Ambrosine loved her family’s country estate. Her nurse grew indulgent and let her eat extra cookies before bed time. The gardens ran half-wild and no one minded if she played in the flowerbeds. Her older brother, Aidan, wasn’t worried about impressing his friends and would actually join her with his toy soldiers.

Life was simple. Life was good. She was five years old.

—–

The centaurs attacked at night, and they brought fire. They had already sacked the small village; the manor house was a bonus target on their way out. The roof was ablaze as Gretchen ushered her down the stairs.

“Quick, quick!”

“I want momma,” Ambrosine whispered, clutching her stuffed dog. She was more than tall enough, even at her age, to take the steps quickly by herself but there was a lot of yelling outside. It made her pause. “Gretchen, where’s momma?”

“They’re coming, honey. Let’s get you safe.” Panic made the nurse’s nudge rough. “Hurry.”

“Aidan? Papa?”

“Sssh. It’s all right. Hide here until one of us comes to get you.”

“I want to help!” But the cellar door was closed in her face, and locked. She finally went to sleep, after all the sounds outside had stopped.

There had been screaming.

—–

Ambrosine spent two days in the cellar. She ate carrots until she was sick of them. When someone did unlock the cellar, it was one of the villagers, not momma or pappa. Not even Gretchen.

The woman first had eyes for the food, not the girl in the corner, but her eyes tracked the toppled stack of carrots until they landed on Ambrosine. “Oh! Oh…you poor child.”

Ambrosine jerked awake, rubbing her eyes a the sudden light. “Ow! Where’s momma? Gretchen? …you’re not Gretchen.”

The stranger glanced over her shoulder, back up the steps. She bit her lip. “Sit tight for a moment, okay? I’ll come back and get you. I promise.”

Ambrosine waited. With the door open, it let in the smell of smoke. Of burned house, and…and other things. She didn’t know what those other smells were yet, but she would.

And when the woman came back and carried her upstairs, she didn’t know what the drag marks on the floor meant.

She would guess, later.

A lot of the house had burned. The roof was caving in, over where the bedrooms were. Ambrosine stopped asking where her family was about halfway through the trip to the monastery.

——

“I don’t know what to do with her,” the woman said to the priestess. “There’s only a handful of us left at the village, and we can barely feed ourselves since the centaurs trampled the fields. Please, take her. She was in the manor house cellar.”

The priestess turned towards Ambrosine, and knelt in front of her. “What’s your name, dear?”

“Ambrosine Thalkor,” she said, dipping into a practiced curtsey.

“Do you have aunts and uncles in the city, perhaps? Cousins?”

“No, they’re all dead,” Ambrosine said with a little shrug. She’d never met any of them. “Papa said it’s why we spend so much time out in the country.”

“Ah,” the priestess said, rocking back on her heels. “Well. We can certainly keep her for a time. We’ll write to….well, surely I can find someone in Divinity’s Reach who can reach out to her relatives. I’m sure we can help your village as well. Come, child…would you like to see the store room?”

“Is it a cellar? I don’t like cellars anymore.”

—-

But the child was not wrong. She had no relatives left. So the priests of Kormir in the monastery did what they could to see her family buried, and…well, no one had the heart to send her to the orphanage. A noble girl, really? And she was sweet, and quiet, and her green eyes were so deep and so, so sad.

So Ambrosine stayed. They raised her in faith, and taught her the sword–in defense. She helped with the beer.

She killed her first centaur at fourteen, acting very much against orders, because she was Not Having It when they attacked.

No one was sadder than Ambrosine when it was time for her to leave. But there was Thalkor business to resume in the city, a home she barely remembered, and family duties she’d never been trained for…

Author Ambrosine
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Comments (1)

  • jander
    March 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm
    Ambrosine, somehow the most stable character and the most fragile character at the same time.

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