by Jenny Davies
Hera must become who she was born to be.
The rain lashed down upon a cloaked figure in the dead of night. She lifted up a small bundle from her arms and secured it safely onto the steed in front of her. She placed her fragile hands on the bundle and muttered a few words that were swept away by the wind the moment they left her mouth. As she said those words, the bundle glowed a bright gold colour and then died. The woman stepped away from the horse and slapped its side. It rose on its two hind legs before galloping away into the murky night.
The woman watched it go mournfully and could only pray that it would be all right, for one day, it would be needed again. Once the horse was out of sight, the woman stepped back into the tavern and disappeared.
The horse rode for many days in a direction far from the one that it had left, stopping only for water before continuing on its way again at full speed. It did this for many days, before a small village, at the base of a large collection of mountains, came into view.
It rode into the village, hoping to come across some inhabitants. It was lucky, a young man, no more than twenty years of age, was out running some errands when he spotted the horse. Curious the man approached the horse, which had stood still, and reached out to pet it. That was when he noticed the small bundle, still firmly attached to the horse, moving. Intrigued, the man unwrapped it from its bindings and picked it up carefully. To his surprise it was warm. He unwrapped it and almost dropped it when he saw what it was. A baby girl.
From that day forward, from the moment the horse entered Caborat village, the baby girl was looked after and loved by every member of the farming village. Little did they know, that one day, this girl would shape the course of history. To them, she was just Hera.
Sixteen years later, Hera was rising from a fitful sleep. Once again she had had dreams of battles and people that she knew nothing of. She lay in her bed for a minute, collecting her thoughts. She gazed out of her window, which was opposite to where she lay, and smiled to herself.
The sun was just rising in the distance, which cast a soft orange glow across Caborat. Many people where already up and beginning their days chores, Hera could see young boys and girls playing in the fields, whilst their mothers and older sisters tended to the houses. She could see fathers and sons and brothers working side by side in the crop fields, ploughing and sowing.
Hera sighed and swung herself out of her bed. She gasped as her bare feet hit the cold stone floor. She quickly scurried across the room to where she had laid her clothes the previous day. She picked them up and pulled them onto her body. In only a few moments Hera was dressed. She was wearing a deep green dress that flowed around her body. It had been a coming of age present from the villagers. They had all put some money together to buy her this dress, and that is what made it especially beautiful to Hera.
She walked back across the room and picked up her hairbrush. She distractedly brushed her long, black hair whilst staring out the window at the life of Caborat. She quickly pulled her hair into a swift, neat bun and slid into her worn green pumps, before heading down to the kitchen.
The kitchen was a fairly large stone kitchen. Around the edges it had a medium sized stone cooker, a washbasin and various cupboards and racks for Gaia’s, the woman of the house, various items. She entered the kitchen to find Gaia and Arturias at the table eating. They looked up at her and smiled warmly when she walked in. Although they were not her parents, and she was not their daughter, they treated each other as such, and loved each other as such.
“Good morning Arturias, good morning Gaia.” She greeted them as she sat down at the table, pouring herself some water and reaching for a honey cake.
“Good morning Hera dear,” replied Gaia, looking across the table at her, “did you sleep peacefully?”
Hera’s mind flickered back to the strange dreams, but she decided not to worry them.
“Very peacefully thank you.” She lied, avoiding eye contact with Gaia, hoping that Gaia would not notice that she had lied to her. Seemingly neither Aturias nor Gaia noticed, as Arturias started to speak to her.
“That is good, because The Celebration is tonight, and I am sure that you want to go.” Said Arturias, his voice light and humorous.
The Celebration of Caborat happens once every year in the village of Caborat. It celebrates the founding of the village many years ago, dancing, feasts, songs and stories were custom at the celebration. Hera had attended each one as a child, but tonights would be the first one that she would attend as an adult.
“I cannot wait to go.” She replied, her deep green eyes sparkling in excitement. “Will you be joining me?”
“Of course, but I have many things to do today, as does Gaia.” Replied Arturias setting down his mug and rising from the sturdy wooden table, dragging his long, worn black cloak around his broad shoulders.
“Is there anything that I can do to help?” Asked Hera hopefully. Hera hated being bored. She always needed something to do or she would she would fidget uncontrollably. Arturias looked at her fondly.
“I’m afraid not Little One,” he said kindly, using her pet name from her childhood. “Why don’t you visit the stables and go for a ride.”
Hera nodded and watched sadly as he walked out the door. Gaia placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, Hera turned around to face her.
“Do not worry Hera dear,” she said soothingly, “this fall you will be able to do your share of the work. Till then you must be patient.”
“Aye,” she murmured, before she got up from the table and put on her bottle green cloak over her dress. She muttered goodbye to Gaia and stepped out of the house’s front door. She gasped as the biting wind hit her. She wrapped her cloak around her body and set of down the dirt road to the village.
The weather was chilly, as it always was as the seasons changed. Soon however, the weather would settle in for the autumn. Hera hurried on to the village where she would be partially sheltered from the wind, ignoring her surroundings.
The wind shook the trees, making the sway from side to side. It picked up the green-red leaves and twirled them about in the air and under foot. Various small creatures scurried along the roads and under ground, desperate to seek shelter from the cold.
Soon Hera reached the centre of the village and sighed with relief as she could feel her bones warming up again. She made her way towards the stables where her horse, Azrael, was stabled.
Azrael had been her horse for sixteen years, according to Arturias; Azrael had ridden with her on his back for many days before reaching Caborat. In those sixteen years he had fell neither ill nor weak. He was a healthy as a foal and as fit as one too. Many of the villagers believed that he had been blessed to watch over Hera, that is why no one rode him apart from Hera or Arturias.
She entered the stables, her cheeks pink from the wind, and walked over to Azrael. He looked up and her and neighed softly as she approached. She reached out and stroked his fiery brown mane.
“Hello my noble steed,” she cooed softly under her breath, in a language that no one of Caborat knew of. “How are you this day?”
She laid her forehead on Azrael’s warm neck and rubbed his back. She did that for a few minutes before straightening up. She looked around and saw her riding clothes that she had left behind. Quickly, she slipped out of her dress and pumps and into her beige chaps, and a white, long-sleeved riding top, with her black, leather boots on her feet. She saddled Azrael up and jumped on top of him. She leant down and whispered in his ear, in the strange language.
“Ready?” She fastened her cloak tightly around her and gripped the reins. Azrael darted out of the stables and galloped through the village. Startled villagers leapt quickly out of the way as Hera and Azrael rode through the village, heading towards the open plains, which surrounded the village for a few miles.
Azrael and Hera rode across the open expanse for many hours, enjoying the wind that flew through their hair and mane. They finally stopped at a large lake that separated Caborat from their neighbouring village, Arcat.
Hera jumped off from Azrael and bent low over the lake to collect water in her sheepskin. She filled it up and sat down on the ground. Azrael stood behind her, lapping up the water from the lake. Hera felt exhilarated She had not ridden with Azrael in many weeks. She had not realised how much she had missed it.
She took one last deep swig from her sheepskin before holstering it and walking back over to Azrael. As she fastened her cloak she spoke with Azrael in the language that only she understood.
“Are you ready to leave my steed?” She asked. “The Celebration of Caborat will be starting soon.”
Azrael neighed taking one last draught of water before standing still, to allow Hera to climb back on to his back. She slid her feet into the stirrups and gripped the reins.
“Let us make haste Azrael,” she said in the foreign language, “to see whether we can beat ourselves!”
Azrael rose onto his hind legs in response, causing Hera to laugh, before darting off back towards the village.
Azrael and Hera re-entered the village just as night set in. The streets were empty as everyone was in the field used for the Celebration of Caborat. They quickly rode through the empty streets and into the stables. Hera unsaddled Azrael and quickly changed back into her dress and pumps. She brushed Azrael down and fetched him a bale of hay. She looked at him apologetically.
“I am sorry my friend,” she said softly in the strange language, “I promise you something better next time.”
She stroked him softly before jumping abruptly at a noise behind her. She spun around, her loose black hair, which had fallen from her bun, whipping her in her face. She saw, to her distaste, Kaman Sloan, the child of the children’s children of the founders of Caborat. She masked her distaste and forced a smiled at Kaman.
“Hello Kaman, I did not see you there,” Hera said with forced politeness, “I thought that everyone would be up at the field.”
“Oh my dearest,” he said smoothly, causing Hera to hide a scowl at being called dearest by Kaman. “They are. I got worried however because I could not see you anywhere.”
“As you can see, I am perfectly safe,” said Hera, wishing that this conversation would soon be over. “However I thank you for your concern.”
“Oh thanks is not necessary Hera,” he said, coming closer to Hera, to close for her comfort. “Not where my future wife is concerned.”
With that he reached out and stroked her cheek lovingly. Hera jerked out of the way and darted around him, safely out of his reach.
“We have been over this Kaman,” she said, loosing all politeness that she had once had. “I have no intention of marring you.”
“I am afraid that you no longer have a say in the matter.” He said, sneering at her, but keeping his distance.
“What do you mean by that?” Snapped Hera. Kaman let out a cold laugh that sent shivers up her spine.
“I mean that I have asked Arturias for your hand in marriage, and he has accepted. We are to be wed my dear, so you had better learn how to treat your future husband with respect.” He said gloatingly, stepping towards her.
Hera once again stepped out of his reach and darted out of the stables and into the village. She slipped in between two houses and hid there, she could hear Kaman run after her and his roar of frustration, as he could not see her. She poked her head around the corners of the houses and saw his retreating figure heading back towards the Celebration.
She slumped against the wall in relief. For now, she was safe. She bit back tears and headed back towards the stables. She slipped inside, this time taking care to look around. When she saw that no one else was in there she ran over to Azrael and buried her head in his mane, muttering softly and quickly in the foreign language.
She straightened up, refusing to feel sorry for herself. She wrapped her green cloak tightly around her body, fastening it. She patted Azrael goodbye and made her way out of the stables and towards the Celebration. She was determined to speak with Arturias and Gaia.
‘I will not go through with this marriage.’ She thought to herself and she hurried along the dirt rode to the field where laughter and singing could be heard.