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The Thorn on the Rose and Other not-so-elegant Tales

Chapter Text

Delia cracked the lower door open, wishing to sneak back up to her room through the servant’s stairs in the kitchens as the first rays of dawn touched the sky. She wore one of her ragged dresses that her father had kindly made for her to go riding in, though that night she wore it for target practicing with her sling-shot.

She went to venture further into the room when a familiar voice called out to her.

“M’Lady, out for another night stroll again?” the portly game master inquired from the wooden table.

Delia cringed at his knowing tone.

“Hello, Fred,” Delia sighed standing now, “You won’t tell my mam, will you?”

“My Lady that depends on whether or not you bagged something” Fred said with a friendly smile.

Delia smiled slyly and held out a sling of pheasants.

“Ah, then that’s a ‘no’, though I would be getting back to bed, miss, you’ve got quite a day planned,” Fred reminded her gently.

“Dear, I almost forgot,” Delia said irritably, slapping her forehead as she remembered the gentleman her mother had invited over to potentially court Delia.

“I’m 24, I don’t see why I have to do this, I don’t want to deal with suitors right now,” Delia growled as she flung the pheasants on the table.

“Of course, My Lady,” Fred agreed placidly. Sighing theatrically, Delia bid him farewell and tip-toed up the spiraling stairs, luckily meeting no one there. When she slipped into her room, she shut the door and leaned on it for sighing forlornly.

She hated having to plaster a smile on her face as she conversed with these men who were not even concerned about her. They seemed more intent on speaking with her father about important matters than with her. While some were nice, she had yet to meet one and think ‘this is the one; I’m going to live the rest of my life with him and bear his children’. That never happened.

Delia placed her worn sling-shot on a table and went to the window, sitting on the ledge and peering out as the sun illuminated the fog raising from the ground. She didn’t want to go to bed, feeling wired from the freedom she felt in the forest; the night air brushing over her skin and the gentle hoots of owls around her.

She instead contented herself by staring out the window, preparing herself for another unbearably long day.

Chapter Text

Noakes went back to his post after returning the visitor’s charges to the stables. It had been a party of three, two knights and their servant from down south. Noakes yawned and sat on his stool gazing serenely over the countryside.

He froze.

At the edge of the tree line some figures came crashing through the undergrowth.

One steely figure gleamed in the sunlight, bearing full armor as he rode a dark black steed, which plodded towards the castle. The man sat proudly on his horse; however, the figure beside him was a much older man, wearing rusted mail and carrying a wooden shield, and riding a tired looking mule.

As the pair neared, Noakes stood and waved his arms.

“Ho! To what name shall I announce you, My Lor-”

His voice died in his throat as the person swept off their helmet, showing a clearly feminine face with bright red tresses that was swept up to allow her to where it. Her cheeks were rosy from the heat and sweat clung to her brow.

“Hello, my good man, I come from the south, searching for a Lord to knight my father,” the woman said brightly, gesturing to the man who was now wielding a wooden sword and gazing at Noakes warily.

Noakes gawked at her as her steed shifted, simply too shocked to say anything.

“Of course, My Lady, if you would please discharge your horse here…”

*****^*****

Delia was fighting to keep her eyes open as luncheon was served, beginning to regret the night before. She jerked awake when the porter announced another guest.

“A Miss Patience and Mr. James, My Lord and Lady,” he shouted, making Delia’s whole family along with their guests look about themselves in shock.

They all looked up and watched in shock as a woman walked confidently forward, carrying her helmet in the crook of her elbow. She bore a sword at her hip and had a small smile on her lips. A shorter, elderly man hobbled next to her, though he carried a wooden sword and shield. When they stopped, the man went to kneel, though the red head was quick to grab his arm and pull him up.

Delia’s jaw dropped, as did her fork.

“May I be so bold as to ask what on earth is this?” Lord Mason demanded, “You bare the colors of the south and wear a full suit of armor. Can you explain this madness?!”

“Of course, erm… your name, sir?” the ginger asked with a frown.

“‘Your name sir’?” Lord Mason queried, looking both frustrated and confused.

“Yes, sir, I know not your name.”

“Lord Mason, peasant,” he snapped.

“Ah, well, Lord Mason Peasant, I am dressed in this suit of armor so as to escort my father here, to the great country of Wales so he may be knighted as is his want.”

“Knighted? Your father wishes to enter the fiefdom as a Lord of the Sword?”

“Yes, Lord Mason Peasant,” the woman said amiably. Delia sniggered, having to quickly mask it beneath her napkin. Lord Mason looked as if he were about to retort, but Lord Busby interrupted him.

“Miss Patience, do you wish to be knighted as well? For why else would you be wearing armor?” he boomed, a quirk of a smile dancing on his lips.

“Because it was practical; there are robbers from here and our home.”

“Were you proposing that you con yourself as a knight to avoid them?” Lord Mason sneered.

“No, I slayed two on the way here, my Lord Mason Peasant,” Patience sniffed, “They were no match for me.”

Delia’s eyes widened.

“That is treason!” Lord Mason shouted, rising and unsheathing his sword, “How dare you, wench?!”

Patience smoothly unsheathed her own sword and Lord Mason froze upon seeing the size difference between them. His was a mere rapier, but Patience held a large thrust sword that looked longer than her body.

“Hey!” Lord Busby shouted, clapping his hands, “If there is to be bloodshed, remove it from my hearth!”

Grumbling, the pair sheathed them and began to migrate back outside.

Chapter Text

“People of Pembroke! A fight to the death!” the announcer shouted in the village square, making a crowd form around the two figures before the castle gates. Not allowed there, Delia peered over the balcony, wanting with all her might that this mysterious woman gutted Lord Mason like a fish, for he was kind of a di-

“Unsheathe your swords!” he announced. The pair obeyed, and the announcer removed his wig to wipe the sweat from his bald head.

“My Lady, we’ve a nice coffin fer ya’,” the announcer said in a loud whisper, “It were extra from the ones made for the plague.”

“You’re too kind, dear sir,” Patience said, lowering the hood of her helmet, “but tell that to him.”

Lord Mason charged Patience with a wild cry, but she simply swept her sword down, cleaving his sword arm in two.

“Oooh,” the crowd called with a wince.

Patience lifted the visor of her helmet and gazed at Lord Mason smugly. The man staggered before shrugging up after plucking up his sword from the ground, blood squirting from his stub.

“Are you quite alright?” Patience asked as he swung at her but she blocked it with ease.

“Of course, couldn’t be better! Now dance, you wench, you coward!” Lord Mason spat venomously.

“Lord Mason Peasant, I feel compelled to tell you that you’ve lost an arm.”

“Tis but a cut,” he said airily, making Patience frown.

“Don’t you mean, ‘Tis but a scratch’, sir? If you are to reference something, please do it correctly.”

“Drat! No matter!” Lord Mason went to deal her a back swing, but she stepped out of the way and bashed his head with the butt of her hilt. Lord Mason crumpled to the ground at her feet as the crowd released a grumble.

“It’s ‘posed to be to the death,” a man grumbled.

Patsy stepped back, lowering her sword, watching as the blood continued to seep from his arm.

“I…well, I can’t kill him now, I would just feel bad,” Patsy sniffed wistfully, drawing another groan from the crowd.

“Let the woman reign victorious without any more bloodshed,” a voice rang forth above them, making Patience crane her head to look up. A dark-haired woman peered down from a stone balcony, a melancholic smile on her lips.

The crowd began to disperse, but Patience continued to gaze up at her, transfixed by the beauty she saw.

And in a delicate movement, the brunette leaned down and curled a figure at her, gesturing for the ginger to come to her.

Chapter Text

Patience found herself stealing up the stairs after a blonde-haired woman, Trixie, who was showing her to the dark-haired woman’s quarters. Curling a stray lock behind her ear, Patience’s heart leapt in her throat as the metal bracers on her knees clanged together.

“Here you are, miss,” Trixie said, knocking lightly on the door before opening it.

Having to duck slightly, Patsy stopped dead as she crossed the threshold, as if just realizing she was much too dirty to be in the immaculate room.

“Ah, noble Madame,” Delia purred, approaching Patience with a cup of mulled wine.

“I…I’m not married, my Lady,” Patience stammered, extending her hands, but realizing she was still wearing her gauntlets. In a rush, she tugged them off and shoved them in the belt of her mail, metal clinking together.

“I see,” Delia chortled, passing the cup off, their hands brushing together, “And under what title are you?”

“Just a miss, my Lady…Patsy, if you wish.”

“Patsy,” Delia mused, sipping her own wine, “I rather like that.”

The armored woman followed the brunette out onto the balcony before sitting down in a proffered chair.

“Well, Patsy, you may call me Delia,” the brunette said with a wide smile looking out at the fields as dusk descended, “and I want to thank you for saving me from an unbearable suitor.”

“Lord Mason…was your suitor?” Patsy asked in disbelief.

“Not by choice…why?”

“You seem too nice to be with such a person,” Patsy blurted before her cheeks burned red, “m’ lady.”

“Please, Patsy, I insist on calling me by my name, not my title,” Delia said airily, “We have made accommodations for your stay and I do wish to learn more about you.”

“You and your family are too kind,” Patsy said sincerely, raising her cup before sipping it.

The ginger noticed the slingshot on the railing.

“Is that yours?” she asked dubiously, pointing at it.

“Yes, I…practice a bit,” Delia said shyly, “Along with a longbow, I’m quite the formidable force from a distance.”

“Indeed, that is an honorable skill,” Patsy approved, with another sip. She found the wine exceedingly good.

“So, why does a woman dress in armor and travel across the country wielding a sword?” Delia inquired.

Patsy ran a finger over the edge of smooth metal over her knee, not really knowing how to answer.

“My father…went slightly insane after my mother and sisters passed. He buried himself in his books and fantasized about being knighted. I love my father and wished not to see him kill himself, so I opted to go along with him. He insisted on dressing me with the ancestral armor and that he wore his own tunic, and we set off. We’ve traveling ever since.”

“I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” Delia said sincerely, “When will you stop wondering and settle down?”

Patsy shrugged listlessly.

“Either until my father loses interest, or he passes as well.”

*****^*****

Delia went to go sit on her bed after seeming Patsy to the door when it opened again and her childhood friend, Trixie snuck in.

“Hello, Trixie,” Delia sighed without turning around, “What brings you here?”

“Oh, nothing…only the fact that a dashing knight has left your quarters past the sleeping hour,” the blonde said with a scandalous wink.

“The knight in question was a woman,” Delia said pointedly, seating herself on her bed, “or did you fail to notice that?”

“Of course not, and it seems you noticed HER as well!” Trixie said, waggling her eyebrows, “Don’t play coy with me, I know how you are! You spend your nights lusting over women instead of men!”

Trixie’s tone was joking and light-hearted, but Delia felt her heart pick up in pace as she began to undo her hair, readying for bed.

“Oh, stop it, we were just speaking about her adventures.”

“Hmm, well I see you’re cross with me; I’ll take my leave, My Lady,” Trixie said, giving a mock bow. Delia made a shooing gesture and Trixie slipped back out.

The moment the door closed, Delia leapt up and tore off her gown, dressing in her riding frock. She then went to the balcony and shimmied down the climbing vines before dropping on the ground silently. Delia slipped into the stables before eyeing the sleeping Noakes and plucking her unstrung longbow and quiver from the rack.

After tip-toeing back out, Delia made a mad dash for the tree line, intent on hunting in the bright moonlight.

She came to a tree and jumped up on the lowest branch, leaning her back on the trunk as she swung her legs back and forth idly. She dug out her boning knife and began to dig out the grit under her nails, dried blood still there after she gutted a squirrel for a poor family two days ago. She waited there, and naturally began to think of Patsy.

The woman was a complete anomaly.

She dressed as a nobleman, spoke like a queen and fought like a general. Patsy thought her sling-shot and archery skills were honorable; not unladylike and disgraceful.

And she was pretty, charming, shy, confident…

Delia sighed heavily and buried her face in her hands, realizing she didn’t want to be outside so desperately to only hunt.

The thing was, Trixie’s words were beginning to prove truer and truer.

Chapter Text

“Wait, Grand-mam,” a young girl said, cutting off the older woman’s narrative, “I’m confused.

A woman with grey hair and glasses raised her eyebrows at the younger girl, who was perched on her bed while the she sat in a chair next to it.

“What are you confused about, cariad?” the older Welshwoman asked.

“I wanted to hear a romance; what is this? Where’s the knight and shining armor? The magic, the princess who needs to be saved?”

“Darling, open your eyes and see what is right in front of your nose before you embarrass yourself,” the older woman sniffed characteristically, “All of those components have already been introduced to this tale.”

“But…OH! So Patsy and Delia…are gal pals?”

“Well, I don’t want to spoil it, but I believe that’s where this novel is going,” the grandmother said, glancing down at the book.

“But how can that be? It’s the middle ages! Patsy is just a common woman wearing knight’s clothes; she doesn’t deserve-”

“Perhaps you are seeing this a bit too literal,” the older woman cut across, “People see Patsy as a knight and treat her as such, yet she FEELS that she is forced to play the part…maybe we will see how she actually is in later chapters.”

“What about Delia? Her parents won’t let her go running off with a lesbian knight,” the girl pointed out.

“Well…”

“Well what?”

“You never know,” the older woman said cryptically, “I don’t believe logic can be applied to story.”

“Why?”

“Because it is satirical humor, directed at several societal problems in today’s world.”

“Well, why don’t we read a story that actually makes sense?” the child queried.

The older woman raised her eyebrows.

“Are you not the least bit curious to see where Patsy and Delia’s relationship goes?”

“I…fine,” the young child surrendered.

The grandmother smiled before turning the page and clearing her throat, reading out loud, “A fortnight later…”

Chapter Text

A fortnight later found Delia leaning up on the stable wall, watching as Patsy went through a series of practiced movements with her sword. Her gestures were slow, yet contained a lot of force behind them. She wore a short-cropped tunic and worn leather breeches as her ginger tresses were bound up in a braid. Sweat shown on her skin in the dim light of dusk, and the glow of a nearby bonfire casted odd shadows over her feminine features.

Delia was captivated.

Patsy paused in a movement, the tip of the sword trembling a half-meter from the ground as she held it laterally out.

“My dear, you show promising features of cleaving blind centaurs in half,” her father said from the shadow of their cottage, “but let us see to some ACTUAL swordsmanship.”

Instead of looking offended, Patsy simply smiled adoringly at her father and said, “There is no one to practice with, dear father.”

The brunette couldn’t help herself.

“Shall I test your combat prowess?” Delia asked, emerging from the tree line. The ginger spun around and stared at the shorter woman in shock before taking control of her features and bowing her head.

“My-”

“Delia, please, Patsy,” Delia cut across, standing within an arm’s length from the other.

“Of course, Delia,” Patsy said, looking contrite.

“So, is it a yea or nay?”

Patsy looked back up, dumbstruck.

“Delia, I cannot possibly engage you in a duel,” Patsy stammered, “It wouldn’t be right!”

Delia cocked her head to the side inquiringly.

“I wish to test your skills, you wish to practice them…is it not an ideal exchange?”

Patsy looked torn for a moment, limply holding her sword and looking down at it, as if it contained the correct answer.

“You are a decent swordswoman, Pats, but perhaps you need to hone a few other of your skills,” Delia added in a gentler tone.

A quirk of a smile touched the ginger’s lips.

“What skills are you implying, Delia?”

The brunette sighed theatrically as she began to meander around the taller woman as Patsy smirked down at her sword.

“Oh, well there’s hand-to-hand, archery, tracking, knife-throwing, camouflage, lancing…I’m sure I’m missing a few…” Delia had gone full circle around Patsy, and drew to a stop before her.

“Hmm,” Patsy thrummed thoughtfully, grounding her heel into the ground, “I’m sure I could explore those other fields of expertise.”

“Is that a ‘yea’ to my challenge, Pats?” Delia asked excitedly.

“Just because you asked, Your Ladyship,” Patsy said with a bow.

*****^*****

Patsy stood several meters away from the calm-looking brunette, gazing at her warily. Patsy held her sword with both hands, the tip pointed up in a prepared position as she waited for the other to make a move.

Delia rocked back on her heels placidly as Patsy uncertainly stepped forward and jumped back. The brunette smiled radiantly at this, but remained quite still, her hands behind her back. This went on for another minute before Patsy realized the other wasn’t going to make the first move.

Drawing herself upright, Patsy took a deep breath before charging forward, rising up her sword and releasing a war cry.

Patsy only went a few steps before she heard a loud crack and pain almost instantly sprouted over her chest, making her collapse on the ground, her sword clanging to the ground a meter and a half away from her outstretched hand.

“Are you quite alright?” a bright voice chirped nonchalantly.

“I…I don’t know…what was that?” Patsy croaked, rolling on her back and clutching her chest as tears sprung in her eyes.

“A wooden shot,” Delia said, walking towards the grounded ginger, deciding she wasn’t going to retaliate.

“Oh. Well, I think you quite literally may have broken my heart,” Patsy rasped.

Patsy watched in fascination as Delia crouched over her and gently pried her hands away, so she could examine the growing lump. Her face was so close, and Patsy had the strangest desire to reach up and caress a cheek; to pull her face down gently and press her lips on hers…

“It’s not broken,” Delia declared, “Just bruised. Here.” The brunette offered a hand to the ginger, who took it as the Welshwoman tugged her back up.

Patsy hobbled a bit but soon regained her composure, observing Delia walk over to the sword and pluck it up.

“Two things,” Delia said, turning back towards the other, “First, perhaps you grow to be more conscious of your weapon and not fling it so far away. This is a thrust sword, with a large hilt; hold it with both hands and swing with both arms. Secondly, you shouldn’t charge straight-on, especially if you don’t know your enemy. You should have flanked me instead, I could have had a Holy Grenade behind my back.”

“A Holy Grenade?” Patsy asked, “What on earth is a Holy Grenade?!”

“It is a Holy relic that is dispensed by mere mortals and used to inflict the wrath of God,” Delia said with a blink.

“Poppycock! There is no such thing!” Patsy tutted in disbelief.

“Ah, but there is! It’s the only way migrants get through the infested swamps of the East!”

To this, Patsy had no response.