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Authors: K. F. Breene

Shadow Lands

BOOK: Shadow Lands
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Shadow Lands
The Warrior Chronicles #3
K.F. Breene

C
opyright © 2015 by K.F
. Breene

All rights reserved. The people, places and situations contained in this ebook are figments of the author’s imagination and in no way reflect real or true events.

Acknowledgement

T
here are
a select group of people that are interracial to getting one of my books published. Without them, my work would be lackluster, at best.

First, the beta readers. Keri Frey, Heather Spencer, Heather Kuebler and Cassandra Jean helped me shape this series, filling in the holes as needed. Their honesty and disregard for my ego was horrible and awesome at the same time. They are each greatly needed and treasured.

Then my editor. Oh the poor man. Steve Lockley is a master with a ton of patience. He reworded, reworked, and applied elbow grease to polish up this grammar nightmare. I bow at his feet.

My proof-reader, John Adriaan, is always so sweet and laid back. He is constantly encouraging. Being that I give him no notice of when I need him, and expect a quick turnaround, I think this means he was a saint in the past life!

My fan proof-readers are the step before the plunge. Donna Hokanson and Fiona Wilson find all the little issues that everyone else missed. And if a few squeak by, it’s not for lack of their effort!

Finally, where would I be without the reviewers and readers? In my basement without pants, probably, that’s where. Thank you to all of you who have supported me, left reviews for me, and poked me in the eye when I got down on myself. I couldn’t do all this without you!

Synopsis

I
n order
to finally claim her title of Chosen and lead the Shadow People out of the Land of Mist, Shanti must make it through a century's old system to test her battle awareness, her fighting skill, and her ability to stay alive. She's about to enter The Trials, and she must do it alone.

S
eparated
from Shanti on a dangerous island, Cayan must learn to use his mental skill while keeping his men safe from the people set out to kill them. But as more Inkna and Graygual flood the island, Cayan hears of a sinister force deep in the woods, rigging The Trials and killing any who venture too close.

I
t is now
a race against time. The battle to become the Chosen has begun, and the victor is anything but decided.  

Also by K.F. Breene

J
essica Brodie Diaries
(Contemporary Romance)

Back in the Saddle, Book 1 – FREE

Hanging On, Book 2

A Wild Ride, Book 3

G
rowing
Pains (Contemporary Romance)

Lost and Found, Book 1 - FREE

Overcoming Fear, Book 2

Butterflies in Honey, Book 3

Love & Chaos; Cassie’s Story

S
urviving
Love
(Contemporary Romance)

D
arkness Series (Paranormal
Romance)

Into the Darkness, Novella 1 - FREE

Braving the Elements, Novella 2

On a Razor’s Edge, Novella 3

Demons, Novella 4

The Council, Novella 5

Shadow Watcher, Novella 6

Jonas, Novella 7

Charles, Novella 8

W
arrior Chronicles (Fantasy
)

Chosen, Book 1

Hunted, Book 2

Shadow Lands, Book 3

Chapter One


C
aptain
, it’s time.” Sanders stepped back to allow Cayan to climb the stairs onto the deck of the ship.

They’d spent nearly a week stuffed into the various passenger areas and holds of Jooston’s ship, the captain that everyone called SeaFarer, while the vessel pitched and rolled on the early winter sea. His men weren’t sailors, and as such, many spent much of their time retching over guardrails or into buckets. Now that they had finally reached their destination, though, he wondered if they wouldn’t rather stay aboard the craft, sickness and all.

“Are the men ready?” Cayan asked, emerging onto the sun-faded and weather-beaten deck.

“Ready and eager, sir,” Sanders answered.

“That right?” Cayan asked with the doubt plain in his voice.

Sanders smirked. “As eager as can be expected when showing up at a place inhabited by a bunch of savages that eat people. Or so we’ve always been told…”

“Myths. Apparently, people coming to the island and presenting themselves as Chosen isn’t unique. SeaFarer said that it’s a regular occurrence.”

Sanders snorted. “Some hothead realizes he has a little of that mind-power and comes here looking for glory, huh? Idiots.”

“How would they know they didn’t have a full dose of power unless someone more experienced told them?” It wasn’t the first time Cayan wondered about his own power. He had more than Shanti—that was undisputed. But how did they know that this Inkna proclaiming himself Chosen didn’t have more than Cayan?

“Regardless,” Cayan said, pushing his doubt to the side. “The trials are only the first step. If we
do
secure the allegiance of the Shadow people, we’ll then have Xandre’s army lining up to nab Shanti. This is still a bad situation.”

“Always was, sir. Luckily, we specialize in bad situations…”

Cayan put on a stern face as he neared the bow of the ship, staying out of the way of scurrying deck hands preparing to dock. SeaFarer turned from his position to survey the island as he heard Cayan approach. His hard gaze hit Cayan for a moment before turning back. In an accent as rolling and surging as the ship, he asked, “She is proclaimed, yes?” He nodded at Shanti.

She stood at the rail, looking out across the water. Her brother, Rohnan, stood next to her, rigid and still. Beyond them rose great ragged cliffs, stretching out to the sides barring the way to land except for one tiny opening into a harbor.

The ship drifted slowly closer, aiming for the maw within the rock.

Cayan glanced at the tops of the cliffs for an idea of what this island might have to offer. Green reached down over boulders and between the densely packed trees, peeking out over the ocean. A light drizzle sifted down from the sky, chilly and wet against his face. Shanti would not only have to combat whatever awaited her within the trials, but also the elements. Exposure to the cold and wet for long periods could result in sickness and even death.

Cayan looked at Shanti, a surge of hope infusing him. She’d grown up in those conditions. She’d often said her village was nestled in a thick wood, and that she and her people trained among the trees. They hunted and gathered, gone for days at a time, living off the land. Cayan didn’t know if it was also wet, but the western coast had a colder climate. She’d be used to surviving in this and already had an advantage.

“She will be proclaiming herself Chosen, yes.” Cayan could just barely see the empty harbor with the lone dock reaching out. “Where are the other ships for the traders, or other Chosen?”

“The other ships, they drop off Chosen here, then head around island.” SeaFarer snatched the back of a deck hand’s shirt as she ran by. In a language Cayan didn’t understand, the grizzled man yelled out something. The woman nodded and turned back the other way. To Cayan, he said, “That other Chosen—the Inkna…” The man spit onto the deck in distaste. “He dropped off a countryman, then went around island, eh? Stayed a while. Waited to see what happen to his man. Cowardice, that.”

“And has he gone in?”

SeaFarer shrugged. “Don’t know. By now, probably. There is much unrest on the island. I hear Shadow Lord is not happy about some goings-on with trials. Lots of killing in Trespasser Village, too.”

“Trespasser Village?” Cayan asked as those cliffs loomed closer.

“Trespasser. That’s what they call people waiting for Chosen. Not traders, so not useful—take up space. Huts in wood, only. Lots of death, there. If you pay, you stay in city. If I were you, I’d stay in city, eh? But then, you stay in city, you don’t know what danger goes on in the underbelly. Hard decision, eh?”

Cayan glanced at Sanders, who nodded once and headed back to the passenger holds. He’d take that information to Daniels and Burson. Hopefully Burson’s
Seer Gift
would become active and point them in the right direction. If not, Daniels would need to weigh up their options and choose the best place to stay. They’d probably just have to make the best of whatever situation they ended up in and adapt until Shanti made it through the trials.

He didn’t want to send her into those trials alone. Anything could be waiting for her in there. She was strong, capable, and trained for it, but she’d be completely cut off. She’d have no one to rely on. No help.

Cayan balled his fists and looked out over the water, pushing away an uncharacteristic feeling of helplessness. He hated things being taken out of his control, and that had been happening more and more on this journey. His destiny, and that of his people, was not only being decided by another; it was completely out of his hands.

“Have you heard anything more about the trials?” Cayan asked.

SeaFarer rocked back on his heels and then to his toes. “Only what you have, eh? Someone goes in. No one comes out.”

“And have there been many hopeful Chosen?”

“Oh yes. Very many. Good business, bringing them over. Sometimes you hear screams. Sometimes a great roar, like a beast. That is if you get close. Most times, though… nothing.”

“You can get close?” Cayan turned to the middle-aged man.

“There is a barrier, eh? You cannot see, no. But you can hear sometimes. Sometimes at night, screaming drifts over city. Terrible stuff, this. Why they do it, eh?”

“Some people have no choice,” Cayan said in a low voice, his gaze once again settling on the back of Shanti’s wheat-colored head. She hunched over the rail now, watching the opening in the rock grow larger and larger. Rohnan was pushed right up against her, his body stuck to the side of hers. He would be watching her go, too. The man had been selected to guard her at all costs, had almost died for her already, and he could be sending her to her death. Just like he was doing himself.

There was nothing any of them could do.

“Well. She’s first woman,” SeaFarer said. “I’ve seen hopeful Chosen of all kinds—old, young, rich, poor. All kinds. Most are a bunch of fools with a tiny bit of
Chesnia
. This is first woman. Women are not so dumb as men. And she is not dumb, this girl. Desperate, yes. I
believe
she have no choice, which makes me believe she’s real thing, eh? But she won’t be enough. No one person be enough, that’s what I think. I think this is trick. Shadow people are cunning. They stack the storm, that’s what I think. Stack it up good, too. Make it nearly impossible to get through. But… that’s just me.”

“You know them pretty well?” Cayan asked as a weight settled on his chest. SeaFarer was speaking sense. If Cayan were in charge of a people that elected its battle leader, he’d make sure it was damn hard for someone to take his place. Damn hard. He’d test their strength, both mental and physical, he’d test their battle awareness, their strategy…

Impossible sounded right. Regardless what the scrolls said, people changed, and their customs changed with them. No one wanted to go to war, and if they had to, no one wanted a stranger leading them. Now more than ever, this seemed like a fool’s errand.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Cayan said through gritted teeth, not waiting for SeaFarer’s thoughtful answer. “There is no way around this.”

SeaFarer rocked back and forth again. He clasped his hands behind his back. “That be true. And yes, I know them, after a fashion. I been trading a long time. I’ve stayed on this island more than most. I’ve no friends here but they are good people. Loyal, honorable, solid… and deadly. Do not underestimate deadly. You wrong them, and they kill you on spot. I seen it happen. And they have many with
Chesnia.
Many, many. An island full of them. All sorts, too.”

“Chezna… is that mind-power?” Cayan clarified, stumbling over the sound of the foreign word.

“Yes, yes. Not just mental war, like them filthy Inkna. Healing and fighting and—all sorts. I not tell most people this, but I see truth in her. In you, too. You don’t want to be here—that is smart. Sometimes we need do what we do not want to do, though. And here we are.”

“Yes, here we are.” Those cliffs reached out to them. The ship slid between the jagged, rocky teeth into the placid waters of the harbor. Three figures waited for them, all dressed in a shiny black material. One was on the docks, one on the muddy beach, and one stood back in a grassy area in front of a large arch, sculpted from heavily thorned plants.

SeaFarer turned to face Cayan. His brown eyes were sharp. “Foreigners will try to kill you. You look like a good Captain—a strong Captain. Weak don’t like the strong, and the weak in city are rich. They pay good men. They try to kill you and your best men, eh? I do not know why—it is how it has always been. Maybe that is norm where they from—games of wealth and power. But you be vigilant. It will be poison in your food, or a knife in your ribs, or a beautiful woman in your bed. Do not trust anyone that is not Shadow. If your men can be bought, do not trust them, either. That place is twisted. A smile and a kiss will turn into a forked tongue and a deathbed. Be on your guard, eh?”

“Sounds like a real treat,” Sanders said as he walked up. “Burson has some answers for you Captain, but first we need to see Shanti off. The old man is in a dither, I’ll say that much. If he were a dog he’d be pissing all over the place. I’ve never seen him like this.”

“It’s all coming to a head, now. The future depends on her making it through those trials.” Cayan watched Shanti as she looked ahead.

“That woman is too damn hard to kill. These Shadow ghosts aren’t going to do it,” Sanders said, looking behind him, then barking, “Rachie, get the hell away from there! Next thing you’ll fall over the side, then where will you be?”

“Drowned, sir,” came Rachie’s voice.

“Idiots,” Sanders muttered as he shook his head and turned to the front.

The ship drifted closer to the dock, which stretched out from the land in a bobbing, creaking, tilting string of boards. SeaFarer started forward, barking commands and ordering his crew. Shanti’s head turned slowly the closer they drifted. Cayan could tell she was studying the man in black waiting on the dock.

“Ho-ly shit. They could be countrymen,” Sanders murmured.

Cayan switched his gaze to the man on the dock. Wheat-colored hair peeked out from under a shallow, black hood. Cayan couldn’t see the eye color, but his pale skin and thin frame gave him a build and look similar to Rohnan. A longsword handle peered out from behind his back, and knives hung low on his hip.

The ship’s anchors dropped and a single rowboat was lowered over the side. Shanti straightened up and turned. Her violet gaze bore into Cayan as she glided across the deck with Rohnan right behind her. She stopped in front of Cayan. “This is it.”

“I don’t like you going alone,” Cayan said softly. He wrapped his
Gift
tightly around hers and sunk deeply into her mind. Her power surged his higher even as her apprehension drowned him.

She reached up and traced the pads of her fingers over her amulet, still hanging around his neck. “If I don’t make it out—”

“You will,” Sanders said with fierce determination. “If I have to barge in and get you, you’re coming out.”

A smile ghosted Shanti’s lips as she glanced at Sanders for a brief moment before letting her gaze return to Cayan. She reached behind her neck and unfastened her father’s ring. Rohnan shifted, his jaw clenched in disapproval, but he said nothing as Shanti fastened the ring around Cayan’s neck.

“If Sanders can’t find a way to barge in and get me—” she said, interrupted by Sanders grunting. “Take this to the Shadow Lord and appeal for their aid. They won’t be forced to follow you, but they may aid you. It is said that just one of their fighters is equal to five average fighters. You’ll need them.”

“Don’t you need this for the trials?” Cayan asked, his heart heavy. She was giving away all her possessions, expecting death. Throughout her whole journey she’d had this same expectation, and now she was facing it.

“A ring is easy to steal, and easier to lose. The trials won’t be bent on a ring. A leader won’t be chosen by a piece of metal, no matter its origin. But it might help with bartering. I don’t know.”

Cayan’s jaw tightened. “Don’t give into this, Shanti. You were made for these trials. You are more prepared than anyone alive. You heard what Burson said—Xandre has tried to recreate you, and he can’t. You are the one for this mantle.”

Her middle finger slid down the gold of her amulet before she raised her hand to Cayan’s chin. “Please be careful. Keep everyone alive. And if I don’t come out, don’t go in after me. Find another way. You are the best hope against Xandre—you have the battle know-how, the leadership ability, the power—”

“I need you to use my power,” Cayan interrupted, grabbing her shoulders. “You
will
make it through.”

SeaFarer cleared his throat. “If we wait too long, they are liable to kill someone, eh?”

Shanti let her hand slide down Cayan’s neck and stop on his pec. Heat radiated through his body. She then traced around his muscle before lowering her palm to his stomach. Her grin turned evil. “You do have a great body, though. I should’ve taken it for a ride.”

“She just felt him up!” one of the boys exclaimed behind them. A grunt indicated he’d been elbowed.

BOOK: Shadow Lands
8.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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