Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale #1)

Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale #1)

Demelza Carlton


Three girls perched on the battlements, breaking their fast in the watery spring sun as they discussed the lone rider they'd spotted from their tower room.

"I think he's a knight come to sue for my hand in marriage," declared Anita, the oldest.

Arya sniffed. "Your hand isn't the bit he's most interested in, I'm sure. Anyway, knights wear armour, and he has none. I think he's one of Father's sea-captains, come to tell good news about his voyage."

Anita nudged Zuleika, the youngest, with her slipper-clad foot. "What say you, baby sister? Is he a knight or a sailor?"

Zuleika closed her eyes and cast her mind toward the man. She alone of the three had inherited her mother's skill for magic, and she practiced whenever she was able. "He comes with grim purpose. A duty he fears but will perform. I can't help but feel he carries my fate."

"Father wouldn't promise you in marriage to anyone until he's found husbands for the two of us. You're safe," Arya said. "Anita had better take a closer look, to make sure he's handsome enough for her."

Anita hushed them both as the man reined in his horse before the closed gate.

"Open up in the name of the king!" the man in the king's colours demanded, rapping smartly on the gate with his gloved fist. "I ride at the king's command and woe betide those who stand in my way!"

Safe behind the crenellations, Zuleika called, "What is the king's command?" She stuck her head out so she could see the man's face, though her sisters tried to pull her back.

"I bring a summons for the Lady Zoraida. The king has need of her." The man brandished a scroll case.

Zuleika's heart sank. This was a matter of magic, she was certain of it. The king would not be happy when he found out her mother had died two winters past of an ailment that stole her breath until she breathed her last. Even her mother's healing powers had been no match for it. "Then you'd better come in. I'll order the guards to open the gates."

Her sisters hissed at her to stop, for Father had ordered the gates kept closed for their protection until his return.

"He's one man," Zuleika said. "But if we don't let him in, he will return with an army to bring down the walls. I will do as he asks, and send him on his way. Father need never know."

This last was a lie, she knew, but it worked to calm her sisters. Zuleika's heart pounded in her chest, for today she would step into her mother's shoes and become the enchantress.


Zuleika ordered the steward to serve the man refreshments in the dining hall while her maids dressed her hair. Like her sisters, she often wore hers uncovered, but if this strange messenger wanted to consult with the lady of the house, then she would dress like one.

She had learned at a young age how to step silently through the rushes that covered the stone floors. So when she appeared at the man's side, almost from nowhere, she had the satisfaction of seeing him start.

He recovered quickly, and bowed. "Lady Zoraida. I am Sir Ryder, a messenger sent from the king. I am to give you this and await your reply." He held out the scroll case gingerly, as though he thought it might bite him.

Zuleika resisted the urge to transform the case into something with teeth, and took it from him instead.

She unrolled the scroll, and read the message twice before she dropped it on the table next to Sir Ryder's empty ale cup.

"Do you know what this says?" she demanded.

He dropped his gaze to the rushes, crackling under this shuffling feet. "Mostly, my lady. If you don't accompany me back to the capital, I'm to take your children instead."

Only a coward threatened children. "Then King Thorn shall have his curse," Zuleika vowed. "But it comes at a price. He must leave my family alone."

"You have my word, Lady Zoraida."

Zuleika waved to summon a servant. "Prepare a room for Sir Ryder. I'm sure he wants rest after his long journey. I shall be in my bower." Her mother's bower, but the knight didn't need to know that.

"Yes, my lady." Mildred looked worried enough not to expose Zuleika's subterfuge. "If you will follow me, sir?"

Zuleika held her head high as she marched out of the hall and toward the stairs that led to the tower that had been her mother's. It was no different to the maidens' tower she shared with her sisters, and yet…it was a completely different world. Mother's bower held her books and scrolls; all her favourite curios from her travels all over the world, and seemed filled with the heady power of potential, of what might be.

When Zuleika crossed the threshold today, destiny wrapped around her. The room might be filled with her mother's things, but it was her domain now.


Zuleika rode alongside Sir Ryder, her head filled with as much doubt as her belly felt full of butterflies. Not about the curse she had created at the king's command. She knew her spell was perfect. Perhaps she had been a little heavy-handed on the curse aspect, but it was her first and she intended it to be a powerful one. No, her fears were far simpler. She had never travelled outside her father's lands before and to go to the capital for an audience with the king terrified her more than she was willing to admit. This was destiny at work, she knew, but that didn't mean she had to like it.

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