The streets of Beldatz seemed louder for Jakitza, and she was doing her best to control herself and avoid glaring in a very rude way to anyone who dared cross her path. How could they? How could they close the school for girls? What was the governor thinking? It was almost more than she could endure. The school had been about her only refuge in this city and what was she to do now? She couldn’t help it, a small, angry look came to her features as she stalked through the streets.
Her robes, modest but well kept, fluttered in the wind with every resolute step, and it seemed that her entire appearance was serving as a nice wedge to clear a way for her. She spotted a few of the city’s Watch amongst the crowd, and noticed one particular patrol with a Watchman in an officer’s uniform.
She narrowed her eyes for a moment. She was on bad terms with the Watch right now, since they had participated in the school lockdown.
The patrol began to walk briskly following the officer, who was carrying swords instead of the standard issue spear. The crowd opened up for them and they would soon cross her path.
She moved along her way, deciding that she could do with angering the Watch a bit today. It was totally unlike her, but today she couldn’t help it.
“Clear the way! Clear the way!” One of the watchmen was shouting. The parting crowd made it a bit more difficult to walk, but Jakitza was thin and quite used to navigating tight spaces in her father’s study, so she had no trouble getting in the way of the advancing guards.
“What? Out of the way, girl!” The Watchman now shouted directly at her.
She looked up and gave her best angry face.
“Or what? Arrest me?” She huffed and continued walking forward.
The Watchman was surprised by the answer, preventing him from warning the officer, who was intently reading a scroll and not looking where he was going, which at the present was straight towards Jakitza. She continued on her course, but she, unlike the officer was ready for the impact.
“Whoa!” The man crashed into her, sending her reeling back and down on the ground while he only stumbled and dropped his scroll.
“Captain!” One of the Watchmen cried as the others rushed to his side.
She only looked up angrily, defiantly.
“Are you alright, miss?” The officer offered his hand.
Now that took her by surprise. The anger vanished in an instant and suddenly she reverted to shy again. She gulped slightly and nodded, taking the offered hand, albeit slowly. It was then that she recognized the crest on the man’s robes. He was not just an officer, he was the commander of the Watch. If her knowledge of current affairs was up to date, this man would be Captain Tercos Itzcori himself.
“Ah… yes… I’m… OK.” She said after a moment and gulped slightly.
“You should be more careful where you walk.” He hoisted her up. “You should be at school, by the by.”
“That would be impossible, sir. The schools have been closed to girls.” Her anger flared up again for a moment, but she controlled it this time.
“So… they got away with it.” The man sighed and shook his head. “I wish there was something I could have done, but my hands are tied in this matter.”
“I’m… I don’t know what to do. Why are they doing this?” She vented her frustration at the first sign of sympathy from the officer. While she was impressed by the man’s rank, she was used to being familiar with court appointees, thanks to her father’s job.
“That is what I would like to know as well.” He nodded and signaled to one of his subordinates, who hurried in another direction. “I am Captain Tercos Itzcori, if there is anything I can help you with, do not hesitate to ask; that is my duty.”
“Unless you have somewhere for me to study again, I do not know what I could ask of you, captain.” She inclined her head faintly and smiled nervously. “My name is Jakitza Egoski.”
“Egoski… are you related to Magistrate Xilcatzin Egoski?” He asked. Around them, the crowd had begun to disperse now that they were sure there would be no scandal.
“He is my father.” She said, even more quietly now.
“Ah… I see.” He nodded. “I do not think he will be pleased to hear about these news as well. Trust me on this, Miss Egoski; would it were in my hands to counter this decision, I would have. As for a place to study, I’m afraid that the Watch is not a place for girls, not that we provide much of an education either.”
“I see. Thank you for you kind words in any case, captain.” She nodded, looking now, not angry, but sad.
“Run along home, now, Miss Egoski. Again, I am sorry to hear of this.” He gave a gentle pat on her shoulder and turned aside, receiving the scroll he had been reading from one of the remaining guards.
She nodded once more and resumed her stride home, only now without the anger fueling her steps.
“Miss Jakitza?” The house servant was very surprised to see her when she returned to her home.
“Don’t ask…” She murmured and sighed deeply, walking through towards the next best, soft thing to sit on and threw herself down.
“Jakitza? What are you doing home?” Her mother came out from her workroom. “Don’t tell me… they… they closed school?”
“So you heard…” Jakitza said and closed her eyes in order to stop the tears from coming. She was not a weak girl by all means, but this was just a bit too much for her.
“Your father told me…” The woman sat down next to her daughter. “There was a proposal floating about the court, but most magistrates didn’t take it seriously.”
“Well, it is serious now. They just closed the schools for girls. We are to… return home and learn things girls should learn.”
Her mother sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry, darling…”
“What can I do now mother?” she said and shifted a bit to lean against her mother.
“You can always study from your father’s books.” The woman spoke softly, but Jakitza felt her stiffen briefly. “Oh, gods…”
“What?” The girl looked up to her mothers features. There was a look of great worry and pity.
“Jakitza.” Her mother spoke softly. Jakitza recognized this tone; it warned her to brace for a hard revelation, but her family was not one to hide the truth, no matter how harsh. “Without your school diploma, you won’t be able to take the magistrate exams.”
Jakitza stared at her mother for a second, then another and another and then looked down gradually, her entire form shaking softly.
“This is not fair! IT’S NOT FAIR!”
“I know, I know.” Her mother pulled her close.
Now she did cry. All her future dreams seemed to be crashing down around her at the moment and that can hurt a person, no matter how much they have themselves under control.
She was held in her mother’s arm until all the tears had drained away from her eyes.
“Now, dear…” Her mother raised her head gently. “Not everything is over… it’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself and decide what you really want to do, and why.”
“I… want to learn… to know things.” Jakitza gulped down the remaining tears and looked at her mother quietly.
“And is school the only way to do this?”
“Where else could I go…? What else can I do? Tell me, mother…”
“I’ve heard that master Quitzam up in the lighthouse is a wizard. Wizards take apprentices all the time without asking for accreditation. You can register as a wizard to become a magistrate later.”
“B-but… I mean, do wizards take girls as apprentices? And even so, all this magic… don’t you need talent for that?”
“I really don’t know.” Her mother sighed, but smiled. “I wish we could send you to another city to study, but we don’t have that much money.”
“I don’t know what to do.” Jakitza sighed deeply and looked as though she tried to compose herself.
“I could use some help in transcribing some documents. Your handwriting has gotten very good,” The older woman planted a loving kiss on Jakitza’s forehead. “Let’s wait for your father to come home.”
She nodded softly and tried a feint smile before both of them stood up and went to work. Somehow, she would manage to continue her studies. She made that promise to herself and she never broke a promise. Her little brother arrived at noon, his first words were of mockery to girls who were kicked out of his school as well. One look from her eyes silenced the mockery. She had always gotten along with her brother very well, and he had never seen the suppressed rage that now shone in Jakitza’s eyes when he had made that comment. They boy shuffled his feet and quickly ran to his room. Minutes later, her father arrived.
“Jakitza.” He nodded sadly, acknowledging the situation.
She looked up and her eyes reflected the helplessness she felt at the moment.
“Father….” she whispered. “It’s just temporary right?. They will open schools again soon.”
“I don’t know for certain.” He said. “I’m sorry. I knew about this proposal since last month, but none of us gave it a second thought. I mean… I…” He sighed and shook his head. “Forgive me, Jakitza… I had to close one of the schools myself.”
She looked for a moment as if she were ready to cry again, but then she just shook her head sadly and looked down.
“The official reason is resource management… more money is going to the defense of the city now that the Watch cannot cope with the attacks in the passes. Some of us believe this proposal came from Guild influence.”
“And… What can I do now? Where can I continue my studies…?”
“I heard a rumor.” He spoke low and pushed her daughter gently towards his study. Once they were there, he took his magistrate robe off and crossed his hands behind him. She looked to him hopefully. Maybe there would be some possibility to continue her studying after all.
“Do you know about the Hawk Maidens?” He asked softly.
“Yes, but why do you ask?” She inclined her head softly and nodded. She had read about this order of fighting maidens in a history book.
“The order… they are almost cloistered; in addition to the combat training, the girls who join receive an education that matches the schools’ in compensation for their work for the order.” Her father was twisting his hands.
Jakitza looked at her father quietly. She wondered where this talk was going.
“Well, but I know for certain that there is no school of Hawk Maidens here in Beldatz.” She said silently.
“Not yet.” He said, his tone unreadable.
“Are you saying… what are you saying father?” She raised a brow and inclined her head faintly.
“It’s the rumor… it cropped up a few months ago from the Imperial tax collectors. It seems that the Empress wants a cadre of Hawk Maidens trained here in Beldatz. She would be sending a senior member of the order to train girls around these months.”
“But… they are warriors, not scholars.Jakitza narrowed her eyes and then looked down.
“That’s right, but their basic education is the same you would receive at school.” He turned around and kneeled in front of her, looking up with worried eyes. “I don’t want to see my daughter trained in combat, not with all the bandit attacks going on… but it’s an alternative. You are old enough to make a choice, in case the rumor is true.”
She looked at her father quietly, saw the worry in his eyes and was about to say that she would never go somewhere where she would have to learn how to fight. Then however, she remembered the promise she had made to herself.
If this was the only way to continue her studying, then she knew that she would take it.
“Remember.” He took her hands gently. “It’s your life, so it’s your choice; I will be proud of you whatever your decision is.”
She nodded softly and squeezed her father’s hands lightly.
“Thank you.” she said quietly.