Elisius Part 3

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Elisius ducked as the sword swung over her head, and jumped straight back up again and stopped Owain. The two circled each other, their swords locked together. Owain twisted round and Elisius had to turn the hilt in her hands to stop her wrists from twisting. She pulled her sword back, swung it and froze just before it bit straight into Owain's side. He smiled and lowered his own sword. He taught most of the boys in the village how to fight, but Elisius was now better than nearly all of them.
Elisius was nearly fourteen, and had grown into a strong, good-looking young woman; she had picked up the art of sword-fighting at an alarming rate, and was now almost as good as she could hope to be. It was, of course, no longer a secret that she learnt to fight, but neither was it common knowledge. Owain had a lot of influence, even though he was not the tribe leader, and had convinced everybody that although Elisius was a girl, she should at least be able to fight if she needed to defend herself. She was the Tribe Leader's daughter and should be expected to act like one. Unfortunately, this led to complications as to how to keep this from Rhisiart. Owain had said that Rhisiart did not know of his daughter's talent, and would probably forbid her if he found out that she was learning to fight before he saw her; he said that he was making sure that she was good enough before he let her father see her, so that maybe he would see the sense in what she was doing.
The sun was now creeping over the hill, and broad gold fingers were creeping over the village as Elisius and Owain stopped for a rest.
"Well, I have to say, you're a proper warrior, now." Remarked Owain. Elisius turned in surprise.
"Is this as good as I can ever hope to get? Is that all you can show me how to do?"
"There's nothing more I can teach you. You cannot hope to get much better than you are now."
Elisius' face fell; a dead weight had settled on her shoulders, as though her sword was balanced on her head. For a moment, she thought about what Owain had said, then her temper rose. She spat bitterly on the ground, and slashed at a nearby tree with her sword.
"Is this it?" She shouted. "Is this all I can achieve? I have spent hour after hour out here, fought till my arms have hurt, cut myself, learnt, concentrated until I can hardly see, and to what avail? So that one day I can say that I can fight, and so put my sword away for ever, never to see the light of day again?"
"Elisius, you have always known that this day would come." Said Owain sharply. "You have always known that you will never be a proper fighter; you are a woman now, and you will soon have other duties to fulfil. It was your decision to keep this up for so long-"
"No it wasn't! You told me that I could fight!"
"Yes, I told you that you could fight! That did not mean that you had to even if you didn't want to! Did you think that I was doing this for myself, and that you had no choice but to obey me?"
Owain stopped short with mounting shame as Elisius nodded slowly, then hung her head. Then she looked up at him again.
"You knew it would come to nothing. Why did you still teach me? Why did you not say no?"
Owain paused for a second. "I don't know, Elisius. Something stirred inside me when I saw you stand up to that man. You agreed to let me teach you and so I did; I ignored the fact that it would all come to nothing; it seemed like too foolish an excuse."
Elisius didn't know what to say, so she just turned and began walking towards the village, Owain striding along beside her.
"It will come in useful one day," He commented abruptly, but then he stopped and turned. "But you must understand, Elisius," He said gently, "For the moment, your duty as a woman lies elsewhere. Before long, you will be married and must obey your husband. You must not pay any attention to what women of other tribes are allowed to do. You do not belong to those other tribes, you belong here, as the daughter of Rhisiart Black-Spear; there will be a time to rebel, but it is not now. You must, for the moment, see to your future and prove yourself a good wife."
Elisius sighed and kept walking."What if I can't be a good wife?" She asked, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.
"You will," Said Owain, confidently. "You look after the house while your father's away, you can cook, you can make clothes and you know enough to keep a man warm in the winter. All you need now is to stay loyal to him, no matter what."
"Even if I hated him?" Asked Elisius, jokingly. But Owain answered seriously.
"Even if you hated him. But I doubt that your father will make that bad a choice."
"You don't know my father; he does not want a man who I will be happy to serve, he wants a man that will make sure I behave myself and do not get into mischief, while he goes picking fights with the neighbouring tribes." Said Elisius glumly.
Owain laughed. "How alike you both are! He does not see what he does as mischief, though; he likes to fight for what he believes in- just like you do."
"When will he be back from this great exploit?" She said, piercing the ground with her sword as she walked.
"Soon, I should imagine," Said Owain, "And I think that this time he may decide to stay for longer than usual."
Elisius turned. "What do you mean?"
Owain looked her up and down, taking in her figure and height. "I think, Elisius, that it will not be long before your father thinks about your marriage."
Elisius stumped on, sticking her sword bitterly into the ground at each step. "I don't want to marry. I want to lead this tribe."
"You know that's not an option."
"No, not yet. But one day I will."
"Will you?"
"Yes, Owain, I will. I can be just as great as my father, and greater in the eyes of all these men who insist that I am just a woman. I will lead the men into a battle, and straight out the other side as easily as a spear through water. I will show them all, one day."
Owain could not argue. It set his pulse racing just to hear her speak with such passionate determination. He just gazed at her, and she spoke one more time, gazing straight into his eyes, with a fierceness which could calm the vicious beasts which were said to dwell in the sea.
"You saved me, Owain. I should be dead at this moment, but I'm not. I'm alive, and I want to live. I want to see my tribe live, and I want to make sure that they live. And I will."

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