top of page

The Lorelei Signal


Four Women With Swords

Written by Ray Daley / Artwork by Marge Simon

The Fallen Kingdom was that sort of tavern. The kind of establishment where men went to fight, and spill beer. The kind of dive where a good argument was one which resulted in at least one participant dying. The kind of hostelry that could always find a clear table for arriving adventurers, in hope of hearing a gruesome story, that didn't necessarily have a happy ending.


The kind of place? It was your basic tavern. A badly rendered sign hung above the entrance, several piles of vomit and dead bodies, frequently encroaching upon one another. A casually tossed axe, still sticking in the front door. Only slightly worse than your basic tavern, if truth be told.


Inside, it was a day like any other.


The barman was trying to wipe the bar dry, an impossible task, considering the fact his rag was wetter than the actual sea. The floor was soaked with a yellowing liquid which probably wasn't beer, and almost certainly tasted better than anything they sold behind the bar. Three different fights were going on, at least two would turn out to be terminal.


Until the front door was kicked open.


The front door being kicked in was a regular occurrence, so it was ignored, according to routine. The sun's rays shone inside, making the whole place look a lot more pathetic than it actually was, because there's nothing worse than seeing a drinking place in the cold hard light of day. The sun continued to shine through the doorway, until several large figures in armour blocked it out. Again, this was a normal occurrence. Only this stopped the fighting. A table was quickly cleared, most of its occupants were punched off their benches.


As usual, it fell to the barkeep to welcome his new arrivals. "Welcome, bold adventurers! Come in, there's a table free. First round is always on the house. Pray, enthral us with deeds of men!"


The armoured figures made their way inside, shaking loose their matted hair, brushing the dust off their breastplates, adjusting their swords. They sat down at the empty table. "Barkeep. Four tankards of whatever you've got that tastes the least like piss. Also, food. What's your least worst bill of fare?"


As the door finally creaked shut, and eyes had readjusted to the ambient light, the room fell completely silent. The men in The Fallen Kingdom hadn't needed to see who the new arrivals were. Their ears worked perfectly. Well, they had to. You don't survive long in a place like that unless you can hear someone pulling a dirk on you beneath the table. But they had to wait, to be completely sure. And when their eyes finally registered the four new adventurers, they came to a realisation.


They were women.


It was fairly obvious. Breastplates that contained actual breasts. Thighs that weren't as thick as tree trunks. Eyes that had clearly seen things. Mostly dead things, and an attitude of self-assuredness that rather unnerved the occupants of The Fallen Kingdom.


All apart from one of them. "Did you stop to braid your hair on the way here?"


The tallest woman looked at him. "No. We braided it as we walked. We're woman, we can multi-task. It stops the hair blocking your vision when you're fighting, so it's not just pretty, it's also practical. Any other stupid questions?"


The same man nodded. "Where's your skirts, ladies?"


She looked at him again, clearly weary of his attempt at banter. "We traded them for food. Survival trumps fashion. Are you going to continue with this line of inane questioning?"


The man nodded, clearly feeling braver than the rest of the room.


The tallest woman drew a dagger, tossing it into his throat, killing him instantly. "If anyone else wishes to ask us stupid questions, feel free. You've just seen what happened to the last man who tried."


Three entire seconds passed. Seconds in which no order was filled. Extra seconds that were essentially an eternity for adventurers who had been on the road far too long, killing trolls, orcs and idiots who didn't take women seriously. The tallest woman stood up, and walked over to the bar. "Barkeep. Who do you have to kill to get served in here?"


The barman pointed to a head on a pike, mounted just in front of the oak bar top. "Him. You have to kill him."


The tallest woman gave him a stare. Anyone in their right mind would have broken eye contact immediately. "I'd like to speak to the Landlord."


The barman grinned. "No problem. Got a Necromancer?" Then he patted the head on the pike.


The tallest woman nodded. "We had one. Only we killed him, for trying to use sarcasm at precisely the wrong time. You wouldn't be trying to use sarcasm, would you?" She patted her sword pommel. "Because I really hate when that happens."


Like most people who have ever worked in any bar, the barman in The Fallen Kingdom had frequently faced imminent death. Often three times before breakfast, mostly because he wouldn't serve certain people, those of the Dwarfish persuasion on the whole. So, he'd seen the look in her eye before, generally from a great deal lower down. "Listen..."


A hand was placed across his mouth. "I am Larissa, of the Northern Mountain tribe. I killed my first man before my eighth birthday, he was due to become my husband. My sword has tasted blood many times since that day. If you were about to call me darling, I'm not. Nor am I your love, sweetheart or dearest. What I am if you speak unwisely, is the bringer of your end. Now, I'll remove my hand. Rethink what you were about to say."


"Listen, Larissa," The barman wasn't stupid. "I'm Harry. No-one's in charge here. Look around, you saw what it was like when you walked in here. It's chaos. You can't expect order in a place like this. It's impossible to stop a fight in here. It's mob rule, dog eat dog, only we ate all the dogs years ago. I can do you four tankards of goat piss. And it'll be warm, unless you prefer horse? No matter how sharp your sword is, I can't offer your party any more than that."


The men who'd been fighting were still currently frozen in place, edged weapons mere inches from slashing throats. Every male eye was on the four women now.


Larissa turned to look at the fight closest to her. Eight men, twelve axes, four swords and what appeared to be a wolf. Even the wolf had stopped fighting, when they'd walked in. Because it was that kind of place, we've already established that, yes?


The largest man with the smallest axe had clearly been the instigator.


Larissa pointed at him. "You. Idiot with the tiny axe. What's your name, and why are you fighting?"


He immediately hung his head, rather than make eye contact with her. He muttered something she couldn't hear.


She cupped a hand to one ear. "What was that? Can't hear you. Speak up, man!"


"I'm Andros. Mikus said I had a small axe."


Larissa quickly stole a glance that took in the entire room, and everything in it. Everything that could be used as a weapon, or already was one. Then she faced the man again. "I've just checked. That's definitely the smallest axe in here. Fight's over. Sit the hells down. Now!"


The idiot with the small axe found his legs folding beneath him.  The other seven men suddenly looked extremely nervous.


"Which of you is Mikus?"


A dwarf holding the wolf and a sword nodded.


"Don't start stupid fights for no reason. Sit the hells down." Larissa looked at the rest of the men, as Mikus hit the floor next to his wolf. "So what's your excuse?"


She pointed to the next man. "Wanted to kill someone."


Rolling her eyes, she called on the next fool. "Wanted to look tough."


And finally looked at the last man, sheepishly hiding behind a shield. "Was too afraid not to join in."


Larissa held up a hand. She pointed to the man who'd wanted to kill someone. "You. I'm someone. Kill me."


The man stood there, staring at her. You could tell he was suddenly uncomfortable with an axe in each hand. "But you're…"


Larissa shot him a look that would have stopped most men's hearts. "If you're about to say 'a woman,' I won't even need to pull my sword to kill you. You wanted to kill someone, here I am. Go ahead. I won't even reach for my weapon. Free shot."


It wasn't that the man who'd wanted to kill someone lost that desire. It was simply replaced by that eternal burning desire to keep breathing, remain upright, and stay alive. He quickly sat down on the floor, without even being asked. The man that wanted to look tough sat down next, closely followed by the rest of the group. Mikus the dwarf had the shortest journey to the ground.


Larissa looked around the room again. "If anyone feels the need to fight, I'm not busy, and my sword could use the workout. Does anyone still want a fight?"


There was a lot of squelching, as men quickly sat themselves on the wet floor, not caring what the liquid was any longer. They just wanted to get themselves out of Larissa's attention.


The chaos, as it formerly had been, was now averted.


Larissa turned back to Harry and smiled. "Right. I've dealt with the chaos for you. Now, if you'd be so kind. I want four tankards of actual beer. And some hot food. Chicken would be nice, but we'll take pork or beef, if chicken isn't available. As of now, you're the landlord. If anyone wants to argue about that, me and my friends are sitting over there. If you've not got anyone to cook, some of these lads look like they might know their way around a kitchen."


Harry might have been a good barman, but he'd worked in The Fallen Kingdom just a little too long, around a few too many men. "But you're women?"


At the table, the other three women stood up. Blood was still dripping off one woman's sword. Fresh blood.


Larissa looked at him. "An extremely stupid man outside said you don't serve women in here. Is that right? Just nod."


Harry nodded.


"Well, here's the thing, Harry. We're not just women. We're adventurers. Women with swords. You already told me it was impossible to stop a fight in here? I just did that without even touching my sword, Harry. I know you serve adventurers. It was all I kept hearing, as we made our weary way those many miles down the Imperial Highway. Five star rated, as a good place to die, or start a fight. Well, my friends and I don't mind a fight. Look at Emeline, over there. Her sword is still dripping with the blood of the last man who said something stupid to us. We've got gold. It's real too, none of the elven crap, okay? You get us some real beer and hot food, and I'll make you a rich man. A rich, live man. How does that sound to you, Harry?"


~ * ~


At the end of the Imperial Highway stands a tavern. It used to be known as The Fallen Kingdom. The sign has long since been repainted. Inside, the floor is dry, most days. You can buy real beer, and actual food too. Harry still mans the bar. Mikos and Andros keep the kitchen open all hours. And if you look at the sign really carefully, you'll realise it depicts something incredibly important, because of course they renamed the place after its saviours.


Four women. With swords.


PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

Ray Daley was born in Coventry & still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he was 10. His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986. Tweet him @RayDaleyWriter

bottom of page