The wind whistled through the trees, making the branches sway to their melancholy tune. She sat there, silently going over her speech. The anticipation was nerve wracking but she still tried to keep a calm exterior. She reached for her sword, running her fingers lightly over the sharp blade. This was her only chance and she absolutely couldn't mess it up. In the distance, a trumpet sounded, signalling that the council was at last ready to see her.
She stood before the council, her hands shaking nervously. First was the physical test, which she could pass easily. Her opponent was large and clumsy, while she swiftly but gracefully disarmed him. The motions of sword play were easy to her, and the physical test was over. Now was the time to win them with her words. This was a hard thing to do when she herself treasured silence, not knowing what the correct things to say any way was. The eldest, a man named Joash, motioned that she may begin.
"Members of the counsel, I am Lady Carlae Diem. I know that I am out of place as a woman to ask of you this great favor, but I implore you to ignore my gender's status, for it will not matter. I may be sixteen but I am one of the city's greatest swordsmen. I have never backed away from a challenge and I do not plan to do so in the future. There are many men who have come to you today to prove that they are worthy. They might have been bigger, stronger, smarter, and even braver than I. But I tell you this, I go not for pride, or honor, for those can be lost as soon as I receive them. No, I would go because I want to find a hope to bring back to our hopeless land. So that it may grow into something better than we ourselves have ever imagined. May you decide whom ever you deem worthy, and my words at least influence who you decide," she said, bowing as she finished.
Joash gave her a small nod of approval, along with other members. She was dismissed from the room until she and the other contestants would be called back to hear the final decision.
"May God favor me today," she whispered.
The land used to be safe place, where magical and non-magical beings could live together in peace. But then, something had changed. The land became poisonous, turning species against each other. Dragons settled near the border, setting fire to villages or stealing the young children for food. Witches came bringing hexes and their curses to the villagers.
Crops wouldn't grow on most soil, and families would starve. So the council decided that now was the time for a hero to set out and search for the cause. And most importantly, if it be cured. This is what Carlae wanted more than anything.
Her father starved to death, while her mother sat at home with little Rosie. Rosie had fallen ill, and at the age of seven, was closer to death than Carlae had ever been.
"They don't know what they're doing and you definitely don't know what you're getting yourself into," her friend Dolan had spewed at her, "What if you never return? I wouldn't go, even if they begged me."
"But I can at least try," she snapped.
In response, Dolan gave a huff of indignation, and sulked in the corner. Carlae smiled at the thought of that day, not noticing Joash standing in front of her. He gave a small cough, and she jumped to her feet. He placed a wrinkled hand on her shoulder, and gave her a smile.
"It is time," he croaked, leading her back to the council's meeting room.
Twenty young men stood in the room, and all of them simultaneously looked at Carlae when she came into the room. Some of them avoided her eyes, and others gave her looks of disgust or contempt. She swallowed her stubbornness and held her chin up, not letting them see her uneasiness. The members of the council all sat down in their chairs, the silence consuming the room. And for the first time Carlae couldn't stand it. She fidgeted nervously.
Joash slowly walked to the front to take his spot, and turned to face the group of anxious young faces. He suddenly felt like he was an old man. This was not supposed to be like this. He let out a little wavering sigh; feeling like his life was being squeezed out of him.
"Carlae Diem, please step forward." She took a nervous step forward. "Congratulations, my dear. It seems you will be going on an adventure. You are to find the cause and if there is a cure to bring it back to our land so that we may cure this plague. You may bring a companion with you as it may be difficult on your own. May God keep you safe, and keep your path straight." Joash announced, staring straight into her brown eyes. He walked out to her and stood before her. She went down onto her knees, and bowed her head. He placed his hands on her head, crossed himself, and kissed her head gently.
She looked up at his old, wrinkled face. He smiled down and lifted her to her feet. Her world suddenly became a thousand times bigger. A companion? She would have to go on her hands and knees for her companion to actually accompany her on her journey. She looked at Joash with tears in her eyes, and she grasped his wrinkled hand.
"Thank you, Grandfather. You will not regret this decision," she wept.
Joash nodded and led her to the balcony where the people were. They had gathered there to hear who their champion would be. He went out before her.
"People of Galinar, I present to you, your champion. Carlae Diem," he bellowed.
Carlae step out onto the balcony. The people roared with excitement. She could even see Rosie, pale as ever on Dolan's shoulders. She felt the adrenaline rush through her; she unsheathed her sword, and thrust it into the air. The crowd went into an even bigger uproar. She was chosen. And she wouldn't stop until she found what she was looking for. Now she just had to talk to Dolan one last time.