Merchants like Talib, she thought. She knew everyone in the village needed to band together to defeat this new menace. Kamaria started to follow the defending force, but a large hand gripped her shoulder and prevented her egress.
“Kamaria, you are not ready for battle!” Another patrolman spun her around. And shoved her in the direction of the Dawn Road. “Gather the young ones and take them along the Dawn Road to the next village.”
When Kamaria tried to argue, the large man crossed his arms over his barrel chest. “Worry not about the defense of this village,” he said solemnly, “but the scared children it is now your duty to protect!”
The man adjusted his scabbard, and knelt in front of Kamaria. She could see he was holding back not only tears, but doing his best to keep the uncertainty of the impending battle from her. “If we fall to this bandit horde, it will be our children that suffer the greatest loss.” He placed his hands gently on Kamaria’s shoulders. “It is easy to find someone to die for a cause, but it is infinitely more difficult to find someone to live for one.”
Kamaria nodded, and the patrolman whose name she couldn’t recall ran to meet his comrades in arms. Kamaria looked toward the impending battle once again and did what she was told. She found a pair of village warriors loading children into a cart with the village elder and her personal guard. Kamaria slapped away and scowled at the hand of the warrior attempting to assist her into the cart.
“Don’t worry, child, the warriors of our village are more than capable of repeling a rabble of bandits.”
Kamaria looked to the aged elder and her guard. “Mistress Akua, if you are so certain, why do we flee from the battle?”
Elder Akua looked to the upturned faces of the children sharing the cart. It was a sea of concern, quivering lips and eyes wet with fear. Elder Akua motioned with her eyes toward the scared children. “Our warriors will prevail.” The words were spoken with authority, as if the outcome were predetermined.
Kamaria wasn’t satisfied. The words of the elder seemed hollow as the cart lumbered away from the village she’d been born in. The village, Talib and archery were the only things she knew. She felt betrayed again that day, not by a rival, but this time by her own people discounting her worth to defend the place that had given her so much. She was angry she’s been corralled with the children and forced from her village against her will. She looked around and determined to prove she was capable of fighting.
“I’ll not sit here and be coddled like these babies,” Kamaria hissed and leveled her most defiant glare at the village elder.
Elder Akua leaned forward and smiled revealing missing teeth. The deep wrinkles stretched as she reached out to place her hand on Kamaria’ shoulder. “You are not ready for something so profound as battle, Kamaria.”
Kamaria shrugged away the proffered hand and started to argue, but Elder Akua raised a gnarled finger. “Your heart is clouded with fear and doubt. Other things trouble your soul.”
Kamaria leaned against the low side of the cart, rough-hewn wood making her quiver contents shift audibly. Her bow felt heavy, and she struggled to keep it upright. For the first time in as long as she could remember, Kamaria felt uncomfortable in the trappings of an archer. She even felt the title Archer undeserved. She fingered her bow and started calculating the time it would take to leap from the cart and run along the Dawn Road back to her village and the battle.
“The answer is still no, Kamaria. Running away from this cart to your eventual death will only serve help the horde.” Elder Akua leaned back and narrowed her eyes. “Have faith in the warriors of your village. Against the bandit horde, they will prevail.”
The finality of the elder’s tone and word overwhelmed Kamaria’s resolve, but not enough to make her ignore the draw of the battle beyond – in her tiny village.
“I do have faith in them, Mistress Akua, but I know I could help those on the battlefield. Wielding a bow and arrow, I’ll be away from worst of the fighting. I cannot believe that I would be discounted as an archer due to my age! There has to be something I can do to help!” Kamaria crossed her arms over her chest, convinced in her logical argument.
Elder Akua sighed and looked past Kamaria to one of her personal guards. “I’m sorry, dear child, but you will remain with me and the children. You don’t know it yet, but you have a journey of your own ahead of you. A journey that transcends your desire to fight. It is the will of the gods. We mustn’t risk your life or the lives of warriors sent to retrieve you if you disobey.”
Kamaria felt pressure on the side of her neck. Without warning, her arms and legs went numb. She was aware of her bow falling into the rabble of children clinging to each other. She plummeted toward the center of the cart and strong hands gently turned her over, and laid her down as her vision started to fade.
The children made room for her numb body, and the last thing she saw before blackness was the elder’s withered features as she patted Kamaria’s cheek and whispered soothing, reassuring noises.
“The gods demand it,” was the last thing she heard Elder Akua say before oblivion.
Next: Spend Eternity With Me