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The Prince of Sevarix, Prince Rhaul is known by all as a ruthless prince who shows absolutely no mercy to his people, and enjoys cruelty, but Helen knows better. Back when Rhaul was just a b*st*rd son of the former Prince, Helen had known him. She had been eight and he had been fourteen, but they had been friends, he had even helped her heal an injured bird, his hands working gently to save the life. Now when Helen and her Aunt Mari get arrested, and sentenced to death for stealing, as a last resort, Aunt Mari lies that the prince is expecting Helen, now Helen must be brought to the Prince as his slave. Would Rhaul be the same person she used to know, or is he indeed as cruel as was said!

Chapter 1

I was eleven years old when my feet had been caught in a trap. I had gone out with my older cousin to hunt – well, it could not entirely be said that I had gone with him, for he had been unaware of my presence. I snuck out of the house and went after him when I had him leave the house to go hunting.

Looking back now, I can understand my uncle’s bewilderment at my interest in hunting. At eleven, a good number of girls my age had begun wondering if they were pretty enough, and if they looked beautiful when they smiled, and yet I was concerned only about finding out the workings of a bow and arrow.

The trap had cut deeply into my foot, and Maemi, the healer of my clan had said it was by the mercy of God that I did not lose the foot. I spent the next three months in bed, suffering several bouts of fever as a result of the several times the wound got infected, and the wound itself gave me sore agony, that there were days I closed my eyes real hard and wished I was dead.

That incident changed my love for hunting to such a fierce dislike, so overcome with pity was I for all the poor animals who suffered such fate, only for their throats to be sl*t, their hides skinned, and for them to be turned into stew, that I began badgering Dary to desert his hunting ways. I am however ashamed to say I always enjoyed the stew cooked by my Aunty Mari. At such times, all thoughts about what agony the animal must have faced was gone. At that moment, there was nothing but delicious meat stew.

Now, as I walked past these lush woods in the strange land I found myself, hearing the butcher’s wife, my aunt’s new friend tell of all the evils of King Rhaul, my attention was focused elsewhere. Not too far away from us, a doe struggled against a deathly trap that caught at it’s foot.

It had been eight years since I suffered the trap incident, yet it was still vivid enough in my mind for me to understand the agony the animal faced. I am very sure my aunt would have restrained me if she learned of my intentions, and so I waited until they were a few paces ahead of me, and then I snuck off to free the doe of it’s snare.

For an animal so gentle, the doe was fierce in it’s struggle against the trap, and against me that I sustained several scratches. I would have loved to say I handled the situation with the expertise of someone who loved to hunt as a kid, but I was so very clumsy, that at the end of the scuffle, when I had finally released the doe from the trap, we had, the doe and I, made so much noise that we had not only attracted the attention of my aunt and her friend, but also of a stranger, one that filled me with dread.

The tip of a sword was pointed at my throat, slightly pricking my skin, and ignoring the pain, and the liquid I felt trickle down my neckline, I raised my gaze to look directly into the eyes of my attacker.

He was a lean man and looked like he would fare better with a bit more to eat, but there was an agility in his gaze that made me understand he was a good swords man. He seemed to be surprised about something in my disposition, because he frowned slightly.

‘Poaching again? One would have thought you would be smarter by now after king Rhaul set such an example, but you Kweilin are never very smart, are you’

His tone held some mockery in it, and ignoring that, I tried to understand what he meant. He could not possibly believe I had been caught poaching before, for apart from the fact that I no longer love to hunt, I had only arrived Valarwhorm two days ago – but perhaps I was only tasking my intellect in vain. People loved to put the blame on Kweilin for another’s crime. To them, we were all one and the same.

I drew in a breath when the sword on my throat pushed at my jaw, forcing me to get up. From the corner of my eye, I watched the doe limp away. My aunt would have treated it with a few herbs, and perhaps it would have been okay – that was if Dary did not kill it first for food.

I turned my gaze to find he was watching me, frowning, perhaps angry that even now, my attention should be on the doe. That seemed to decide him.

‘I would take you before King Rhaul’s court, you would face trial for poaching.’

I nodded patiently. All I needed was a court in order to explain myself. My response seemed to have confused him – and alarmed my aunt.

She flew to my side, sobbing and declaring hysterically that she was to blame, she was the one who had set the trap, and she only sent me to get the doe while she waited a few paces off. So surprised was I about her declaration, that I held onto the arm of my attacker, explaining hopelessly that my aunt must have gone senile, for there was not an iota of truth in what she said.

Slightly annoyed by our hysterics, The swordsman declared that we would both face trial for poaching. Our hands were both tied behind our backs, and we were led to a wagon and thrown in.

For some reason, it was only then that the enormity of my situation dawned on me, and resting my head on my aunt’s shoulder, I shed a few tears. There were a few other people in the wagon who perhaps had been accused of similar crimes, and we were all silent until the man with the sword brought us to something that looked very much like a prison and threw us inside. He told us we were to await our trial there, and I had thought that it should be later that day, but after two days and we had still had nothing from him, or anyone else apart from the wardens who brought pathetic looking food to us, twice a day, I began to fear that we had been abandoned.

The prisoners kept telling different tales of Prince Raul’s cruelty, according to most of them, we were already as good as dead. That these people should think so poorly of their Prince completely appalled me, but I was more disappointed in my aunt, for she had known him.

We had both known Prince Rhaul back when he had not been a Prince at all. He had been born a b*st*rd, and while his father’s wife lived, she had made sure he did not have a share of his royal heritage. He had fled the royal land of Valarwhorm to Eganshire where we lived, and even though he had not been an exactly friendly neighbor, we had never known him to be unkind. I could still remember once, when he helped me heal an injured sparrow, and the smile on his face when it finally began to fly. Surely, a man that would care about a bird would care more for his loyal subjects.

I had been thirteen, and he about eighteen when he finally left Eganshire. There had been talk that he had gone into training to join a secret army, and then news came later that his father, the Queen, and their two children had been killed while traveling in a blizzard. No one thought to suspect Rhaul, until he arrived with an army of vicious soldiers and took the throne. He had been twenty then.

Now, four years into his reign, news spread far and wide of the terror he unleashed on his subjects. And yet, no one sought to overthrow him, either because they were too frightened to plot, or perhaps they were unwilling. Under him, the Princedom of Sevarix became the most progressive Princedom in all of the Thort.

‘Are you listening to me?’ My aunt snapped beside me, and only then did I realize she had been speaking.

I smiled and tried to think up a clever answer, but my head was completely blank. ‘I’m sorry aunty.’

Aunt Mari shook her head sorrowfully. ‘Ralia you do not understand how grave this situation is. The Prince may not even bother with a trial, he could just have us hanged, and no one would say anything, he is the Prince after all. What then is to become of the promise I made to my brother on his deathbed, oh! And now my husband and son is dead, you are my only family left, yet you would just give your life willingly for that of a doe!’

She began to sub so loudly, that I embraced her, murmuring soothing words and trying to console her, yet she kept crying, until the rest of the inmates threatened to beat the both of us to death if she continued disturbing their ears with her crying. Aunt Mari stopped then.

‘You must agree to this plan of mine Ralia, if truly you love me.’ She said, turning her tear streaked eyes to me, and I could only nod.

‘I would tell them in court that it was I who set the trap, and that I sent you to check –’

‘No!’ I snapped, standing up quickly, and turning around to face her in my agitation. ‘It is I who brought this on us. I should simply have left the doe to it’s trap, and yet I sought to free it. You cannot possibly want to take the fall for me – and … and if what you say about the Prince is true, then he’ll … he’ll want to kill you aunty you cant—’

My speech was interrupted again by her loud wailing, and even when some of the inmates proceeded to carry out their threats, she continued. I watched in horror as they rain terrible blows and kicks on her slight frame, venting their frustration on her, until I screamed that if she was to stop crying, I was going to go along with her plan.

In between loud sobs I was beginning to think were not genuine, she made me swear to it, while she screamed from the kicks that hit her all over.

Sober, now that she had had gotten a promise from me, Aunt Mari began to outline her plan again, and I could only listen with tears streaming down my face.

the doe had what Aunt Mari would call an unlucky spirit, bringing bad luck to those who helped it, I thought wretchedly. Perhaps I should never have freed it from it’s trap. Aunt Mari had made me swear, and now I could not go back on my promise. I could only wait to see Prince Rhaul at court – and hope he had not changed much from the youth who had nurtured an injured bird with healing fingers till it could fly again. I could only wait.

Chapter 2

The guards brought Aunt Mari and I into a cramped prison that was so very overcrowded, I feared we would soon be standing on top of ourselves if it ever got more crowded… and yet it did. There was always one more prisoner thrown in, for committing a crime that was so small, it would never have been considered a crime in Eganshire.

I tried to sing to make Aunt Mari feel better, but I am ashamed to say my voice is quite horrible, and I can barely hold a tune. Finally, Aunt Mari could not stand my singing anymore, that she had to tell me to keep quiet. She herself started singing the song, in the most melodious voice ever.

I smiled. At least she was singing, that was a good sign. I really hoped she did not plan to give up her life for my sake – I was beginning to believe the stories I had heard about King Rhaul, and I only hoped he would remember who we were, or perhaps, if he would not remember, that he would choose to have mercy on my aunt and I. If he didn’t . . .


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