A woman’s life is marked in blood. Birth and moon and death.
In the summer of her ninth year Maria buries her name at her mother’s grave. With her father’s knife cuts the braids from her head, dons breeches and tunic, and finds a place among Sir Nicholas’ squires.
She does not fool the other squires, Stephen and James. Fists and honey cakes are enough to silence their tongues. Stephen writes Sir Nicholas’ letters, who uses ink and words as weapons a much as sword and lance. And James with his crooked smile, roving eye and sharp bladed knives.
Her heart does not flutter at Stephen’s soft smiles.
Maria lifts her chin and rushes to move faster than them.
Practice with a blunted blade in the moon’s pale light, until dawn is breaking.
There are scars on her hands and callouses on her heart.