She looked up startled out of her day-dreaming. Her pretty blonde nurse of thirty years came tumbling down the muddy wet slope towards her.
“Amala, I wish you wouldn’t run off like that again! Your father would hate for you to get lost,” she blustered as she stared at her new shoes which were quite muddy.
“I am not going to get lost, I never do, and I never will,” she retorted indignantly. “I always come here.”
“But not in the rain! Oh, dearie me!”
Amala sighed. Standing up she took her treasured comb, and took the nurses hand. What her nurse had said pricked her conscience. Her father loved her and if she ever strayed too far… Amala licked the rain drops off of her lips. She trudged with her nurse out of the foliage of the trees and into the downpour, to the great grey stone walls that she had known all her life. She had always felt so safe there – her father took so much trouble to keep enemies away from it… for many enemies he had. She smiled briefly at the guard as they passed. Poor man, he had to stand out here for another hour yet before another came to relieve him, but he certainly didn’t mind. Everyone that she had ever met were so dedicated to her father, ready to die for him at the drop of a hat. She loved him dearly aswell. They hurried on into the long cold stone walls of the castle. Amala stared at the well-known tapestries of knights and damsels, with evil dragons and other mysterious creatures. She often made up stories about them when no one knew the secrets behind the cotton etched figures. They came to long narrow steps that swirled around and around and around, with windows every few turns were rain was pouring in. She felt cold as ice. Together they (seemingly forever) trundled up those stairs, passing many wooden doors, until finally coming into a door which led to her room. Entering, the nurse promptly stripped Amala of her wet bliaut. Her underclothes were quite dry so on plopped an ebony lace dress.
“When will I see Vuissance?” Amala shyly asked. Vuissance was the daughter of the towns smithy, and her very best friend.
“Soon, soon, be patient! My goodness!” the nurse clucked her tongue as she tackled trying to tie up Amala’s dress. Amala giggled. Nurse wasn’t very good at doing corsets up.
“I cannot wait to tell Vuissance of how the stream looked,” she said, slyly mentioning her friend once more.
Nurse grunted. Then stepped back with a sigh. “All’s done!”
“But, what about Vuissance?” Amala felt the urge to stamp her foot.
“My goodness, child. You need a good dose of patience you do! Before your friend comes, you must go down and sup with your father. He’ll have us roasted if we’re any later!”
Rosalie grumbled as she was led down all those steps once more and to the hall once again, they passed yet more tapestries then entered a stone arch that extended into the private dining room. Amala smiled as she recognised her fathers soft, tanned face. She slid into the seat next to him, and kissed him on the cheek.
“What were you up to my dear?”
“I was watching the rain hit the stream.”
He smiled. “Darling, there is a right time to do some things and not to do others.”
“Yes, I know father.”
Trays of spiced meat, vegetables, and a roasted pig were brought out, Amala was quick to bless her food and dug into it heartily.
“Amala, dear. You are now 11 summers old, we’re going to go on a journey together,” Her father seemed to be testing her in a way. Without knowing it, her hand went underneath the table to her lap were her comb lay.
“Where?” she asked suspiciously.
“We are going on a straight and curvy road, over hills and mountains. You have come of age and must start the trip like all your other sisters and brothers, its a long way, but you will get there safely – if you stay on the narrow way.” He carefully cut some mutton and put it in his mouth on the edge of the knife.
“My sisters and brothers?” Amala frowned.
“Not blood sisters and brothers, adopted just as you are.”
Amala nodded. She carefully dug into her meal, trying to be mannerly and have a ravenous appetite did seem to work. Her father, however, ate slowly as if he was not hungry. His brown eyes gazed at her thoughtfully. “This journey, you will have to leave your possessions behind to make way for things I will give you on the journey.”
Her heart soared but broke at the same time. What about her comb? It was only one small thing, surely she could take it? Her father smiled kindly, reached underneath the table and patted her hand clutching the comb. “You have to trust me, my dear, do not think gloomy thoughts. Vuissance will be coming with you, so it wont be dull. Whatever you leave behind here, you will receive double!”
Amala relaxed. Maybe she could, maybe no, no! Never! She swallowed her pork in one clump, and sighed as she pulled away from her kind fathers grasp. Her heart leaped, she could have been overjoyed Vuissance was coming, but having to give up her beloved comb dulled her joy.
“Tomorrow, you will set off.”
“Father, I do not want to part from you! Why do I have to go? Why cannot I stay in this beloved place?”
“You forget, Amala dearest, that I will be taking the journey with you, although sometimes you may not see me, or feel me; but nevertheless, I will be there. The land you are journeying to is much more lush and beautiful than this grey world.” his brown eyes sadly begged her to trust him, but something was holding her back.
She couldn’t leave without it, could she? But, the knew she had to, and that seemed to break her heart. She burst into tears and her father took her into his arms and squeezed her. “You can do it, with me to help you.”
She wanted to scream a refusal, but her fathers face already seemed so sad. So she meekly nodded her head.
Tomorrow she would leave.
No matter what her feelings demanded.