Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/967612-Aphalias-Daughter----Chapter-1
by Miara
Rated: E · Chapter · Fantasy · #967612
Katrina prepares to take her ceremonial leave from home.
Chapter 1

Katrina entered her father’s court chamber quietly. She tried not to appear nervous, but she couldn’t resist the urge to dry her sweaty palms on the side of her pants. The courtiers were accustomed to seeing her in here at this time. She had begun preparing for this day two months ago, by making it a habit to watch Lord Taylor’s court proceedings after she had completed her own afternoon duties.

“Is there any more business for today?” Lord Taylor asked, his voice reaching into the farthest corners of the massive room.

Katrina swallowed. She strode forward and knelt before her father. “I respectfully request permission to take my Leave of thee,” she said. She was amazed at how calm her voice was, especially since her stomach was turning somersaults. In the background she heard astonished gasps and startled murmurs from the onlookers.

Lord Taylor looked around the room at the spectators until he had silence. He was a big, muscular man who liked order. “Rise, my child. What proof have you that you are ready?” he asked, hiding any shock or fear he may feel under the guise of decorum.

“Father, I have completed my training. I am now a Master Swordsman, and I am the best swordsman in my class, as well as the best horseman. I have been entrusted with several projects, including the oversight of repairing the road to Richards Brook when the last storm felled trees across it and caused a mud slide carrying away part of the road. I have also been entrusted with most of the domestic affairs of Aphalia which Mother would have done had she lived. All projects have been completed with exemplary results. I am ready to prove myself worthy of my rank,” she announced, more bravely than she felt.

Lord Taylor nodded. Silver streaks showed in his reddish-brown hair which Katrina had not noticed before. “All this is as I have been told. Very well, I grant permission,” he said, looking directly into the eyes of his daughter. She saw pride in his familiar green eyes. Lord Taylor stood up and spread his arms. “A feast tomorrow night, for my daughter takes Leave at Sunup the next day,” he announced, his voice reverberating off the stone walls of the room. He stepped down off the dais where he sat for court and put his arm around Katrina’s shoulders. He steered her from the room through his private door. “Katrina, I hope you realize that I gave you permission with much trepidation. You are still very young,” he confided when they were alone.

“Father, I am eighteen. I only have to be fifteen to go on Leave. I am not all that young,” she protested.

“My dear, you are much closer to being young than I am to being old. There are situations out there for which you haven’t had any training. I do not want you to come to any harm. I love you dearly, just for being my daughter, but with Jonathan gone, you are also my heir,” he said quietly.

“I can’t inherit anything until I take my Leave,” she said, fearing he’d recant with the memory of his missing son making itself fresh in his mind.

“I know,” he said reassuringly. “If I had my way, I’d keep you with me forever, where I know you’re safe. However, the law says otherwise. Come, there’s much to be done.”

He turned to the hallway leading to the family’s private quarters. He motioned her to follow. Upstairs, he opened the door to his suite. She followed him inside, timidly. She had never been inside her father’s rooms. The first thing she saw was a portrait of Jonathan hanging prominently on the sitting room wall. The red curls and laughing green eyes looked like a youthful version of her father. She didn’t comment on its presence. Jonathan’s disappearance still hurt for all of them.

“I have something to give you,” Taylor said drawing his daughter out of her reverie. She turned to face him, but he’d already turned his back to her. He took a bundle from a cabinet and laid it on the table. “Perhaps if I’d given this to Jonathan he’d have returned,” he said, opening the bundle. “Most of this is equipment my father gave me when I took Leave. Some of it I acquired myself. Through techniques known only to the greatest of sorcerers, magic has been alloyed with the metal to grant assistance to the bearer. With this sword, you cannot be disarmed in a fight. This helmet will allow you to see in the dark. This ring will give you insight to judge the ability of your opponents. Finally, here is a bag of healing herbs. Our world is a dangerous place. Demons are not the only enemies you need to watch for. You must choose your quests and your companions carefully.” He bundled up the equipment again and handed it to Katrina.

“Thank you, Father,” she said with awe. She turned to leave, then stopped. “May I ask you a question, Father?” He nodded in response. “Why didn’t you give this to Jonathan?”

Taylor sighed. “Sit down,” he said, sitting at the table. She sat opposite him. “I’ve asked myself that many times over the past five cycles. Your brother was a very brash young man. He left before he finished his training, and he refused to take anything more than his basic equipment. He, too, was the best in his class. His confidence level was high, and him being my oldest son, my confidence was high, too.” He shook his head sadly. “I’ll always blame myself for his disappearance.”

“Did he die?” she asked timidly.

“I don’t know. I’ve had sorcerers cast seek spells, but they can’t find either him or his body. Even High Sorcerer Aldair couldn’t find him, and he is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the kingdom. There are lots of reasons for a person not to return from Leave. Perhaps he fell in love with someone he didn’t think I’d like. Maybe he liked working as a mercenary. He could be in some sort of prison. He might have a piece of equipment that prevents magical detection. Legally, I am allowed to go in search of him after three cycles, but with your mother dead, and no steward, I have no one to leave in charge of the affairs at home.” He slapped the table with both hands and stood up. “But enough of this. Dinner is soon. You have preparations to make for your departure. I need to plan a feast.” He kissed her forehead and left.

Katrina sat there a few moments longer, letting her father’s explanation soak in. She looked up into the eyes of her brother, watching eternally the walls of their father’s room. She knew what she had to do. She stood up and took her bundle to her room.

She opened the bundle and carefully laid out the equipment on her bed. She studied the clothing in her closet. She’d been dreaming and planning for this day for three years. Now that it was here, she wasn’t quite so sure of herself. Meticulously she assembled her traveling outfit, placing it on the bed with the equipment her father had given her.

She heard a knock on her door. “Come in!” she called, caressing the family insignia on the buckle of her sword belt.

“When are you leaving?” Alyssa asked, seating herself at Katrina’s vanity. Katrina’s younger sister was fourteen with the brown hair and eyes of their mother.

“Sunup, day after tomorrow,” Katrina replied.

“You think Father will let me go when I turn fifteen?” Alyssa asked.

“Not a candle’s chance in Darkness,” Katrina replied vehemently.

“Why not?” the younger girl asked indignantly.

“Because Jonathan was fifteen when he left. Besides, Father denied me when I was fifteen. He’s not about to let you go that young. Have patience, study hard.”

“I’m not very good at sword fighting and such,” Alyssa complained, wrinkling her nose.

Katrina cradled her coming of age gown and studied Alyssa’s face. “Well, Mother was a sorceress. Maybe you should study magic. It’s not too late for you to change the concentration of your training.” She held the gown up in front of herself while looking in her full-length mirror. She stretched the waist and bodice out to make sure it would still fit. She made it when she turned fifteen, and she had put it away when her Leave had been denied at that time. She hung the gown on a rack in the corner so it would be ready for tomorrow night. She returned to the closet and selected a more simple gown for dinner this evening.

Alyssa walked over to the gown while Katrina dressed for dinner. “This is really a great color on you. I always did like the way emerald green contrasted with your red hair. You’re so lucky our family colors look good on you.”

“Auburn,” Katrina corrected habitually. “Thanks. Have you given much thought to your dress?” She sat down at her vanity before Alyssa could reclaim that seat.

“Not really. Hey, if you see some kind of material that you think I’d like, could you get it for me?” Alyssa asked excitedly.

“I’ll see. I’m not going away for just a few days to a fair, though. I’m going on Leave. I’ll be gone at least three months, probably longer,” Katrina said.

“I know. You don’t have to lecture me,” Alyssa replied.

Katrina nodded. Alyssa was the baby of the family now since their younger brother Edward had died in an epidemic when he was four. Sometimes Katrina forgot that Alyssa was no longer a small child and still treated her as one.

“So what are you going to do?” Alyssa asked. “I’ve heard that Magaar has a hundred parties every night, and the market in Farona has goods from a million miles around.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that, too. I don’t care much for parties and markets, though,” Katrina answered as she pulled the brush through her hair.

Alyssa jabbed her shoulder from behind. “Liar!” she teased. Then the younger girl’s eyes grew round. “You’re going on a quest! What for? Gold? Jewels? Glory?”

Katrina shrugged, trying to dampen Alyssa’s building excitement. When had she gotten so perceptive? “Actually, I was thinking of looking for Jonathan. If he’s dead, then we’ll know for sure. If he’s alive, maybe I can convince him to come home with me.”

“But you’ll lose your inheritance!”

“Don’t be so materialistic,” Katrina chided. “I don’t care so much about the inheritance if Jonathan is alive and knowledge of his condition makes Father happy.” Katrina turned to look Alyssa in the eye. “But you can’t breathe a word of this to Father. He’s worried enough about me as it is. If he knows I’m looking for our brother, he’ll take back my permission and he won’t let me go until I’m twenty-one. I can’t wait three more cycles.”

“I won’t tell him. I promise. If he doesn’t let you go until your twenty-one, I’ll be thirty before I can go, and by then I can forget finding a husband.” Alyssa looked down at the floor. “But you have to go with me to see the High Sorcerer in the morning, or Father will know everything. I gotta go get ready for dinner.” Alyssa’s brown hair flew behind her as she ran from the room.


Katrina tried one more time to cram a night shirt into her satchel, but it just wouldn’t fit. “I guess I’ll just have to sleep in my underwear,” she muttered, tossing the shirt aside. So far the day had gone well. Aldair had agreed to tutor Alyssa in magic. She had provisions for four days in the other satchel lying on her bed. Her bedroll had two new blankets in it. She had claimed a small cooking pot from the kitchens. A cotton under tunic, leather jerkin, leather pants, and clean woolen socks were spread out on the bed as well. Her boots had recently been refitted with metal plates over the toes and heels and sat next to her vanity. She hung her sword belt on the bed post and patted the hilt of the new sword before she hung her helmet on the same post. “All right, then,” she said, surveying her equipment. “All I need now is to get my mail shirt from the armorer, then I can take a bath and be ready for dinner.”


As the servants carried away the dessert dishes, Lord Taylor escorted Katrina to a dais set at the opposite end of the banquet hall from the head table. Katrina hoped nobody could see how badly her knees were shaking from nervousness.

“Gentlefolk, I am sure each of you remembers well the day you took your Leave. It is a very important day in the life of a young person for it is on that day that he, or she, chooses to give up the things of childhood, and declares himself ready for adulthood,” Taylor said. His voice filled the banquet hall as easily as the court chamber. Katrina found herself awed by her father. “It is my great pleasure to present my eldest daughter, Katrina, for tomorrow she goes on Leave.”

Katrina stepped forward to stand center stage. She’d rather not have all this attention, but her father was one of the Principle Lords in the Realm of Men. She submitted to protocol as the highest ranked of her father’s vassals and peers came forward to present her with gifts to show their respect for her father.

“Master Swordsman Arnolde. The Boots of Mercury. They will increase your stamina and agility.”

“Lord Kay-zen of Mogarra. Emerald earrings. May their beauty complement, but never exceed, yours.”

“Lady Lauren of Padona. A Mantle of Invisibility. If you pull the hood over your head it will render you invisible.”

“Mid Healer Bartholomew. A silver belt knife. Its blade is blessed. It will kill any of the creatures of the Darkness.”

One by one they announced their name, their gift and its qualities, laying them at her feet. Katrina smiled graciously to each. Finally, the last one approached.

“High Sorcerer Aldair. A locket and an amulet. Inside the locket are pictures of your family, so they can be with you always.” He draped it over her head and around her neck. “The amulet has one spell. It activates in three months. No matter where you are, just kiss it, and you’ll be returned to the courtyard of Aphalia, with anything in your possession, with anyone whose hand you are holding.” He placed it around her neck, too.

She kissed his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered. He returned to his seat. “Thank you all,” she said, struggling to get enough projection in her voice for all to hear her without yelling. “Your gifts are very thoughtful. I hope to use them in good health, towards good means. Father, I hope to make you proud.”

“You already have,” he said, giving her a kiss on the forehead. “Now, let’s dance!”


Lord Taylor smiled with pride as he watched Katrina dancing. Her partner this dance was young Lord Steffen from Fomeen, the second son of Lord Mikhail. Steffen was currently on Leave and was visiting all the principle manors. Taylor believed he was searching for a bride who would inherit a principle manor. He spied High Sorcerer Aldair standing in a corner and joined him there.

“Aldair, how are you doing this evening?” he asked.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Great party, as usual, Taylor. Although it looks like some of your minor holders were caught off-guard for this event.”

Taylor grunted. “Kay-zen is lucky. Emeralds are Katrina’s favorite gems. Otherwise I’d have been forced to call him into my court tomorrow afternoon to explain himself. I’ll probably have to call him in anyway. If I know him, he’ll try to include that in his next month’s tithe of emeralds.”

“That was a cheap gift, considering he runs the emerald mines. They won’t assist her one bit in her journeys, except maybe to help deflower her.” Aldair chuckled at Taylor’s shocked expression. “Come on, Taylor. Surely you remember how many young ladies gave themselves to us when we were on Leave together. I know she’s your baby girl, but facts are facts. She is a gorgeous young woman. Surely it hasn’t been so long since we were that age that you can’t see that.”

“I see it all too well. I fear for her. She has never left the manor, except to go to a fair with one of her tutors. I haven’t left at all since Beverly died.” He summoned a servant to bring him and Aldair fresh drinks. It still hurt to talk about his wife’s death, especially since he hadn’t been able to save the son she’d died giving life to. “Did the spell work?” he asked, watching Katrina begin a new dance with Master Swordsman Arnolde as her new partner.

“Yes,” Aldair answered, taking his drink from the waiter. “I’ll be able to see what she’s doing anywhere in the kingdom as long as she’s wearing that locket.”

“Thank you, my friend. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to capture a dance with my daughter before I lose my opportunity,” Taylor said.

“Your welcome, Taylor,” Aldair said, smiling after his friend.


When Katrina finally returned to her room, she was too tired to sleep. As she walked through her sitting room, she noticed that everything from her bed had been moved to the settee. She sat down on her window seat and looked out. A full moon illuminated the usually dark mountains.

Aphalia had been built on the tallest ridge in the Lachian Mountains. It was the first outpost built against the Demons in the time of great King Magaar who drove the Demons from the land. Aphale had been Magaar’s youngest brother and the most valiant of his knights. He had nearly died when battling the Demons in these mountains.

There was much here worth fighting for. Katrina could not imagine any place more beautiful. Cattle grazed in the foothills. Coal and iron and emeralds could be mined from these mountains. The best blacksmiths in the kingdom worked in a forge just a few miles downstream. Lord Taylor himself had established a school for swordsmen which was quickly gaining recognition as the best training academy around.

Wearily she left her perch and crawled into bed. Dawn would come too soon. She opened the locket and looked at the faces of her father and sister and mother and brothers until she fell asleep.


Katrina brushed her horse slowly. Beverly’s Pride seemed to enjoy it more that way. Her gear lay in a corner of the stall. It had felt strange getting dressed this morning. Her mail shirt had seemed heavier and she fumbled with the buckle of her belt. She felt like she was going to some atrocious battle rather than the adventure that would bring her into the world of adulthood. Perhaps she was going into battle.

Leave had been mandated during the reign of King Magaar to make sure there would be patrols against Demon intrusions. Otherwise the Lords were likely to stay safely shut away in their castles and develop apathy for the welfare of the land. Few Demons had been spotted during the last two hundred years, and Katrina didn’t expect to see any. Most trouble these days came from fellow humans. She put the saddle and bridle on her horse. The concentration on manual labor comforted her. She checked her supplies one last time, then fastened everything to the back of her saddle.

Alyssa walked up to the door of the stall. “Are you ready to go yet?” she asked quietly.

“Almost,” Katrina answered.

“I’m going to miss you. Who am I going to talk to about girl things now?” Alyssa asked.

“Try your governess. That’s why Father hired her,” Katrina replied, a little more flippantly than she intended.

“She won’t be my big sister,” Alyssa said petulantly.

Katrina mounted her horse and forced a smile for her sister. “I know. I’ll miss you, too.” She rode out of the stable to the main castle gate. Her father was waiting.

“I have one more gift for you,” he said. He reached inside his robe and pulled out a scroll. “It’s a map of all the known regions.” She took the map and tucked it in her belt. “I’ve prepared you the best I know how. I cannot stress enough just how dangerous this world of ours is. Be careful who you trust. The friends you make now will last the rest of your life. Return as soon as you will. Now go, earn your title, Lady Katrina.”

“Thank you, Father. I’ll return with honor. I love you. Goodbye,” she said. With a sigh she urged her horse forward and rode through the open gate, waving as she went. She didn’t look back. It was considered bad luck and an ill omen to look back when going on Leave.


Lord Taylor watched his oldest daughter until she rode through the gate. She had looked like a true warrior, except for the uncertainty in her eyes. He wiped away a tear, then sought the solitude of his training room
© Copyright 2005 Miara (codytrev at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/967612-Aphalias-Daughter----Chapter-1