The amount of sweat rushing off her brow could fill any bathtub in the Royal House three times over.
That was at least how Delilah felt as she hoisted the two half-bales on either end of a long broom stick up in the air. She would push it upwards, her arms wobbling and threatening to give out, then bend her elbows and lower the weight to the top of her spine and back of her neck. It was painful… It was hard… It was encouraging.
She felt her muscles quake as they never had before. Discovering new throbs in her body only gave her more of an understanding that she was changing. Delilah was slowly but surely morphing into something else, and that process was going to be painful. She hoped it would be, so that she would remember never to go back to the point she would have to repeat it.
Her doing this was not a concern of her fathers, in fact she suspected he didn’t even care in the slightest. However, her mother was a different story. Delilah suspected her training was not the issue, it was the person she was training under. For Ser Crewe was unusually disliked by her mother, she suspected for the fact that he was hard on her. Actually, he was harder on her than any of his trainees. He would have the boys be rougher when she stood in front of them, hit harder when it was her, and knock her down over and over again. For the first week, she thought it was punishment for her ever coming to him in the first place. Then he started pulling her off to the side as the boys sparred or ran or did any other drills. He would point out their flaws and then their strengths. Teaching her to notice the difference between men. Then he would speak of having “tough skin”.
“Toughness is something we carry with our flesh, with the skin on our bones m’lady.” He spoke to her without looking at her, but she felt his sincerity, felt as though he were looking at her. “Bravery, dignity, honor, animosity… are all things we carry inside. But toughness is in everyone’s face. For when a man throws his fist into your chest and the room watches you do not even as much as move, they notice it. They feel fear and with fear they make mistakes, in which you capitalize on those mistakes. Toughness his how hard of a hit you can take, yet continue moving forward.”
He had taught her and the trainees many such lessons like this, and quickly she adapted to them. Set them within her daily routine and within the month she had spent almost all day every single day in her own personal training shed down at the Fairground.
It was where she personally had set up every obstacle, every bit of equipment, and every challenge all herself. She had done everything in there dozens of times a day, pushing herself to the point of collapse, then wobbling and shaking her way up to continue on.
When she went to bed, she slept harder than anyone in Windhelm, but was up and awake even before the farmers. She had kept this pace up for two months now and felt no interest in slowing down now.
The weight stick, as she called it, dropped with a heavy thud.
Her breathing was slow and deep, controlled. As her shoulders ached she forced them to move in circles, stretching the torn muscles. And her steps elongated in fashion to stretch her lower back and pull her abdomen tight. She did this, until she was standing in front of her mirror on the back-left wall of the shed.
And looked herself over.
The line underneath her chin, normally covered over by a thick roll of fat, now clung tightly to the “V” shaped muscles residing down to her now apparent collarbones. Her chest, her breasts, now strong and built with frame. Her shoulders and arms still carrying a bit of weight, were now angular in shape. The indentations and blade like streaks becoming ever so visible. Her stomach, a thin shade of darkness underneath the noticeably small stack of fat. Then her ribs and hips, thighs and calves, and her buttocks all taking the form of a woman. She now felt herself as a woman, declared herself as a woman. And for the first time in her life she felt proud to stare upon her half naked form, the thin material around her breasts and small pants clinging to her flesh. She felt alive like never before, and thanked herself for choosing this path.
Her body then barking at her to turn and go to the bar stretching from upper wall to wall. She grabbed it, and began hoisting herself up and down, pressing her back muscles together and tightening her stomach.
“Delilah?” She froze in midair, her biceps shaking and beginning to scream. Then she looked down at her fat brother Jeb, who stared at her in awe. She then dropped, and dropped so hard her legs could not gather themselves and within seconds her rear end bounced off the hard dirt floor.
“OW!” She yelled grabbing at her tailbone.
He took a few steps forward.
“Oh, my gods are you okay?” He questioned, fright in his eyes.
She held her hand up halting him, then nodded, and stood grabbing her robes. She threw them over herself feeling bashful at her attire.
“What um… what do you want Jed?” She asked wishing to go back to her training.
“I… I never see you around anymore.” He spoke softly, his hands clasping together they struggled to do so around his large belly, “I miss you sister.”
“I…” She thought on this for a second. Here her brother was, son to the throne, the most selfish boy she had ever known telling her he missed her. The boy who had thrown food in her face, tripped her down stairs, punched her and bit her and pulled her hair, “That is good to hear, but I apologize for not feeling the same.”
That stung him a bit.
“Why are you doing this all the time? It doesn’t make mother happy you know.” He protested her actions.
“I care little for what makes mother happy these days. Because this, is what makes me happy.” She said gesturing to the room around her, “I’m doing what no one in our house has done before.”
“What is that?”
“Bettering myself.” She said it like it was a beaten curse set upon them.
“You think none of us better ourselves?” His fat face under his now long blonde hair began to grow red, “do you even know how hard this is for us? Father is away constantly now, he’s never home! Mother is crying all day long almost every day, the servants are leaving left and right, and I am alone to hold everything together! And I’m trying! I’m trying to do more than just better myself I’M TRYING TO HOLD US ALL TOGETHER!” He spat venom through his words. His belly shaking with each deep breath, “I CAME HER FOR YOU BECAUSE I MISS YOU! BECAUSE I LOVE YOU AND WANT TO SEE YOU! BUT!... But I can tell you don’t care for that, all you care for is you. So, go on then… better yourself.”
He turned grabbing the door and swinging it open.
Then he stopped, his head still vibrating as the rage coursed through his back.
“I’m sorry Jed, I… I didn’t realize so much had been set upon you.” She spoke softly now, feeling her chest sink into a bottomless pit of guilt, “Please, come inside and talk to me.”
It took him a moment, to calm himself. Before he turned around and closed the door, then came to sit upon the small bench she had made for pretty much just herself, and he was two of her. She then came up to him, taking his hands in hers then looking into his dark eyes.
“I miss you too big brother.”
He broke down sobbing and reached to hug her, and she held his pillowy frame tightly, crying as well.
“Things have been so… hard on me. No one understands and now, now you are getting lighter and learning swords and I… I’m eating. Is that all I’m good for? Heir to the throne and my biggest accomplishment is eating two whole chickens in one sitting.” He wiped his face into her shoulder.
She slowly pulled away putting his face in her right hand.
“No, Jed. That’s not all you are good for. You are so smart, so quick and witty. A King doesn’t have to be someone big and strong and the best with a sword,” She felt Ser Crewe speaking through her, “The Greatest Kings are the ones who can think better than anyone else.”
He looked into her eyes, thinking over her words.
“But I’m fat.” He said.
“So?” She asked shaking her head.
“Great King’s aren’t fat.”
“Then don’t be fat.”
He pondered that for a moment too.
“will you… will you help me not to be fat?” He asked softly, nervously.
“I can talk to Ser Crewe. I’m sure…” She began.
“No, I want you to help me. I want you to make me not fat.”
She stared at him, felt that guilt pit fill with love, and she nodded smiling.
“Of course I will.”
And in that hug she felt closer to him than ever before.
“But can start after the joust? I want to eat at the big feast.” He said.
“Sure brother, anything you want.” She then stood dusting her knees off, she turned around to gather up her equipment and set it away when it hit her…
“When is the joust?” She asked turning around.
He nodded then gave a smile himself, “you need to escape from under your rock sister, or you will surely miss your entire life.”
He then stood up and walked out leaving her inside her gym, his back straighter and his chin higher than she had ever recalled before. She felt herself, and realized she was doing the same.
Thank you gods, she thought gathering her things, thank you for all of this.