The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly - Jamie Pacton

1

THE RED KNIGHT ONLY FIGHTS ON WEDNESDAYS, FRIDAYS, and Saturdays. Much to the everlasting chagrin of my boss, King Richard the Bold, aka Len Schwartz.

Tonight’s Friday, and the Red Knight, my older brother, Chris, is running late. Again.

“Please, please, please let me fight.” I pace across Len’s tiny office, my skirts swishing. “I know all the moves, and I’ve been practicing. For years!”

“You’re a Serving Wench!” snaps Len, not looking up from the—I shit you not—golden chalice he insists on drinking coffee from. “We’ve talked about this before. You serve the guests. Let the real actors take care of the story.”

“Serving Wench” is my official job title, not just some sexist slur Len’s throwing out. Well, it is sexist. But also correct in a history-is-painful-to-the-modern-feminist kind of way. When I applied, I had to list on the application what experiences I had that qualified me “to Wench.”

Sigh.

Len shuffles through a pile of papers—schedules, bills, a stack of flyers from the Castle Corporate group festooned with Gothic script and lots of exclamation points—then shoves the flyers in my direction. “Hand these out to the other Wenches, will you? Corporate wants all of us thinking about how to get more butts into seats for the shows.”

Snatching the flyers from him, I bang my hand on Len’s desk and lean in close. I even drop into my best medieval English accent. “But I’m a real actor too! I’ve done drama for years. I go to forensic tournaments—”

“Yes, yes,” Len says, and sighs. “I’ve seen your résumé every week since you started working here freshman year. You were in The Crucible and The Secret Garden.”

“At the university,” I snap.

“Whatever,” says Len. “You’re not fighting as the Red Knight. Women weren’t knights in the Middle Ages. They didn’t save the day then—”

“Wrong! What about Joan of Arc? Matilda of Canossa? Khawlah bint al-Azwar? Brienne of Tarth? Or even Arya Stark? She killed the Night King, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Len takes another swig of coffee. Some of it runs down his chin and disappears into the hipster-musician beard that hangs past his collarbones. Gross.

“What about company policy, Kit?”

“It’s the twenty-first century, Len.”

“Not in here it isn’t. And you know the Castle has a very strict hierarchy. Squires become Knights. You’re not trained as a Squire—”

“Because you won’t let me!”

“Irrelevant. Plus, Brienne and Arya are fictional.”

I inhale sharply, counting to ten in my head as I search for patience. Getting angry at a guy like Len only makes him think he’s won an argument. Of course I know Brienne and Arya are fictional. And Len knows I know because I’m the one who got him hooked on Game of Thrones in the first place. But even with the GoT ladies being made up, the other women were real. And badasses. They would’ve laughed if a guy like Len tried to stop them from fighting.

“Don’t you think,” I say through clenched teeth, “we should take every chance to show people what the Middle Ages were really like?”

This is a favorite soapbox of mine. History books have gotten the Middle Ages wrong for so long. And white supremacist groups have run with it. They’ve gleefully painted the Middle Ages as this world where everybody sticks to gender roles, white men in the West are heroes, and everyone else are bad guys to be conquered, subjugated, or killed. All in the name of God and country of course.

Ridiculous. Dangerous. And totally unnecessary at a place like the Castle.

Len rubs the space between his overgrown eyebrows, really digging his fingers into his skull. As if he could somehow make me disappear if