Prophecy Story Index
Like Father, Like Daughter
Dani pulled Ariet to a gentle halt. He looked down over the valley below him, smiling a little sadly. Autumn was ending and what few colored leaves that were left were beginning to fade. But still the valley was painted in lovely shades of browns, whites, reds, and yellows. The houses and the people were alive with motion. He sighed -- he loved Bornath and would dearly miss it once he had to leave.
When Sonall had begun to sicken, he knew that once Sonall had died and Seth became King that he would have to leave. Seth had no use for him and would not put up with him for a moment longer after he became King. The only reason Seth had not yet asked him to leave or simply made him disappear like some others have that have opposed him, was that he was not yet in power. Sonall had a weakness for the son of his second wife and that was something Dani was very grateful for, even if Sonall never again admitted that they were related.
In addition, Dani was loved by the people of Bornath. He was seen as their representative on the Council by most. Bornath had never been a very peaceful country for long periods of time. Causes and revolts rose and fell with astonishing swiftness. But as long as he was on the Council, then the common people were at least appeased and perhaps fooled, in the nobility's minds, into thinking they had a legitimate say in what went on in the kingdom.
And Dani had been able to do so much for his country over the past 26 years on the Council. While his was never an outright strident voice of opposition to Seth, his voice had been one of calm reason and compromise that held together the Lower and Higher Councils many times. Another reason Sonall and his closest advisors had decided to let Dani remain on the Council.
But once Seth became King, well, then it was all over. Dani had never fooled himself into thinking that he would still be in any kind of favor once Seth and his advisors took over.
Which was the whole reason for what he was doing now. He wanted to take a last look at some of the lower provinces north of Darcabé before he had to leave for good. He had a good many friends among the peasantry of Bornath and he wanted to tell them that he would be leaving soon and would most likely never be returning. Below him was one of the smaller villages of the Milan Province. Just a few miles away laid the border of Cantorin Province. He had never been there, but as always, just the mention of the name brought a small sting to his heart that had a name -- Eliana.
Sighing again, he pushed thoughts of his long lost beloved wife away and kneed Ariet forward, knickering at her softly as they descended into the village below. He would exchange a few last words and maybe a meal with good friends and then start on his journey back to Darcabé. His memories, faded with time, could wait for another day.
Sometime later, as he walked through the townsquare, Dani stopped to greet a few people here and there on his way back up to the hills to return to Darcabé. He paused for a few moments to let Ariet catch a few swallows of water from the small water fountain in the center of town set there for horses.
The sounds of hooves caught his attention and he looked up to see two horses approaching from the direction he was heading. As they neared him, he could see two people on one horse while leading another horse. The two people were young, perhaps in their teens, a girl and a boy, maybe only a few years apart in age, the boy being younger.
They stopped next to him at the fountain. The boy slid off the horse, asking, "Excuse me, sir, do you know where I can find someone who could fix a loose shoe on my horse?"
Dani nodded, pointing in the direction behind him. "Two shops down on the left, just around the corner. Talk to Shon. He can help you."
The boy nodded his thanks and took the reins of the other horse and headed off in the direction Dani indicated. Dani looked back at the girl, thinking that she looked somewhat familiar, but he couldn't place why. She had shoulder-length darkish blonde hair held back from her face by a deep red headband. She slid her petite frame from the saddle quickly and let her horse drink from the fountain, then looked over at Dani, smiling, her green eyes catching the late afternoon sun glinting off the water.
Dani smiled back, chuckling ruefully at being caught staring. He held out his hand in introduction. "My apologies, miss, it just seemed that you reminded me of someone. My name is Dani."
The girl had taken his hand and begun to shake it when he'd mentioned his name. She stilled for a moment, her smile frozen in place, then she swallowed and said, "And my name is Catriona."
This time Dani froze. Catriona! His daughter's name was Catriona. His and Eliana's daughter. As a name, Catriona was not as popular as it was a few generations ago and few children were given it today. Still, I can't jump to conclusions.
He released Catriona's hand after another moment of stillness, forcing his voice to sound what he hoped was normal. "Nice to meet you, Catriona. Are you from around here?"
She blinked once, then shook her head. "No, I'm from Cantorin Province. I am from Roumal's household. And you?"
Roumal's household. His heart threatened to stop on the spot. He finally remembered to answer her question. "From Darcabé, I'm from Darcabé." I have to know. I have to take a chance. He continued, "Do you ... do you know the names Eliana or Michela?"
Catriona nodded, her eyes locked with Dani's. "Yes. Eliana was my mother. She died when my brother Elirand was born. I was only 2. And Michela, she was my mother's personal maid. She still lives with us. She has told me all about my mother ... and my father." She hesitated, then went on, her voice lowering. "My real father."
Suddenly weak, Dani reached back to lean against Ariet who snorted and shifted her balance to adjust to his weight against her side.
Alarmed at his reaction, Catriona stepped forward, almost touching him, but drawing her hand back at the last instant. "Are you all right?"
He nodded, then lifted a hand to just barely touch her cheek. "Catriona. I never thought I'd meet you. Elli wrote me and told me that we had a daughter and what she'd named you, but I never thought .... And then when she died, I knew I never would."
Catriona grasped his hand in hers and pressed it firmly to her cheek, "Then you are Danilon? My father?"
Dani caressed her cheek. "Yes. I'm so sorry I couldn't be there for you, Catriona. All this time ... I wish ..."
She moved closer to him, placing a finger over his lips. "No, don't, I understand. Michela told me everything. I know what happened. I know that the two of you loved each other very much, but I also know that she wasn't strong enough to stand up against her father. But I never blamed her for that. And I know that your position in Darcabé was precarious enough as it was at that time. And I'm not upset at that either. You have done many wonderful things for Bornath. And my life has not been bad. Roumal is a good man, a good man to have as a father."
Dani let his eyes roam over the face of his daughter. "You look so much like Elli. I don't know that I would have seen it except that I was thinking of her when I rode into town today. With Cantorin Province so close by, it was difficult not to think of her. When did you find out who I was?"
She replied, "Michela told me just a few weeks ago, on my 18th birthday. And somehow it didn't surprise me. I don't know why, it just didn't. No one else knows, only you, Michela, and myself. She said it was important that no one else ever find out."
He nodded. "I agree. If Seth were to find out, well, I don't think it would go well for you." He touched her hair, then withdrew his hand regretfully. "I wish we had more time, Catriona. I would like to get to know you."
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
He explained quietly. "King Sonall is dying. Seth will soon be king. When that happens, I will have to leave Darcabé and Bornath and probably never come back."
Her eyes filled with tears and she whispered, "No. Not so soon after we've finally met. I lost Mother so long ago, I can't lose you too ... Father."
Dani's heart twisted with the anguish in her voice and he pulled her instinctively into a tight embrace, holding her head to his chest, resting his cheek on her soft hair, rocking slightly. "I know." He pulled back after a minute and raised her chin with a finger, smiling through his own tears. "I want you to know, Catriona, even though I never knew you, I always loved you."
She smiled up at him, wiping her cheeks with the back of one hand. "And I love you too, Father." She paused a moment, then burst out, "Take me with you, please."
He shook his head. "No, I can't do that. Your life is here. And you will be needed here. I know that much. Roumal is one of the few who is unhappy with Sonall's rule and definitely uneasy with the idea of Seth's ruling. When Roumal is gone, you will be in a position to make a difference in the upcoming years, which I believe will be difficult for all concerned. You must stay. It is what you were meant to do."
She nodded. "Yeah, I know. I think I always knew that too."
From beyond them, they heard Elirand's voice calling for Catriona. She smiled, calling back that she'd be there in a moment.
Dani pulled her into another tight hug and then pressed a fierce kiss on her forehead. "I have to go. Be well, Catriona, my daughter, be well and be happy. And remember that I love you."
Catriona stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, whispering, "And remember that I love you, Father." She stepped back and gathered up her horse's reins. Dani watched her leave. She turned and looked at him just before she went around the corner, raising a hand in farewell. He returned the gesture, and then she was gone.
Dani rested his forehead against Ariet's saddle for a few moments, then straightened up. Taking a deep breath, he mounted Ariet and rode toward the surrounding woods. He stopped only when he reached the treeline to look down once more.
Elirand and Catriona were riding just below him and their voices drifted up to him in soft echoes.
"So, who was that old guy you were talking to?"
"Hmm? Oh, no one important. We were just passing the time."
Dani watched them from above as they head down the path that would take them into Cantorin Province. Just as they were about to go out of sight, Catriona let Elirand get a little ahead of her, then she turned and looked back in his direction, smiling as if she knew he was there, even though he knew she couldn't see him. He saw her mouth moving, but it was too far away to hear or see what she was saying. Then she turned back and caught up with Elirand, the trees hiding her from Dani's sight.
His heart told him what Catriona said: "I love you, Father."
Smiling, he turned Ariet toward Darcabé, his heart at peace, with the memory of finally meeting his daughter, if only this one time, already implanted deep inside.
"And I love you, Daughter, I love you."
- The End -
Prophecy Story Index