The King's Spinster Bride, (Royal Wedding #1)

The King's Spinster Bride, (Royal Wedding #1)

Ruby Dixon

Sixteen years ago, Princess Halla of Yshrem saved the life of an eight-year-old barbarian boy and watched her kingdom fall to ruin, all on the same day. Now, she is a forgotten spinster in a quiet temple, living her days out in solitude. The last of her line, she exists in the hope that she has been forgotten, for to be remembered by the enemy is to be certain death.

One person has not forgotten her. Mathior, now twenty-four, is the fierce warrior king of the Cyclopae. Yshrem is in turmoil and his advisors have a suggestion – kill the last remaining member of the royal line, and there will be no rivals for the throne.

Mathior has a different idea. He’s loved Halla for sixteen long years, and it’s time he claimed her as his wife. But a barbarian’s wedding customs are unlike any other…


Sixteen Years Ago


“I thought cyclops were supposed to have one eye, not two,” titters one of my attendants. “Are we quite sure that he’s Alistair’s son?” The other women in the room giggle behind their sewing.

I ignore them, gently pushing my needle through my embroidery. The boy in question stands by the castle window, looking out over the city. Yshrem is unnaturally quiet this time of day. It’s because the walls are manned against the army waiting outside, ready to put us under siege unless my father the king surrenders.

My father won’t surrender, though. He’s too proud. Yshrem and all its lands belong to him. He is a good ruler, I think. Fair and wise. Maybe a bit intractable when crossed, but I adore him and hope to rule like him someday. King Gallin the wise. King Gallin the just. King Gallin who stands at the gates of the city, confronting Alistair and his Cyclopae warriors. I cannot help but worry, and my stitches are calm but uneven. My father is not a warrior. His hair is snowy white, and while he still stands straight, I know his knees pain him on rainy days. He surrounds himself with scholars, not generals.

Alistair’s people are…not anything like us.

I think of the legends I have been told. The Cyclopae are utterly fierce and fearless. They have but one eye, stand seven feet tall and drink the blood of wolves when they are born. Their mothers do not suckle them but abandon them to the wild, and when they grow of age, they join Alaric’s fierce band. They ride upon the backs of beasts and eat the flesh of their enemies. They are not civilized, not in the slightest.

I pretend to keep my eyes on my stitching and let my gaze slide over to the boy that stares out the window, his hands on his little belt. Mathior has been with us a month now, a prisoner of war. A guarantee against Alaric’s wrath, my father said. It has not seemed to work, because Alaric has shown up at Yshrem with an army, and I worry things will not end peaceably. Mathior does not look much like the legends, I have to admit to myself. He is just a boy of eight, and while he is tall and browned from the sun, he does not look as if he eats the flesh of his enemies. He has two eyes, and they are a soft brown that is almost as dark as his long, braided hair. Although he has been with us for a month, he chooses to wear the clothing of his people, preferring his fur vest and soft suede leggings to the decorated fabrics of my father’s court. His hands rest at his waist, as if he is hoping for a dagger to appear there.

And he watches the walls of the city intently.

The handmaids giggle again. “If he’s not a cyclops, then what is he?” one of them asks.

“A bastard?” suggests another.

I push my needle through my banner. “Enough. Mathior is a guest, and an honored one.”

“He is a savage, my princess—”

I give her a sharp look and she goes quiet. Of course she falls silent. She would not dare displease Crown Princess Halla of Yshrem, sole heir to the throne. It doesn’t matter that I’m barely sixteen. I’ve never been allowed to be a child. I am the heir first, a marriageable bride second, and a daughter last. For the last few months, ever since my birthday approached, the kingdom has been besieged with suitors from distant, far-flung kingdoms who wish to marry me and “help” rule Yshrem. I know my marriage must be one of convenience and not love, so I have kept all at arm’s length and showed interest in none…even if my girlish heart secretly yearns for one or two of the more handsome, dashing lordlings.

Marriage will be a certain part of my future. To choose otherwise would make the kingdom unstable, because right now I am the only heir. I have always known that I will be married off for a strong alliance, so I have never allowed myself to dream of love except in secret.

Not that love matters. Or marriage. On this day, marriage is the furthest thing from my mind. It is the fate of the kingdom itself I worry over. The walls of the castle shake, and screams echo up from the courtyard, and my next stitch is shaky. I force myself to remain focused even as a few of my ladies nervously get to their feet, heading for the window. They stare down at the siege below us, and when one of the women pales and returns to her seat next to me, I know it is not going well.

Alistair has come for his son. The Cyclopae, savage barbarians all of them, have laid siege to the graceful, cultured kingdom of Yshrem. I tell myself they are the barbarians, not us. I tell myself that we are far ahead of them in advancements and armor and courtly tactics on the battlefield. We should win handily.

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