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Wish: Aladdin Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale series Book 10)
Author:Demelza Carlton

Wish: Aladdin Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale series Book 10)

Demelza Carlton




ONE


Maram wasn't sure she could think of any creature she disliked quite as much as a camel. They smelled like a carpet some drunkard had mistaken for a toilet, were about as comfortable to ride on as a bag of rocks, and they made noises reminiscent of a rutting man in the throes of the most violent lust imaginable. Actually, they were exactly like a lust-crazed man. The same hard muscle, the same sounds, and after a particularly energetic night, they didn't smell much better than a camel.


But the camel's look of disgust and habit of spitting in front of her made it less attractive than a well-muscled, naked man, who would give her some pleasure, while the camel only made her backside ache. And the matted carpet of fur upon its back seemed to drink the desert sands and rub it into her clothing when she wasn't watching. Thank the heavens it was a short journey from the port to the city, where her father's palace was waiting.

And a bath, an unheard-of luxury in some of the places she'd visited this trip. Oh, they'd had tubs and water and knew how to wash, but a bathhouse where a lady might immerse her whole body, or share that space with her lover? They'd looked at her like she was mad.

Perhaps she was, Maram reflected. Normal princesses stayed in their fathers' palaces until they reached an age to marry, when they meekly accepted the husband their fathers chose for them. They spent most of the rest of their lives on their backs, conceiving or giving birth to children to ensure the succession of their husband's line. A life spent in bed, their every need seen to by a host of servants. No need to travel or sit on a camel. Or even lift an eyebrow to seduce their husbands, who came to their beds every night without fail.

A small smile found its way onto Maram's face. Well, most nights they went to their wives. Some nights, they fell under the spell of a foreign princess and spent a glorious night trying to please the princess instead. Skills they could then use on their wives, or at least Maram hoped they would. Just because those married princesses lived an easy life, didn't mean they shouldn't enjoy their husbands' attentions. Childbirth wasn't an easy matter, or so she'd heard, never having experienced it for herself. So if she borrowed their husbands for a night – willingly, always willingly, for men were weak, and weaker still when subject to the strength of her seductive magic – she returned them with improvements she hoped their wives appreciated.

An enchantment of her own design, that ensured they gave pleasure to any woman they bedded. She had not yet worked out how to eliminate the faint blue glow that enveloped their man parts while the spell was active, but perhaps it did not matter, for surely their wives had seen enough of them not to need to look too closely. Maram had certainly not heard any complaints from her lovers, or their wives.

And her father reaped the benefits, in strategic trade agreements, alliances and other political favours his ambassadors asked for, but she ensured. She lifted her hood so that she could see Elcin, the ambassador she'd accompanied on this trip. He rode at the front of the camel train, of course, proud of his successful mission. Maram didn't begrudge him his pride, even if his success was mostly due to her. Other ambassadors had made her job more difficult – Hasan, the first ambassador she'd accompanied, had tried to force himself on her more than once, refusing to allow her to do what her father had sent her to do. Elcin had been a delight in comparison, and she would tell her father so.

Desert dust smudged the horizon now, and she knew she was close to home and the end of this interminable camel ride.

Sure enough, the city gates soon rose out of the golden brown sand, sentinels standing straight and tall to welcome her home.

Maram passed between them without glancing to either side, though she inclined her head to the bowing guards and peasants who lined the road to her father's palace. Even veiled and hooded as she was, covered in travel dust, her clothing marked her as the Sultan's daughter.

The Sultan who would demand her report before she could take that much-needed bath. She sighed as she glimpsed her favourite bathhouse, but she could not stop. Later, she promised herself. Along with all of Elcin's good news, she brought urgent tidings her father needed to know more than she needed to bathe. Even if she did smell of camel.

Her father was in his audience chamber, waiting for them, when they arrived. Elcin prostrated himself, but Maram merely stood back, inclining her head to the Sultan when he turned his enquiring gaze on her.

"So, tell me what new alliances you have made for me," the Sultan said to Elcin.

Not for the first time, Maram was glad for the veil that hid her face and her boredom from her father's court as Elcin recounted her political victories.

"And what of Beacon Isle?" Father asked.

Here Elcin hesitated. Not because his news was bad, but how close it had come to being so. "Beacon Isle is ruled by a woman, who calls herself a queen. Most unusual."

Elcin had not understood Queen Margareta's power until it was almost too late. Instead, he'd addressed his proposals to the queen's young grandson, Vardan, until Maram had intervened. The boy...nay, young man, for he'd proved himself more than capable in the bedchamber, had happily surrendered to her charms and left the great hall to his grandmother and Elcin.

Maram had whispered a warning to Elcin that if he did not show the grandmother proper respect, her not-quite-of-age grandson would never be allowed to accept her father's proposals. Elcin had showed the woman more than respect, judging by his blushes the following morning. The newly widowed Queen Margareta had required Elcin to show her some favours, too, before she granted him any.

Politics was a game best played in bedchambers, Maram reflected. Or bathhouses.

"But do we have access to their harbour?" the Sultan rumbled.