The young woman pushed her way determinedly through the crowds gathered in the streets. It seemed to her that the entire population of the village had come to see off its warriors. She fought hard to suppress her feelings of indignation and anger, but she could not keep the furious flames from flashing in her eyes.
The people of the village knew too well the implications of those fires. They had a hard time explaining to any who had not seen her eyes that the words "flaming eyes" were not meant metaphorically. Her rich brown eyes could, as they did now, flare in furious hues of orange, yellow and red.
The spectators backed away from her apparent rage. No one knew why her eyes expressed the girl's anger, but they did find one advantage of the display; it was always a good idea to get out of her way when they saw it. She found the path to her father and the other warriors suddenly cleared. She marched up and held the gaze of her father's brown (and completely normal) eyes.
"Take me with you," she demanded of her father. "You know I would be fine. You need me!" Her father's eyes held no anger, but were set with determination, leaving no room for debate. That didn't deter his daughter's own insistence.
"You know you can't come," the normally patient man replied with only the slightest hint of irritation. "How many times do we have to go over this? You are not a warrior. You are nearly ready for marriage. You must stay in the village where you belong." These words only fed fuel to the fire that burned in the young woman's heart.
"I am just as good as any of the lads who march now to their first battle. Better, actually. I have beaten Sett, Etos, Jovis."
"But you are not a warrior," her father cut her off. "Avenna, I do not doubt your strength, but you must let these silly notions of battle go. It is not your place."
"Then what is my place, Da?" Anger dripped from her words, but there was something else behind those words that softened the look in the man's eyes. At first he thought it was conviction, but with a pang of guilt he realized the truth. It was desperation. "If I am not a warrior, what am I? Am I nothing more than a decoration for your household? Is my place this cage that you now lay upon me? You know that I'm not content with standing to the side, sheltered but confined. Why do you condemn me? Why can I not be as free as you?"
Her father fought with himself, wondering how he could deny such pleas. The problem was solved for him, however, when his contemplations were interrupted.
"Pontos!" a voice called from the band of warriors. "Your knowledge is needed." A brash young man led his horse over to where Avenna's father was standing. Avenna barely managed to contain the shudder that ran down her spine as his gaze settled on her. "And good day to you, Avenna. I hope this fine day has found you in good spirits and health."

"The latter, yes, the former, no," she nearly spat at him. She hated Tarrice even more than she hated being left behind. The arrogant young man just laughed.
"Don't worry. I will return. You need not fear losing me, Precious Dove." This time she did shudder. Only a man interested in marriage would use that name for a woman. She hated it as much as she hated him.
Tarrice turned and led his horse away, but Pontos hesitated, wanting to soothe his daughter's volatile temper.
"We will not be gone long. When I return, we can discuss the idea of you riding to battle with us." The fires in Avenna's eyes slowed slightly, but they did not disappear.
"That's what you said last time, Da." The man had a hard time holding his daughter's gaze when he recognized their desperate plea. He tried to think of a reply, but could not. He turned and followed Tarrice to avoid giving in. He did not want to see his daughter's helplessness.
Avenna watched him go. The warriors mounted their horses, and the villagers began calling their farewells and best wishes. The young woman stood there a moment longer as she caught her father's eyes. This time she turned, and her father assumed she was going home. Guilt hit the man, but it was mixed with relief that she had given up.
Avenna had no intention of giving up, however. She pushed her way through the crowds and dashed for the stables. She grabbed her saddle as she came through the door and hurried to her horse's stall. She threw open the door, but it was empty. The saddle fell from her hands as she stared in disbelief and confusion. She heard the rustle of skirts behind her and spun around, only to face her mother.
"Where has Menelith gone?" she blurted, referring to her beautiful white mare. "Where is she?" Her mother didn't flinch when the predictable flames lit up Avenna's eyes.
"We sold her," her mother replied calmly. This simple response stung Avenna's soul like no other thing had done before. "We had no choice. As long as that beast was around, you would go on chasing these ridiculous dreams of yours. Now you can finally settle down to reality." Avenna's spirit had taken a hit, it was true, but it only spurred her anger further.
"Who did you sell her to?" Avenna knew there wasn't another person in the world who deserved that horse. They shared a bond, an understanding that freed them both from their cages.
"Tarrice bought her," her mother answered with her mask and heart of stone. "He seemed to take a liking to her." Avenna was floored. She knew that Tarrice would use her beloved mare as leverage to get her consent in marriage. It wasn't the horse that he had taken a liking to. She knew that his affection had been directed towards her.
Avenna, knowing she had run out of ideas but unwilling to admit defeat, pushed past her mother and ran down the streets. Her surprised mother called after her, but Avenna would slow for no one. She sprinted to the edge of the village and then ran up a steep hill that stood at the west end of the village. As she reached the rocky summit and got to the edge of the trees, she saw that she had just missed the horsemen. They rode to the west and to the now setting sun.
The flames in her eyes slowly burned out and melted in the tears of shattered dreams. She fell to her knees as her hope and freedom fell down around her.