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.


28. Chapter Twenty Eight: Khyber


      The next day we finally got Leanda back. Apart from the grime on her skin and clothes she seemed fine. Leanda was quiet though and stayed in her room most of the time. Leanda did visit Samera once and gave Samera some old dresses which had surprised me. After a week however, Leanda was back to usual annoying self and like everyone else she kept telling me to send Samera home. Perhaps she didn’t want to be reminded of what had happened to her. It was after a particularly tiring council meeting that Abelard cornered me.

      “Why won’t you just send your little whore back to the cesspit she came from?” he demanded pacing agitatedly in front of me.

      Clenching my hands into fists at my sides I glared. “She is not a whore. Why does it annoy you so much that she’s still here?”

      “She doesn’t belong at the Palace,” Abelard spat. “You seem to have forgotten that she’s not one of us. Why do you want her here so much anyway? You’re not sleeping with her. The rumours about you teaching her how to read and write better not be true.”

      “And what if they are?”   

      Abelard shook his head looking disgusted. “Is she some kind of pet to you? And you called me sickening.” he gazed at me for a while, his dark eyes seeming to pierce my skin. A smirk slowly formed on his face. “You’re in love with her aren’t you?”

      My cheeks flushed. “No I’m not.”

      Abelard started laughing. “Of all the women you’ve ever met you had to go and fall in love with her.” wiping tears from the corners of his eyes he chuckled. “Just wait until Father hears.”

      I was suddenly frozen with fear. “Abelard, you cannot tell him.”

      “Why not?” he grinned. “I’m sure he will be thrilled.”

      “Please, brother,” I begged.

      Abelard turned to walk away. “You should know by now that I do whatever I want.”

      I grabbed his arm but he shrugged me off and strode down the corridor.


      Standing in the doorway of the library I listened to Samera as she read a story aloud to Mariella, who had taken to spending most of her time with Samera and she seemed a lot happier for it. Samera was completely healed apart from her rib which sometimes hurt her. She was a fast learner and could already spell several words and read some sentences. Realising that I was in the room Samera glanced up and smiled. I smiled back aware that it didn’t reach my eyes. Mariella said something to Samera who nodded and disappeared into the labyrinth of books.

      “What’s wrong, Khyber?” Mariella asked concerned as she came over to me, her long red hair pulled back.

      “Nothing,” I replied, my gaze fixed on the many bookshelves.

      “You’re a bad liar.”

      Sighing I ran a hand through my hair. “It’s Abelard, he... he knows how much I... that I...”

      “That you love Samera?” Mariella’s green eyes were bright.

      I gaped at her in shock. “How did you know?”

      “You light up every time you’re in the same room as her, Khyber.”

      “Does... does she know?” I asked my stomach in knots as I scanned the rows of books for Samera.

      Mariella shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

      Swallowing nervously I whispered. “Do you know if... if she feels the same?”

      She smiled, her eyes also moving to the many books. “She does, she just hasn’t realised it yet.”

      Mariella left after that and elated I walked among the many rows of books, searching for Samera. I found her stood by a window gazing out at the thin layer of snow that covered the ground outside. In the distance I could see the forest its dark trees now white. Returning my attention to Samera I saw that she was holding a book to her chest.

      “Do you want me to teach you some new words?” I asked.

      Samera shook her head still staring out the window. “No thank you. Could I... can I go outside?” she placed a pale hand on the glass and I had to suppress the urge to cover her hand with mine.

      “I was thinking of going horse riding. Do you like horses?”


      It turned out that Samera had never touched a horse before, let alone ridden one. I watched as Samera tentatively reached a hand out to Shadow, my black stallion.

      “He’s so soft,” Samera murmured.

      Smiling I patted Shadow and put a saddle on him. “Careful of his teeth; those aren’t so soft.”

      A stable boy was in the far corner watching us with interest but he hurriedly glanced away when I looked at him. I led Shadow outside and turned to Samera.

      “Ready?” I asked with a smile.

      She chewed her bottom lip anxiously and wrung her hands. “I... I’m not sure.”

      “You’ll be perfectly safe,” I told her. “I promise not to go too fast.”

      Samera nodded and I helped her up onto Shadow before mounting him myself.

      “You might want to hold onto me tightly,” I said picking up the reigns.

      She wrapped her arms around my waist and I felt my skin grow hot. With a flick of the reigns we were off. Shadow trotted away from the stables, his black head held high as he tossed his mane.

      “Are you alright?” I called back to Samera, my breath hovering in the cold air. Feeling her nod I asked. “Do you want to go faster?”

      Samera pressed herself closer to me which I took to be a yes. Shadow shot forwards in a canter and we entered the forest. Most of the ground was covered in snow and the trees shook making the white substance fall as we thundered past. Samera was clinging to me as if her life depended on it and without thinking I flicked the reigns to make Shadow gallop. Snorting, Shadow jumped over a fallen log and continued deeper into the forest. A gunshot echoed through the trees and I slowed Shadow to a trot before stopping completely. I gazed around searching for the source of the sound. Patting Shadow absentmindedly it took me a moment to realise that Samera was talking to me.

      “Is everything okay?” she asked sounding slightly shaken.

      Jumping to the ground I gave her a reassuring smile. “The gunshot just surprised me that’s all. Did you enjoy the ride or was it too fast?”

      Samera laughed. “It was... well to begin with I was petrified but after a while I did start to have fun.”

      “I’m glad.”

      I helped her dismount and Samera stumbled falling against me. She apologised, a hand on my chest and the other on my shoulder. I wondered if she could feel how fast my heart was beating at her touch. I had placed my hands on Samera’s waist to steady her and I moved one to her cheek to brush tendrils of hair from her face. Samera’s blue eyes were unreadable as she regarded me. Then glancing over my shoulder her expression changed to one of fear. We were surrounded by Abelard and his hunting friends. They were all on horseback and there were rifles in their hands.

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