Golden girls of the realm. What a joke. A troupe with slim odds of winning - a woman-child, two bear women, a hawk-shifter, and Aurie. There was me, of course. Would I be able to fight? Certainly I could defend myself, or so I thought. Maybe I need to take a few lessons in using a weapon before we headed to confront the Malefici and Maddalena. My feelings for Aurie would distract me from learning from her, so that was out as an option. Bhasi had her own way of fighting, hawk-style. Toci was as clueless as I was, so maybe the two of us could learn from Ursel and Artio.
Ursel and Artio were unsure about showing Toci and I how to fight, until I bribed them with the honey Nana had given me for the trip. Their instincts to protect cubs came from their mamma-bear ancestors though neither Guardian had birthed children or cubs. The daughters of the Daughters were little ones in need of protection and so they focused nearly the entirety of their lives on being Guardians of the village and now their drive to protect extended to us. Reluctant to allow us to be in harm’s way, they didn’t want us to do anything except stay close to them if fighting broke out. While I appreciated the sentiment - I wasn’t one for pain - I knew that all of us needed to be as prepared as possible for our journey and eventual confrontation. Though not quite convinced of my logic, the two Guardians had us out practicing every day until I lay exhausted on the ground, Toci flopping down beside after she went several more rounds with one or the other of them.
Luckily, she was a quick study when it came to the choreography of fighting. Unluckily, she had a hard time believing that anyone would want to harm her. Many times she landed on her butt when she tried to dissuade Ursel from using her weapon - whether from a sweep of Ursel’s staff to knock her feet out from under her, or a direct blow to her midsection that sent her off balance - she was caught off guard not believing that differences could not always be settled by talking it out.
Those days gave me a distraction from worrying about Isobeau and Arion, though the nights with Aurie were often on my mind. Toci had figured out on her own that Aurie and I wanted the room for ourselves and since Isobeau was away, she could have the other room all to herself. I thanked her and she told Aurie that if I were to cry out from my dreams to not wake me but hold me instead. Aurie promised her she would do all the holding she could, giving me a wink.
“So I suppose this means you are no longer a Brother?” I asked Aurie one night after making the most delicious love. She was gently kissing a bruise I’d gotten from Artio’s wooden broadsword.
“Hmm?” Aurie responded, “Sorry, I was thinking about all those cute little bruises you have. Here,” she said as she kissed another, “and here. Kiss. And here.”
“What I asked you was if you being with me means you are no longer in the Order of Joseph,” I paraphrased, “you sleeping with me and all.”
“Well…” she hesitated, apparently thinking this idea over for the first time.