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.


24. Chapter Twenty Four: Khyber


      Samera was gone when I opened my eyes. I glanced at the window surprised at how late it was.

      “Samera?” I called getting to my feet.

      There was no answer. Surely she wouldn’t have gone out by herself at this time of night? Opening the front door I peered outside. That was when I heard the screams. Filled with horror I bolted towards the cries for help. It was her. It was Samera. I ran as fast as I could, my heart hammering away in my chest. I could see them. There was a man on top of her.

      “Samera!” I yelled.

      The man looked up in surprise. I saw the gleam of metal of a knife in his hand as he got to his feet, pulling his trousers up. My fist connected with his jaw and the man staggered backwards. He swiped at me with the knife but I ducked and grabbed his head, smacking it against the stone wall of the well. The man dropped to the ground and the knife fell from his grasp.

      Samera’s clothes were in tatters and she tried to cover herself, her blue eyes wide. “Is he dead?” she whispered, tears rolled down her cheeks mixing with blood from a cut.

      Leaning down I checked the man’s pulse. The gahling bastard was still alive, though he was losing a lot of blood from a head wound. I shook my head and helped Samera to her feet.

      “Did he... was I too late?” I asked.

      She wrapped her cloak around herself trembling. “No, he didn’t. Thank you, Khyber.”

      We went back to her house and Samera’s knees fell out from beneath her. In shock she shook and sobbed.

      “You’re safe now.” I told her, drawing her into my arms. “No one will hurt you ever again.” kissing her head I held her close.


      Things in the lower town were even worse than I had thought. The houses were smaller than I had realised. I hadn’t said anything to Samera, not wanting to upset her, but her house was shocking. It was falling apart and there was barely any space to move around. The toilet was an outhouse and there was the bare minimum of furniture. The mattresses were even on the floor. Samera had offered me the use of her father’s room, where there was a proper bed, but I had declined. I wanted to keep an eye on Samera after what had happened. I didn’t know what I would have done if I had been too late to stop that man from raping her. A lantern was burning dully in the corner and in the light it cast I could see Samera’s face. She was asleep. And then there was the tattoo. I hadn’t known that everyone in the lower town was branded like cattle. No wonder Samera had thought that she was nothing; the poor were brought up to believe that their very existence was worthless. My breath hovered in the air as I stared at Samera. It had occurred to me earlier, when I had tried to persuade her that she wasn’t nothing, that she had been on my thoughts a lot lately. I had meant every word I had said. It was all because of Samera that I had changed, because of that chance meeting outside the Church.

      Samera cried out in her sleep making me jump. She was tossing and turning. Getting up I crossed the short distance over to her and knelt down. “Samera,” I said placing a hand on her arm. “It’s just a dream.”

      She awoke with a gasp and her eyes slowly focused on me. “Khyber?” with a groan Samera turned away and started crying.

      “What’s wrong?” I asked putting my hand on hers. “You’re freezing.” without thinking I climbed into her bed and wrapped my arms around her.

      Rolling over Samera rested her head against my chest as she tried not to sob.

      I rubbed her back, attempting to warm her up. “Everything’s okay.”

      “No it’s not.” Samera whispered. “She’s dead. She’s not coming back.”

      She must have been talking about her mother. Samera had told me that she had died in an accident over six months ago. My own mother had died when I had been three years old.

      I held Samera close not knowing what to say. With every passing second I became more aware that I had never been this intimate with anyone before. Unlike Abelard I didn’t frequent whorehouses nor have servants share my bed. I’d never even kissed a girl. Even before I had changed I had decided to wait until I met the right person, just like I had always wanted to marry for love. I was a romantic. It was probably all the books I had read over the years.

       Samera had stopped crying and her frozen feet brushed mine. She laid a hand on my chest and gazed up at me. Her eyes were puffy but she still looked beautiful. Brushing the hair from her face, careful of the wound on her cheek, I felt my heart rate increase. My eyes were drawn to Samera’s lips which were parted slightly, as if in anticipation. I wanted to kiss her but I knew that it would be wrong. I would be taking advantage of her and I couldn’t do that. So instead of pressing my lips to hers, I kissed Samera’s forehead.       

      As if she knew what I had been thinking, Samera muttered. “A prince with morals.” she touched her head to my chest again. “I owe you a debt, Khyber. Anyone else would have demanded payment by now.”

      What was Samera suggesting, that I take her virtue to settle her debt?

      “You owe me nothing.” I said, my cheeks burning red. Did she really think so little of me? No, it was the world she had grown up in.

      “So you don’t want anything from me?” Samera asked, her fingers holding the material of my thin shirt.

      “You can answer a question.”

      Lifting her head up, she gazed at me in surprise. “A question?” Samera repeated.

      “Yes. Do you love him?” I knew it was none of my business but I felt that I had to know.

      Her blue eyes were sad as she answered. “No, I don’t. I wish that I did, because Omer deserves someone that is devoted to him, someone that would do anything for him without a second thought, but I... that’s not me.”

      “So why are you marrying him?”

      “I have to.” Samera replied quietly. “It was arranged when my parents found out that Myra had given birth to a son. So in the spring, when Omer returns, we will wed.”

      I felt distress at that. Samera was watching me, her face unreadable. I noticed that she had said when, not if.

      Keeping my voice calm I said. “Why in the spring?”        

      “It’s traditional. There is a ceremony called the blessing of the brides, where a priest purifies all the women that are going to marry. Only after you have been blessed can you marry. I suppose that you’re arranged to marry a beautiful princess.”

      “Not at the moment.” I answered. “But I think my father wants me to marry Princess Jasmina of Lisuntra.”

      Samera’s legs brushed mine as she asked. “Lisuntra? Where’s that?”

      “It’s to the east.”

      “And do you want to marry this princess?”

      “No, I don’t.”

      “Why not?” Samera wondered intrigued.

      Smiling sadly I said. “I want to marry for love.”

      “Don’t we all?” she murmured turning away.

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