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Three Times is a Trend

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When Keladry heard that Fianola had petitioned to be allowed to become a Page, she was grateful for all of the Yamani training that allowed her to keep her mask up and the joy off her face until she was alone. She had suspected that the girl would eventually try for Knighthood after she had met her during the Royal Progress. She knew that others would eventually try to earn their Shield - Irnai had told her that Neal’s daughter would eventually try, and so far Irnai had never been wrong.

Still, it would be some time before that happened, and more than anything, Keladry wanted more Lady Knights in the realm. The realm needed them. The Queen’s Riders were wonderful, and a start, and Keladry had worked alongside them many times in her role as a Lady Knight, but being a Rider was not the same as being a Knight.

Many of the conservatives who had challenged her while she was a Page, or a Squire, or even during her early days of Knighthood had quieted - the new generation was coming. Kel earning her Shield without any magic to aid her, and her actions in the war against Scanra had convinced some that perhaps women did have the ability to become Knights.

The more of them there were, the easier things would be. The letter from Raoul had told her that Fianola would not be required to be on probation as Kel herself had been. Perhaps she also wouldn’t need magical locks on her door. Maybe she wouldn’t be as openly sabotaged as Kel had been. It wouldn’t be necessary for the Lord Magistrate to sit Vigil for the next female Squire to try for the Ordeal to ensure nobody interfered. She doubted there would be another Joren, although she was sure that there would be others who were less obvious about it.

The hazing system had never returned to its previous strength since Kel had finished her years as a Page, but she was sure that there would be some from conservative families who would try and challenge Fianola. Kel would be no more able to interfere than Alanna had been able to with her, although she could manage at least as well as Alanna had.

True, the size of Kel’s purse was much smaller than Alanna’s had been, so there would be no gifts from Raven Armory, but Kel could at least pass on advice and little gifts. Since Kel didn’t have the Gift, she hoped that there would be no outcry if she contacted Fianola, because there would be no way to accuse Kel of bewitching her.

*

Kel didn’t always make it to Corus for Midwinter, but she made it a point to attend for the first Midwinter that Fianola was a Page. She still had enough friends at the palace that she was not at all surprised to see that Fianola was the one who had been assigned to serve her. The girl wasn’t nearly as nervous upon seeing Keladry as Kel had been the first time she’d had to wait upon Alanna, but to be fair, Kel wasn’t nearly as known for having a sharp tongue, nor did she have as imposing a reputation as the Lioness did.

“How is your First Year going?” Kel asked Fianola, and allowed herself to revel in the fact that she wasn’t saying Probationary Year.

“It’s been wonderful,” Fianola told her. “I’ve been learning a lot. Some of it is really difficult, but I’m managing. I still get up early to run, like you told me to all those years ago.”

Kel nodded approvingly. “That’s a good plan,” she said. “And if you come find me later, I’ll show you some exercises to strengthen your arms.”

“Thank you, Lady Knight,” Fianola said. She smiled. “Any advice you could give me would be appreciated.”

Later that evening, Keladry sat with Fianola and they went over the start of her First Year together. She wasn’t surprised to hear that Fianola fell down a lot. That was to be expected; the hazing system hadn’t been completely destroyed, although it was nowhere as bad as it had once been, and there was no outright bullying. She was glad to hear that Fianola had gathered a group of friends who had accepted her.

Some of Kel’s suggestions had been eagerly accepted - using a weighted lance for tilting practice, and all sorts of other strengthening exercises, but Fianola had been surprised when Kel had suggested that she occasionally wear dresses to dinner.

“You are still a girl,” Kel told her. “And you will be a Lady Knight one day. You can’t deny a part of yourself. It is a strength, not a weakness.” She handed Fianola a box that contained the same sort of oval leather balls that Alanna had once given her. “Happy Midwinter,” she said. “I’ll see you next year.”

“Thank you, Lady Knight,” Fianola called after her.

*

Fianola passed her First Year without any problems, and the next year Kel heard that Fianola’s younger sister was also joining as a Page. For the first time, there would be two girls trying to earn their Knighthood at the same time. Another first, and Kel could only hope that it would be one of many. But at the same time, she couldn’t help but hope that soon a time would be coming when having a girl as a Page wouldn’t be remarkable, that it would become standard practice and would no longer be worth commenting on. The two girls would have each other, a support system that she would have loved during her time as a Page. She began speaking to friends, to see who in a few years would be willing to take on one of the girls as a Squire, since she wouldn’t be able to take both. All of her friends were willing.

Eventually, there would be more Lady Knights. And there would be enough of them that when one girl failed the Ordeal (and eventually one would) nobody would be able to say that it was because women were unfit to be Knights.