Yerna Yatskievych left her humble beginings on a poor farm to become one of the few female knights in Draconia. . Soon finding herself in the younger prince’s guard, her role is both wonderful and challenging. Of course he is far above her reach but a girl has to dream sometimes…
For Hazwell the Disposable the trappings and perks of royalty hold little appeal. He wonders what will become of him when that brother becomes king. With Prince Max away, a few duties fall to him, revealing a life he will never have more than a tempting taste of. His young guard’s hesitant request to be relieved of a problem start a chain of events with incinerating consequences. Then treachery and mischance bring about huge changes.
With this couragous young knight at his side, he dares to reach and strive farther than he had ever dreamed , even to claiming an ancient family power and rising to incredible heights.
Yerna hunkered down to fasten the stiff buckles of her shining new spurs. The metal twinkled in the slanting sun of early morning. Her heart skittered at the thought of the future. Today she'd be dubbed Sera Yatskievych, Knight of the Draconian Empire. Of the twenty-seven squires who'd be knighted today, only three were women, including her.
It had been a struggle, without a doubt, but the six-year effort was now behind her. Of the original group of forty-six recruits, five women and fourteen men had flunked out. Yerna felt more pity than contempt for them, but a bit of both. Maybe she had a little more motivation than most and the benefit of the strength and stamina gained in the first fifteen years of her life.
The eldest of a family of seven, with the only two boys born late in the sequence, she'd taken on the tasks normally given to sons in the family. Finally, the two boys were big enough to do her work between them. That's when she'd left. A troop of knights had come through the area seeking recruits for the king's guard. Tall and sturdy, Yerna had jumped at the chance, although it was a route few farm daughters took.
She straightened from her crouch, making sure every line of her crisp, new breeches and tunic fell into place. Then she settled the metal cap on her head, buckled the yet-empty scabbard at her waist and went out to join her squad. For the special ceremony, they had spent two long days marching to Draconia, the capital, from their training camp in the hinterlands.
Next time they journeyed it would be to duty stations, and she would be mounted in proper knightly style. The coins comprising her reward for excellence in several combat disciplines, along with the gain from a few careful wagers, clinked softly in the hidden pouch inside her tunic. More than enough to buy a decent horse later today.
Although it was hard not to crane her neck and gawk like the bumpkin she really was at the sights of the city, she kept eyes front and stared fixedly at the back of the young man marching in front of her. They had formed into ranks of three for the march to the grand palace and their knighting. Rumor had it Prince Hazwell himself would be taking part.
Second son and nicknamed The Disposable, Haz was still royal, still respected and still inspired awe among the common folk--like Yerna. For a moment, her thoughts drifted. Of course, none of her family would be here to witness her change in status. She doubted they even cared.
But for her, it meant much. No more slopping hogs, milking cows, mucking byres or enduring the lash of her father's tongue and the frequent blows given when things did not go well. Byromyr Yatskievych was neither a patient man nor a fortunate one.
Things often went badly on the farm. He had more luck producing children than anything else. His first wife Morna had given him three daughters and a stillborn lad, whose difficult birth resulted in her decline and final death. Lerma, his second, had added two sons and two more daughters to the mix. He cursed the misfortune that the order and gender of his children was not reversed. With strong young sons early in life, things would surely have gone better for him.
Until she left, Yerna received the brunt of his displeasure, even while doing the bulk of the work. But no father would dare hit a royal knight--not that he would ever have such opportunity. She planned never to go home.
The troop made a sharp quartering turn and came to a halt in the stone paved yard in front of the palace. Flags whipped overhead in the stiff spring breeze and a small band began to play. At their commander's yell, the twenty-seven knights-to-be snapped to rigid attention. Peering past the shoulder of the man in front of her, Yerna saw the prince and his entourage emerge from the massive formal doors of the palace. They descended the wide staircase to the level of the courtyard and crossed it to stop before the group.
When he stepped to the fore, the first thing she noticed was the prince's height. He towered almost a head above the knights and courtiers surrounding him. He wore a uniform not unlike theirs, although of much finer cloth and more elaborate decoration. Several medals hung from colorful ribbons around his neck. They were not the ordinary valor-in-battle medals, though. She'd learned to recognize them all as part of her training. Of course, a prince probably merited a bit of flash just by virtue of his royalty.
The ceremony passed in a blur. She vaguely heard the command to reform into a single long line and obeyed. The band played. There were speeches to which she gave little attention and finally, the most important part began. In the row of twenty-seven, she was ninth. She watched out of the corner of her eyes as the prince strode to the first candidate. The young man knelt, bowing before the status of the crown for which the prince stood proxy today.
Prince Hazwell drew his sword, tapped the young man on each shoulder and intoned the ritual words. "I dub thee Ser Bronkowski. Arise, knight of the realm."
All at once, the prince stood before her. Her legs went rubbery. It was good she was required to kneel for she would have had trouble standing steady. Her gaze fell to the prince's gleaming boots, the golden spurs, again similar to those she wore now, but more ornate. She fought waves of dizziness, dreading the vision of shaming herself by falling to the ground. The shining blade touched her right shoulder and then her left. One firm thump and then another. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I dub thee Sera Yatskievych. Arise, knight of the realm."
Yerna wasn't quite sure how she managed to stiffen her legs and her spine to get up, but she did it. Once standing, she saw the prince's medals, hanging right in front of her face. To find a focus, she fixed her gaze on them, struggling to read the ornate script. Although girls in her village received little schooling, she had been driven to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Even while she labored though the steps from page to squire and now knight, she continued to work on those skills as well.
Her breath leaked out in a slow sigh as the prince stepped along to the next candidate. His proximity had affected her more than she'd expected. He had a powerful aura, something more than simply the unearned grandeur of being a royal personage. After he moved on, she turned her thoughts back to herself.
I'm a knight! By all the gods, I did it. What comes next for me?
She realized she'd given very little thought to the actual business of being a knight. Beyond purchasing her horse and gear, she really had no idea where to go or what might be asked of her. Knights were soldiers of sorts. That much she knew. Soldiering meant duty stations, fighting perhaps, maybe even training young pages and squires as she had been trained. Vistas unfolded in her imagination, possibilities both exciting and daunting.
Aye, what comes next?