This story is by Jonathan Lagunez and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“Welcome to the Bristled Bore Inn,” said the barkeeper to the two women at the bar. “How can I be of service, lassies?”
The first woman, an armored rough-coat, stood up revealing the crimson crow upon her flat chest. It was the insignia of the dreaded Ardanian Order, the Queen of Guilder’s hired swords. The inn’s once jovial disposition disappeared as customers shrank back from her. “Martha Lander,” said the woman nonchalantly. “I’m here because I’ve heard so much of this renowned warrior, this Velina Fey. The slayer of the Ice Giant of Skull Grotto, the hero of the Battle of Fire Crossings. My queen believes it’s high time that she put her abilities towards a worthier cause, like fighting for Guilder to uphold our rights here.”
The unsettling mood was suddenly shattered by the sound of mirthful giggling from the second woman. “Today is your lucky day, fellow sister!” she smiled, her bubbly bosoms jiggled as she laughed. “Pleased to meet you!”
“You’re Velina Fey?” asked Martha wide-eyed.
The answer left her stunned: “Indeed I am. I travelled here when I heard that a war party of orcs had raided the village. The local magistrate couldn’t send troops to help the poor villagers, what with the war still going on. But fear not: I found their camp and slew their leader. His pitiful followers were soon licking the dirt off of my heels after I was done with them. The village is now safe, and my purse is loaded the reward money. Now here I am, reveling in my victory.”
Martha thought this fool had to be one of those serving wenches from those certain establishments where they dressed in provocative costumes to allure male customers, except this wench was wearing nothing. Or, might as well have been wearing nothing.
Her head clocked upward suddenly at the sound of a cheery uproar. Two men were mounting the head of a grizzled-looking old orc with tusks protruding from his blistered lips on the wall. From their very mouths, the men cried: “To Velina Fey, oh fair and mighty Shield Maiden. We display the head of this fiend who once plagued our homes in thy honor. Let your sword remain sharp and your bosoms forever youthful!”
Tankards were raised all around, including Velina’s. All save for the stiff woman. “You… defeated an entire war party of orcs?” she prodded Velina suspiciously.
“Yes.” she answered.
“With some aid from your party, perhaps?”
“Oh no,” said Velina. “I mostly travel alone. But I can handle myself in a fight.”
“Wearing that?!” Martha pointed viciously, her mood slowly churning into a boiling fit of rage.
Velina looked down at herself innocently: “What? Oh yes, this is my best armor.”
“Your best what?!”
“The WindStrider’s Garment Plates,” said Velina. “Tis light as a butterfly, yet hard as a dragon’s scales. It took me half of my life’s savings to craft this by myself, but it was worth the investment. Do you like it?”
She rose from her seat and twirled graciously for show, her long golden hair danced with her.
Despite her scornful mood, Martha couldn’t stifle a laugh. “I find it hard to believe that you survived a single-handed encounter with orc warriors,” she said, “while wearing something that doesn’t even, oh, I don’t know… protect your vital organs!”
“But I can move swiftly,” justified Velina. “I fight better in this sort of fashion.”
“Sweetheart,” scoffed Martha, “I’ve fought dozens of half-naked hobgoblins and packs of rag-tag bandits on my own numerous times before , some were armed occasionally with bows and javelins. And you know what equalized me, as well as saved me, in all of those encounters?” She tapped the surface of her steel chest condescendingly.
“You, on the other hand,” she went on without pausing, “you would never have survived through what I’ve been through, no matter how swift you may think you are. Unless maybe if you surrendered quietly; perhaps lived the rest of your days in contrition as their fetish slave or scullery maid.”
“That would be quite a specific hypothetical,” remarked Velina before sipping her pint of apple cider. “So what exactly is this Ardanain Order? Truthfully, I’ve only heard rumors about you.”
Martha rolled her eyes: “It is only the most powerful Order in service to her Royal Highness. Everyone from Frost Peaks to Silver Cliff Bay fears us. In brief, we punish any sexist pigs who enforce their masculine doctrines in our kingdom. We don’t spare women who choose to internalize their oppression ether.”
“Oh, I see,” exclaimed Velina. “You must be one of those Order of Lady Knights who enslave men and make love to other women. And dye their hair. And partake in spirit cooking. And—
“That is a cliche!” snapped Martha. “All disgusting lies painted by vile men who hate Guilder!”
The sudden outburst made the atmosphere suddenly awkward, as heads turned around and gawked at the angry woman. Velina tried to put it to rest: “Very well, to each their own.”
“No, it is not well!” said Martha, her face boiling red. “You do not realize it, but men have inculcated you to be comfortable in your sad little role as an objectified tool, not as an equal. So if you want to be taken seriously in this kingdom, you can start by getting rid of that ridiculous outfit that symbolizes your oppression. Then, join our guild and work towards more imperative things such as fighting for reproductive rights, equal pay, and the right to be identified as an elf, troll, demigod, dragon, or whatever we choose to be. Got it?!”
The two women sat there in uneasy peace for awhile. Velina smiled weakly and said no more. Very soon, however, she was laughing mirthfully along with a pleasant company of travelers as they shared with one another their own bardic tales and adventures. Life had returned to the tavern.
Martha, on the other hand, was the sort who couldn’t enjoy a mountain of gold all to herself if her rivals had two coppers to their names.
“You know what?” she huffed, drawing her sword. “Let’s end this right here, right now. I’m going to try to touch any part of you that isn’t covered in armor.”
“What? No!” protested Velina.
“Now, now, I won’t hurt you,” said Martha. “I swear it on my dead granny’s name. But if I can show you how useless your armor really is, then you’ll have to concede with my point of view. No questions asked.”
“But why should you get to choose what sort of woman I should be?” asked Velina.
“Just shut up and hold still!” growled Martha, and raised her sword like a jousting lance. Velina didn’t even have time to blink before the first thrust came at her chest. The shocked travelers witnessed as they held their breath.
To Martha’s bewilderment, something diverted the strike of her sword to the shiny surface of the left sided breast plate. The impact, however, did not even leave a dent.
Martha tried to retrieve her weapon, but it felt like pulling a stick out of a tar pool for some bizarre reason. Once it was unstuck, she tried again without Velina’s consent, only to strike the right sided breast. Still not relenting, she thrusted the blade into the small area betwixt Velina’s smooth legs. The impact suddenly forced a passionate moan from Velina’s mouth; a sound so soft and yet so powerful that sent chills downs the spines of every male customer who heard it.
“What’s going on?” hissed Martha. “Why can’t I hit you? In any other case, you should’ve been dead by now!”
“Oh yes,” exclaimed Martha. “I forgot to mention that it is enchanted armor. Silly me.” Then the whole tavern lit up in laughter.
A splash of mead suddenly slapped against Velina’s fair complexion, followed by a piercing screech in her ears like that of a crow in heat. “You whore!” sobbed Martha. “I hate you! Do you hear me, I hate you!” And that was the last time Velina Fey ever saw Martha Lander again.
“Some folks say that she fell into a comatose spell soon after,” Velina retold the tale to her husband Gavin two weeks later, at the same inn. “Very peculiar, those Guilder women.”
“Guess beneath all of that thorny exterior,” remarked Gavin, “they have as much self-esteem as a dwarf in parliament. Me mother is a dwarf, so I should know. But enough of that nonsense now. Let’s regale you this evening, my queen. May you never change, no matter what nay-sayers will say.”
“Oh, Gavin,” blushed Velina, leaning forward to indulge his lips.
Velina and Gavin looked down and saw his metal tankard sticking to her metal breast cups. “But,” she said, “I think a wardrobe change would be nice once in a while.”