His Princess (A Royal Romance)

By: Abigail Graham

Yes, I am really named Persephone. My parents are hippies. Especially cruel hippies.

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I have wondered if that’s why he chose me: because I was named for the queen of Hell.


Melissa’s voice shakes me out of my daydream. It was a pleasant daydream, the meandering kind where you drift through nothing in particular. I was thinking about ice cream. It’s been six months since I’ve had ice cream. I’ve been living on military-surplus MREs for the entire time I’ve been here. It’s a point of honor for me. I eat the same food that the settlers do.

I was thinking about ice cream less for the taste and more for the cold. It’s hot. Solkovia is one of those places that’s like a time-share sales pitch from hell: Freezing cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and in between a constant rain and chill that makes your bones sore.

Barely bigger than Massachusetts, landlocked Solkovia sits in a vast historical crossroads. Every big-name invading army has passed through here at one point or another. Romans, Huns, Mongols, Turks. It was occupied by the Nazis during World War II and bitterly clenched in Moscow’s fist until the Berlin Wall fell.

Now, after all that squeezing by iron fists, this little land has been thrown away. There’s no oil here, no strategic reserves, no uranium or coal or bauxite to make into aluminum. The land isn’t dead but isn’t very fertile either. Since the only interest the Soviets had in this territory was passing through it, they never developed any kind of industry here. It’s too far from anywhere to make a useful manufacturing hub.

Solkovia hides her bloody history beneath a blanket of green. The land is beautiful. To the east, the plains stretch out in rolling waves to the Nevet river. Far to the west, barely visible, like distant clouds, the Carpathian Mountains loom with ominous mystery. It looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Dusty wind whips the flap of my tent. The prefab houses are coming along, but, like the other volunteers, I’m roughing it and living off the land with the settlers. When the rains come hard, the tent roofs buckle and spill water through badly patched seams. Dust storms from the south sometimes blanket us with a fine layer of silt that gets everywhere, clinging to my hair and every fold in my skin for days no matter how much I scour myself clean.

There’s just enough international aid to get some farms going. The tractors lined up along the road are fifty years old, but their owners have cherished them until they look new. As I step outside, the smell of freshly turned earth fills my nostrils as I breathe deep of unspoiled air.

It’s not a bad place. It’s not a bad place at all.

The bad place is to the west. Along a disputed border, Solkovia’s neighbor, the Principality of Kosztyla, eyes these lands and people. Kosztyla resisted the Germans and they resisted fought the Soviets, and they did it without Western aid. Sitting on gold mines and the only oil reserves in this part of the world, Kosztyla is one of the wealthiest small nations on the planet.

Barely bigger than Solkovia, it has over a thousand times the gross domestic product, though ninety-nine percent of the wealth is controlled by the ruling family, headed by one of the last crown princes in the world. Just last year the crown prince announced that his country had just discovered massive deposits of rare earth metals, further increasing their wealth.

It’s hard to take a deep breath here when you have that looming behind your back. War could break out anytime. With no allies and no real value to the international community, Solkovia would end up as nothing more than a Twitter hashtag if Kosztyla decided to cross the border. The States wouldn’t even bother dropping a bomb or sending a cruise missile. Kosztyla is too important.

Our mission here isn’t supported either. I’m on my own.

My best friend in camp is Melissa Greene. Her parents weren’t hippies. She wears her cross around her neck prominently, prays three times a day, and preaches her evangelical faith to the motley assortment of Solkovian faithful. There are Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, a small number of Jews and Muslims, and an even smaller number of keepers of what they call the old faith, a kind of folk magic.

Also By Abigail Graham

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