I was standing in the main training yard of The Border Keep, stretching. My training with Tristan had been helpful. I felt stronger and focused.
“You realize you’re being ridiculous,” Elodie said as Harran walked in, I glared at her and she rolled her eyes. “No one thinks you’re a less terrifying warrior because you’ve had children.”
“That isn’t the point at all,” I said. “I used to be the best.” Elodie looked at me indulgently. “It’s a part of who I am.”
“Well, My Lady,” she sighed, “you know his old weaknesses.”
“Of course,” I said. I’ve sparred with Harran dozens of times over the years. “And his strengths. He’s bigger than me, stronger.”
“Less agile,” Elodie nodded. “But also isn’t carrying a baby.” I frowned and looked down. I wasn’t big yet, but my belly had started to swell.
“Are you ready, Countess?” Harran grinned at me.
“Of course, Chieftain,” I smirked and struck first. “To disarm?”
“As you like it,” his block was quick and strong and he shoved me back. “You can do better than that.”
“I’m trying not to bruise your pretty face before your wedding,” I grinned. He laughed. I swerved out and landed a hit against his chest. He retaliated with two against my arm.
The fight was perfect, and I was glad that I’d spent the trip working with Tristan. Before that training I would not have been able to keep up.
“Do you think your son sees your shame?” He teased, as I fumbled my spear and recovered. John stirred in my belly.
“I know your bride sees yours,” I countered. I heard Brea laugh from the side.
“She does indeed,” she called out and winked at me when I met her eyes. “No true shame to lose to The Champion, my love.”
“Who’s losing?” Harran grinned back. I struck hard against his staff, and knocked it free, and knocked him on his back.
“Yield?” I said. He sighed.
“Yield,” he shrugged. The crowd cheered and I laughed helping him up. “It’s brutal when you do that.” I laughed.
“You shouldn’t have invoked my son,” I grinned, “he got his blood up too.” Harran laughed.
“Fierce like your mama,” he pressed his hands against my belly. “Eh, Little One?” Brea walked over. “No shame?”
“Well, some,” she grinned. “I thought you’d last a little longer.” He smiled. “Countess, your boy makes me strong. I think your girl did too.” I smiled.
“Maybe,” I said.
“She’s special, your Calla,” Brea said as we walked back towards the keep. “If she were of our people my sister and I would be training her already.” I looked at her.
“Really?” I said. She nodded. “She’s too young.” Harran looked at me and Brea shrugged.
“For your Masteros and Sisters, maybe,” she nodded. “But a witch isn’t a Mastero or a sister or even a Chosen like you or your queen, or Marina. There’s more instinct to it, so you have to learn young.” Harran looked at her.
“I’ll talk to her father,” I said. Brea nodded and they walked away. I found my way to our room and saw Aaron and Calla sitting on the bed, playing a counting game. I leaned against the frame and Aaron looked at me.
“Did you win?” He asked. I shrugged. “Oh good, you’d be insufferable if you hadn’t.” I frowned at him and came and sat with them. “What is it?” He asked.
“Calla,” I said gently to my daughter, “if Lady Nika and Lady Brea wanted to teach you things, would you want to learn?”
“What?” Aaron said. I looked at him and nodded.
“What kinds of things?” She asked. “Duchess Marina said she’ll teach me hiding places when we go back to Dovetail.” I smiled. “And Uncle Tristan taught me about horses.”
“Yes,” I smiled, “I don’t know exactly, but while we’re here and in Westran, you’ll listen closely to them?” She nodded and stood up.
“May I go find Lady Nika and ask her?” Calla said excitedly. I nodded with a smile and she rushed off. Aaron looked at me.
“What is this?” He asked gently. “Is our daughter a witch?”
“Brea seems to think so,” I shrugged. “I’d rather she learn than go around in a veil of despair and fear like Marina did.”
“There were a few other factors at play there than her not knowing her power,” Aaron pointed out, “but that’s fair.” I smiled. “I suppose it makes sense. It isn’t as though her perception ever felt like what Lisette was like at that age.” I nodded. “I’m sorry we didn’t come down to watch.”
“It’s alright,” I said. “I did well though.”
“I never doubted,” he grinned. “And John?” I laughed.
“Oh he was fierce,” I smiled. “He’ll be a warrior.”
“Hm,” Aaron sighed, “a witch and a warrior. We’ll need a third, because I really do need another farmer.” I laughed and kissed him.
“One at a time, my love,” I said. He nodded. “Did she say Marina was going to teach her hiding places?”
“Oh yes,” he nodded. “Mercy too apparently.” I sighed and shook my head. “Come here,” he whispered and pulled me into his arms. “Can you settle now?”
“I suppose so,” I said, “for a while.” He kissed my neck. “Aaron,” I mumbled.
“I am sorry I missed it,” he muttered, “I like watching you fight, Thena.” I giggled and wrapped my arms around his neck.
“Do you let me win?” I asked. He raised his eyerbows.
“Never,” he said. “I’m a terrifically bad sport, you know that.” I smiled. “I’ve never been able to beat you. I’ve come close but it’s very frustrating.”
“Mm,” I nodded, “very?” I slid my hand down and started stroking him.
“Tremendously,” he whispered. I nodded. “Almost as frustrating as a wife who’s distracted because she thinks she’s not the greatest warrior to ever live anymore. When she very clearly is.”
“The greatest,” I mumbled and kissed him. He rolled me onto my back and pressed into me.
“The greatest,” he repeated. “Fiercest, strongest, and most beautiful to ever live. Annessa herself would stand and tremble at Athena Dugarry, Countess of Pantona.” I giggled. He was teasing me but I loved him for it.