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Dejah Thoris, Princess of House Mormont

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Chapter Eighty (Dejah Thoris)

“Dejah!” Tansy screamed. Suddenly I was propped in my sister’s arms as she wept uncontrollably. Jory slid to her knees on the opposite side of me while Lyra stood over us, her feet straddling my legs and her sword drawn. I felt Dacey kneel behind my head, her hand on Tansy’s shoulder.

Lyra rocked gently back and forth, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She had felt the sword enter my chest through our telepathic link, and her breath came very hard as the pain surged through her own body. Beth stood by her shoulder, her own sword drawn and ready. For some reason, the thought struck me that she had very muscular thighs for an otherwise slender woman.

“Stay away from my sisters,” Lyra growled at John Carter. “Step one foot closer and I’ll kill you where you stand.”

“Don’t throw your life away for a murderer,” he told her, even as he backed up several steps. “She killed my wife.”

“No. She is your wife. She loved you so much that she came to another world to find you. And you killed her.”

“That is not my wife.”

I did not want my adoptive sisters to die for me. I tried to speak, to tell them to move away and let me die, but could make no sound nor could I contact them with telepathy. John Carter would probably kill me but I did not think he would hurt my sisters unless they fought him. At least I hoped that he would not.

Beth stepped away from Lyra, silently taking up the right flank position in the paired style I had taught them. She twirled her sword slowly, and like a fighting woman of Helium trailed her off-hand across the ground and snarled. Lyra moved to the left and did the same. Lyra knew she could not match John Carter’s strength, speed and skill, but she would give her life for a small chance of defending her sisters.

“You can read minds just like she can,” Lyra said. “You know I’m telling you the truth.”

“She killed my wife. She deserved to die.”

“Is that what gentlemen of Virginia call honor, oathbreaker?”

“How do you know about Virginia? How do you know that I can read minds?”

“From your wife,” Lyra said. “Your real wife. Dejah Thoris.”

“Not that insane slut Daenerys,” Beth added.

I could only receive scattered thoughts through my pain. Lyra had felt my injury as though it were her own, and moved slowly as if she had actually been hurt. I understood that while Lyra hoped to protect Dacey, Tansy and Jory, considering me already dead, Beth Cassel seethed with rage and meant to kill John Carter even if it cost her own life.

Lyra’s words had seemed to break through to my husband, but he became filled with rage of his own when Beth insulted Daenerys. He immediately attacked. John Carter remained lightning-fast; he apparently identified Lyra’s weakness and moved against her first. She blocked his first strike and he stepped back; he then attacked again from a seemingly-impossible angle. His sword screeched against hers as it came inside her guard and entered her chest above her left breast. She fell backward even as Beth spun forward and slashed at his throat and face. He dodged almost as swiftly as he had attacked, but the point of her sword opened his left forearm from elbow to wrist. He somehow parried the back-swing she aimed again at his throat, but she skipped her blade over his sword’s crossguard to dig the point into his right wrist.

John Carter grunted in pain and dropped his sword. He hunched forward to instinctively hold the gaping wound along the outside of his left arm closed with his right hand, then tried to draw his other sword.

While my mistress fought my husband, Melly gently pushed Jory to the side to examine my injury. Her face remained expressionless as she concentrated on her task.

“You should be dead,” she muttered. “Deep enough to strike the heart.”

I struggled to slowly move my right hand to the top of my left breast. I saw that my fingers were covered in blue blood. My blood. It took a great effort to rasp out a few words.

“Heart. Here. Not. Center.”

“Figures,” she said.

Beth moved to finish John Carter with a thrust under his left armpit, but again he dodged her and she merely left him with a shallow cut to his upper arm. When he reached back again to draw the sword slung over his back, he had to grab the lower end of its scabbard to hold it in place while he pulled the blade free. Beth struck as he did so, snarling as her sword sank deeply into the center of his chest, almost exactly where he had stabbed me.

She pushed it forward until the hilt pressed against his chest. He punched her in the side of the head, but in his rapidly-weakening state it failed to stun her. She braced her foot on his lower abdomen and pulled her sword free, meaning to assure his death by taking his head, but his companions had ridden forward and dismounted. Three men spread out to face Beth, while a woman dismounted and helped John Carter onto her horse. She was older and dusky skinned, dressed like a Dothraki but with her left breast bared. A second, younger woman dressed similarly remained on her own horse and led John Carter away.

The older woman drew a knife and rushed toward where Lyra and I lay on the ground, seeking to divert Beth from her companions. Jory picked up Lyra’s sword Longclaw and met the woman, blocking her wild slash with the knife and slicing her throat on the back-swing. The woman sank to her knees and dropped her knife. Jory paused to run her through the heart to make sure that she died, then raced to help her sister Beth.

Beth snarled again and traced her fingertips across the ground in the ritual challenge of Barsoom. The man in the center, clad only in trousers with a hairless and very round body, recognized the gesture for what it was and bowed briefly. As he did so, the man on his right, a Dothraki with tattoos covering both arms, rushed forward to attack but Jory came at him from the flank. He made a wild, high swing with his curved blade; she ducked under it and her sword sank deeply into his side. The dying man’s scream distracted his two friends, and Beth took advantage to knock away the spear carried by the man on her right and plunge her own sword into his heart.

The fat man attacked even as his friend died, his speed belying his shape, and Beth parried his first blows. He countered with a powerful two-handed swing that he believed she could not block, but she threw herself to the ground beneath it and rose with a two-handed upward swing of her own that took him in the groin and opened his body to his ribcage. His internal organs began to spill out of his body as he gave a sharp keening sound, fell forward and died.

“Coward!” Beth screamed at John Carter’s retreating form. “Stand and fight me, you fucking coward! At least die like a man, motherfucker!”

For the first time, I felt a spike of fear in her thoughts and a brief scream. A large, orange-and-brown dog had raced from somewhere to attack her. Beth had been tortured with dogs and they terrified her in a way that men with swords did not. She backed up slowly, fending off the snarling dog with the point of her sword. Jory raced over to her and struck downward on the dog’s neck with the sword Longclaw, severing its head.

Beth dropped her sword and knelt next to Lyra.

“Tansy!” she screamed again. “I need you!”

My adoptive sister Lyra arched her back and screamed, a horrific primal sound torn from the depths of her body. With her thoughts connected to mine, I felt her pain and I screamed in unison with her. I saw her hand claw at the dirt and felt mine do the same. She still lived, but I could not tell if she had suffered a fatal wound.

“Go,” Melly told Tansy. “I’ll fix this one.”

“Don’t,” Dacey hissed. “You go. Let this bitch die.”

“Shut your gods-damned mouth and do as I say,” Melly told her. “Hold her still as you can.”

Dacey shifted to hold my shoulders on her knees as she knelt behind me. Our healer poured raw alcohol over the wound. I screamed again as it burned and I writhed in renewed agony.

“Hold the edges closed,” Melly told Dacey, “like this.”

“Why bother?” Dacey asked, but she did as Melly directed. “She got my sister killed, and got what she deserved.”

Melly threaded a needle through my flesh as she cursed Dacey.

“I can’t fix what’s wrong in your twisted head,” she said. “She just tried to die for you, you silly bitch. For all of us. But she’s not dying on my watch.”

At some point Jory had joined us and knelt across from Melly.

“Stay here,” Melly told Jory, as she tied off the stitches. “Don’t leave her alone with this fucking idiot.”

Melly applied some foul-smelling salve to the wound, then scooped up her instruments and dashed over to where Lyra still screamed in pain.

“Lyra,” I rasped out to Jory, who held my hand and stroked my face gently.

“I don’t know,” she said, her voice breaking. “It’s bad. It’s really, really bad.” Tears fell down Jory’s face.

“Dejah, I’m so sorry. I would die in your place. Or hers.”

“Not. Going. Die.” I rasped out.

Jory kissed my forehead.

“I love you, sister,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry, Dejah,” Dacey said, now crying as well. “I don’t know what I was thinking. You’re my sister and I love you, too. I should have said so before.”

“Not. Going. Die.” I repeated. Every breath felt like I pulled clouds of tiny shards of broken glass into my lungs.

“Dejah,” Jory said. “He stabbed you in the heart. You’re bleeding out.”

“Not. Heart.”

“She told Melly her heart was over to the side,” Dacey explained. “Under her left tit.”

Tansy returned from helping Melly treat Lyra’s wound.

“The cut went deep,” she said. “But Melly cleaned and closed it. She’s lost a lot of blood. How’s Dejah?”

“About the same,” Jory said. “She seems to know we’re here and tries to speak.”

“Lyra doesn’t,” Tansy said. “She screams but without words.”

“What do we do now?” Dacey asked.

“Beth’s going back to the camp to see if there’s a way to move one of the wagons left there over to this side of the river. If not, we’re going to have to carry them back and across the wall.”

“We’re not staying in the camp?”

“Oh hells no. We’ve no way of knowing when the Dothraki might return, but you know what they’ll do when they learn that Beth killed John Carter. We have to move.”

Beth had killed John Carter? I hoped that was true, yet also feared that it was so.

“We can make a litter,” Jory said, “and drag Dejah on it, at least to the wall. I think we can carry Lyra.

“Dacey,” she said to her sister, “you need to be with us. Completely with us. Can you do that?”

“I’m over it,” the eldest Mormont said. “I’ll pull my weight now.”

I believe that I slipped out of consciousness for a time; a farm cart appeared from somewhere and my sisters lifted me onto the straw inside amid a great deal of cursing. I felt them deposit Lyra next to me; she seemed warm and I could feel the overwhelming pain in her mind. I hoped she would live. I desperately hoped that she would live.


I had no idea where they planned to take us. I cannot say that I cared particularly; at that moment I tried to tamp down the terrifying thought that Lyra had given her life in my defense. I wished that John Carter had remembered where a Barsoomian woman’s heart lay and run his sword through mine. Tansy, Beth and Jory took turns walking or riding beside the draft horses and riding with me in the cart, while Dacey and Melly rode alongside us, keeping close watch on our wounds for infection and fever.

Our little caravan slowly moved along narrow back roads, barely more than trails. The cart rode poorly enough on a smooth road; each of the many rocks or roots the wheels struck on these trails shook me and sent pangs of agony outward from my chest.

My sisters had placed Lyra directly alongside me, and I held her left hand in both of mine even when I slipped into an unconscious state. I had little idea of our direction or purpose; at times I received flashes of thought from my sisters, always indicating concern for us all, and for Lyra and I in particular.

I think we travelled for days but I am not sure. At least three times armed men attempted to stop our procession. Each time, Beth Cassel killed them all.


The world around me had stopped moving and I lay on a bed of hay with Beth curled up sleeping next to me on one side and Lyra on the other. I could see Tansy’s back as she tended a fire inside a rock fireplace; we were in a cave or stone-walled room with a great deal of smoke in the air.

“Sister,” I croaked.

Beth stirred and opened her eyes. She had a very large and ugly bruise on the left side of her face; I remembered that John Carter had punched her there.

“Lyra,” I croaked again.

“She’s hurt badly,” Beth said softly. “But she lives. Melly thinks she’ll recover.”

“Dacey,” I rasped.

“Outside,” she whispered. “Keeping watch.”

“Jory.”

“Outside, keeping watch on Dacey.”

“Melly.”

“Sleeping on the other side of the chamber. She’s been watching over you night and day until she collapsed.”

I turned to look at Lyra, and carefully stroked the side of her face. She did not stir, and her skin seemed overly warm.

“Here.”

“It’s an abandoned holdfast,” Beth said. “A storage place for winter supplies, where people ride out the worst of the season, sometimes for years. It’s been thoroughly looted but we still have food we took from the Faith Militant camp.”

“Safe with you,” I croaked again.

She smiled and kissed me on the cheek. “Safe with you, too.”

Tansy brought me a cup of water and told me to drink it slowly. It hurt to drink. It hurt to lie still, and it hurt even more to move.

“Boiled?”

It also hurt to speak.

“Of course we boiled the water.” Tansy smiled. “Just like you taught us.”

“Where?”

“The wooded hills behind the Ruby Ford,” Tansy said. “Probably not far from the Brotherhood’s old encampment. We’ve seen no one, but we can’t stay here much longer.”

“Long?”

“How long? Six days since your . . . injury. Jory speared a few fish in the stream outside, and we loaded the wagon with as much food from the camp as we could. You’ve come around a few times, enough for us to shove some water and mashed potatoes or boiled oats into you, but this is the first time you’ve spoken. No one seems to be looking for us, but we stayed hidden just to be sure.”

“Good.”

“Rest now. Your wound seems to be healing cleanly.”

“Love.”

“We love you too, Dejah. Sleep.”

I slept, and awoke sometime later to a ravenous hunger. Dacey and Tansy were ready, with potatoes roasted in the fire and strips of fried bacon. I love bacon, but at that moment I did not care.

“Lyra?” I asked, filled with fear. I turned to my adoptive sister, who still lay alongside me. She slept but did not stir.

“She still hasn’t come around,” Dacey said. “I didn’t think she’d live, but she has.”

My own mind was too unfocused read her thoughts, but I knew that she blamed me.

“I did not wish for her to fight him.”

I spoke in a loud, raspy whisper. It still hurt, but I could form full sentences now.

“She made that choice,” Dacey said, “because she loves you.”

“You hate me now.”

“No,” she said, smiling and shaking her head. “Oh, I did, for a little while. I put my life on the line for Robb Stark with far less reason. I can’t very well blame Lyra. She loves you.”

“Another night’s rest,” Melly said, coming over to check the dressing on my wound, “and you can probably stand. You’ve healed faster than any woman has a right to.”

“I believe that my people recover faster than yours.”

“Must be that blue blood,” she said. “But your body seems to think you’re hurt even worse. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you took two sword-thrusts. And the other was right here.” She rubbed two fingers across the top of my left breast, directly over my heart. “Anything more I need to know, past the blue blood?”

“Tell her,” Dacey said, taking my hand in hers. “She’s seen your blood and seen you naked.”

“My thoughts and Lyra’s are linked together,” I said. “What she feels, I feel. What I feel, she feels.”

“I thought those other two were your lovers.”

I said nothing, wondering how to answer. I looked away from Melly to softly touch Lyra’s face.

“Go ahead,” Melly said. “You knew about Meg and me.”

“You were right,” I said. “I share sex with both Tansy and Beth, but not Lyra. Lyra is my sister, not my lover. But my thoughts are intertwined with hers, as they are with no other in this world. It is an ability of my people.”

“Who are not people like us.”

“No, we are not.” She nodded.

“Explains a lot,” she said. “About you, about your wound, about hers.”

“Hers?”

“It’s a bad wound, no doubt,” she said, lifting the bandage over Lyra’s breast so I could see. “But it didn’t touch her heart nor lungs, not so far as I can reckon. We got right on it and kept it clean, no festering at all. She should have been up before you. Instead she’s down like she’s the one took the sword twixt her tits, not you.”

“She thinks John Carter stabbed her in the heart?”

“Hells if I know,” Melly said. “But maybe her body thinks so. You’re the genius from . . . wherever. You tell me.”

“She has had fever?”

“Yes she did,” Melly nodded. “It broke last night. She should be speaking by now. We can give her wine, and water with honey in it, but she needs to come fully awake and eat.”

“I cannot yet connect to others’ thoughts,” I said. “As soon as I can, I will enter Lyra’s mind and convince her that she is well, or will be well.”

“You’ve done this before?” Dacey asked.

“No,” I said. “I do not know that it is possible for one without special training, like me. But I would rather die than live without her, and I do not intend to die for a very long time.”

I slept for a short while, until Tansy and Beth brought me food. I still felt very sore, but could now sit up and talk with my sisters. I leaned on the stone wall of the chamber while Tansy and Beth sat at the edge of the straw pallet. Each reached out every few moments to caress my face, shoulders or hair.

“You’ve decided to live?” Tansy asked.

“I suppose that I have. Why do you ask that?”

“You talk in your sleep,” she said. “You always have.”

“How could he have forgotten me?”

“You explained it a long time ago. He forgets his past. He must have forgotten his stay on your world, and thinks Daenerys really was his wife.”

“So I did kill John Carter’s wife.”

“Well, yes.”

“He is not the John Carter I once loved.”

Though he had looked exactly the same as the man I had married and loved, he seemed far angrier and violent. Or perhaps I had never wished to see the truth behind his claims of honor, had overlooked the frenzied slaughter of enemies he had undertaken in the name of my city and my grandfather. And in my name.

“No,” Tansy agreed. “He wanted you dead. If he’s alive, he probably thinks he killed you. I’d consider that a marriage-ending event.”

I had ceased to love John Carter years before we left Barsoom. But never had I imagined him as the rage-filled monster who had nearly killed both my sister and I.

“I will never forgive what he did to Lyra,” I said. “I hope you did kill him.”

I suddenly realized that Beth Cassel had defeated the man who called himself the greatest swordsman on two worlds. She easily could have been left lying in the dust next to Lyra and I.

“I am glad you were not hurt,” I said, gently touching the bruise on her beautiful face. “Other than this.”

I touched the rough and ugly scar between my breasts. It was still damp. My body was no longer perfect; I was no longer beautiful. That loss hurt me deeply, and I in turn felt shame over my shallowness, when my beautiful sister lay alongside me still unable to regain consciousness.

“Now we both have scars there,” Tansy smiled. “All three of us.”

Beth Cassel touched the center of her own chest, covered by a black Night’s Watch tunic. She still kept the small leather bag with her “slave price” dangling there.

“I think I’m just as happy with smooth skin there.”

“And freckles,” I said.

“Those, too.”

“You tried very hard to die for me,” I said. I stroked her shoulder. “You easily could have.”

“And I’d do so gladly,” she said. “But that wasn’t really on my mind. I thought he’d killed you. I know that your heart’s on the left, but I was behind you and couldn’t see where the sword struck. I couldn’t feel your thoughts and I was sure you were dead. After that, I only wanted to kill John Carter.”

“You fought the self-proclaimed greatest swordsman on two worlds,” I said. “Alone. His blade never touched you, and you may have killed him.”

“He shouldn’t have been able to stand or crawl onto the horse,” Beth said. “I thought I put a foot of steel through his heart. I must have missed to one side. I meant to cut off his fucking head to be sure, but I hesitated to kill the woman who saved him and he slipped away. She looked like she was with child. I hope his wound festers and he dies in agony.”

I looked over at Lyra, and pushed a strand of hair away from her face.

“When I am fully healed,” I said, “I will divorce John Carter. And then Beth Cassel and I will kill him.”

“This time,” Beth added, “for good.”


With the new dawn it was time for me to start stretching out my somewhat healed body. I still had a great deal of soreness across my chest and felt weak from long days of doing nothing. I would not be very good in a fight for a long time to come. With Jory’s help I finally rose from the now-filthy straw pallet, and we went outside into the morning sunlight. It hurt my eyes, and I needed some moments to adjust to its brightness.

The holdfast had no bathhouse, but did have a cistern to store water and a stone trough apparently meant for horses. My sisters had been using it for bathing, and I gingerly climbed in to wash myself in the bracingly cold water. Beth joined Jory to assist me, and soon I felt much better. I washed my hair and for the first time since before the fight with John Carter I cleaned my teeth, removing the foul tastes from my mouth.

After drying I dressed in a set of black leggings and tunic, and sat on a stone bench to rest. Jory returned to the chamber, and with no one watching us Beth carefully straddled my lap and faced me. She kept her weight on her knees.

“Are you well yet?” she asked. “Your mind, I mean.”

I looked into her eyes, and reached for her thoughts. I entered them easily, and felt tendrils of her consciousness within my mind. I had feared the loss of this connection more than my own death. I put my hands on the sides of her face and kissed her, harder than I had intended.

“I love you,” I said.

“I know,” she answered, peeling off her tunic. “Kiss me again.”

And so I did, on her lips and on the hard, pink nipple of each perfect, freckled breast. I felt very happy to be alive.

“I cannot do more,” I whispered. “I am still very sore.”

“You’ll get better,” she said. “I’m looking forward already.”

She kissed me again, and then shrugged back into her black tunic.

When we returned to the chamber, I saw that Tansy and Melly had moved Lyra to a fresh straw pallet.

“You ready to try that mind thing?” Melly asked. I nodded. “You need help, or you need us out of your way?”

“I do not know,” I said. “I can enter Beth’s thoughts, and she is used to connecting with both Lyra and I. Perhaps she should join us.”

Slowly and carefully, I knelt on the straw next to Lyra, with Beth at my side. I kept my left arm around her shoulders for balance while she snaked her right arm about my waist, and I reached first for her thoughts, then Lyra’s.

Connecting with my adoptive sister’s consciousness brought me a great feeling of joy, despite her grievous injury. I knew that Beth felt it as well. I had not attempted psychic healing before, but from my studies I understood the principles. One did not try to convince the patient of anything, but simply communed with them until their subconscious accepted the truth.

I had little sense of time; Tansy later told me that we remained kneeling silently alongside Lyra for what she guessed to be more than two of their hours. It was mid-morning when I felt Lyra enter a wakening state, and I opened my eyes just in time to see her beautiful brown-and-golden eyes flutter open as well.

“I love you,” I said.

“I know,” she answered in a rough whisper. “And I’m hungry.”


Melly took over care of Lyra, and I took a seat at the chamber’s large wooden table with the rest of my sisters. I was also very hungry, and ate a great deal while I listened to my sisters.

“We’re going to Duskendale,” Tansy said, looking at Dacey, Beth and Jory.

“Not Maidenpool?” Dacey asked her.

“Maidenpool has a wall, gates and guards,” Tansy said. “Duskendale has none of those, just a fort where its craven lord hides from pirates. We can find a ship without having to pass through a checkpoint.”

“No ship,” I said. “I must face John Carter.”

“You and Lyra nearly died the last time we tried that,” Beth said.

“And you would have,” Dacey added, “all of us would have, without Beth. It’s not safe for us here.”

“You have discussed this,” I said.

“Yes,” Tansy said. “We are all agreed. We’re leaving Westeros, at least for a time.” My sisters all nodded their heads.

“What of Bear Island?”

“He knows we’re not there,” Beth said. “And he thinks you’re dead. I’m the one with the price on her head now.”

“You know this?”

“It’s not hard to figure out. A woman carved him up like a festival goose, in front of his men. No man would forgive that.”

Jory reached for my hand.

“If we stay here, I’ll have to fight,” she said. “Beth can’t protect all six of us alone. You, Lyra and Dacey are too weak, and Tansy doesn’t know what to do with a blade. Is that what you want?”

“You know it is not. You are manipulating my love for you.”

“Of course I am,” she smiled. “Whatever it takes to protect my big sister.” I caught a flash of resentment from Dacey, immediately followed by shame.

“Where will we go?” I asked.

“Where every Westerosi exile goes,” Tansy said. “The Free Cities. Eight large cities, each larger than any in Westeros, scattered along the opposite side of the Narrow Sea.”

“You have been there?”

“No,” she said. “I don’t believe any of us have, except Beth and that, well . . .”

“I was a slave in Tyrosh,” Beth said. “I speak their language, but I’d prefer not to go back. I’m terrified of returning there, truth be told.”

“Then we’re not going to Tyrosh,” Tansy said.

“Tycho is from Braavos,” I said. “Is it one of the cities?”

“It is,” Tansy confirmed. “But I think our best choice is to just take the first ship we can find to any of the cities. Except Tyrosh.”

“I fear such a voyage,” I said.

“I know you do,” Tansy said. “We didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. We’re hard to miss: a pack of six women each as tall as a pine tree, most of them toting swords, and the most wanted of them all has copper skin and red eyes. If we stay, John Carter will hear of it. Let him think you dead.”

“What of Maege? She loves us. She almost did not survive the loss of Dacey. She will not endure the loss of all of us.”

“I’m going back to the island,” Melly said, taking a seat alongside me. “I’ll tell the lady all what’s happened.”

“It is a long and perilous journey. If you do not arrive, she will think us dead.”

“Glad you put that worry ahead of my safety,” she said, then stopped me as I tried to apologize. “No, I understood what you meant. It’s the sort of risk we all take every day.”

“Do we have enough money?” I asked.

“We still have almost all of Bronn’s loot,” Tansy said. “And Lyra brought some from the Twins.”

“I took a little,” Beth added, “from the men we met on the road,”

Since we had money and horses, I wished to head toward King’s Landing and kill John Carter. The injuries to Lyra enraged me almost as much as they did Beth Cassel, and I now saw that he would not be turned away from the path of conquest and destruction. He would make himself Warlord of Westeros no matter what the price in other people’s blood. My mistress and I would kill him before his terror reached our home island.

“I also took John Carter’s sword,” my mistress went on. “One of them, anyway. He had another, larger one he never drew. He dropped this one when I stabbed him in the wrist. I was trying to cut his hand off.”

“It is the way of Barsoom,” I said. “I am unusual in using but one blade; most wield both short- and long-sword. Is this blade valuable?”

“I should think so,” she said. “It’s another Valyrian blade.”

“What do you wish to do with it?”

“I was waiting for you to tell me.”

“You took it as spoil of battle,” I said. “Under my people’s laws, it is up to you to dispose of it as you will. Keep it, sell it, gift it.”

“Then I wish to gift it to Jory,” Beth said. “She rushed in to help me against John Carter’s friends. That was true courage. True stupidity, but also true courage.”

“I’m not afraid to fight,” my little sister said. “But I’m not very good at it.”

“You’re already better with a sword than most,” Beth said. “It’s a fine sword, actually slightly smaller than mine so it should suit you. And Bronn the sellsword was right. A Valyrian blade does a great deal to overcome a woman’s lesser strength.”

“You blocked John Carter’s strike,” Jory said. “He’s as strong as Dejah.”

“No, he parried mine, with far less force than a strike,” Beth said. “Even so, my arms hurt for three days after. Let me do this. Accept the sword.”

“All right,” Jory said. “As long you don’t expect great deeds from me.”

I did not know how I felt about Jory taking such a blade. It might help keep her safe, were she forced to fight again, but might tempt her to join her fighting sisters in battle. I did not wish this. Yet as formidable as Beth Cassel had become, the three men she had faced had been experienced, cold-minded killers. Had Jory not intervened, Beth could well have been killed along with the rest of us.