Samera

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.

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3. Chapter Three: Samera

 

      My day had been full of surprises.

      The Head Priest asked me to help him sort through items in the Church vaults. Fortunately the vaults had been well lit, so I hadn’t felt claustrophobic at all. I never dreamed that we would find a painting of one of the sins forbidden by the Goddess in the vaults. I had immediately understood the priest’s enthusiasm; the colours the painter had used were captivating, and the brushstrokes were extraordinary. Never before had I been able to touch anything so beautiful and expensive. What the painting depicted wasn’t so nice though. Rape was not uncommon in the lower town. There was always the danger that a young woman travelling alone at night would get attacked, abused and sometimes murdered.

      I had waited for the rain to subside. But that wasn’t the real reason I had stayed at the entrance of the Church. It was because I hadn’t wanted to go home. I never did. At home I was withdrawn, guilt ridden, and just trying to make it through the day. The Church was my sanctuary. While there I could forget about everything and pretend that my life was fine. It never lasted though because eventually I had to go back. Back home and back to my real life.

      So I had rushed home in the stranger’s cloak, shocked by his generosity. The rich never interacted with the poor, not usually. They just pretended that we didn’t exist.

      Glancing at the setting sun I was horrified to see how late it was. I had to hurry. Not just because my father would be home soon wanting to know where his dinner was, but also because any peasants caught in the upper town during curfew would be punished. After all the tales I had heard, I did not want that to happen.

      The tall gates loomed into view and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that they were still open. Approaching one of the guards, I showed him the tattoo on my arm which branded me as worthless as the dung that the famers used to fertilise their fields. At least people wanted dung, whereas peasants like me were avoided like the plague.

      The guard looked at me in distaste through his helmet and pushed me away with his pike. “Don’t leave it so late next time.” he growled, voice rough. “There’s no telling what someone might to do you if you were caught here after curfew.”

      I flinched as he and his companion started laughing. Hurrying away I glanced back in time to see the guards closing the gate. It banged shut and I heard the locks slide into place. That was it. Lockdown. If anything happened to me now no one would come to help.

      Pulling the cloak tighter and glad for its thickness, I kept my head down as I strode down the alleys, trying to be invisible. After a while I reached home and I slowly opened the door. Peering inside I was relieved to find that it was empty. I set about making dinner with what bits of food we had left. Today was payday so I would be able to go shopping the next day for fresh food.

      The hours ticked by and my father still hadn’t returned. Anxiously I stirred the soup I had made hoping that he hadn’t got himself into trouble again.

      When I had had enough I went next door to Omer’s house. “You haven’t seen my father have you?” I asked Myra, Omer’s mother when she answered the backdoor.

      “I’m afraid not, Samera. They are probably at the tavern again.” she sighed looking unhappy. There was a faint sheen of sweat on her face, indicating that she had been slaving away over dinner as well.

      “That’s what I was afraid of.”

      I turned to walk away, but Myra stopped me, placing a hand on my arm. “Don’t go to them. They will return when they are ready.”

      “Yes, after spending all their pay.”

      Myra shook her head, and pleaded. “Please don’t Samera. I won’t be able to help you.”

      “I know.”

 

      Petker’s Den was one of the seediest taverns in the lower town. It was well known as a hotspot of criminal activity with events such as dog fights and poker games with no rules. It was also my father’s favourite place to go.

      Hovering outside the entrance I delayed the inevitable. I didn’t want to go inside and Myra’s words kept playing over and over in my ears. Eventually I plucked up the courage and opened the door. I was hit with a wall of smoke and had to blink several times to stop my eyes from watering. Laughter and shouts filled my ears as I slipped inside, trying to spot my father. Drunken men leered at me from their tables as I wandered through the smoke filled room. I avoided their gazes, feeling suddenly very weak and small.

      “Here you all are.” I said discontentedly as I noticed the horde of empty glasses scattered across their table.

      My father, Omer and Torrance grinned up at me drunkenly with glassy eyes.

      “Samera,” Omer beamed reaching out and wrapping an arm around me. He pulled me down so that I was sitting beside him and clumsily kissed my cheek. “Would you like a drink?” he slurred.

      I raised an eyebrow. He had definitely had too much to drink.

      “It’s time to go home.” I announced, trying to prise Omer’s clammy hand off me.

      My father gave a groan. “No, Sami. Another drink.” he protested, slamming his empty glass on the wooden table. The other glasses rattled in objection.

      Sending him a look to let him know that there was no way that was going to happen I finally managed to free myself from Omer’s grasp. I stood up only to find myself surrounded by a group of men, all of them miners that my father worked with.

      “If it isn’t little Samera, not so little anymore, is ya?” it was Remy that spoke. He was a friend of my father’s.

      I ignored him and stared at my father who finally gave in and stood up.

      “Not going are ya, Rasun?” Remy asked, taking a swig of his beer. “Only you still owe me ten taeckla.”

      My eyes nearly popped out. Ten taeckla? That was half of a miner’s week’s wages! I only earned eight taeckla a week.

      My father grumbled something and dropped ten coins into Remy’s meaty outstretched hand. Satisfied, Remy smirked at me before walking away. The rest of the miners followed him.

      “Let’s go.” my father said, his former good mood gone.

      I followed him as he staggered outside. Omer and Torrance trailed after me. The fresh air felt good on my skin and I took a deep breath, filling my lungs, glad to be out of the smoke. I led them all home, having to stop several times so that they could catch up. Rubbing my arms to warm them up I realised that I had forgotten to wear a cloak.

      “Samera,” Torrance said appearing at my side. “I want to talk to you. Please let me explain.” his eyes and tone were pleading.

      Tears formed in my eyes and I shook my head, increasing my pace so that he would fall behind. Torrance didn’t try to catch up with me and for that I was glad.

      When we reached our street, my father took Torrance inside our house. I went to follow them but Omer stopped me.

      “Give me a kiss.” he whispered dragging me into his arms.

      Trying to pull away I told him. “No, Omer, you have to wait until we are married.”

      “I can’t wait that long.” Omer groaned his hands on my hips. “Just one kiss.” he begged, crushing my body against him.

      “No,” I protested but it was too late.

      Omer’s mouth was on mine. I tasted alcohol and smoke. When he showed no sign of stopping I dug my nails into his skin, making him release me.

      His brown eyes were full of desire. “Soon we will be married. Soon.”

      It sounded like a promise and I nodded, herding him to his front door which was next to mine.

      “I will see you tomorrow.” I said opening my own door.

      Once inside I rubbed my temple. Omer always wanted to kiss me when he was drunk. Sometimes he was more insistent than others.

      Moving into the kitchen I saw that Torrance had gone. I gazed at my father who was sat at the small, slanted table, his head hanging in between his hands. “How much is left?”

      He reached into his pocket and dropped a disappointingly small number of coins onto the table.

      “Five taeckla,” I counted, my heart falling. Food for a week cost twenty taeckla. With my pay and the five taeckla that my father had left, that made thirteen taeckla. “It’s not enough for the week. How are we supposed to eat? What was it that you owed Remy for? Was it poker again? You need to start thinking about the future before you...”

      The slap came from out of nowhere. Swaying from the force of it I reached a hand up to the burning skin on my cheek. My father’s eyes were thunderous with rage as he towered over me. He tried to grab me but I was too quick and overbalancing he stumbled. Tears streamed from my eyes as I ran up the stairs and into my room locking the door behind me.

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