A chance meeting between a prince and a peasant results in consequences that will not only change their lives, but also the kingdom.

Cover by Zillah Designs.


16. Chapter Sixteen: Khyber


      The warehouse was nearly ready. The builders had done their work quickly and now all that remained to do was to fill the floors with beds and supplies.

      “Does the King know about this, your highness?” Orien asked from beside me. His short hair was grey and he wore the uniform of the palace; a tunic with a golden crown sewn into it, black trousers and boots,

      Walking over to a window I peered outside. We were on the outskirts of the lower town, not far from the wall.

      “No, he does not. You can call me Khyber when it’s just the two of us. I think we’ve known each other long enough.” I smiled.

      Orien joined me by the window. “You paid for all this with your own money?”

      “Yes I did.”

      “You’ve changed.”

      I turned to him. “I have, haven’t I? Is it a change for the better?”

      “I believe it is.” Orien’s lips drew into a smile. “I... I’m proud of you.”

      Surprised I clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Come now, what’s this? Orien has emotions?”

      Orien had been my personal bodyguard ever since I had been born and I had never heard him express his feelings before. He rolled his eyes at me and brushed my hand away. “We should return to the palace. The celebrations begin soon.”

      It was my sister’s eighteenth birthday. How could I have forgotten?

      “I suppose you’re right.” I sighed, heading for the door.

      “Aren’t I always?”


      It was wrong. How could we dress ourselves up in finery and parade around like it was nothing? It sickened me, all of it; the diamonds sewn into Leanda’s dress, the pink roses and the mountain sized cake, the way everyone was ignoring the serving staff, the chandelier, and everything I could see in the huge ballroom, even the suit I was wearing. Rubbing my temples I span on my heel intending to disappear from the party, but Abelard was blocking my way.

      “What’s the matter, Khyber? Not enjoying yourself?” he smirked, a flute of champagne in his hand.

      No I wasn’t. What made it worse was that I used to love events like this.

      “Our sister is certainly having fun.”

      Scanning the mass of people for Leanda I eventually found her. She was surrounded by a group of men, young and old, who were all vying for her attention. In her element, Leanda batted her eyes and twirled a lock of hair around a finger.

      “Who is that delightful creature?” Abelard wondered aloud.

       I followed his gaze to find that he was staring at a petite young woman whose hair was golden. She was beautiful and by the way she held herself she knew it. There was a crown on her head.

      “That’s Princess Jasmina of Lisuntra.” I answered.

      Lisuntra was a small country to the east of Retani. It was well known for its silks and spices.

      Draining his glass, Abelard puffed out his chest. “Mm, excuse me brother, I believe I have some inter-country relation building to do.” he thrust his empty drink into my hand before melting into the crowd.

      I frowned as it occurred to me that there were more ambassadors and royalty from other countries than there normally were. Maybe it was because it was Leanda’s eighteenth birthday, meaning that she could now marry, but maybe it was because of the threat of war with Gersa.

      “Don’t just stand there.” my father growled, appearing beside me. “Mingle and make sure to smile.”

      Suppressing a sigh I forced myself to look like I was enjoying the party and asked the nearest young woman to dance. Her blue eyes reminded me of Samera. I wondered what she would make of a party like this.


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