasn’t dealing any serious damage.
To her surprise, Walter suddenly moved forward and began dealing swift, steady blows. Unlike the first fight, he wasn't overextending himself anymore. Serafina had no armor and was nowhere near as strong as the young man. Her parries became harder to maintain as the impacts rattled her arms, forcing her to resort to dodges and pirouettes instead. But the small arena prevented her from really using her mobility. Serafina narrowly ducked a cruel swing and surged forward, driving her sword into the young lord to knock him off balance.
But Walter didn't move. He shifted his weight into a firm stance and withstood the blow with a strong block. Serafina, trapped, looked up horrified as the young lord grinned, shoving her to the ground beneath him. She rolled and sprang back up away from his powerful downward thrust, breathing heavily and- her sword! It lay in the dirt where she had fallen, trapped under Walter's foot.
The squire cheered as Walter smirked at Serafina. “Nicely done, my lord!” called the Sergeant. “No chance I could get another sword then?” Serafina asked sheepishly. “You asked me to land a blow on you Miss Devonshire, and I haven't done that yet.” Walter replied with a laugh, kicking her blade to the far edge of the arena and advancing on her slowly. Serafina quickly weighed her options. A fair fight wasn't her usual style, and it wasn't like she could pull her boot knife or a throwing dagger during the bout. But that didn't mean she couldn't fight dirty in other ways. She raised her hands in a non-threatening gesture and took a step backward.
“My Lord Paxton,” Serafina said, feigning worry, “do come to your senses and see that I am without arms, unable to defend myself.” Her opponent continued to close the distance. “Those aren't the rules we agreed upon, ma'am.” he replied. “Offer me your surrender and I’ll consider only taking a few swings at you.” Serafina turned as if to run, but instead spun low and kicked her boot into the ground. The resulting shower of dirt and pebbles created a small smokescreen as she swung a fist towards Walter's head. But the young lord was already reacting, shielding his eyes and stepping back. The punch glanced off his head, doing little more than telling him where she was.
Serafina dove and tumbled behind the young lord, driving her heel into the leg she'd bruised earlier. She was sure that it hurt, but the boy's stance remained solid. In exchange, his sword caught her with a heavy backswing and a throbbing pain began to spread through her ribcage. Continuing her roll, she crawled the last few paces to her sword and raised it just in time to stop Walter's downward blow. She rolled again and sprang up in a backwards somersault like she'd practiced. But as she came up she felt her balance falter and grabbed one of the posts surrounding the fighting ring to steady herself.
The two of them stood still for a moment, panting heavily and eyeing each other. A slow clapping began behind Serafina, but she was hesitant to take her eyes off her opponent lest he charge her again. Walter's eyes were drawn to whatever was behind her and an all too familiar voice made her blood run cold. “An excellent display indeed, two well matched combatants.”
Serafina slowly turned and locked eyes with the steely blue gaze of Mirabelle Embermane, recently returned from the hunt. She stood just outside the ring wearing riding leathers, while a stable hand held the reigns of her horse a little ways off. “Esmerelda Devonshire, was it?” Mirabelle asked, bemused. “We simply must sit and have a talk.”
5. Hard Truths
Serafina sat on a couch inside the small parlor, the stone walls lit by a crackling fireplace. Several cabinets and tapestries lined the room, making the space feel elegant and welcoming. But Serafina felt anything but welcome here. Her coat and shirt sat folded on a table across the room, along with her sword belt and personal effects. A middle-aged doctor washed and inspected her injured rib cage while she waited anxiously for Mirabelle's inevitable entrance.
“Hmm, it doesn't feel like anything is broken, but it will take a few weeks to recover.” The doctor said to Serafina. “Don't do anything too strenuous in the meantime, like sword fighting for instance?” Serafina groaned and looked down at the woman bandaging her. “I shan't be doing anything of the sort for a while, believe me.” She replied. “Well, you’re either very talented or very lucky.” The doctor continued, “The young lord enjoys challenging whoever is foolish enough to answer his fliers. Lord Walter is a frightening opponent! He takes pleasure in showing off to any so-called experts who pass through.” Serafina groaned, “Well, that figures. The boy hits like a mule!”
Of course the offer was a trick! In hindsight, it did seem a little too good to be true. Maybe the Sergeant would take pity on her and give her a few coins anyways? If she ever got out of this place, that is. She turned her attention back to the doctor. “Thank you again for bandaging me.” Serafina said coyly. “Do let me know if you need to give me a bit more, ah, attention, medically speaking of course, I-” “Could you please try not to bed my servants while they're patching up your wounds?” Mirabelle's sharp voice pierced the room. Serafina jumped and immediately gave a cry of pain and regret as her ribcage screamed at her. She hadn’t even heard Mirabelle enter the parlor.
Mirabelle sighed and moved to sit in an armchair opposite Serafina's couch. “Is she alright?” Mirabelle asked the doctor. “Yes my lady, she just needs rest now.” The woman replied, tightening the bandages with a firm knot. “Good,” Mirabelle said, “then leave us please.” The doctor gave a quick bow and left the chamber, closing the wooden door behind her. A long silence hung over the room. Mirabelle stared intensely at Serafina, while Serafina found it difficult to meet her gaze.
Finally, Mirabelle spoke. “It's been a long time, Portia. Or Esmerelda. Or whatever it is you're calling yourself these days.” “Two years...” Serafina replied quietly. “Just about.” Mirabelle continued. “So, imagine my surprise when, while visiting my cousin Renholm here in Feldip, I happened upon the most curious woman. Do you remember what I said I'd do to you if we crossed paths again?” “Hold me at the point of a blade and lock me in a cell. I remember quite well.” Serafina said glumly.
Mirabelle rose and walked over to Serafina's belongings, lifting up her sword belt. She paused as she recognized the familiar ornate dagger prominently displayed on the belt. A little memory of an interesting time. Slowly she withdrew Serafina’s rapier from its sheath, admiring the way it shone and reflected the firelight. Serafina watched, frightened but resigned, waiting for what would come next. Mirabelle held the sword pointed down towards the floor, walking slowly over to where Serafina sat on the couch. “And here I have you, just like I said.” She said with a smile.
“But time does change things,” Mirabelle mused. “It does.” Serafina responded. “For instance, I wish to correct a statement I said to you two years ago.” “Oh really?” Mirabelle asked. “I'm intrigued, do tell.” Serafina took a deep breath and steadied herself. “I am a thief and a charlatan.” She said firmly. “I am who I am, and I am not ashamed of that.” Mirabelle raised an eyebrow in annoyance as Serafina continued, “But I am ashamed of how I treated you. I don't truly care for the baubles and trinkets I swipe. But I did care for you, deeply, and I betrayed what trust you offered in return. I can't undo that hurt. But if you ask me now, with the wisdom that time brings, I would do what I can to regain some of the trust and care you once showed me.” Serafina raised her eyes to meet Mirabelle’s for the first time as she finished speaking.
A long pause stilled the air as Mirabelle looked into her eyes. This time Serafina didn't look away. “To earn my trust once more, you'd have to give me something truly precious.” Mirabelle began softly, raising the rapier to Serafina's chest. Serafina winced as the point pressed into her skin, threatening to pierce the surface. Mirabelle stood tall and looked down upon her. “Very well then!” She said, commandingly. “Give me that which is so precious you’d entrust it to no one but yourself. Tell me your rightful name!”
Serafina's eyes widened in shock. She hadn't used her birth name in – oh, many years! She abandoned it as she herself was abandoned, moving from name to name as she moved from town to town. But now? Mirabelle stood before her, Serafina's life in her hands, demanding an account. And worst of all, Serafina wanted to give it to her! Had she become so piqued and fascinated that she'd give everything away for this woman?
Serafina made several attempts, her breath catching in her throat, before she finally managed to squeak out “My name is Serafina D'amalia.” With a startled gasp, Mirabelle dropped the sword. It clattered to the floor as she took a step back and stammered “I- I can’t begin to- but how were you- What??” Serafina laughed at her reaction and immediately regretted it as the pain in her ribs flared once more.
“Yes. Daughter of Andrias D'amalia, Lord of Windmere.” She continued, “Not to worry though, I've been thoroughly excommunicated. Bastard heiresses aren't looked upon too kindly, you know. But I don't mind, I want nothing to do with that family again.” Mirabelle stood frozen, staring at her, a stunned expression on her face. After a few moments she regained her composure and said “I had no idea. I guess that answers some of the questions I had. Including why you’d never tell a soul, that information itself is dangerous!” “If you don't mind sitting with me again, I'll happily answer more questions.” Serafina said softly. “Whatever you’d like to know, I’ll tell you. Truthfully.”
The sun had long since set as Serafina vainly tried pouring more liquid from the empty wine bottle into her glass. Mirabelle sat beside her on the couch, resting her head on Serafina’s shoulder. With a sigh, Serafina leaned back and grasped Mirabelle's hand in her own. “Thank you, Mira.” Serafina said quietly. Mirabelle responded by playfully nudging Serafina's bruised ribs, eliciting a pained whine from her current pillow.
6. Until Our Next Meeting
The next morning, Serafina spoke with the Sergeant. “Thank you again for coming by, Miss Devonshire.” he said. “You taught the young lord a thing or two I could not.” “Yes, and paid dearly for it.” Serafina replied, indicating her bandaged ribcage. The Sergeant chuckled and replied “Yep, that was fun to watch. Though speaking of payment, this is yours. For your time and your expertise.”
He handed her a heavy sack from which rang the clinking of coins. Smiling, she took the purse and nodded to the Sergeant before making her way out of the keep. As she neared the gatehouse, the clopping of hooves behind her caused her to turn. Mirabelle, once again in her riding attire, was fast approaching her. “You wouldn't be sneaking out in the early hours of the morning, would you?” Mirabelle asked. “You ought to remember I'm an early riser.” Serafina grimaced and replied “Of course not! Just going out for a stroll.” Mirabelle responded with a sigh and a wry smile, “You are an infuriating woman, did you know that?”
Serafina turned as Mirabelle dismounted and began walking towards her. “I- uh, thank you again, Mirabelle.” Serafina said, averting her gaze. “I know I'm a nuisance and a fool, but I appreciate you giving me a second chance. I was-” “Serafina,” Mirabelle cut her off, “You are indeed a nuisance and a fool, and a host of other problems besides. And I am somehow still very glad that I met you.”
Serafina found herself shocked as Mirabelle twirled her around, cupping her chin and drawing her into a long, soft kiss. The moment was tender, an eon which ended all too quickly. Serafina found herself blushing deeply, looking into Mirabelle's blue eyes. They were no longer icy and cold, but lively and resonant with a renewed compassion.
Mirabelle turned away from Serafina and began walking back towards her horse. Serafina suddenly called after her, “Shall I call upon you again soon, my lady?” Mirabelle gave a laugh as she mounted her steed, reigning herself over toward Serafina. In the early morning sunlight, Mirabelle looked down upon Serafina and replied, “Should you ever find yourself near my estate in Windmere, do call upon me again.”
With a sharp cry, Mirabelle spurred her horse forward, leaving Serafina wistful and happy in a cloud of dust at the gatehouse.
Thank you for reading! Back to Index
I have plans to write 2 more stories with Serafina and Mirabelle, still in development. They will be listed as their own stories on my write.as page when published.