.Chapter 3

"I had always wanted a daughter, a beautiful, kind-hearted daughter, that I could always call my own," reminisced the Chief as he sat down at his tan, wooden desk and sighed deeply. "A daughter that would respect me and love me no matter what." He placed his hand on top of his freckled nose and began to massage his temples as he slowly closed his eyes. "My new wife, Geandra, also wanted a daughter. I remember all the times we used to argue over the names and compare notes on how we would raise her. Oh, having a daughter was what we wanted most in the world, and we dreamed fondly of the day when we would have one and watch her grow up." After that last recollection, the Chief raised his eyes to look at Eleanor.

She stood there with her hands folded in front of her and her eyes on the ground, not saying a word, just like a respectful daughter always did when a father was speaking. She reminds of my late wife, the Chief thought as he looked at her hair hanging loosely around her, her green cotton dress beautiful in its simplicity, and her calm and patient manner that made him love her even more. She is everything I could want in a daughter even Geandra would be proud of her but would Geandra have approved of shielding her daughter from the truth? He sighed deeply. No, she would not have. He raised himself up out of his chair and walked over to Eleanor.

"Eleanor," he spoke finally, and his beloved daughter raised her head to look at him. "Keep in mind," he began, "that I as long as I live, you shall always be my one and only daughter, and considered part of the clan."

 "Father?" Eleanor looked at him questionably.

He exhaled a breath and turned to the portrait of his beloved late wife that had always hung in his quarters. The young, cutely smiling, blonde woman sat by a window with her head turned towards them, feet drawn together at the base of the wooden bench she was sitting on, elbow bent on the window sill behind her, and had an unwavering countenance looking at him with expectation.

 "I loved Geandra," he said staring at the picture. "She was smart and funny and was always understanding about how little time I could give her. She didn't care that I was the Chief and had to deal with tiring issues, complicated clan struggles, and the like; all she cared about was that I was happy and that I tried to be there for her. However, when she fell ill, I felt guilty because I hadn't had time to notice her decreasing health. When she died, the grief and guilt almost consumed me, like a fox eating a rabbit. I loved her so much, and yet I had never told her so or given her the attention she so rightly deserved. Slowly, my guilt turned to self-hatred, and that to anger. My anger at the world increased until finally your mother's nurse, your future nanny, convinced me to go riding one day. At first, it only caused me more grief, because Geandra and I used to ride together in the few minutes I could spare from being the clan's ruler." He sighed at his last sentence and placed a head upon his desk. To Eleanor he looked like he was in pain but actually the Chief was running his fingers over the little ten year old carving of his daughter's name that she had done on her father's birthday. She always was full of surprises, he silently chuckled, so many surprises that sometimes I thought I would go crazy with her unpredictability. But…he trailed off in his head to look at Eleanor with pride in his eyes, that was always forgotten whenever I saw how truly wonderful she was. "But it was on that very ride when I heard the crying of a child, coming from a clearing where a huge hollow willow tree was located. I followed the sound of the child crying straight to the hollow tree and that is when I peered into the tree and saw a five year old girl wearing a blue dress and clutching a dagger."

Here he paused and stared at Eleanor again, his eyes deep with sorrow that he could not keep this from her any longer. "I managed to encourage the child to come out of the tree, and I asked who she was. She said her name and only that she was waiting for her mother. However, she could not tell me where she was from, or who she belonged too. Therefore, thinking of the child as the redemption of my neglected husband duties, I took her in and raised her as my own. No one was told that I had adopted a child: the only people who knew were my deceased wife's nurse and myself. The other clan members were told that my wife had died giving birth to a child, and the nurse managed to fully convince them that the child was a newborn by wrapping her in thick blankets and feeding her little food. It had also helped that during my wife's illness she had gained a lot of weight and some people were starting to suspect a pregnancy to be announced soon by her."

The Chief blew out another exasperated breath, "I still have no idea how just the nurse and I managed to convince the entire village that the child was mine but in any event…" He smiled and shook his head in amusement, "the years that followed were the happiest of my life. My adopted daughter was everything I could have prayed for, and the guilt of my wife's death had been lifted from my shoulder." Here he stopped and stared off into space, reminiscing some more, but after a few minutes he sighed and said, "however, when I first brought the child to the village, I noticed the dagger she was clutching had a strange, solid gold crest on it. It looked like a winged woman, with a golden sword pressed into her body, raising her hands into the air. I asked many merchants and swordsman if they knew of such a crest, or even recognized the crest from one of their travels, but every person I asked said the same reply: no."

Walking over to his desk once more, he folded his hands behind his back, slowly shook his head, and continued. "I took no notice of the dagger from that point on and instead focused my mind on my new daughter, all the while thanking God for the new chance and responsibility He had given me." 

He turned his head to Eleanor and ended his story with,  "and until a few hours ago when I found out that somebody had uncovered the secret I had tried to hide over the years, I have raised the ideal daughter that my last wife and I had dreamed of." He smiled as he stared at her guilt stricken face, "I have not had a single regret in all the time I have raised her." Eleanor's guilt slowly lifted from her face as he she looked at her father's smile. "Thank you Father," Eleanor said with a smile. He chuckled as he walked over to her and ruffled her chocolate brown hair.

As Eleanor left her father's hut that night and had to endure the stares and whispers that followed her all the way to her own hut she began to let out the rage that had been bottled inside as her father told his story. I can't believe he LIED to me, she wanted to shriek, how could he have led me to believe that I was part of the clan and that I was his REAL daughter? How the hell could he have kept that from me? She picked one of the glass figurines that her father had bought her and threw it to the floor. She then grabbed another figurine and smashed it onto the floor. Eleanor then ran to her closet and began to tear off the sleeves and decorations on the dresses that her father had given her on her last birthday all the while screaming and shrieking in anger.

"HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME?!" she yelled as she smashed her favorite antique mirror. "HOW COULD HE HAVE DONE THIS TO ME?!" Tearing at her hair and throwing everything that she came in contact with, she proceeded to destroy her beloved – or once beloved – hut. Father gave this hut to me to show me that he loved me, she thought furiously as she tore the pages out of her diary. Well, I guess he didn't love me enough to tell me the TRUTH!! Shrieking once more in total anger, she picked up her favorite water globe, the one given to her by her only parent as a symbol of caring, love, and devotion, the one that she cherished beyond anything, and threw it onto the floor with a loud crack. Now utterly exhausted, Eleanor threw herself onto her bed and started to cry. Why? Why did father lie to me all these years? Didn't he know that people would eventually notice that I don't look like him or have the same powers as the other people in the clan? Didn't he have at least some idea about the confusion and pain I would go through because I never knew why I was so different from the other clan members? Didn't he know? Couldn't he have known? Couldn't he?

Anger tears streamed down her face like rivers while her heart began to sink into despair. How could he have done this to me? The tears and anguish became greater with each thought. How could he keep the secret of who I really am from me? Doesn't he love me? More anguish filled tears poured down her face at this thought and feelings of revenge and hatred filled her head. I HATE him, her mind thundered, I absolutely HATE him and I shall always HATE him for what he has done to me. Keeping secrets, telling lies, making me believe that I'm someone I'm not, and never even considering how much pain I would go through while growing up the as the subject of conflict for matters of inheritance! I HATE HIM!

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"I can't believe your father never told you," Naseal said, "I mean how can you hide something as important as that from your own daughter."

 "Adopted daughter you mean," Eleanor, added bitterly. Naseal glanced at her best friend's solemn face and saw the hurt and puzzlement embedded in its countenance. I wish I could tell her I know how she feels but I don't, she sighed, I don't know my best friend feels and boy does that make me feel bad. I mean I've been her friend since childhood I must have at least some idea, she nervously tucked a strand of her behind her ear as she continued her deep thinking. But how I could possibly understand, I mean she just found out that the father she has known all her life is not her real father and that she isn't the true heir to the Chieftainship of the Woodlord clan. She has always been taught that she is the one true heir and has always been treated like it. How could the Chief let her go through all then and then one day tell her that that was just a lie? I just can't believe it I just can't.

Naseal turned her head towards the blue pond water and started to bite her lip. Eleanor and Naseal were now located at their second favorite spot in the forest near the village: Crescent Moon Pond the crescent shaped, crystal blue water pond with a little water fall near the middle of the crescent. The waterfall was the main reason they went to this pond because the rushing of the water through the jagged stones topped with grass and flowers was so serene and relaxing that often they would fall asleep here. But this time not even the waterfall could make the two best friends relax especially the brunette girl wearing a red cotton dress and was hugging her knees close to her. She didn't move for a few minutes but just sat there with her head on top of her knees and stared at the pond all the while pondering. Her face did not betray any thought of what she was pondering about but one could determine that she was probably thinking about her "father", where she belonged, and something that had bothered ever since she heard her father's confession five days ago.

"Naseal…"she began, " do you believe in signs?"

Naseal turned her head towards her friend and asked, "what do you mean Eleanor?"

"Naseal…" Eleanor began again, "I just want you to know that you have always been my most trusted friend and I hope we can always be friends no matter what."

 "Eleanor," Naseal looked at friend with a face fell of perplexity, " you're acting as if we might never see each other again."

Eleanor was silent for a moment but then said solemnly, " I just wanted to let you know how much I cherish your friendship, just in case something happens to me or you in the future."

"What?" Naseal said now totally confused.

"Naseal, I don't know what to do, I mean Father has meant a lot to me over the years and I do love being his daughter but lately I've been…"Eleanor paused and then shook her head.

"What?" Naseal asked, "What has been happening lately?"

Eleanor now looked at Naseal directly in the eye and silently prayed to God that she was doing the right thing by telling her what had been troubling her in the past five nights.

"What has been happening lately Eleanor?" Naseal asked with her eyes opened wide with eagerness. "Please tell me!" She was now starting to shake with anticipation. Afraid of Naseal teasing her for such a silly reason to be alarmed, Eleanor sighed and replied, "I've been having this strange dream lately, and I think it's some sort of sign or omen."

Naseal looked at her questioningly but then brightened and said, "tell me the dream and I'll see what I can determine from it."

Eleanor thought about it, but after several minutes of hard faced consideration, she agreed. She cleared her throat and began the mysterious tale. "The dream starts out with me standing on a hill and looking at the Emperor's palace. The palace looks golden and new as if it were newly constructed and standing for a purpose other then being a home for the Emperor. I'm standing on top of hill because I'm waiting for someone, but I don't know who. Then, I hear someone call to me; naturally, I turn to see who it is. I see a dark man wearing a blue cloak with a golden brooch on his left shoulder. Then, I start to run to him like I'm happy to see him or something, but as I'm running he starts to disappear. The next thing I know, I'm hiding a child in a tree and giving her the same dagger that my father said he had found me with. Then, I turn to go outside of the tree and I see a black-haired woman wearing a torn white dress and whispering one word again and again."

"What is the word she is whispering Eleanor?" Naseal asked eagerly.

"The word sounds like a place that I feel I've been to but I don't why…" Eleanor ponders.

"Tell me what the word is Eleanor!" Naseal cried.

"The word is Pictura, a Latin word but when I hear the world it makes me feel like it's a place I've been too and has an important and significant reason to why I am here," Eleanor then turned to stare at the pond, "and that's when I wake up."

Naseal seemed confused for a moment, but then started thinking of possible meanings to the dream. "Eleanor, perhaps your dream is trying to tell you that you have some connection to the palace, or maybe the Emperor and that man you saw at the palace -- maybe he's a guard or something -- also have a connection. I'm sure if you find him he can tell you something. When you are putting that child into the tree, the dream must be telling you that that the child was you, and someone put you there and gave you that dagger. The woman I think -- and I could be entirely wrong about this -- but the woman might be your mother!" At this, Eleanor gasped. "Then your vision of your mother must be telling you that you have to go to somewhere called Pictura, because when you hear that word, you feel like it's important. If it feels that way, then it probably is!"

"You really think so Naseal?" asked Eleanor intrigued.

 "I could be wrong you know but of course I am a little famous in the village for interpreting dreams so I might not be wrong."

"But if you're right," Eleanor began, "then maybe I have to go find that place called Pictura! Yes I must go find it!" Eleanor stood up with enormous enthusiasm but Naseal got up slowly with tears blooming in her eyes.

"But Eleanor if you have to go find that place called Pictura then that means…" Naseal just couldn't finish her sentence.

Eleanor caught on quickly and put her arms around Naseal. "Naseal, I know you don't want me to leave, but I have too, or I'll never find out who I truly am! And I desperately want to know." Naseal started to cry, and Eleanor hugged her tighter. "I have to go, Naseal, I need to find out who I am." Eleanor rested her head on her friend's shoulder as her best friend cried. "I have to go Naseal," she repeated as her friend cried harder. "I have to go."

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            A beautiful sunrise enveloped the sky and marveled the brown haired woman who looked to be sneaking out of the village. The woman turned out to be Eleanor because today was exactly the day after the dream interpretation and one could actually guess why she was sneaking out so early in the morning. She wore baggy brown pants and a baggy blue shirt as to discourage thieves and cut-throats from the topic of rape and also wore wide brown hat that hid most of her hair. This, she hoped, would make everyone in the village not notice her. It had been two hours before sunrise when Eleanor had woken up and had packed as much money, food, and clothing she could carry. It might not be enough, she thought with a dread, but it shall have to do. She also decided to take the dagger her father found her with, because of the strange feeling of familiarity she had with it.

The night before, she had informed her father that she was going on a quest for her past and would probably not be back for long time. Her father had expressed concerns of thieves, lunatics, and killers, to which she had countered that she had always been the best fighter in the village and could master a sword better then anyone. Finally, he asked if she was leaving because he had told her the true story of her origin, and Eleanor replied that she had loved him too long to hate him, and that she will always think of him as her one true father. As to the thieves and lunatic she assured her father with the fact that she had always been the best fighter in the village and could master a sword better then anyone. So after a few hours of persuasion and reminiscing, he grudgingly and sorrowfully bid his goodbyes and kissed his daughter, for which might be the last time

            Darting across the dirt path of the village and trying to avoid tripping over stones, Eleanor walked quietly, cat-like, praying that no one would wake up. She thought it would be better if the people who once loved her solely due to her status as a princess, find out that she wasn't from her father's lips instead of her own. However, she also didn't want to see her friends cry and beg her not to leave. It wasn't that she didn't care about them, or that she didn't want to give them hugs and kisses before her journey. It was just that she didn't think she could bear it, watching her sad friends refuse to accept her need to go. Eleanor could not explain the need to leave the village in search of her past, and she certainly had thoughts of staying here and forgetting about it, but the need to leave was stronger. Nevertheless, she felt twinges of guilt and sorrow about leaving without saying goodbye, and she felt a deep hole of despair in her heart because she had not even told her best friend that today was the day she would be leaving. Its probably better this way, she thought as she reached the beginning of the forest at the end of the village. I'd rather let her hate me for not saying goodbye, than have her worrying day and night about my safety and health. Sighing, she turned her head to the home she had known all her life, for what would probably be the final time, blew a tearful kiss, and walked into the forest.

But as she walked for a minutes in the velvet darkness, she started to hear crunching noises behind her. She took no notice at first, but as they grew louder, she slowly pulled out the dagger, preparing to fight for her life. As one last crunch noise erupted from behind, she grabbed the mysterious stalker and slammed him against a tree.        "Ow!" the noisemaker exclaimed, "that hurt Eleanor!"

"Ow!" her captive exclaimed. "That hurt, Eleanor!"

Recognizing the voice, Eleanor gasped. "Naseal! What are you doing here?"

"What does it look like? I'm coming with you to help you find out about your past."

 "What!" Eleanor thundered. "No way! You are going back to the village and straight to bed!" She shoved her friend from the tree to the direction of the village and pointed imperiously.

Naseal drew herself up defensively. "Eleanor, you are MY best friend and therefore I'm as much responsible for you as you are for me. So, if you are going somewhere dangerous, I have to go too, to protect you!"

"I don't need protection!" Eleanor declared huffily. "I am perfectly fine by myself!"

"Well, like it or not, I'm coming with you!" Naseal crossed her arms and stood erect to face her friend directly. Eleanor's first thought was to beat some sense into Naseal's thick head and watch her crawl back to the village in defeat, but then reason kicked in. I'll probably go nuts if I go on this quest by myself, and I will need some protection. Thinking angrily for a minute, she looked at her friend and went over the hundreds of different reasons why she should or shouldn't go.

After a few tense minutes, Eleanor sighed and said, "I'm not cleaning up after you."

Naseal smiled and began to walk ahead of Eleanor. "Who asked you to?"

                                    End of Chpt 1