‘Yes,’ the gear said. ‘The swelling in the chest and size of the hips is unnatural for men, so I assumed it was a woman. And based on how she moves, I would say she is very flexible, something also unusual for most men. I’m almost one hundred percent positive I have the sex right.’
Griever shook his head. Wouldn’t be the first woman he knew that could fight. His mother had taught him the basics after all, if only to show him he shouldn’t fight lest he get injured. And she had been claimed to be taught by HER mother. Grandmother Jem was something else if so.
But, no, it wasn’t her being a woman that was ridiculous. It was that she took down those men like they were nothing!
One of the men – the last one, actually – took off into the woods, obviously realizing he and his friends had made a mistake. Griever actually felt sorry for them. For a man, nothing was as shameful as losing to a woman. Even Griever felt that way, though he had seen women who could fight as well as most men.
Still… Griever stayed on guard even as he approached the woman. He might be able to manage with Bash…
She turned out to be wearing a mask – it was in the shape of a bird of some sort and seemed worn with age – and hood to conceal her head, though he clothes did nothing to hide her gender. Leather stretched tightly over well-proportioned assets and hilts sprang out from her legs, giving away the position of many of her knives. The bow she held was unlike any Griever had ever seen, being long enough to stand as tall as it’s wielder, and a bloody arrow was clutched in her other hand.
Griever made sure to stop a good three or four yards away and tried to ignore the feeling of familiarity he felt with this woman. He wasn’t a shameless flirt, though he did like to do so when the mood was right, so he didn’t recognize her body. It was the mask. He had seen the exact one somewhere else.
“I must thank you,” Griever said honestly, ignoring Bash’s call for attention. He could tell Griever his discovery later. “You not only saved my life, but took care of the ones who tried to take it.”
The woman stared at him through the mask blankly. She took her own sweet time before answering, too. When she finally did talk, it was in an accent he found nostalgic as well; Northern. “Usually men curse me when I help them,” she said, the accent of Griever’s grandfather hanging thickly in her voice, “Especially after finding out I am a woman.”
“I give credit where credit is due,” Griever said honestly, but found his mind began to wonder. How ling since he had felt the pleasure of a woman…?”
‘Disgusting!’ Bash shouted, overriding Griever’s mental block of him. What was so disgusting about it? ‘She might be your cousin!’
Griever couldn’t help but step back. Cousin? ‘What do you mean?’ Griever thought to the Gear, ignoring his discomfort at having to mentally talk.
“Something on my face?” the woman asked with an amused tone.
“A mask?” Griever guessed.
‘That mask was the same one your mother’s sister, Ruby, had on her shelf when you visited her as an infant,’ the Gear explained. ‘I bet she is the daughter of Ruby and, therefor, your cousin. It’s a slight possibility, but Ruby also had several awards for sharpshooting, making me lean toward it being the truth.’
“Funny,” the woman said with a smile, barely visible under the bottom edge of her mask. “Now do me a favor, if you would be so kind.”
Griever sighed. The Gear… had to be wrong. This was too insane to be real. He had never been around his family in the north that much. A few visits when he was barely able to remember – and those were blurry at best – and then his mother had stopped making the trip. Too costly, she had claimed. His father, of course, wasn’t around to comment. Too busy working off his debt at that point.
“What can I do to help?” Griever asked the woman who was most likely his cousin and off limits to any advance he could have tried. Damn luck. “I don’t have much, really.”
“Oh, but you have more than enough to give,” the masked figure said, a dangerous tone entering her voice. “Those two bands on your arm are worth more than a kingdom, after all.”