by Kat Howard
Read by Amal El-Mohtar
The first time I used a blade to defend a point of honor, both the blade and the honor were mine. I was perhaps eight, and Rosamaria Sandro had accused me of copying her mathematics exam. The next time we were in the salle, I told her I would prove her a liar with my blade. She stopped laughing at the idea when I hit her for the third time with the blunted end of my sword and made her tell our mathematics instructor the truth. The pomp and ceremony of today’s events have nothing in common with that juvenile scuffle but the blade.
The blade, of course, is what matters. It is as sharp, as edged, as fatal as truth.
The subject of this Arbitration stands to the left of the dueling grounds, tiny white teeth sunk so deep into her lip that it, too, whitens. Her fiancé hovers close by, as if to shield her from the events or perhaps from their consequences. I wonder if he will put her aside if I am defeated. I want to think that he will stay with her, that his protective posture is a sign of genuine attachment rather than a signal of possession. Laurelle is beautiful, and wealthy. The things that have been whispered about her would never have been said so viciously if it were otherwise. So it is possible he stands at her back because of reasons other than love, but I do not wish to believe in them.
Rated R. Contains swords, which are sharp, edged, and fatal.