Read by Sue Brophy
“How’d you like a match next decadi?” said Mr. Karinen. I’d been sparring with his lads since Plum-day, my knuckles scuffing open and seeping into my wraps. My Da poured vinegar over them until they finally healed over into dark pink scars.
“Yes, sir!” I said. “Which I’ll do you and Da proud.”
“No doubt of it, Valma, no doubt of it. There’s one thing, though, you see. The Provosts, they won’t allow lasses in the ring. There’s lasses among the Provosts, not that you can tell them for such without a hair on their heads. Why they can do magic but not fight, I don’t know, but it’s the Provosts’ law to make and ours to live under. But I know just the fellow who will help.”
Hanno Jalmarinen, charm-master, lived behind a copper-worked door at the end of a long alley. He measured me up and down with his little pale eyes and then made me stand still for a half-hour while he did mysteries about me, and then he went to his workbench and muttered over a bit of metal for a moment. Two hundred soldats, it cost Mr. Karinen, and I thought it a vast sum indeed, but when I put on the charm Mr. Karinen said it was excellent work.
The charm was a fine copper ring to go about my littlest finger, flat enough that it would not be felt beneath my wraps, let alone my gloves. “Mind you never take it off,” Mr. Karinen said. “And keep it secret. The Provosts have laws on everything.”
Rated R. Contains violence, sports, alcohol, and burlesque.