The Widow Brigade
by Douglas Van Dyke
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“If your death ever comes before mine, I hope the gods take my life soon after.” Duli and her husband had stated those words to each other several times. Then the day came when his dwarf kin brought his body back from the field of an ambush. As a non-clan dwarf, rendered beardless by old customs, her widowed status places her in the lowest caste of Tok-Maurron. Fearful of her future under a chauvinistic crafters’ guild, and unwilling to complete her suicide attempt, Duli’s emotions turn to rage directed at the humans. Dwarf traditions forbid women to wage war, yet the ongoing battles leave more widows enticed by her call to action.
Ridiculed, chastised, and even jailed in her own chambers for her actions, Duli’s struggles for her beliefs are even slowed by her need to earn a living off her non-sanctioned craft. Duli only wishes her own death, but in the process sparks a liberation movement that shakes the subterranean city to its core values. Even if the women win over their clan, they must still prove they have the mettle to face their husbands’ killers, and the magic that humans command.