When one is especially ill, the mind will meander to places that were thought to places long forgotten. In Queen Pirouette’s case, her mind went back back to the place where she was born: Castle Rising. Made primarily of carved granite stone with a commanding view of the confluence of two rivers, it sat on a high promontory that afforded an excellent view of where the two rivers merged.
Four smaller towers marked out the points of the compass, while a central tower stood higher than the others by a hundred feet or more. It was within these walls that the future queen was born and spent most of her childhood. Of her mother, who died of childbirth, Pirouette had no memory.
Of her father, she was nine years of age when he died, so she had a good storage of memories associated with him. The clearest memory was when he took her hunting on her ninth birthday. He’s warned her in advance that she would be required to be “blooded” on that day; that is, she would have to kill her prey and rub its blood into her hands and face. With relative ease, the participants felled a wild boar. It was still alive, just barely. Her father handed her a long dagger and led her by the hand to the beast. Pointing to a place near its near its heart, he said, “There, my dear, hit him there. It will be over in a second.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Pirouette did as she was instructed. A great roar rose from the entire hunting parting.
“You know what to do now,” her father said in a soft voice. And so Pirouette dipped her hands in the dead creature’s wounds and then rubbed its blood into her face. She was officially an adult now. “I’m so proud of you,” he’d said. It was the only time in her life when she didn’t feel inadequate because of being born a girl, rather than a boy.