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The Beastmaster’s Daughter

Angela Lilly Tressel

Smashwords Edition

Copywrite Angela Lilly Tressel 2017

In memory of Sharon Jeffers





















































Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 1

“Thirteen years ago, Durn, you were born.” Lia glanced at the boy be-side her, focusing on his face more than on her embroidery, “You were very little when it happened, you know. Father said you were just a few months old at the time, and that you were with the wet nurse that day.”

A yawn answered her words and Lia sighed, looking down at her work. She had told him this many times, but this time it was different. He didn’t know the full story behind it all, he didn’t know the full extent of a simple story, “You don’t remember mama, do you?” The boy shook his head, covering his moth and slouching against the wall, “She was beautiful, Durn. You would have loved her. I wish you had…”

“You were only 5, Lia. You can’t even remember her right.”

“Yes, I do. She had soft, twinkling eyes and her lips grew thin when she smiled,” Lia interrupted, glancing at him once more, “And then… And then…”

“What? And then she left us and Father one night, never to be seen again.”

“That isn’t true, Durn.”

She looked at her brother, shaking her head and lowering her embroidery hoop, “That isn’t true at all. Mama didn’t leave us. She didn’t run away: Mama died, Durn.” She fell silent and looked away once more, staring at her lap, “Mama died. Father didn’t want you to know until you were older, and I agreed. But… Mama didn’t leave us willingly.”

From the corner of her eye, Lia could tell Durn had sat straight up. He had grown paler, his eyes wide and stricken, and for a moment Lia was almost satisfied at the response. He had always been indifferent to the idea of a person dying, but now… Lia’s heart stopped as she realized how smug she was growing, and she reached out for his hand, “Did you know that Father was a Beastmaster, Durn? Before you were born, Father was a beastmaster, and he was one of the best in the land.”

“What’s a beastmaster, Lia? My tutor never told me about them.” Durn shifted in his seat, tilting his head to the side and crossing his legs, “Is it a very important job?”

“Oh, yes.” Lia murmured, “Very, very important. Without a beastmaster, the world would fall into chaos. They keep the peace between people and the creatures of our world. They’re the ones who tamed the dragons for our royal courts, and the ones who found the phoenixes.” She looked towards the door and then at Durn, “Father was one of the best. But then…”

“What?’

“Well, Durn… When we were little, you were just born, Mama and Father were outside with me. Father had been working with a griffin at the time and we were watching. Father gave it a command and the griffin refused to obey. It got violent, striking Father down and then going after Mama and me. She threw me to the side and then… And then she was gone. It slashed her two times before Father got it re-strained. By the time, he did, Mama… Mama was gone.”

Lia glanced at her brother, watching him as he began to sniffle, “Father said that it’d be best to tell you now, not when you were little. I’m sorry we kept it from you.”

She pulled him against her side, and Durn wiped his face, “Is that why Father never let me know about beastmasters?” He whimpered, “And why he never let us see the trained griffins?”

Giving a nod, Lia drew her hand through his hair, “Yes, Durn. Father stopped taming animals and he put his whistle away for good.” She looked down at him, “Maybe one day, you can be a beastmaster. I hear stories about one in the north woods; when you’re older, maybe you could seek him out.”

“Would you ever want to be a beastmaster, Lia?” Durn stared up at her with big eyes, making Lia smile and shake her head.

“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Beastmasters are boys, Durn. And I’m not a boy. You can be a beastmaster, though. Here, go wash up for super, and I’ll listen to you read afterwards, okay?” Lia watched as the boy nodded and scampered away, the older girl sighing and lifting her embroidery hoop once more. He was sweet for asking that. Sticking the needle through the muslin, Lia swallowed and carefully continued her stitching once more.

It had always been that way, hadn’t it? She sat in silence for several moments before hearing the bell ring for supper, putting her project away and starting to the dining room. Father would be home soon; he was gone for days on end, but he’d be back that night before returning to work the day after. It was hard work, tending to the stables, but it was the best job he could find. Lia sat down beside her brother, glancing at Durn and raising an eyebrow at him, “Didn’t I say no books at the table?” She questioned, the boy giving a sheepish grin as he leaned to put it on the ground.

“I just wanted to finish the page before Father got home.”

“What page?”

Lia’s eyes snapped to the door as it closed, beginning to smile as the hulking figure turned to hang a hide on the simple wall peg, “Just a page in his book, Father. Welcome home. Was the trip easy on you?”

The man grinned and nodded, handing his bag to one of the servants, “Of course, dearest child. And you and your brother tended to the house while I was gone?”

“Master Eln, may I fetch mead or wine for your meal?”

“Yes,” The burly man chuckled, “Durn, Lia, I came across an interesting plant recently. I think you’d find it most entertaining to hear about it.”

“Of course, Father. After dinner, you’d be willing to sit and talk with me on a matter that has been on my mind the last few days?” Lia replied, casting a look at Durn as he lifted his spoon, “Grace, Durn.”

“Oh, right…” Durn put his spoon down and bowed his head, giving a short blessing over the food before lifting his spoon once more to devour the broth.

Lia sighed and shook her head, beginning to eat. What would he say? Would he be okay with the topic either way? Durn had brought it up, really, with his question, but that didn’t mean that it’d be okay to talk about it. The girl glanced at her brother and then father, the older man catching her eye, “What’s on your mind, Lia?”

“Oh, forgive me, Father. I was just… Father, it’s a sensitive topic I’m about to bring up. I told Durn about… Mama.”

Eln froze at the words and Lia bit her lip, shifting in her seat, “I… Durn asked if I wanted to be a beastmaster, after I explained what it was. And… Would you be angry if either of us went down that path?”

Lia searched her father’s eyes, trying to read into his reaction before he sighed, “Lia, do you not remember speaking to me about this be-fore?”

“That was years before, Father. And I…”

“Durn, would you excuse us? If you’re finished with dinner, you may go practice your penmanship.” The two watched as the boy nodded and stood, taking his book with him. For a moment, Eln was silent, watching Lia quietly, “You’re not asking just for Durn, are you?” He was silent as Lia shifted, finally shaking her head.

“I am asking for both of us, but… Not really Durn. More for me, I guess. Father, he asked me today if I wanted to be a beastmaster, and I said no. But that isn’t true. I am curious about it: I want to learn about being a beastmaster. I know I will never be able to, I know that, but I still do want to learn. I won’t be able to call anything to me, but I still want to learn how to do it, why they do it. I want to be able to go watch them.”

The silence was deafening as Lia stared at Eln, beginning to tap her fingers on her knee as she waited for an answer. This could go wrong. She could lose this possibility of learning about this position, and she could lose the privilege of having a loose household to live in. Worse, she could lose her father’s trust… “Father?”

A long sigh left Eln and he began to rub his temples, “Why now, Lia? Why not years ago, when I told you what happened? Why do you want to? It’s dangerous, you know this as well as I do.”

“I know, but…”

“Why do you want to risk this, Lia? What is so amazing about the beastmaster that makes you want to risk everything?” The man looked up at Lia, and the girl stiffened.

She could see all the pain that he had suffered years ago, watching his wife and partner die before him. She could see the tears that threat-ened to fall at the memories, and the fear that he was now facing. All of that passed in a single second, and then Lia saw her reflection in his eyes, “Father, I don’t know what’s so amazing about it.” She whispered, “But I want to.”

Eln gave another sigh and stood, crossing the dining room towards his study in silence. Lia followed him, “Father?”

“Lia, give me tonight to think about it.” The man turned, his face worn and haggard, “Please.”

For a moment, Lia just stared at her father before nodding, “Okay, Father.” She whispered, “Okay… Good night. You’ll be here in the morning, right?” The man kissed her head, nodding slowly and sighing before he turned to enter the study.

The door closed, and Lia stood outside of it, staring at the oak before turning and going to her bedroom. She did all she could, and now it was his choice. At very least he listened to her, right?

She fell into an uneasy sleep, waking countless times through the night and then finally staring at the darkened ceiling as she waited for dawn to approach. Durn had crawled into bed with her at some point, his face hidden against her as he clung to her night gown. Lia glanced down at him and shifted, allowing him to still be with her but not move any further than he already had.

It finally came time to start the day. Lia shook Durn to wake him, be-ginning to shoo him towards his room as a bit of a shiver raced through her. It was colder than usual… Much colder. The servants hadn’t started the fires yet, that was all. Lia shivered again and pulled off her gown in the safety of her bedchamber, setting it to the side as she crossed to her vanity. Her reflection always seemed alien and she stared at it for a moment before turning away from the sight, lifting a cloth from its stand and dipping it into the cold water in the basin. She twisted it this way and that, gave it a wringing, and then lifted it to her face to wash it before her eyes caught something in her reflection that hadn’t been there before.

Lia’s grip on the cloth tightened as she stared at the second woman in the mirror, her heart beginning to race in an exuberant terror. It wasn’t possible, was it? She stayed still for a moment, letting the woman come closer, “Mama?” Nothing but a smile answered her, and Lia turned to see her, being greeted only by the emptiness of her room.

She looked around for several moments, holding the cloth tighter in her hands as she searched for where the apparition could have come from, before she gave up and began to wash her face once more. She would come back, right? She’d come back and see her?

“Go find your father, Lia.”

“Who said that?” Lia flew from her vanity and lifted her gown to her chest to hide herself from the intruder, finding nothing within her room once more.

This was a sick joke, wasn’t it? Durn had decided to do this to mess with her.

The girl shuddered and began to dress, throwing her hair into a pile on her head and securing it before hurrying down the stairs. Servants were rushing around in a panicked frenzy, calling to one another to get things ready. Lia glanced about before she started to the study.

She knocked on the door, frowning faintly. It was closed, a cold breeze slipping between the door and the floor. Lia quietly turned the knob, “Father?”

Papers laid on the floor, dropped carelessly, covering the multitude of books that littered the room. The oil lamp from the table had shattered against the floor, spreading the thick liquid over the surfaces. There was the slightest stir over the surface of the oil as the wind blew through the broken window, casting off rays of crimson and white over the walls.

Lia stared into the room, “Father?” She questioned, pulling her skirts around her knees and hurrying to the window, “Father?!” As she got closer to the broken glass, her slippers began to squish. She looked down and gave a cry of horror at the red pools under her feet began to bubble at each step, sending blood across the floor. Her cry alerted the staff and several maids rushed in before calling for the other servants. One of the maids grabbed Lia’s arm and pulled her out, the girl staring at the window, “Father! What happened? Who heard what happened? Did he even go to his room last night?” She demanded, be-ginning to tremble as tears welled up in her eyes, “Who saw what happened?! Someone must have heard it!”

She looked around at the gathered members of the household, catching Durn’s eyes as she felt her tears begin to fall, “Please. Who knows what happened to our father?”

A maid stepped forward, “Miss Lia, please… You and your brother rest. We will gather any information. Most of us were asleep after we ate. We will tell you if we find anything. Go, rest. Please.”

For a moment, Lia was silent. She finally looked at Durn and then the maid, nodding slowly, “As soon as you find anything, tell me.” She said, “Even if it is of the least importance. Tell me.” She looked amongst the staff and then started past them, ignoring the squishing her slippers left behind.

He was gone.

Her fingers began to tremble as she started towards the staircase once more, swallowing hard and gripping the railing as tight as she was able. It wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t, but she felt so guilty… She had seen him last, she was with him last, and now he was missing. And all the blood… there was no way he was alive, was there?

Lia sunk onto her bed and rested her face in her hands, “Why me?” She whispered, beginning to rub her temples. Why me?”

“You will find him, Lia. He is safe for now. Please, do not cry.”

“Durn, this isn’t funny. Please stop.”

“Durn is resting in his room, Lia. Just wait, you will see what you need to do soon.”

The girl lifted her eyes, looking around and shuddering, “Please, who-ever you are, stop. This isn’t funny. Leave me be.”

This time, there was no answer. Lia shuddered and hid her face once more before hearing a knock on her door, “Who is it?”

A maid opened the door, poking her head in, “Miss Lia, we did find something on your father’s study table that you may want to see.” She waited for a moment before crossing to Lia, opening her clasped hands so the girl could inspect the contents.

Resting in the palms of the maid’s hands was a whistle. It was a dark ebony, shining in the light as the maid carefully turned it, “I think it had been in your father’s table drawer up until last night. Do you know what it is for?”

“It was Father’s whistle… the one he used before…” Lia took the whistle and inspected it, glancing at the maid, “send someone to find a pair of trousers and a tunic, and bring it to me. Ask no questions, just bring them here.”

At once she was standing, beginning to pace as the maid did a con-fused curtsy and rushed to do as she was bade. It was a sign, it had to have been a sign. There was no reason he would have left his whistle out unless he forgot it, or someone came in and tried to take it from him. That would explain the books, and the bloody window and glass. Why would someone want the whistle, though? They wouldn’t be able to use it; he had told her that a beastmaster could use only his whistle. There was no other way a person could use a whistle unless the owner made it. She wouldn’t be able to use this whistle, but at least she had it…

Lia glanced out the window and then at the whistle. She had to go into the woods, didn’t she? Durn would have to stay here, where it was safe, but she would have to go. The beastmaster would be able to help her find her father.

Her head snapped to the door at a second knock, “Come in.”

Durn poked his head inside, his eyes wide, “Did they find anything?”

“They found his whistle on the desk, Durn. I’m going to go look for him, or at least get help. But you’ll need to stay here.”

“I want to go with you.”

“You’ll get hurt. Just stay here and watch the house. The servants will keep their eye on you, and it’ll be safe.” Lia searched his eyes, “It’ll be okay.”

For a moment, Durn was silent. He looked at his feet and then at her, shaking his head, “I want to go with you. I know it’s dangerous, but I want to go. What if Father is d-d…”

“I’ll find him. I’ll bring him back. He’s alive.” Lia replied, “Go study. You’re not coming with me, and that’s final.

The boy kicked one of his legs, glaring at her before he stalked to the door, “I’m gonna come, Lia.”

“Go study.”

For a moment, the siblings stared at one another. Durn was hard-headed, but Lia knew it would only be a matter of time. Sure enough, the boy finally sulked away, leaving her to watch as he did so and then sink into her chair with a sigh Now she had Durn to worry about as well. He couldn’t come; there was no way she’d let her brother harmed on this journey, regardless where it brought her. The girl shifted and glanced at the door. That just meant she had to leave that night, when he was asleep.

By the third knock, Lia was more than annoyed. She strode to the oak and opened it, “What now?” It was the maid, her eyes wide as she held out a pair of rough spun clothes. Lia sighed, taking the offering and sighing, “Thank you. Ca you promise me something? Durn must stay here; you must be sure he remains here and that he does not leave.”

“Yes, Miss Lia.”

“I’ll be leaving tonight and don’t expect to be home for several months. Have the kitchen staff begin to put together a bag for me and send someone to get a horse ready.” Lia set the clothes on her bed, beginning to struggle with her dress to change, “I will write when I find any sign of Father, and will inform you of my arrival. If some-thing happens, Durn will be the lord of this estate and will be your master, is that clear?”

“Yes, Miss Lia. We’ll get those things together.” The maid curtsied and shut the door.

Lia pulled the tunic over her body, giving a shudder and reaching for her corset. This, and her hair, would be the only thing giving her identity away. She didn’t care, though, if people know. At this point, she just needed to find her father and return home before Durn followed her. Pulling her pants on as well, Lia gave a few hops and then sat on her bed to put her boots on. She had to get her father home, that was the most important thing. For a moment, she just sat there before reaching for the whistle on her bed. The beastmaster would know what to do, wouldn’t he? He would have trained with her father and would know who would want to hurt them.

She turned the wood over in her hand, staring at it, before she shoved it into her pocket and hurried down the stairs.

Already a bag was waiting for her, and the girl slung it over her shoulder before hurrying to the stables. She didn’t have time to say goodbye, not now. This was becoming more important each moment, especially now that her father’s whistle was no longer on his person. He never left it out of his sight; the only time he had done something like that was when he locked it away, and even then, he kept the key. He would never had left the whistle where Durn would find it.

The girl stopped at the stables, taking the reins of her horse and climbing into the saddle, “Under no circumstances are you to allow Durn a horse unless his tutor is with him and they both return the horse, is that clear? If this horse returns without me, he is not to come looking for me.”

“Yes, Miss Lia.”

For a moment, Lia was silent before she kicked the horse and raced from the stable, holding the reins tightly as she looked at the forest.

It had been years since she had last gone into it, and she knew it held dangers that have since grown. Her only hope was that the beastmaster would find her before anything else did, especially before it turned night. There would be no hope for her if she didn’t have shelter by dark.

Lia shuddered at the thought and stared ahead, allowing the cold air to whip her face as she drew closer and closer to the trees. This was it. This was where her journey began.

Chapter 2

The air was cold as Lia rode, branches looming over her head as her horse sped into the foreboding woods. She hadn’t been here since she was young; this was where her mother had died, and this was where her father made his whistle. Her eyes began to dart onto either side of the path, taking it in.

How long had it been since anyone tended to this trail? Vines and bushes crept into the road, threatening to trip her steed at any moment and send her reeling to the ground. Just the thought made Lia tighten her grip on the reins as her horse sped through the shadows. The sooner she found the beastmaster and then her father, the better. There was nothing more she longed for that to have her family back together once more.

Poor Durn.

He’d be worried about her, but Lia couldn’t let him come after her; he’d get himself killed if he did, and she couldn’t live with such guilt. The girl shuddered and looked around once more, taking a deep breath. Last time she was here, there were animals galore. Was it her father’s presence that had drawn them from hiding? Lia glanced above her before holding tighter to the reins.

It looked like a storm was beginning to gather; dark clouds were forming overhead, the air growing thick and stagnant with added moisture. In the distance, Lia could hear thunder beginning to roar, and she kicked her horse once more to force it deeper into the woods. Behind her was the opening of the forest, and it very slowly grew smaller before vanishing from her sight. By now, the thunder was growing louder. It had to be directly before her, there was no other explanation. Lia pressed to the horse’s neck, shuddering and staring forward. It’d be okay. All she had to do was get to the beastmaster and she’d be safe. There was nothing to fear once she got there.

But where was it she was going?

The longer she rode, the more lost she felt. Lia dared to turn to see where she was, finding nothing but trees behind her. Even the path was gone, leaving her horse to canter blindly through the forest. This was dangerous, more so than she had expected.

Lia pulled on the reins to halt her steed and turned it in a circle. The path had to be somewhere, it couldn’t be gone, could it? Rain was now falling onto, a booming roar from above sending her horse into a panic. Lia sat back and pulled the reins, her eyes growing wide as the animal began to shuffle from side to side, beginning to throw its head and snort as she sat there. She had to find the beastmaster, she had to find him quickly, before this happened again.

She gripped the reins tighter than before and nudged the horse into a walk, looking around as the rain pummeled her. It was growing hard to see, and the horse was growing antsy again. She knew she had to find a place to stop if the storm continued. The clouds were darkening further, forcing Lia to squint as the shadows seemed to grow deeper than even before. She had never seen a storm like this, not as violent. The wind began to pick up and a branch snapped, sending her horse into a bolt.

All Lia could do was hold onto the horse, her eyes wide as the steed shot through the trees and jumped over hollow logs.

Finally, it stopped. Lia clung to it and stared around her. Where was she? All her hopes of finding the path had vanished, and she twisted in her saddle. Something had to be causing this horse worry; it had never fled like this before, not in storms.

Another boom rang above them, and the horse spooked once more, stepping quickly to the side as Lia lost her balance. She fell to the ground beside the horse, startling it and causing it to rear in its fright at the sudden object beside it. Lia just narrowly managed to avoid her steed’s panic, covering her head with both hands as the horse reared again and turned hind side, galloping from the fallen girl and back into the trees.

For a moment, all Lia could do was lay there. Her heart was pounding so rapidly it began to ache, and she slowly uncurled to look around herself. She was alone.

The girl forced herself up and looked around, then at herself. Her horse hadn’t hit her, but her head ached. She must had hit the ground harder than she thought. One hand touched her temple and she flinched from her own fingers, wincing as she turned to look around. Nothing. There was nothing there but trees and bushes. What way did she come from?


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