Arriving by way of the directions afforded me from a pair of monks who had saved my life and nursed me back to health, I found myself striding through the massive walled gates of San Christobal. It was the capital city of a nation my own had sworn to tear down stone by stone. But I was a soldier with no hate, and no memory, dressed in the clothing of those who were supposed to be my enemies upon the field of battle.
I had discovered the language of Castille by way of the monks’ conversation during my convalescence. Upon my journeys so far, I encountered no difficulty in my disguise and found only shelter and laughter among these people. They were not my enemies; the monks had been very clear upon the uniforms worn by the men who had left me for dead. Those uniforms were worn by my own countrymen.
Making my way along the outskirts of the aged copper minarets and mosques standing side by side with the newer monasteries and cathedrals of the Vaticine Church, I wondered at this eclectic mix of architecture. But my wonder was soon lost upon the seedier side of the wharves, where the buildings’ paint was stripping away and bared wood was swollen and rotted. I wasn’t sure exactly why my path had led here, until I saw her.
She was dressed in fine black cloth that sheathed her form in mystery. Until she looked up, all I could see was the long, fine snow-white hair that hid her face. Then those deep brown pools locked onto my own eyes. Her lips formed an exquisite bow, rounding to form words. Even in the state I still find myself in, my memories lost and thoughts often strewn like leaves on an autumn wind in a million random directions, I knew that she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes upon.
Speaking of bows—she had one, and was nocking an arrow to fire! At first I couldn’t fathom what I could have possibly done to anger this vision magnifique so. It was then I saw the crude, leering men moving to surround her. There had to have been at least a dozen of them. Their knives flashed, showing their evil intent. I knew immediately that I could not allow whatever these villains wished upon her to come to pass.
I rushed headlong into their midst, my rapier and main gauche clearing their sheaths. They were unaware of my arrival until after I’d dispatched the first three with a flurry of elbows and pommels. Then their back rank turned upon me, four pairs of angry eyes fixed upon my person. I easily parried their small blades, stepped around one, and punched him full in the face with my rapier’s guard.
As he grunted and fell, I thrust my main gauche at the waist of the second and twisted the point towards the ground. The edge severed his rope belt, and dropped his pants in a timely if unorthodox parry of the man behind him, who was attempting to reach me by thrusting between this fellow’s legs. The unpanted man’s face flushed, and his eyes widened as I whirled around him to slash at his bared buttocks with my rapier’s point. He howled and attempted to shuffle away from me, but tripped up in the cloth fallen to his ankles and hit the cobblestones face first.
His fall dragged the man who had attempted to strike low at me with him. I heard air whistle through broken teeth after I kicked that fellow in the jaw and left him senseless. I stopped then with my rapier raised to the hollow of the remaining man’s throat. He dropped his knife, raised his arms, and held stock still.
Beyond myself and the men I’d laid low, I could see the woman fighting off her remaining attackers with graceful swooping blows of her bow to their foreheads and shins. One man lay in the street, clutching his shoulder where the feathered shaft of an arrow jutted. As the last was laid groaning in pain upon the ground, she again nocked an arrow. This time, she really was pointing it at me!
I tapped the underside of the man I held at sword-point’s chin.
“You may leave here with your life, if you leave here now,” I said to him in Castilian, and then called to the beautiful woman, “Milady, are you harmed?”
She held her arrow nocked, one eye closed and focused upon her aim. The fellow I held began to run, and she swiftly turned to fly the arrow she held at the ready towards him. Such a shot I could not have made, and have rarely seen! A hanging flower pot fell, rope severed by her arrow, to crash into the skull of the fleeing man. He crumpled with a grunt. With a swift motion, she drew another arrow.
I raised my hands, smiling. She did not understand Castilian, so naturally I thought she might understand my own native tongue.
“Milady, I am here to help. I have already dispatched several of the villains assaulting you,” I said in Montaigne.
The look on her face said she did not understand me one bit.
I had no desire to be shot, you understand. So in a last ditch effort, I spoke in the only other language I knew to try.
“I mean you no harm, milady. I saw what these scoundrels were attempting and could not, in good conscience, allow it to happen.”
I watched the sternness melt from her fine features. She brushed away a strand of hair that fell over her face, and let her bowstring go slack. Vodacce; it would have to be Vodacce, wouldn’t it?
She did not reply before pure happenstance allowed me to provide some relief in the tension. A passing cart bearing fruits and floral bouquets clattered in our direction along the wharves. I shifted to my side, and thrust my rapier into the depths of the cart. My main gauche flashed swiftly like a serpent’s strike. As it passed, I sheathed my main gauche and reached to my purse to flick a few cents into the back of the cart.
The flowers that were sliced from their bouquets landed near her feet, and I loosed one of the fruits upon my blade in her direction. In a flash, she nocked an arrow and impaled the fruit as it came close to her, catching it as it fell from the air. I think there was perhaps a slight grin on her face for just one brief moment.
“As we are both strangers in a strange land, might I be so bold as to suggest that we keep one another company for a time while we travel through it?” I said with a smile and a deep bow.
And that, my friends, was how I came to meet the incomparably lovely Lee Seul Ki in the wharf district of San Christobal.