Greetings, O readers, and happy Fiction Friday! I've spent a lot of this week in a daze, stumbling from home to work and back again. Some of this has to be the weather (it's very hot here), and some of it is lack of sleep, but I think some of it is also frustration. I want to do good work, both at my job and in all the things I do at home, but...
There's always a but, isn't there, O readers? In this case, it has to do with equipment, circumstances, and the like. I'm doing the best I can with what I have. Unfortunately, what I have isn't always what I wish it was, both at work and at home, so I can't always do my really-truly best. Which frustrates me, which cuts down on my efficiency and ability yet again. It's something of a cycle. More details next week, if you'd care to hear. Let me know.
In any case, I've been able to short-circuit the cycle long enough to get today's Fiction Friday post ready for you. Plenty of you wanted to see all three stories of the sisters from last week's offering, so I'm going to try to get them started, since in my experience a started story's desire to keep going often helps to outweigh a grumpy author's desire to be left alone.
Here, then, is the first tale of the sisters who made their wishes. Please enjoy, and I would love to hear what you have to say about it!
"Up and at 'em!"
Warrior's apprentice Tru groaned at the hearty bellow which filled her section's barracks and wearily dragged her body out from between the sheets, turning back to pull the covers taut and tuck them in properly. A badly-made bed would put her back on the domestic roster for however many nights her instructors felt were necessary to reinforce the virtues of neatness and cleanliness, and she'd only just gotten off the DR in the first place. Her potato-peeling, dishwashing, and floor-sweeping skills had left much to be desired when she'd arrived here at the Training Grounds.
"Let's go, let's go, let's go!" barked their trainer, a revoltingly energetic veteran of the King's armies by the name of Marta. "Even you, Princess," she added towards Tru, with a wicked grin. "Ready to run home to Mama yet?"
"No, ma'am," Tru returned sharply, and Marta's grin intensified. Some variation of this conversation had taken place every morning for the five weeks Tru had been an apprentice, and "Princess" had become her accepted nickname within the first three days. She'd thought briefly about fighting this, but after further thought she'd realized it couldn't have fit her plans any better. Hiding in plain sight had long been a tradition in her family, and what had begun as a scornful taunt for her soft white hands and her uncertainty at all tasks physical or domestic was slowly turning into a badge of honor, as her instructors and fellow apprentices realized the depth of her determination and her readiness to learn those tasks.
Tru could have wished the learning process didn't come with quite so many blisters and bruises, not to mention black eyes, bloody noses, and splinters where she'd never even wanted to contemplate having splinters, but as the instructors kept drumming into the apprentices, war was not a comfortable experience. If they were going to survive, they needed to learn to endure hardships, whether that was heat or cold, driving rain or punishing sun, long marches or tall mountains or enemies standing in their way, and the more brutal and taxing their training, the more likely they were to live through the real thing.
Already three of Tru's fellow apprentices had quit, unable to keep up with the pace being set by the instructors. She knew the betting was hefty on the "Princess" being the next to drop out, but she had no intention of gratifying her doubters to that extent. Besides, she'd bet twenty gold on herself to make it all the way through, and at the five-to-one odds currently being offered against her, that would add up to a tidy little payday.
Margreta Amelia Theresa Eltruda joined the line of apprentice warriors moving at a fast jog out the door of the barracks. Her father and mother, and two of her father's most trusted soldiers (who also happened to be instructors at the Training Grounds), were the only people in all the kingdom who knew where she was at the moment, and that suited her perfectly. If she was ever going to fulfill her childhood dream of growing up to be a warrior who fought evil, she had to get away from being treated like a princess.
Even, or especially, if that was exactly what she happened to be.