“Do you know how to wield a sword?” A stupid question, really, coming from such an otherwise intelligent young woman.
No, of course I don’t, Jenny thought to herself. I’m only a match girl. “No, Miss.”
The veiled figure pulled a long blade from a scabbard that was mostly concealed by her skirt. “Well, try anyway,” she said, handing it to her. “And please, watch where you swing. I don’t particularly feel like being decapitated today. Him, on the other hand – well, feel free.”
Jen nodded quickly and turned to see the man that had grabbed her on her walk home from the match factory. She raised the weapon and was about to swing before a voice stopped her.
“Wait,” the veiled woman said, drawing another sword and sauntering towards the older man. “Identify yourself.”
“I will disclose neither my name nor business in such delicate company,” the man stated, his hand moving to rest on the hilt of his own weapon as a precautionary measure.
“Sorry, delicate company? As a woman? I must say, your implications of my fragility offend me, Ho Ming.”
“I see that your request for identification was unnecessary.”
“Indeed. Now, I fully intend upon freeing this young girl, so you have a choice. You can take that scorpion venom pill that I know you keep inside the lining of your clothing, or I can kill you with my own swordsmanship and bloodlust. Which would you prefer?”
Ho’s eyes shifted from the veiled woman to Jenny and, as quickly as the scabbard would allow, drew his own sword and swung it at the woman, who blocked the attack without a second thought.
“Now, my darling, surely you didn’t think you could rid yourself of me so easily.” She swung at his head and Ho only barely managed to shield the side of his face with his blade.
Jenny moved backwards to watch the ensuing scene, which proceeded far too quickly for her to keep track of what was going on at each moment. At one point, she was behind the man, and there was a lull in the action of the duel as each party blocked the other, and the woman yelled, “Now!” before ducking out of the way as quickly as she could. The one-word command was a sort of trigger for Jen, and in a rush of adrenaline she swung her sword at the attacker’s neck, successfully removing his head from the rest of his body with only minimal blood splatter.
The corpse fell to the floor and the head rolled to the feet of the mysterious woman. “Why, you’re a natural. What is your name?”
Jen let her sword clatter to the floor, shock from what she had just done beginning to sink in. “J-Jennifer,” she stuttered. “Jennifer Flint.”
The woman let out a tsk at the dropped weapon and moved to retrieve it. “I’ll call you Jenny, if that’s quite alright.” She picked up the sword and inspected it. “You’ve dented the cross-guard. Nothing integrity-compromising, but still; in the future, do try to care for the thing which just saved your life, yes?”
“Are you referring to the sword or the one who gave it to me?”
“It depends.” The woman removed her veil and Jenny had to suppress a gasp because of what she saw. “Which would you prefer?”
“I – er, either one.”
“I know that you work in the match factory not too far from here. Don’t you think you’d make better money as a housemaid?”
Jenny found herself caught between not wanting to stare and trying to maintain eye contact. “I’ve neither the experience nor a Mistress.”
“Everyone has to start somewhere.” She extended a green, scaled hand, and Jenny shook it. “You may call me Madame Vastra.”