Authors: Chandra Ryan
A Coming Home Novella
A Coming Home Novella
By: Chandra Ryan
Published by Fated Desires Publishing, LLC.
© 2015 Chandra Ryan
Cover Art by Syneca
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All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
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Table of Contents
To my family and to Carrie Ann Ryan. This story would not have been told if not for their faith and support.
At sixteen Lilavati was banished from her mother’s kingdom by her stepfather. She was the rightful heir, but with the queen carrying a new child she had to choose between exile or death. Instead of facing the executioner, she fled in the middle of the night like a common thief—leaving behind everyone and everything she ever loved, including the dashing knight who’d stolen her young heart, Naresh.
Now, ten years later, Lilavati isn’t the naive, helpless princess she’d once been. Life on the run has hardened her. It’s also given her time to formulate a plan to take back the kingdom that should be hers and access to criminals, assassins, and a ruthless spell-caster named Kirin who can make that plan a reality. If she can keep the sorcerer focused on the goal and not the ill-advised attraction between them, that is. When she hears of her mother’s death, she knows it’s time to act. She will have everything that is rightfully hers. But she’s not the only one that’s changed since her departure. Her once strong kingdom is dying. It needs a savor not a conqueror.
Kirin agreed to work with Lilavati because he enjoys being near the aloof princess. He’s drawn to her confidence and determination. But when she starts using that determination to keep him at a distance, he’s not nearly so fond of the attribute. A promise she made to another ten years ago is keeping her out of his bed. When he discovers her knight in shining armor is married and has kids, though, all bets are off. But no matter how many times he shares her bed, it’s not enough. He’ll have to figure out a way to make the princess surrender her heart. It’s not going to be easy with his reputation. But if he can save her kingdom, he might have a shot.
Lilly dropped to the ground just in time to avoid the arrow flying toward her neck. After ten years of watching her back and honing her skills as an assassin, she didn’t even know what had tipped her off. Her instincts had told her to drop, and she had.
“We’re under attack.” Kirin’s deep voice rang though the night and threw their camp into a state of organized chaos.
She drew her daggers as she rolled over the sandy ground. “Would’ve been nice to have that warning a few minutes ago.” Lilly’s leather riding pants and corset protected some of her skin from abrasion, but she would have a few scrapes on her bare arms come morning. Still, the outfit made movement a lot easier than petticoats and silken skirts would have. When she came back up in a crouch, she was fully armed, and her attention was focused on the dark night that surrounded them.
“Can we get a little light?”
Kirin chanted something to her right, and a warm halo of light appeared above them. As his voice grew louder, the circle widened until the camp was visible. Her small group of twenty fighters surrounded her. Each and every one of them was poised to fight.
“Better?” Kirin asked.
Sometimes it was better to fight in the dark and count the bodies after they’d fallen. This would’ve been one of those times. A quick glance told her they were outnumbered two to one.
A bowstring twanged as Nathan let his arrow fly. “I’ve got the archer.”
It took only a moment for the arrow to reach its target. Nathan’s aim was always true. His skill was the reason she’d brought him into the group. She didn’t have time to celebrate taking first blood, however. As soon as the arrow took flight, the group of fighters descended upon them.
“So, you are the great Assassin Princess.”
Her arms and lower back rubbed against the ground painfully as she rolled out of the assailant’s way. When she stood, she was positioned behind him.
“And you’re the idiotic cur who thought he could best me.”
Her dagger slid through his neck like a hot knife through butter. He made a gargling noise, but no words escaped him as he looked down at the puddle of his own blood.
“You should’ve turned down this commission.”
She turned to meet her next attacker. “Who sent you?”
The man seemed more interested in taking off her head with his mace than talking. Men. They were always fighting when so much more could be accomplished by brokering a deal. She arched her back and watched as the studded ball passed inches from her nose. Then she crouched low and took a step toward the man. While he was still dealing with the inertia of his missed blow, she thrust her dagger into the top of his inner thigh and severed a blood vessel. When he fell to the ground, she knelt next to him and slit his throat to make sure he died.
Kirin smiled as he turned to face another assailant. “Do you think the Regent of Light finally found out about our part in his coup’s failure?”
He spoke a couple words that made her skin tingle, and then the attacker screamed in pain. The man’s body convulsed like jelly before it melted into a puddle.
The smell alone made her want to gag, but she did her best to hide her grimace of disgust. No matter how many times she’d watched him kill over the last three years, she still wasn’t used to the terrifying means at his disposal. She could only thank the gods that he’d decided to work alongside her instead of against her. There weren’t many men she found to be her equal, but Kirin was one of that select group.
“No. We left no witnesses.”
Even now they talked about the assignment in code. The first rule to being an assassin for hire was that one did not muddle in the affairs of state brashly. Not if one wanted to live long enough to retire. You got in, fulfilled your assignment, and got out. Braggarts always died and usually in a rather painful fashion.
“Maybe it wasn’t the Regent. The Good King might have wanted to tie up all the loose ends in case his son started asking questions.”
Kirin dodged as a large oaf came at him with a broadsword. This time the mage met the man’s metal with steel of his own. Lilly knew he preferred fighting with magic, but some spells cost him dearly. It took time to recover. Thankfully they’d spent hours practicing swordplay for just that reason. He could hold his own.
“He would never risk double-crossing me.”
Her dagger sliced through the leather armor right into her assailant’s lung. When he gasped and collapsed, she knew her aim to be true.
“Tell me who sent you, or I’ll let you die a slow, lingering death.”
“And if I tell you?” The dying man’s words were labored as he wheezed before each one.
“I’ll slit your throat. Then I’ll go after the imbecile who sent you after me.”
She glanced around at her men. They were still fighting, but the battle had slowed as the fallen littered the ground. She recognized some as her own. Most of the bodies, however, were strangers. The tide had officially turned. It would be only a matter of time before all the mercenaries were dead. The realization would have brought her joy on a normal day, but not this day. She couldn’t interrogate dead men. The man dying in front of her was her best chance at gathering intelligence.
“Think of it. You get a dignified death and a promise of revenge.”
“You care nothing for me or my men.”
“True. But my motives are not important. If you give me the name, I will kill the man who sent you to your fate. That’s got to be some comfort.”
He coughed up a mist of blood as spasms wracked his body.
“So be it. King Emeril commissioned us to bring him your head. Preferably severed from your body.”
Her heart stopped. There had to be a mistake. Her stepfather might hate her, but her mother would never allow him to hire assassins to come after her. Would she?
“But the queen—”
“Is dead. He rules the lands you once called home, Princess.”
He picked up her hand that held her dagger and placed it to his throat. “Now, I do believe we had a deal.”
The blow was clean and merciful. He had fulfilled his part of the bargain, and she owed him that much. Still, her soul shattered as she replayed his words in her mind. Her mother had died? She’d accepted the possibility she’d never see her mother again, but facing the reality was something she wasn’t prepared for. Not yet, at least. Her mother was only in her late forties. She should’ve lived for another two decades. But Lilly had seen enough death to know it could come in many forms and at any time.
Kirin shouted her name in the distance, but the terrible darkness clutching at her refused to let her go. She was alone. That bastard had married her mother, then stolen her from Lilly. He’d kicked her out of her own kingdom and made her beg, borrow, and kill just to survive.
The heat of anger pushed against the cold numbness that’d swept through her veins.
“Kill them all.” Her throat burned with the force she’d used to shout the order. “I want the desert sands stained red with their blood.”
“That would be a lot easier to do if you’d rejoin the fight, mistress.”
Kirin stood over her brandishing a broadsword. She stared up at him in confusion for a moment, but the metallic clang of weapon on weapon jolted her out of the last of the fog.
He had just saved her life. He’d held off one of the attackers. He wouldn’t want her praise, however. That wasn’t his way. It wasn’t their way.
“I was just letting you practice your fighting skills.” She leaned forward through Kirin’s legs, plunged her dagger into the mercenary’s thigh, and ran the blade down his leg. It was a risky move, but years of practice gave her confidence.
The man screamed and then dropped to the sand. He really didn’t have any other choice. It was why she loved exploiting the vulnerability. As soon as he was on the ground in front of her, she slit his throat.
“Good to have you back.” Kirin offered her a hand. “For a moment there, I was afraid you’d lose that lovely head of silver hair you always brag about.”
“Even distracted as I was, he wasn’t good enough to take my head.”
She took Kirin’s hand and shivered. His touch made her skin tingle in the most curious way. She’d always assumed it was the magic that lived in his blood. Today she nearly buzzed with the energy he let loose in her.
“In my defense, however, one doesn’t hear of her mother’s death and the bounty her stepfather put on her head every day. Such news deserves a moment or two of introspection.”
“Shit. Your stepfather is to blame for this?”
He swept his hand out to encompass the scene around them. She’d lost roughly a quarter of her men, but the other side had lost everyone. She considered that a win.
Her heart thrummed loudly in her ears as she continued to mull over the news. She wasn’t surprised her stepfather wanted her dead. That he’d paid someone to kill her was a bit unsettling, but not unbelievable. She was, however, having a difficult time processing the news of her mother’s death.
“The battle is done for the time being. I need some space. Let the light spell go.”
“Of course.” Blackness dropped around them like a heavy curtain as he released the spell. “Is there anything else I can do?”
He was a talented mage, but not even he could bring back her mother.
“I wish I would’ve told her goodbye before I left.” It was her one regret.
“Do you know how she died?”
“No. And it doesn’t really matter. She’s dead regardless. It doesn’t make any difference if it was plague or pneumonia that claimed her.”