Title: Morning Session
Word Count: 638
Time Frame: Post-The Privilege of the Sword
Summary: Artemisia arrives in the middle of Katherine's training.
Disclaimer: Swordspoint isn't mine, it belongs to Ellen Kushner.
Artemisia got off the carriage at the gates of the Tremontaine manor. The weather was a bit warmer than the last few days so she preferred to walk up the alley and enjoy the sight of the park. There were still patches of snow in the shade of the bigger trees, but the rest of it had melted. One of the cats, the grey one, was asleep on a windowsill. She went to pet her and was rewarded with a low purr.
"Aren't you cold, little one? You should come back inside with me. Kitty, kitty!" The cat looked at her, then went back to staring at the wall. "Well, suit yourself."
Artemisia proceeded to knock on the front door and a servant hastened to open it. She then felt the cat snake between her legs and barely had the time to see her disappear in the left part of the corridor.
"I'm sorry, Lady Fitz-Levi, but the Duchess can't receive you now. She is still training," the servant explained as he took her coat and scarf from her hands.
"It's fine, I will go and watch her. I'm sure she won't mind," she answered assuredly.
Artemisia headed for the practice room with a smile. She hadn't seen her friend fight in a long time. As she pushed the imposing doors of the room, Katherine, in the middle of a bout, turned her head to see what was happening.
The swordmaster took advantage of the distraction to attack her. "Keep focused on the fight at all times," Drake scolded his student.
But to Artemisia's relief, Katherine parried without difficulty. "I'm merely being mindful of my surroundings." She thrust forward. "Isn't that what should be done at any time?" He blocked her and pushed her sword to the right, but she rotated her wrist and lunged forward again. He walked back two steps to dodge the blow. "You are the one who seems to be in difficulty right now." Artemisia grinned, always in awe before Katherine's dexterity.
"You talk too much," Drake commented as he prepared for another attack. But Katherine understood at once the move he intended to use and readied herself. She parried, pivoted and went for the resulting opening.
"Do I?" Katherine asked smugly, her sword pointed at his heart.
Artemisia applauded with enthusiasm. "Lord Fabian, your skills are limitless, I can only be your fervent admirer!"
"Thank you, that will be all for today," Katherine told Drake while sheathing her sword. As he exited the room, she walked to her friend.
"Lady Stella, you do know that my skills are at your service," she declared as she took Artemisia's hand and brought it to her lips.
Artemisia blushed under the attention. "You have proved that already, my Lord, and I will be grateful to you my whole life." She giggled: "I think we should celebrate your victory over your evil swordmaster."
She did a little dance step, lifted Katherine's arm and turned on herself. Katherine pulled her and made her turn in the other direction. Artemisia gasped as she ended in Katherine's arms. They looked in each other's eyes for a long moment, until Katherine dared to lean forward and press a kiss to Artemisia's lips. The young woman went still in shock.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Artemisia, I didn't want to scare you." Katherine took a step backwards but Artemisia was still holding on her hand.
"No… No, it's fine, I was only surprised. I would never be scared of you, Katherine." She smiled at her friend, blushing again, and Katherine smiled back, reassured. "My dear, today is such a lovely day and I wanted us to go on a walk. Come on, let's not waste any time!" Artemisia exclaimed as she dragged Katherine out of the room with a renewed energy. Katherine followed obediently.