Anaya Amerada woke after a deep, dream filled sleep and smiled. Her room was warm and her bed and her covers were loose and cozy. Looking out her window, she smiled at the silvery light lining the horizon. A warm breeze was drifting through her curtains and brushed against her face. In the distance, she could hear her horses shrill whinny. She wanted out. So did Anaya.
Anaya climbed out of bed and looked out at the clear, starlit sky. The full moon blazed in the early morning, giving the land a new, fresh look. Anaya smiled broadly as she hurriedly got dressed into comfortable clothes for riding, pulled her hair back into a long braid, packed a small bag with the journal her friend, Gavin had given her, belted her sword and snuck into the kitchen. She crepe past her uncles and older brothers rooms as quietly as she could. Finally in the kitchen, she grabbed an orange and apple from the fruit bowl, a few lumps of sugar and gently placed them in the bag.
Anaya slipped out of the weathered old house and dashed out to the barn, were Isabelle was waiting. The mare whinnied as Anaya approached. Her small wolf, Fog leaped up at Anaya, Anaya catching him in her arms.
Gavin was nowhere in sight, but that didn't surprise Anaya. He had told her, he would saddle Izzy and get her ready for Anaya's early morning ride, but he had to get started on barn chores right after and couldn't see her off. Anaya picked up little Fog and mounted Izzy, silently urging the mare to a gallop. They galloped out of the barn and away into the woods. Once at the edge of the old forest, Anaya slowed Izzy to a walk so she wouldn't miss her trail, marked by a knotted twig on a branch.
Anaya guided the mare through the still dark forest, stopping now and then to pick a few berries from bushes that grew at the side of the trails. Finally, they reached their destination. A small cave, half hidden in the underbrush, squatted by a small babbling brook. Anaya dismounted Isabelle and tied her to a tree, loose enough so she could graze.
Anaya skipped across the rocks, protruding from the water with Fog at her heals, slipping once in while on the slippery stones, and placed her bag in her in the cave. She skipped back across to the other side and drew her sword. She practiced her defenses she had learned from a staff fight she saw in town. After a while, she sheathed her sword and returned to the cave to rest.
Anaya leaned against a wall in the cave and looked out to see the time. It was still early in the morning, the sun hadn't even made an appearance yet and the moon was still bright. Anaya loved this time of day, when the moon would be shining in her cave the most. She was only ten years of age when her dream was born. She was here, at her cave she called Moonlight's Cave. She called it that because the cave seemed to catch the full moon's light and shone into the forests of Briton, reaching from her uncle's farm, all the way to the city of Camelot. The wolf cub she had found about a month ago stayed close to her side and whimpered with content. Anaya had found him on a foggy night at Moonlight's Cave with no sign of a nanny to watch him. Joseph, her older brother, found out about Fog and he told Uncle Neil. After a long argument with her uncle, Anaya convinced her uncle that the pup was abandoned by the pack, and he allowed Anaya to keep him. She named him Fog after the night she found him.
She was lying in the cave listening to the birds voices echo around her, and feeling Fogs warm fur as he slept soundly at her side. Anaya took up her journal and began to write, she loved writing. She wrote about the day that brave knight who had saved her only a few years ago...
I was chasing a brightly colored butterfly through the valley and into the woods. I chased it on and on until I grew tired and let it go.
Thats when I found this cave and stopped here to rest. I must have fallen asleep because it was much later in the day when I left. As I was leaving, a strong looking man dressed in leather stopped me and asked for my money. When I told him I had none, he moved forward to attack.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Knight jumped in front of me and stopped the attacker. The two men fought like two great bulls as the rain started to fall and lightning crashed all around.
In the end, my rescuer fell in the mud as the downpour turned into a drizzle. The robber took the valiant knights sack of gold and dagger and disappeared into the forest. I got closer to the Knight to help him but all he could do was offer me his sword and a book he called the Bible, then pointed at a small war horse and asked, from the deepest part of his heart, me to care for her. There he died, in the valley not far from here.
Now a girl of 17 years, Anaya's oak brown eyes twinkled with a new fire as she remembered the knight's kind face as his muscles relaxed and he closed his bright blue eyes forever. Pushing a lock of dark brown hair away from her sun-kissed face, Anaya sat up and stroked the almost six month old wolf cub. Fog looked up at her affectionately with deep liquid eyes.
"I want to be a knight, Fog," Said Anaya to her wolf. "But Uncle Neil disapproves. It's like God gave me the tools of a knight, but not the keys to become a knight."
She looked back at Fog and smiled as one of her Fathers favorite sayings came to her "Only God can close doors that no one can open, and only God can open doors no one can close."
Anaya sighed. "I know what you're thinking," She whispered to the young wolf. "I should forget about knighthood, and listen to my uncle, but I can't, Fog. I feel as if God is urging me to chase this goal-for Him."
She flipped back a few pages and read another passage she had written. The handwriting was sloppy, but she was young and Gavin was teaching her how to read and write.
Daddy had died a few months ago. He had been very ill for a long time, now I know he had Cholera. Mom had left Joseph and me in the care of our uncle. I haven't seen her since.
I'm still sad that Daddy died, but Joseph seems like he could care less. Has he a heart? It seems like he has forgotten about Daddy.
Suddenly, the deep voice of her uncle echoed off the trees of the old forest. "Anaya! Anaya!" She heard.
Anaya immediately put the journal down and jumped to her feet and called back to him, "Coming Uncle Neil!"
She crawled out of the cave but as she did, she could see the memory of the Rebel walking up to a little girl, demanding money. Next the face of the knight that saved her came into view. Anaya's heart pounded as she watched the two men fight, but she pushed the memory to the back of her mind in hopes that it would stay there. She didn't want to feel the longing for knighthood right now.
She looked for Isabelle, the warhorse that the knight had given her. The mare nickered kindly as Anaya approached. Izzy was a dark gray mare with lighter gray dapples on her back. She had three white socks and a mark on her face that looked like a shooting star, blazing across her gentle face. The mare nuzzled the girl affectionately and blew on her face. Anaya gave her a lump of sugar that she had smuggled from the house, picked up little Fog and mounted the warhorse.
As they galloped under the early suns light, Anaya imagined being a knight in a battle on Isabelle. She imagined riding at King Arthur's side, galloping toward the charging enemy. It ended too soon for she had arrived at the farm where her stern uncle waited for her on the porch, with his arms folded in front of him. Neil was a muscular man, with a dark brown beard and lighter brown eyes. Knowing she was in trouble, Anaya dismounted and walked shyly passed Neil.
"Where were you so early in the morning?" He insisted sternly in a voice Anaya had come all too familiar with. "You should be doing chores, young lady! Not doddling your time away daydreaming!"
"I was just out for a ride." Answered Anaya as she walked away with Izzy and Fog trotting close behind her.
Anaya was brushing out Izzy's mane when Gavin came and peeked into the stall. Gavin was an old, worn out stable hand who worked for Neil to pay off an old debt to a richer farmer, during the ten years of barn work, Anaya and Joseph came along and a bond grew between him and that adorable little girl. However, after the debt was payed, Gavin decided to continue working for Neil. Gavin was almost like a godfather to Anaya and she told him everything she didn't dare tell her uncle.
"I wanted to tell you thank you for covering for me." She said in a solemn voice.
"Too bad it didn't work out." Gavin answered. "Were you able to practice with your sword?"
"How did you do?"
"I did okay, but it's nothing like a real fight."
"To bad you don't have someone to practice with."
There was an uneasy silence for a while. Anaya wanted to talk, but she couldn't find anything to say. She was relieved when Gavin finally spoke.
"You truly want to be a knight, don't you?" He asked.
Anaya stopped brushing Izzy and looked into Gavin's deep brown, trustworthy eyes. She smiled gently and nodded. "Its the only thing I ever wanted since that knight saved me five years ago." She answered. "The only thing holding me back is my uncle."
Gavin nodded at her, quietly telling her to follow him. Wondering what he wanted, Anaya slipped out of Izzy's stall latching the gate quietly behind her, and followed. Gavin sat down on a hay pile and motioned Anaya to do the same.
"Do you really think that it is your uncle holding you back and not the fear of not being accepted at the Round Table?" He asked, very bluntly.
Anaya had to think about it for a second. She had to admit that she was afraid that she wouldn't be accepted; girls were not allowed to do such things in Briton.
After a while, Gavin spoke again, "All I want is to see you confidently chase your dreams. I know it will be a hard road for you, Anaya, but trust in God to protect you; You know He will."
Just as he ended the rather short speech, Anaya's uncle called her in for breakfast. She looked at Gavin to apologize for the interruption, but all he did was smile and nodded her off.
As she walked into the old farmhouse, she saw Joseph, her older brother, washing his hands in the washtub. He was handsomely featured with a square jaw, dark hair and green eyes. He was only eighteen years of age, yet several girls from Yorkshire went foolish around him, blushing, batting their long eyelashes at him and giggling their heads off as he passed them, it just made Anaya sick.
Thin broth and dry biscuits was waiting for her on the table along with a cup of milk. Anaya grimaced at the very meager meal, she already knew the bread would not taste that great and the chicken broth would be rather lukewarm and would stink, but if she spread enough jam on the biscuits it would dull the dry and dusty taste. Anaya quickly washed her hands and took two pieces biscuits and was spreading the sweet strawberry jam when her uncle walked in.
"We'll be leaving for town after breakfast, Joseph. Be sure your ready by then." He said, barely looking at Anaya.
"Yes, sir." Joseph said, now drying his hands on a knitted towel. "Will we need extra bread?"
"Not unless we harvest the grain and send it to the mill by tomorrow evening." Neil answered. "We may have to sell the mare to get the money to-"
"You can't sell Isabelle!" Anaya blurted, almost shouting. "I promised the knight I would take care of her for him. We can't sell her."
"We need the money to get Joseph an education, Anaya." Uncle Neil said, scowling at her. "Once he has that, he'll be able to bring some money in so we may have a better living."
"But, I would be breaking a promise!" Anaya confronted. "Were would my honor be if I broke my promise?"
He looked at her and glared. Anaya just looked at him, not sure weather or not to say anything. "You are not a knight!" he shouted. "You have no honor, get your head out of the clouds and focus on what your duties are. Knighthood is for the royal, noble families of Briton, not Farm Girls."
Anaya was stung, she rarely allowed her uncles words to sink in, but this time they cut deeper than the others.
Neils' glare bore into her.
"I do believe those pants are not yours, Anaya." He said sternly.
Anaya looked at the pair of pants she found in the burn pile. She knew they were Joseph's, but they looked too small for him and figured that he grew out of them. Besides, she hated the dresses that her uncle made her wear.
"I found them in the burn pi-" She started, but Joseph cut her off.
"I've been looking for those all day! I put them by the burn pile because I had washed them earlier and was waiting for them to dry." He said, obviously taking Neil's side.
"I suggest you take them off, apologize to Joseph, and put on one of the dresses that I had paid good money for." Neil said, pointing to the back of the house. As Anaya walked out of the room, She heard her uncle call after her; "And no breakfast for you today."
Feeling hot with anger, she ran to her room, slammed the door behind her and locked it. Her room was small, often cold in the winter. The walls were dull and gray, with no paintings to bring life to the room. There was a single small window with hardly a view, except for the barn and the pen of chickens and geese. Instead of changing into a nasty little dress that the snooty little rich girls wear, she slipped out of her window, and ran to the barn. She ran to Isabelle's stall, flung her arms around the horse's neck, and began to sob in her sweet smelling mane.
Fog, who had been sleeping soundly on the hay, walked up to Anaya and rubbed on her leg. Anaya stooped down and held the wolf cub close.
"I can't go on like this." She told them. "I can't even wear the clothes I like." She talked to her friends and told them what happened.
She was unaware that Gavin was just around the corner listening to her every word, quietly making a plan to help Anaya escape this life and enter a life she was made for. He saw her kindness and bravery at work when she persuaded her uncle to let her keep little Fog. He saw how strong she was when she had injured herself while practicing with her sword, and facing her uncle for a lecture, not a tear or the slightest hint of fear.
She deserves more than this. Gavin thought to himself, walking off with a saddlebag and started filling with things Anaya would need for her journey. If it's Gods will, she'll make it to Camelot and become a knight, if not, she'll be free from this place.