The father of a princess is killed in battle. She promises the god in the moon that she will avenge. People are amazed she does not cry.
To protect her maid, she forces the maid to have her hair cut like a boy. Then when the maid turns, the princess kills the maid:
"It was a mercy, really, for she was old and ugly and would be used brutally by the soldiers before being slaughtered, probably in a slow and terrible manner."For three years, she works as a serving lad, building strength. For three years, she lives in the forest, gaining more strength, skills, and beauty.
"If anyone had asked her if she was content, she would have nodded.
"Not happy. Not satisfied. Not done with her life's work.
"Content."She is found by the lord who is immediately smitten and saves her for himself.
She kills the son and then the king. Her mother who is now the wife of this new king, tries to stop her, but the princess doesn't listen. She later has a child.
The story's subtitle reads, "Both the hunted and hunter pray to God."
This sets us up for dramatic irony, but the tale does not focus on religion as one might expect from such a subtitle. Rather, it plays against the anthology title it first appeared in. Often in sword and sorcery there's the revenge that must be avenged. War is not seen with its psychological consequence. Yolen grapples with war and its effects on a person, the way it may poison a personality. The character doesn't even have a name. She kills people she loves, in her way--her maid, the prince and king--because it's part of the path to successful revenge. The victory, to the reader, rings hollow, but the oblivious, anonymous character has won.
"When the cat wants to eat her kittens, she says they look like mice."
When the anonymous character has a "warrior", we know this is where the emotionless breed comes from.