Authors: Kat Lilynette
Tags: #coming of age, #princess, #teen, #sword sorcery
I may be one of the
Shadowbark, but we're not killers. We're not like the Kaliborians,”
he said, looking a little insulted by what I was accidentally
insinuating. “They're savages. We try to keep to ourselves here,
but when they attack us, or helpless people in nearby villages, we
do what we can.”
No. I- I'm sorry. I
didn't mean-” I stumbled poorly over an apology before being
interrupted by a dark-haired man who was now leaning through the
Emoren,” the man said
sternly, beckoning him over.
Don't be rude, Belafor.
Come in and say hello to the Princess of Ashborne,” Emoren
responded as he signaled the visitor to enter.
Not fully recalling the events at the
pass, I had hoped he didn't realize who I was. Hearing him say my
title out loud sent an uncomfortable chill up my spine. Even though
I didn't seem to be in danger, I would have felt better had he not
Belafor reluctantly took a few steps
inside the large tent and stood in the center of the room. He stood
up straight – much like a soldier. He was much older than Emoren
and I. His thinning jet black hair, strong build, and mercenary
swagger reminded me of Gentry.
M'lady,” he said, bowing
his head as he eyed me with a look of worried disapproval before
turning back to Emoren.
Belafor, Princess Amber.” Emoren said politely, extending his hand
as he introduced us.
Emoren was surprisingly well-mannered
for someone who appeared to have lived in the woods his whole life.
He had a calm, confident disposition, and hearing him interact with
Belafor and myself, he seemed almost regal.
Emoren, a word.”
Belafor's tone matched the serious expression he was
Hmm. Wait for me outside.
I'll be right there,” Emoren said, realizing that Belafor was not
in the mood to be sociable.
Belafor gave me one more disapproving
glance as he turned and left the tent. I suddenly started feeling
as though I must be an unwelcome burden on this unfamiliar
I don't think he likes me
Don't mind him. Despite
his tough exterior, he's a good man. He's saved my life many
times,” Emoren said as he continued gazing toward the exit Belafor
had just used, his mind obviously recalling the events he was
Is he your
He might as well be.”
Emoren began going through a leather pouch that was under the bed
he was sitting on. “We've been together for as long as I can
remember. He's raised me as his own.”
Hearing him say that made me realize
why Belafor must have reminded me of Gentry. It seemed Emoren and I
had something in common – both being raised by fathers that were
not our own.
Ah. Here it is!” he said,
pulling a glowing green vial from his pouch and waving it at
He took a step forward and handed the
vial to me before touching my shoulder, signaling me to lean up a
bit so he could retrieve his cloak and extra pillows and
It's medicine from the
same fern as the one on your finger. If you want to walk soon, you
should drink it. It'll make you sleepy, but it'll heal and help
with the pain,” He finished making up the bed beside mine before he
began walking away.
Wait!? You're leaving?” I
blurted it out without thinking while leaning straight up in my
What the hell did I just say? Why do
I care if he leaves?
He stopped and glanced back at me from
over his shoulder, flashing a calming, reassuring smile. “You're
safe here. Belafor and I are the only ones who know you're here,
and none of the Shadowbark would dare enter my home without
permission. Besides, I'll be just outside. Please, drink that and
try to rest. I'll be back shortly.”
I laid back in the bed, studying the
glowing, green liquid swirling inside this vial, wondering if I
should drink it. He hadn't given me any reason to distrust him, and
he had shown me nothing but kindness. Figuring that if he wanted to
harm me, he could have done it already, I closed my eyes tightly
and chugged the mysterious glowing medicine.
Ack! Tastes like licking
a tree,” I complained out loud.
As I laid there, wishing he had left
me some water to rinse my mouth with and waiting for the effects of
the medicine to kick in, the room felt strangely empty with Emoren
gone – like it was incomplete. I didn’t know why, but it was weird
and off-putting; I didn’t like it. Laying there alone, my mind
drifted away from the empty feeling of the room and headed towards
I thought about Gentry and Penelope
and how worried they must be. I wished there was a way I could let
them know I was all right, and I hoped I would be able to see them
again soon, but, truthfully, I had no idea how far away from home I
was or how deep they've taken me into these vast woods. Suddenly, I
could feel the pain in my leg start to dull as the medicine began
to take hold, and it wasn't long before it pulled me back to
I tried, but didn't sleep well. The
dull pain in my leg kept waking me as I tossed and turned, drifting
in and out of sleep. Maybe it was because I was alone in an
unfamiliar place, but each time I woke, in my groggy, drugged
state, I found myself checking to see if Emoren had returned,
hoping he would be there.
Finally, during what must have been
the middle of the night, I rolled over in my bed, and as the pain
pulled me from my sleep yet again, I noticed that this time, all
the candles of the tent were out except one. I looked over to see
Emoren sleeping soundly, facing me, as he lay in the bed a couple
feet from my own.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim
lighting of the tent, I noticed his crossbow laying only a few feet
away from me, at the foot of his bed. I was sure it hadn't been
I wondered why he would leave such a
thing out in the open with me here. Even injured as I was, surely
he knew I was capable of wielding such a weapon. It was as if he
knew I would wake before him and his deliberate leaving of the
crossbow within my reach was a message. He seemed to be letting me
know that he wasn't going to ask for any amount of trust he wasn't
willing to give himself.
I laid there on my side with my hands
curled just below my chin, I watched him as he slept, the blonde
savior who had rescued me and was now nursing me back to health.
The dim candlelight of the tent seemed to be as captivated by his
face as I was quickly becoming.
As I stared at him, I tried to figure
out what was going on inside me. He wasn't the first man to ever
give me a gift, be kind to me, or even save my life, but I couldn't
explain what I was feeling. So why, despite myself and having only
just met him, did I feel relieved when I woke and saw him sleeping
next to me? Why did my new, small world inside this tent feel
incomplete when he left me earlier? And why couldn't I stop
watching him sleep?
I laid there for what must have been
an hour, listening to his soft breaths and following the lines of
his face with my eyes. He looked peaceful, and he seemed to be
smiling, ever so slightly as he slept – which made me do the same.
It was in that hour that all my anxieties toward this mysterious
savior seemed to fade away. It seemed as if my heart knew something
that my mind had yet to figure out.
Oh, Amber. You've really
lost it this time, haven't you?
# # #
When I finally woke again, the light
tapping on the roof of the tent let me know it was raining outside.
I had no idea how long I had been asleep, but if felt as though it
was later than mid-day. I looked passed the foot of my bed and
could see Emoren, sitting at the same table he was before, leaning
back in his chair, reading the same book as before.
I was wondering when you
were going to finally wake up,” he said as he closed his
Why do I still feel so
tired?” I felt even groggier than I had the night before, like I
could sleep for the rest of the day. Emoren must have been waiting
for me to wake, because he already had water and a plate of food
prepared for me and was bringing it to my bedside.
The first dose is always
strong. It takes several hours before the full effects kick in,” he
said as he handed the meal to me.
I propped myself up enough to set the
food beside me on the bed. My head was still so fuzzy, and it was
difficult to concentrate. It felt as though I had drank too much
ale the night before. “Thank you.”
Emoren smiled and returned to his seat
at the table. Grabbing the old, brown book, he propped his legs up
on the table, leaned back in the chair, and began reading silently
to himself. I ate quietly, waiting for my mind to right itself,
staring at Emoren while he read.
What are you
He glanced over at me and smiled as I
chewed my food and stared at him curiously.
It's a journal.” He
closed the book and began to rise from the table. I guess he
realized it was going to be tough to read in peace with me being
He walked over and placed the book
beneath his bed before he began rummaging through his brown pouch
No,” he said. “It's
someone else's story.”
As I finished my meal, I could see
Emoren pulling another glowing, green vial from his
Ugh.. No more, please,” I
Emoren chuckled. He stood up and took
the plate from me, exchanging it for the vial he was holding. I
gave him a playful, angry sneer as we traded our wares.
Sorry,” he smiled. “Don't
worry, this is the last dose you'll need to take. It's not as
strong as the first, but once it finally kicks in, it's still going
to make you sleepy.”
He walked over and set the dishes down
and began pushing his chair back under the table, as if he was
preparing to leave.
Are you leaving again?” I
asked, leaning up in protest.
He turned and smiled at me before
slowly walking over and taking a seat on the bed next to mine. I
watched him, waiting for an answer, as he reached down just beyond
the foot of his bed and pulled up a gray, unmarked book.
I'm not leaving today.
It's raining,” he said with a reassuring smile.
I still didn't understand why, but
after hearing that, I felt relieved. I wasn't sure what was going
on inside my heart, but I didn't want this new, small world to feel
He sat there quietly for a moment,
carefully flipping through the pages of the run-down-looking book.
Once he appeared to have found the page he was looking for, he
leaned in my direction, sitting on the edge of his bed.
What are you doing?” I
Well, since neither of us
are going anywhere today, I thought you might enjoy it if I read to
you,” he said, surprising me with a another unexpected gesture of
I would like that very
Emoren glanced at the vial on my bed
and then looked at me expectantly, letting me know he wasn't going
to begin until I consumed the tree-tasting medicine. I begrudgingly
downed the glowing liquid before curling up on my side, ready to
accept his verbal gift of storytelling. He looked down at my
attentive face, smiled sweetly, and began reading to me.
His soothing voice was captivating,
and the story he was telling was beautiful, but for the life of me,
I couldn't follow it. I was far too distracted. I couldn’t stop
studying his beautiful face, going over his lips with my eyes, and
trying to make sense of everything he was making me
The feelings I had felt the night
before only grew stronger as I gazed at him. My heart felt at home
as I laid there in front of him and listened to him speak softly to
me, and it was scaring the hell out of me. I was worried that my
heart was attaching itself to him, even without my conscious
permission, but I felt powerless to stop it – no, I don't think I
wanted to stop it.
It wasn’t long before I could feel the
medicine began to take hold, and as he continued reading to me, I
closed my eyes and let his voice begin carrying me away. I still
didn’t understand what the hell he was doing to me or why I was
feeling the way I did, but as I drifted off to sleep, listening to
and feeling safe with him, my heart had never felt more at
When I woke the next morning, I was
greeted by the sweet smell of breakfast. I leaned up and could see
Emoren preparing a setting at the small table he was seated at the
night before. His lean, muscular arms showcased in the thin,
sleeveless leather vest he was now wearing.
Good morning,” he smiled,
placing a metal fork atop the neatly folded cloth that lay beside a
plate of delightful smelling eggs and fruit.