*Woman of Honor*
*A fantasy romance novel set in the medieval Kingdom of
Aislinn of Bairbhe dreams of becoming a lady knight to honor the death of
her fallen brother. To her mother's horror, King Patrick grants Aislinn's
wish and she begins her long years of training.
Despite the mockery of the other pages, and the disdain of Prince Caelan who
also trains to be a knight, Aislinn commits herself to her dreams and
embarks on a journey of self-discovery and bravery. Through the years,
Aislinn and Caelan grow from sparing classmates to good friends. They both
know that someday Caelan will marry for the sake of the kingdom, but even
that cannot keep them from falling in love.
The threat of war with the Speicans is a constant threat, and one that grows
more frightening as she and Caelan train toward their eventual knighthood.
Aislinn has committed herself to serving Arnhem, and has promised herself as
King's Champion when Caelan claims the throne. She is willing to give up
everything... her childhood, her life, even her heart for Arnhem. No matter
the pain it brings.
Aislinn hurried outside the castle. The walls loomed oppressive and
overbearing. She quickly strode around the courtyard, letting her long
steps eat up the earth. The scent of flowers reached her nose but she
couldn't process the sweet smells. She attempted to calm down but her
thoughts ran around at such a lightening quick speed that she couldn't
concentrate, couldn't think, couldn't breathe. Eventually, she forced
herself back inside the castle and returned to her room. Regardless of what
choice she decided, whether to redo the last two years of her life or not,
she would have to return at some point. *The whole situation is absurd! To
think that at ten years old, when I am at the same level as the other two
year pages, that I should be forced to be on the same level as the new
pages! Seven year olds! And to think that I was humiliated when I told
everyone I was eight.*
She opened her door, and stopped short. Her room wasn't empty. Prince
Caelan, heir to the throne, rose from the single chair in the room.
"Caelan," she managed to say through clenched teeth. She looked at him and
saw his father, saw her king, and relived her humiliation all over again in
"Aislinn, I'm sorry," he said, swiftly coming out of the seat. He took a
step toward her, one hand held out. "I fought for you, I told my father you
deserved a chance. You must know that."
*His words mean nothing to me. He means nothing to me!
She said nothing and stomped over to the bureau, yanking the drawers open.
She pulled her few possessions and clothing, holding them to her chest as
she slammed the drawers shut. Caelan stepped closer, hovering near her
shoulder, but he refrained from touching her and said nothing. Her hands
shook with rage and the clothes wrinkled. She took them to her narrow bed
and refolded them, her movements crisp and precise.
When she finished, she returned to the bureau and caught a glimpse
ofherself in the mirror. The reflection startled her. She wore an
face but her eyes contained so much hurt and pain that she barely recognized
Caelan spoke again, his voice rougher and deeper.
"I know you would do anything for my father. If he asked you to leave this
country and to spy on the Speicans, you would. You would lead a raid into
their country if he merely hinted at it. You would lay your life down for
him just because he is the leader of this country." Here, the prince
paused. "One day, I shall take his place and I shall be king. Yet I don't
know if you would follow me as willingly as you would my father."
"Why do you say that, your Highness?" she asked, the formal title more a
stinging retort than a sign of respect.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. His hand rested in the bend of her
arm, but she didn't turn to face him.
"I have done nothing but fight for you."
"Why?" Aislinn asked. She thought of the three W's, how the prince had
wanted to help her but she had been too proud to ask for it, how he had
helped anyhow. Even before that, warning her to learn how to swim. He
urged Geoffrey to be her mentor, even though Geoffrey denied that Caelan had
Caelan pulled on her arm enough to make her turn and she faced him, keeping
her hands clenched at her side. The prince grinned slowly, a reckless and
daring smile that spread to his eyes. Aislinn drew in a breath as sudden
heat spread over her. His whole face had lit up with his grin and his eyes
glowed, like two dark sapphires.
"Why doesn't matter," he eventually answered in a voice so low it barely
carried across the space between them and Aislinn realized the truth of his
words. It didn't matter.
But he was wrong to question her. Aislinn served the king because he was
king. One day, Caelan would be king, and she would serve him just as
fiercely and just as honorably.
"I would obey you like I would any king," she told him, finally finding
enough control to keep the edge from her voice. She swallowed. "I would
die to protect you."
"Good," Caelan said, his eyes still slightly wild as his grin widened a
small degree. "Then you know what you must do, Aislinn."
Aislinn stared up at him, her heart breaking. She clenched her fists
harder. "But I have to redo the last two years of my life all over again.
Everything up to this point had been for naught! For nothing!"
"You have two choices." His voice was calm, a sharp contrast to the anger
and frustration waging in Aislinn's chest. "Either do as my father says and
begin again. Or leave and the last two years will truly be for naught."
"No, there has to be another way." She shook her head sharply.
Caelan's hand slid from her elbow to wrap around her fist. Without
thinking, she unfurled her fingers and he held her hand in his. "Aislinn, I
can't persuade my father. He shall not bend."
"But he isn't being fair!"
"Fair or not, he is king."
Aislinn frowned. Protests welled in her throat but she refused to voice
them and slowly an idea formed.
"Perchance…" she started.
"Perchance?" Caelan prompted, taking a step closer to her.
Aislinn shook her head, refusing to say her thoughts. "I gave him my
services. I gave him my life for two years. Two years! I can't forgive
him for this."
He released her hand, taking a step back, his expression hardening. "You
must," he said, his tone now cold and distant.
Aislinn tightened her jaw and stared at the floor. He stepped back from her
and walked away. She didn't bother to look up when the door slammed as the
prince left the room.
She slowly whistled her breath out before quickly packing her belongings and
leaving the room without a backward glance.
Purchase at Desert Breeze
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[image: Photobucket] <http://www.NicoleZoltack.com
Woman of Honor, Desert Breeze
One Touch, One Glance, Freya’s
My blog <http://nicolezoltack.blogspot.com/
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