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Chapter 1

When love is true, what can hold the lovers apart? Anything is better than to be held apart, and hate is but a feeling caused by ignorance or the other. Besides, what better way can one battle tainted hate than with pure love?

I live in the Kingdom of Argratent, sworn enemies of Depermar. Yet, when I met my enemy, wounded and dying on the border, what less could I have done than to take him to a healer? His wounds were deep and terrible, and though I should have hated him, I could not let him die. His lips, though caked in blood, were full on the bottom and slightly less so on the top. His hair was caked with mud, but under the filth I could see that it was auburn with streaks of gold. His eyes, when they fluttered open to face a new terror, were dark, deep brown.

He looked up at me, lying on the healers table, four days after I had saved him, and he looked terrified. He was confused as well, for he did not seem to be able to grasp that his life had been preserved by the people he had thought to be evil.

After he had come around more, he began to suspect that we had save him only to hold him as a hostage, and he began to threaten us. We were forced to strap him down and knock him out, lest he hurt himself or those around him.

In slumber, he looks so much more kind and I almost forget that his is supposed to be my enemy. His skin is golden in color, and his muscles finely toned. The skin beside his eyes is crinkled from smiling, but also slightly strained from concentration.

When he wakes next, he seems to be calmer. He looks around in silence, his lips slightly turned down, but he does not speak. When his eyes land on me, he freezes, and I see his jaw muscle go slack. Then he speaks, in a smooth, soft voice.

"Did you save me, or capture me?"

I smile sadly at him, tucking a strand of my golden hair back behind my ear.

"I saved you, but I'm afraid you can't leave yet." He nods slightly at my words.

"I suspected as much. Who are you?"

"My name is Saraphine." I reply quietly, not giving him as much as I suspect he wants.

"I'm Matthew," he states plainly. "Why did you save me?"

I pretend to ponder this for a moment, not wanting to admit that I couldn't stand the fighting all the time at the border.

"Well..." I started, my voice trailing at the end. "I don't really like all the fighting... and when I find someone on the border that's not dead, I can't just leave them to die. Some might call it treason, but..."

"Some may call it compassion." He speaks so softly that I can hardly hear him, but I pretend I didn't, because I guess it wasn't for me to hear.

"Anyway, as soon as I know that you won't betray me, or, well you won't just fall over as soon as you stand, I'll let you go. My father never has to know."

"Wait, who's your father?" Matthew's voice goes up a pitch, and I can tell he's panicked.

"Shhh! My father is Lord Gretum, but he won't learn of you as long as you don't do anything stupid. Well, as long as you don't do anything stupid, again."

Matthew's deep brown eyes are wide with fear and astonishment. He opens and closes his mouth several times, but no sound escapes. Finally, he seems to come back to his senses and he takes a deep breath.

"Um, so you're the daughter of Lord Gretum, yet you save his enemies right under his nose?"

"Well, not exactly. We are not in the city. This is my escape house. Lady Marley lives here, and we get along well. She hates the hostility between the kingdoms too, and she is an exceptional healer. My father doesn't know I come here, but he doesn't seem to care where I go, as long as his reputation stays untainted." I realize that a bitter edge has crept into my voice, and I feel heat rush up to my cheeks as I see Matthew staring at me in surprise.

"You do realize I can't release you now that you have wrung that much out of me, right?" I sigh. Matthew shrugs with a soft, half-hearted laugh.

"Oh, well. I was just dying to return to my little shack at the edge of town, where I get fed once a week and get new clothes once a year for my indentured work as a part-time cobbler and part-time soldier." He sighs dramatically. "Oh, woe is I!"

I frown and watch as his slightly surprised, slightly fearful expression changes to one of bitterness as he speaks, and when he finishes, he gives a dramatic head swing. As the rest of him is bound, that seems to be all he can manage. He turns back to me with a forced smile.

"So, now that I'm stuck here, may I ask what you plan to do when Depermar accuse Argratent of stealing one of their slaves? I mean, if they even bother."

I chew my lip for a moment, gaze at him for a second before looking away at the wall.

"Well, I doubt they would do that, because it would be admitting that they couldn't even control their own slaves if one was that close to the border, but if they do, I will tell my father that their missing slave must have become lost, and that it is not worth fighting over. To obvious?"

"I don't think so." I look back at him, and I see amusement in his eyes.

Suddenly, there was a creaking sound behind us. I spun around to see the door swinging open and a short, beautiful woman walk in, her hair shockingly white and her eyes bluish-green. She smiled at us when she saw Matthew awake.

"I see that our charge has finally awoken and not tried to attract the attention of the entire kingdom!" She croaked softly, her ancient voice a contrasting sound to her young-looking face. She smiled wider at Matthew's wide-eyed expression. "Didn't expect company? Ah, well neither did I, but young Saraphine here dragged you in about five days ago, with you looking all battered and bloody. We fixed you up though. You're almost as good as new!" She frowned slightly at that. "Unfortunately, though, after you're good and healed, we'll have to keep you here."

"I heard form her," Matthew nods to me, "that that might happen. No worries though. I doubt I'll be missed. I defiantly won't be doing any missing, that is, as long as you two are really as decent as you seem!"

Marley smiles brightly again. "Well, you might have to help a little, but that will hardly be a problem, will it? Anyway, you're welcome to do as you please once you can get back on your feet." She looks at me, motioning to the spade in her hand. "I'll be back in about an hour. Do have dinner started when I get back, even if you have to carry the boy out to the kitchen tied to a chair."

I sighed, nodding in consent. I didn't want to transfer him out of the bed yet, but I know I have to watch him. Marley smiles once more at Matthew before she ducks out, and I watch her until the door swings shut and blocks my view.

"So, uh, are you going to tie me to a chair now?" Matthew asks, sounding slightly apprehensive. I look at him and smile coyly.

"Yes. You are still a stranger, technically. I may be trusting, but I'm not stupid. You could still try to pull something." Matthew makes a face that looks like someone trying to hide a laugh.

"I didn't call you stupid, I just was wonder how you think you could handle me if I decided to fight." He laughs like the concept is not serious, but I frown at him.

"i've got ways." I muttered, slipping the syringe I had under my sleeve, but keeping it out of sight. I began to untie him, and Matthew didn't move. He stared at the ceiling, apparently trying to show that he wasn't going to try anything on me, and before I pulled off the last strap I pulled over a chair that sat beside the bed. Matthew didn't move for a moment, so I smiled.

"You can get into the chair yourself, I believe." He looked at me inquiringly, but seemed to realize that I meant it, and he swung his legs over the side of the bed and pulled himself into the chair. He didn't move as I bound him again, and I noticed that he was hardly even daring to breathe. Finally, when I was done, he looked down at his chest, crossed with rope, and he laughed.

"What?" I asked, wondering if he was about to taunt me by boasting he could get out of my knots. Matthew just looked up at me, and I saw amazement in his dark eyes.

"Your knots are amazing," he said incredulously, "and I've never been tied to a chair before. I must look ridiculous." He laughed again.

I stepped back and looked him over, smiling slowly.

"Well... you, pretty much." I laughed along with him, and suddenly, I noticed that there was something in the window, just a shadow, but enough to catch my attention. Just as soon as I saw it, it was gone, but I felt my laugh die and a frown pull at my lips. Matthew fell silent when he saw me, and he twisted his neck around, but there was nothing to see anymore.

"What?" He asked cautiously.

"Nothing." I said slowly. "Let's go make dinner."

And with that, I dragged the chair into the kitchen.


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