In the fourth chapter of Lady Knight, Kel frets about what lies ahead of her as she arrives at the fort she is to command. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Lady Knight.
Chapter Four: Kel Takes Command
This inspired so many feelings, y’all. So many of them.
- A lot of the first half of this travel is a gradual build of dread and excitement. As Kel gets closer and closer to the fort she’ll be in command of, she worries about the responsibility that she’s been given. I was comforted by the fact that at least Neal and Merric were along for the journey!!!
- Still, that doesn’t mean the refugees, soldiers, and convict solders are going to accept her as Neal and Merric have. Mainly, that’s what Kel’s worried about. Sure, she’s also concerned about her own lack of experience in running a fort, but she’s a quick learner. How is she going to unify these disparate people under her charge?
- It was a bit of a relief, then, that someone had strung Kel’s flag up at the fort. She has a flag now!!! That is so beautiful.
- Calling it now: Kel’s going to have to use the mage blasts at some point.
- I also didn’t expect that the fort itself would be so far along! I knew Wyldon had commissioned its construction recently, so I thought most of what Kel would have to do was oversee the build. But the northmen are unreal when it comes to wood working.
- The first person Kel interacts with is Captain Elbridge. As far as I could tell, he didn’t seem to have too much of a problem with the fact that he was handing over command to an eighteen-year-old girl. I find it very fulfilling in terms of realism that Tamora Pierce shows us that while Kel has changed very many things, she is facing a society that is so entrenched in patriarchal norms that she’s always going to meet men (and women!) who believe that she is perverting the natural order.
- That doesn’t mean that Kel can’t change the world, because we’ve also seen how she’s made monumental changes in Corus and in Tortall. Can we please see those young girls she inspired again? Aside from that, look at what she’s done with the mistreatment of servants. I get the sense that she’s going to directly challenge how criminals and refugees are usually treated as well, and I’m excited to see that.
- Plus, I don’t want to ignore another context to this. (For real, this series IS SO FUCKING LAYERED, and I adore it.) Kel is new to this, and that conflict alone is overwhelming. Once you throw in the intersection of her gender and her affection for those who are “small” in society, you realize just how complicated this is. But purely from the standpoint of being “green,” I found Kel’s approach to this to be quite refreshing. First of all, Pierce lets Kel be afraid. That’s something we’ve seen time and time again in Protector of the Small. (Hell, for two books, Kel suffered from acrophobia!) It’s nice to know that an author will create a character who is very much a hero, and also make sure to show us that this hero experiences fear. Kel’s human! We’re all afraid of something.
- So, alongside Captain Elbridge, Kel tours the fort, which is progressing beautifully. It’s a massive place, much bigger than I expected, and I knew that this would mean that Kel would have far more responsibility than she anticipated. Which is okay! I think she’s rather resilient under stress, and I certainly expect that this will be a bewildering experience at times. But Kel is okay. She is brilliant, she is empathetic, and she cares.
- Her empathy – plus her insistence on seeing all people as people, not livestock – is going to play a huge part in Lady Knight. It has to! Even Captain Elbridge, who is kind, respectful, and polite to Kel, makes multiple comments about the criminals and the refugees that put Kel on edge. Y’all, can we also talk about how this is a brilliant example of the concept of microaggressions? We are given the character of Elbridge, who is likable, and we are then subject to his flippant and off-the-cuff remarks he makes. We see how it effects Kel, and we understand that, by themselves, they might not be that horrible, but in amalgamation, they begin to paint a bigger picture.
- I often explain microaggressions to people by using water as a metaphor. Marginalized folk are often subject to both unintentional and intentional forms of non-violent aggression at work, at school, on public transportation, on television, in their homes, from their family members, and from their closest friends. They’re never big moments; they’re subtle, nuanced, and often last maybe a few seconds. But imagine that every comment that someone makes about the color of a person’s skin, or relies on a stereotype, or demonizes the “ghetto,” or values white skin over brown skin, or whatever other example I could give, imagine if each comment is akin to having on ounce of water dumped on your head. The first comment is unpleasant. It may wake you up. It may make you uncomfortable. But it’s an ounce. Often times, you can just walk away from. However, in a social setting, you may hear eight different slightly unnerving things about women, about the poor, about race, about mental disability, and now someone’s poured a cup of water on your head. You can’t ignore how that feels. By the end of the day, you might have a Starbucks Venti (20 oz) dumped over you. Or a quart. Or, in a particularly hostile setting at work or a convention or somewhere in public or while watching the news, you might have a gallon poured on you. So when someone says that this shit doesn’t matter, that we need to learn to have a thicker skin, I immediately want to dump a gallon of water on their head and ask them to get a thicker skin. That’ll keep the cold out, right?
- And this is what irks Kel. Elbridge’s disparaging comments are something she can call out. She isn’t going to openly disobey him when he hands over the whip, or when he speaks of the criminals as if they’re a herd of cows. And that is a decision many marginalized people have to make every. single. day. We have to pick our battles. We have to gauge the situation at hand, we have to determine whether we’ll be shooting ourselves in the foot for speaking out, we have to decide whether we will be physically safe in doing so. Kel isn’t going to reprimand or contradict Captain Elbridge. No, in her case, she internalizes her discomfort, and she decides she’s just going to throw away the whip and treat the people in the fort as human beings.
- This very behavior pops up again when Kel finally addresses those who are under her command. I’ll get there in a second because other things happen.
- Like DOM SHOWING UP. HE AND WOLSET MADE THE FLAG FOR HER SO MANY FEELINGS. SO MANY.
- Oh, butts, it’s not fair that Dom isn’t sticking around! The scenes with him and Wolset just made me miss Raoul even more. SO UNFAIR.
- So, let’s talk about Kel’s speech. She discards a “blood-stirring speech full of fire and dreams that would have them all on their feet, cheering her, ready to take on the entire Scanran army.” Instead, she’s shocked when one of the convicts stands up, comes within a yard of her, and asks if she was once near the River Hasteren seven years prior.
- IT’S LITERALLY ONE OF THE BANDITS THAT KEL FOUGHT BACK WHEN SHE WAS A PAGE.
- OH MY GOD.
- can i just quote this:
- “You should’ve seen the likes of her, boys,” he said, turning toward the other convicts as he pointed at Kel. “We was all outlaws, livin’ on the edges, and this bunch of pages stumbled into our camp. We chased ‘em back in a canyon and her –” he jabbed his finger at Kel – “she gutted ol’ Breakbone Dell, and him the meanest dog skinner you’d ever hope to meet.”
- In this unscripted moment, she is portrayed in a way that speaks the language of these convicts and of these men of the north. It’s not ideal for her, of course, but it works. It doesn’t mean she’s won everyone over instantly, but it helps undo the awkward tension in the room.
- I think what Kel chooses to say after this is really the best part of this chapter. She speaks to the needs of the group. She compliments the work that has been done, she speaks to everyone as if they are they same, and she promises to train everyone to defend themselves. Everything about her speech is an intentional way to respect the men of the fort and to admit that she’s new at this. It’s a humbling scene, but one that I think is brilliant. Kel doesn’t allow her ego to show at all. She doesn’t denigrate anyone in the room. She shows these men that you can lead with respect as much as you can with power.
- She named the fort “Haven.” Kel, I am so done with you.
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