The Emerald Thief
« Chapter 1 »
Princess Shamone ran as if the devil himself was after her. Her heart pounded like a tribal drum in her chest. She could feel the cold air constricting her throat as she sucked in the oxygen needed to pick up her pace. With heavy breaths, she ran down into the City of Greytor.
Shamone had been sensible enough to wear the disguise that her former tutor, Mageena, had made her. However, that did not stop Sabian, a nineteen-year-old junior aide of her father’s, from becoming suspicious when she turned a corner and all but bounced off his chest.
Grabbing Shamone, Sabian steady her stance.
Breaking free, Shamone ran across the bustling city street. One quick glance over her shoulder warned her that Sabian was following.
Desperate to get back home to Greytor Castle before he discovered her missing, Shamone raced toward the livery stables. Swinging up into her saddle, she cursed her misfortune as she burst through the stable doors.
Shamone all but ran Sabian down as he tried to stop her. Angry he ordered, “Halt!”
Shamone had no intention of stopping and veering left, she headed out of the city via one of its four gateways. The road leading from the east gate wended its way through a large forest. If she continued along it, the road curved southwest and back to her castle. Shamone could have taken a shorter route through the south gate but that would have made Sabian even more suspicious because the south gate led straight to Greytor Castle. It was a gamble, but she had to make Sabian think she was heading away from the city.
Sabian’s dark eyes narrowed as the rider vanished from sight. Cursing, he called for his guards to mount up. Something was familiar about the girl fleeing the city. He could not be sure, but something triggered alarm bells in his mind.
“We’re leaving, now!” Sabian shouted at his guards.
Sabian was no fool; he knew that at the drop of a hat Shamone would leave the castle without permission. She did it all the time; but proving it was more difficult than he expected. He could not swear the girl he had bumped into was Shamone but he was about to find out. If he took the shorter route home, he could reach her private quarters before she did.
Shamone streamlined herself against the back of Ilengor’s horse as she urged him into a full gallop as her hooded cloak billowed behind her like a raptor’s wings. Sweat beaded on her brow as she raced up the dirt track toward Ilengor and Mageena’s cottage. She had to return the horse before Sabian, her father’s junior aide, caught her outside the castle grounds without an escort of guards.
Skidding around the back of Ilengor’s cottage, Shamone dropped out of her saddle and led the horse into Ilengor’s stable. Spinning on her heels, she took flight down the narrow road and back home.
Shamone’s lungs were now straining as her feet kicked up dust on the road. If Sabian suspected anything, he would race straight back to the castle to catch her red-handed.
Cutting through the trees, Shamone crossed the junction where two roads leading to her castle intersected. Shamone cursed when she saw Sabian and his entourage of guards galloping up the hill toward the castle gates. With a surge of energy, she ran into the forest on the other side of the road.
Hurrying, Shamone ran around the castles high perimeter walls until she reached a large shrub hiding a secret way into the walled gardens. Pressing a stone on the outer wall, she urged the secret passage to open. When it did, she entered the tunnel and closed the secret door. Opening the door that led into the walled gardens, Shamone stepped out behind yet another shrub, closed the doorway and ran across the gardens until she reached one of the four large towers. Gaining access into yet another secret passage, Shamone ran up the spiralling staircase to the second floor. Moving the tapestry in the stairwell, she exited the tower.
Dropping out of his saddle, Sabian ran into the main entrance hall. Wasting no time, he headed for a flight of stone steps leading up to the second floor of the castle.
Skidding down the corridor, Shamone slammed open her door and entered her private quarters. Without even shutting the door, she disrobed out of her disguise and changed back into her normal clothes.
Flinging her disguise under her bed, Shamone threw herself into a chair by her fireplace. All she could hear was her harsh breaths echoing around the room. Calming them fear Sabian would know she had been running. Grabbing a book off a side table she raised it to hide her flushed cheeks.
Seconds later, Shamone heard Sabian’s hurried footsteps halting in her doorway. Cursing, she waited for him to speak.
Shamone’s door should have been locked and suspicious, Sabian quizzed, “Why is your door open Your Highness?”
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed,” Shamone said while peering over the top of her book.
Sabian gave her a knowing look. “You know the rules, you are not to leave your room until you have apologised to Ilion and Herla.”
Disappearing behind her book again, Shamone stuck her tongue out. “Well seeing as I am in my room there is no reason for concern, is there?”
She should have known better than to goad him but her mouth had a habit of spitting out witty retorts when it should have stayed silent and shut.
Entering her quarters, Sabian grabbed Shamone’s book. Turning it around, he remarked, “You might find it easier to read if your book is the right way around Your Highness.”
Shamone glared at Sabian’s sharp observation. Much to her consternation, even she had to admit that he was a worthy adversary. It was small wonder that her father employed him as the castle spy.
Leaving, Sabian closed Shamone’s door. He was convinced it was Shamone he had bumped into in the city. Strange how the guards at the castle gates all confirmed that no one had entered the courtyard since Sabian had left the castle earlier that morning.
Perplexed, he went about his duties.
In the past few months, Shamone, daughter to Prince Tylox and Princess Opia, realised that life outside her castle walls was more interesting than daily life within them. Her everyday life comprised of boring days spent meeting her parent’s guests and studying in the library with her new tutors, Herla and Ilion whom, it had to be said, she disliked with a vengeance, because her parents had hired them to replace her former guardian and tutor Mageena.
Shamone’s true desire was to experience life beyond the confines of her castle, but as a sixteen-year-old princess, she could not venture beyond the safe boundaries of her castle grounds. Her parents maintained that the kingdom of Hyperion of which they ruled, harboured all manner of criminals, all of which were eager to kidnap, rob or harm anyone who crossed their paths. For this reason Shamone could not travel outside the castle unless escorted by guards or a chaperone.
Shamone knew that if she travelled with guards, she would never get to experience life in the real world. How, she had mused, was she ever to grow or understand the people of her kingdom if she never walked amongst them? It was simple; she would learn the skills of a warrior so she could defend herself should the need arise.
It had taken Shamone many hours of cajoling to convince Ilengor, a former retired high-ranking soldier in her father’s army, and husband to Mageena, into teaching her Shenshu, the art of two swords.
To help Shamone explore her kingdom without being recognised, Mageena had created her a disguise, one she could wear when she was out of the castle. The disguise comprised of a pair of dark burgundy trousers, matching tunic and a hooded cloak to hide her face should she need to. It was the only way to walk amongst the people of her kingdom and so far, her disguise had proved very effective.
Shamone, it had to be said, was still harbouring resentment toward Sabian her father’s junior aide who, behind her back had conspired to have Mageena retired as her personal tutor. Truth was, revenge for his unscrupulous deed burned in her chest like a raging fire. Because of Sabian, she now found herself confined to her quarters. He had caught her visiting Mageena and Ilengor’s cottage without permission before. Determined to stamp out this behaviour Prince Tylox ordered Sabian to keep a close eye on his daughter.
It was common knowledge that Sabian and Shamone had a mutual dislike of each other. Shamone was open about it while Sabian chose a more underhanded approach at retaliating to Shamone’s defiance.
To annoy Sabian, Shamone would often go missing whenever he needed to speak with her. Her father hated bad timekeeping and if Sabian did not escort her to the council chambers when ordered, he would often receive a tongue-lashing from her parents.
Shamone’s antics did nothing to win Sabian’s favour, and he was always suspicious of her motives. He would stop at nothing to prove to her parents she was disrespecting them by flouting their rules. So the battle lines were drawn when Sabian, only three years her senior, had replaced her old tutor and dear friend with Herla and Ilion. If he wanted to play games, then Shamone was up for the challenge.
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