She stood, looking at the expanse of land that rolled out from the castle walls. Her balcony overlooked the picturesque river valley and as the sun began to set she could see its fire glinting off the distant liquid ribbon. She felt rested, still there were moments where she wanted to stay in the soft bed that stood closer to the fireplace. There, the fire always seemed to burn cheerily in its stone dwelling.
The battle had been fierce. Had she foreseen the damage that happened on that particular day, she might have run. But she didn't. She stood her ground and fought, just as many others did beside her. Some fell at her feet and she had to step over them, still fighting, raising her sword over and over and over. Her arms grew so fatigued she no longer felt the sword in her hand, only kept the repetitive movement; lift, swipe, strike, jab. She had no idea how many her sword had taken down. She didn't need to know. They were all enemies of the King.
The only wound she received was one of the heart. No one could see it, but it was there and it was deep. One she loved most dear had been taken by the enemy. A captive, taken, she knew not where; tormented, she knew not how, though she could easily imagine. The vileness of the enemy was obvious in the land. He had no reason to be subtle. He was powerful and prideful. She knew one day, that pride would be his downfall, but until then, they'd continue to fight against him and to fall.
She turned when she heard footsteps. A servant approached her tentatively. He bowed.
"His Highness, the King wishes to see you in the library." The young man kept his head lowered.
She thanked him and he left.
She put on her shoes and wrapped herself in a warm bulky sweater. Closing her door behind her she moved soundlessly down the hallways of the castle. She knew how to move without making noise. She had been trained in all areas of covert and overt combat. Before she entered the library, she took a deep, calming breath.
She loved the library. It wasn't just her love of reading and books that drew her here. It was the coziness and peacefulness of the place. The walls were made of rich, dark mahogany. The carpeting which ran wall to wall was plush. Sometimes she would take off her shoes, just to feel the softness of the rug beneath her. The curtains hanging at the windows were made of deep red velvet. Interspersed throughout the room were luxuriant furnishings of all sizes. Her favorite was an over sized chair and its companion footstool that sat close to the grand fireplace. It was in this chair that the King sat. His feet were up and his eyes were closed.
She stopped. If she didn't wake him, she could skulk back to her room and put off for a little while longer this conversation she knew was coming. That wasn't going to happen. His voice carried clearly from his comfortable position.
"Come, dear one. Sit."
His blue eyes looked at her. She moved closer to the fireplace, but didn't sit.
He put his feet on the floor and patted the foot stool. She smiled at him, feeling like a lost sheep, but instead of sitting she began to pace.
"You know it is time." His voice was gentle.
She looked towards the fire blazing furiously in the hearth. She didn't want him to see her fear. She didn't want him to know how her heart cowered. Silly, she knew. He could always read her like one of the many books surroundng them.
"I know you do not feel ready. I know you are hurt, inside, where it is so much harder to heal. But you are one of my best warriors. I can't let you stay here any longer. There is too much at stake. There are too many at risk."
The gentle tone of his voice was almost maddening. She knew he was right, but she needed more time. She couldn't go back out there. Not yet. She couldn't go back to that war, that enemy. That one who ripped something, someone from her who was so precious. She just wanted to forget. To pretend none of it ever happened....but she couldn't. She knew it and so did the King.
"I...I can't my Lord! I...I...am not ready."
He sat forward in the plush chair and once again patted the footstool in front of him. She sat, their knees almost touching.
He put a hand on her cheek and wiped the tear that had fallen there. "Daughter, this is about a much bigger war than the one we fight on this plain. You know that."
She was up again. Pacing, back and forth in front of the blaze, like a caged lion, looking, always looking for a way out. "You don't understand! This enemy...he's different! He's vile....you don't know! You weren't there!"
He stood and in one step was in front of her, his graying beard becoming straggly from lack of time for grooming. He stopped her and took her hands in his.
"I was there." Again the gentleness.
She looked at him questioning. "What do you mean? I would have known if you were there."
"Do you remember that battle, back in the winter? There was a certain warrior wearing animal skins and donning a helmet with horns. You laughed when you told me about him....said he was a Viking by any other name?"
Her eyes widened.
"And don't forget in the spring, when the rains came, the warrior whose face was so covered in mud you couldn't tell if he was of light or dark skin..."
She felt the coldness that had accompanied her for so long begin to melt away. He had been there. Of course he couldn't come out looking like himself, or the enemy would have recognized him. She looked into his piercing blues, questioning....
"The time will come, when I will come out as the King, but not yet...this war is not just about the child that was taken from you, but about all the children, and all the souls that are ensnared by our enemy. I need you back at the front."
She took a deep breath and shuddered. She could say no. She was his daughter, after all. She didn't have to go back and he would still love her. Of that she had no doubt. But his words about the children got to her. Her child was taken. Stolen from her by that enemy. Even if she was still alive and they found her, she knew her daughter would have scars.
She squeezed the strong, calloused hands that hung on to hers. They were the hands of a warrior, a king and her father. She knew they would always follow her into battle, fighting beside her until she took her final breath.
She went to her knees before him. "I am ready, my Lord."
(This is a fictional work written by Amy D. Christensen)