Horribilis, Pt. 9

Chana frowned. “I am no princess.”

Anya sighed and rolled her eyes. “Of course, child. The daughter of our chief and the heir to his rule is not a princess. How silly of me.” Anya went silent. Her expression turned serious, humorless, as hard as the stone of the mountains that surrounded the Great Lake. The coldness there surprised Chana. She felt her eyes widen, cursed the instinctive reflex, and hoped that her body betrayed no other sign of surprise. Perhaps Anya hadn’t noticed.

Probably she had, though. The old woman was nothing if not observant.

“Barring some wholly unforeseen calamity, a hypothetical which does not exist, as Tiris can see the future, you will lead our people in the future. It will not be easy. For good leaders, it never is. You will have to be many things to your people, as a leader and as a woman. This has been true since you were a baby, since you could crawl, since the people heard you utter your first words. It is as true of you now as it will be when you are an old crone like me and your own son or daughter is the chief. Sometimes you will have to be a warrior. Sometimes you will have to be a diplomat. You will have to be tireless even when you want to collapse, brave when you want to run, gracious when you want to be cruel.

“And you will have to be a princess when you want to be a child hitting other children with sticks.

“Now, do as you’re told and trim that bandage so we can cover it with your hair and no one will wonder how you got injured and what is wrong with you and if you are fit to lead.”

Chana frowned. There was no helping it now. She could do nothing to conceal the displeasure she felt at the idea, especially since she knew the older woman was right. “Yes, Anya,” she muttered as petulantly as a child.

“Yes, my lady,” Anya corrected her with a grin.

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