The Princess Exile – Book 1

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Sample Chapter

Princess Eleanor grew up in the Royal Court, wanting for nothing. But when her father and brother are killed by a rebellious Baron, she is forced to flee to save her life in the company of Sir Grant, one of her father’s knights. But as Grant starts preparing her to retake the throne, she discovers that his best teaching tool is a firm hand.

Sample Chapter

“It looks good on you, Your Highness.”

The maid flinched as Princess Eleanor glowered at her.? The dress did look good on her, she had to concede; the green colour set off her long blonde hair nicely.? And it was tight in all the right places, hinting at her charms without being too revealing in the unfortunate fashion favoured by some older women at court.? It would definitely attract a brace of suitors from the kingdom’s nobility.

“I don’t care about the dress, Tizzy,” Eleanor snarled.? “I care about Harold.”

Tizzy looked nervous, but only for a second.? “Your brother will return victorious, Your Highness,” she said reassuringly.? “And you will have to look good at the ball.”

Eleanor shook her head.? Baron Diarchal wanted the throne, the kingdom and Eleanor herself, perhaps not in that order.? She couldn’t help feeling nervous about the rebel, even though her father ? King Richard ? had far more soldiers than his enemy.? Surely, Baron Diarchal wouldn’t have started his uprising if he’d known he was going to lose.? It just didn’t make sense.

But no one had asked for her opinion.? She was the king’s daughter, the younger of his two children.? Her fate was to be married off to a suitable man, someone who wouldn’t threaten Prince Harold’s throne when he succeeded their father.? At nineteen years old, Eleanor knew the world wouldn’t get any better for her.? She certainly wouldn’t be able to choose her own husband.

Angrily, she shrugged off the dress and ? ignoring the maid’s startled gasp ? and stood naked in front of the mirror, inspecting herself critically.? Her body was slight, as fashion dictated; her breasts were small, but firm.? Her long legs were perfect, in her considered opinion; her skin was pale, but clean.? Everyone called her the most beautiful girl in the kingdom from aristocracy to servants, and they were telling the truth.

And yet… she would never be anything more than an ornament for some nobleman to dangle on his arm.? She would never sit on the throne, nor would she even be allowed to be her own person.? They all expected a beautiful and docile royal princess.? It was the only image she was allowed to present to the world.

“Your Highness,” Tizzy said, in some alarm, “this is positively indecent.”

Eleanor had to fight down the urge to snap at the older woman.? Tizzy wasn’t even her choice for a maid; her mother had selected Tizzy and absolutely forbidden Eleanor to dismiss her for anything short of outright treachery.? Eleanor was grimly aware that the wretched servant would report each and every word she said to her mother, as well as try to prevent her from leaving the castle and hunting in the grounds.? After all, a royal princess couldn’t be exposed to the great outdoors.? It might cause her beauty to wilt.

Only her brother seemed to see her as a real person.

“I don’t care,” Eleanor snapped.? “Fetch me something more sensible to wear.”

Tizzy hesitated, and then walked over to the giant wardrobe.? They’d quarrelled often over what she could wear when she wasn’t actually in court, if only because the dresses Queen Ellen had worn took two people to put on or take off.? In the end, Eleanor had convinced the maid to allow her to wear lighter dresses most of the time.? They might not have been studded with jewels or decorated with golden lace, but at least they were reasonably comfortable.

Eleanor glared at the maid’s back, then looked up as she heard the sounds of hoof beats echoing up from the courtyard.? Alarmed, she walked over to the window and peered out, just in time to see a horseman galloping over the drawbridge and into the castle.? Eleanor knew horses well enough to know that this one had been pushed to the limits, as had its rider.? The knight nearly fell of and leaned against the creature before standing upright to begin walking towards the castle. Riders like this one rarely bore good news.

Turning away from the window, she took the dress Tizzy offered her and pulled it over her head in one smooth motion.? It was heavier than the dresses the serving girls wore ? she had always envied their dresses, even though she would not have cared to trade lives? but it concealed everything of importance.? She ran her hands through her hair, making sure it looked reasonably neat, then started for the door.

“Your Highness!”? Tizzy sputtered.? “Where are you going?”

“To hear the news,” Eleanor said.

She concealed a smile as she walked through the door and started down the corridor.? Tizzy might nag her from dawn to dusk, but she didn’t have any power to actually discipline her charge.? She could thrash the maids until their bottoms were bleeding, yet she couldn’t lay a finger on Eleanor herself.? The worst she could do was inform Queen Ellen of her daughter’s actions, which would result in yet another boring lecture on the right and proper way for a princess to behave.? It was, Eleanor had to admit, a fairly effective deterrent.?

Tizzy followed, spluttering angrily.? Eleanor walked down the stairs, then into the rear of the Throne Room.? Tizzy stopped at the door, her pathway barred by a man in armour.? Only people of royal blood were allowed to enter the Throne Room from the rear.? Tizzy would have to wait outside or walk around the castle and enter through the front door, which would mean explaining herself to Eleanor’s parents.? Eleanor felt a moment of cold amusement at the woman’s plight.? But then, Tizzy deserved it.? She had ensured that Eleanor had never been able to make friends with the maids and serving girls her own age. She’d had a friend once, when she was twelve years old.? And Tizzy hadn’t taken long to realise that while she couldn’t touch Eleanor, she could touch her friend.? She’d beaten the poor girl black and blue to make Eleanor obey, before the girl had left the castle.? One day, Eleanor vowed, Harold would be King.? And, on that day, Tizzy would get the comeuppance she deserved.

She paused on the other side of the curtain and listened, carefully.? Someone was addressing her father.

* * * * *

Sir Grant knew he was sweaty and smelly and generally disgusting.? It wasn’t too surprising.? He’d galloped nearly fifty miles on his horse, pushing the poor beast mercilessly even though there was no risk of pursuit.? But the King had to know what had happened, had to know that disaster threatened his entire kingdom.? What was looking unkempt and smelling foul compared to the sheer urgency of his news?

He staggered into the Throne Room and tried to kneel in front of King Richard.? The King gave him a long glance, then nodded and waved him to his feet.? Grant somehow managed to stand upright, wondering if the King would allow him a rest before having his head chopped off.? Monarchs often responded harshly to bad news. He hoped King Richard would show mercy. He had been a genuinely good king; he’d certainly protected the poor and weak against the aristocracy.? But, in the end, it might have spelled his doom.

“Your Majesty,” he said, when he trusted himself to speak.? “We have been defeated in a great battle.”

The King’s face betrayed his shock, very briefly.? And then it was an expressionless mask again.? Beside him, his Queen gasped in disbelief, understanding ? far quicker than her husband ? that their son might be dead.

“Explain,” the King ordered, finally.

Grant ran through the entire story.? It should have been an easy victory; Prince Harold had commanded nearly five thousand men, almost the entire army.? The Baron had a thousand, at best.? But the Baron had deployed new weapons and lured the Prince into a trap, shattering the army and slaughtering most of its men.? The Prince himself had been killed leading a desperate attempt to break out of the trap.?

The King’s face paled.? His son was dead.? His army was gone.? And the Baron was marching to lay claim to the Kingdom.

Queen Ellen seem to sway for a moment, as if tempted to give into grief before steeling herself for what had to be done. She muttered in her husband’s ear.? She was definitely smart, Grant knew; the King might hold the authority, but it was a genuine partnership.? And she understood people far better than the King; she understood that none of the other aristocrats would come to the aid of their monarch, no matter what oaths they’d sworn.? Baron Diarchal could cow them easily, now he’d crushed the King’s army.? They’d probably start swearing loyalty to him, soon enough.?

There was a gasp from behind the curtain, hanging behind the Throne.? Grant watched in some amusement as Queen Ellen stood up and strode behind the curtain, then returned, dragging a young girl behind her.? Grant hastily knelt again to the Princess, despite his exhaustion.? Most of the rumours he’d heard of her conduct had not been good.? And her spying on her father’s meeting had obviously invoked her mother’s ire.

“Father,” the Princess said.? “Harold…”

She looked from him to Grant, as if she expected one of them to deny the truth.? But neither of them said a word.

Queen Ellen looked at Grant, coldly.? “How long do we have?”

“A day, at most,” Grant said.? Baron Diarchal wouldn’t give the King time to organise a defence, let alone call additional men to his banner.? By now, his scouts would probably be watching the castle from a safe distance.? “Moving so many men along the roads will be easy, once he works out the logistics.”

“And he can pillage the towns and villages as he passes,” the King said, dispassionately.

Grant shuddered, remembering his own origins.? The Baron’s army would pass across the land like a horde of locusts, taking whatever they wanted.? Peasants who barely had enough to eat would find themselves starving, if they survived meeting the Baron’s army.? The Baron would take advantage of the opportunity to allow his men some looting and raping, once he had won the war.? King Richard’s grandfather had banished war from the kingdom.? Now, Baron Diarchal had brought it and its attendant horrors back.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Grant said.

The King looked down at his hands for a long moment, then over at his daughter.? “He can’t be allowed to find Eleanor here,” he said.? “If he marries her, his claim to the throne will be solidified.”

“I won’t marry him,” the Princess snapped.? “I’d sooner enter a nunnery.”

“You won’t be offered a choice,” the Queen said.? There was a bitter note in her voice.? Like all parents, she had strived to protect her daughter from the horrors of the world.? Unlike most parents, she’d had the resources to wrap her daughter in protection.? But the horrors of the world had come calling anyway.? “He will force a priest to perform the ceremony, then take you into his bed.”

And rape you, Grant finished.? He shuddered at the thought.? The Princess would be stripped naked, then beaten into submission.? There were too many stories of how the Baron treated young women for him to feel optimistic about how the Princess would be treated, should she fall into his hands.? He would beat her, and then force his way into her.? And any children they had would bind the two houses together, no matter that they were the product of a rape.

“And you are now the Heir,” the King added.? “He must kill you, at the very least.”

He looked over at Grant.? “Sir Grant?”

“Your Majesty,” Grant replied.

“You swore oaths of loyalty to me,” the King said.? “Will you switch them, with my blessing, to my daughter?”

Grant blinked in surprise.? Oaths were serious; he’d sworn loyalty and obedience the day he’d become a squire and again the day he’d been knighted.? But they were always deeply personal. ?Switching an oath from one person to another was unusual.? If Harold had succeeded the Throne, he would have assumed the oaths sworn to his father.? There would have been no need to swear again.

“With your blessing, I would,” Grant said.

The King nodded. ?“Then these are my final commands to you,” he added.? “You will take my daughter somewhere safe, somewhere the Baron will not find her.? She will inherit the oaths you have sworn to me.? You will protect her, train her and prepare her to retake the Throne and save the kingdom.? The Baron cannot be allowed to claim her or secure his grip on the Kingdom.”

The Princess gasped.? “Father…”

“I will, Your Majesty,” Grant said.? “If that is your wish, I will do it.”

“Go wash, then prepare yourself for departure,” the King ordered.? “I will prepare my daughter.”

Grant bowed, then exited the chamber.

* * * * *

Eleanor was in shock.? Too much had happened, too quickly.? Harold was dead, her father’s kingdom was in danger and she was being sent away with a filthy knight who had fled the battlefield. Was he a coward, a traitor or simply an opportunist?? She couldn’t leave the castle now!

“I know this will not be easy for you,” her father told her. “But you have to be strong, daughter.? You are my heir now, the person who will sit on the throne when I am gone.? You remember the oaths you swore, don’t you?” Eleanor shivered.? She’d sworn her oaths to the kingdom itself, once she had started to bleed each month.? They had been strange and terrible oaths, binding her life and fertility to the land itself.? She might be its Princess ? she might be its ruler, one day ? but she was also responsible to the land.? It was her duty to step up and take her brother’s place.

“Yes, father,” she said, numbly.

“We cannot go with you,” the king said.? “We would attract too much attention. But a young girl traveling with a male guardian will not attract undue attention.? Sir Grant will get you to somewhere safe, somewhere where you can train and prepare.? You can weep for us there, if you wish.”

Eleanor looked past him, at her mother.? It was easy to see the resemblance between them, although her mother carried the marks of age and childbirth.? But now, her mother’s grief was tinged by steely remorse and determination.? She had always accepted her duties to the kingdom.? There would be time to mourn her lost son later.

Her father barked orders.? Moments later, one of the guards escorted Tizzy into the room and pushed her in front of the Throne.? Eleanor barely heard him issuing orders to have Eleanor dressed as a middle-class tradesman’s daughter, then prepared for immediate departure.? The maid half-pulled her out of the room and back to her quarters, then ordered Eleanor to undress as she headed out the door again.? Moments later, she returned with a handful of trousers and shirts that looked plainer than anything Eleanor had ever worn.

“Try these,” she ordered.? “Make sure you wear your silken undergarments underneath.” She quickly learned why the maid advised her to keep them on. The woollen trousers were scratchy and uncomfortable against her bare skin, she discovered as soon as she pulled the first pair on.? And they clung oddly to her body…

“That I should see the day a Princess dresses like a harlot,” Tizzy said, when they were done.?

Eleanor inspected herself in the mirror.? The shirt, at least, was loose enough not to show off too much, but the trousers clung too tightly to her body for decency.? She’d tied her long blonde hair into a bun, then hidden it under a cap.? Whatever she looked like, she told herself, it was nothing like a royal princess.

“I packed your jewels,” Tizzy said, passing her a small bag.? “And some money.? The Baron will no doubt start putting his own head on coins soon enough, but they’re still gold.? Just be careful where you spend them, Your Highness.? One of them is more money than the average commoner will see in a lifetime.”

Eleanor blinked.? When had Tizzy, of all people, become so capable?

A messenger knocked on the door.? Tizzy opened it.

“Your Highness,” he said, “they’re ready for you.”

“You’d better go,” Tizzy said, closing the door.? “And good luck.”

“Thank you,” Eleanor said.? She felt odd; part of her felt numb, part of her understood that she would never see Tizzy again. She didn’t want to leave without settling old scores.

?“Do you remember Gayle?” she asked the maid.

Tizzy shook her head.? “No,” she said, having forgotten ruining Eleanor’s childhood friendship. “I…”

Eleanor lunged forward before she quite realised what she was doing and slapped Tizzy hard across the face.? Harold had taught her some tricks, even if he’d doubted the wisdom of teaching his sister anything unfeminine.? Tizzy staggered backwards and fell, hitting the ground hard enough to shake the floor.? Eleanor stepped forward, one hand raised to slap the older woman again, then stopped herself.? It wouldn’t bring Gayle back to the castle.

“You beat her halfway to death,” Eleanor hissed.? “And now I have beaten you.”

She met Tizzy’s eyes.? “Stay here,” she growled.? She was damned if she was letting the woman get between her and her parents when she had to say goodbye.? “I never want to see you again.”

With that, she turned and walked out of the room.

2 reviews for The Princess Exile – Book 1

  1. Denise (verified owner)

    When I bought this I\’m not sure i knew it was book 1. The story is well written, it draws you in and makes you want to read more. You like the characters and want them to succeed in their plans. It is left with her training just getting started and they now have to find someplace else to go. Not happy about that, but you also know they love each other. Will have to wait for the next book to discover what happens to them. The title doesn\’t sound promising.

  2. Denise (verified owner)

    When I bought this I’m not sure i knew it was book 1. The story is well written, it draws you in and makes you want to read more. You like the characters and want them to succeed in their plans. It is left with her training just getting started and they now have to find someplace else to go. Not happy about that, but you also know they love each other. Will have to wait for the next book to discover what happens to them. The title doesn’t sound promising.

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