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.


34. Chapter Thifty Four: Khyber



      The first day of spring was when the Blessing of the Brides was performed. It was a ceremony that only happened in the lower town as the rich considered it a petty attempt of the peasants to become more civilised. I went to the Church of the Divine Goddess and stood in the corridor as the ritual was performed. There were four girls kneeling in front of the Head Priest. One of them was Samera. Her face was drawn and she looked exhausted. My heart swelled at the sight of her. It was the first time I had seen Samera since she had told me that she didn’t love me. That had been a lie of course. My father must have forced her to say it. Samera was the purest person I knew. She would never have used me.

      The priest rested a wreath of dead branches on each of the girls’ heads, muttering all the while. Once he was finished the girls would be able to marry. The thought of Samera marrying Omer was too much. Clenching my hands into fists I turned and walked away. Orien was waiting for me at the front door.

      “The King would not be happy if he knew you were here.”

      I glanced at him. “Then he better not find out.”

      We returned to the Palace and I resumed my princely duties. I attended my lessons and the war councils. That evening I ate with Leanda, Abelard and Mariella who had been quieter than usual since Samera left. Then my father surprised me by inviting me to his chambers. Sitting down in an armchair near the fire I felt suddenly anxious. Had my father found out about my visit to the Church? It had been the first time I’d broken my promise not to go there.

      “Here.” My father handed me a glass of whiskey.

      I thanked him and gazed at the amber liquid.

      “I will be returning to the front soon.” The King rested an arm on the mantelpiece. “After the wedding,” he added, moving his eyes to me.

      Raising my gaze in shock I asked. “What wedding?”

      “Your sister is to marry Prince Fredrick of Dulmire and then Dulmire will aid us in the war against Gersa.” My father drained his drink and poured himself another.

      “What about Lisuntra?” I enquired, now knowing why Leanda had been in such a foul mood at dinner. Dulmire was a small country with a large population. Their main exports were dried fruits and nuts, none of which Leanda could wear. She would spend the rest of her life in furs instead of silks.

      I had asked about Lisuntra because the King had been hinting at marrying me off to Princess Jasmina for the past few months.

      His expression was bitter, “Princess Jasmina is engaged to marry King Dravis of Gersa.”

      I nearly dropped my glass. Lisuntra had joined the enemy.

      “Fear not, my son,” my father said slapping my shoulder. “We will find you a princess to marry.” His eyes bore into mine as he finished his drink, making it clear that he knew about my disobedience.

      Resisting the urge to flinch, I nodded and emptied the contents of my glass into my mouth.

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