Athera’s Dawn: Chapter 17

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Chapter Seventeen

A NEW LOVE

Anorra awoke in the same room as before. The rustling fire had died, leaving behind a bed of embers. Candles flickered in their iron mountings, each one a few fingers shorter than they had been earlier. The princess stretched and sat up, pushing off the warm pile of furs and blankets. The room was just as it had been, save that the table was cleared of food, and that she was alone.

The sleep had been sound, free of pain; she was happy for that. Anorra felt somehow that she had much to recover from. But what, exactly, she couldn’t remember. She’d been through something terrible…unspeakable. Yet it eluded her. Everything was just out of reach, like straining for a handful of mist, always visible, never tangible. Then the memories of her encounter with the man returned, filling her with unease. She knew him only as the Prince. But the emotions surrounding him, both awkward and somehow alluring, left her to feel that there was a great deal more to be known.

She stood and walked to the table, letting her fingers brush against the smooth board. The images of the sumptuous meal she had consumed filled her head. Her mouth watered. She was hungry again. Had she been asleep so long? But then another thought filled her head—one more intriguing than simple sleep or hunger. She gazed at the face looking back in the polished wood. It was if she had eaten at this table many times before. Perhaps many summers. She knew it—this space—like an old friend.

Anorra turned to look out the window. Then came a frightening realization: For all the beauty of this chamber, its furnishings, floorings, carvings, and candles, there were no windows. No portal into the outside world. It was in this moment she became afraid, aware that she knew not if it was day or night, dusk or dawn. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, or even, for that matter, how long she had been in this room. Had this bothered her before?

She searched her mind’s eye and then became frustrated. There were no memories outside of this room. None before and only a few within it. But yet it seemed as if she had a history here, a long, even nostalgic affair with this place. She walked over to the hearth where she and the Prince had reclined, where they had stared into the flames and he had spoken of a great invitation. To join him.

She was wanted. She was desired.

Her heart fluttered and her face grew warm. Anorra took a step, backing away from the furs on the floor. Why am I here? There was a scratching at the door in her mind. She spun around. She knew that something had brought her here, some great hardship. She squinted hard, forcing herself to remember. What was it? Her hands were massaging her temples. But perhaps she had indeed been here so long that the past was too far forgotten even to will it back.

“Let me help you,” he said.

Anorra screamed, and then spun around. It was the Prince. “How did you—”

But she had scarcely spoken when he began to laugh. Not a sarcastic, demeaning laugh. No. This was a genuine, playful laugh, one that a lover might bestow on his maiden, joyfully relishing their mutual folly. The sound of his voice was marvelous. She was terribly startled, yet she let out a sheepish chuckle; his only grew louder. Anorra felt her heart with her palm and recovered her breath. Soon she was laughing with him, her face and belly aching.

Between laughs he finally said, “I’m so sorry for startling you, my beauty.” He wiped tears from his eyes. “I didn’t mean to.”

“It’s fine,” she laughed. “It’s my fault, I was—I was just lost in thought, I guess.” His light manner put her at ease, as did his handsome face. “I can’t even remember what consumed me so.”

“Well, then, whatever plagues you, it is gone now.” And with that he cradled her cheek in his hand. It was as if everything that bothered her suddenly melted away. Now it was only he and she, alone in the bedchamber. “And you rested well?”

“Indeed,” she said, gazing up into his eyes. All she could focus on were his impressive eyes. So beautiful…

“Then I am pleased my dwelling suits you, for I would implore you to stay with me, Princess. Have you forgotten my offer?”

“Your offer?” It seemed so long ago. Was I not just asleep? Was he not here with me earlier this same day?

“To join me as my bride, that I might share with you my kingdom. Everything I own, it is yours.”

“Yes, I remember.” She was astounded by his words. There was something about him. So attractive. Though she felt completely out of place, exposed and vulnerable, she still maintained at least some of her wit. “But while I know at least of the charm and beauty of my future husband, I do not know of this kingdom which he speaks so highly of, as if he offers me some great prize. How would anyone rightly reply to such an offer?”

“Ah, you are right, my lovely,” he chided himself. “How nearsighted I am.” He eased closer to her now.

Something quickened in her bosom—she couldn’t help herself. Anorra felt something for him. He placed his strong hands on her shoulders and drew her ever close. He emanated power with every breath, and she found it captivating. She needed him.

“What would you like me to show you?”

Her body was pressed against him. She looked up into his face.

“Whatever you wish,” she replied. She could hardly believe her own words. But it was so much easier just to let go. To give in.

She found herself lost in his gaze, surrounded by his magnificence. Everything was happening so fast. Whatever life she had lived up until now was forgotten. “You are my future,” she whispered. Then she kissed him deeply.

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Read the blog? Like getting stuff for free? Consider a $0.99 donation to help me continue to create great content. Or if you want to read the book faster, try buying the print version.