The Winter Prince

By: R. Cooper

His heart stolen by a powerful pari’s magic, a young prince’s veins slowly fill with ice. That is what the stories say. Three years have passed since, and all efforts to save Kişin have failed. He won’t survive another winter. To save the prince’s life, Razin, the court wizard and Kişin’s childhood friend, plans to seek out the pari. But unbeknownst to Razin, Kişin’s heart was never stolen; he gave it freely to escape the pain of impossible love—his love for Razin.

Razin won’t accept Kişin’s fate, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows anything of love. Kişin agrees to the desperate quest, out of duty and a need to protect Razin. But it isn’t long before Razin realizes saving his prince will require more than simply retrieving his heart. Razin will have to convince him to want it.





To my mother, who bought me every book of fairy tales she could find.





Part One





“KIŞIN BEY.” The sound of his name drew Kişin’s attention from the window. He was aware he should have been minding the discussions around him, that once he would have. He remained Captain of the Immortal Guard, his sister’s personal army, but where he had once been eager to protect her and prove himself, he was now tired. He no longer rose before the sun to see to his horse or practice his swordplay. He had not wanted to for some time, but this year his bones seemed to grow heavier and demand he stay in bed.

The last of the apples had fallen from the trees in the orchard. The first frost would be soon. This would be his third winter without a heart. He hoped it might be his last.

All the same, he lifted his eyebrows at the servant who had requested his attention, and followed the direction of her hands as she waved toward the lower part of the chamber, where various advisors sat on a cushioned bench near a fire. He wondered if they had been calling to him.

Kişin glanced at them—soldiers, nobles, the wizard and his apprentice—not allowing his gaze to linger on any one of them before looking to his mother and father and sister. Each sat on a backless marble throne, arranged to allow the king and queen to gaze down at their councilors. There was a similar seat of marble, unused, near his sister’s throne. A place for a prince to sit, if he cared to, although not a place for him to rest. A servant had arranged a brazier in the middle of the three of them to ward off the chill. Kişin could feel its heat from where he stood.

His shudder sent ripples through the dark cloak that reached nearly to the floor. He moved with it, feeling the shiver of motion down through the scales of the armor over his tunic. His movements were nearly silent, as practiced as any step of a dance or a swordfight, but they were beginning to weigh him down more than ever. His silver armor did not help. The white fur at his collar seemed so heavy it was nearly too much to take without rest.

His sister watched him, no doubt noting his weariness and unhappy about it. She moved with restless energy, or a chill of her own. Her loose pants, gathered at her ankles, looked warm, as did her slippers, but the robe over her shoulders was thin, likely chosen more for the pretty pink shade than for warmth. She was currently very fond of pink.

Ceren Beygum, daughter of the queen, and his future ruler. At fifteen, she had not yet received a name suited to her, and so her childhood nickname remained. Kişin thought she would do better than he when destiny finally touched her.

He inclined his head to her and watched the flash of temper in her dark eyes, which were the same shade as his, although hers had more of the almond shape of their father’s. They both had the same fall of shining black hair, the same arch to their left eyebrow, and the same tilt to their chin. However, Ceren was soft limbs and colored fabric, where Kişin was muscle and armor, and patience was something she had not yet mastered.

“Your suitor,” she said, abruptly silencing the rest of the voices in the room. She lifted her eyebrow even higher. The curve was delicate, unlike Kişin’s slashing thick brows. All of her was light and graceful, like the gazelle she was named for. But her clenched fists were reminders she was not docile by nature. She would be a fierce queen someday.

Kişin inclined his head yet again. “Shall I accept this one, Dear Sister?” He did not raise his voice or roll his shoulder or lower his eyes from her silent challenge. “If you ask it, I will.”

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