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.


2. Chapter Two: Khyber


      It was raining.

      It always seemed to be when I had to leave the palace to perform my duties.

      At that moment I was stood at the entrance of the Church of the Divine Goddess, waiting for the Head Priest to appear. He was old and boring like my History books, but every two weeks I had to meet him. During our meetings the priest would tell me of some miracle that had happened to one of his parishioners and I would pretend to show an interest. Then I would be shown the repair work that was underway, and finally the priest and I would pray together at the Altar of the Goddess.

      The Head Priest finally emerged and led me inside the warm building. He seemed to be particularly pleased with a painting that had been discovered in the vaults beneath the church. I found it hideous. The painting depicted a woman being abused by a group of men. Why in the Goddess’s name would a painting like that be in the church? When I asked the Head Priest this he answered that it showed one of the sins that the Divine Goddess had forbidden. People needed to be reminded of all the suffering that the Goddess had strived to put an end to, the priest told me. I nodded as if I cared about what the priest was saying, but from his tone I took it that rape was still happening. Frowning at this I replied that I had assumed that rape had ended years ago. The priest shook his head silently, looking grave.

      We knelt down in front of the Altar of the Goddess. Closing my eyes I prayed as usual that no harm would befall my father.

      It was still raining when I arrived back at the entrance of the Church. Stood there staring out at the city was a young woman. She seemed to be waiting for the rain to end, and if she had been one of my father’s guests I would have made a witty comment. But she wasn’t. She was just a peasant. However I found her expression intriguing. Why was she smiling? There was nothing I could see outside to make me smile, particularly not the rainclouds which showed no sign of disappearing.

      I turned around looking for Orien the soldier who was in charge of my security. He had wandered off somewhere, which was unusual for him. Refraining from sighing, I returned my attention to the rain that was falling just out of my reach. Glancing at the peasant from the corner of my eye I saw that her head had turned slightly, and now I could see more of her face. She wasn’t beautiful, although she was pretty for a poor girl. Her blue eyes were dull though, and her skin looked too tight on her face. She seemed to come to a decision and her expression turned to one of extreme sadness as she took a step towards the rain.

      “Wait,” I cried reaching a hand out towards her.

      Startled, as if she hadn’t noticed me standing there, her eyes took in my appearance while she waited for me to speak again.

      “Take this,” I told her, holding out my cloak.

      She was surprised and hesitated before thanking me as she put the cloak on. Curtsying and thanking me again, she gave a small smile and disappeared into the rain. I gazed after her feeling bewildered. Why had I done that? I never interacted with peasants and I had never even entertained the notion of giving one my cloak before.

      Orien materialised at my side. Noticing that I no longer had a cloak, but without asking why, he removed his own cloak and put it around my shoulders. I thanked him, something else I never usually did, and then we were running down the steps to the waiting carriage.

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