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PROLOGUE

"A deal's a deal, your Majesty". The man leant on his cane, his gaze never shifting from the dark haired woman standing opposite him. "If you don't fulfil the bargain, then I will be forced to go elsewhere for payment".

The woman's nostrils flared and her voice dropped in pitch. "You will leave my son out of this".

"Then I believe we have nothing more to discuss". The man extended his hand, a bright green apple sitting in the palm. The woman wordlessly took the apple, her face a mask of indifference.

The man turned to leave. "You have until midnight tomorrow, your Majesty". He limped off into the night.

The woman stood there rigidly upright, her hand slowly tightening around the apple. She watched unblinkingly as the man turned the corner and disappeared from view. It was only then that her shoulders slumped, and a harsh gasping breath escaped her.