Chapter 8.1

‘So what did you do today,’ Artem asked, as he got ready for bed that evening.  ‘From from what Ishak as told me you’ve really bonded.’

‘Yeah he’s a really great guy, I can see why you trust him so much.’  Rowena sat at the end of her bed, legs pulled up to her chest and her chin resting on the top of her knees as she watched Artem.

'So spill,’ he said.  ‘What is it you did?’

‘He taught me how to play chess.’  Artem looked around, away from the basin of water he was washing his face in, his eyebrows raised.  ‘What?  Is it so strange that I might want to learn something new?’

‘No, I just didn’t have you down as a chess person, I thought you would prefer something a little more… straightforward like cards or dice.’

‘I’ve played cards all my life,’ Rowena said.  ‘I think it’s time I added a new game to my repertoire.’ 

Artem laughed at that, splashing some more water on his face before drying it with the rough towel next to the basin.  ‘OK then, my turn.’  Rowena jumped up from the bed, slipping in front of Artem to use the basin.  ‘You know, for a man, you spend a lot of time primping and preening in front of the mirror.’

‘That’s not true,’ Artem replied defensively.  ‘Besides, how would you know?  You are a young lady of noble birth; I don’t think you’ve had much time to observe the habits of men.’

‘Well I must be wrong then,’ Rowena said, looking at Artem out of the corner of her eye.  ‘I only said it because I noticed you didn’t shave.’  It was true.  She could see the shadow beginning to form across his chin and along his jaw line.

‘Why?  Is it obvious?  Do you think I should have shaved?’  He went to the mirror and began examining his chin, trying to see what it looked like in the half-light of the room.

‘I actually quite like it.  It gives you a roguish look, a bit more like a real criminal.’

‘Well then it’s definitely going if you like it,’ he said in mock horror.  ‘Hang on, did you just say a ‘real criminal’?’  Rowena nodded.  ‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Nothing, it’s just you’re very polite and well spoken and you treat me with a lot of respect, which I’m grateful for, but it’s not really what the real hard-core bad guys would do.’

‘And how would you know that?’  Artem’s voice was hard now, almost angry.  Rowena’s innocent joke had turned into an insult.

‘I’m sorry Artem; I didn’t mean it like that.  I was just-‘

‘Just what?  Making a judgment before you knew everything?  But what more could I expect from someone like you?’

‘Someone like me?’  Rowena almost shrieked.  ‘What are you suggesting your majesty?’

‘I know your people.  You think because you have money and power and titles that you are better than the rest of us.  You think you know best and can treat people any way you want to.  Well I’m sorry my lady but you are very wrong.’

‘Well if I’m so ignorant about people like you, then what gives you the right to judge people like me?  Had you even met someone who was a member of the nobility before you met me?  I’ll take your silence as a no then shall I?’  The room was crackling with tension as the pair stared at each other, seething with anger.  ‘You know what, maybe I was completely wrong about you.  I thought you were a nice guy, a bit rough around the edges but then who isn’t?  I thought you were beginning to genuinely care about me.  I thought I was your friend.  But I was wrong.  I’m obviously just another of your money making schemes to get you more prestige and help you have a better chance of retaining your crown.  But you know what?  I’m not going to play along anymore.’  She sat down on the end of her bed, legs and arms crossed and a sour look on her beautiful face.  ‘I’m not moving until you apologize.’

‘Well you’re going to have a long and lonely wait because in three days, we’re moving on, whether you want to come with us or not.’

‘You know what, I’m getting bored of you and I hope you leave without me.’

‘I’m afraid you don’t have much say in that.  You’re our prisnor and are coming with us even if we have to drag you by the hair, kicking and screaming.  And it’s not like you’d be able to make it back home on your own.’  He snorted.  ‘You would still be wandering alone and hungry in the woods if it hadn’t been for me, Lukas and the rest of my men.  You know what, I need some air.’  He grabbed his jacket from his bed by the door and headed outside.

‘Well I hope you don’t come back,’ Rowena yelled after him as the door slammed shut.  She let out a shriek of frustration and hurled her pillow at the door.  It hit it with a dull thud and fell to the floor, looking rather sad and abandoned as Rowena began to pace up and down the room.

‘How dare he say that,’ she said to herself, kicking the end of Artem’s bed as she strode past it.  ‘’We’re moving on whether you like it or not’,’ she said imitating Artem’s voice quite accurately, ‘give me a break!  Where would he get his money from if he left me behind?’

She continued to pace for a good fifteen minutes before deciding to calm down and get herself ready for bed.  Within half an hour she was in bed and asleep so she didn’t hear Artem return.

The End

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