She breathed in slowly, her mind only on the air and her sword.

Well, she would have concentrated on her sword if she had one. A walking staff was too long, but it was the best she could do. Fighters improvised.

She banished the stray thoughts from her mind as she let the breath out. The sword rose as her heart beat the count.

Five.

Her grip was slightly off, but only to balance a weapon that wasn't a sword.

Six.

Her footwork was as close as she could make it from watching the mages learn to fight with a staff and sword. The boys grumbled at the lessons, but she had watched until she had been forced to leave.

Seven.

Don't tense. Just move at the time, not before. Her staff moved slowly, with more grace than she ever could manage during her many dancing lessons.

Eight.

Her sword whipped into a fast slash, and she could see her opponent. Her brother, who complained about his days in every rare letter, who said she had no reason to gripe. He was her height to an inch, and she knew just how to direct her flurry of blows. If Thom had just let her try- what would have been the harm? She would have been the better knight, and even being sent home in disgrace after a year would have been better than six years learning to be a lady.

She knew swordwork only from scant observation and books. Some girls were caught with romances that made a blush rise in Alanna's cheeks. The women of the convent found instructional books about fighting in her things, no matter how many times they sent the books away. They never found the cache of books kept under her mattress, adventure novels written for young men. The fighting described was vivid, and the quests took her breath away and ran through her dreams. The few books she founded filled her imagination and fueled her scorn for Thom's lackluster swordwork. Like you could do better, he had grumbled.

Spin with her blade high, duck to a low slash, parry so fast that her sword was a flash of metal lighting, and then, when realization spread across his face, when he knew that she couldn't stand to hear him whine about a squire's work, or his boasting about his knightmaster, her sword jerked, in the movement she had studied during a tournament her class had attended. The other ladies-to-be had admired the knights. She had admired their tricks with blades, and remembered again the facts of her life.

He would be a knight.

She would be a lady.

Alanna slashed viciously, because her opponent wasn't her twin. Not really, even if he whined about his bruises in his rare letters. She wanted to fight good posture and walking slowly and corsets and suitors and shallow flattery.

Spin, turn, don't tense, natural posture, slow a touch, step, watch your hands, sweep the blade-

Crack.

Alanna jumped as her staff came into contact with a walking stick.

"Sister Emmarie," she said bowing her head. "I apologize." Ladies took all deserved responsibility- in theory. In practice, ladies avoided blame at all costs, but Alanna needed some small sense of chivalry.

Alanna met Emmarie's eyes and felt the bottom begin to drop from her world. A lecture wasn't coming, and Sister Emmarie always found the time for a lecture.

"As am I, Alanna. I bring bad news. Your mother has fallen ill."


Lady Lioness


Alanna never went to Corus to learn to become a page. When Lady Alanna makes her debut at sixteen, the entire world has changed, and she will be the one to put things right.

I don't own Tamora Pierce's books or characters. I just make new stories with the very fun worlds that she has created.