*This is a completed series*
King Wolfric is at a loss. His secret weapon has fled, and reunited with her family, and his eldest son is pining for his lost love. If he doesn’t act soon, his entire nation will begin to work against him. He must plan the final, and ultimate attack on the Dothans.
Princess Bethany Kavadh, youngest daughter to Wolfric’s enemy, is no longer within his grasp. After more than a year away from home—living as a slave and fighting her way back to freedom—Princess Bethany is finally home. The only thing is, she is no longer content with home life.
It’s not that her home has changed, but that she has changed.
As Bethany settles into home life again, a sickness descends upon her family and her betrothal to a nearby lord is announced. She and her brother, the king, disagree on everything from care for the sick to the duties of a princess.
Princess Bethany Kavadh will have to act fast to save her nation from the illness and Wolfric alike. The only thing is, she cannot do it Alone.
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter here.
Bethany lowered herself onto the plush bed as she looked around her bedroom. It was exactly the same as she remembered it, as though the last year had never happened.
But it had.
Bethany would never be able to pretend differently. She had the scars, both inside and out, to prove it. She closed her eyes, trying to focus on the here and now.
It had been a long night of celebrating, though what they were celebrating she wasn’t entirely sure of.
After the family accepted her identity, they ushered her up onto the dais and sent all the castle’s heralds out to pronounce the good news throughout Dothan. Bethany couldn’t understand why they had done this. Didn’t they know the truth about her?
Then again, she realized, Mother didn’t exactly give me a chance to tell her how tainted I had become.
In fact, when they had asked for her story, she had given them a weak, watered-down version of the truth, stating that she had been captured and not been able to escape until she was leagues into Wolfric’s lands, completely leaving out the fact she had actually be sold into slavery, lived as a slave in King Wolfric’s household, and later discovered. For months, Bethany had been Wolfric’s captive, and was even forced into an engagement with the king’s greedy son. All this, though, she kept to herself. They didn’t need to know the truth. The lie was hard enough for them to accept.
But if she didn’t tell them the truth, they would never know just how unfit she was to wear her crown.
Before Bethany could come to grips with how the evening had gone and what she felt she must do, she heard a soft knock on her door.
“Y-yes?” she asked tentatively, desperately wishing, once again, that Erin was by her side. With him here I wouldn’t feel so alone.
Her mother poked her head in and smiled at her, a smile that nearly brought tears to Bethany’s eyes. Queen Debowrah was a beautiful woman in her mid-forties. Her long, auburn hair had always been dark, but Bethany suspected it had lightened with age and stress over the last year. In fact, Bethany spotted the beginnings of a gray streak forming near the queen’s temple.
“I’ve brought some hot water for a bath,” Debowrah said as she pushed the door open and ushered in the row of servants.
They moved to the copper tub placed in the corner of her room, shrouded by thick curtains, and filled the tub with steaming water. One servant placed a large pitcher of cold water beside the tub for adjusting the bath’s temperature before they filed out.
“Let me help you off with those things,” offered the queen. “After all you won’t need them anymore.”
Debowrah placed Bethany’s belt and sword on the foot of the bed, a little humor playing in her eyes as she thought of her youngest daughter needing a sword. Bethany ignored the look in her mother’s eyes, knowing the queen had no idea what it was like within the confines of Wolfric’s land.
With her weapons safely placed on the bed, the queen moved to help Bethany with her layers of filthy clothing.
Normally an unmarried woman in Dothan would not allow another person to see herself naked. Her mother was perhaps the only exception.
Bethany didn’t remember why she should have refused the offer until it was too late. Debowrah let out a gasp as pulled the leather vest off, shifting Bethany’s tunic enough to reveal a small glimpse of the scars that lined Bethany’s back.
“You need a healer!” exclaimed the queen.
“No, mother. They’re long healed.”
The queen glared at her for a second, her eyes habitually flicking to Bethany’s body. “I think, in general, having you seen by a healer would be wise. Please bathe while I fetch Healer Pharem.”
Bethany obeyed, though a heavy weight began to fill her nervous stomach. The healer would see all her scars. The secrets of her nightmarish year away from home would be revealed, whether she wanted it or not.
It’s the right thing, she told herself sternly as she scrubbed at dirt ingrained under her finger nails.
Aside from a splash in a creek, the last time she had bathed had been in Mirartock, the old Domhain capital, many weeks ago. Bethany scrubbed every inch of her body, dutifully ignoring her scars. Each one would be examined minutely before too long. She washed her hair and stepped out, though the water was still warm. It wasn’t until she was drying her hair, garbed in a robe left out on the bed, that she realized there was no one to use the water after her.
Erin was gone.
Bethany felt tears prick her eyes and bit down on her tongue, effectively distracting herself from the pain of his leaving. She was home; she had no reason to be sad, even if he had abandoned her, without warning.
To distract herself from the pain in her chest, she hurriedly hid her weapons and garments. Though she may never need them again, she wanted to be prepared, as Erin had taught her, for any eventuality. Bethany was just adjusting her thick mattress over her sword when she heard a knock on the door.
“Enter,” she said as she settled into one of the chairs near the crackling fire.
A strong, middle-aged man entered, followed by her mother.
“Bethany, this is Healer Pharem,” introduced her mother.
“Princess Bethany,” said the healer as he bowed.
Bethany cringed at the display of respect. It was unnecessary, even unexpected coming from a healer. Throughout the large peninsula, healers were outside the cultural hierarchy. Being in charge of a person’s life, whether it be peasant or king, meant they couldn’t be held to the same protocols.
Bethany forced a smile to her lips.
“Your mother tells me you have a scar or two she wants me to look at.”
“I’ll leave you two to it. I’ll be right outside if you should need me,” said the queen before slipping out of the room.
Healer Pharem took a seat across from Bethany and smiled at her, his eyes flicking to her hands, which she suddenly realized were tightly clutching the opening of her robe up near her throat.
“I understand you had a rather rough journey in getting home,” began the healer as he absently took up a biscuit from a plate on the table between them and munched on it.
Healer Pharem was a robust man, reminding Bethany of her father. His hair was thinning and had been cropped extremely short, almost shaved. The man’s beard was of equal length, giving him a rather hairy impression for someone who was clearly balding.
“Yes,” whispered Bethany, ashamed of the way her voice shook.
“I realize the scars are likely rather set, but I won’t be allowed to leave you in peace until you show them to me. Your mother will insist upon it.”
Bethany let out a stuttering breath before turning in her seat and lowering the back of her robe until the top of the scars showed. She heard the healer rise from his seat and kneel beside her. With shaking fingers she released her death grip on the robe and allowed the healer to lower it farther.
The healer didn’t say anything as he poked and prodded the over-lapping scars on her back. Bethany never had counted the times she had been whipped while in the service of King Wolfric. Some had been nothing more than a bruising, just slightly worse than what her father had done to discipline her when she was a caustic child, while others had left her close to death.
“Yes, these are completely healed. Are there any others?” asked the healer in a detached voice Bethany recognized as his healer-voice.
“Yes,” said Bethany.
“Let me see.”
Bethany adjusted her robe to cover herself again before holding out her right hand, pulling the robe up to show the cauterized wound on her forearm from where she had been bitten by a wolf.
The healer took her hand, momentarily noticing the small scar on her hand from when she had been bitten by a snake, and shifted her arm back and forth to see both sides of the wolf bite.
“This is newer?” asked the healer, though they both knew it was.
“Nearly healed as well. What happened?”
“Bit by a wolf. We… I mean, I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop, so I cauterized it.”
“Any others?” asked the healer, sounding a though he didn’t expect there to be.
Bethany let out a great sigh before lowering the front of her robe just enough to show the burn mark where King Wolfric had punished her for slapping him. It was below the neckline, just beside her armpit. The healer gave it the barest of glance before pulling his eyes up to her face again.
“And of course the two scars on your face,” said the healer, his eyes flicking to her temple and her lip. “Anything else?”
Bethany considered how to show him the cut on her side without revealing anything else. She wasn’t embarrassed by nudity anymore, but she knew the healer expected her to be.
“One on my side. It is the newest,” she added, the words out before she could stop herself.
“Then I better have a look at it.”
Bethany couldn’t make herself blush, so she lowered her robe, using her arm to cover her breasts, and showed him the long cut across her side. It was only three weeks old, and still showed signs of healing.
“How did you get this?” the healer asked, finally finding something he could tend to.
“A sword,” she said, unable to lie.
Pharem’s eyes streaked up to her face for a second before he schooled his features and probed the healing cut.
“Something has been used on it. What?”
“I am not at liberty to say,” said Bethany, pulling her robe up even though he was still examining the cut. “It is not my cultural secret to share.”
The healer opened his mouth to disagree when Bethany jerked her head toward the door. For some reason the healer chose not to argue the point.
“I will send a salve for that cut,” he said as he opened the door.
Bethany could see her mother waiting impatiently in the gloomy corridor. The healer pulled the door shut forcefully, causing it to bounce open again. Bethany had been taught not to eavesdrop, but after a year of fighting to survive such niceties were beyond her.
“Well?” asked her mother.
There was a pause.
“Her body is covered with scars, most of them long healed. There is only one that will receive any benefit from my aid. She says she got it from a sword, and in my opinion she is not lying. Whatever happened to the princess out there, it was more than what you have told me.”