“I am giving you this with the prayer that you will never need to use it.” The knight took a long parcel out of his saddlebag and gravely handed it to his daughter. They had paused a moment before the walls of the convent to talk a little before it was time to go in, and the sound of peaceful singing rose up from the white-walled commune.
The girl took the slender leather case from him and asked softly, “What is it?”
Her look of uncertainty smote him to the heart, and he wished his errand were an easier one. “Open it.”
She fumbled to untie the thong that held it shut and unrolled the something bright and shining. A sparkle came into her eyes; and she gasped with delight at the silver arrow. The shaft was not much thinner than her smallest finger, but the head was tiny and very, very sharp.
“In the other half of the case you will find a bow, equally as delicate but very powerful,” he added, watching her carefully.
She unrolled it again and fingered the light bow that was at that moment folded with the string lying ready by its side. Vines and flowers had been carved into its soft wood making it beautiful enough to match the silver arrow. “They are beautiful!” she exclaimed, looking up at her father with blue eyes that sparkled even more than the gifts.
Her father smiled a little at her words, then placed his large hand under her pointed chin and gently lifted it so that their eyes were on the same level. “These are neither playthings nor mere decorations, but instead they are something very rare and special. Ryla, my daughter, for your protection you have been given one of the twin arrows.”
“Twin arrows?” She echoed. Something in his tone told her his next words would be very important.
“There will be time enough to explain their origins later. Your brother has been given the other arrow. Keep it always by your side and never let it be taken from you, but do not be afraid to use it in time of need.”
Ryla slipped the thin case into the pocket of her skirt. “Does Mother have one?”
“No, she is already at the safe place therefore she does not need it. You will join her there when the time is right.” Her father pulled gently on the reins of the horse and began to walk it towards the gate of the convent. “One more thing,” he said as they drew nearer. “You must never leave their care unless I come for you or send Sir Wystan. You must trust him and follow his instructions to the letter.”
“Yes, Father. When do you think you will be back?”
“In war, one can never be sure,” he said, looking up to the very tops of the walls. That was all he would tell her and not a word more until they had spoken to the abbess and he was actually leaving.
“Goodbye, Ryla. Remember my instructions about Sir Wystan and the gift,” he said, hugging her and turning to go out of the gate.
All she could do was nod and give a little wave after him, for the lump in her throat made speaking impossible. The abbess put a gentle hand on her shoulder and wisely waited to speak until his horse disappeared in the distance and one of the sisters had shut the gate.
“Ryla, since you are about old enough to be a lay sister, it is my suggestion that you dress as one. This will be a good disguise if we have any unwelcome visitors, and you may find the clothes to be more suitable for the work we do here.”
Ryla nodded absently and reached into her pocket to touch the leather case. That was another thing Father had said, “Trust the sisters and follow their instructions to the letter.”
Her shoes sounded noisy in the quiet halls as she followed the abbess to what would be her new room. A lay sister walked by with a basket under her arm and nodded her veiled head kindly to them.
The abbess stopped suddenly in front of one of the doors and gestured inside, saying, “Here we are.”
Ryla looked around curiously as they stepped into it but was surprised to find that it was little different from her rooms at home. There were no decorations except a Scripture hung on the wall, but the window looked out on the garden where flowers and vegetables grew together tended carefully each day by the sisters.
“You will share this room with Chasity, another lay sister who is a few years older than you. I have told no one anything of your story except that you have come here for asylum, and they will not ask,” the abbess, said coming over to look out of the window as well. “They are to call you Angelique and treat you as one of their own. I do not expect you to act as one of the nuns since you are only visiting here; but I do ask that you let your rule be Christ’s love and be ready to help the sisters in their work wherever you are needed.”
Ryla nodded again. That was fair. There was a rustle of fabric as the nun turned to go out of the room, and the girl said quickly, “Thank you for everything.”
The abbess gave a little smile. “We hope you will find peace here even in these times of great trial.”
Ryla stood for a while longer looking out the window before going over to look at the clothes that were laid out on the bed. The simple black dress looked comfortable enough, but she wasn’t sure about the veil. A sudden giggle came to her at the thought of what her old friends would say if they saw her in it, but she stopped herself short. The sisters were good women who, although they had chosen a different way than her mother, were trying to serve Christ just the same. The abbess had also agreed to protect her and had done everything in her power to make her comfortable—that was nothing to laugh at.
She was just finishing buttoning her dress when there was a small tap on the door. Quickly sliding the leather case from her father into the inner pocket of her dress, she called, “Come in.”
The door opened and a young lay sister, dressed exactly the same, peeked in. “Hello, I’m Chasity,” she said coming in and depositing the bundle under her arm onto one of the beds. “Mother Superior told me that you were going to share my room and sent me with sheets for the other bed.”
Ryla nodded. “Did I put this all on right?” she asked a little shyly.
“Almost,” Chasity said with a dimple showing in her cheek. She reached up from her work and straightened the veil. “That’s better. You’ll get used to it in time. I did.”
“How long have you lived here?” Ryla asked, beginning to help straighten the sheets.
“Two years now.” Chasity’s face dimpled again.
“Will you always live here?”
“If that is the Lord’s will. I lived in another place before, and I may live in another place again. That’s what it is like when you are His child.”
“You have no family?”
“Only Him and the sisters here. I may have my own later if He wills it so.” Chasity spoke sweetly with almost no regret in her voice. “They took me in. Do you have family, Angelique?”
“Yes, but they are far away. Very far away,” Ryla said, pausing in her work to wipe away a stray tear.
“Then we are sisters for now,” Chasity said, her voice softening a little.
Ryla turned to look gratefully at her friend. This was all she had for now—Father and the sisters. It would be best to make the most of it.
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis