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Bucking Tradition

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The interesting thing about it all, Kel thinks, is that it was never actually illegal for a girl to be a knight. "I've looked in all the books, Mama," Kel says. "There was never a law passed. People just stopped."

Her parents exchange a long, long look. "Kel, are you sure about this? Even if it's not illegal, custom is against it," her father says.

"I'm sure," Kel replies firmly. "I want to try for my shield."

"You don't want to join the Riders? Or the Ladies?" her mother asks.

Kel shakes her head. "They're not the same."

"No, they're not," Ilane agrees. "Kel." The solemn note in her mother's voice draws Kel's attention. Ilane's eyes are steady, grave. "You realize they may not let you in."

Kel's mouth firms. "I won't know unless I try," Kel insists. "The worst they can do is say no. If that happens, I can still try for the Ladies."

Her parents exchange another glance. "If you're sure," Piers says at last, after a nod from his wife.

"I'm sure," Kel says again.

***

The training master drums his fingers on his desk as he looks Kel over from head to toe. Finally he sighs, flexes his hand absently, and looks directly at her.

"You are correct, Keladry," he says. "There isn't a law against girls training to be knights."

Only long practice keeps Kel from breathing a sigh of relief. She had been wondering if she had missed something, the whole ride down.

"Will you let her try for her shield, then?" Kel's father asks.

The training master doesn't look away from Kel. "Why should I let you, Keladry of Mindelan?"

Kel's own eyes don't waver, and her voice is firm, certain. "Because I can do it, sir," she replies. "And because I love this realm and want to serve it."

The training master stares at her for another moment, then sighs again. "I do not doubt you have the ability," Lord Alexander of Tirragen says calmly. "Nor do I doubt your passion." Unexpectedly, a rogueish grin splits his thin, solemn face. "Let's go shake things up."

Keladry, her Yamani mask knocked aside by her surprise, gives him an answering grin, and bows.