Chapter 03

Contract for Peace

Abiya was King Ingvea’s firstborn daughter. He had five girls. The sixth and youngest child, not yet weaned from his mother’s breast, was his only son and next king.

Ingvea still remembered how he’d paced and worried all night and well into the next morning waiting for Abiya to be born. The first time he saw his baby girl, his heart no longer belonged to him. It was the same with each child, and even though he loved all equally, he had only one Abiya.

Although his wife often insisted it was for her good, Ingvea infrequently disciplined his firstborn daughter. No request of hers was too difficult for him to fulfill.

When she was five, he brought her a pony, but she wanted to ride a fullgrown horse. A special saddle was crafted just for her and the horse of her choice. She cried every day for a week until the saddle was ready. She rode the horse until her thirteenth birthday. On that day, she declared, “I am a lady. Ladies did not ride horses.” She never set foot in the stables again.

He knew someday, he’d have to marry his daughters off. Girls made for good political strategy.

He planned to keep Abiya close by marrying her to a noblemen’s son who frequently visited the castle. Abiya was seventeen. Ingvea thought he had time, one more year, at least. If only he’d made the marriage arrangements before Samard’s messenger arrived.

It had been a long and difficult war. His kingdom was small and his soldiers few. All his treasury had gone had to hire mercenaries. Most of his land was dry and sandy. The valley was his most fertile farmland, but most of his farmers had moved away and now lived in the city surrounding the castle. The food supplies were low. Food from merchant ships, from far away lands, was expensive. Ingvea desperately needed his farmers to return to their valley fields.

“You want me to do what?” Abiya had asked, when he’d told her of the wedding.

“It is for the good of the kingdom,” he said.

“And what about my good?” Abiya angrily asked. “Don’t my feelings count? Don’t I have a say in the matter?”

Ingvea suddenly realized how wrong he’d been. He’d spoiled his children with love instead of teaching them the responsibilities of queen and kingship. One’s life belongs to the people, not to one’s self. He’d failed Abiya, but it was not too late for the others.

“To not go would be to insult him.”

“Then I will insult him!”

“He might send troops to our castle gates,” he pleaded with her.

“Then we will fight and send him back mortally wounded,” she defiantly declared.

Ingvea sighed heavily. “We do not have the troops. He will come and devastate the land and plunder our goods. His soldiers will rape the women, your sisters and your mother. Go for their sake.”

“So you will sacrifice me to save them? Am I so unimportant to you that you prefer them over me?”

Her words were like a spear to Ingvea’s heart.

An arranged marriage between his daughter and Samard was the perfect strategic move to end a meaningless war. Still, it broke his heart to give his baby girl away like that. Tears still came to his eyes when he thought of her so far away; married to a man he knew little about. He could only hope Samard was a better man than his father, since he was willing to end the hostilities.

On the day Abiya left, Ingvea held his emotions in as long as he could. He smiled in the hope of encouraging her. But when he tried to give her a good-bye hug, she angrily turned from him. She didn’t even give her mother a farewell kiss or look at her sisters.

To her little brother resting in his nanny’s arms, she said, “Do not grow up to be like your father who gives his daughter way to the first mongrel who summons her.”

As she stepped into the carriage, Ingvea could stand it no longer. He turned away so she would not see him crying. He didn’t want that to be her last memory of him.

The heartbroken father wrapped a consoling arm around his equally heartbroken wife and pulled her close. Together they entered the castle weeping.

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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 12:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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