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Samira didn’t stop running until she was deeper inside than city than she had intended to be. Her city was like rotten fruit, beautiful and tempting on the outside but dark, filthy and decayed the closer you bit into the centre.

She could hardly believe the conditions people under her rule were living in. The smell of rotting food and disease stung her nose and eyes. Rats and people scurried through trash piles left on the side of the clay built houses. It was humiliating, why had her Father not done anything about it?

Samira found a Tavern further away from the foul smelling centre of the city. Now darkness was beginning to cloak the city she really had to find somewhere safe to stay for the night and work out her next move. The city was not as friendly at night, as the sky darkened so did the people of Marwah.

The Tavern owner, Leo had kindly explained the factions of her city, the details no one in her family had ever bothered to share with her.

‘It’s none of your concern,’ her Father constantly chided.

How could her father sleep at night?

The Tavern began to fill, Samira her cloak on and her hood up. She really had no idea what to do next. All Samira knew was that she couldn’t ever marry Vlad and if she had to walk the city all night and forego sleep, she would do just that.

“Hey!”

The loud yell made her flinch, no one knew her here so they couldn’t possibly be speaking to her.

“You’re not going to get paid sitting on your ass with your cloak on,” a stranger grabbed her shoulder and tugged her off her stool.

A brutish looking man with three day stubble and a three day stink yanked her to standing, his eyes raked her face, “apologies, I thought you were one of my girls.”

Samira pulled away sharply, not accepting his apology.

“You should work for me,” he said sizing her up.

“Is there a problem here?” It was the man in the marketplace, the candle man. Samira smiled at him, he had rescued her earlier today.

“Just business my friend,” the brute replied, “none of which is yours.”

“She’s not interested in what you’re offering,” he persisted.

The brute stepped closer to the candle man, “I said, it’s none of your bus—“

Samira watched the brute crumple to the floor as she had stunned him.

“Her again,” the candle man’s friend appeared beside them, “get her out of here, I’ll take care of this.”

Wordlessly she followed the stranger out of the tavern, into the darkness.

“What is your name?” She asked.

“Dante and you are Sadie, the woman who won’t hand her wand over?”

She nodded, his voice was soothing and warm, with an English accent, “I’m sorry I stunned that man but he was making me uncomfortable.”

“I can see why,” he smiled, “I can also see why you don’t like handing your wand over if you make a habit of stunning people.”

“I didn’t know about the factions,” Samira admitted, “but thank you for the distraction today.”

“Can I walk you to your hotel? These streets aren’t exactly safe at night.”

“That’s very kind of you but I’ve imposed on your day enough.”

“It wouldn’t be a problem,” he said earnestly, “I could show you around?”

“That would be wonderful.”

“We’ll head towards the shore, if that’s ok.”

“Thank you,” the pair began heading away from the centre of town, “who was that man at the tavern who helped you?”

“My brother in law, Andre.”

“You have a sister here?”

“Yes Thalia, my older sister. Do you have siblings?”

“Yes an older brother but I haven’t seen him in years.”

“Oh,” Harry didn’t know what to say.

“Sorry I don’t know why I said that.”

“Not at all, you must miss him.”

“All the time, our father believes in arranged marriages,” Samira admitted truthfully, “he drove my brother away.”

“And now you?”

“How did you know?”

Dante smiled, “a beautiful woman wandering the streets with no idea about the city she’s in? Classic runaway.”

Samira’s cheeks burned, “your investigative talents are wasted selling candles.”

He laughed and Samira felt her stomach swoop, “my father is forcing me to marry a much older man, I just ran.”

“I would have too,” Dante frowned, “I don’t understand how a parent would want to hurt their child like that.”

“I don’t know but I do know I’m not going back.”

“Where will you go?”

“I’m not sure,” she blushed again, “I didn’t really think this through, I was so shocked by who my father wanted me to marry that I just wanted to get as far away as possible. You must think I’m incredibly naïve.”

“Not at all, I think it’s brave to leave everything you know behind.”

“I never thought about it like that,” Samira smiled at his kindness, “thank you.”

“Here we are,” Dante gestured to the shore line, “the Marwahian beach.”

Samira felt the breath leave her body, it was truly a beautiful sight. The moon shone like a silver disco and it’s reflection glistened in the inky waters lapped gently on the sand, she kicked her shoes off and felt the fine sand between her toes. Dante was close behind, she could smell his woody scent mingling with the salty air, she closed her eyes and inhaled.

“First time on the sand?” Dante asked.

“It’s been a long time,” Samira answered, trying to remember a time when her mother was alive and she had sand between her toes. “Do they have beaches in England?”

Dante grinned, “whose investigative skills are wasted now?”

Dante took a seat on the sand, his legs extended toward the shoreline where the sea lazily nipped at his bare feet, “there’s nothing like this in England no, our beaches are mostly pebbled.”

“That sounds very beautiful,” Samira sat beside Dante enjoying the cool water wetting her feet.

“It’s mostly cold though, all the time,” he continued, “not like here, it’s always warm, even now.”

“I’ve been to England, it’s so different to Marwah it’s hard to believe we are living on the same planet.”

“Did you go to London?”

“Yes! We stayed there, my mother loved London very much, she loved the shopping,” Samira smiled at the memory of her mother.

“She’s passed?” Dante asked.

“How did you know?”

“My mother is also passed, I know the smile you just gave, it’s familiar,” Dante smiled gently and that familiar swoop returned to Samira’s insides.

“It is an incredibly isolating loss, no one quite understands, the bond between a mother and child is the strongest bond on Earth, no magic can heal that,” Samira couldn’t believe the words she was saying to this mere stranger but it felt nice to share.

“A friend told me, those who love us are never truly gone, they live on, in here,” Dante placed his hand on her heart and if she could’ve melted into the sand she may have.

Everything was so perfect, the moonlight, the sea, the man. Her head was spinning, this was crazy but she had the strongest urge to kiss this stranger on the beach, her first night away from her father in nearly 25 years.

Were they leaning in towards each other?

“HALT!” A voice shouted, the pair sprang apart.

“That’s the man!”

It was the brute from the Tavern, “he stunned me! Arrest him!”

Two soldiers grabbed Dante ripping him away from Samira, “he was bothering this woman,” Dante protested.

“Let us see your wand,” a soldier commanded.

“It wasn’t him!” Samira said loudly, “I stunned that man, not him, let him go!”

The brute scoffed, “a woman couldn’t stun me!”

Without another word Samira stunned the brute for the second time, he crumpled to the floor with a thud.

Instantly a soldier appeared ready to grab Samira, she held her wand out, ready to strike, “let him go, he has done nothing wrong.”

“Put the wand down or we will take you in by force,” the soldier commanded.

“Sadie, listen to them, I’ll be fine,” Dante warned.

“We’ll slit your boyfriend’s throat and he won’t be so fine,” the soldier holding Dante warned.

“You will not!” Samira waved her wand and her robes vanished, revealing her Princess garb, she felt the tiara rest on her head.

“I command you to release him by order of the Princess!”

The soldiers sank into a deep bow, taking Dante with them, who stared aghast at the transformation.

“Princess Samira, your highness, we are deeply sorry, forgive us, we did not know you were outside the palace walls tonight,” the soldier remained bowed.

“Release this man at once.”

The soldiers immediately stepped away from Dante, except for one, “I will escort him home, to ensure he is safe.”

Without another word the soldier disappeared with Dante by his side, she didn’t even get to thank him.

“Princess we must take you to the palace your father will be worried sick.”

Samira followed willingly, she had a few topics she needed to discuss with her father.

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