"Son, I think you're lost." The woman with the scar bisecting her face glared at the young man standing in front of her.

"You are the greatest warrior this world has ever seen. I would learn from you." All the youthful earnestness and enthusiasm someone his age could muster burbled out of him in his voice.

"I think you have mistaken me for that pompous windbag who's holding court in the tavern." Her eyes narrowed.

"No. I know why he doesn't fight you." The young man, boy really, bounced on the balls of his feet. "Because you're real."

"I might be real, but being real doesn't win anyone any glory, son." She exhaled. "It wins you a bunch of scars, and weather-wise aches, and nightmares. Sometimes jail cells. It doesn't bring gold, or women, or fame. It just brings duty and misery."

"Then why do you do it?" He kept his hands visible and down at his sides as he spoke, he'd probably heard about the stableboy she'd knocked the shit out of when he startled her.

"Because someone has to." She leveled her gaze on him. "Because while blowhards like that pretentious fool in the tavern blather and bloviate, and only fight in carefully refereed matches, someone has to have the real fights."

"Yeah. That's why I want to learn from you. Because someone has to." He met her gaze. "I want to be real, too."

"Who hurt you?" She leaned closer.

"He did." He hunches his shoulders a little.

"Well, then. I think it's time I made him an offer he can't refuse." She smiled, and stood slowly, flexing her hands, and loosing the buckle of her sword sheath. "What's your name?"


"Come on, Jim. Things are about to get real." She smiled, the scar making the left corner of her mouth twitch oddly. She pulled her sword and twirled it to limber up her joints. "After I kick his ass, we'll start your training."

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