Frozen Heart

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Princess Ayla is given to King Rhobart as a war prize, to be his personal slave. When she arrives in Nordmar, her new home, she is ready to do anything in order to survive. She will soon learn that King Rhobart is a man cold like the ice and haunted by demons. ********************** "I am going to pay for the dress. And everything else," Ayla said. "Ohh," Rhobart said and arched an eyebrow. "Do you cook?" "No, but...." "Clean?" "No." "Make clothes? Knit? Stitch? Take care of animals? Hunt? Fight? Anything?" Ayla's shoulders slumped forward, "No." "Then you are useless."

Fantasy / Romance
4.9 16 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

First part - The prophecy

Of all the kingdoms from the Uzhor Continent, Nordmar was the biggest, the wildest kingdom, and the coldest kingdom because it was covered almost entirely in snow. The Kingdom of Nordmar was the home of the Eternal Winter. Up in the vast mountains of Nordmar, it was always cold. The peaks of the mountains were so tall they seemed to reach the sky. Big forests of winter oaks and evergreen trees covered the plateaus of the Nordmar mountains.
Scattered across the land were villages inhabited by men that the other Kingdoms called barbarians. Tall, strong, and proud, the Nordmanders were born to dominate the cold land they lived in. But the strongest of all the barbarians was King Rhobart. And most said his heart was as cold and cruel as the land he ruled.
After a long absence from the castle due to a war that lasted thirteen years with the Kingdom of Myrthana, King Rhobart was returning home. But he wasn’t returning alone; he was returning with Princess Ayla, the daughter of King Amul, former king of Myrthana. A war prize. His new slave.

When Nordman won the war, Prince Galian, the new king of the Kingdom of Myrthana, gave his sister, Princess Ayla, to King Rhobart in an attempt to make peace between the two kingdoms. Rhobart wanted to kill Galian like the coward he was, but he was so tired of war, and he wanted to take what was left of his people and go home. So he signed the peace treaty, grabbed Ayla, and left Myrthana.

From the day Ayla left behind Myrthana and what she called home, all she ever saw from the small window of the carriage that brought her closer and closer to her new prison was snow, snow, and more snow. If she stared too much at it, her eyes would hurt. Ayla loved the snow, but it was the cold that she couldn’t get used to. She has never been so cold in her life. Myrthana was nothing like the cold Nordman; it was full of life and always warm. Home to everlasting Spring. Ayla was sure she would have frozen to death if not for the Fire Mage, Milton, that had been so kind to buy her a warm dress, boots, and a cloak.

Ayla’s fingers stroked absently the warm fur of Kerra, the snowcat that was sleeping on her lap. From time to time, Kerra would purr softly. The snowcat had been the only constant companion for the last three weeks, and Ayla grew fond of Kerra.

While her eyes surveyed the forest, Ayla petted one of Kerra’s tails; the magical snowcat had two tails. From what Milton told her, the day Rhobart left Kerra to stay in the carriage with Ayla was that she was not an ordinary cat; Kerra was a magical cat, and she had two forms – one of a normal cat while the other was her fighting form. In her fighting form, Kerra was as big as a pony.
Ayla had never seen a snowcat before Kerra, and certainly not a magical one, but she read about them. In the past, they have been common in Nordmar, but a strange disease killed almost all of them. Very few magical cats lived in the wild. And from what Ayla read, magical snowcats were completely white with green eyes. But Kerra’s ears and tips of her tails were black, while her eyes were red. Milton said it was probably that Kerra was the runt of her litter. Rhobart found her, almost frozen to death, fifteen years ago, and since then, Kerra has been Rhobart’s constant companion.

An abrupt stop almost had Ayla fall from her seat. Kerra jumped from Ayla’s lap, and moments later, the door to the carriage opened, and Rhobart entered the carriage and sat across from Ayla.

It was the first time she saw him since the day he grabbed her by her arm and dragged her all across the way from the council room to the carriage and threw her in. Ayla didn’t think she would ever get used to how big King Rhobart was. Almost 6’7, with strong arms and legs, a beard, and long black hair, that he kept braided in a Nordmarian style, Rhobart made her shiver. He had never spoken a kind word to her or looked at her with anything else than anger in his eyes. She was very scared of him.
For a few moments, Ayla studied his face. He looked tired. So very tired. And he also looked older than his twenty-six winters. She wanted to study him for hours to see and learn who the real King Rhobart was, but she lowered her gaze when his black eyes stared at her with a burning hatred. She didn’t want to make him even angrier with her.

A grunt and a mumble made their way to Ayla’s ears.
“I am afraid I didn’t understand you, my King.”
“I am not your King! Don’t call me that!” Rhobart said in a harsh tone, and Ayla flinched.

Rhobart opened his mouth as if to say something, but no sound came out. Seconds later, he closed it.
She looked up at him, and she could see how hard he was clenching his teeth.

“Wh-What should I call you, then?” Ayla asked. “Your majesty.”
Rhobart pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes and took in a deep breath.

Moments later, he said, “King Rhobart is enough.”
When no one said anything more, silence fell between them. But Rhobart didn’t linger too much, so the silence didn’t become uncomfortable.

Before he exited the carriage, with his back to her, Rhobart said to Ayla the words she had dreaded since this journey started, “ We are here.”

Ayla looked out the window, but all she could see were trees and snow.
Frowning, she asked, “Here where?” But Rhobart was already gone.

When Rhobart didn’t close the carriage door, Ayla knew she had to follow him. In to the cold. Into his castle. To serve him. Now. And forever.

A slave. This was what she had been reduced to. Not that before she was better. But while she was still a “princess” and kept in her golden cage, there was no King of Nordmar with onyx eyes full of hatred to order her around.

Not that she blamed King Rhobart. After all, it was her father that started the war by attacking and burning to the ground a village from Nordmar that was closer to the border. Thirteen years had passed since then—thirteen years of war, pain, and death. Rhobart lost all of his family members during the war and was forced to become King at seventeen years old.

Ayla was only nine years when the war started – a child. And Rhobart was thirteen, also a child. Both have paid for something they never wanted. Or started. Rhobart with his family’s life, and Ayla with her freedom. To begin with, she has never been free, but at least back in Myrthana, she knew what to expect from her father and brother.

And all this war started because his father wanted to control Nordamar’s magic ore mines. That would have made her father the most powerful man on the continent. But no one expected King Rhobart. Even from her golden cage, Ayla heard rumors of the barbarian king who killed countless men without even blinking. And if the rumors are right, no one has managed to hurt him. Not even a scratch.

Inhaling deeply, Ayla put her left hand under her cloak, her fingers wrapping around her mother’s amulet, and she sent a quick payer to Addanos – the Water God.

When she got out of the carriage, Ayla was momentarily shocked to see so many faces. In the last three weeks, the only person she has ever seen has been Milton. She was never permitted outside except to take care of her needs. And in those moments, Milton always cast a shield around her to hide her from privy eyes.
Most of King Rhobart’s men made it home days ago because the carriage was slower than their horses, but his loyal Paladins and a few knights remained to protect the carriage.

“My lady!” Milton said the moment he saw her. “Over here!”
The Fire Mage stood next to King Rhobart, the seven Paladins, the remaining knight, and the horses. Ayla’s eyes landed on Kerra, now in her battle form. A scream almost escaped her lips, but she swallowed it. In her battle form, Kerra was as big as a shadowbeast, and with long, saber teeth, she looked every bit the predator she was.

Shivering from the cold, Ayla walked towards Milton and King Rhobart. She fisted her hands in an attempt to hide how badly she was shaking. She kept her eyes on the frozen ground.
Soon, she made it where Milton stood.

“We still got around twenty minutes left until we arrive at the castle. From here, we will take the horses,” King Rhobart said in a voice cold as ice.

Ayla jerked her eyes first to King Rhobart’s face, then to the horses, then back to King Rhobart.

“I haven’t had much practice with a horse,” she said, fear creeping down her spine.
To be entirely honest, she had never been on a horse before. Seeing one so up close intimidated her. But she wouldn’t say that aloud.

Rhobart narrowed his eyes, “You either get on the horse or walk. Either way, you will make it to the castle, t’xoria.”
Several Paladins and knights laughed while she swallowed loudly.
‘T’xoria? What in Addanos’ name does that mean?’ Ayla thought.
She tried to protest, “But….”

Before Ayla could finish what she was about to say, King Rhobart turned his back to her and got on his horse.
“Come, Kerra. Let’s go home,” Rhobart said before leaving.
Kerra looked one more time at Ayla before following her master to the castle.

One by one, the Paladins and the knights got on the horses until the only one standing next to her was Milton.
“Let’s get you on that horse, Princess Ayla.”
Ayla laughed bitterly, “I am not a princess, Fire Mage. Not anymore.”

“Look at me, Lady Ayla.”
Ayla didn’t want to look at him, but when Milton waited patiently for her to look at him, she finally looked into Milton’s soft brown eyes.

“No matter what happens, don’t you ever forget who you are. You are and forever will be a princess. And as for Rhobart. He is not a bad man. And I promise you he will never harm you.”
“There’s no way you can know what King Rhobart would do to me.”

“Yes, I do. I’ve known Rhobart all my life,” Milton said in a soft voice.
“But my father…. he was King Rhobart’s enemy.”

“You are not your father, so you are not the enemy of Rhobart. Now get on that horse. The sun will set soon, and you don’t want to be out here when that happens. Trust me.”
Ayla looked around the forest, expecting a shadowbeast to emerge from it. Or worse – an Orc.

“Milton?” Ayla said while her eyes still scanned the trees. When Milton didn’t reply, she continued, “I have never ridden before.”

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