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Green Ice

The Moon is mistress of the tides, which means she controls the blood of men, for their red-washed veins flow with salt, echoing the sea that is mother to us all. When she calls men to her, they rise to her attendance. When she refuses them, they drown in tears of sorrow. Women, though, follow a flow and rhythm of their own, still in Sister Moon's power, but free from her compulsions
So it was that among the greatest of the Rose Knights serving under the Moon's banner in her wars with the Army of the Sun were the flowers of womanhood. Green Ice stood strong among them as the Green Knight, her armor a shade so pale as to be nearly white, her eyes the piercing color of a mountain meadow in spring, her hair silver-white as the streams that flow downward into the cathedral-forests.
Her power and her weakness were both this: Green Ice had found that her heart loved more than she could bear. Long had she been wed to a scribe who practiced his trade in the silver-stoned alleys of the Moon's great city at Point-of-Sleep. To him she came back from her battles and caravans and hunts. Of him she thought when she slept alone on high crags among ravens and the bones of owls. For him she did everything in her life of war, as he did for her in keeping a homely house, filled with friendship and love and fine food, always ready when she appeared in her dented armor and lined face, ready for his love.
Yet on the high roads, or among the ranks of Moon's haunted forests, or in the twisting byways of seacoast towns, Green Ice found again and again that she faced handsomer men, who save for the sword's-edge between them, might have been her lovers. That swell within her heart disturbed her terribly, challenged her loyalty to the scribe at Point-of-Sleep, and so drove her to a battle-fury unmatched since the passing of the storied Black Madonna. Women under arms she slew with the casual dispatch of a hound against a fox. Men under arms she slew with the vigor of a woman at threat.
A woman of great loves, and a soul that burned brighter than the enemy Sun, she was, and thus ever at war with herself. A trail of bodies told the story of her pain.
Until the day she was bested.
If he was a knight, she did not know his name or colors. He had a battered wooden shield, a notched sword, and a seat that would have set her old riding master laughing. When she chanced upon him at a bridge outside Botolph's Town, he was watering his horse.
"Ho," the Green Knight said, her blade as always ready, "swear now your allegiance to Mistress Moon or draw and defend."
He looked up, sad eyes the color of a storm under his little pot-helm. She realized this was just some soldier of middle years and too many nights around the ale cask.
"I will not swear, madam, and neither will I draw upon you." Then he tugged the reins to lift his horse's head from the creek and turned to ride away.
Battle-fury rose within her. Green Ice spurred her own mount--a fearsome destrier three times the size of her opponent's broken nag--and made to run him down. He shifted in his saddle as she overtook him, and by some supple move she had never expected, got inside her guard and threw her down.
In an instant she was on her back in the cold, cold stream, his notched blade stuck where her gorget met her breastplate. He flipped her visor up so that their faces met. "Do you yield?" he asked, his voice sad as his eyes.
The word "never" died on her lips. Was pride worth her life? The Moon might say so, but the Moon did not have freezing water soaking her quilted undertunic, nor metal pricking her neck.
His eyes never left hers. "Unlike you, I will ask again."
She had never been looked at quite that way, the Green Knight realized. She had seen love, lust, terror, death, and a thousand other things in the eyes of men. No one had ever just... looked at her. Attending her every syllable, as if her thoughts were of utmost importance.
She had never felt this, and it made her ache, filling her words with a fire she had not known she possessed.
Was loyalty to her scribe worth her life?
"And still I ask a third time." His voice was still sad, but filled with the patience of oceans.
"I...." Betrayal lurked on her tongue. Betrayal of what, of whom, she could not say.
The Moon.
Her scribe.
Herself.
She became afraid of her words, more afraid of what she might say than she was of the metal pricking her throat. She had never been one to be compelled.
"Enough." His free hand touched her lips for a moment, then his blade was withdrawn. The sad-eyed soldier turned his back to her, mounted his pathetic horse, and rode away into the wilderness
She lay in the stream a while, until the cold threatened to steal what the low-running water could not. Then the Green Knight rose and slowly divested her armor, bundling it to pack upon her great horse. Her blade she sheathed, tying off the pommel as she rarely did.
In time, she followed him into the wilderness, away from the road to Point-of-Sleep, wondering with every step whom she betrayed and whom it was she served in taking this path. He drew her forward by the skein of words caught in her throat, the power of her heart burning until her ribs ached and her eyes threatened to burst with tears.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

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