Samera

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

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23. Chapter Twenty Three: Samera

 

      After the fire I slept at home again and returned to my duties at the Church. Kale had managed to destroy the one good thing in the lower town. People had been hopeful that the prince’s kindness was a sign of better things to come. But even Khyber couldn’t stop monsters like Kale. I hadn’t seen my father or Torrance much since the accident and I feared that they were still working for Kale. I kept busy so that my thoughts wouldn’t be consumed by Omer and Menul. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them. Khyber visited the Church often. He would tell me about his brother and sister who he didn’t care much for. I think they were the reason that he spent as less time in the palace as possible. I liked to hear Khyber’s stories about the exquisite balls he had been to.

      His world was so different to mine, which was why I was so shocked when he said to me. “I want to spend a day with you.”

      Pausing in my sweeping I replied. “What do you mean?”

      Khyber had asked me to stop calling him ‘your highness’ when it was just the two of us.

      “I want to see what your life is like.” he told me from where he was leaning against the wall.

      I gestured to the broom. “You have seen what my life is like.”

      “But not properly. I want to follow you for a day, do what you do.”

      Confused I frowned at him. “Why?”

      Khyber ran a hand through his light hair. “I just... I’ve seen how people in the lower town live, but I haven’t lived through it myself. Does that make sense?”

      “I think so.” I muttered resuming my cleaning. “You really are odd aren’t you, for royalty?”

      He laughed, giving me a glimpse of his perfect white teeth. “I guess I am.”

      “Does the King know?”

      Khyber’s expression darkened and he shook his head. “No, he’ll think that I’m with Abelard, who is spending his last few unmarried days in a drunken stupor. You don’t mind, do you? If you do I can follow someone else.”

      I regarded him silently. Khyber was nice and I enjoyed spending time with him. He had been very kind to me when I had been ill. The least I could do in return was to let him shadow me. Smiling I said. “No, it’s fine. When did you have in mind?”

      “How about the rest of today and part of tomorrow?”

 

      “I’m sorry about the mess.” I said rushing around the dining room and kitchen and trying to tidy everything.

      I glanced at Khyber, who even though he was dressed in peasants clothing, still managed to look handsome and royal. He was taking in his surroundings with interest. I felt a twinge of fear that on the inside Khyber was mocking my home, mocking me.

      “It must be a lot smaller than what you’re used to.” I said, putting some water onto boil in the hearth.

      Nodding his head, Khyber replied. “Yes, but it’s quaint. The palace is too big. All that space it’s... stifling.”

      “Stifling?” I laughed.

      “The space it... it can swallow you up. That probably doesn’t make sense.”

      I smiled, saying. “Well if I ever go somewhere with that much space, maybe I will know what you mean.”

      Khyber chuckled and I showed him around the rest of the house. Typically, my father decided to come home for dinner that evening. His mouth fell open at the sight of Prince Khyber sitting at the dinner table.

      “Your highness,” my father bowed low.

      “Please,” Khyber said standing up and striding over to him. Shaking his hand he continued. “Call me Khyber. I’m sorry to impose on you like this.”

      “N...not at all, it’s a honour.” he seemed nervous, and I knew that it wasn’t just because there was a prince in our house. He was hiding something.

      My father hardly spoke a word throughout dinner, but Khyber more than made up for that. He talked practically non stop and insisted on washing the dishes with me.

      “Are you going to the tavern?” I asked when my father stood up. If he was maybe Khyber would want to go with him.

      Pulling on his jacket my father replied. “No, I... make sure you lock the door.”

      “I didn’t scare him away did I?” Khyber asked when the door slammed shut behind my father.

      I dried my hands, saying. “No, he usually goes out. If you don’t want to be alone with me then there are several taverns you can go to, though if anyone found out who you are you wouldn’t be very safe there.”

      “Why wouldn’t I want to be alone with you?” he wondered warming his hands by the fire.

      I put the dishes into the cupboard. “I’m not the best company.”

      “What makes you think that?” Khyber’s grey eyes were fixed on me.

      Brushing loose strands of hair from my face I answered. “Well look at me, I’m nothing. I’m not intelligent, I’m not pretty and I’m not funny. I’m nothing. The tattoo on my arm proves that.”

      He stepped towards me and lifted my chin with a slender finger so that I was looking into his eyes. “Samera, don’t you dare think that. You have so many friends because you’re kind, generous and friendly. You are clever and beautiful. You’re special.” I blushed at his words and Khyber wiped the tear from my cheek. “I would rather be here with you then at a ball with a hundred princesses. In fact, I was wondering if we could be friends. I don’t have many you see. What do you think?”

      Khyber’s compliments had left me speechless. Did he really think I was all those things? Aware that he was waiting for me to answer his question I nodded and licked my dry lips. “Of course, I... I would be honoured.”

      Smiling he said. “Good, now what was that about a tattoo?”

      Khyber didn’t know about them? He wouldn’t be happy then when he found out. “It’s nothing, would you like a drink?”

      “Samera, show me.”

      I hesitated before pushing up my sleeve to show him the word inked onto my arm. Peasant.

      Khyber’s expression darkened. I had never seen him so angry. His hands were clenched into fists and he was shaking. I moved two chairs in front of the fire and put some water on to boil. Retrieving the pile of clothes that I needed to sew up some holes for I sat down. After a while Khyber sank down into the chair beside me.

      When he didn’t speak I said. “Normally in the evenings I go next door to see Myra, but she’s helping Kushla tonight. I offered to help but she gave me the night off.”

      A glance at Khyber showed me that he was staring into the flames, his jaw clenched. I returned to my sewing and didn’t say another word.

 

      An hour or so later when I had finished my sewing the sound of heavy breathing reached my ears. Looking up I saw that Khyber was asleep. He hadn’t spoken to me at all after seeing my tattoo. I guessed that he hadn’t known what to say. I got a blanket from upstairs and covered him with it. Then I went to pour more water into the kettle to boil in the hearth but there was none left. I would have to go to the well. Gazing at the window I saw that it was dark outside. It would be dangerous to go out by myself at that time of night but I didn’t want to wake Khyber; he looked so peaceful. I pulled my cloak on and picked up the bucket before closing the front door quietly after me. My breath billowed out in front of me as I hurried down the street towards the well. The only sound to be heard was a dog barking in the distance. The pulley squeaked as I hauled water up from the bottom of the well. I had just undone the bucket when someone wrapped an arm around my waist and pressed something cold to my cheek.

      “Look who it is,” Remy said, his breath stinking of cigarettes and alcohol. “Seems like you’ve recovered from your accident, nasty business that.” I tried to escape his grasp but Remy dug the knife into my skin, making blood run. “Now, now, I’d stay still if I was you. I’d hate to mess your pretty little face up.”

      “Please let me go.” I begged tears welling in my eyes.

      He chuckled and drew me closer. “Sorry, darlin’ but that’s not going to happen. I’ve finally got you all to myself. Omer’s off at war, isn’t he?”

      Remy should have been fighting for his country too seeing as he had no family and one man from every family had to leave for the front line. I would have wondered how he had gotten away with not going but I was more worried about the hand that was moving up my thigh.

      “A pretty thing like you would fetch a fair price at a whorehouse, but it looks like I won’t have to pay a thing.” Remy shoved me to the ground and straddled me before I could get up.

      “No!” I screamed thrashing around. “Get off me!”

      Laughing he used his knife to cut my dress open to reveal my breasts. “Scream all you want, sweetheart, there ain’t no one gonna come to your rescue. I’ll try ‘n’ be gentle. It’ll only hurt for a little bit.” Remy was tearing at my dress and pushing it up my thighs.

      “Help!” I sobbed. “Somebody help me!”

      Remy’s hands went to his belt.

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