Authors: Kat Lilynette
Tags: #coming of age, #princess, #teen, #sword sorcery
I looked over to gauge my father's
reaction. He sat there silently, sipping his wine. I could tell he
was taking his time, thinking about what was in this deal for him.
He certainly wasn't the type of man to give something away without
receiving something in return. His cruel and greedy nature is what
has made Ashborne the dominant kingdom of Everrathe.
You're having trouble
defending your borders. How is that my problem?” my father said,
his face ripe with indifference.
Hearing that response, Gillien pipped
up quickly, his mouth still full of food. “Don't be that way,
Darius! We've known each other since before we were Kings, I'm
still older than you, and don't go forgettin' who helped ya during
The Great Purge!”
Alexander continued where his father
left off. “Well, speaking of The Great Purge, Your Majesty, it's
rumored that the raiders are being driven from the forest and
mountains by druids. That's why they are attack-”
My father shot to his feet, throwing
his wine goblet across the table before slamming his fists down.
“There are no druids! How dare you speak their name in front of
The three of us sat there in a shocked
silence, staring at my father. With all eyes on him, he slowly
regained his composure and took his seat again before pouring
himself a fresh goblet of wine.
You shouldn’t believe
such baseless rumors, boy. There are no more druids. Those vile,
evil creatures are extinct. I and The Great Purge saw to that many
years ago. You would be wise not speak of them again,” my father
warned in a forced, calm tone.
Alexander's face was pale. Didn't he
know that speaking of druids in Ashborne was forbidden? I could
tell from the look on Alexander's face that he knew if he didn't
watch his tongue, not even King Gillien would be able to save him
from my father's wrath.
Yes, Majesty. I'm sorry.
I didn't mean to offend. Please, accept my apologies. I will take
my leave.” Alexander stood up from the table and bowed before
leaving. “Father, Majesty, Princess Amber.”
I just sat there silently, playing
with my food. I've never seen my father like that. He was usually
indifferent. I've never seen his eyes filled with so much hatred,
not even when looking at me. The three of us sat there for what
seemed like an eternity, eating quietly.
Still get to you that
much, eh?” Gillien said, finally breaking the silence.
What did you need,
Gillien?” Father was clearly still flustered by the mention of
Weapons and armor.
Swords, mail, shields...all kinds of stuff. Those damned raiders
stole a whole shipment last month.”
Father responded immediately, waving
his hand in annoyance. “Fine. Leave a list with Gentry before you
retire. Amber will leave at first light and deliver whatever you
need to your captain.”
Upon hearing my name volunteered for
this mission, I quickly looked up from the plate of food I wasn't
eating. “But Father, I-”
Father shot a icy glare in my
direction, stopping my protests cold.
Gillien looked uncomfortable at the
unspoken discipline my father was warning me with, should I defy
him. “Now, Darius. Those roads ain't no place for a lady. My son
and I will take the supplies back ourselves.”
My father continued
staring at me for a moment, taking a drink of his wine before
turning back to Gillien. “Nonsense. You and your son will be my
guests for the week. I want to make it up to your son for my
outburst. I'll hear no refusals. Gentry and a small squad of White
Torch knights will accompany Amber, but she
Gillien looked over at me without
saying a word. His sympathetic eyes told me all I needed to know.
It wasn't his wish that I go on this journey, but he wasn't about
to continue arguing with my father. I gave him an understanding
smile and nod, trying to let him know that it was all right, that
this is just how things were here, that this was the burden I bear
as the Princess of Ashborne and sole heir to the throne.
Having had enough for one evening, I
stood up from the table. “Well, Your Majesties, if you'll excuse
me, I guess I have an early morning tomorrow. Good
I woke early the following morning. I
laid there for a moment, looking out the window. It was still dark
out, the sun hadn't come up yet. I stretched my legs as I rolled
over. Penelope was there, sleeping in the chair near my bed. Gentry
must have sent word that I was to leave this morning.
Normally, I would bring her along on
my trips, but not this time. This was too dangerous for her. I got
out of bed and took Penelope's hand.
Penelope… Penelope,” I
Hmm?” she groaned, her
eyes still closed.
I started to gently pull her up from
the chair. “Get in my bed and go to sleep.”
All right,” she said
agreeably as I helped her stumble her way to my bed.
She was clearly still asleep. Had she
been coherent, she would have protested against such a request and
been looking to go with me to Benethil. A servant would be punished
if they were caught sleeping in an Ashborne's bed, but I knew, with
Gentry and I leaving, that no one would come in here and she could
I quietly got dressed, putting on my
leather pants, boots and vest. I knew we would want to stay light
for this trip, so we wouldn't be bringing any plate armor. I
grabbed my sword and my chainmail vest. I quickly brushed my hair a
few times, put it in a tight pony-tail and headed out the
Once outside, I began walking toward
the stables. I could see the sky was preparing to greet the morning
sun, although the chirping crickets didn't seem to notice. I
enjoyed a deep breath of the cool, crisp morning air before I
reached the stables. I knew that fresh scent of early Spring was
soon to be replaced by something far less pleasant.
I arrived at the stables, and as
expected, Gentry was already there readying the horses. I often
wondered when he slept – or if he slept at all, for that matter. I
could see an over-sized cart filled with an assortment of items
from our armory, and I walked up to inspect the load.
Good morning, Amber,”
Gentry said without turning around. He was the only man besides my
father who addressed me by my first name.
How did you know it was
He turned to face me, his
pepper-colored mustache enlarging the smirk he was giving. “You're
the only one who gets up almost as early as I do.”
I smiled. He did have a
How was your feast last
night with our guests from Benethil?” he asked as he turned back to
finish his work.
The King was nice,” I
replied, purposely not mentioning the Prince.
And the Prince?” he said
without missing a beat.
Knowing he wasn't going to leave it
alone, I just decided to be blunt. “Ugh. He was a creep and a
pervert! He's old enough to be my father.”
Gentry laughed. “Yeah. I've heard he
has a certain way with the ladies.” He was clearly amused by my
response, and noticeably relieved that I had no interest in such a
Where are the others?” I
I have six recruits
coming. They'll be here shortly.”
Recruits?! What the hell,
Relax, Amber. It's not
the new bunch from yesterday. These are guys from the group that
came a couple months ago. Your father doesn't want his best
soldiers being used as errand boys. Besides, once we reach the
pass, we're riding straight through.”
'Doesn't want his best
soldiers being used as errand boys?' why are we going then?” I
asked, trying to point out the irony in his statement.
We're there in case
anything goes wrong.”
I guess...” I reluctantly
accepted Gentry’s logic, but my tone made it pretty clear that I
still wasn’t thrilled about having run this fool’s errand with a
bunch of newbies.
Listen. These knights
look up to you. They trust you. With the respect you've earned
among Ashborne kingdom over the last couple years, these guys would
follow you into Hell. Don't take that for granted,
As we fastened a couple horses to the
cart, I could see the six recruits coming down the hill with the
sun peaking up behind them. I didn't want them not to come because
I thought they were inferior, it's because I've seen what it can be
like outside these walls, and I didn't want them getting
Many of these recruits have lived
their whole lives in blissful ignorance behind the walls of
Ashborne, protected by the White Torch knights. I didn't want them
to have to see and experience the bloodshed I have. Least of all,
in the name of a crown that was the same as my own – it made me
feel responsible for them.
The six recruits lined up behind me,
and I heard their boots clamp together in unison as they brought
their right fists to their left shoulder – a perfect Ashborne
Good morning, Highness!”
they said together.
I turned, flashing a genuine smile and
bringing my fist to my shoulder. “Good morning.”
Gentry wasted no time. “Mount up!
We've got a long ride ahead of us. We've already prepped the
horses, so let's get going.”
And with that, we headed out beyond
the castle walls, on our way to Benethil. Little did I know, this
journey was going to change the course of my life,
# # #
Time passed uneventfully as we made
our way toward Benethil. We had been riding for about 3 days,
taking breaks to eat and sleep here and there. I could see the
Kalibor Mountains towering in the distance, and judging by the
increasing amount of large boulders littering the landscape, The
Pass was only about a half a day away.
I pointed to a rock formation on a
nearby hill. “We'll set up camp there!”
Even though we still had daylight
left, I gave the order to set up camp. The rocks would help conceal
our campfire, and the high ground would would help us see any
approaching enemies. If we were going to get through The Pass
without stopping, we needed our horses to be well rested. With the
Shadowbark Forest on the left and the Kalibor Mountains on the
right, The Pass was the area I was most concerned with. It was the
part of the journey I was looking forward to the least, and fearing
Nightfall came quickly, and it wasn't
long before the recruits were fast asleep. As it often happened on
our journeys, Gentry and I sat by the fire, the only ones still
awake. I sat there, mesmerized by the dancing flames of the
campfire, replaying the night of the feast in my head. My father’s
actions that night were just a glimpse of the way he’s treated me
my whole life, and it made me feel like crap.
Gentry?” I asked softly,
my eyes still locked under the spell of the bright, pumpkin-colored
He looked over inquisitively as he lay
propped up against the rock beside me.
Why does my father hate
Out of the corner of my eye, I could
see the immediate change in Gentry's expression. His eyes welled
with pain, as if my question had hurt his soul. He leaned forward
and sighed with concern.
He doesn't hate you,
Amber. He just doesn't know how to love you.”
What does that even
mean?” I asked, dissatisfied with such an answer.
I could tell that Gentry was trying to
choose his words carefully, so as not to hurt me, but I also knew
that he respected me enough to tell me like he saw it. I’m not
really sure what I expected him to say, or why I even asked him in
the first place. I guess a part of me hoped that he would tell me
something different than what I’d grown up believing my whole
He wasn't always like he
is now. It's just with the death of your mother, him being unable
to father any further children, and you having your accident… it
changed him. I don't think it's that he doesn't love you. I think
it's that he doesn't love himself anymore.”
He continued watching me closely,
carefully monitoring emotions like I imagined a worried father
would do. I sat there quietly, still firmly under control of the
dancing flames, trying to somehow make sense of what he had just
said. I wanted to believe it, that my father was the one at fault
and not me, but it’s just not what I felt inside.
My unblinking eyes began to well with
tears as I spoke. “No… There’s something wrong with me… I'm broken.
That's why Father doesn't want me, and that's why no man wants me
as his wife, but only to share his bed.”
Hearing those words aloud, I began to
choke up. Until now, they had just been words in my head; words
that weren't true because I've never heard them. Saying it somehow
made it all real. My tear-filled eyes broke free of the flames and
I turned to look at Gentry as if asking for help.