She is her father's daughter from the very moment she is born. It is his dark hair that graces her tiny head, feathering over a newborn's tender scalp, and not the brilliant brassy curls of her mother. It is the middle of the night when she is born, dark and cold, but every star is out, and the elder claims this is the sign of a strong warrior. For a baby in this harsh environment, making it through her first year will be a battle.
When she is five, her hair in tangled braids, she stands at the window and watches the boys with their wooden swords. They battle in the snow, noses and cheeks red with the cold, eyes alight with joy. When father comes home, she asks for her own sword. When he shows her how to use it, it is with hands much larger than her own, their callused palms closing around her small smooth baby hands and over the hilt of the practice sword. Blowing strands of hair away from her eyes she nods, at once all serious and not at all child-like. He laughs and ruffles her hair.
When she is nine and he returns from his shifts at the temple they stand together in the yard, bundled in furs against the chill. Their boots leave many tracks in the new-fallen snow as she mimics his movements around the small space. She learns first how to defend, but finds the attack more satisfying. Her fierce battle cries echo amongst the mountain's peaks, and he grins proudly as the practice dummy falls before her in shame.
When she is twelve her parents argue over her, and she hears them, huddled in her room, atop the wooden bed that father built himself. She does not cower under her blankets, but curls her hand around the battered wooden sword. Nearly a year later she learns why they fought, as she is going to train at the temple with other children who have been chosen, to be a warrior. It is what she wants, and the pleasure of having her wish is sharp. She clings tightly to her father as he hugs her and even her mother offers a smile now. She only wants her happiness.
At the temple she learns with the others, five boys and one girl. They are all close to her age, but she knows she is better than all of them. They are not taught to draw their blows during sparring, and every bruise, cut and broken bone is a badge of honor. She goes home with less badges than her partners.
When she is fifteen her father tells her he is proud of her, and shows her the sword that will be her inheritance. When he retires from his position as a warrior, it will go into her hands. She feels a swelling of some emotion inside her and bows her head worldlessly. She tells him it will be an honor. He favors her with a grin, his hand warm on her shoulder.
At eighteen she stands with two others, the only three who have passed their training and will be granted the honor of becoming warrior, of becoming guardians to the temple. She accepts the armor with the title, feeling solemn. Later they are blindfolded and led into the deepest parts of the temple. It's disconcerting but there's a warm hand against the small of her back, and her father's voice is a comfort. They are fed a bitter liquid that blurs her mind and makes her feel woozy, they chant in a language she does not know. The scent of burning herbs fills her senses and there is a whisper of cloth as the blindfold is removed. She takes the chalice first, and lets the dark, thick liquid flow into her mouth. It slides over her tongue and part of her wants to gag and spit it out, but she swallows, and it sets a pleasant warmth running through her veins. She sees her father then, and he smiles.
The last time she sees him it is among a river of blood. The search of the temple is futile, but hope is burning within her. Her mother's body, still a fresh vision in her mind, broken against the steps of the front porch. But he might be alive. And she must know. She finds him within the first chamber, one body among a dozen. He is in the same armor as the others, but she knows it is him. There is blood in a pool beneath him, and his skin has already gone grey. She does not cry. Tears are nothing but ice here. She pries the sword from his lifeless hand, the last legacy of her family. He was proud of her.
He is gone.
She is still his girl. She leaves, and takes him with her, in that silent place in her heart.