“Vanin, that’s enough. Stop askin’ the child so many question,” Rasda’s brother scolded his youngest son. “Forgive him, Pallu. He’s just old enough to eat with the adults.” The man looked pointedly at the offender. “And if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut, he’ll not be sitting with us much longer.”
Pallu stifled a laugh for the sake of the boy. “It’s alright, Sir Turinum. And yes Vanin, I have met my share of pirates of both land and sea.”
His naturally large, round brown eyes doubled in size. “Truly Pallu? But how are there land pirates?”
“What do you think bandits are?” She gave him a sly wink.
Vanin thought hard for a moment and his face brightened with understanding. “Ah. I grasp it.”
Rasda, her daughter, and Turinum’s wife cleared the table of plates. Turinum ignored them as did the other men and boys. “What is it that Nimshi does these days?”
“Ensure that I am not deficient in my training,” she laughed as did the others.
“I mean as a trade.”
“He is a book dealer.”
“What does deficient mean?” Vanin asked his father in whispered tones.
“I’ll tell you later. Stay quiet or I’ll make you do the women’s work.”
The boy’s face blanched which received chuckles from Rasda’s husband, Turinum, and the five other boys and young men about the table.
Pallu’s blood grew warm. The fire behind both Rasda’s husband and Turinum snapped still. “I was unaware that a woman’s job is less than a man’s.”
Turinum’s laughter slowly died when he realized she was quite serious. “You live like a man, child, you know how difficult.”
“Aye and first, I am not a child. Second, as a woman, I know well how our duties and ‘men’s duties’ as you call them are no different in matters of importance.”
The table erupted with laughter.
“What am I speaking of?” Pallu smiled a smile that would have flayed the skin off of any animal. Indeed, the men were silent at her unusual smirk and Rasda, Turinum’s wife, and Rasda’s daughter entered. “No man has the strength to fulfill a woman’s role.”
Several protests lifted from the younger men and blank stares masking injured pride were donned on the men’s faces.
Rasda’s daughter smirked when she heard the jab at the men. Her mother did not appear at all pleased but kept her silence as did Turinum’s wife.
“You are saying a man cannot do a woman’s job?”
She sat back with her arms crossed. “Aye. And I’m not just talking about cleaning and cooking. I’m talking about the children, sewing, the works.”
“Men don’t do women’s work. It’s too trivial.”
“Of course. I see. You’re afraid. You’re afraid to an injury to your pride and face among your friends.”
Turinum’s face grew redder by the moment. “I am not afraid of anything.”
Pallu knew better than to laugh at him, though he was quite comical. She merely shrugged her shoulders.
“Any man can do a woman’s work if he chose.”
“You’re telling me that you can do your wife’s work?” she inquired, a hint of disbelief in her voice.
“Fine. Prove it. Starting tomorrow you take over the household for a week.”
“Good. Your kind wife no doubt would enjoy a holiday.” Pallu looked at Turinum’s wife for conformation, but the woman would not nod her head even after she glanced at her husband. “Don’t defer to him in this matter, Cae. He is offering to give you a holiday. Would you not enjoy a short holiday?”
Pallu put up a hand. “If you are running the home, what do you need her for? She could not help you as you currently do not assist her. You must be fully in her position to understand.”
Rasda’s daughter’s smile was complete with mischievous light. “Mother has an extra room in the store. Cae can stay there.”
“Sardena,” her mother scolded.
“That settles it.” Pallu looked at the man happily.
“You are as crafty as a courtier, Pallu daughter of Nimshi,” Turinum griped.
She tilted her head. “My thanks.” Indeed, this was a compliment for her as that was where her father intended her to go. The court.
Rasda’s daughter cleared her throat. “Pallu. Maybe we can begin your lessons.”
“Yes, that would be nice. It grows late.” Pallu bowed to everyone before she and Sardena exited.
As soon as they were in the girl’s room, she burst into fits of laughter and pointed at Pallu. “That was amazing.”
She smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Turinum is never fooled. Oh I would pay good money to be able to see that house while Cae is gone. I’m glad you did not pull that
on my father. I would be the one doing all the work.”
“I could not do that to my dance instructor. Besides, I figured that Turinum would be more apt to forgive me because he was my father’s friend.”
“We’ll see. But here. Put your sword and cloak here. Why do you wear that scarf?”
Pallu touched her head and smiled meekly. “Helps hide my hair so people on the road think I’m a boy.”
Sardena’s eyes were as round as her cousin, Vanin’s. “Must be wonderful to have such adventures. Is it true all those tales you told?”
“Oh it is. I love it. Once you go on adventures and travel, you become attached.”
“But isn’t it hard? The weather, the fighting.”
Pallu put her sword and cloak down. “Of course. But it’s all worth it. There’s nothing like sleeping under the sky and sitting around the campfire with your companions or riding the backs of waves and having the wind send your hair flying. It’s amazing.”
The excitement in Sadena’s eyes grew to a pitch and then slowly died as she recalled her surroundings. “Let’s start those lessons.”
Soon the girls’ feet were stomping or tapping. Pallu’s scarf loosened and fell. Instinctively she reached out with her mind to catch it.
Her hand followed so quickly Sardena took no notice. At the end of their dancing, both girls were laughing on the floor.
“You’re pretty good.”
“Thanks.” Pallu’s hand rested on her stomach. “You know, Sardena. You’re the only girl I’ve spent more than two moments with that’s my age.”
“Yeah. I don’t have many friends.”
Sardena patted Pallu’s back. “May this be just the beginning for you, Pal.”
Both were silent for a moment until Sardena asked, “How long are you to be here?”
“Well, about two weeks. I just arrived yesterday.”
“We must spend more time together. I might be able to get out of some chores so I can show you about the town and country side.
Maybe I can show you a bit about being more girlish.”
“You’d do that?”
“Yeah. And you can tell me more of your stories. Maybe even show me how to use a sword or dagger.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. I’ll be in tomorrow with Ma for the festival. I’ll see if I can’t get her to let me help you pick out some stuff and we can practice some more.”