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And Itza Danced coverFrom the beginning, the fight is in Itza’s favor. She is smaller, but faster than Elveric. He’s been injured recently, something she uses to her advantage. Once he is down on the ground, the marshals stop the fight.

The marshals walked over, waiting for his decision. “She is in her rights to kill you, sir,” his man pointed out needlessly. “She offers you a chance to yield, do you accept?”

Elveric looked from Itza to each of the marshals and back at the tip of the staff. “I yield,” he croaked.

Itza stepped delicately onto the ground beside him, offering him her hand. “Call off your men, send them away.”

“What’s to prevent you killing me as soon as they do?” He was angry and it made him bold.

“My word as head woman of this village,” she spoke simply.

He spat at her feet, anger making him stupid. He swatted aside her hand and pulled himself painfully and slowly up, using his staff for support. “Your word?” he bellowed, mere inches from her face. “What use is your word? And what is to prevent me and mine from coming back here and taking what we want another day?”

Your word.”

“You did promise, boss, to go away….” Crex said.

Elveric smacked the bandit with the back of his big knuckled hand. “Shut up, you! I’m still in charge here and I say we take what we want from these folk and burn the village to the ground!”

His men made no move to do as told. Instead, they took a few steps away from the ring. Some dropped their weapons, backing completely away from Elveric and the villagers.

“You promised,” Itza told him. “How many of your men will follow you now that you’ve been bested by me?”

Elveric glared at Itza, then looked at his men, realizing she was right. They would not follow him against these people and might not follow him anymore at all. He’d lost more than he’d bargained for.

“Very well,” he yelled, spittle flying from his lips. “Very well, we leave this village alone this time!”

“Forever,” Itza prompted. “You leave us in peace for all time. In fact, you can tell any other marauders to pass us by, for all who come shall receive the same treatment you did. However,” she raised her voice loudly, turning in a slow circle, facing his men, “tell anyone you meet that though today I spared the life of this man, I shall kill anyone who disturbs our peace. Is there a man among you who disbelieves me? If so, let him come forward, and I shall prove my veracity!”

No one moved nor did they speak. Instead, the bandits bowed to her with respect and laid their weapons at her feet. Some cut and ran as soon as they could, others walked quietly away, standing a respectful distance, waiting for their boss. Others did neither, but waited patiently for the rest to depart before approaching Itza. One of these was the fellow who had acted as marshal.

“Miss, I beg yer pardon,” he said politely. “But it be rather obvious my boss will no longer have me. Not that I can blame him, but twould make me a proud man indeed if you would accept me to join your band.”

“I’ve not got a band, fellow. I have a village of farmers, if you wish to stay in that capacity, then you are welcome.”

“That’d do me fine, miss.”

Grinning happily, he joined the old farmer for a drink in the tavern. Many of the village men followed him. Some stayed protectively around Itza until the bandits dribbled away into the woods or across the fields.

When Elveric and the others had gone, the handful of men approached Itza, bowing as if to a queen. “Miss,” their self-appointed spokesman said to her. “We’d be proud as can be if you’d allow us to stay as Crex has done. It’s been in me own mind for some time that this bandit life no longer suited me. You’d find us hard workers and ready to help out any way we can to defend your village here, for it’s a fair and pretty place. Will ye have us?”

Itza looked at her brother, uncle and sister for confirmation. All of them gave a slight nod of acceptance.

“You are welcome here, fellows. See you work hard and act right and you’ll find us fair and honest folk. Mistreat this trust we give you and it will be your heads on a pike. You accept these conditions?”

The spokesman looked around at his comrades. They all nodded happily.

“Aye, Miss. Me and the boys like that fine.”

They followed their comrade into the tavern, bowing and nodding happily as they went.

Itza watched them closely, looking for signs of betrayal or subterfuge. She found nothing out of the ordinary. They were what they said, men who were tired of life on the road and wanted a place to settle down. She smiled and looked around at her people. Some were smiling, others looked incredibly puzzled, still more were frowning after the bandits.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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