The Princess and The Promise
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by Elise Dee Beraru
Description: A warrior princess seeks her promised love in a stranger pledged to single life. The stranger would love her if he could, but can he gain his love without losing his honor?
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books/Awe-Struck E-Books, Inc., 2007 2008
eBookwise Release Date: January 2008
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [490 KB]
Reading time: 318-446 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"Elise Dee Beraru has certainly set the perfect stage for a series in The Princess and The Promise--a fantasy novel based on the lives of Darius and Roxana. This rich tale set in another time and another place mystifies readers enough to the read the book from cover to cover."--Aya29, Euro-Reviews, 5 GOLD RINGS
A Pilgrim Train on the Ancient Road, Kingdom of Hebrun, Summer 4760, Year of the Goddess:
He awoke to the sound of screaming. He rushed to the edge of the copse to see horsemen with hooded faces in rough clothing chasing after the pilgrims. He could see their broadswords and clubs as they attacked the unarmed men and dragged off the wives of the lay pilgrims. To his horror he could hear the women scream as they were savagely raped. There was blood everywhere.
It was his nightmare come to life. Instinctively he reached across his body to his left hip for his sword, but he had none. He hadn't worn a sword in over ten years.
Quickly, he glanced around the copse and found a large fallen branch. Brandishing it, he ran out into the fray, just as one of the hooded men slit the throat of poor, dying Votee Johanis.
He roared in anger as he swung his makeshift club at the horseman, knocking the sword from his hand. It clattered to the earth as the brigand yanked the branch out of his hand. But as he reached down to grab the fallen weapon, the horseman took the branch and clubbed his adversary over the head. There were stars and then everything went black as he fell and rolled away, ending up on his back.
He was just regaining consciousness when he became aware of new sounds. He could hear the brigands laughing as they pawed through the pilgrims' possessions. He could hear those who were left alive and wounded gasping for breath.
Then he heard it. A loud, piercing cry like the shrieks of predatory birds, followed by the rumble of horses.
Through slitted eyes he saw a troop of horsemen galloping in behind two battleflags, swords drawn and ready. Through the dust raised he could see the soldiers chasing down the brigands and killing them where they were caught. They wore helmets of steel and leather covering their crowns and noses, leather and metal cuirasses and knee-length hip protectors made of leather slashed up to wide girdles and tipped at the bottom of each pointed slash with metal coverings.
And yet, the sounds he heard seemed too high-pitched to be those of men.
It was a nightmare gone absurd. He'd dreamed of bloody battles and he'd dreamed of women. Now he was dreaming of bloody battles involving women. He closed his eyes and said a final prayer to his Goddess thanking her for letting him die before he completely lost his sanity.
He realized he was not dying, but if he lay quietly and unmoving, maybe he could pretend he was dead and when these terrifying avengers rode off, he could get up and run away. He could steal clothing from one of the dead men, either the lay pilgrims or the brigands. He could travel south until he came to a village of some sort. He could find work of any sort and let his hair grow out. If he kept to himself, he would be free. Maybe never free to marry and have a family, but free from starvation and humbling punishment and filthy clothes. And possibly, some day, he could find work as a scribe or teacher where he could use his skills as a calligrapher and illuminator again. Or he could work on reacquiring his skills with sword and horse and become part of a village watch... * * * *
Crown Princess Roxana of Hebrun, her brother, Prince Pavlek and the remainder of the Rose and Hart battalions pulled their horses up back at the scene of the massacre. Before everyone dismounted, she raised her crossed fingers above her head for everyone to see and echo. This was the signal that no names or titles of nobility were to be used, only their military ranks, until it was safe to do otherwise.
"Fan out," she called out in a husky, no-nonsense voice. "Look for survivors. Surgeons, make ready. The Rose Battalion will collect any corpses and bring them to the far side of the road. The Hart Battalion will gather firewood for a pyre."
The well-trained warriors immediately went into action. The two battalion surgeons circulated, trying to identify wounded survivors. * * * *
He lay very still, doing his best to disguise his breathing and ignore the pain in his head from the blow he had received. Then he detected the presence of someone standing beside him and the strange, unmistakable scent of roses.
He felt the figure crouch beside him and place a gentle hand on the pulse point on his neck. He was caught! His eyes popped open. Staring at him behind a helmet which obscured the crown of the head and nose was a leather and metal-armor-clad warrior. The warrior had dark, intense brown eyes that burned with concern and a long braid of black hair that had fallen forward over one shoulder to reveal a ribbon of golden blond hair woven through the plait. The metal plates on the cuirass were engraved with vines of roses. At the soldier's right hip was sheathed a long broadsword with a practical, plain hilt. Its position indicated a left-handed swordsman. This warrior must be very young since he could not detect any evidence of a beard on the dirt and blood-spattered lower half of the face.
"Please," he whispered, "for Goddess sake, sir, tell them I'm dead."