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Samira was in the duelling parlour long before she was due to arrive but she had hoped to catch a glimpse of Eric before the duel began and maybe wish him luck. Or maybe ask if that kiss happened or had she just dreamt it.

 

“Princess,” it was Simone, she curtseyed, “you’re here early.”

 

“Yes, I just wished to give your brother good luck before his duel.”

 

Samira noticed a brief sadness across the sister’s face, “that’s very kind of you. He’s already with the referee I’m afraid.”

 

“Oh, no matter I’ll just see him afterwards. Would you like to sit together during the duel?”

 

“Absolutely, I’ll be quiet anxious, he’s not the greatest dueller.”

 

“His shield charm was exceedingly powerful Basi said.”

 

“Yes he is powerful but accuracy and speed,” Simone faltered off and gave a little grimace.

 

“It’s only a friendly duel,” Samira comforted, “it’s absurd I can look after myself, these are old traditions from hundreds of years ago when women didn’t learn as much magic as men. You and I could probably take on all the guards better than your brother.”

 

Simone laughed and appeared to relax a little, “I’ll see you back here at noon.”

 

 

The Duke proved to me a much more impressive opponent than any other suitor and within the hour he had quickly and successfully disarmed eight guards, who were licking their wounds glaring and the Duke.

 

“Eric is wonderful,” Samira beamed.

 

“He’s been lucky,” Simone still teetered on the edge of her seat.

 

“Even my Father was cheering him,” Samira glanced at her father who was laughing at the dismal performance of the current guard hanging upside down by his ankles.

 

“That was the final guard Lady Simone,” Daniel bowed.

 

“It couldn’t be,” Simone gazed around the room, “that can’t possibly…unless, did you?”

 

“Lady Simone,” Daniel gently placed a hand on the Duchess shoulder, “that is everyone, your brother has performed an incredible feat.”

 

“Thank you but – “

 

“Was there a certain guard you were hoping to see,” Samira raised an eyebrow.

 

“Oh…just one of the guards that accompanied us yesterday, I can’t remember his name but he was very handsome,” Simone admitted.

 

“We’ve had all the guards from yesterday,” Samira followed Simone’s gaze, “perhaps he looked different out of his usual uniform.”

 

“That might be it,” Simone leant back into her chair looking confused.

 

“When they are back in the uniform tell me which one it was,” Samira patted her hand kindly.

 

“Vlad get in there!” The King boomed, “let’s see if you’ve still got it!”

 

The other guards boomed and cheered, desperate to see one of their own defeat the posh Duke. Vlad smirked and unclipped his cloak, he slid his wand out of his waistband and entered the arena.

 

“Of course your highness,” Vlad bowed to the King, Queen and finally to Samira.

 

“Just friendly duel you two,” the King laughed, ‘he’s an old man son don’t be too hard on him.”

 

Eric and Vlad bowed, neither taking their eyes off each other.

Vlad struck Eric with a non verbal spell, knocking him back ten feet before he crashed onto the floor in a heap.

The losing guards cheered and applauded for their captain and for the sight of a rich Duke on his ass.

Eric was ready and shot back, a bolt of red was blocked by Vlad and Eric blocked a jet of blue. Eric’s aim was true with a bolt of gold light that swept Vlad into circles and flung him to the floor.

 

No one was cheering now, the atmosphere was intense and crackling with electricity. Someone had hit a switch and it no longer felt friendly.

 

A blast of red missed Eric and he dodged narrowly missing crumbling debris. Eric shot back knocking the captain to the ground once again. Eric almost disarmed him when the captain shot back, a large cloud of grey smoke clouded the room and a hushed hissing noise filled the room.

Lady Simone and her servant shot out of their seats, racing to the duelling area. Samira was hot on their heels, the trio clearing the smoke as the ran.

 

A silvery python glided along the floor towards the Duke, but he didn’t seem afraid of the Duke, he stared mesmerised by Vlad, his skin paler.

 

“Diffindo,” Samira shouted and the python disappeared into smoke, “Vlad! How dare you!”

 

“Vlad,” the King had met them too, “are you out of your mind! You can’t set a snake of the Duke!”

 

Eric hadn’t moved.

 

“What did you do to him?” Samira demanded.

 

“He is not to be trusted,” Vlad panted.

 

“Vlad, why would you do this? I have to punish you for this…this absurdity! You set a python on a visiting Duke, in front of his sister! This is unacceptable, I’m sorry Vlad but you will have to go to the dungeon for three nights.”

 

“Very well, I understand,” Vlad looked to the Queen who nodded her head.

 

“Three nights in solitary,” the Queen commanded.

 

“Eric, are you alright?” Samira touched his face, it was warm and sweaty but she didn’t care.

 

“Take him to the nurse,” the King ordered the staff.

 

“I’ll take him,” Samira promised, “I want to make sure he’s alright.”

 

“Very well,” the King agreed, “come along Vlad we have paperwork.”

 

The rest of the room filed out in silence, the audience shooting glances at the Duke who looked like he may faint. Samira quickly gathered up the Duke’s robes from the change room, eager to remove him from the wandering eyes.

She heard his sister whispering frantically.

 

“It’s him, this whole time, it’s been him, right under our noses,” she breathed quickly.

 

“He knows it’s me too, he wouldn’t set that snake on anyone, we have—“ the Duke’s voice sounded strange.

 

“We don’t know for certain he knows who you are,” the servant warned, “but we definitely found him now we need to find Mother dearest, she will be nearby.”

 

“Who will be nearby?” Samira emerged from the change room, the three faces before her even paler than before.

 

“There is something going on with you three, I knew it as soon as you arrived,” she pointed at the Duke, “I’ve met you before, I’m sure of it. Whatever you’re planning you better disclose to me or I will make your lives very difficult.”

 

“Princess,” the Duke began, “it was me Dante, I met you in the marketplace. I just wanted to see what you were really like before—“

 

Samira held up her hand to silence him, “I don’t believe that the three of you are royalty not for a breath. Dante is long gone, he sent me a letter—“

 

“I sent the letter to you, that night we went to the marketplace with Basi? I didn’t want you to pine over Dante when he didn’t exist.”

 

“That still doesn’t explain why you are here posing as one of my suitors. What’s your fascination with Vlad?”

 

The servant stepped forward and sunk into a bow, “your highness, please accept our deepest apology, we are from the Ministry of Magic London and we believe there are some Death Eaters living here in hopes of gaining new followers to mistreat muggles and half bloods.”

 

Simone added, “we had to infiltrate the palace somehow, we thought these death eaters had found themselves close to your father to infiltrate the government here.”

 

“And you think Vlad is one of these Death Eaters based on your duel?”

 

“Yes, your highness,” Simone bowed, “and the magic used yesterday at the coast. We feel terrible that we lied to you but it was the only way to get into the Palace.”

 

Samira’s face remained impassive, she had been trained from an early age to supress emotions as it wasn’t correct royal etiquette to fall apart at the seams when you were a Princess. But inside her heart sunk, she had thought Eric and Simone had been new friends, genuinely interested in her but it was all an act.

 

“Princess,” Eric’s eyes were full of concern, “we truly are sorry.”

 

A loud horn sounded, deafening all occupants of the palace, warning that intruders were among us. Guards would start to storm the hallways gathering all the royal family and high profile guests into their rooms for safety.

 

“What’s that?” Simone gripped Eric’s hand.

 

“They know you’re here,” Samira said, “any moment now the guards will collect me and see you.”

 

“We need to run,” the servant drew his wand out.

 

“The Palace will be impenetrable,” Samira took her wand out and made some complicated shapes the glittered purple and vanished in smoke leaving three purple stones.

 

“What are you…” Eric begun.

“Take this stone with you, grip it tightly and squeeze, ready?” The Princess plucked her own stone out of her pocket.

 

“PRINCESS!” Guards shouted running closer to the duelling room.

 

“What do we—“

 

“Trust me.” She warned.

 

“PRINCESS!”

 

In haze of purple smoke they were gone.

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